- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Wng/Cdr Geoffrey Hall (POP) POrter
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 October 2003
(Continued from "The Story of The Watch")
About five minutes after getting to the police station, two fairly senior German Polizei turned up and took us to Eindhoven (previously a Dutch airfield now being used by the Germans). I was put into a single cell and left there for about an hour. The door suddenly opened and a German officer came in, said he was the Commanding Officer, and asked me if there was anything that I needed. I said that I could do with a cigarette and he said "That's all right. I'll get some for you and tell the guard outside that you can smoke while you are here". He then told me in quite good English that he had been educated at Cambridge University! He said he was the Station Commander of a four engined aircraft unit. However, he said that the aircraft were quite different in configuration to the one I flew, as the engines were installed two-in-line on each side of the pilot.
[The aircraft he was probably referring to was the Heinkel He 177A-0 Greif Heavy Bomber, powered by two Daimler Benz DB606 engines which were each made up from two DB601s, each pair driving a single propeller].
He then said that he would have to go because he was going to bomb England that night. I told him that I hoped he didn't make it back and, if he didn't, that he would be treated the same way that I'd been treated so far. (Take that any way you want to).
Soon after that a car arrived and took us off to another police station in Holland. I was given some eel soup to eat. I looked at it and said "My God! This looks horrible!" and refused to eat it. They told me that this was some of the best food that you could get in Holland and considered to be quite a delicacy. However, I couldn't eat it and they took it away. We were then driven to the local railway station and put on a train. Don Hall and I were being escorted into a carriage full of German troops when a German officer came up to us and said, "You are prisoners of war! You are British Officers and should not be transported along with other ranks, but should be put into a First Class carriage!" They then took us to another carriage, turned out the people that were in it, and sat us down. After a few minutes, the man who had been sitting in the seat I was now occupying came back and shouted at the top of his voice, "WO IST MEINER SCHNITZEL!" I gathered that he was looking for a meat sandwich that I had been sitting on and had actually started to eat. I had taken a mouthful just when he started complaining. Luckily, he was hustled out by the German officer, so I was able to finish it off without further trouble.
After we arrived in Amsterdam we were taken to the jail and I was put into a single cell until the next day, when a German "Red Cross Official" came into my cell and wanted to know a few particulars. Per standard procedure and not really knowing if he was genuine, I gave him only my name rank and Serial Number. He then asked me if there was anything that I needed, and when I told him I could do with a shave he said that he would see what he could do. After about half an hour he turned up again and said, "Kom mit!" I went with him to another cell and, as they opened the door, there was poor old Linklater (my wireless operator) looking as white as a sheet. He turned to me and said, "Christ, Skipper! I thought they were going to shoot me!" It turned out that he had travelled with a boy on bicycles all the way to the coast. The boy went on but Linklater had been caught by the police and taken to a place where he had been interrogated and threatened with his life. He said that they had eventually calmed down and he was then taken off to Dulag Luft with myself and Don Hall. This was the main aircrew interrogation centre. We were again put into cells on our own and eventually given some soup and black bread.
I was in this cell for about three or four days. First of all they stripped me completely and then they threw in some old bits of a Russian uniform to put on. Soon after that a German interrogation officer came into the room to start a full interrogation. Just before he came in I had started to dismantle the heating system. It was mid-summer and they had the heat turned on! I'd got about half a dozen nuts and bolts in my hand when he came in but, fortunately, I was standing in front of the heater with my back to the door and he didn't notice anything. When he told me to sit down I was able to slip the loose nuts and bolts beneath me. I wouldn't answer his questions the way he thought I should and he became very livid and, although he never actually touched me, it was quite apparent that he would have liked to knock me about a bit. However, he eventually calmed down and left me on my own once more.
I was then taken into the main area, where I met up with my two crew members once more. We were only in this area for a couple of hours before we were marched off to the station, put on a train, and taken to Sagan. This was Stalag Luft III, the main German camp for air force officer POWs. As I entered the camp I was met by a number of people that I knew. This actually helped quite a bit at the time, as we were getting quite worked up after all we had gone through. A few days later I started to look around to see how I was going to occupy myself from then on.
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