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15 October 2014
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Chapter 18: Waiting for this ship to come to take us away

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Ron Redman
Location of story: 
Odessa
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A9035237
Contributed on: 
01 February 2006

Eventually we got to Odessa. We didn’t know at the time that it was Odessa. We actually saw the battlelines on the Russian steppes because you could see for miles and there was nothing but snow and perhaps a tree in the distance. And you could see the bodies, the horses, the dead horses, and the bodies… the Russians didn’t bury the Germans, they let them stay there, but they [1.11.29] buried their own. So you realised how awful it must have been for those German soldiers. That was the worst punishment they could get, to be sent to the Russian front, and we realised why!

Eventually we got to Odessa. We were interrogated again and then put in a hotel which had bare furniture and by then we’d got French girls, even a German person, just a refugee; Poles, Ukrainians — all sorts in there. But, anyway, we were put up in this hotel. We didn’t do anything, just waiting for this ship to come to take us away.

Eventually it came, apparently, and we saw a British sailor outside the hotel, coming in with a sheaf of paper. The news filtered round that the ship was there — it was a British destroyer, it wasn’t a troop ship, and we were going to be taken off. The Russians are funny people, when we realised that we were going that morning and got outside, they more or less indicated that you weren’t just going to go as you please. You were going to march and we are going to provide a band. They actually provided a ramshackle band, the only tune they knew was ‘Rosemarie’ and they played it all the way to the docks where we were going to embark, and the streets were lined with the Russian villagers, well, no, Odessa’s a town not a village, the Russians looking at us with bland looks on their faces. There were no smiles or… they just didn’t understand what was going on, and who we were, and why. Just these cold looks.

Anyway, we went to the docks and again we were interrogated and certain people were being picked out. Some of my British colleagues, thinking it was going to be an advantage, had met up with a Russian girl and gone through a form of marriage, or so they thought. Any of those that were picked out were kept back; taken off the gangplank and kept back because the story was that if you marry a Russian girl, you became Russian, she doesn’t become English and they couldn’t leave. They were taken off. We left them on the docks, crying their eyes out. I don’t know how many there were, there might have been a dozen.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sue Craig on behalf of Ron Redman and has been added to the site with his permission. Ron fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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