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The Diary of Alan Forster, POW 3921, Stalag VIIIB (October 1944 — May 1945) Part 5.

by Bill Forster

Contributed by 
Bill Forster
Article ID: 
A7261841
Contributed on: 
24 November 2005

Continued from A7261607

THE COAL MINE AT KLIMONTOW: E702 STALAG VIIIB
November 1944

Wdnesday Nov. 1st

Got our momento Morris back on the party today unfortunately loosing Bighead. Today was memorable in as much as I had a decent drink before we finished. Very exhilarated or the following hour. Many of the Poles are leaving the Grube [pit] for .... viz. Danzig, Cracow, .... also a ... in the morning that the mine was closing - later denied, need to ...

Thursday Nov. 2nd

In a mood of virtuous self-satisfaction engendered by my having a free day and forcing myself to clear up all my dirty linen. Tomorrow's work starts me afresh - it's 24 hours nearer ... the pig made an exhibition of himself next door this morning doing his best to tear the place apart.

Friday Nov. 3rd

Out on Holzplatz [literally, wooden square; either a place where wood was stored or the name of an assembly area i.e. a square] and today unloaded 3 tons or so of ... between the .... Finished at 3.00, a nasty wet afternoon. Spoke to Geordie about writing ... Getting tired of my purely German rations and coffee without milk and sugar. Spuds beet and toast aren't a very satisfactory diet but I'm afraid though better than we'd been getting at Posen - that's a small consolation, however, considering what we've all - and some especially - lost. At present the rations here are as follows. 500 oz of bread per day, soup (supplemented by Red X food from spoiled parcels) about 1 1/2 lts. jam and sugar works out at around a dessert spoonful per day (issued fortnightly), marj. 1 oz per day. Soap is very short - there now appears to be no regular issue except for miners who get 5 bars a month. Cigs, in the shape of French Tropu... 50 per month (when they come). The cookhouse is certainly very good to that which we have been used. Cleanliness is a watchword there. This week we have already had one dry dinner of potato mash and gravy, tomorrow mash, fishcakes (from salmon in parcels) and beetroot of which there seems to be plenty here.
There were both letters (30) and parcels up today - again I didn't figure.

SAT. NOV. 4

Out on the same part today. Simply stood and froze all the afternoon until 3.30 when we went in. About 60 fags and clothing parcels in but again non for me.
There appears to be a remarkable amount of thieving around the Stalag both soap, chocolate and clothing being stolen from men's personal parcels before they reach here. I doubt whether I shall ever see any of mine for they are far too long overdue.

SUNDAY NOV. 5

Went out digging a trench this morning - would have thought nothing of it in Posen but it tired me out by the time we were finished. A trench 2m wide x 1.10 deep x 3m long. All wet clay stones sand and coal - horrible! Finished at 12.00 and in to a good dinner. Red cabbage does look a horrible mess when it has been boiled! Had a good two-bucket bath in the afternoon and gave myself a more careful than usual once over with the manicure instruments and consequently feel - and look a trifle cleaner than usual. The German shoved their oar in today by stating they hadn't enough guards to allow our going to the depot for the eagerly awaited parcels ... another example of their constant awkwardness for it's a futile stupid excuse. The cookhouse brewed tea today - proper army tack! All water. There is also a ten-day sugar issue which works out at roughly 8 spoons per man - trifle less.
Wrote letter to Bun wishing her Merry Xmas - nearly broke my heart. God! How much longer?

MONDAY NOV 6

Had a free day. Entirely non-productive I may add as beyond cleaning down the beds with Taff I only read. Had a 35 fag issue, the last, so we're told, for at least month.

Tuesday Nov 7

Put on No 6 party but as the guard did not turn up I remained in idleness - well not quite as we scrubbed out the room. Day was highly successful due to the advent of the last Red X parcel - one between two. Splashed a bit and turned out a "Krugie trifle" - ingredients 5 biscuits, qt of milk, raisins, two German pudding powders, three spoons sugar - water and ... Got up from table feeling satisfied which was a nice change. No wonder really for the completed mess weighed about 6 lbs at a conservative estimate and the two of us ate it in one go. Had quite a lot of luck at cards and dominoes - about 30 RM up.

Wednesday Nov. 8

The main item today is, of course, snow. The earliest I've seen here in all my previous four winters! Was on the schlossers [metal worker's] party today, a nice change, spent most of my time over the fire, prima! The extra stuff from the parcels came up, we benefited to the extent of a tin of butter, one of milk, raisins and prunes.Owing to bad weather showing itself inside the rooms on the ends of the huts, the occupants thereof were evacuated (according to some sort of plan) into other rooms. We were unfortunate enough to receive three of these men which brings the room total up to 24 and makes us very crowded. Still, I suppose that's an advantage in the winter.

Thursday Nov 9

Sadly I note parcels - a few - were up today. But I figured in the mail stakes having two from Bun one from Mother and the same from Red [his elder brother, my father, at this time serving in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Venomous] . Also managed to arrange things with a Pole. I await a reply anxiously. Weather was again cold and wet and the day, as usual, dragged endlessly.

Friday Nov 10th

Out with the Schlossers again and what a hellish day! Snow, wind and rain. It's now been snowing since late afternoon and it's beginning to find foothold on the sodden earth. The wind carrying it is raw and wet seeming, giving a foretaste of winter here. I don't fancy it. Paid 12 RM for two small tins of boot polish. Black market prices run roughly speaking slightly higher than those prevailing in Posen but owing to the extra food allowed to the Polish miners rationed stuff is easier to get. As I understand it not many people are actually in the position of laying hands on the raw material but instead purchase the food coupons so prices (100) vary between 10.50 - 16.00 RM.
Bread (1K) 12 -16 RM Schnapps (1L) 120 RM. Tobacco (10G) 1 RM Cigs (24) 20 RM (Good). Butter and fat run about the same all over the country in fact the price would appear to equal that in prevailing in Ger. gov. From my own observations here I'd be prepared to say that on the whole the Poles have, compared to Posen, relatively easy [?]. They certainly don't have to work hard and nor do we.

Saturday Nov 11

Again a blasted parcel list up (30) - again it holds nothing for me. Was out on electricians party today. Got 10 .. for pkt coffee and 100s for soap. Needless to say there was very little electricity about, the work we did for the whole time was devoured by our shifting machinery from here to there and back again. In fact the usual stupid, futile sort of work I've done for the last four bloody years. Answered Bun's two letters (Aug 16 - 30) and asked several questions which memory brought back to me as I wrote her - bloody Roll on!

Sunday Nov 12

Had a day off and made good use of it all washing and bathing done by role call. Wrote to Paymaster and to Mother. Boots and shoes all dubinned against the continual wetness underfoot. Apart from this nothing constructive done except to try to remember all the American Mates - with lots of assistance helpful and otherwise, this was done.

Monday Nov. 13

A free day. The weather is lovely and has inspired me to scrub out our food cupboard which is nearly - but not quite - empty. That is to say that between the two of us we have half a tin of Klim, a packet of coffee, about 2 ozs of butter, a few raisins and 4 pudding powders (if the Wobble doesn't confiscate them!) Add some issue marg and you have our poverty complete.
There was an air-raid during the night. I was woken by a heavy explosion which seemed quite near - then the Flak opened up as some planes went overhead. I remember nothing more until the sirens blew the single plane warning (3 long blasts). We hear 70 men are leaving here - I wonder? This is going to be a tough billet for winter but I don't think ther'll be much better anywhere else around here so rotten is this Stalag V111B. To think we ever grumbled about Rauch!

Tuesday Nov 14

Out on Electricians. Not a bad day on the whole. Definitely feeling the pinch as regards food now - I think it's even more noticeable in winter than in summer. P. parcels and letters were ... again, needless to say without affecting me.

Wednesday Nov 15

Today should, I suppose, be noted in large letters in my life - I have been down the hole! 420 m deep. But I was only further depressed by my experience. I shan't write further about it. The first 20 men of a supposed 90 are going to parts unknown. I shall be next and I don't know whether to be pleased or sorry. One thing is I think certain - nowhere else shall we get such large rations for such a small amount of work. Otherwise I shan't be sorry to have a change. Still again, we wait and see.

Thursday Nov 16

What a day! Outside all the time digging a narrow, deep and very muddy trench in the midst of a blizzard. The snow lay half melting on the previously sodden earth and over all was a layer of liquid black mud. Horrible and depressing are hardly enough to describe it. But we finished, thank God, at 3.00 and I returned to an upset room. The beds had had to be re-arranged owing to several leaks in the ceiling and now, consequently, we're all herded together - I sincerely trust the place freezes up before very much longer. However, one nice thing happened - I received six letters from Bun which I read over my tea. She told me of being hungry and in a café and at the moment of writing ordering her meal. I was eating toast, a staple only diet these days. We had a cheese issue today - both of the peculiar tasteless white stuff and the old and stinking.

Friday Nov 17

Snow. 5" of it lying in the morning and still lying tonight except where it has been trodden into a wet and horrible slush. Went out on Holzplatz at 9.30 and loaded a wagon with pipes (iron naturally) before dinner and again in the afternoon. Rather a snip for a days work as the latter was loaded in 45 minutes. Got paid too - 4.10 RM - a munificent sum. Of course I had 22 days off last month with my toe.
I can't understand this place. Twenty men went off on Wednesday whom are landed in a scrap-iron yard worked by a camp 250 strong. They were, of course, Ubertage [surface] workers. Now daily, more and more men, are working out and around the mine here and there's bags to do. Obviously so. Now we hear 20 men are coming in from another local mining camp to go underground. Why? Very peculiar system these Germans have.

Sat Nov 18

Didn't go out until 12.00 and was back again by 2.30 having loaded up 50 railways lines. Had a good shower over in the pithead baths. Received two letters - one from Bun and one from Mother - wish I was as optimistic as they seem to be. I'm only glad that those at home can't see us in this godforsaken place. Last year at this time we were all looking forward to what we firmly believed would be our last POW Xmas. I at least was sure. We said of Cinderella this will be our last Panto., let's make it a super-show. It was our last, true but only because in this bloody hole nothing in the entertainment line can be done. Good God, are we browned off! I never imagined we would come down as far as this. Looking back to Posen it would seem to have been a dream ...
We were issued a seven day sugar ration and a Kunsthonig [artifical honey] today - the first of the latter I've seen since Leslau. Only difference is the quantity. The issue is, I suppose, for a week. We used to have the same amount for one meal.

Sunday Nov 19

Worked on the coal heap. Apparently one of the local mines has broken down so we are getting all the waggons which used to go to them. Looks as though There'll be bags of work here unfortunately. Phil [Goold] goes away tomorrow ... this is a sad blow indeed. 5 men altogether. Had my claim upon the Paymaster returned - here one must fill in a form. Why don't we hear of these things. £200 to Mother. Wrote to Bun answering all letters for Sept - I think I've had them all now, anyway it's pretty good for this dump.

Monday Nov 20

Spent today loading a wagon with an electric coal-cutter weighing 1 1/2 tons - very awkward but infinitely preferable to playing around with a shovel. Spent from 12.00 - 1.20 in the trench - appears to have been heavy forces of bombers around the area. Nothing of real interest apart from the sad fact that the camp appears empty without Flip and Basil. Drew 2 bars soap. Issue of 50 French fags per man.

Tues. Nov 21
*
Saw the boy. Spent the night studying. We finished at 12.00 owing to the guards leaving us to go down below.

Weds Nov 22

Finished at 12.00 again for the last time I think as we've got the sack. Handed over the doings - let's see how long it takes this time. Hear Phil [Goold] is at a camp 40kms from here. Usual thing - start off for one place and finish at another.
George goes away tomorrow - 10 altogether - we're constantly being split up now.

Thursday Nov 23

Well, another 33 men go tomorrow, including Basil Coe and Geoff Holden, two people with whom I have lived ever since Leslau 1940. Which leaves old Charlie [Glasgow] on his own ... once there were five - still can't understand how it's worked here, someone pulls strings - of that I'm sure. I wonder how much longer I'll be here - now I could stay, I think, after hearing about the rations at the camps. Leschin is very bad according to reports and I can only hope they're the usual restless rumours - God help anyone who is forced to live on the rations we've heard about.

Friday Nov 24

Went on sand today, which upsets all plans or eating - naturally! Owing to all these people going away it has occasioned considerable upset. Several new men have come into the room and cupboard made for big argument. General feeling between the old members of consternation and deep depression. One thing is certain - I don't fancy this place.

Saturday Nov. 25

Out on sand again. A lovely day except for rain - late afternoon. Norman had a fag parcel - 500 - he luckily managed to buy 1 1/2 pounds at the rate of 60 per 1/2 pound - current market price. Had a beautifully hot shower over in the bathhouse, so hot in fact it was almost a Turkish bath.
Tomorrow we have been detailed to No. 8 party - sand going out only 40 strong. I hope to see someone.

Sunday Nov 26

One way and another this has been a strenuous day. Went out on PA and unloaded some small railway lines. A more than usually stupid guard brought us in to Fruhstuck during which we were on parade 25 minutes owing to the parade being one short. Upon our reappearance we were given a wagon full of spuds to play with - 18 tons. Without our knowledge this was expected to be an accord job [Akkordarbeit: piece work, paid by results] but we cribbed. Naturally, we wanted to come in for dinner and return again thus managing to haul two lots of contraband and after a lot of agitation we managed it - I'm apparently unpopular but that's no fresh worry. Anyway, between us we managed about 1/2 cwt of spuds which should keep the wolf from the door for quite a while.

Contined on A7283702

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