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Jack Collins P.O.W. life 1940 - 45 Part 6

by Cynthia and Ann

Contributed by 
Cynthia and Ann
Location of story: 
Poland ,Germany , England
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 January 2006

These are some of the chaps who were in the POW camp at that time

Part 6 Jack Collins POW Life — 1945.
One bitterly cold night in January 1945 there was about 200 prisoners passing through , there was a church directly opposite our building and they put all of them into the Church. There were men ,women and children — when they let them out the next morning only about 60 could walk. They commandeered our hay wagon and threw them into the cart, The people at the bottom didn’t stand a chance as bodies were thrown on top of them. The people were screaming as they drove off. We were told not to do or say anything as we could be shot.
When or how I don’t know we laid plans that we were not going to go into West Germany.
February — In the middle of this month we were ordered to be taken to Danzig — after being checked in we found other nationalities there — German Polish POW’s and we could easily walk away which we did ,back to Zuckow and stayed with Agnes — She was Polish and they thought the Russians might be more lenient towards them if they were found to be harbouring British POW’s. Lulu and Marie contacted one of their pals on a farm and there was no one staying there so went there — It was amazing the lengths there girls went to and provided us with food and milk. When it was dark they brought us from the loft into the kitchen where it was warm ,they slept next door in case anything happened.
Russians were advancing well — we didn’t know what happened to the others who had gone to Danzig. Found some had been marched 1000 miles into West Germany and heard that a lot had not made it.
25th February — Not very nice here, buried in straw all day long inbarn and have to keep quiet.
26th February — Nights ok as in the kitchen , but during the day can’t move for fear of making a noise and nothing to do.
27th February - Still holding out — no news from the Russians — 4ft snow.
28th February — Bombshell — Have to get out — Marie has ahd a tip off that prisoners are being hidden in the village and were making a house to house search so had to run for it at midnight into the wood snow covered our footsteps. Had to get out so that if we were picked up the people who had befriended us wouldn’t be caught.
1st March — I stayed in French place — snowing hard, going to Karthaus looking for camp and said to some German guards I am an English POW can you tell me where there is a camp- they told me there was one just up the road. When I found it I realised they were all French. I sat in a corner but no one spoke. If there was a bottom to reach then I was at it at this time.
2nd March — Went to work but nothing doing — saw Helene and Steffi went to their house for coffee and bread and brought back 6 loaves — thank God for something .
£rd March — Wanted to fing other Englishmen and who should arrive but Topper and Gus.
4th March — Russians started pushing this way again.
5th March- Left Karthaus at 5-30 arrived Bishopberg 9-30.Dick is here.
6th March — Eric came in and Yankee friend didn’t know who he was as he was dressed in civilian clothes so never found out.
7th March — Charlie arrived just waiting for Lofty.
8th March — Camp strength is now 87.
9th March — Air raid all day Karthaus rumoured to be taken by Russians. Charlie flogged trousers for Cigarettes.
10th/11th March — Still here — air raid alarm going all day. One or two shells from tanks landed in Danzig.
12th March — Rumours we are going on board ship right along Baltic to West Germany. Russians cut off Danzig which meant no access except by boat.
13th March — Lofty and Jimmy arrived — came with us boarded ship at 12md.
14th March — Not yet sailed left in hold.Finally left at 4pm. Russsians firing across the bay — some ships have been sunk. Stopped at Colberg to pick up some German soldiers who had been isolated.
16th March — Still at Colberg left 11am.
18th March — All food gone Germans disembarked.
19th March — Still here don’t think we will ever get off.
20th March — Managed a bath in boiler room — ½ loaf issued today.
21st/22nd March — No food as yet feeling weak — will we live through this. Could smaell barley soup being cooked on deck so waited until it was dark and stood on Lofty’s shoulders to follow smell. A big cauldron of soup was on deck so I filled the dixies the lads handed to me, then I felt a hand on my shoulder and I thought game was up as it turned out to be a German soldier. As it was pitch black uniforms were not visible and he asked for some soup so I filled his dixie he told me he had just been picked up and hadn’t had any food. When I returned with the dixies we all tucked in. Later Eric did the same thing bringing us more soup.
23rd March — Loaded with cold worst experience of my life.
24th March — Arrived in Rostock — stayed a few hours then left for Lubech in W. Germany.
25th March — Landed in Lubech but still hell on ship.
26th/28th March — Landed in cattlemart at 3.00pm cement floor — wooden hut — very cold — 10 men —one loaf and a little soup — starvation rations. Managed to get ½ American parcel each.
29th March — Still here in the one room — had to wee and pooh in the same room — what a stink — had to be deloused again. Bags of rumours but nothing happening.
30th/31st March- Got another ½ parcel and ½ loaf bread, form Swedish delegate who came to inspect our conditions.

1st/2nd April — Still here .Air raid going off all day.
3rd April — Issued with straw and had 2 soups — Russians away now.
4th/5th April Supposed to be moving to a Stalag of 25,000 by Hanover — west front going very well.
6th April — Moved onto cattle truck at 9-30 — 48 in each — ½ loaf and a bit of sausage.
7th April — Left Lubech 6-30am arrived outside Buchen 11-00am stayed till 3-00pm . More German fighters brought down and I committed harikari. Stayed overnight at Buchen.
8th April — Left Buchen 3.00pm and arrived at Ludwiglast at 10.00pm. Jimmy and another 2 escaped from carriage — I think they are silly — no food in this country.
9th April - Left Ludwiglast at 8.30am saw most of the lads from Zuchau working there and clearing away debris. Met Jimmy Whinnett, Topper , Ginger, Bill, Harry Harvey, Blondie from Durham and George.
10th April — Air raid in afternoon — locked in all day — left Domitz at 5.30pm arrived Ludwiglast 7pm issued with little soup from Red Cross supplies.
11th April — Left Ludwigl at 8.30 arrived Hagernow 11.00. Saw Percy and Jock working there and living in cattle trucks.
12th April — Eric poorly with dysentery. Left Hagenow 1.00pm stayed in Balzen for 2hours and at last arrived at Lubeck 7.30pm.
13th April — Moved from trucks at 1pm, same billet Red Cross supplies for us.
14th April — Deloused — Fighting in Withenburg,Magdeburg and Stendol, only 90km from Berlin .When we were at Dorritz front was only 20km away and we didn’t know. American POW driver only been captured 6weeks ago.
15th April — Hanover bombed the night we left it had been expected. Supposed to be 50 of our lads killed and 80 wounded.
16th April — Working party of 50 going out today.
17th April — 9000officers coming. Lubech is a place for the sick, wounded and prisoners. Front 100km away.
18th April ½ loaf today.
19th April — 2 new fellows came in today — French Canadian caught at Dieppe.
21st April — Russia entered Berlin — Hitler leading troops - so they say.
22nd April — Made bread pudding — troops advancing on all fronts fighting in centre of Berlin.
23rd April — Sold coffee for bread.
24th April — The front is rather stagnant up this way — hope it moves soon.
25th April — Got British leaflets dropped from planes — printed yesterday report joining of Russia and America — also message to POW’s to take note and report any ill treatment.
26th April — Fighting in the centre of Berlin also by Potsdam and Brandenberg. Russians crossed Oder by Stettin.
27th April — Got parcel — must be one from 2weeks ago.
Russians and Americans joined on the Elbe in quite a few places.
28th April - Report of some sort of conference. Air force sergeant brought in prisoner told us a few things . He was in a 4 motor stirling.
29th April - Todays paper reports Conference of German Command — they have agreed to withdraw all troops and concentrate on throwing Russians out of Berlin — Americans now taking over.
From then on things were pretty chaotic but the towns immediately put white flags up at windows and completely surrendered. In a couple of days we were taken to an airfield and put on a Dakota bound for the south of England. We were re-equipped and deloused before flying home. I arrived on 7th/8th May - It was an awful long time. Talking to Gus on the phone and he said “it was a terrible experience and one which we wouldn’t like to repeat, but during this time we met with different nationalities got into people’s characters. POW life was mostly sheer boredom, 6% excitement and 4% sheer terror.
I was in contact with quite a few of the lads after being demobbed But we never heard of Charlie even at our reunion. He was a marvellous person to have had with us , he would barter with goods , take a pair of socks and come back with 2 loaves of bread.
Dad and mam married on 20th June 1945 Reg Ayers was best man and Harold Brown was Groomsman.

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