- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Staff Sergeant Bernard Black and Sergeant Philip Hudson
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 September 2005
Our escorts handed us over and our reception began with a highly organised processing. It started with a welcome hot shower and at the same time our clothes were taken away for cleaning and searching. When they returned two trouser buttons were missing. These were designed to be used as a magnetic compass and it was obvious that the Luftwaffe knew how to recognise them. Before we dressed again, we too were searched. This included a cursory inspection of the anus. Then we were photographed, finger printed, and questioned as to personal details. At the conclusion of this, one of the staff with a somewhat bizarre sense of humour gave me a slip of paper with a number written on it and said, "Go along the corridor and give this to one of the guards who will show you to your room."
My room of course was a solitary cell. Just before the guard locked me in, I turned to him and tried my accustomed plea for food. His reply was to the effect that I would not have long to wait for some first class food. ("Eine stunde prima essen!") Another humorist! In I went, the door was locked and I sat on the bed to take stock of my new surroundings. It was a hard bed on which lay a palliasse containing a very small quantity of straw, and also a blanket. The window looked out over a snow covered open area. Also in view were other wooden buildings which I think were part of the administration block. Beneath the window was an electric heater with elements enclosed in a rectangular metal case. There were two notices on the wall, one on each side of the door. The first of these threatened severe punishment for anyone guilty of defacing the walls. That was a laugh; the walls were full of five barred gates which previous occupants had scratched there to record their length of stay. The other was beneath a small turnable knob. Its message read:- "If you wish to attract the attention of the guard, turn the knob." I did so and a red indicator arm outside fell from where it had been secured and now was at ninety degrees to the corridor wall. The guard who was pacing up and down the corridor continued to do so. It was more than half an hour before he responded. I asked to go to the toilet and was led along the corridor to the ablution room. There were no other prisoners even though the amenities would have served for perhaps ten or so. Perhaps the reason why the guards did not respond rapidly to the prisoner's request for attention was due to a policy of not allowing more than one at a time to leave his cell.
Phil and I were fortunate in that our stay at Dulag-Luft only lasted three and a half days. The information scratched on the walls indicated that many earlier inmates had been confined for considerably longer periods. However on that first afternoon we had no idea how long we were to remain.
After a while there was a considerable amount of noise in the corridor outside - the "Prima Essen" was on its way. When it arrived, it was served from a trolley which trundled from cell to cell. It consisted of a soup plate of hot, discoloured, watery, liquid on the surface of which floated a few iridescent stars indicating that there had been some contact with grease or fat. Also floating in the liquid were perhaps two or three pieces of greenery which resembled short grass stalks. Accompanying this were two thin slices of dry, black , bread. I was given a spoon by the guard who seeing my airborne smock asked if I was a parachutist. "Sint sie vallschirmjaeger?"
If my recollections are correct, we were fed twice a day. In the morning with two slices of bread and some black coffee and in the evening with a plate of soup and two slices. On the first occasion when they served me with coffee, I had to keep my foot in the door to prevent the guard from shutting me in before someone had provided a receptacle to drink from.
After breakfast the next morning, the cell door suddenly opened and one of the staff strode in and searched the cell. I wondered what he was looking for and when he left I also searched it. My search was more thorough than his and revealed a thick, broken, piece of mirror concealed in the palliasse. I had slept on it all night. Soon after this the silence of the corridor was disturbed by the occasional shouting out of cell numbers being relayed to the nearest guards who would then remove the prisoners occupying those cells and take them to the administration block for interrogation. I'm sure I wasn't the only inmate who started to listen for the sound of his cell number being called.
It was the beginning of January and very cold. I found that the best way to keep warm was to put my airborne smock on over my lower limbs and sit with the blanket round my shoulders. This worked especially well when the heater was switched on. On occasions when it was switched off it was possible to restore it by going to the toilet and then going back to the cell when the guard was some distance along the corridor, hoping that he would not observe that you had slyly switched it on. Sometimes this ploy worked at least for a while until the guard or his replacement spotted what had taken place.
My number came up sooner than I had anticipated and on the second morning I was taken to be questioned. I was shown into an office and told to sit down. The interview was very short. The Luftwaffe officer seated behind the desk opened a file which a female secretary brought in for him.
Flicking through the pages he eventually stopped and made a great show of humming and hawing and saying "Ah yes! 'D' Squadron, Keevil .... Captain Ogilvie .... here we are, Captain Muir 22 Flight .... Staff-Sergeant Black, Sgt Hudson." He ran through his lists and muttered names. His only interest was to impress me. I was not asked a single question. He even went on to tell me that I might be interested to know that 'D' Squadron was now no longer at Keevil. "They have moved." he said. "They are now at Weathersfield in Essex." I had no idea whether he was telling the truth, guessing, or just trying to provoke me into a reaction. He was wasting his time really though I did respond with "Oh, are they ?" That was it. I was returned to my cell.
The next morning I was removed from my cell again and taken to another part of the building. This proved to be a collection point for a number of prisoners who were being transferred. We travelled by passenger train and locked in compartments with a couple of guards in each. Our destination proved to be a transit camp at Wetzlar famous for Leitz cameras. Within sight of our camp were drag-lines and buckets but I don't know whether it was coal or ore that was being mined.
From here we were able to write a postcard which had a space for number rank and name, and then a selection of printed messages which could be deleted or left as required. Here also was evidence of Red Cross supplies, the food was suddenly better, there were cigarettes; we were given toilet requisites and I was able to replace my boots the seams of which were rotting from the salt water.
However our travels were not yet over. A couple of days later we were part of a large consignment of air crew prisoners destined for Stalag-Luft One. This time there was to be no changing of trains. The train was a goods special. Each wagon or boxcar held forty prisoners who were restricted to two thirds of the space. The other third was occupied by eight guards who took it in turns to keep an eye on us. It was going to be a long journey - we had each been given a Canadian Red Cross parcel and the guards had a supply of drinking water at their end of the wagon. Our journey took us north to Hanover, east to Berlin, and then north again to the Baltic coast at Barth, in Pomerania. This camp was to be our home until the liberation.
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