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Journey into the Unknown - Part 45

by wneled (William Ledbury)

Contributed by 
wneled (William Ledbury)
People in story: 
Location of story: 
U.K., Algeria, Tunisia and Central Europe.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
28 January 2005

I had not been underground very long before I developed some very nasty wide sores down my left leg mainly, which were both weeping and stinging, The old penny piece could well have been placed within them.
A New Zealand doctor arrived in the camp and by the light of a miner's lamp he examined those sores. He was shocked to see them and said "They have not been sending you down the pit in that condition, have they? That is criminal. You will not be going down again until those have cleared up" I replied "Sir, what is criminal to them?" He went on to tell me that if coal dust was to get into the Desert Sores I would be in great trouble.
Into camp hospital I went and they tried various medicaments, but none had any effect. The only bandages available were of a crepe paper type, the proper bandages were sent to the Russian front.
In about the second week,there arrived from the Red Cross in Switzerland something known as M and B. (May and Baker) This was applied to the sores and hey presto it had immediate effect and in the third week, which covered Christmas, 1943 a miracle occurred and they cleared up. Apparently, the medicament not only draws blood to the spot, but cleans and heals at the same time. I returned to the underground at the beginning of January,1944.
Later on, as I was about to get into bed on the lower bunk, my left leg suddenly swelled up like a tree trunk and I could only get in by using my hands to lift the leg. There was no pain however, but these years later it was said to have been DVT.
On 12th May came the first air raid upon the Hermann Goering Works. It was a clear sunny day and it was always assumed by we POWs that the Americans attacked by day and we British by night.However this particular raid hit the main parts bang-on, sending a mushroom cloud into the air. I could not contain my joy and so annoyed a sentry, that he asked me why I laughted. I replied that surely he would have done likewise had he been a POW in my country and his Luftwaffe friends had attacked one of our works. Their mentality seemed to have been that they could do whatever yhey liked with us, but that we should not retaliate!
In future raids, which appeared to happen each Monday morning, they had drums around the open spaces, from which a pipe seemed to protrude and what was obviously a tap on the end, from which they released an artificial cloud of whatever it was. This very soon blotted out any sun and it would become quite cold very quickly. We would rather have seen the bombs dropping in clear daylight.
Following that first raid, on arrival at the pit top that night the enemy ordered some of us to go to mass graves on the roadside, in order to pick up body parts from the thousand or so victims of that raid.One person who tried to dodge the issue was being chased around and a shot was fired, which caught the side of his neck. I don't know how, but from then on I decided not to go down the pit again and indeed was never missed! Spent the rest of time working on the surface!

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