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A Prisoner of War’s Diary from Stalag VIIIB — 1943 October to December

by actiondesksheffield

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George Irving Beck, Alice Beck, Harry Ferrell, Arthur Roberts
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11 January 2006

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mrs. J. Broomhead and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and condition

A Prisoner of War’s Diary from Stalag VIIIB — 1943 October to December
George Irving Beck

October 01, 1943 — Friday
Today’s German news “Naples occupied by the Germans has had its port and harbour destroyed to prevent the landing of our troops”. It appears we are landing fresh troops all over and they admit the superiority of our troops and the large numbers we have there. Roll on. Sometimes I think this war is never going to end, poor old Alice back there, wish we weren’t wed now for her sake.

October 06, 1943 — Wednesday
Deutche Zeitung reports that Corsica has been evacuated by their troops. Italian news is that English and American troops have landed behind the German Lines. Quite a lot of damage has been done by our air force in towns over here. Nothing else to report.

October 11, 1943 — Monday
Seem to be very unlucky today, I got my fingers trapped in the rollers of my machine, two fingers got it very bad. Latest news according to German wireless is that fifteen divisions of English and American troops have landed in Italy; I suppose this will be their excuse for going back. Russians are doing well, still advancing every day.

October 16, 1943 — Saturday
Been off work for the last five days with my fingers, on top of this I had three boils and a eye bad, roll on, everything seems to come together. In Monday we lose our guard, he’s been very good to us and with him goes the wireless. Wonder what Alice is doing now at this moment, I can’t ever imagine going back to England and settling down at all. Russians still pushing on. Out in Italy things are slow.

October 18, 1943 — Monday
Breslau was bombed by the air force. No further news. In bed early for it’s the best place.

October 24, 1943 — Sunday
Today I made a form out to the regimental paymaster for twenty pounds to be sent to the wife. No news whatsoever this last week for the radio was taken away when the last guard left. Still living in high hopes of peace. Roll on.

October 25, 1943 — Monday
Latest news “one million kilos of bombs dropped on Kassel over here by the air force over the weekend”. Nothing else to report.

October 26, 1943 — Tuesday
Curse my luck again “Cut my left hand all over with the saw blades at work”. Today we received a large poster and it has been posted on the wall. Large photographs of German propaganda are shown. Hundreds of women and children half naked showing their bodies mutilated and faces blown away through our bombing and terror raids. It’s a pitiful sight but no doubt it’s just the same with bombing in England. They say in large print that we were the first to start and they waited twelve months before retaliating, none of our bombs were intended for military targets, Newspaper reports Exchanged wounded reached Germany today”.

November 01, 1943 — Monday
All mail including parcel post is stopped for a week, notice outside post office to inform civilians as such. Been working in the Gatter this week, too much work now for my machine so I have been taken off, Czech is on it now for he works overtime each night. Russia doing well, No further news. Roll on.

November 02, 1943 — Tuesday
Since yesterday afternoon I have been going mad with stomach pains, walking about all last night for I couldn’t sleep, vomiting terrible in fact I thought my time had come. Taking bicarbonate of soda, cascara tablets, magnesia and God knows what. Now ten o’clock at night and just getting relief. Latest news “Russian troops are only 100 miles from Rumania. In Italy the Germans are retiring to the heights, no wagons available here for wood.

The Glory of Women
You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in some mentionable place,
You worship decorations, you believe,
That chivalry redeems the wars disgrace,
You make us shells, you listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled,
You crown our distant ardour while we fight,
And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.

You can’t believe that British troops “Retire”,
When hell’s last horror breaks them and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses blind with blood,
On German mother dreaming by the fire,
While you are knitting socks to send your son,
His face is trodden deeper in the mud.

November 04, 1943 — Thursday
Today Harry Ferrell returned from Lamsdorf in place of the fellow who left. He tells us that my mate Arthur Roberts in now in England amongst the five thousand exchanged prisoners, lucky devil, no doubt he will have been down to see the wife by now. In Lamsdorf the main prison camp an underground tunnel has been found nearly a mile long, bed boards were used as props etc. There is another one but the Germans can’t find it, our engineers have been at work, even electric lights have been put in. There is also a radio in the camp and this can’t be found either, its surprising how clever some of the chaps are. English speaking Germans have been sent out to some camps and dressed in English uniforms and they’ve been found out in some cases. One of the chaps was stoned out.

November 08, 1943 — Monday
Once again the old stomach pains came on, had to knock off work this afternoon. Bent double on the floor and sick all over, can’t hold a meal down. My finger is broken at the end from a month ago when I had it trapped in the machine, pains me terrible but I’ll have it put right when I get home unless it gets worse. Everything going fine for us in the war. German ambassador had to return to Germany from Turkey. Extra divisions of ours landed in Italy.

November 10, 1943 — Wednesday
Received two cig. parcels from the wife. No news.

November 16, 1943 — Tuesday
According to the Czechs, Churchill says the war will finish next year. Other news “the Russians are still advancing, they’re going great.

November 28, 1943 — Sunday
Regarding news there is nothing at all to report. Week after week and month after month I sit here jotting little bits down but still this war goes on. It makes one wonder when this lot is going to finish. I can’t imagine at all what things will be like back in England now. Married life, I’ve had so little that I can’t even call myself married. Wonder what Alice is doing now, she must be fed up like myself at times although she had opportunities and I have not. It is no good worrying so we just have to take the life as permanent, settle down and hope for the best.

November 29, 1943 — Monday
The wife informs me that they are expecting Edna’s husband home from Italy in a couple of weeks but I think they will be in for a shock, most of the prisoners have been brought into Germany so no doubt he’ll be over here.

December 08, 1943 — Wednesday
The mail seems to have stopped altogether, as usual it is near Xmas and every one up to now has found us with something wrong. At present a big battle is going on in Italy and we are progressing very slowly. Roll on a long time.

December 11, 1943 — Saturday
Received parcel from wife containing slippers. Took it a long time to come but better late than never. No news at all regarding the war. Last Thursday I lost my cigarette case at work. Friday found it again in the sawdust cellar but some crafty thieving devil had taken the cigarettes out first and thrown it there.

A few notes:
Civilians never have any cigarettes. They’re allowed three per day and even then they’re lucky to get them.

December 13, 1943 — Monday
A few thoughts:
In two hours time I can say another day of my captivity is past, looking back it doesn’t seem long since I was in England, how time flies, three years and seven months a prisoner. It just seems as if I’m fated to be away from home, fortunately I’ve got a wife and friends back there or it would be an aimless existence. Day after day it is the same routine, even work breaks the monotony or I think I should go silly. In my imagination I’ve planned an awful lot for when I return, but it’s executing the plans that matters, no doubt very few will be carried out. I can’t see myself settling down and that is what worries me, it’s grand to know I’ve got a good little wife and I wouldn’t like to disappoint her, bless her putting myself in her place, I know that the future and everything she’s strived for will be well repaid, just to see happiness written on my face when I walk through that door.

December 20, 1943 — Monday
Chef gave speech to civilians telling them that Germans can’t lose. After England is finished America is next. Received couple of letters from the wife and photograph of Arthur, couldn’t recognise him at all, how he’s altered. Wife says she went out will Rex for a drink. Roll on for God’s sake. Nearly every time she writes now she’s drinking somewhere, don’t know what to think, I love her and trust her, suppose everything will be all right. God bless her.

December 22, 1943 — Wednesday
Yesterday the police gave us a visit. It appears that someone has informed them that we have been cutting the potato peelings off too thick and wasting bits of bread. God knows what the country is coming to regarding the war there is very little news. Received letter couple of days ago from Herbert Very nice too.

December 24, 1943 — Friday — Xmas Eve
Today I made two small parcels for two civilians at work. They have three children each, and although enemies a man can’t bear malice, for like ourselves they can’t help being enemies. I love children and regardless of nationality it gives me the greatest of pleasure to see them enjoy themselves. On of our lads dressed as Santa Claus and went round the houses, the kids love the English Father Xmas. Wonder what the wife is doing tonight; my thoughts are back there with her and the rest of the family. Time rolls on and still we are miles apart, may this be the last one away. Roll on. My friend Arthur Roberts who left here no doubt will be having a grand time in Sheffield. Well I wish him all the best wherever he is and I am only too sorry I can’t be with him. Played pontoon till 4 am with candles. Won 65 marks.

December 25, 1943 — Saturday — Xmas Day
At a time like this we should all be happy but somehow this year I can’t get that feeling, I try my best but the spirit isn’t there somehow, its just forced, as I look around the room I can see others just the same. I pray fervently that I have to spend no more out here. These few words will have to suffice for tonight as I’m rather depressed and it is better to leave these thoughts un-stated.

News just received says that one of our parties in the town of Ager was stoned by civilians. It appears our air force had been bombing there, and as the lads were on the way to work the civilians started throwing. The German guard took them in an entry for cover; through persistence one civilian was shot dead.

December 26, 1943 — Sunday
The German battleship ‘Scharnhorst’ sunk by us. The number of lives lost is not stated in the newspaper. Bed 8pm.

December 29, 1943 — Wednesday
According to German newspaper we made a Kommando raid on the coast of France but all the men were killed. Received letter from wife but a lot was blacked out. Underneath she states, “Although I can’t believe it”. Can’t make anything from this. Bed 6 pm won 27 marks at pontoon.

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