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The Diary of Alan Forster, POW 3921, Stalag VIIIB (October 1944 — May 1945) Part 8.

by Bill Forster

Contributed by 
Bill Forster
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 November 2005

Continued from A7284387

Thursday March 1

To Dallen. Cramped quarters - bad march warm and strong wind. The behaviour of the Germans gets steadily worse. Several men were shot, some killed for attempting to escape - that treatment is perhaps deserved but when it comes to not allowing our commando to shit by the roadside when the fellows all have dysentery - pushed about whilst marching sticks tapped round our legs etc. I can't understand why they engender this hate for themselves ... Spring! Treesfin [?] leaf! 24 K

Friday March 2

To Jetschin. Split into two parties. Norman, of course, got on the other one to Charlie and I. We slept warmly with Betty [?] between us. Had a cup of good stodge and one of pease pud. Today the Germans lobbed out leaflets inviting us to join their cause against the Reds! Bloody cheek after the treatment we've been having! This is the second one I've seen, the first was 15 months ago inviting us to join the ranks of the Free British. There seems to be a definite move towards Karlsbad where we have apparently been expected for some while. If all accounts are true we shall receive some little attention from the Red X. I hardly dare hope this is true! 14 K To date 643 K

Saturday March 3

Rest Rations:- cupful sugar 5 men. 1 oz sausage per man, 2 oz marg per man, 1 oz honey per man, 1 1/4 K per man approx. 50 fags per man 3.50 split up from and Norman.

Sunday March 4

To Kirchen. Lovely billet. Long march. 24 K

Monday Mar 5

To Peterburg (?) Hard going on dry road. Cold wind and snow. Not bad billet.
Came out of Protectorate about 5K after marching off.

Tuesday Mar 6

Rest. P/C written. Rations:- 1 K bread per man, less sugar than usual, no cheese, sausage a tiny piece 3 men 1/2 lb marg, very comfortable place after all. Slept very well in spite of hordes of mice which ran around all night.

Wed March 7

To Grossfarwitz. Good weather and a dry road after yesterdays snow made for an easy and pleasant march. 16 K

Thurs March 8

To Deutschkeit. No boilers. A trench fire with hardly any wood. Straffed the camp for pinching spuds and sacks. We'd pinched some pea powder stuff from the previous place and it made grand soup - lucky we had it. 20 K

Friday March 9

Rest. Rations:- 1K raw spuds per man, 2 oz peas, 10g or so raw meat. Bad weather, heavy snow and heavy wind. Filthy dirty messing about with fire.

Saturday March 10

Rest. Continuation of yesterday. Had the birdie on last night but pitch darkness spoiled the chances altho' some results were achieved at first.
Conditions are very difficult. We were all marched out for ... at 9.00 but came back immediately. 8 men went out for rations at 7.00 but up to now (1.00) have not returned. Weather continues bad. Note turned off Karlsbad road at Buchau on Thurs. Now heading for Marienbad its said another 14 days approx to a Stalag.
Tonight was a night of all night - the story went round like wildfire - Red X parcels had arrived in the village! And strangely enough it was true - a huge ten wheeled lorry straight from Switzerland full of a varied assortment of parcels - French, Belgium, American, Canadian and medical comforts! Between five of us it worked out as 3 parcels. and a medical parcel and one of the big Belgium parcels between twenty men which brought the issue up to roughly 2/3 per man - a great help. We also had a ration issue from the Germans, about 1 K spuds and a swede between 8 with a little meat. How we hope that the Red X service continues - its already had a tremendous effect on the boys to feel they haven't been forgotten - or at least that they've been found again! The fags were very good each man receiving the equivalent of about 60 each with the shag tobacco etc. We smoke again - thanks to the Red X!

Sunday March 11

To Neudorf by Potchau.
A hell of a march containing one of the longest and worst climbs we've yet done. Road third class and covered deeply with slush. Billet is good, however, but only one boiler. We had plenty of light but no bread and wish to cook up the macarone we received yesterday but we no chance.
25 K To date:- 743 K

Monday March 12

Rest. Thank God! We're ready for it after yesterday but it's a great surprise all the same - we think the Huns are suffering pangs of conscience over the rations they've been giving us and as we noticed there was an VIIIB ration centre at the station in Petchau we may be having something today. The guards are growing hungry - yesterday they had only about 250 g bread given them. They grow more browned off every day.

Tuesday March 13

To Abaschau (4K from Marienbad). We await rations as do the Jerries who, apparently are as pushed as we are. They have, we've been told, to demand it off the villages! In their own country ...
We lie in a barn, three stories high but plenty of light as well as dust!
The roads are pretty clean and dry with 14K the exception of patches.
Rations:- 1K spuds, 1 oz meat, 1/2K swede per man. Dried peas salt etc.

Weds March 14

To Waschengrian (4K from Plan) heavy going without bulk in ones stomach. An excellent barn, very warm and clean with two boilers.
20 K

Thurs March 15
Rest day

Again. The Red X thank God! We had 3/4 Amer. Pcl. per man, 15 French biscuits per man, 3/5 confiture and extra pcle per man. Some goods were stolen by the Germans.
Rations:- 2 K bread between 5, spoon sugar 2 cups per man, turnips, spuds. Some raw meat 16K Comp. On the whole an excellent day. Warm sun, plenty of water, plenty of brews, just a lovely day. Still no one has any idea of where we are really going but just as long as we have parcels and we don't march far it will be all the same to us.

Friday March 16

To Haid. A hot dry march.
The roads are as though snow has never been and we covered the distance in 4 1/2 hrs. For the first time two Comm...aiders are here together - just a big square with three sides barns and the other the main road. No water facilities except in a wagon, no boilers - sweet F.A. 26 K

Rations:- K156 - 700 G bread Comp (20g man)
K20 meat (good)
41-900 peas
62-900 pots
29-900 ...
6-270 salt
Till the 21st. It appears we are going to Weiden at least half the batallion - while the others go to a point 60 K further on. Seems to be st.... the time but- !

Sat March 17

To Rosshaupt - a rotten day due to rain and hail but a shorter march thank heaven. We hear (from the Hauptman) that orders are definite concerning our destination and better still we shall have parcels every 5 days. This march should be finished within a few days now ... 17K

Sun March 18

Rest. Quite good billet. Rather cold lots of rain. An excellent pudding last night with the issue ... Purchased from Geig at 2 fags per man, 50K good meat which is now being cooked.

Total Rations for periods 10 Jan - March 21

Bread 17 1/4 K per man 1 lb 70 days
Pots 5 1/4 2 1/2 oz
Meat 3 3/4
Swede 1 1/2
Marg 1
Peas 1
Honey 1/4
Sugar 1/4
Cheese 60 grams
Mac. 125 grams
Salt 1/4 K

March 18 (cont)
We had the meat - my God! As old as the hills and tough as leather. Each man got roughly 2 ozs I'd say - a bad show.

Monday March 19

To Moosbach a village 5 K off the main road. Unfortunate for we turned off for we were head of the column and it might mean that we lost our place tomorrow when we should arrive at Weiden. We hear marvellous reports of a new camp from a labourer who helped build it. We are split into two parts again - 100 each - not a bad barn. 18 K

Tuesday March 20

To Shamenreith a village 3K off the main road 7 K from Weiden which, incidentally we saw signposted for the first time today. A lovely barn - in fact the best we've had - being of enormous dimensions and in two floors both plentifully supplied with windows. We are also fortunate in having two boilers which means bags of brews. Saw D at 11.00 and had a kilo of bread.
17 K

Weds March 21

Rest. At ten o'clock had the cake which Norman planned and I missed last night. It was absolutely delicious. We ate it with a decent cup of coffee and it reminded me of coffee time in Newcastle.
Rations:- 1/3 of a 2K Commis Brot [Kommiss Brot - i.e. army issue bread] each and half spoonful of sugar. 100 lbs potatoes, 1 buckett split peas, a little meat.
Stories still go round about what we are going to do so until some definite word comes I shan't write anything further simply because we're browned off with speculation.

Thursday March 22

To Weiden: at least an outlying part of the town for we bypassed it and are now lying in a barn about 3K out of the way. It was a good march but spoiled by our arrival here. We had to clear the whole bottom of the barn and even now many men are short of beds. When the Hauptmann [officer] was approached about going for parcels he said that if the Vertrauensmann [soldiers' representative] in the Lager [camp] thought we were hungry he would send up parcels - very thoughtful! The Lager can actually be seen from here about 4 K away while we sit and starve. Swine!!! The sirens still continue; since we came into Bavaria the bombing has been increasingly heard in the near distance.
11 K
To date: 877 Kms

The worst has happened! Apparently the Hauptmann has asked at the Stalag here and has been told we can only draw parcels from our own (presumably VIIIB). When the latter was asked just where the Stalag lay he replied he had no idea - at least that's what we've been told, I don't know whether it's true, according to our usual luck though, its more than possible, its nearly almost certainly just what's happened. Consequently everyone is very fed up altogether and lie listlessly about waiting for something - anything - to happen.

Friday March 23

Rest:- Today we have received between 4 men 1 Canadian and 1 No 10 American pcle. It has made all the difference to everyone. I have also given myself a treat - a wash down shave shampoo and haircut complete with clean shirt. I feel a new man. The weather is more like May than anything else with people lying about in the sun smoking and playing cards.

Saturday March 24

Rest. Still awaiting transport.
Yesterday we received what we take to be a sort of lying up ration consisting of a 2K loaf between 5 for two days, half spoonful sugar, quarter spoon salt, etc. Fat ration is apparently a thing of the past as also honey. Many and various are the tales going about now and the best one of all comes from the American truck drivers who ferry parcels from the Swiss border to here. They say all long term prisoners are to be sent into Switzerland - sometime! A lovely story and to my mind at least not improbable as we also hear that all Lagers [prison camps] round and about are all full. The weather remains beautiful - too warm for marching - which incidentally, the Hauptmann - God rest his soul! - has told the M.D. is finished.
We have just heard also that Dombrowo are drawing 3 days rations and 1/2 pcle.
We scarcely dare hope this to be true!!

Sunday March 25

And it wasn't! we had only a German issue of rations but it was good - nearly a 2K Commis Brot per man and 3/4 lb of sausage of decent quality. This morning we were ready for parade at 5.45. Marched off at about 6.00 and hung around the station until 8.00 when we entrained. This was done very smoothly and within an hour the whole battalion - about 1100 men were aboard. The train moved off at 10.00 prompt - 60 men to an open cattle truck - luckily the weather is sunny and warm - and so far the trip has gone well with the line winding alongside a river in a valley with beautiful scenery all around. Now we've stopped - the .... are about. In fact we've been here for a while now and just had a couple of slices of our precious bread and sausage for lunch: I'm smoking a Chesterfield, the sun is warm. I'm content!
Later:- altogether we've been stopped until 3.30 in Scherwandorf station and now we're returning along the same line and have now stopped at Schwatzenfeld for a change.

Monday March 26

(Morning) Dark set in and I couldn't write anymore - we've had one hell of a night in the wagon, which, after various halts reached Marienburg at 2.40 am and moved on again at 10.15 am to Regensburg again by a different route. Signs of bombing are everywhere evident. We have found one small country town with considerable sidings just about completely wiped out (Neumarkt). The bloody truck still crawls on in an agonising series of stops and starts; already we have taken 4 1/2 hrs for what we were told was a 3 hr journey - not of course that anyone really seems to know where we're heading for. I can't see much point in writing down place names we pass, it means nothing when ones going nowhere. At last we've sighted Regensburg! Stood outside the boundaries of the town until it became dark 8.10 pm when we moved on through bombed out sidings and wagons. The place has certainly been bombed a lot. We got out at 10.30 at some place and marched to a barn about 3K away where we collapsed in the straw. It's called Neider [Nieder, lower] Fraubling.

Tuesday March 27

Roused out by German shouts - men wanted to fetch a barrack. Hope to Hell it doesn't mean we are going to live here long. Rumour has it that Stalag of some sort is 20K away. Had a really lovely tea last night comprising 8 courses of lovely delicacies. I felt quite satisfied for the first time in weeks. Norman certainly knows how to make something from virtually nothing. It's necessary too on the bloody bird-like rations we receive.

Wednesday March 28

Rest. It's now 12.00 and I've been lying in a semi-daze awaiting developments since roll-call at 8.00 this morning. We've eaten yes but how in hell can a man gain any strength on 3 slices of thin bread, a biscuit and a slice of cheese? It's merely enough for the moment and what we require after the fatigue and strain of the march is large and regular quantities of bulky food. I only hope to God for all our sakes that something arrives from the Red X - a decent quantity I mean - not 1/2 a parcel or something fiddling like that but a quantity. It seems highly improbable that the Hun is going to do much for us because we're too many and he's too pushed for his own evacuees. The worst thing of course is the fact that I'm out of smoking stuff - the first time for years and boy is it bad! So I sit and wait wait wait getting browned off more more and more as the minutes drag by like lead. Rations:- 1 K Commis Brot per man with about 50 g extra for 5 days, about 1/2 oz sugar. Bread new and good but of course stupidly inadequate - a slice a day .... My God! To think we've come so far down, the lice will soon be with us if as we hear we live in this barn for the next five weeks or so waiting for barracks. I think the war has a chance of ending before then - we can only hope so - it appears that it will be a rather life and death race.

Friday March 30

As nothing at all happened yesterday it wasn’t worth while writing about it. The weather is most depressing & the ground is muddy & filthy. We still await parcels but so far nothing new has been heard of them. But today started a little more hopefully, ten men went down into Regensdorf for boilers & we hear the Feldtwebel [NCO] is walking around with the Hauptmann [officer]. We were told yesterday that we would be starting work on Tuesday but not from this barn. Well, how the two positions reconcile I can’t make out.
Good news has just been given out on parade — we can expect parcels this week. Thank God! Apparently we were reported to the Red X three days ago & they said they’d get supplies to us. We were up early this morning for seeing its Good Friday we thought we’d have a little something extra. And so a cake of sorts was made & has turned out very well. The ingredients are unusual — bulk of ground spuds with dried eggs, raisins, sweet cocoa & bicarb. It has been … & now awaits disposal. Between 5 men, however, it’s an inconsiderable trifle although of course most eagerly looked to. It’s now 10.00 — 17 hours since we ate: how can one really appreciate food under these conditions? (Later) But we did! I’ve honestly never been so surprised in my life as at that cake. As light as if best white flour had been amongst the ingredients — absolutely amazing. Definitely the most delicious way spuds have ever been served up to me. I reckon someone is due for a surprise when I get back to England because I don’t think anyone could ever guess at the basis of the cake. They say there’s a German recipe book “101 ways to cook spuds” — I wonder if they had this one in? It’s evident that’s how potato bread is made at home.

Saturday March 31

Still no parcels & a furore with the boiler which went after all to Pekin Commando [Pekin Arbeitskommando, a work detachment of Stalag VIIIB in the Pekin area of Sosnowice, known in Polish as Pekin Klimontowski, close to Klimontow, where there was a hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis]. This puts us in a bad spot. Hunger spectre having reared its ugly head we played “Happy Families” during the afternoon.
Rations:- 500 grams of Commis Brot per man, bar soap, 1/2 spoon sugar.
We had quite an exciting few minutes when 9 American “Thunderbolts” came over straffing the railway …. etc right besides us. We hear there are 16,000 K.G.F.s [probably, Kriegsgefangene, Prisoners if War, POWs] in the area under the control of the Nazi party. It looks as though, from today’s rations, we aren’t going to start work, as promised, on Tuesday.

Continued on A7291677

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