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Seaforth Highlander - P.O.W. Diary

by Gizmo1

Contributed by 
Gizmo1
People in story: 
John G. Munro
Location of story: 
France, Germany, Poland
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2517365
Contributed on: 
13 April 2004

Seaforth Highlander - P.O.W Diary
John Munro - War Diary

My father passed away a number of years ago after which my mother gave me a small red note book he had kept during his war time experiences.

I have copied his journal below, not to sure all the place names are spelt correctly, and have followed the style in which it was originally written. As you will see it is more a list of the towns and places he stayed in or passed through. Some of the comments are very succinct but have a great depth of feeling in them.

As with many POW's my father very seldom mentioned his experiences in Poland other than they were very difficult and he hated the forced labour in the coal mine.

My father joined the Territorial Army in 1937.
He was called up on the Second of September 1939 at the age of 18.
He joined the Seaforth Highlanders.

"J. Munro P.O.W Nr 12644 — Stalag 344

1939

Sept 2nd- Joined company at Grantown on Spey.

Sept 4th- Formed battalion at Elgin.

Sept- Moved to Aldershot with 51st Highland division.

Dec- Brigade moved from Aldershot to Borden.

Dec 28th- Left Borden for home, ten days leaves.

1940

Jan 6th- Arrived in Borden back off leave.

Jan- Left Borden for Southampton en-route for France. Arrived in Le Havre. Left Le Havre Same day and arrived at Bolbec . Billeted in village called Frouville.

Feb-Arrived in Lillers. From Lillers to Dowrim a village just outside Le Bassee.

March- Arrived at Roubaux, after short stay, returned to Dowrim. Visited Vimy Ridge. Transferred to 17th infantry Brigade at Halluim on the Belgium border. Transferred from battalion to brigade ‘anti tank coy’.

April- Fort nights course on Hotchkiss A/T gun.

April 29th- left Hallium arrived at Amiens.

May 1st- Left Amien arrived at Bolbec .

May 5th- Celebrate my 19th birthday , dinner and champagne.

May 6th- Arrive at Le Havre Load MT transport on ship for Norway.

May 7th- Unload transport and stand by.

May 9th- Arrive in Amien again .

May 11th- Enter Belgium travel all night.

May 12th- Brussels beautiful town. Push on to the Albert Canal, cross canal rearguard action for Coldsream Guards. Withdraw to position on canal, heavy fighting. Thirty six hour artillery barrage.

May 18th- withdraw through Belgium arrive at Lens.

May 19th- Attack Vimy. Reach top of ridge.

May 20th- Advance today, heavy casualties.

May 21st- Expect French army. No sign of them.

May 22nd- Total advance 15 Kilo’s. Very heavy loses, knock out two tanks.

May 23rd- Still no French army. begin to withdraw, Gun and truck blown up.

May 24th- arrive in what was Petit Vimy. Coy H.Q. gone. Get lift to Garvin.

May 25th- Arrived Seclin. find brigade HQ. Brigade formed into one battalion. three anti tank guns left.

May 26th- Reach Yepres. in action again .

May 27th- Heavy fighting lose three men. Hit with shrapnel in hip and back, but not badly , orders to withdraw but trucks wrecked by shell fire. Spike the guns , go on foot , take up position with N.H. in farm yard.

May 28th- Belgium’s capitulated road to Popering cut. Ambulance tries to get away, but is machine gunned. No chance of getting through. 8a.m M.G. fire from all sides, think we’ve had it. 11a.m Captain Melson N.H surrenders. Marched back through German lines stop in village for rest and water. Interrogated . March all night.

May29th- Arrive in Courtraix

May 30th- Arrive Ronce leave column go into hospital

June- Reach Nivelles. Put on train. Seventy four put into our wagon. Travel through Holland arrive in Meppen Germany .

June- Leave Meppen for Eastern Germany Berlin, Breslone , Lamsdorf.

July- In Stalag V 111 B place crawling with lice.

July 26th- Leave Lamsdorf with 100 men on working party. Reach Beuthen then on to Mechtal get to billets at coalmine .

Sept- Injure hand in pit. Go to hospital at Scharli Poland. Six weeks in hospital.

Dec 26th- First RX (Red Cross) parcel.

1941

March- smashed thumb in pit six weeks of work.

Nov- Left to hospital with bad throat ten days rest.

1942

April- Run out of Red Cross supplies, things pretty tough, no rackets.

July- Escape. Recaptured. Bunker. back to work.

Sept- Leave Mechtal go to coal mine at Gleiwity.

1943

Still in coal mine , must get away, eat soap but still get marked fit.

1944

Feb- Go sick with chest . Get Stalag.

Feb 15th- Arrive Lamsdorf. meet Ernie

May 19th- Leave Lamsdorf for Jroppau railway party job all right .

Sept- Sent to Oderburg via M. Ostrau to clear up after bombing raid . No work done so we are sent home again. Five Kiwis killed in raid .

1945

Mar 7th- leave Jroppau for Bennisch ten inches of snow. 25 kilometers .

Mar 8th- leave Bennisch arrive Freudenthal

Mar 9th- Freudenthal to Romerstadl 23 kilometers.

Mar 10th- Rest

Mar 12th- Arrive at D. Liebau

Mar 14th- Arrive at Triebity to work on railway, billets crawling with bugs refuse to work.

Mar 18th- Jattenity work in sawmill

April 8th arrive Hohenstadt go on to Gr Heilendorf. No work.

May 6th — Russian troops 16 Kilometres away. Escape meet partisans escorted to Brunles by P’s .

May 7th- 2p.m. battle begins. 6p.m. Drinking to victory with Russian Officer. Celebrate my release with the Russians. Get pretty tight.

May 8th- Gr Heilendorf taken , boys get through all right .

May 9th- Left Brinles for home , reach leznity .

May 10th —Left Leznity get lift in Russian truck through Sternburg to Troppau. Visit some Checkish friends in Gilsevity as a free man. Get a great reception.

May 11th- Leave Troppau by lorry go through Ratibor, Rybonik, spend the night in Kattowity

May 12th- Leave by train for Bielsko arrive Bielsko walk to Bysky billeted in sanitorum .
Waiting transport for home.

May 26th- Left Bystra to get train at Bielity . Pouring rain.

May 27th- Leave Bielity by train reach Diedly .

May 28th- Octerberg, M.Ostrau very slow train .

May 29th- Leave M. Ostrau for Prague pretty fast train , reach Olmuty

May 30th- Still going M. Tribau Zwittau. Should reach Prague to night . Arrive Prague.

May 31st — Left Prague. Met the Yanks at Rokycany outside Pilsen. Very pleased to see them. In camp at Pilsen with the Yanks. Plenty good cigs and food. Saw a film tonight. First time in five years.

June 2nd — Left Pilsen airport at 10.45 am in a B 34. Arrived at Riems 1.30pm. Good trip.

June 3rd — Left Riems at 1.30 pm in Lancaster, arrived Guildford 2.50 pm.

June 4th — Outfitted at Worthing, left for home."

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Forum Archive

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - POW diary

Posted on: 19 April 2004 by Carol

Hi, Don, I'm Carol, Frank Mee may have given you my story as it is similar in a lot of ways to my dads, who was also a POW in Lamsdorf Stalag VIIIB during 1941, before he was moved to Bobrek mining camp where he stayed for the rest of the war till being liberated by the Americans in 1945. And yes, he hated working down the mines too, and contemplated breaking his wrist or ankle to get out of it, but I don't think he was brave enough to, so just battled on regardless. If you read his story at the end I have put a list too of camps he was in and moved to and from. He kept them in a little black notebook which my mother gave me to keep after my dad died in 1997. So theres quite a lot of similarities there. They were about the same age too, my dad had just turned 20 a month before he was captured and had his 21st in captivity too. No champagne for him. Post back if you want.

Carol.

 

Message 2 - POW diary

Posted on: 21 April 2004 by Gizmo1

Carol,

Thank you for the message and yes I had read your story about your Dad. My regret is that I did not fully understand all these issues while Dad was alive but I am glad to have his story avaiable for others to read.

All the best

Don

 

Message 3 - POW diary

Posted on: 22 April 2004 by Carol

Yes, Don, I was the same way, when my dad was alive, I did not fuly appreciate some of the anecdotes he was telling me, or I just listended half heartedly, but I wish I had paid more attention when he talked about it, as he is not here now to be able to ask certain things. Thanks for replying. Carol.

 

Message 4 - POW diary

Posted on: 03 May 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Gizmo1

A fine contribution in every way, particularly since it is based on a diary, a rare primary source. That terse one line "July- Escape. Recaptured. Bunker. back to work." says it all. One shudders to think what the 'bunker' was, solitary confinement at the very minimum.

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 5 - POW diary

Posted on: 09 May 2004 by Gizmo1

Peter,

Have you read "The 51st Highland Division at War" by Roderick Grant published by Ian Allan Printing Ltd London 1977? It is an assemble of personal accounts and pictures of the 51st during WWII and a forward by Major General Douglas Wimberley. Interesting read.

Regards

Don

 

Message 6 - POW diary

Posted on: 10 May 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Don

No, I haven't read that book. But thanks for pointing it out to me.

Peter

Message 1 - 6th Seaforths

Posted on: 22 December 2004 by bilnor

Hi my mame is Norma.We seem to have something in common!My father also was in the Territorial Army before the war in Grantown, and joined up in 1939.and joined the Battalion in Elgin.Is the family from around the Grantown area? I have returned to Grantown about six years ago, which is the place of my birth. Unfortunately we lost Dad last Nov.It would be nice if we could find a connection
Hope to hear from you
Norma

 

Message 2 - 6th Seaforths

Posted on: 29 December 2004 by Gizmo1

Hi Norma,

My father was originaly from Dalcross, where the Inverness airport is now built. In 1937 my Grandfather was a tenant farmer and when they decided to build the airport he was forced to move as his farm land was required for the airport.

They moved to Advie on the banks of the Spey. It was at this time my father decided he would join the TA as all his pals had and he loved all things to do with shooting! My father was not in the 6th Seaforths but 2nd or 4th I have never been able to find out which.

He never returned to Advie after the war but ended up moving back to the Nairn area.

Regards

Don

 

Message 3 - 6th Seaforths

Posted on: 06 January 2005 by firstkingmac

HI BILNOR
WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID ?
DID YOU GET THE SCANS I SENT YOU.

BRIAN KING

 

Message 4 - 6th Seaforths

Posted on: 07 January 2005 by bilnor

Hi Don, Thank you for responding to my questions. Advie is only a few miles from Grantown, so I am quite sure our fathers knew each other,especially, when they were both in the TA at the same time. Just a pity we cannot ask them. I wonder why we all wait until it is too late to ask all the questions that we should have asked.
Norma

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