BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2012We've left it here for reference.More information

16 September 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site Print this page 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


A Prisoner of War’s Diary from Stalag VIIIB — 1942

by actiondesksheffield

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Prisoners of War

Contributed by 
People in story: 
George Irving Beck, Alice Beck
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 January 2006

Christmas Card sent by George to his wife Alice from Stalag VIIIB - 1942

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 — 1942
George Irving Beck

January 01, 1942 - Thursday
Holiday today same as in England. Although I’m miles from the old hometown my thoughts are there. The old saying goes think of the future, and not of the past, so I’ll let these few words suffice and say ‘finis’ for today.

January 07, 1942 - Wednesday
Air raid alarm sounded here today after dinner. Lasted about an hour so it looks as if our lads were over. Civilians say they are over pretty often. Had no cigarettes for a long time now. Still hoping.

January 18, 1942 - Sunday
Latest news, “Japs doing well”. Weather forecast “absolutely freezing, 20 below and up to the knees in snow”. The food is still terrible. Roll on when we can sit down to a good meal.

January 23, 1942 - Friday
Had a bit of trouble with the guard at work. One can expect nothing else these days, for we’re all on edge, hard times bring trouble.

February 01, 1942 - Sunday
Received letters from wife, Annie and Violet. Sorry to hear about Callaghan’s brother’s wife passing away. “Japan still said to be doing well.” Weather forecast “31 grad, 36 below zero”.

March 01, 1942 - Sunday
Latest news “Japan still doing well and Singapore has fallen”. Things are looking a bit black for us at present.

March 22, 1942 - Sunday
Not a deal to report. Days and months are passing nicely now, but what wasted life. Civilians are talking about their food getting cut again next month, and they’re not getting a deal now.

March 29, 1942 - Sunday
Having marvellous weather, wish I could say the same about the news, but we hear very little these days. Roll on.

April 05, 1942 - Easter Sunday
Another holiday round once again, how they keep rolling by but not half quick enough. Report just been received that an English prisoner has been shot for assaulting a German officer.

April 26, 1942 - Sunday
Not a bad weekend. Had a game of soccer this afternoon, reminded me of old times. Received parcel of cigarettes from the wife. Food is going down terrible, turnip soup every day. We’ve had weeks on cabbage, now it’s turnip. Roll on. Even the civilians are eating dry bread at work now.

Alien Enemies
(The German mother speaks to the English mother)

On the cold frontier line of death,
I won my man-child blood and breath,
At a great price in gulfs of night,
Purchased the morning for his sight,
And in a silence big with fear,
Fore wrought the music he should hear.

And you? Ah! Who should know but I?
The wings of death that beat so nigh,
The deathly dark, the deathly dews,
The soul that will not yet refuse,
And all you risked and all you paid,
When out of you your son was made.

Your son and mine in love were bred,
Your son and mine in hate are dead,
Yet never hated, never known,
The sense of what they had to do,
But perished brother slain by brother,
Who bight as well have loved each other.

The happy hands too good to put,
To the red business of the brute,
The candid eyes that death release,
Found peopled with the dream of peace,
The hope beneath my heart that grew,
Ah! Who should know them if not you?

Dear mother of a murdered son,
Ours is the end by us begun,
Ours is the strength the drums called up,
And ours it is to drink the cup,
Of childless days, of childless years,
Salt with the taste of blood and tears.

Dear murder mother still to die,
The women’s regiments go by,
No music of the march for them,
And for their souls no requiem,
When mid the screaming of the guns,
The mothers perish in their sons.

And we are foes, or so they tell me,
But in the wonder that befell me,
When a solitary soldier I,
Fought for the life so soon to die,

When out of night, I brought, I won,
My morning star my little son.
When at the utter risk and cost,
I gained the solace I had lost,

When underneath my opening eyes,
Lay that which now all altered lies,
When underneath my opening eyes,
Lay that which now all altered lies,

When to my warm and passionate breast,
I held the limbs now cold in rest,
I knew one peace that shall not end,
And every mother for my friend.

May 03, 1942 — Sunday
Our air force was over a couple of days ago and bombed Czechoslovakia. Played soccer today in the sport palest. Wrote letter to wife and said “One cannot live on fresh air alone”.

May 10, 1942 - Sunday
Glorious weather. Played soccer and went for a walk in the afternoon. This last week there has been quite a bit of bombing over here by the air force. Heard a rumour that Russia had given in, but this was denied. Back again to cabbage soup, all we’re living on is cabbage and turnip. Roll on, God help them after this harvest has gone.

May 25, 1942 - Whitsuntide
Received ten letters from wife. Nothing else to report, no news whatsoever. Still waiting for that boat.

May 31, 1942 - Sunday
Latest news to hand “Rioting going off in Czechoslovakia. The general in charge of the protectorate was shot. A whole family including mother, two young daughters and son were shot for being in the affair. A curfew has been put on the Czechs whereby they must be indoors by nine at night. Four girls who waved to us at whilst they were passing in the train, have been taken into custody by the Gestapo. The whole of Czechoslovakia seems to be in a state of unrest.

June 07, 1942 — Sunday
Received a parcel of cigarettes from the Regiment. Men and women still being shot in Czechoslovakia. Weather forecast glorious and it is a pleasure to be outside. Nothing else to report.

June 14, 1942 — Sunday
On Friday a whole village in Czechoslovakia was burned. Rifles, ammunition and a Schafft-sender was found by the Germans. All the men were put together and shot. The women and children were sent to the concentration camps. Everyday the shooting of civilians is going on. Received letter from Annie saying my mate has been wounded in India through shrapnel.

June 28, 1942 — Sunday
Raining all the weekend. Shooting is still going on in Czechoslovakia. Villages have been burned down. According to German news things are going bad for us in Egypt and Africa. Italians and Germans recaptured Tobruk, thirty thousand British prisoners taken. I wonder when we are going to do something in this war, it will last years by the way it is going.

July 05, 1942 — Sunday
The latest news is that we have been driven right out of Africa and are back in Egypt, we seem to be losing all over but never mind we await forthcoming events. Received sixth cigarette parcel from wife.

July 12, 1942 — Sunday
Went for a walk round the town. This last week there has been nothing else in the paper but news about our ships being sunk. “Sebastopol has fallen and is now in German Hands.” The Royal Air Force has been over the last week and bombed Bremen and other towns, hospitals were hit and civilians killed, number of planes 500. Nothing else to report.

July 19, 1942 — Sunday
Plenty of news flying round lately regarding Turkey. German ambassador has been told to leave Turkey at once; it appears they are coming in on our side. Received six letters from Alice. Roll on a long time.

July 26, 1942 — Sunday
“Germans are said to be doing well in Russia”. No further news.

August 09, 1942 — Sunday
War seems to be turning in our favour a bit. The Germans have been pushed back above a hundred kilometres in one part of Russia. Our air force still keeps bombing over here. Hamburg has suffered terrible, most of the civilians here think the war will be over by Xmas and Russia finished, they believe we’ll come to terms with Germany. I don’t think so.

August 16, 1942 — Sunday
Our mail has been stopped. Orders have been received from the main camp, to the effect that German prisoners in England, are getting very few letters owing to bad service, until this improves we shall have our mail checked.
WE have been told to write home about it but to us this is propaganda. Lovely weather today. As I sit here on the top of the timber gazing at the open spaces, and watching the civilians passing on the main road, it makes one realise what he is missing back in England. Roll on.

August 23, 1942 — Sunday
Received fifth clothing parcel from wife with one pair of boots enclosed. Latest news “British troops landed in France in five places.” Germans claim to have driven them off and taken 1,500 prisoners, also tanks. They lost 400 men.

August 31, 1942 - Sunday
We have received no mail for over a month now and are not even getting letter cards to write home with, we seem to have lost touch with the outside world altogether. Latest propaganda “England said to be putting pressure on Turkey to let them through”.

September 20, 1942 — Sunday
Thing are getting worse. Meat has got scarcer and we are allowed less freedom. Latest news “English troops tried a landing in Tobruk.” Once again we have been driven off, but the thing is that is worrying the Germans is, “Where are we going to strike next.” Received news that Edna’s husband is missing, the only hope is that things turn out OK. This war has been on three years now and there still seems to be no signs of peace yet.

October 23, 1942 — Sunday
Quite a time has elapsed since I put anything down in this diary but there has been very little to report. Edna’s is off the missing list and is a prisoner of war. Received two cigarette parcels yesterday, one from the regiment. 10th bought a jazz trumpet 55 marks.

November 08, 1942 — Sunday
No news. Weather terribly cold. Received clothing 6th parcel from wife also cigarettes. Clocks in Germany have been put back an hour; it is now dark at five o’clock. I am still living in high hopes and smiling. Roll on.

November 22, 1942 — Sunday
Today it is snowing like blazes. At last we have a bit of news apart from the sinking of British ships, which is an everyday occurrence. “War going good for us in Egypt and Africa,” German troops marched into South of France. This is all for today.

November 25, 1942 — Wednesday
Identification parade. German police came up to the room with Czechoslovak girl, who was asked to pick out prisoner she’d been intimate with. She’d been found with chocolate and other articles on her. Two other girls also at police station regarding same affair. The case concerns four of our fellows and these three girls, and it seems some were recognised by dress although they couldn’t actually prove it. We await forthcoming events to see what will become of it.

November 29, 1942 — Sunday
Terrible weather, snowing and windy. This last few days the news has been good and seems to brighten things up a bit. The latest report is that we’ve taken thousands of prisoners in Africa, and have now passed Benghazi. The Russians are also said to be doing well. It’s about time things started moving or it will last for years this war.

December 06, 1942 — Sunday
War still going great for us in Egypt and Africa and it appears the Germans are being driven back. I have received letter from Bestwick.

December 20, 1942 — Sunday
Just a few more days and Xmas will be upon us. We are all hoping to spend the best Xmas we can possibly have as prisoners of war, and may it be the final one in Germany. No News about the war. Been working all day today for two wagons came in. All letters and parcels stopped for indefinite period owing to passage from Switzerland not being clear. English Commando raid on France, German sentries captured, boots left behind.

December 27, 1942 — Sunday
The death roll for this place here now stands at a hundred and ninety six, so God knows what the big towns are like. Yesterday we had to work all day. Four wagons came in spoiling our Boxing Day holiday.

December 31, 1942 — Thursday
Being New Years Eve recalls to my mind the last one I had in England years ago. The time is nine o’clock, and although miles separate the folks in England and me I shall be with them in spirit. May the coming New Year bring better luck to us all and above all “A speedy end to all this trouble”.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Prisoners of War Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy