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The Diary of Alan Forster, POW 3921, Stalag VIIIB (October 1944 — May 1945) Part 9.

by Bill Forster

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

Continued from A7290957

Sunday April 1

And again, I regret to say, no sign of the Red X, bad 'cess to 'em.
We spent the morning making what is known as a super-blower & consists principally of tins embodying a fan rather like a smith's ....

Monday April 2

Still no sign, no smokes now for three days & I'm fully convinced I could just manage to live comfortably, if not adequately on German rations providing I had 100 a week. The midday soup has improved 100% since the rations went to Pekins boilers - solid peas spuds & cab today, only salt is short which seems remarkable - it comes to something when Jerry hasn't got that condiment. The weather is lovely today & would be really warm were it not for a blustering wind. One of course feels the slightest cold now owing to insufficient nourishment - one has little blackouts when one bends down or stands up too quickly - a la 1940. Wrote a card to Mother - as its rather blunt (truth always hurts) it may not get through but what does it matter anyway? The clocks went forward an hour this morning, much to our surprise - summer is a commin' in! For tea the cooks lobbed up beetroot which came up, I understand, with the last rations of which I have no copy unfortunately. A very nice change indeed excepting of course that they were mostly brown & woody & we have now no salt or anything to go with them.

Tuesday April 3

Still no sign. 22 men were called for this morning but only to fill in a bomb crater in some nearby village. Such is life: I doubt me if parcels will ever turn up until we start work. If we don't start - well, no parcels I suppose.

Wednesday April 4

Nothing doing yet - not even with German rations. In fact if the farmer hadn't given 2 sacks of spuds & some beans away we wouldn't have had any soup today. It seems he's a decent sort & holds the point of view that the German government doesn't give a damm for him so he shouldn't be too particular in his offer that they are so insistent about. So many men - usually about 20 - go out in the morning to fill in bomb craters in a field about a mile away from here & are replaced by an equivalent number in the afternoon.
But this idea of working on no grub is very bad - this morning for instance, we had our usual slice of bread with about half a beetroot cooked overnight (also given by farmer) & now it's 4.00 & bar our slice of bread & some more raw beet we've had nothing.
(5.00) But the soup was good! I mean from the standards we judge on at present of course - that is one could stand ones spoon up in ones cup & we had over a litre per man.
Rations:- a civvy 1 1/2 K loaf made from spuds between 7 men. Rest of rations not known just now but are said to include flour for making our own bread.

Thursday April 5

Again we draw a blank. I went out to work filling in the bomb craters in the field on a breakfast of a boiled beet slice of dry bread (thin) & a cup of coffee taking with me as a pleasant change a beet for 11.00. The field, luckily enough, is planted with excellent quality beans so in the course of one's not-so-aimless shovelling one unearths quite a lot - are they appreciated!!!
Lots of planes over again today both bombers & fighters. They come all day & most of the night; certainly no peace for the wicked.
We have had a typical Kriegies soup today from what I believe to be Reichsbahn [railway] rations - 3/4 water 1/4 cabbage & spuds & 3 bits of meat the size of one's fist between the 200 of us. Had a handful of wood-violets this morning & enjoyed their delicate fragrance more than anything else for years ....
Our potato bread has come up again - what foul stuff! The 11/2K loaf would be alright for one man & a pound of batter for a little meal because we're used to the bread even when it is like wet plaster but for 7 - ! Shameful! Commis Brot I regard as a fair ration because it's wholemeal bread but this stuff is 100% spud & doesn't do any good at all when it's eaten new as it must be.

Friday April 6

Again nothing. But at last had a decent quantity of good beetroot between us 7 between 5 & big ones at that - of course with our usual thin slice of bread! It makes me determined that when I get back I'll see just how much beetroot I can eat - naturally of course with vinegar in a civilised fashion. It's a very funny thing that I never even tasted beet or porridge before I left home where there was always unlimited supplies. I started to eat both in 40 & except on rare occasions with oats from Rauch cookhouse have never had enough. Boy, will I make up for it when this bloody war is over!
I'm recommended (to my surprise) CWS [Cooperative Wholesale Society] "Greamo" oats as best on the market. However, that's to be seen; I'll try the whole range, I think. (1.00)
A big flash has just come up about 515 company (us) having drawn some Red X parcels. It's said that 3 comp which is billeted 2 or 3 kms away already has them. Again hopes have risen; let us sincerely pray that they are not doomed to be dashed again. Most of all I want a smoke - a real cigarette, just imagine!!!
The rations have just come up from yesterday 20G cheese per man, 25G marge for two days: ie yesterday & today supposedly. Bread works out as 215 G. per day.
The farmer has said he'll issue us 1 centrier [Zeniner, 50 kilos] spuds (cwt) & 20K peas.

Saturday April 7

I'm starting today's entry early as I have a feeling - I can't exactly describe it - as though something is due to happen. In which case I'll make a record of today & be it good or bad it will serve to show at least how we exist here in this accursed barn.
Very well, at 6.30 a stupid guard flung open the door & yelled, "Aufstehen!" [get up!] but it was only a joke (German) so I went back to sleep until coffee (German) came up at 7.45. It worked out at a full 1/2 litre per man today & was also, remarkably enough, strong & black. With it we had a slice of dry Commis Brot & 10G of cheese from yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed it needless to say but again it's such a hopelessly small quantity for a man. Then I scrapped through my pockets once more & found enough old tobacco dust etc to roll a very small fag which Dave & I smoked between us. As parade hadn't turned up by 8.45 he had a search thro' his pockets & produced enough for another of the same brand - amazing really as we have been doing it for the last ten days. Parade has just gone; time 8.50 & a cold morning with watery sun. Parade over we all retired to bed again bar the 15 men for work & a half-dozen peeling the extra spuds for the skilly. It's darn cold & my fingers are frozen. 9.30, we hear the Hauptman is at Pekin Kommando. 9.45 Jock & the 110 have been taken away by the unteroff. To see him. Now we wait to hear something definite about parcels we hope after all these nerve-racking rumours.
They came back & had only seen the Feldwebel who, however, in expansive mood had told them that 3 coy had had 1/2 parcel by lorry from Weiden. We heard the full story later & it seems that their sui sent a note through to the Stalag by a lorry & back came the parcel.
2.00 Hurrah! The boys came back with the soup & the glorious news! A parcel & 50 fags to come up any minute now.
A lorry was around looking for us & Jock happened to be around just in time & stopped it. Good old Jock! What a difference it's made in here: spirits are high & the thoughts of a fag are bucking me up no end.
Parcels are up! 1 1/2 American per man & good ones too working out at 150 fags for each of us. I gave my choc & sweets to Norm which entitles me to more later of course. Bread the same as usual.
But best of all - a letter! Came to the whole Commando & it was for me! It seemed almost unbelievable but true, a letter from my Bun. How thankfully was it received ... I knew it was going to be a good day & by jove I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Sunday April 8

A lovely morning, up & washed before Parade as was nearly everyone else - what a change! People running about & singing all in good humour, very pleasant indeed.
And I spent a very busy morning making our home a little more comfortable building up a gangway etc & making places to hang things keeping them out of the straw.
At 5.00 o'clock we had a special tea - oh extra special! - & at the moment we are entirely replete & comfortable.
Norman again takes credit with honours to his pineapple trifle which, quite honestly was as good as any I've ever had in civvy
street. It only goes to show what can be done with a parcel. Herewith the menu & the quantity of material used:-

CafÇ au lait
Celio Pate au Pain
Celio Salmon Straight
April Plain
Pineapple Trifle
Coffee Truffles
Sweet June Dreams
NEP New Gateau

Quantities:- 1 tin Prem. 12 oz; 1 Tin Pate 7 oz. 2 Pks Biscuits: 6 oz. Ea: 1 1/4 tin milk 1 1/4 lbs. just over kilo bread (...) little coffee, 1/4 lb raisins 4 ozs Celeo.

Monday April 9

Nothing untoward or unexpected has happened today save the rather surprising issue of rations. For six days we had between 5 men, 1 lb of batter and 1 1/2 of white cheese both of excellent quality. A pity the bread is so very poor & small; we ... it now as a 1 1/2 K loaf between 6 one day & the same between 7 the next. The weather was again summer-like & at 5 o'clock about 1,000 or so of our planes passed overhead on a SE course.
Tuesday April 10

Again summer weather. Had a cold bath - my first bath since leaving Klimontow. I reckon I scrapped off enough loose skin to fill a double hand & I'm as scaly as a fish especially on hips & buttocks. Then into my last clean change - now I feel a new man. Also sewed up my blanket into a sleeping bag as I did in 40 in order to keep out of the straw a little for it's wheat & that helps breed lice. Two very intriguing rumours are about today the first concerning parcels & the other concerning repatriation. They go something like this - a board of some 20 Swiss Red X delegates sitting at Meuseberg discover that Germany cannot afford to keep us & are seeing for our transference to a neutral country. In the meantime - until that blessed day! - we are to be issued with 2 parcels per week. I can only hope this is true.
Rations today embodies milk - about 1/2 litre between 5. Bread a 1/2 of a 1 1/2 K loaf per man double issue for 2 days.

Wednesday April 11

A lovely day again, in the morning went into the wood besides us to gather firewood. It was marvellous to roam about in there again & feel the sense of freedom once more. For dinner we had uncooked sauerkraut & beautifully boiled potatoes - the ordinary soup rations haven't come up to date & if that's a sample of what can be turned
up without this I'm all for them never coming up again. Tea was one of the feast day efforts & so was, of course, marvellous. The trifle especially was improved a great deal & was superb. Owing to Ron's watch repairing we became a packet of tea & that of course made it a high light.
Three men from here have, or we hear, thrown in their lot with the Germans by joining the Free Corps ... I can only be amazed at their stupidity. At a time like this it seems so utterly idiotic to go to the loosing side for the American troops are only about 90 miles or so from here so we believe as news is, to say the least, rather confusing & uncertain.

Thurs April 12

Whiled away the morning which is very damp with fine rain making a sort of fireplace out of an old tin or two while Norman carried on with the old blower. It's quite a decent looking job & will soon, I hope, be put to the test.
Well, both went well, thank goodness, & we had a really good meal of fried spuds, spinach & corned beef washed down by excellent coffee - best meal I've had since leaving Klim. in the dinner line especially when one considers that the bulk came from the Germans. Paid 60 fags for a 1/4 lb of Canadian tea ... I suppose in a way it's a bargain but it grieves me to pay it out having once been short it makes me wary - not half!
Post cards were again given out - don't know what came over Jerry. I honestly can hardly see them reaching home but suppose it is possible with all the evidence of Red X hanging around.

Friday April 13

Wrote two cards today - one to Mother & one to Bun a little more cheerful than the previous ones owing of course to the Red X again. The weather has again changed to wet & the ground is in a hell of a state with mud & pools. An excellent dinner & two lovely cakes for tea today.

Saturday April 14

Went out digging small step-trenches by the side of the main road. It was very pleasant today for the sun was shining & the air crystal clear. Heaps of evacuees about - mostly from Frankfurt am Main. 6 Yankee planes - Lightnings - came over straffing when we returned to the barn; they weren't over 100' high - a most encouraging sight. No rations have turned up at the cookhouse yet so we had plain spuds boiled in their jackets for dinner - we eat them as though they were apples. Certainly good spuds around here.
Rations:- bread 2, 1 1/2 K loaves between 7 for two days.

Sunday April 15

Well I reckon my date wasn't far wrong for the finish of the bloody holacust [holocaust?]. Not that it's actually stopped by any means but the Americans seem to be only 60 Kils away from here - it's not far! So today we are having a Liberation Tea & soaking what remains of the parcels - I'll append the menu & damage later. We are now sitting awaiting the arrival of our 10 lb cake from the cooks whom, I hope & pray, have taken some little care over its cooking & not just burnt the outside to pieces without touching the inside. It it turns out badly it will, I'm sure, break Norman's heart. He started last night preparing & we've been busy together since 6.00 this morning making the spread. It covers a solid square yard tightly packed now finished & looks simply gorgeous - the whole barn has, I think, been around commenting.
Everything turned out very well - especially the cake which we couldn't get round to eating. I never thought I should ever be in the position on this march of collapsing on my back unable to eat another crumb but today just that has happened - all five of us were beaten. Of course we've eaten more today than we ever have for this morning I happened to bag a bucketful of spuds for a bar of soap & three fags which we polished off for breakfast. Then we had another 8 spuds & a cup of thick barley & meat for dinner. It's not really surprising!


Hors d'Ouvres
Swift Slice
Kraft ...
Cold Salmon Slices
PatÇ Slice
Stuffed Pork ....
Cocktail Cuties
Short Shapes

Pineapple Cream Trifle
Coffee Truffles
Sweet June Dreams
Butter Biscuits

Coconut Creams
Coffe Creams
Egg Flip
Stuffed Prunes
Marzipan Surprise

No, not really surprising!

Monday April 16

In a poor state today after the tea party. My stomach doesn't really know what's happened to it. I'm distended like a balloon - a bad show.
Have spent all the morning in bed except when I washed & saw an evacuee about some contact - ten bars soap & 20 fags for four good plates, 2 forks, 1 knife & 1 lb salt which isn't I consider a bad deal at all. Soap's a dead weight to carry around anyway. Oh, yes, & on Saturday I got rid of my watch. The first instalment from the guard has already been paid - 70K spuds. There's a heap more to come including, peas meat & eggs which makes me (working on Posen prices) 100% up on the deal.

Tuesday April 17

Had permission for fires again today so spent all the time outdoors cooking. Norm made up spud cakes which we fried & added sugar to - result lovely! Nothing else of importance.

Coninued on A7299994

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