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15 October 2014
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A German Faux Pas!icon for Recommended story

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Warrant Officer Paul Fincham
Location of story: 
Germany
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4392588
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Alma Harrison of Uckfield Community Learning Centre, a volunteer from BBC Southern Counties Radio on behalf of Mr Paul Fincham and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Fincham fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was a navigator in Bomber Command flying a Wellington Bomber. I was 19 years old at the time. On 7th September 1941 we were flying over Kiel Naval Base in Germany when we were caught in searchlights, shot at and hit. The crew bailed out in parachutes. Unfortunately the pilot was killed but the rest of us survived but were captured. I was taken to a temporary camp in Frankfurt and then was moved around to various Stalags but spent over a year in the “Wooden Horse Camp”. Barth was my last camp on the Baltic Coast.

Our main aim was to escape and to accomplish this we spent many hours lying on our stomachs, head to foot with colleagues, scraping soil, putting it down our trousers and in pockets. It was very hard, hot work. Of course the Camp Commandant knew of our efforts and one incident which made us laugh was one day at roll call (we were counted evening and morning) the Commandant announced in front of all the prisoners “You think that we knows damn nothing but I must tell you that we knows damn all”. There were tremendous cheers and laughter from all the prisoners and completely anaware of the faux pas that had occurred. Most of the tunnels were discovered and the Germans dug a trench filled with stones around the camp which meant there was no way were would be able to dig our way out.

Myself and my fellow prisoners were extremely grateful to the Red Cross who supplied us with food parcels and books, otherwise the food was very meager and we were often extremely hungry. I myself lost four stones in weight while a prisoner of war. We were so hungry at times we made tiny wire hooks baited with some refuse to try to catch crows to eat.

I studied for a Matriculation whilst a Prisoner of War and was successful in obtaining the Matriculation from the University of London.

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