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Experience of a POW chapter Thirteen

by Owen. D.Smithers

Contributed by 
Owen. D.Smithers
People in story: 
Sgt.Hurbert Tuck
Location of story: 
St.Valery,France 1940
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 February 2004


On the release of certain German documents after the war, it was revealed that there was an order made to the SS to move POW's closer to Large German Towns to stave off Aerial attacks as late as 1944? Fortunately for all of us, this order was never carried out. After the war, seeing pictures of the devastation inflicted on German Cities I felt there was some humanitarian thoughts in a person of some authority in the German Forces?

Freedom was so strange and very lonely. As a prisoner it didn't matter if you were from a rich or poor background since you were all on the same level and I missed the comradeship. Now I seem just to be a number again like so many others? Finally towards the close of 1945 I returned to civilian life permanently. It felt good to get back into a signal box again after a short refresher course. Mind you it was nice to be able to talk to a young English lady again although I was terribly shy, it had been far to long. Eventually I did pluck up courage and I did marry on 3rd April 1948 and we had a single child, a girl. I was signalman at Docking on the Kings Lynn Hunstanton line until December 1957 where I left railway employment to become the Landlord of the New Inn public house in Wisbech for 3 years. Then we moved to the Railway Inn Wisbech, remaining there for 5 years that my Wife ran during the day.

I returned once more to the Railway this time as day signalman at Horse Shoe Lane crossing on the GNR to Peterborough until the line was closed under the Beeching cuts and I was transferred to Wisbech Town Station as a Porter until that to was closed to Passenger traffic. I was then offered a post as Goods Guard working out of March Whitemore yard until my retirement in 1986.

One began to backtrack on events, especially after you were told that Countries alienated against Hitler surrounded him, but the speed with which he over threw those Countries still holds me in awe.

Having said that, many of my comrades believed that the British and German soldier together would have made a great fighting machine given the right leader; it would have been a formidable force? What a blessing Hitler decided to attack Russia instead of us, we would never have stopped him? The force he created shook the World but it went to his head?

Whilst a great deal of attention was directed to the BEF evacuation from Dunkirk, to the navy's credit, both British and foreign, evacuation took place along the whole of the French coast long after the fall of Dunkirk but very little has been written about these evacuations? We ourselves were still very much in action twelve days after the fall of Dunkirk. It has always bothered me that we were just abandoned and that our fighting contribution was for nothing? Since many of the disasters in the first World war were caused by incompetent Generals, the peace after the 2nd World war was organised by politicians who gave in to Russian demands to allowed them to take Berlin. This was to prove a costly error?

Whatever alarming news came out of the media I always try to understand the others point of view. I still believe we have the greatest Country in the World. I'm not ashamed to say that. The first time I saw the British flag fluttering in the breeze on my return to England my eyes filled. Although we won the war, did we win the peace? Most of our ex enemies seem to be better off than we were. Rationing continued in Britain far longer than it did in Germany. Although I no longer hold malice against the majority of Germans, there were some who were just evil monsters.

In the early 50's my Wife and I returned to St.Valery-en-Caux in an attempt to rid myself of my constant nightmares. Returning to the spot where the 51st Highland division surrendered was harrowing, as was our visit to the War graves where I paid my respects to the grave of my late company commander Captain Colley. Reading the rows and rows of crosses and the names of the fallen, many of them friends but all comrades of the stand we made so many years ago, did nothing to alleviate me of my nightmares. Nightmares of which I still suffer more than 60 years after the experiences of 1940.

There are so many changes taking place in the World today but freedom of speech must be regarded as precious like our own flag, a flag our lads fought to defend in two great wars. I realise the young of today have never experienced a war or its affects, but there are so many war survivors still suffering from the affects of wars who still need help. The annual Poppy day is not only a means of remembering those who fell in two great wars but provides financial aid to help those still suffering from injuries received during both World Wars and other minor conflicts that have taken place since.

One of the unsung heroes of the war has to be the International Red Cross. Who without their efforts to get food parcels to us prisoners and their efforts to get those badly wounded out of the camps and back to England and proper medical attention, not to mention the substance they gave to thousands of POW's. They were also responsible for the exchange of German wounded captives in the UK. Had it not been for the efforts of the International Red Cross many of them might never have seen England or for that matter Germany again although a great many didn't make it?
This eyewitness report was written from notes made by Sgt. Tuck in 1950. Other individual reports were taken from those printed in 'The War Illustrated' by Amalgamated Press Ltd and the various newspaper reports of the time.

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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 Repatriation

Posted on: 28 February 2004 by greenhill2

Hi Owen
Ive just picked up on the last paragraph of your Pow stories.I have been trying through the Research Desks to find out more about the Repatriation please see my Article A2291339 it may be of further interest

Ed Thomson
Glamis Angus

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