- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Leonard Bellas
- Location of story:
- Sudetenland, Germany
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 October 2005
November 15th 2005. This is a part of my Father`s journal that he secretly kept when he was a POW at Stalag 4C in Decin, formally Bodenbach in what is now Czech Republic. He was captured after the surrender of Crete in May 1941, he was a gunner in the Royal Artillery. This journal was written in secret and it took me a while to arrange the entries in chronological order. The Journal also had other comments and descriptions, poems, jokes etc, which I have not included. I would like to state that the language and some of the terms used is in the idiom of the times. My Father was a well-read man and his grammar was usually perfect. Any deviations from this standard have to be because of the situation at the time it was written. I am sure he could have been in trouble if the Nazi guards had found it. Some notes were obviously written in cryptic haste. He never really talked much of his ordeal until late in life and then only small amounts. I have remembered the tales and have noted them, but they are not included here. The words you read are all his, written at a time of great stress. I feel it is a lasting testament to him, and the thousands of other POW`s who suffered the same uncertain daily routine. In the summer of 2004 I went by train from Prague to Decin, where he was incarcerated. I went to the local Museum and all my enquiries of where exactly the camp was located were met with a blank denial of any camp being there, I called it a collective amnesia. If anyone else would like to discuss this with me I would be happy to share this experience, it unsettled me and left me with more questions than answers. Please contact me and I will be happy to reply. Michael.J.Bellas. son of 1557472 Gunner Leonard Bellas.
Cpls.Hurman, Wiltshire, Meaken and Kelly going back to stalag, Sgt.Battle later. Air raids more frequent. New AO this week-he shot a Frog at his last Kommando and boasts of his doings in Poland.
If the Arabs with their incalculable wealth of raw materials, the rich forests of Siberia, and the unending cornfields of the Ukraine were in the command of Germany under National Socialist leadership the country would swim in fat. We should produce, and every single German would have enough to live on. AH 1936.
Feb 4th 1945
Stalag 8b liberated by Russians. 25000 men. Lots of civvies left work for Sturm Volk 70 kM from Berlin. 500 Italians evacuees landed at work from near Breslau. Train bombed on way and 30 coaches lost. Loads of cattle, pigs and fowl etc on lines. Civvies arrived later. Heard guns at Ruchenberg.
Feb 18th 1945
Russian advance to Berlin stopped, turned North. Joe says Berlin by 23rd.
13h. 100 kM from here. We have broken through Siegfreid line at Strasbourg to a depth of 25 kM. Civvies here digging emplacements and mining roads. Lots of blokes up to Volksturm. 13 and 14 continue heavy raids nearby. Joe 30 kM from Dresden. 17h We told to be prepared to move very soon. Fin(?) today at 11:15.Fight in Coubus(?) when it falls Berlin will fall in 14 days. H Pool says Germans will fight for 12/18 months yet retreating to (??) towns all the time. Lots of talk about moving.
Feb 28th 1945.
Off by ?? on all fronts. Germans promise new weapon. The German wonder for the defence of Berlin. Say that it will be talked of for years to come. Bags of air raids. Dresden is reported flat. Streams of evacuees pass all day. Talk on wireless of an 8kM parade area for Bit. POW`s. Volksturm postings(?) here. All old 36b camp leaving 21h. Offensive began on Saar, Rumoured leaving tomorrow from here. Packing cases made and beds on wagons down factory. Germans landed an Arm. Div. On Konigs. 24h. Turkey in war again!!! Russians about 20 kM from here. Yanks attack with 40 Divs. Saarbrucken taken.
The stories of Greece, Crete, Malaya, Java and Burma are all the same. They mean that it is mere suicide — nothing but death and weakness — to accept battle without adequate air strength.
Sir Keith Murdoch, Daily Mail, April 13/42
March 4th 1945
Snow again. We 10 Kms from Cologne. Dresden ½ surr. 2 hours in shelter yesterday. Reported 25000 planes over Germany. Big attack in west across Rhine and through S Flene(?) Cologne, Dusseldorf and Munster surrounded. 6 men in uniform from Breslau on road for 6 weeks. Sick left in barn which was on fire as they passed. Anybody falling out were shot. SS shot and burn everything left.
Mar 11 1945.
??? though SF line and across Rhine. Attack Dusseldorf and Cologne. Yank 9 Army and Can 3 Army on 60 kM front across Rhine. 70000 prisoners taken, 200000 cut off in Danzig. Cologne fell on 6th. Refugees still coming through, Block 7 M/6 destroyed by German planes, (later 60 planes raided it).
Conference in Germany to decide whether to continue. 11th Bonn fallen.
Mar 18 1945
Bonn Cologne and Dusseldorf fallen. All foreigners to leave protect(?) Crowds of refugees (Poles, Italians, etc) on foot ??? ???
Germans off to W Pool. Chaps at one camp refused to work as rations were too small. Were not shot because Germans felt sorry for them because England had lost the war. They were to be attacked soon by 80,000,000 new tanks. Using pram now to bring grub from company. 9 new chaps here. Either going to wood camp or going on march to Nuremberg with rest of Stalag. We use new 10 ton bomb with blast effect 8 km radius. Lots of troops in this area marching and training. Digging tank traps etc. Long “red alerts” these days but no bombing yet. Spuds from cellar under camp. \
Mar 25 1945
Spuds 350 gms per day. Some prisoners from Russia here under false names. They have prison sentences ?? them from Breslau so when they were evacuated they changed names. 250,00 killed on raid in Dresden (from civvy who was told by an ARP official)
Two yanks dead on Wilsdorf and 2 more dying. Malnutrition causing TB. Ones leg is so bad he is crying for it to be taken off but the doc cant do anything. (no instruments etc) The doc says good food would save the lot. We buried the dead.
Yaks in dreadful condition clings cry to H.Pool when he goes to do something for them.
9 new chaps here all from France and very young. One was only 15 ½ when I was captured. 4000francs reward for paratroopers in France and one was turned over by a frog for this. He got a load of Bren bullets in his guts instead. One frog said he preferred jerry — he was left alone by them but we blew his farm to bits. One of these farmers had his life spared because he spoke a little German so “must have had a little interest in Germany.” His 3 pals were shot. Invasion started a day late Pres in England having a smashing time.
Rec ??? Red X parcels. Refused to work when no beer. Moral tone of women in England very low. Yanks with women in daylight in Hyde Park. Italian prisoners with girls. 5 hrs alert yesterday. Salt rationed now. No eggs for Jerries next month. Perhaps no marg or jam. Padre here. Last raid on Brussels 37 Dutch killed and 400 prisoners injured. Benyene works bombed. 1 & 7 German armies surrounded. All west of Rhine ours through SF(?) in 14 places. Big front E of Rhine also.
April 1st 1945.
Hopes highest ever now. All say this month finish.
40,000 yank paras take Damstadt (?) We’re going through Germany as we went thro` France. German Army and German front smashed up. Say it will be decided in 8 days. Rusnstadt packed in. News via HP from St Sec(?) source. Not to be divulged to people. Catp 20 towns in 24 hours Adv 180 miles in 48 hours. 27 Generals packed it in, Kessel taken. Brit alone have 7 pontoons across Rhine. Must not escape without permission from Andle(?) at Stalag
300 planes sent to bomb Eng. Dropped bombs in water and surrendered. Marburg and Frankfurt fall. Hassal and Bremen being attacked. Russians prepared for big attack. Germans say “wait and see what we will do.”
Notice. Deutsch V.S. and Wehrmacht Aushalten unser gegenschag kommt. Heidelberg fallen.
April 8th 1945
Churchill says only mopping up to be done. Nuremberg surrenders. Civvies??? counter attack this week. From Belgian line Churchill says 11 days finish. 200 Russ escape from Dresden in Jerry uniform during raid. Boarded ammo train, drove to Russ lines attacked Jerry from behind and annihilated him? Supposed to come from Big Gals- Ruckenberg front broken - everybody moving soon. Lot of short raid alarms this week (7 in one day) Front? New government formed in Japan. Church says Japan may pack in before Jerry. Rumoured that diplomatic relations broken off between Russia and America. Everybody says war will end this month. Town (Gotha) in middle of Germ taken. Striking towards Leipzig.
April 15th 1945
Rations 208 Gms of bread daily. Asked on parade for volunteers to fight in German Army against Russians. Also what we would do if Russians came here. Reports that Gerry is suing for peace (15). Plane fires on by ?? today. People travel on buffers and roof of coaches. All say “this month”.
April 22nd 1945
Americans past Chemnity German GHQ is at Leipa. Dresden fallen. Continuous yellow and red alarms all day every day. Huge flights 4-engined bombers over. Dive-bombers bombed somewhere near here. Some houses of civvies working here were damaged. Nearest yet?
Dresden and Komatau cut off. Russian breakthrough on Dresden front. Bridge at Tetschen bombed (unsure) Big German offensive reported. Food and fags very bad. Last another week on food, and 3 on fags. All Czechs gone so cannot buy bread. Opinions varying re. duration of war.
Goebbels hung by ours. American and Germans allied against Russia. Ribbentrop in States negotiating peace. Berlin fallen. All “warning to shot without challenge” notices taken down. Pukka griff daily from officers and 1 Sergeant hiding out with Czechs. Germany will capitulate to English and Americans but not Russians. Everybody says “next week”. My grubstakes give out before next weekend, on bare rations then.
May 5th 1945
Blokes celebrate end of war. One bloke said ‘I can’t believe its over’ Eating nettles and dandelion leaves. Guard in spud store.
May 6th 1945
Goering commits suicide. Hitler ill. Meeting of allies and Germany. Berlin fallen. Swedish General (acting for Germans) and staff. Crippo[?] meet in Constance. Hitler dead. Donetz chancellor for 2 hours then assassinated. Revolt in Austria. American tanks in Prague. Revolt in Czechoslovakia. Berlin, Hamburg, Lubeck, Karrlsbad and all S.Germany surrendered. Italy too. Only Stalag A (surrounded) and C left. Receive instruction from Stalag re conduct. Given to Stalag by Earl Haig and Lord Stanhope who are volunteer prisoners and will take over camp after war. Em[?] gets news from Off, as frogs from Breslau. Germans agree to terms with us but not with Russians. No more raid alarms. Next alarm will be a 5-minute blast meaning “enemy approaching)
May 7th 1945
News from Embassy source. War over this week. Russians coming. Evacuation wagons brought in. Later cancelled. Americans not Russians coming. Civvies terribly frightened of Russians. H.Post got 80 fags and 60K spuds from ???
Night. No check parades. War over according to night shift who returned at 10:45. Blokes up all night.
May 8th 1945. Tuesday.
Sat war is over at 10 o’clock today. Bright, hot, sunny day. At 12:45 flight of bombers over nearest (so far) bombs dropped. Heard artillery fire all night. Civvies alternately happy and glum. Wild rumours about Russians coming — Americans coming. Heard Churchill’s speech. SS Division in this area not packing up. Evacuees going past on foot. Churchill’s speech and Anthem, Guards cut off radio from Guest House, Russians and civvies etc visit us.
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