BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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

Contact Us

A German POW in Britain - Part 4

by BBC Open Centre, Hull

Contributed by 
BBC Open Centre, Hull
People in story: 
Herbert Heinemann; Mrs Nelly Clarkson; Mr. HALL; Betty Copeland; Edward Stones; JOHN BUCK
Location of story: 
THIRKLEBY; THIRSK; GILLING; HARTFORTH GRANGE; Thwaite; Muker; Gunnerside; REETH; Eppleby; Melsonby; Roods Farm, Boldron;
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 September 2005

Mr & Mrs Buch, their daughter Iris and farmworkers, pictured during haytime 1947, on West Roods Farm, Boldron.


We arrived Hartforth Grange Camp within shortest time by lorries at the 27th of September 1946 in the afternoon. At that time I did not know this camp should become my favourite one of all camps I had been [in]. A lovely peaceful spot, clean hut, showers, a shop and a massive farm building containing the dining-hall as well as the rooms of the English and the German staff (Lagerleiter). Below the farm building [there was] a large meadow with very old big trees, flowerbeds and along the small lane to our camp rhododendron [grew] on both sides, lovely when flourishing in springtime 1947, the whole [place] seemed to be like a park. Our food rations were satisfactory (four men [sharing] a loaf of bread instead of one loaf for seven of us [at it was] in Butterwick Camp). Our own cooks prepared the food, porridge every morning, bread with a piece of margarine, grind cheese and small sausage for daytime and usually soup after coming back from work at night. Spending our spare time in our huts (we called them in German NISSENHUTITEN, I do not know in English) with playing cards, writing postcards or letters or doing anything else. Of course [we were] talking about our experiences with farmers. I personally took every opportunity to talk to English people so [that] I was able to study the way of life in your country more and more and step by step and discovered nothing was comparable with my life in Hitler's-Germany, not at all !! People were very liberal in every way, friendly and even feeling themselves into our lives being away from home and our relatives. Many of the English tried to give us consolation "you very soon will be back home again” so they said, “maybe already at Christmas”.

Christmas l946 we were allowed to go out and walk around the camp within a 6 mile zone, what a surprise [that was] to every one of us. Together with a friend of mine I used the first day out to walk into the next village, GILLING, in the late afternoon at Christmas. Looking into the rooms through the windows we could see people celebrating Christmas, drinking and laughing, they just were having a good time. Somebody took notice of us and at a sudden two young ladies rushed out of one of those small houses, took us into the house in[to] a room and gave us a kiss underneath a mistletoe! We were speechless and we did not know how to react. The whole family asked us to stay and offered us cakes and even a glass [of] beer. We both were more than fascinated and perplexed. We expressed our thanks before we left those nice people, nothing else [was] talked about but that happening all the way back into our camp. No question [that] I mentioned that in my next letter I sent to my parents.

Winter 1946/47 was a very hard one. Villages had been cut off from any kind of traffic. Therefore we had to cut snow in the area and in the moors. I remember the villages Thwaite, and Gunnerside which were cut off completely We had to dig out sheep in the hills, many of them were frozen to death so we could not help [them all]. It has been horrifying to see all the disaster facing us. [They were] Hard weeks for us too. [The] Bread and cheese had frozen to ice[, whe had] nothing to drink, cold hands and feet.

One evening on our way back to camp the lorries stopped over in the middle of the village [of] REETH to have a pint or maybe two in the pub. Children were sledging down the street. Some of us jumped off the lorries to sledge with those children, we were having a lot of fun with it.

Since the beginning of springtime I was busy in farming. On one of the farms I got contact with Mrs Nelly Clarkson, she was a day labourer about 50 years old at that time and lived in Eppleby. I met her on various farms, she used to call me in [her] Yorkshire dialect, "me son”. She was not very wealthy yet she offered me cigarettes and sandwiches every time we met, and we did [meet] again and again in the hay time, potato picking or when we had to help [with the] threshing when she usually stood on top of the threshing machine. Many years later on visiting Yorkshire area we met many times; talking about "the old times” of course.

[I also remember] Mr Hall, a farmer in Melsonby. I was working for him for a long time and between, times usually on Sunday, [he sometimes] asked me to milk the cows and feed them, so I did with great pleasure. I got some money, cigarettes and a very good meal. He and his wife were very nice to me and we became good friends.

I also made acquaintance with a land-girl working in Melsonby for the farmer Edward Stones. We became good friends and we still are. Betty Copeland was her name, she lives in Hull now. My wife and I visited her in Hull and she has been here [in Germany ] with us several times, with [her] son, daughter and friends (see the photos). Since [those] years we telephone [each other] regularly once or twice a month, sometimes more. We are very lucky to [have been able to] keep [our] friendship.

All of us were detailed to do farm work in the area, which would involve hedging, ditching and harvesting. Hay time [in] 1947 I was bound to help farmer JOHN BUCK, West Roods Farm, Boldron nr. Barnard Castle. For me [this was] a stroke of luck. Arriving at the farm house Mr. Buck [had] just finished milking the cows [and he] welcomed me very kindly. First of all I was told to go into the kitchen. His wife did not hesitate [in] offering the traditional English breakfast "HAM and EGGS”. After I had finished the meal she asked me immediately [if I wanted] for some more. At this very first meeting I got three rations ham and eggs. In the following time it has been very easy for me to find out [that the way] this family [looked after me] is like [they were] my parents. Ham and eggs every morning - as much as I would like to have, at about 10 o'clock cake, sandwiches, scones and more, the basket was filled up to top (see the photo), a midday meal at 1 o'clock and tea and sandwiches again at coffee break.10 WILD WOODBINES on top of it before l had to go at night.

I FELT LIKE BEING IN HEAVEN, and I was working vary hard all day long. I felt like a member of this family. We all were very, very sad when we had to part and I [felt that I] was very unlucky [having to leave]. In one of a letter dated 9.9.1948 to Germany he mentioned;

Dear Herbert.

I got a surprise when I received your letter, a very pleasant one. I am so glad that you are back home to your own family again but I was very sorry that there was no Herbert this year for the hay. I will have to close this time, we will never forget you Herbert while on earth, may God bless you and keep you in good health always, and I trust that if you are In the fortunate passion someday to pay us a visit If you can.

Yes, I could [pay them a visit] and I did. I was very sorry [to learn] Mr. Buck had passed away in the meantime, I saw his grave to lay down flowers and in order to say;


was lucky to see Mrs. Buck, her daughter and husband in 1979 [one] last time. Mrs Buck enjoying to see me we said bye-bye. It was [for] the last time [as] Mrs Buck passed away next morning!!

© 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.

Books 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