The War Log of Bill Allen – part 11

Life in Camp…..

November 29th 1944
After a lapse of a few months I have decided to add to this story with a brief description of life in the camp. Since I last finished writing I have moved into the new camp and we have got more or less organized in the new barracks. Where we had six in the old huts we now have sixteen in each room. Each barrack is divided into ten rooms with sixteen men in each. There were three hundred men on the camp when I arrived, there are now fifteen hundred. I have made two drawings of the camp to give an idea of what they are like. I am with some decent fellows in my room, nine of them have come from another camp where they have been prisoners for three years. They were flying such planes as Manchesters and Hampdens. One of them was on the same Squadron as Rolly Crawley. For rations on the camp, we do not do so badly, although things are tightening up with each day as the Allies progress further into Germany. We used to get one parcel per week from the Red Cross, but they have been cut to one every two weeks. We expect conditions to get much worse before it finally ends but we don’t mind that because it will mean that the War is finishing and we will be going home, I hope.

The weather has been bad since we came into the new camp so there has been very little outdoor sport. However, we are having a few dry days at the present time so we are getting a few games of football again. Recently we have had a stage built in the Entertainment block and have been putting on a few shows. We have a good accordion band, and another classical orchestra is being formed, the instruments have been provided by the Swedish Y.M.C.A. We are also putting on a number of plays such as “French Without Tears”, “Journeys End” etc.. I have a small part in “Journeys End” as a German Soldier. I have been learning German ever since I came on the camp, and can speak the language quite well now.

Each week as a new batch of prisoners come in I look for members of my crew, but I fear that my earlier suspicions were well founded, and they were all killed. Tough on Bill Cousins the rear-gunner who had been married the week before we were shot down.

December 15th
December, and faced with the prospect of spending Christmas here, not a very exciting prospect but one which we must face with resignation. We will have to make the best of a very bad job. As the situation on the battle front gets worse for Germany, so do the conditions in the camp. First, and most important, the Red Cross parcels stopped coming through so regularly due principally to our aircraft bombing and strafing the railways. The result is that parcel issues have been cut to one every two weeks instead of every week. The Germans are being gradually cut also, but not yet drastically, however, it does mean that Christmas will be grim.

The weather has definitely broken up now, and at the moment of writing it is snowing heavily and strong cold winds are blowing from the east across Poland from Russia. The hut I am billeted in is open to these winds and window is just a solid pane of ice, both inside and out. If the reader would care to turn to the drawing I have done of the camp, they will see my window facing due east. Strangely enough, I haven’t found it very cold yet, though the fellows who have been prisoners for three years or more are huddled round the stove like old women, it is pitiful to see their lack of resistance. Either I am hot blooded or their existence has been weakened by undernourishment.

January 14th 1945
Christmas has been and gone, and it was as grim as I expected it to be. The situation reached its worst when we ran out of parcels, and had to exist on German rations as we had fifteen cigarettes to last us for two weeks. My greatest disappointment was in not receiving a letter in time for Christmas, in fact, up to now I have not yet received any mail.

An unhappy incident occurred, the day after Boxing Day during an air raid. Whilst a raid is in progress anywhere in the vicinity of the camp, everyone is compelled to stay in the barracks, but one Canadian absentmindedly wandered outside the door and a guard shot him. He died twenty minutes later.

15th January, 1945
Have just learned today that a new Russian offensive has opened in the sector opposite our camps. It is rumoured that the camp will be evacuated, but nothing definite has been heard.

17th of January
The Russians are coming up fast and we have been instructed to pack, and be ready to leave at a moments notice.

18th of January 1945
Last night we had a Russian air raid in the town very close to the camp, it was very close and we are moving out in the morning…..”

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