The March continues…..
“Our next two days of marching took us to Prousnitz and then on to Goldberg where we were supposed to get on board a train, which prospect cheered the men considerably, but this proved to be just another of the Commandant’s idle and empty promises. We stayed at Prousnitz for two days and then marched out to Goldberg where we were again installed in a barn, this time in a very filthy farm yard, and where our awful predicament really reached a most grim state. The first thing, out bread ration was cut to an eighth of a loaf, and soup almost disappeared. We looked a rough crowd by this time, we had been marching for sixteen days and were unshaven and in the most cases unwashed. We had not had our clothes off either day or night from leaving Bankau, many of the chaps were lousy through sleeping in dirty cowshed and barns. The worst part of the whole trip was the perpetual hunger which we were all suffering from. Men were exchanging gold watches, some valued at £15 and £20 for one small loaf of bread.
5th February 1945
The seventeenth day on the road and a nightmare march through the night ended the marching. We had again been promised rail transport from Goldberg and had 10 K to march to get to the town and station. We left the farm in the middle of the night and we set off marching in a long weary straggling column, and after an hour we were caught in a fierce blizzard whilst out in the open and on top of a range of hills. It was terrible to see men collapsing in the snow and laying there until the Padre’s coaxed them to go on. We passed on dead man frozen in the snow, it made one think of stories we had heard of the Artic region. We passed lots of German Army transports stuck in snow drifts, some overturned, and Germans cursed us because we would not help them dig the trucks out. We arrived in the Railway Station at eight o’clock the next morning and were herded into the box cars, 56 men to a truck and were packed in worse than in the barns, we could neither sit or lie down, it was grim. We only travelled 200k’s (125 miles) but it took us three days. We stood as long as sixteen hours at a time in sidings with about two or three travelling in between, and worst of all, we had no food whatsoever throughout the journey on the train, the result being that we were all too weak to stand on arrival at our destination. It took us two and a half hours to stagger, I won’t say march, to the P.O.W. Camp, outside the town. The Camp number was IIIA and was an old last war camp, at the moment containing 38,000 men and built for 8,000. There were French, Yugoslavs, Serbs, Italians, Poles, Russians, Americans and English prisoners in separate compounds. It was very much overcrowded, we were put into barracks meant to hold 150 men, 400 in each, it was almost as bad as the train.
At this camp we expected to get Red Cross Parcels, but there were none to be had, and hadn’t been for weeks previously. The German rations were also very poor, namely 1/24 of a 1lb. block of margarine, 1/5 of a loaf of bread and 1 cup of thin soup per day, the whole camp was in a state of semi-starvation. On arrival in the Camp, we were taken for a hot shower which we badly needed and when I had stripped off my clothes I was quite scared at the sight of my thin limbs and exposed ribs, I looked almost emaciated, it will take a long while to get our bodies built up and our strength back.
The whole twenty-one days of the marching was a grim nightmare which is best forgotten, but not easy to forget, and the sooner the War ends so that we can get home from this horrible camp, the better….”