Five years as a POW in a German camp, 1940 - 1945
© Tom Gould
When war was declared in 1939, I was conscripted. In May 1940, was shipped to France as part of the Duke of Wellington's second regiment and my first encounter with enemy forces was at Dieppe. A bit later we moved to St Valery where the fighting got really heavy and we were eventually overrun by the Germans. We were taken prisoner and marched to Brussels, and from there by cattle truck and barge to Poznan in Poland. The camp was called Stalag 21D and there we were put into working parties to do various labouring jobs, on the railways, forestry, drainage and snow clearing. Most of the time we were usually given a fifth of a loaf and soup for dinner. Sometimes we were allowed a few privileges. I've still got some photographs that the Germans took of us to send to our families, to show the people back home that we were well treated, I suppose.
When the Russians started advancing early in 1945, we were moved. There was a lot of snow and it was very cold, ten or twenty degrees below, but luckily we got overcoats, sent out by the Red Cross, I think. When we finally got to Magdeburg the Americans freed us and took us to Brussels. This time, instead of a bit of soup and bread (which was all we got when we were captured), the Canadians gave us steak! Finally we were airlifted back to England in 1945.
I would sum up my five years as a POW on the whole as being reasonably treated by the ordinary German soldiers. As in any place, there were good and bad amongst them. If they were talking to you on their own, it was just like talking to a chap you had met anywhere. But if there were two or more of them, it was a different tale, they were not as friendly, they were frightened of being reported for being too soft with us. One thing I learned was never to ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn't do yourself.
As told by Tom Gould in March 2004. This is an extract from 'Down Memory Lane', produced by the Firshill and Pitsmoor Local History Group.