In late April 1945 as US and Soviet forces moved toward their momentous first meeting on the Elbe River at Torgau, the work routine for the 24 British POWs in the nearby village of Bad Schmiedeberg continued almost as normal until one morning when the orders came that they were to be moved. This unedited transcript is taken from a very informal 1995 taped interview with my father. Some further details between the quotes have been added from my subsequent conversations in 1998-2001 with his long-lost POW friends Pte Pat O'Sullivan of the Sherwood Foresters and 'Nev' Chamberlain of the RASC and also from various official 'After Action' reports of the US Army's 104th Infantry Division.

Note: in the 'Geordie' dialect of North Eastern England, 'why' often mean 'well', ‘why aye!’ means an emphatic ‘well, of course!’ and 'bugger' rather than being an obscenity, is a general utility word for an individual which can be either affectionate, dismissive or anything in-between according to context and intonation.

Were you still working at the brickyard in April 1945?

'Aye. Then me and Taffy buggered off on the Friday, Friday morning.'

Driver Benny Lewis of the RASC, a Welshman from Dolgellau.

'About the week before that there was streams and streams of troops coming past the village. I don't know where the hell they were heading for because they were right in between the Russians and the Yanks, right in between. We could see them out of the window and the road was only about 40 yards away. But there was wagons, motorbikes, the bloody lot. That was on the Thursday night.' April 12th 1945. 'The last I saw of them they were going along the road. That way.'

Pointing at the 1945 POW group photo. To see the photo and caption click here.

'That was south. On the 13th of April there was dogfights straight up above us, round about and everywhere. There was any amount of dogfights, but we were in the loft of the house, we just had to live in the there. Friday morning, the 13th, Black Friday. Might have been Friday afternoon, too. Then a few days after that we went into the woods. We had a horse and cart and we took the gear. It was the old farmer's next door.' The local coal merchant Old Mathias. 'He told us: "The Russians are coming and they're taking you away in the morning." That's how we got away. So me and Taffy said, "Right, we're off!" We just went upstairs, where this woman had the flat and the three bairns.'

Frau Langer, who lived above the converted stable, at 29 Hindenberg Strasse when all 24 British POWs were held.

What happened to the other POWs?

'The guard marched them away. They were heading West. They had to move. They marched them away and we got word of it, Benny and me and we went upstairs, into the loft, into the skylight and they marched them away the next morning. And two or three days after, they came back. Some of them. On their own, about a half a dozen of them. And then we went into the woods. All of us went into the woods and then they buggered off and we came back to the house. It's here behind that.' Pointing at photo. 'And we stopped there another two or three days and then the Yanks came up from there.' Pointing to one side of photo. 'And we went back with them.'


Ben Lewis Bad Schmiedeberg POW


Driver Benny Lewis of the RASC (Army Number 156453, German POW Number 227953) is pictured here on the right with an unidentified friend sometime prior to his capture in the desert in 1942. Photograph courtesy of Mrs Mena Jones.