NEXT PAGE

POW HOME

Who were you staying with?

'We were living with this family. She had three kids, two little lasses and a little lad and her father, he lived in the house. She was keeping us, she was feeding us. Frau Langer. On the Friday morning that was Friday the 13th, that was when we went into the loft and we were up there two or three days. We used to come down on a night time.'

What about the guard?

'He just buggered off. But when we were up in the loft on the morning looking down the stairs, it was just as though I was up our stairs. You know our loft cover?'

The modern house in Thornley, County Durham.

'Why, she had her phone exactly the same as us, at the bottom of the stairs. I was lying on the top of the loft cover and I could see through the crack and I could hear the guard ringing up and he was explaining. He was phoning our descriptions away and then he buggered off.'

'They [the other POWs] came back a few days after. The bloody guards must have left them or they bumped into some bugger--the Russians maybe.' Looking at the photo. 'But the Russians came from this way and the Yanks came from this way. This must be west and this must be east. But we went into the woods, we went that way--north.

'The 13th we escaped. The next Friday would be the 20th and the next Friday would be the 27th: that's when we came back from the woods. The 28th was a Saturday. The 29th was a Sunday. The 30th, on the Monday, we went down. The Russians put a few mortar shells into the village before they came in. And on the Monday the Yanks came down, too.

'It was the 30th of April when the Yanks came in. And then on the 1st of May we went out again and the Yanks came down again. We'd told them we were meeting them the next morning and the Russians came in the same day and we all met in the Market Place. That would be the 1st of May. And we buggered off on the afternoon. We went back with the Yankees. Got up to the frontline. We got a wagon. He [Old Mathias] stopped at the top of the bank and we went down and there was a river and a bridge and the Yanks were all on this side of the river.

The Elbe?

'No, I think it was a tributary of the Elbe. In fact when we used to go from Bad Schmeideberg to Wittenberg we used to go over the Elbe at Wittenberg.'

Looking at the photo again.

'I get mixed up with the dates and that now, but I knew every man there and I've forgotten them. I've forgotten his name and I mucked in with him in Italy! Had the same double bunk.'

That would be Gunner Joe Washington of the Royal Artillery, who was also captured at Sedjenane, Tunisia, in March 1943.

Were you scared of the Russians?

'No, not really. We knew a few Russian POWs. They used to come into the Ratskeller [town hall] and we used to talk to them--in German, like. They'd be working all over, but they didn't have any Red Cross parcels like us. They were in a bad way. No clothes. Rags
around their feet in the winter. Women as well, Russian women.
They were hard done by. Oh, there'll not be many ex-POWs in
Russia.

Gnr Joe Washington, Bad Schmiedeberg POW

Gnr Joe Washington of the Royal Artillery, who was with my father in both Camps 66 and 53 in Italy and in Stalag 4B and Bad Schmiedeberg in Germany. In civilian life a bricklayer from Warrington, his German POW number was 22988, the consecutive number after my fatherís 227987. His Army Number was 1139781. Courtesy of Mrs Washington.