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blankets, sheets and everything! Anyhow, we went out and there must have been a tank troop and they were all on the green. There was tanks all over it and we went to the first one and this big sergeant shouts out: "Had you had your breakfast?" "No!" "Come on, you can get it here!" 'And they all this grub set out, there was all sorts. We got one lot there and then we went further up and there was another troop further up and they were doing the same, having their breakfasts. And another one shouts: "Had you had your breakfast?" "No!" "Come and get it here!" And then there was another one. "Come and get it here!" And then another one "Come and get it here!' I was sick as a dog!'

What about your first meeting with an American soldier?

'That was when we first got out of the [German] wagon. We went down the bank towards the river and the bridge and we were just walking. We knew a bloke in the village who had it.'

Old Mathias the coal merchant.

'He didn't come down, he was a German. We'd just come back a few days from the woods. We were just walking down and heard this voice; "Halt, who goes there!" And it was the Yankees and they were all camouflaged up in the trees. He says, "What are you?"

We says: "English!"

He says, "Did you know President Roosevelt has died?"

'It was just a few days after he died, but we knew about it, because we used to get the wireless in the house where we were. We used to get the BBC on. We knew exactly what was going on.'

What about Hitler's death?

'We didn't hear about that. I think we would be in Halle then.'

How long were you with the Americans?

'I had my birthday on the Monday, the 7th. Oh, we were there four or five days easy. My birthday was on the Monday and I was back home on the 14th, the week after. I landed in England on the 13th of May, a Sunday. And I had my birthday in Halle.'

You once told the story of the American MP pulling his gun out and getting you to the front of a bread shop queue? And the women in the queue just laughed?

'Aye, a bloody big Yankee. He must have been German originally, he could patter it. He says, "You needn't laugh so much because the Russians are coming here!" 'They thought they were going to be all right, but it wasn't long before the Russians came and they did take it over.'

All the POWs were put on Halle airfield.

'It was ringed all round, the airfield, there was every kind of plane you could mention. We used to get in the buggers. There was some, there was nothing wrong with then, they'd just been left. Fighters, bombers, the lot.'

That's where you got the ashtray with the German plane on it? [A prized souvenir in the house in Thornley to this day].

'From Halle, it came out of one of the rooms. There was an officers' mess block. I just saw on the table, picked it up and put it in my pocket. We were in Halle about a week. We were in the barrack blocks on the airfield.'