Arrival at Bad Schmiedeberg

How did you find out that you were going to the work camp?

'We just got told, there was so many of us got told and we got marched up to the gate and they got us on to this truck, there was like a trailer on the back. The Germans used to come in, they spoke English. They just told us to get our kit outside and form up and they marched us up and we got on.'

Were there a lot of trucks?

'No, there was just this one. There might have been two trailers on the back, I forget now, but it was definitely a truck and a trailer and we were all on the back.'

About how many men? 'There chanced to be a hundred.' All from the hut? 'Aye, near enough.'

How long was the journey?

'We weren't on long, a couple of hours, maybe. I can remember going through Torgau, going up this road, then they pulled up. The brickyard was up this side track up the road--why, we didn't know it was a brickyard then--these two big chimneys and that. And then I heard the German say: "Vierundzwanig!". Why, that's 24. And he came along he was shouting "24! 24! Up! Up! Up!"

'I jumped off, I says to Cooky, "How way!" and I jumped off. I got further along there and he got further along here.' Gestures left and right. 'And they counted from this end, got to 24. Right, that was it. We had to march away.'

You were number 24?

'No, I was in among it somewhere. Aye, couldn't do anything about it: he had to get back on the truck.'

What happened to him?

'Cooky finished up in a gravel quarry, I think. I saw him after the war, that's where he finished up, further on.’

In fact, my father’s old 16 DLI platoon mate Norman Cook seems to have parted company with him much earlier, going from Camp 53 to Stalag 7A and ending the war at Stalag 11B. The friend on the truck here must have been someone else, possibly another DLI man, of whom several have nearby German POW numbers.

‘And then they marched us up to this brickyard and the civvies were there. An then we got a guard, there was a guard came in there, Dooley, Herr Dooley you used to call him. He was stern, he wasn't very talkative, but he was canny, a fair fella. He was definitely a canny bit older than us. He'd be in his late thirties maybe.'

And he was a proper German soldier?

'Oh aye, uniform, rifle, bayonet. And then they marched us up through the village, right up to the top where our lager was.' The dormitory hut. 'Where the photograph was taken.

'They took us into the lager and the bunks were all there and these different fellas had these works and that, little factories and things like that and they picked us all out. He wanted, what was it, I think it was 12 of us working in the brickyard. That was the brickyard bloke, the boss, Herr Dietrich.'

What did he look like?

'He was a fella with a sailor's cap. You know, with the peak? He was all right. He wouldn't socialise with you at all. He'd tell you what to do and things like that, but he wouldn't talk--if you said "Good Morning"--"Gutten Morgen"--he'd just…' Pulls a comical twisted face.

‘He didn't like talking to you. He picked twelve. There was somebody else picked a couple and there was about six of them went working on the town, like the local council, doing repairs, roads and drains, things like that. That was what I should have been doing because I was a bricklayer. They asked what everybody was, what your occupation was and I wasn't going to say I was a bricklayer because I had daft idea I might finish up in the big cities on bomb damage--so I said I was a driver. So with me being pretty big and that I was ideal for digging clay in a brickyard.'

Can you remember what day you got there?

'I can't remember what day it was. It wasn't a weekend. And then they all went and the guard was left and he told us when to get up for work the next morning and it was just a routine after that. He used to come in and knock us up on a morning. He had a room around the corner, like in this farmhouse place. He used to come in and knock us up about half past six and there was a tap, a washbasin, like a hand basin and a cold water tap. We used to get washed and then he used to line us up outside and march us down.

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