'I just used to say "Fish paste!" I'd see the bloke, I'd say, " Fish paste?" and he'd look at his watch! But after we got started, I got this little book from the Red Cross and I used to sit and read it at night time. But at the finish we were just talking to them. It was like pidgin, it wasn't perfect German, but we were working alongside them and just talking ordinary at the finish. It was all pidgin, but we could make ourselves understood easy and we could understand them.

'When they got to know us they used to talk to us. Some of the buggers didn't like us, but they kept out of the road. There was some of them used to be all talk and there was some of them never used to look at you and never spoke to you. Why, they'd speak to you, but that was about it. But some of them used to like to hear you talking, just telling the tale about home and that.'

How long was your working day?

'We used to start at half past seven, though I'm not sure and probably work there till about five o'clock at night. But we used to have a break at dinner time, used to have a break, about half an hour.'

And you'd get your soup ration, the infamous 'skilly'?

'No, we got nothing. We'd start about half past seven to maybe about five at night. When we finished work we used to cross over the lines into the village and we'd walk up. We used to come up from the brickyard and we had a handcart and we used to come into the middle of the town, into the Ratzkeller--that's the town hall--and they had kitchens in there and this woman and her two daughters used to cook the skilly for us. She had it all done, the skilly, bread in a box and everything.'

Frau Priess. Just for the British POWs?

'I don't know, she might have did the others as well. We had a box, we used to put the bread and that in. We used to get a ration of margarine and a ration of sugar and bread and containers with the skilly in. We used to take it up to the lager, that's why we had the handcart and we'd lob it out up there.'

What was in it?

'Tatties, turnips, carrots.'

Was there any meat?

Laughs 'You might see a string of meat now and again! And we used get a big bowl like that, about three-quarters full. But we had these bowls, we had them all numbered, they had a number on the bottom. So we used to put them all on the table and we'd shuffle them up. And then there'd be the bloke who was slopping it out. You used to get so many scoops and then they used to put them to one side and then they used to pick them up and somebody underneath would shout "28!" or whatever it was. That was to stop anybody getting the bottom of the container, see? Otherwise, them that got first were getting all water, while the others were getting the best. That's why they used to shuffle them up. And then you got your bread and you used to have to weight it. We had scales, little scales we used to make.

'But the bread wasn't what they used to get. They used to get like a brown bread. Ours was darker. But them two….'

Looking at the POW photo, Alfie Granger and Alwyn 'Nev' Chamberlain.

'They got a job working for this Swiss woman, she had like a little hut, they used to make nuts and bolts. She had the machinery and these two got a good job there. Why, she used to get grub and that for them. Why, when they used to come in at night, they didn't really fancy the skilly. And I used to sit opposite them at the table and I used to watch the bugger eating his skilly.' Pulls a predatory, hungry face. 'And he used to be going like this you know.' A pained, miserable look "Bloody awful, this stuff!" And I used to be watching. And he used to say, "Anybody want..."

"Aye!" I'd say, before he could get the bugger out. "Aye, I'll have it, Alf!" I used to call him Alfie, Little Alfie. Why
aye, he didn't want to eat the bloody skilly! That was before we started getting the parcels.

'No, we got nothing. We had nothing for months and months. And then the old gaffer, we told him, we says, "We can't go on like this." Because we weren't getting the parcels at the time.

'He used to look after the kilns.' At the brickworks. 'Used to lift the lid off and put the fire down--coal round all the kilns. He used to sit upstairs. Why, we told him and he had a bucket and he used to count them out, tatties. He used to put these potatoes in the pail with the water and lift of the lid [of the kiln] and put the pail in and it used to boil them. And then at dinner time we used to get them, used to share them between us and they would give us a bottle of pop. So it wasn't so bad. At least we got a drink of pop and four tatties: we used to eat that. That was our dinner. But then when we were getting the parcels we all started getting fat. Salmon, spam, cheese, raisons, prunes…

'I don't know how the Indians were on. They used to have their own parcels them. I don't know what they got, but the
Russians got nothing. Poor buggers! I I used to feel sorry for them.'

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