There was one each a week?


And were they the same inside?

'Aye, the Canadian ones were. There was a pound tin of butter. A pound tin of dried milk. A packet of raisins. A packet of prunes. A tin of corned beef. A tin of spam. Tin of salmon. A big packet of thick biscuits. Salt. Pepper. Soap. A half pound block of chocolate. And cigarettes. You used to get 50 cigarettes a week--or two rations of baccy. Somebody had to take it, you used to have to take your turn. Used to roll it with cigarette papers.'

How were they distributed?

'They used to go to Wittenberg, about ten miles away, that's where our HQ was, like the distribution place.' The Stalag 4D camp. 'They used to go there with the wagon and get so many every two or three weeks. The guard used to have them in his room and he used to lob them out. One a week.'

Did you trade with the guards?

'Why we only had the one guard. No, they wouldn't take it. Some of them would, they'd take the occasional cigarette, or pack or cigarettes, or whatever.'

That was pride?

'No, if they got copped man they were for it. See, you had a hold on them, you could cop them, you could report them. You could say that they took them off you or something like that. I used to muck in with Danny, Danny MacRae. I used to muck in with him at first' Points to Gnr Joe Washington from Warrington on the POW photo. 'But I fell out with him.'

That was the business with the lice?

'He was chucking them on the floor instead of killing them. You used to go like that.' Scratches. 'And sometimes you could feel it and get it out and see it: a little louse. And you used to put them on your thumbnail and go like that "Psspst!" and kill them. But he, I was watching the bugger one night and he just chucked the bugger on the floor!

'Why aye, we were lousy. At first, until we started to get plenty of soap. We used to get a bath down the brickyard. Used to get a bath at least once a week and another if we had to unload any trucks of coal. We used to get trucks of coal in. They used to pull them into the side of the brickyard and they had these little briquettes, about that big, about that thick and we had to unload them over the wall into the brickyard. Why, we used to be up the bloody naff with coal dust. Well, what we used to do was go into the bath house, where there was three cubicles. Used to go in the bath house, take our clothes off and get some old boiler suits on. Put them on and then we'd go and unload the coal and then go back in the bath house and have a shower and put our clothes back on and that way we used to keep our clothes clean.

'The buggers used to wait till the weekend. They used to wait till then. We used to see the coal trucks coming in and they used to put them in a siding by the station. They'd probably come in on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. But we never had to unload them till the Saturday.'

The coal was for the village?

'No, for the brickyard. That was for the kilns, to fire the kilns. They used to always wait. We used to work till dinner time on a Saturday, but then we had to go and unload the bloody coal on a Saturday afternoon!'

You'd get Sunday off?

'Unless there was a coal truck came in. Often we might have to go down on a Sunday morning and unload a coal truck--but the bloody thing had been there since the middle of the week!
Did you have much contact with the authorities?

'Yeah, the Hauptman, he used to come round regular. There was a few of them. These different ones used to come and look around the camp, look around the lager and see that everything was clean. We had one, the bugger used to make us scrub our collars! Because we were all lousy at first. We all had fleas and lice, until we'd been there a few months. They had baths in the brickyard: they had three showers and so we used to get a hot shower. Especially if there was a truckload of coal came in on a weekend. We used to have to go and unload it on a Sunday. They were like briquets. They'd pull it into the brickyard and we'd throw it over the wall.'

Did all the men have to help?

NEXT PAGE, continued.