'Aye, they'd be on it. I used to teach them these songs. We used to get these songs out of the Red Cross, I forget now what we used to sing. Cock Robin, aye, that was one. I used to have to learn them note for note--to sing in harmony. They hadn't a clue. But I got them doing it at the finish. Everybody wants to sing the melody, everybody wants to sing bass. But there's two parts in the middle, there's nobody wants to do them. It's the same now--there's nobody ever thinks about singing them and they're the most important parts really, the two in the middle, the treble and the tenor. Anyway I got them going.'

How much news of the war did you hear?

'Just rumours. The Froggies used to get it, but it was all rumours, rumours, rumours.'

Did you ever see the German newspapers?

'No, some of them used to come up with the soup thing, paper round.'

The container would be wrapped in newspapers to keep it warm.

'We used to see if there was anything in, watched where they threw it and that. But at the finish we used to get the news from the woman upstairs.'

Frau Langer.

'She used to put in on the radio--you know you could get jailed for that. She had a flat upstairs. The farmer, Old Mathias he had a coal business, that was her father. He used to sell coal, he used to live in the same building as us. They were like stables, they used to be, where we were. But along the other way, it was his house and there was bedrooms and, like this flat. But at the back end [of the war], she used to put the news on.

'She used to know a bit of English as well. Sometimes she'd come down into the garden at the front and we used to talk to her. The windows were barred, there was bars across, but we could open the windows, they used to open outwards and we could talk to her.'

When you first got there, did the Germans still think they were winning the war?

'Oh aye, you could tell, the atmosphere changed. They knew they were knackered. The woman who worked in the cookhouse..'

Mrs Priess.

'Why she came up and took our photographs. That was took in about February '45 and the Christmas before that, there was about four or five or them came up on the Christmas Eve and we put on a concert party for them and they enjoyed it. Aye, her and her daughters.

In fact the photograph seems to have been taken in early 1944, since four of the men featured, including my father's friend from Camp 53, Joe Washington, were transferred to a Stalag 4C work camp in May 1944.

'We had a guard then, he only had one arm. His arm used to be off here.' At the elbow. 'They used to keep changing the guards, you used to get a different one. But his father used to come and stop the weekend in the lager! Why he was an oldish fella. Why aye, he used to sleep on top of the table!'

You were all taken to the cinema once?

'That was in '45, the beginning of '45. I can tell you what is was: Baron von Munchausen! That was the film, but there was a lot of German news, German newsreels. I forget now where it was, but there was these big oil wells, oil refineries somewhere and they'd had to evacuate them and they blew the bloody lot up. And they showed you it all, all these oil refineries going up. Aye, the little cinema in the town.'

Were there civilians with you in the cinema?

'No, there was just POWs: the different nationalities, there was French, Indian--there was a few Indians there, you know--Poles and Russians. We were all in there, all in different contingents with our own guards.'

Did the trip come out of the blue?

'Oh aye. Sunday afternoon and I think we went twice and then they started getting the hammer so they stopped it. I can't remember the second film, they were German films. Baron von Munchausen. It was like a comedy thing. Oh, they began to realise at the beginning of '45 that they were down the nick.'

'But they all thought--he [Hitler] was always on about this weapon, this "Secret Weapon" and they all pinned their hopes
on that, I think. That he'd come up with something quick. But it didn't happen.'

NEXT PAGE, continued.