World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

George Marsden

A Teenager at War

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: George Marsden, John Little
Location of story: Sheffield, Salisbury Plain, Fonteney, Cagny, Le Harve
Unit name: ‘A’ company of 7th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s, West Riding Regiment
Background to story: Army

A Teenager at War

By
George Marsden

I left school at the age of fourteen the same year that war was declared; I worked in a steel works until I was old enough to enlist in the armed forces. This was an exciting time for me, a teenager who, like many other youths, had never travelled outside his hometown before. I joined an infantry training unit, which to say the least was very arduous and tough going being trained in all types of weapons, from rifles to mortars and anti-tank guns, not to mention crawling under barbed wire, which kept us down, below the live bullets being fired over our heads and full pack route marches, with precision drill marches being thrown in for good measure.

We were a close nit group, most of the lads were from Yorkshire, with a fair number from my home town of Sheffield, but when months of training had been completed, the company was split up, and we were sent in groups to different units, and after training in Ireland we eventually arrived on Salisbury Plain, sleeping eight men to a bell tent, the whole area surrounded by barbed wire and units of military police, we didn't have a clue as to what was happening at all, it was pelting down with rain, non-stop, the area was a quagmire, but there was always someone around to say something funny to keep everyone happy.

After a while we packed our kit bags, and then moved to the port of Newhaven and told we were going to France, we arrived there by a small landing craft, at a place known to us as King's Beach, Red Sector, a few were affected by some sad sights as we ran across the beach.

We re-grouped and after a few skirmishes on our way, took part in a great battle at a place called Fonteney where we lost a hundred and twenty of our lads, it was a sad time to move forward and leave your friends, some who were school friends, behind.

We moved on to a place called Cagny, where we dug slit trenches, deep enough to crouch down in, using a small handled digging tool, a very important part of our equipment, it was amazing how quickly a deep hole could be dug when bullets and shrapnel was flying about, But we were also bombarded by some flying creatures as big as bumble bees which flew straight into our faces, so we had mosquito net suspended from our helmets to combat this.

One night we had a couple of sandwiches and a mess tin of luke warm tea brought up to us and I reached up, in the dark for a sandwich, placed on the grass above, found something soft, lifted it close to my face, it was three fingers attached to half of a human hand, I threw the rest of my sandwiches along with the mess tins as far as I could.

Shortly after this I was in a forward patrol sent out to seek the enemy positions, then report back to H.Q., when our leader, who was crouched down along side of me, stood up to check his map with the terrain and was killed by a snipers bullet, he fell beside me, some of his blood was dropped on my face, a sad loss of a good, brave young officer, who I think of often and visit his grave at Ranville cemetery, near Pegasus Bridge when I am able, He lies with many of his platoon beside him. We were told by a N.C.O., to make our own way back with the information we had got and crawled toward a cornfield amid fire from enemy machine guns, when a German tank came into view stopped, a crew member opened the hatch and ordered two of our lads who were lying in the cornfield to climb onto the tank, this they did and disappeared into the distance, my companion and I made it back to our lines and after a de-briefing by the Company Commander was ordered to go back and collect the dead officer, this we did after a struggle.

Another incident was going across a big area in Normandy with the whole company advancing with fixed bayonets. It was quite muddy underfoot, some of our tanks were either bogged down or knocked out near some, distant trees, when suddenly out of the mud, German soldiers were jumping up, shouting "Me Polish, Me Polish" as they threw down their weapons and put up their hands.

We then heard an almighty roar as a Spitfire came towards us getting lower and lower, just skimming the hedgerows, as we all hit the ground or dashed in all directions, the plane hit the ground slithered and twisted as it hit the mud, then stopped near us. We waited a few minutes, then the pilot jumped out with a pipe in his mouth. He said "Excuse me, which way is it to your H.Q.?" I thought " He acts as though he's just stepping off a bus" when we pointed and said "that way" he answered "Cheerio." Then lit his pipe and set off walking, our Sergeant, a Sheffield man, shouted "Come on, we've no time to mess about round here, spread out and get moving." Someone said "What about these prisoners?" He replies "Tell them to follow him pointing to the pilot who was merrily going on his way.

Another incident happened whilst we were on a fighting patrol as we walked down a ditch which ran alongside a cobbled path. We heard some movement and dropped flat to the ground, after a few minutes one of our lads lifted his head to investigate and was shot dead by a enemy soldier who was in the ditch on the other side of the path, we were then showered with grenades, the type with the wooden handles used by the Germans, these were thrown without much direction as they were crouched down, some didn't explode and at least two were picked up and thrown back.

Our Sergeant then passed a message down the line that all nine of us had to get a grenade ready and when he shouted "Now", to throw them at once, according to the crying some of them were on target. We were then told to follow each other, keeping close to the ground, I saw them crawling over the lad who had been killed and decided to stride over him, I got up and was pushed to the ground, by a Corporal just as an enemy automatic weapon fired just over us, I looked up smiling and said "Thanks", to which he replied, "It's no good laughing, when we say keep down, you keep down, your lucky we are not climbing over you". When we got to the end of the ditch, we charged round to find that the Germans had gone, leaving a few rifles behind which we smashed against a tree.

Our next bit of action was at Le Harve, which had been reduced to rubble by constant bombarding from our aircraft. Then onto Belgium, where I had another sticky incident when our Sergeant picked a few of us to go with him to try and bring in a prisoner, the usual routine, only this time it was in darkness and to cross a river by rowing boat, we wrapped some cloth round our boots to save making any noise in the boat, I was ordered to be the last man and push the boat, then step or jump in, this I did except I slipped and jumped straight in the water, after I scrambled aboard, wet through, the officer said "You're still going with us, so don't try that again," I didn't ask if he was joking, but any way our luck held as we captured two Germans who were sat down having a smoke during their stint of being on guard, they came quietly, so we went back without incident.

The next piece of good luck was when my buddy, John Little and I had to dig a slit trench for both of us, this was in a field with a line of trees at the bottom and two hedgerows and a stony path on our right, where the rest of our platoon disappeared, to dig in or have a rest, any how, John and I decided to mount our own machine gun then one of us sat down in the bottom of the trench whilst the other watched for any movement.

It was my turn for lookout, when, as dawn was just breaking I saw someone step out from the trees at the bottom of the field, he was soon joined by a few more men, it was a German patrol who stopped, had a glance round and decided to have a rest, they either sat on the ground or leant against a tree as they lit their cigarettes to have a smoke and a chat.

I lent down to my pal, prodded him to wake him up and whispered in his ear, "Just look over the edge a bunch of Germans at the bottom of the field, give them a burst of the Bren gun."

He quietly lined his sights up, cocked the lever, pulled the trigger, nothing happened, so I said "I'll change the magazine," which I did, but as John took aim and pulled the cocking lever, which made a clicking sound as it shot forward, the Germans heard it, quickly dropping to the ground with their automatic guns gleaming away, we crouched down quickly, there was a rattling noise which shook my helmet.

I said "That was close, the bullets must have disturbed the stones from the edge of our slit." We slowly raised our heads, knees knocking, rifles at the ready, but the Germans had disappeared we kept full alert and heard foot steps on the stony path between the hedgerows.

I said in a low voice "Halt who goes there?" no answer so I repeated "Halt who goes there?" in a slightly louder voice, but no answer as the pair of boots went clump, clump, down the path, so I said "I'm going to throw a grenade," this I did, but gave it such a hefty throw, which made it go over the path and both hedges, there was an almighty bang which disturbed the early dawn, then our officer along with some of our comrades, appeared shouting "what the hells going on?" we explained, but why nobody had heard the German machine guns firing is a mystery, so we went down to the trees where I pointed out the trampled grass, cigarette buts and spent cartridges lying about, I then explained my luck where the stones had rattled my helmet, but on inspection found bullet grooves under the wide rim of my helmet, my luck had held me in good stead again.

A short while later whilst we were lying down resting, awaiting orders to move on again, there was a terrific bang as the lad lying near to me, had fired his rifle, the bullet going straight through my helmet which was on my chest while I tried to have a little nap, he never explained properly why or how he came to fire his rifle, but the worst part of it was that I couldn't wear my helmet because of the jagged metal, shortly after, we went into action and I never felt so vulnerable just wearing my cap comforter on my heard. (A woolen cap).

We plodded on, seeing quite a few dead soldiers lying about, some Polish, some from English regiments, this put us on our guard and we were fighting at close quarters with the Germans until both sides agreed to have a truce to collect each others casualties, our officer and a German officer stood smoking and having a chat, Smithy and I were told to quickly dig two graves for two of our mates, this we did, but the truce was over before we could fill the graves in and fighting commenced, until some Polish army tanks came unexpectedly to join the battle.

The Germans retreated and our padre came along to give the last rites to our comrades, who, I know were reburied in a proper place, a little church yard, not far away, I have visited these lads a few years after the war was finished, we then crossed the border into Holland.

Although there had been some sad times, scary moments and sickening sights, I always said that I would get wounded, but not get killed, this I believed, but it was sorely put to the test in more ways than one.

An unbelievable time awaited me, after being told what our next objective would be. As darkness fell, we, our platoon of about 40 men were ordered to go forward to capture and hold a section of an anti-tank ditch, so called because their width and depth made it impossible for tanks to cross it.

We reached our objective and scrambled down one side of the ditch, walked across some iron girders and climbed the other side, and after a short battle was able to take the German soldiers prisoner as we stormed the farm house, the prisoners were taken together with our wounded back to our company lines, we then dug our slit trenches and kept a vigilant guard all night, but at dawn we were attacked by the enemy in great numbers.

The position was over-run and we were told to make our way back to our company, this we did and whilst crossing a field whilst under fire from machine guns, came across rolls of barbed wire and some of the lads were trying the impossible task of getting through it, I was told what to do and as I had done in my training I ran full pelt and dived on top of the wire so that the others could run and place one foot on my back and dive over the fence, this was alright until the last man pulled me clear, my uniform was ripped to shreds in the process, I was given a handful of safety pins to fasten the rips down my trousers.

Later that day, as darkness fell, we were ordered to go back again, this we did, losing a few casualties, but taking the position and taking prisoner the Germans who were in the farm-house as we over ran it.

But it seemed all in vain as the same thing happened again, a greater force of the enemy, plus armoured vehicles attacked us, we were holding our own, when the cry went up, " I can hear enemy tanks revving up," our officer came to me and said "Go and get the P.LA.T. gun." this was a cumbersome weapon which you fired lying down and at range of a few yards to do any damage to a tank or at least the tracks that it ran on, if you had to fire another missile after the recoil of the weapon had nearly shattered your shoulder, it took some strength to cock the weapon again.

I looked up at the officer as he was stood over me, I said "Yes Sir" before I could get off the ground a bullet passed me and went in the officers leg, I shouted for the stretcher bearers; then scurried about to locate the P.LA.T, but wasn't successful and as I went back to my position I was suddenly spun around and crashed to the ground as I was hit by a burst of fire from an enemy Spandau machine gun, the bullets shot away the hook and eye fastening close to my neck and went through my shoulder and arm, a few centimetres away from having my head blown off, a German doctor later told me how lucky I was.

 

Eight soldiers from ‘A’ company of 7th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s, West Riding Regiment, were killed on October 29, 1944. These soldiers were buried on October 30, 1944 on land near the farm owned by the Kerstens family. The above Photograph shows the temporary graves.

Near the railway crossing on Heerma van Vosstraat, eight soldiers, friends of George Marsden, from the 'A' company of 7th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s, West Riding Regiment, were killed on the 29th of October 1944. These soldiers were buried on the 30th of October, 1944 on land near the farm owned by the Kerstens family.

George Marsden himself was accustomed to being attacked severely by this kind of action and was taken prisoner.

After the war their bodies were exhumed and reburied at the Bergen-op-Zoom English War Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands.

SEE THE LIST OF THOSE KILLED DURING THIS ACTION.

Name Rank Service No. Age Next of Kin Grave Ref.
Cyril Henry Taylor Private 1740136 24 Son of Henry Sturgess & Isobel Ann Taylor of Belper, Derbyshire 7. C. 11.
John J Begley Private 5053570 31 Son of Mark & Annie Begley of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent 7. C. 12.
Reginald Arthur Wilcock Lance Corporal 14550916 20 Son of Arthur & Lillian Wilcock of Nelson, Lancashire; husband of Winnie Wilcock 9. A. 22.
Harry Ollerenshaw Sergeant 4609203 36 Husband of Hilda Ollerenshaw, of Mossley, Lancashire 9. A. 21.
Gordon Brook Private 14677008 19 9. A. 19.
David Brindley Private 3771448 24 Son of Benjamin & Florence Brindley, of Willenhall, Staffordshire 9. A. 16.
Walter Watson Private 4616257 27 9. A. 15.
Thomas William Lefevre Private 4916400 24 Husband of Ellen Lefevre, of Blakenall, Bloxwich, Staffordshire 9. A. 13.


I opened my eyes after a while, it was now daylight, I was lying face down and saw someone lying beside me, who was beyond any help, but when my eyes focussed I saw an earth made shelter a few yards away, I slowly dragged myself toward it, and although I heard German

Voices nearby, I made it to the entrance and crawled inside to be confronted by an old farmer and his wife, sitting on a box with a Alsatian dog lying at their feet, who started whimpering, I reached up with my good arm, wrapped it around the dogs mouth to prevent it from barking, but passed out again, until the next thing I knew was waking up to see the Dutch couple and the dog had gone and I could hear someone shouting.

I turned my head and saw German Soldiers putting a rifle up to his shoulder in the firing position, so I raised my good arm and waved to him, where upon he shouted "Come," I dragged myself toward him as he lowered his rifle and said "Ah, wounded," I put up my thumb as a way of saying "Thank you," for not shooting me, he smiled and patted me on the head.

I was carried away and placed in the coal cellar of a house nearby. As I lay on the concrete floor, I looked into the far corner and saw two German soldiers who had bandaged heads, when I coughed, they crawled toward me, one of them put his face close to mine, then they started punch me in the face and body. I shouted out and someone came and dragged them off me, but as soon as he had gone, they came at me again. I shouted out again as I felt blood running from my eye, the German came down to me, again and pulled the bully's away from me, and as I looked up through the cellar grate, I saw some of my comrades who had been captured.

I shouted "Hey don't leave me down here," not knowing what my fate would be, they were surprised to see me, as they carried me up the cellar steps, I was glad to be out of there, to this day I can still see the glazed look in the eyes of my tormenters as I lie in bed at night.

I was carried down the street and watched by some Dutch women who stood on their doorsteps weeping, but I remember feeling ashamed at my appearance, a closed and swollen eye, one sleeve of my battle dress missing, filthy ragged trousers held together by safety pins, when a R.A.F. plane flew over firing rockets which demolished many of the houses down the street.

I was taken into a house for shelter, where a young couple lived with their young son who was crying whilst sheltering underneath the stairs, the lady washed my hands and face as one of my friends, brought my small pack into the house, and said "Good luck to you, we are going to leave you for now, goodbye."

I asked the Dutchman to take all my rations of cigarettes and chocolate from my pack, telling him to keep the cigarettes and I handed my chocolate to the boy who stopped crying when his dad told him what it was.

My captor came in and said it was time to go, so 1 said my good byes and was on my way, walking down the street with my arm round my guards neck whilst he looked most, uncomfortable with his arm round my waist and wearing a great big overcoat on top of his uniform, Jack boots, a scarf around his neck, a rifle over his shoulder and taking big steps so that I was being dragged on my toes most of the time until we reached a big building, as we got to the top of the drive I realized we had arrived at a hospital, I was relieved as we walked through the door until I saw all the people laying down on the floor after being injured in the air raid I assumed.

Then my guard dropped me to the floor and went to fetch a doctor, who came, he looked like a monk to me, and lifted the covering on my shoulder, stood up, shook his head, ordered two orderlies to put me on a stretcher, this they did, not very gently, then picked up the stretcher, I thought good, until they carried me through the door, up the drive, through the iron gated and tipped me onto the pavement, a pool of blood had collected: on the plastic stretcher, this poured on me, I looked up at them, They scurried away, I thought if that eases the pain of the air raid victims so be it.

I was taken to a large house which was the local Head Quarters and placed on a chair outside then a civilian, whose house it may have been, brought me a bowl of soup and placed it on my thigh, but I couldn't hold it there with my bad hand and I let the bowl crash to the ground, the man started to pick up the pieces, when an Officer came out and shouted something at the man who scurried into the house.

A military Officer doctor in his car then took me to an old building, which had been utilized as a hospital where at last I had my uniform taken off to be replaced by a white gown and was taken to a small room which looked like a kitchen whom I was placed on an ordinary table and had a operation after I had struggled and kicked against having a knockout fluid being dripped through a gauge into my mouth, four girls held my arms and legs, I thought I was being poisoned, especially as every one just wore civilian clothing; anyway I woke up again in a bed where a tall lady in a long black dress, brought to me a bible inside which was a notepaper containing the latest B.B.C. news from England, it was like being in a thriller.

The next thing I vaguely remember was being carried into a railway station where I was taken into a carriage filled with wounded German soldiers, I was placed on a straw filled mattress bed in the middle of the carriage opposite a hot, coke burning stove where a soldier was cooking some kind of evil smelling stew, I don't know how long it was since I had 'Something to eat, refused the offer of a small bowl of the stew; everyone else devoured their share, the smell put me off, but I was to eat worse later on.

I had been put in this bed just as I had been dressed by the Dutch people where I had my operation, complete with boots, ragged trousers, torn battle blouse and cellular pants stiff with dried blood. l went to sleep for a while and was awakened by someone who was shouting out with pain as the train trundle along, it was dark and eerie with just one lamp swinging too and fro in the middle of this long carriage.

I tried to turn over onto my side when I felt a hard lump on my thigh, I put my good hand into the big map pocket in my battle dress trousers and felt two grenades, still un-detonated, I realised then that no one had searched me in the place where I had been, even when the last time I had not been alone, my friends were searched with their hands up in the air, I was laying on the ground, the German soldier just looked down at me and must thought "it's no good searching that ragman, he can't have anything hidden away." as I thought of this, I started sweating thinking how lucky I had been when the only people who had handled my trousers had been my Dutch friends at the hospital.

I started thinking of all sorts of things to do, I thought should I try to throw them through the window, but there wasn't many windows that wasn't boarded up, so should I just throw them up in the air and do as much damage as I could, but I reasoned with the thought if I didn't get killed it wouldn't be long after before I was, so that wasn't a good idea and tried to think of a lot of crazy things to do, I was rubbing my hands along the side of the mattress, I felt a gap where I could feel the straw, that's it, I slowly took one grenade out of my pocket and slowly moved it and pushed it into the straw whilst looking the other way through the gloom, but nobody moved as I got rid of the other one, what a relief.

As the train stopped after what seemed a long, long time, I was handed over to a big hulk of a man complete with a great coat and a steel helmet, who took me into a nearby building where I was taken to a small room placed in a chair and left alone for a while, until two men dressed in civilian clothes, complete with black over coats and large trilby hats, sat down with a table separating us.

These men sat looking at me for a while until I started to feel a bit dizzy and rested my head down on the table, one of the men held me back in the chair and gave me a drink of water, I, was then asked about military things that I knew nothing about, I told him so, and he said "I suppose you'll just be giving your name and number and that's all?" I said "Yes" and started to give it to him, he just smiled at that.

He then pressed a button on the table and a man appeared, stood to attention, and was given the order to strip me, assisted by the other man, who never spoke at all, I was soon stripped naked as the man in charge said, "Take him in there." pointing to a door, which, when slightly opened allowed some sort of white haze to blow through, I though ; is it a gas chamber?

I thought afterwards what made me think of that, something I knew nothing about, but I was determined that I wasn't going through the door, so I dropped to the ground and kicked away at these men, until they got angry and grabbed my legs and hair to drag me through the door into what was a big room with showers' all down one side and a long queue of wounded German soldiers waiting to have their wounds dressed by two overworked nurses, I felt a fool at the way I had been acting.

The hospital porter who had helped to drag me in; gave me a smile, then grabbed the plug that had been put through my shoulder and pulled it out, I immediately collapsed in a heap and then awakened, slumped inside a shower tray full of blood coloured water, the man who had put me in the predicament was waiting for me and wiped me down with a towel, put me in a queue for medical treatment, the chap at-the back of me said "Your shoulders in a right mess, I'll take you to the nurse at the front of the queue." This he did amidst a lot of shouting from the other casualties. I was in a bit of a daze and can't remember who this man was or what he looked like.

The next thing I remember was that I was wearing a white gown and being taken on a horse and cart along some cobbled lanes to the amusement of the local people doing there shopping, after a short journey we arrived at a grand building, which happened to be the local hospital.

I was examined immediately by a doctor and was then wheeled away for some more surgery and was awakened to find myself swathed in nice, fresh clean bandages, it was a nice comfortable feeling, as I was put, into a proper bed with spotlessly clean bedding, it was a pity that I could not speak to any one because of the language barrier but the German nurse was very good to me. My one complaint was when the doctor on his daily rounds used to push his fingers straight through the holes in my shoulder and smiled saying "Pain, Pain" as 1 grimaced with the pain he was talking about.

In the next ward to me, sick and wounded German service men were being treated, and one of them, a young Luftwaffe pilot came and sat on my bed and to my surprise he spoke English and said he would wish to bale out of his plane when he was flying over England, if he could be sure that he would be treated fairly by his captors, I reassured him that he would be.

When it was time to leave this hospital, the nurse and the German airman came to wish me well, she gave me a writing pad and the pilot translated the nurses message, "Write to your mother." which I have always remembered.

My next port of call, was a prison hospital where only male German soldiers were employed, I met up with the officer who was wounded and captured with me, plus a Canadian, American and a British Officer who sadly died because of his injuries, and a very young Russian boy who, whilst doing some odd jobs, was caught stealing some bread from the cookhouse, he was shot by a member of the staff; he didn't kill him, but he howled in agony, when our officer protested, he was shown a notice on the wall that said, " It is a serious offence to steal food."

So that was that, we were informed that a high ranked officer was to pay us a visit, so the room was tidied up and when the officer arrived, he looked resplendent with his high polished boots and array of medals and carrying a golden baton which meant he was a field marshal, at least, he marched down one side of the room, about turned then marched down the other side and out of the room.

We then heard a lot of shouting and a uniformed German came in and announced that the General was not pleased with out attitude and he expects that all patients stand to attention by the side of their beds and the bedridden to be placed in a sitting position, so that all can give a smart salute when he passes your bed, the penalty for disobedience will be a shortage of rations, I will knock on the door before we enter, you understand.

We soon heard the marching to the door and as they knocked, bang, bang, one of our crew said "It's the Kings Keys," so the commander received a few smiles to go with our guard like salutes, which he grudgingly said was an improvement as he left.

 

Recent Photograph of George Marsden.

A few days later I was escorted outside by a smartly dressed Hitler Youth member complete with rifle and bayonet, he was very regimental as he shouted "Rouse," which I think meant, get moving, and when any one came toward us on the footpath, they were waved across to the other side, but if they were young ladies passing bye, he shouted his favourite word "Rouse" and prodded me in the back with, the bayonet and looked to see if he was admired, I think they were trying to fathom out who I was, when he prodded me a bit too hard, I turned and said "Do that again and you've had it." I knew he didn't have a clue what I was saying; he just said "Yah." and gave me a little smile.

I was escorted into a building, which turned out to be an x-ray hospital; I was examined immediately and was asked about my blood transfusion at my previous hospital "I didn't know much about it." I said, she replied "You may be half German." and thought it was hilarious, it was good to hear someone laughing and speaking English.

I was soon back on parade and was marched back to the prison hospital with only a few prods in my back, because of the lack of spectators.

I was signed over by my escort and thought that I would be build up his ego a little bit by saluting him, he didn't present arms to me, but just smirked and departed, pointing to the swastika armband.

I was greeted with news that we would be leaving this place in a few days, I was hoping that this would be the end of paper bandages which allowed lice to creep inside, I suppose you can get used to anything in time.

When the time came to leave this place, I was dejected to find out that I would be leaving on my own again, with my old friend the German soldier to accompany me again, to he railway station, what a strange feeling to be walking through the busy town, I kept close to my guard to hide the chain joining us together.

We arrived at the railway station, I was like a little boy lost, it seemed unreal to me, especially when I was on a wide platform, long lines of civilian people, looking very dejected, then I saw that they were fastened together with chains joining ankles and arms together, I couldn't believe it, I knew I was fastened to my escort, but these people were shackled together, I pointed to them and asked why, my guard just shrugged his shoulders, but a man who was at the end of the front line waved to me, I took two steps towards him until I could go no further because of the chain, so the shackled man scuffled a few steps toward me, when all hell broke loose.

I was dumfounded a man in a black uniform wearing jack boots etc., was running toward us, blowing a whistle, to be followed by whistle blowing men clashing all over, the first man who seemed to be in charge hit the man who had walked toward me and pushed him back into line, then ran toward us, and struck my escort on his shoulder with his cane and shouted at me, a crowd of civilians were stood watching as I stood in a daze until I was pulled toward the platform where a train had pulled in.

We got in the last compartment and the door was locked from the inside, it was not a corridor train so we was isolated from every one, but as the railway guard blew his whistle a business man ran to our train and tried to open the door, which he couldn't, then started banging the window where I was sat, then pointed at me and turned to the crowd, I then turned to my escort to ask what was happening, but he looked as worried as I was, but we were relieved when the train started moving with the man still banging the window until we left the platform.

I was awakened from a troubled sleep and lifted from the train, I didn't know what time it was, but it was very dark, it must have been in the country somewhere, then we saw someone with powerful torches who showed us the way to a train just in front of us with big sliding doors, cattle trucks some one said, as we were lifted high up to be sat upon some straw, when the doors were closed you couldn't see anything at all. The train got going to the only sound of clickity-clack of the wheels; no one spoke or questioned where we were going.

Eventually the train stopped, the doors were opened, it was still dark, but some soldiers were waiting to lift us off the train, it was a big drop to the ground. I was taken by a German to a small compound of huts, which was Lazarette, a hospital, which was like a small barrack room only not cosy. When morning arrived I was given the quickest medical that I had ever had, and then the paper bandages were used on me.

I was surprised to see a friend, my sergeant, the Sheffield man, who had lost an eye in the same conflict that I had been in, we had a quick chat, until someone came for me, I said "Good Bye." and never met each other again.

I was taken away to have my front and sideways picture taken whilst wearing an old jacket given to me which had big letters "K.G." painted in white on the back, this meant P.O. W. in German language, and I had a piece of wood with my prison numbers on it, hanging from my neck, to be worn at all times, I still have this identity board.

I was taken to the British compound, and as the barb wired gate was closed behind me, I stood and looked in disbelief at the site before me, walking around the camp were dejected looking half starved men who had been smart looking youths who had been fighting for their country not so long age, some of the men waved to me whist others shuffled passed, I looked down at myself and thought that I already looked like a rag-man, so I am in good company.

A sergeant came to me and asked if I had come from the hospital, I nodded and he said "I will show you around," I saw four long wooden huts and was told I would be in the bottom one, I looked inside, it looked horrible, as dirty as the yard outside and the sleeping accommodation had been made by prisoners many years ago. It consisted of planks of wood being nailed together the length of the huts to make rough bunk beds, three and four high with wooden slats to sleep on, this had to accommodate over eight hundred men.

I said I couldn't climb up there with one arm in a sling, the sergeant said "We'll fit you in some where, even if it's on the floor." Big shutters had to be put in place during the hours of darkness.

Outside was four towers with search lights and machine guns, and electric fences surrounding the camp, inside the wire was a toilet consisting of three holes in the concrete floor of a little brick building with water running underneath, what a calamity it was for every one when a bout of Diarrhoea attacked many of the inmates, also in the grounds, was a concrete punishment cage and in the far corner was the morgue, which was used daily.

From then on we never had a shave, hair cut or clean clothes, I still had blood stained clothes I was captured in, these were worn day and night, the main occupation was killing lice which was rampant, especially at night.

Every morning the shutters were pulled down and every morning all the prisoners were ordered outside to form up in long lines, except the P.O.W.'s who were excused these roll calls, I was one of these who sat on the ground and shouted whatever number I had in the line, it was alright except when it was raining and the guards who took roll call kept giving the wrong numbers present to the Officer Commander of the parade, until after a while the right number was given and we were told to dismiss.

The guard who counted us each morning had only one eye; he was all right except for the wrong numbers game, which he thought was hilarious. Each morning after roll call everybody had to walk round and round the compound, except for those who were detailed for various tasks to be done.

One of these was that a big wheeled farm cart, made for shire horses to pull, had to be pulled to the nearby forest by the prisoners who, on arrival had to saw and chop trees down and then deliver them to the guards family quarters and the S. S. Panzer Grenadier Barracks, a huge task for men out of condition.

One day my name was called out for the tree duty, by a new guard on duty for the first time, amidst protests and volunteers wanting to take my place, the guard kept shouting my name out, so without much ado, I was lifted up and into the cart, and on arrival at the forest was lifted down, and lay down at the side of the guard, after a few hours the logs were loaded into the cart and I was lifted on top to have a precarious ride to the S.S. camp where the wood was unloaded, I looked down from the cart and shouted "Hurry up," to be answered by calls of "Throw him off." plus a few more remarks, it was nice to have a bit of a laugh.

We arrived back to camp, for dinner which meant standing in long lines, holding an old tin that I had scrounged from someone and waiting while foreign P.O.W.'s arrived from the cookhouse, a place I had never seen, carrying what looked like dust bins filled with hot water and turnip slices or mango's, one scoop of that dropped into your tin was dinner served, which you ate with your fingers or sharpened a stick with a knife if you knew any body who owned one.

At teatime you queued up for your tin to be filled with some black water, some called it coffee, which was scooped from the inevitable tin. We never did see the cookhouse or the other compounds of our camp in which twenty thousand P.O.W.'s, all non English who were alleged to be there, we also had black loaves of bread with nothing to put on it or in it, one loaf to be shared between twenty men, one slice each. The horrible squabbles that took place between comrades and friends was frightful, just because someone thought his slice had been cut thinner than theirs.

Morale seemed to be on a knife edge when we saw the funeral columns passing by to the near by cemetery, but it brought a lump to my throat, when the P.O.W's, who were shuffling around on their non-stop walk, stood to attention, those wearing head dress would salute, no matter what the nationality of the soldier was, he was honoured before being put to rest.
Someone told me that it was Christmas at the weekend, and a guard was walking past me and said "Fats Waller has died." I said "Oh." then after he had taken a few more steps, he turned and said "President Roosevelt as well." I could have laughed if it hadn't been so tragic.

So Christmas Eve came along, we were being served our usual turnip slices in warm water from the tin; I screwed my nose up and was told, "It is better Food, Christmas day,"
When we lined up for dinner, it was marginally better, the Christmas dinner, a scoop of sloppy peas served from the inevitable tin. Somebody shouted, "Beggars can't be chooses."
By this time I had my boots misplaced, I don't like to say stolen by someone who could not have been in greater need then me.

It was very cold by this time, so I had my feet wrapped in pieces of sacking until someone brought me a pair of well worn boots, I didn't dare to try and think who had warn them before me, I welcomed them anyway, and never took them off again, day or night.

As the allied troops advanced we became a bit anxious as more prisoners were brought into our camp, causing many problems to us and the guards, until many of our friends were assembled to be marched away one night, we didn't know where to.

One morning after we had roil call, a senior British N.C.O., ordered us to go back to our huts, and told us not to leave them unless ordered to do so.

There wasn't any sliced turnip, no slice of bread that day, all kinds of rumours were being spread about, some good some bad, the night seemed very quiet, until we heard the noise of tank tracks, not very far away, then the door opened and a British Army officer dressed in battle gear walked in and said "You are now free but no one must leave the compound, guards will be posted at the gates."

Every one cheered, those who could ran outside and waved to the troops passing by.
I stayed with those who needed medical attention, then we were given a couple of sandwiches and a hot drink, it was like a proper Christmas, long past.

We were kept in the compound for a few days, while the army erected same mobile showers, a medical Corps corporal pulled the paper bandages from my shoulder, the first time for weeks, he kept saying "Your all lousy." we knew that, but what a feeling it was when the soldier scrubbed me down, then we had our heads and other parts of our body shaved free of hair, it was good, we were then issued with nice, new army underwear and uniform, plus boots, it was brilliant.

After the troops had passed by our Dulag was visited by Generals from all the allied armies, one of whom was said to be General Montgomery who walked into the first hut and said "Disgusting, burn them down," which they did later an.

Then came the day when we boarded a paratroop plane bound for home, the plane was full, as the men crowded on and refused to leave when asked to do so, which meant they were stood up all the time, shear weight of numbers keeping them upright as we landed at Aylesbury airfield.

We had a great welcome from the ladies and men of the R.A.F, I went to the medical centre to have a clean dressing on my shoulder and was weighed in, as being seven and a half stone, I couldn't believe it, until I looked in a mirror.

Most of the lads had gone home by the time I was allowed to leave, but I received my railway warrant and a seven week leave from the army, I traveled to Sheffield then waited for a bus to take me home, then sat an the doorstep to await my mother who had gone shopping, that was the time I will never forget.

So that was it, no fuss, just a little Union Jack flag hanging through the window.

So the most exciting, eventful and torrid time of my life was over. "God Bless Lost Friends"

G. Marsden.