World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                          Thomas Gould 

Wartime Memories of Thomas W Gould

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Thomas W Gould, Capt Lawton
Location of story: Poznan was Stalag 21D
Unit name: Duke of Wellingtons in the 2nd Battalion
Background to story: Army

                             Thomas Gould a prisoner of war at Stalag XXID, Poznan in Poland is pictured standing on the right hand side of the photograph

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Thomas W Gould.

Wartime Memories of Thomas W Gould

I was born on 16 December 1918 in Botham Street and my father worked as a warehouseman. I attended Grimesthorpe School and left aged 14 in 1932. In 1933 I started work in the machine shop at Sanderson and Newbould in Newhall Road and stayed there until I joined the Militia in July 1939. When war was declared in September 1939 I was conscripted. On joining the army I went into the Duke of Wellington's Regiment stationed at Halifax and spent a month in training at the barracks and then after further training was sent with the Duke of Wellingtons to Huddersfield in the 2nd Battalion (at that time our Captain was Capt Lawton whose story later featured in the film "The Colditz Story").

We were shipped to France in May 1940 and our first encounter with enemy forces was at Dieppe - the Germans were fighting on the Siegfried and Magino Lines.

There were a lot of Fifth Columnists around (undercover collaborators with the enemy). One British soldier - I think he might have been called Wood - was from Parson Cross in Sheffield and he would have been promoted to sergeant to train personnel on mortars but was unable to be promoted because unfortunately he spoke with a bad stutter! However, this chap Wood caught one of the Fifth Columnists - who was spotted because he was wearing German jackboots. The system was that anyone caught collaborating had to be handed over to the French army but after talking to them they were often released. Undaunted Wood caught him again and yet again the French let him go. Wood said that if he caught him a third time he would shoot him himself!

We moved out of Dieppe to a French town called St Valery where the French were supposed to take over from us and we would move on. But then we got orders to dig in at St Valery. The fighting was very heavy - quite a few of my mates got killed - and we eventually got overrun by the Germans and were taken prisoner. We were moved towards Belgium - walking all the way (the distance from St Valery to Brussels is about 150 miles) - we were given some soup and bread for dinner each day. We arrived at our first camp which was at St Annes Barracks in Brussels. From there we were sent on to another camp. This time they took us by cattle truck and barges on the river (Elbe I think) and then we finally arrived at the Poznan camp in Poland where we stayed until near the end of the war. The camp in Poznan was Stalag 21D and there we were put into various working parties - labouring - and we were sent out to another camp working on the railway. They used to send us out in working parties of 20 or even 100 men. During the time I was a prisoner I did various work - forestry; snow clearing; drainage and all sorts of other jobs. The main camp, Stalag 21D, was mostly underground. We were allowed a few privileges sometimes - the Germans took some photographs for us to send home - I think through the Red Cross - I suppose to show the people back home that we were being well treated! I've still got those photographs. Most of the time we were usually given 1/5 of a loaf of bread and soup for dinner. Some of the lads had smuggled in the old "cat's whiskers" radios and tried to keep up with the news of what was happening in the war. They had to be very careful because the German guards knew that some of the prisoners had radios and they were always searching to try to find the sets.

At one point while I was a POW I lost my little toe because the shoes they gave us didn't fit properly and rubbed my toe. When I went to see the MO it was raw and sore, so he said: "I'm not going anywhere and you're not going anywhere - so shall we take it off?" And he did - just cut it off right there!

When the Russians started advancing towards where we were, the Germans had to move us. We went to Lansdorf and had to walk again - they had to keep us moving because the Russians were getting closer. There was a lot of snow on the ground and it was very cold - 10 or 20 degrees below - but luckily we did get overcoats which had been sent out to us by the Red Cross I think. We slept overnight in barns or huts on the way and when we finally got to Magdeburg the Americans freed us and took us in trucks to Brussels. On our first stay in Brussels when we had just been captured we were lucky to get a bit of soup and bread to eat, but this time the Canadians were there and they were giving us steak!! Finally we got air-lifted back to England in 1945. After a leave at home I had to go back for retraining at Otley - then I got sent to the Ordnance Depot at Didcot and was finally demobbed in 1946.

When I finally came home 1 went back to Sanderson Newboulds and worked in the hardening shop. When I had gone away I had had my old gaffer but when 1 went back I was called into the office and was given the job of Chargehand, which I did until I retired in 1983.

I would sum up my 5 years as a POW on the whole as being reasonably well treated by the ordinary German soldiers. As in any place, there were good and bad amongst them. If a German was talking to you on his own it was just like talking to a chap you had met anywhere, but if there were two or more of them it was a different tale - they were not as friendly - they were frightened in case they were reported for being too soft with us. And when the SS came in (the Black Shirts) you had to watch your step and be careful and keep your head down. One thing I learned was never to ask anyone to do anything you wouldn't do yourself.

As told by Tom Gould in March 2004.