[transcription and transcription annotations have been provided by the collection donor]
Easter Sunday Apr 1, 1945:
Last night we were able to get straw to put on the boards. As a result we all slept well. Our hips and shoulders have very little flesh on them and were getting sore lying on the boards where we previously slept with our blankets over us. This is a dull cool day. There was only an RC church parade today. BBC news last night - Americans 8 kms from Kassel. Rations - one-fifth loaf, margerine, some smoked meat. We don’t know how long we will get the extra bread. I bought 2 raw spuds. 300 Russian officers arrived and settled on our floor. Using my brand of German I talked to several of them. They are good types, not like the last crowd. Cannon and machine gun fired from fighters smashed carriages of local train. I heated water on a small fire that didn’t smoke, had a shave, washed my face and hands. I traded my great coat for a Yank combat jacket. The great coat was big and heavy. The sleeves came down to my finger tips. Great in the winter, but this is spring. This was a lucky night for me. I was on soup ladling detail, that earned me extra soup, which was pea, carrot and meat. At 9 pm, a heavy explosion nearby shook the building, showering us with brick dust. Shortly before this an aircraft had dropped a flare.
Mon Apr 2, 1945:
I heated some of last night’s soup with the raw spuds, very tasty. This is a cold windy morning so I went back to bed until noon. A light rain fell as we were paraded in the field to get our rations. We were told that we would leave tomorrow at 7 am. That was good news. Late in the afternoon an artillery train went to the front. We could see gun flashes in the distance. All night there was heavy gun fire. BBC news - Americans still advancing.
Tue Apr 3 1945:
We are up at 4 am, mint tea served at 5 am. It is raining. We form up in small parties of 100 to 150 men and draw 2 days rations. Everyone is glad to leave this stink hole that Gerry calls a Stalag. The roads are muddy and our feet are soon soaked. We pass through Duderstadt, an old world town. All the buildings are decorated with carvings. The paint has faded but this must have been a colorful town. The fields of red soil reminded me of Devon.. The road passed through thick woods but there was no chance to sneak in and hide. We marched 21 kms to Bartolfelde. Everyone was leg weary as we had not walked much since the second of March. Most of us had been ill. We were put into a barn early. There was no soup but they gave us 3 boiled spuds per man. Bombers overhead, there were loud explosions during the early part of the night.
Wed Apr 4, 1945:
There was traffic all night. Men and vehicles either going to or coming from the front. It was a cold day with hail. At 8 am we lined up and moved north towards Bad Sachsa. The army vehicle traffic was so heavy we had to travel along the side of the road. There were hundreds of aircraft overhead. This is an attractive, hilly area with a number of villas at the edge of the woods. More hail fell, then the sun came out. From wooded heights we looked down on the red tiled roofs of Bad Sachsa. The outskirts are modern. The square fronted shops in the center are much older. One hotel was dated 1632 on its front. From here we moved east towards Werna. This is rolling country with woods, cultivated fields and streams flowing through a large valley. A water powered mill was working. After walking 22 kms we reached Werna. Home for tonight is a barn on a large estate. Bales of hay were broken up for our beds. No soup. No spud issued. German horse transport moved on the road. At 9 pm waves of bombers passed overhead. Midnight brought more aircraft. The roar of their engines was deafening.
Thur Apr 5, 1945:
We are up at 7:30 am and on the move at 8 am. Today’s walk took us up a steep mountain road with a number of hair pin bends. This was very exhausting and many of us didn’t think we could continue. After walking 10 kms we reached Bennekenstein on top of the mountain. We stopped here for a half hour. A German woman brought us some kaffee. Another woman gave some raw spuds and turnip peelings. The Gerry’s issued an emergency ration - one tenth moldy loaf, nothing else. Fighter aircraft overhead, we went into the bush. The guards recognized them as Luftwaffe and ordered us back onto the road. They could still strafe us. Many German ambulances passed us. They are being used as troop transports. At 3 pm we reach Hasselstein, a small muddy sawmill village full of Luftwaffe. Daffodils are blooming in the gardens. Our barn’s floor is wet with manure. I managed to get into the loft. No soup, so MacNeil and I boiled the spuds and turnip peelings the woman gave us earlier in the day. Rations - one quarter loaf and 2 fishy smelling cakes of cheese. We traveled 20 kms today.
Fri Apr 6, 1945:
It rained all night. We slept fairly well in spite of lying on a sloping straw pile. This is a rest day. I obtained a bucket stove and made toast. Still raining in the afternoon, so we stayed inside. We roasted the rest of yesterday’s spuds in the bucket stove. Rations - one quarter loaf, we missed the cheese issue and were given extra soup. The vegetables in the soup were supplied by QMS of the Panzer group. Tom and I moved to the Krank (sick) barn were there was lots of room and straw. I sold my extra soup for 2 Belgium cigarettes. These were half tobacco and half filter. A German band played martial music in the village.
Sat Apr 7, 1945:
The rain stopped, the sun shone. After and ID check for the 80 men here. Jim Vaughan and I enjoyed the warm sunshine. A Regimental Sergeant Major tried to buy spuds, but the Gerry’s said this wasn’t the right day. Yesterday was spud buying day. Now they tell us. They finally produced spuds, swedes, onions and three tins of meat to be split between 80 men. In the afternoon there was a disc parade and our POW numbers were taken. No hardship as the sunshine was warm. Soup, rations and kaffee issued at 6 pm. The altitude is high and this is one of Germany’s health centers. Nordhausen was blitzed a day or so ago. The people here must donate some to their spuds to the bombing victims. It is possible to trade for civilian ration cards, but how could we use them? We are not allowed to leave the barn yard.
Sun Apr 8, 1945:
Good hot kaffee at 7am very welcome as last night was cold. The ground was frosty this morning. The sun shone. Nice weather for marching. We traveled on a high plateau, then downhill into beautiful country. A brook on the right and woods on the left. 9 kms to Wendefurt which is near a brook in a pretty valley. In the village gardens there are tulips, daffodils, pansies, apple, cherry, plum and peach trees in bloom. The rhubarb looks good. At 11:45 am more than 100 American bombers passed overhead. We stop in Westhausen, 151 men to a barn with lots of straw. Fires are permitted. Soup made with spuds, beans and onions. I sifted through a basket of bean shells and got one quarter cup of beans, eaten raw they tasted like peanuts. I slipped into the piggery and obtained one half jug of meal, that left the box empty. A guard came in and seized me by the back of neck. He saw the empty box and thinking I hadn’t taken anything he let me go. Ration - one sixth loaf per man. Flour arrived for tomorrow’s bread. I guess the civilians will bake it. Also a big lump of meat arrived for Monday’s soup. Smoke from nearby bombing blotted out the sun.
Mon Apr 9, 1945:
It is a cold day. No fires allowed. Hot water was issued at 8:30 am. For breakfast I managed to toast some bread on the cooking copper, used to make our soup. Hanover and Bremen have fallen. After many beatings the villagers are terrified of the SS troops. Percy Foster, South African Army, made a deal with the guards to get a soup made. In answer to yesterdays appeal, a British Navy arbutz commando (work party) sent us some Red Cross food parcels, one between 8 men. A gift that was greatly appreciated. Ration - one-eighth of a 2 kilo civilian loaf and cherry jam per man. I bought 12 onions for 1 fag.
Tue Apr 10, 1945:
This is a rest day. All last night we could hear gun fir and vehicles moving on the roads. We had cold soup, tuna sandwiches and coffee. A check parade at 8 am. Our move is canceled.. We ate more food from the Red Cross parcels. Anyone with raw spuds could cook them in the copper. 10 raw spuds sold for 1 fag. On the street again ready to move at 12:30 pm. I spoke to some teen aged German soldiers who had been captives of the Americans for three hours, then escaped. It won’t be long. We move back into the barns as our destination is a forbidden area. The villagers are in a good mood, the war will soon end. One guard is drunk already. Duderstadt has fallen. According to rumour the Yanks and Russians meet south of Leipzig. 2:30 pm lots of boiling water. We made hot Klim and eat all the bread and peanut butter. I had a shave. About five hundred four-engine bombers (RAF) flew overhead. Half hour later American bombers passed. During the air show three fighters did some straffing in the vicinity. Coffee brew up. We are supposed to leave tomorrow at 6:30 am. The German troops left the village this evening. Artillery fire heard all night.
Wed Apr 11, 1945:
We are on the road at 6 am to avoid straffing. Ditfurt, 10 kms away is our destination. The vehicle traffic was very heavy and all moving eastward. We travel on country roads through a fertile area. Wheat is up. As we approached Ditfurt we could hear sounds of straffing. We are billeted in the barns of a large property with a huge mansion. We will sleep on piles of empty bean pods. After several hours of hunting I managed to get a cupful of beans. These I boiled with some spuds. For three fags the civy gave me two Klim tin measures of white beans and some salt. I boiled spuds onions and beans and dried bean pods, tasted good. Rations -one loaf between ten men and a small amount of margarine. The Gerry issued a meaty soup then moved the portable kitchen out of the farm yard. Into bed.
Thur Apr 12, 1945:
Around 7:00 am we were awakened by someone outside yelling “The Yanks are here”. I rushed out into the street carrying my boots. There was a jeep with American soldiers in it. Lee Soper (RCAF) talked to one of them and discovered he was a young cousin that Lee hadn’t see for some years. They gave us packets of cigarettes. I finally put my boots on. Went to a dairy for milk. Next to a bakery as the baker took the bread out of the oven we took it from him. His protests were ignored. Next was a grocery store for margarine. The store was full of civilians. The owner invited us into the kitchen where she made kaffee. There was a white table cloth and she set the table with cutlery, etc. We ate bread, ersatz honey and drank kaffee. She gave us shoe polish for our boots. Mine are not worth polishing. Her husband is a POW in the USA. She was worried about his safety. We assured her he would be well treated. A red headed man who had avoided the German army draft said he could take us to a food train in the next village. John Porteous speaks German so he is our interpreter. We borrowed bicycles and after many rest stops we reached a German army supply train. Russian, Italian and Polish POW’s were drinking wine, some were out cold. Children were stuffing handfuls of sugar into their mouths, smoking cigars or cigarettes, blowing up condoms thinking they were balloons. A civilian took us and our loot in his wagon back to Ditfurt. We transferred our goods to an American army truck. At another village we saw an empty Opel car and the Yanks said “help yourself”. We did. The owner protested. We picked up some gas from an American army depot. At 6 pm we were in Dardesheim. We stopped at a farm, got sausage and ground meat from a butcher. The farmer let us use the kitchen, no wood so we borrowed a fence. We made hamburgers and gave some to the farmer’s family. They had never had them before. After supper cigars were passed round. We went for a stroll in the village, but we were turned back by Yank soldiers because of a curfew. Into the hay barn, but we were too excited to sleep.
Fri Apr 13, 1945:
We didn’t sleep much, up early, packed car. Into town, bread from baker for marks. No coupons, minced meat, liver and wurst from butcher for one cigar and one pkt of fags, two dozen eggs or more. Breakfast fried burger, liver and two eggs each - buns from another baker, toast, kaffee. When getting the eggs ready the others went to the burgermeister for bread coupons and got two revolvers and one bayonet. We started at 10 am and travelled through various villages and towns. Halberstadt, Schladen was a POW collecting center. We kept going, passing through Hildesheim, which is no more, just ruins. Stopped by Military Police and turned back. Cars needed. We’d never have crossed the Rhine. Airdrome - register - billets - rations - doughnuts - flying boots.
Sat Apr 14, 1945:
Stomach played hell with me last night. Up at 7 am, we made coffee outside in a brazier - Kaffee and Nescafe, milk from canteen. Yesterday’s boiled eggs and German buns, honey and beans. Parade, told about reception camps in England. Yanks fly to Cherbourg, Kiwis to England today. We may go tomorrow. Medical inspections - delouse with powder. Find Italian revolver and Luftwaffe flying boots.. Fight with civy for camera tripod. Roam round the camp. In afternoon Johnny Porteous, Micky Green and I try to get cameras or watches in nearby village, but no luck. Bought eggs off baker in bombed village for fags. Refused to go on booze with Poles. Russians burn down a hotel. We buy six boiled eggs, little cake and good French red wine, milk at another farm for fags and candy. Called at a third farm for more milk, two bottles (three all told) and fifteen boiled eggs. Had nicely fried spuds and lightly pickled dills. Getting a roast chicken tomorrow.
Sun Apr 15, 1945:
Slept well last night - only up once. On parade at 8 am. Must be 1000 or more here. Split up into nationalities. RAF in a group of 20. We leave on the eleventh plane if that many go. Chilly outside. Had to hang around by the American Red Cross and Auto Club Canteen for further notices. Both today’s doughnut and coffee queues were packed out as was the dining hall. No more K emergency rations, but good soup, crackers and coffee. Johnny, Mitsy and I ate some of the chicken, which was mixed up in a rich gravy - delicious. Back to the billet, where I sorted out my kit. More and more ex-POW’s coming in. No planes arrived, so we don’t go till tomorrow. Three talkie films or stage shows a day. Music on canteen truck P.A. (Public address). Went up to mess hall for water. Dreamy, restful feeling.
ARRIVE IN ENGLAND
Mon Apr 16, 1945:
Slept soundly. Up and out on the parade square. Back for kit and out onto airfield. K.rations - supper, biscuits, pork and beef (heated it), 4 fags, gum, chocolate, toilet paper, hot coffee. Planes arrive and planes go. Warm day. Spent all afternoon roaming through hangers. Sharpened my knife. At 5:45 pm, two planes came to take off and 30 more will be here this evening, so they say - RAF and US Douglas Dakotas. They kept coming. At 8:35 pm we take off - great to fly again. Land at Wing, Buckingham shire at 11:55 pm. Assisted to hangar, fags, deloused. Tea, sandwich, bun and cookies. WAAF’s mess for eggs and bacon then to bed, five blankets. Beds made for us.
Tue Apr 17, 1945:
Up at 8 am. Slept very well. Breakfast - corn flakes, bacon and egg, tea. Washed and shaved. Left Wing for London at 11 am and arrived at 12:30 at hotel near Euston station. Here we had a meal, peas, boiled spud, sausage and batter pudding , sweet - prunes and custard. Received washing kit, tin of chocolate and 50 fags. Slept a while, paid ten shillings. At 3:30 pm the Canucks left by train for Bournemouth. We arrived at 6 pm. Supper - milk, 2 eggs on toast at the Beach Café. Then over to Knight of Columbus for a bit of clothing.
Wed Apr 18, 1945:
Slept fairly well, but was up many times during the night. Breakfast at the Beach Café - porridge and milk, toast and marmalade. I couldn’t face the bacon and egg or bacon and hots. Went through clothing stores for our battle dress. Lunch - I didn’t have soup, the stew was good, delicious cream pie. Still feeling ill. Back to billet to lie down. Through accounts section, paid fifty pounds for uniform and 250 clothing coupons. Personal kit - it will arrive tomorrow. Up to sick bay with Jimmy Paton. Had to go back for my kit. Lots of milk, stay here will stomach is better. Sent telegram home.
Thur Apr 19, 1945:
Up once last night. Good sleep. Doctor came in and put me on protein diet. Egg nog for breakfast. Ken Smith came in see me before he left. Butch Reynolds and Hugh Hart here. Both very thin, but improving. We were weighed. I am 123 and one quarter lbs. I wrote two letters. Photographers took our pictures. Interrogation officer came in. RC padre visited Jimmy Paton. K of C girl came in with fags, chocolate and magazines. We had the regular meals today. Our stomachs are holding out well. Sent flowers for Mother’s day.
Fri Apr 20, 1945:
Good sleep, up only once. Not quite as sunny today. Still stuffing ourselves with good food and sleeping well. K of C girl brought eraser and pencils and drawing paper. A woman brought library books in to us. Ice cream today - not as good as Canadian, but better than 1942 variety. Jim and I moved into room with Hunt and Soper.
Sat Apr 21, 1945:
A warm day. I wrote up some of my diary into my log book. Issued blue hospital suit ( goon suit), which is too large for me. The sister states that I won’t leave here till I fill it. Sat outside in the sun for awhile. Three bricks of ice cream, a gift from the W/C for the seven of us. We have four meals then a buckshee at 9:30 pm - orange juice.
Sun Apr 22, 1945:
A cool morning, windy, but a bit warmer in the afternoon. Reporter dropped round and took one of Lee Soper’s drawings. He saw my distill cartoon, took particulars of my distilling activities. Had session of diarrhea. Buckshee fags, chocolates, gum and tin of food. Sat outside for awhile in sun till tea time. Received permission to go to Regent Theatre to hear the Streamliners jazz. Leaves me cold these days. I’d enjoy the organ. Ovaltine before bed..
Mon Apr 23, 1945:
Hunt left this morning and the fellow from next door. That leaves four of us. Papers full of atrocity pictures of Buchanwald Concentration Camp. Received a telegram from Bill Coombes. The K of C girl came in with some fags, magazines, gum and chocolate. We had some Coco Colas. My teeth are bothering me especially when I eat ice cream.
Tue Apr 24, 1945:
Feeling quite a bit better. I ate very little breakfast, but managed all the other meals. Jim Paton, Lee Soper, Red Crouch and I put on our “zoot” suits and strolled down to the cliff tops. Quite a few people on the sands in spite of the cool wind. We strolled back again in time for tea. The sister brought in a tin of condensed milk for us to boil till it caramelized. The K of C girl brought us corn cob pipes and English baccy.
Wed Apr 25, 1945:
A warmer day. We stayed in all morning. In the afternoon we sat outside. The Red Cross girl brought us a corn cob Leicester Square Mixture ( Canadian Baccy). Red Cross utility lighter and chocolate bars. We ate our caramelized milk. Red Crouch left today and another fellow came in. Three more came in late tonight. I had to take some pills to stop the toothache.
Thur Apr 26, 1945:
I managed to get some sleep last night and made up for what I lost during the day. Light rain fell all day keeping us indoors. I’m handling the meals better. The sister brought in a huge tin of malted milk. The Medical Officer didn’t think I should see the dentist for a few days yet. Weighed 9 stone ( 126 lb). I had one mug eggnog, one mug malted milk and l mug milk.
DISCHARGE FROM HOSPITAL
Fri Apr 27, 1945:
Rain fell this morning. The M.O. told me I could leave at 2 pm. Packed my kit and took up residence at: 66 Bath Hill Court. Collected my personal kit. All intact. Saw K.C. Smith and A. Comeau. Roamed round Bournemouth. Had supper in NAAFI cafeteria.
Sat Apr 28, 1945:
Roamed around the stores this morning and bought a shorthand book. Uniforms are very hard to get. In the evening Jimmy Paton, Soper and I went to K of C canteen and had Cokes etc.
Sun Apr 29, 1945:
Cold day - showers. After breakfast I stayed in the NAAFI till lunch. In the afternoon we rode a bus round till supper. After supper Doug Chiswell and I went to a show. A bit hard on the eyes. Then into Pav. Pub for Guinness and into Lucome for fish and chips.
Mon Apr 30, 1945:
Didn’t have breakfast. Sunny and chilly. Made dental appointment for tomorrow. Bought gloves, shirt and ordered a raincoat.