prisoners

Sep

21

1942

A work party leaves Auschwitz for Buna

21st September 1942: A work party leaves Auschwitz for Buna

The summer sun scorched the back of my neck. The alsatian trotting beside me was panting. A man reeled from the ranks, fell and had the top of his head blown off by an S.S. man who did not even bother to stop as he fired. Farther up the line a man ran wildly into the road and was bowled over by a burst of machine gun fire. The S.S. were kicking the kapos now and all the time they were shouting: “Faster, you bastards! We’re late! We’re late!”

Sep

12

1942

U-156 torpedoes the RMS Laconia

12th September 1942: U-156 torpedoes the RMS Laconia

06.00
Transmitted radio message twice on 25 meters:
If any ship will assist the ship-wrecked LACONIA crew, I will not attack her, providing I am not attacked by ship or air force. I picked up 193 men. 4 52 S 11 26 W.
German submarine.

Sep

2

1942

Japanese threaten British POWs in Singapore

2nd September 42: Japanese threaten British POWs in Singapore

Outside of the crammed barracks in the parade ground there was very little cover for the men and we baked in the sun. Our officers warned us that we would face a court martial if we signed and that the japanese were breaching the Geneva Convention that allows prisoners the right to attempt to escape without facing punishment. The japanese could not have cared less about the Geneva Convention and had no intention of observing it.

Aug

22

1942

Hitler struggles to understand purpose of Dieppe raid

22nd August 1942: Hitler struggles to understand purpose of Dieppe raid

A particular talking point was the mysterious British landings at Dieppe on 19 August. I have never been clear what the purpose of this operation was. Enemy commandos came ashore on heavily fortified beaches, and after suffering heavy casualties left twelve hours later. Hitler and Krancke examined the affair from all angles but neither could come up with a satisfactory explanation

Jul

17

1942

Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel


17th July 1942: Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel

In the tenth row outside our Block, the Block Senior found Yankel Meisel without his full quota of tunic buttons.

It took some seconds for the enormity of the crime to sink in. Then he felled him with a blow. An uneasy shuffling whispered through the ranks. I could see the S.S. men exchange taut glances and then I saw the Block Senior, with two of his helpers, hauling Yankel inside the barrack block.

Out of sight, they acted like men who have been shamed and betrayed will act. They beat and kicked the life out of him. They pummelled him swiftly, frantically, trying to blot him out, to sponge him from the scene and from their minds; and Yankel, who had forgotten to sew his buttons on, had not even the good grace to die quickly and quietly.

Jul

8

1942

Shipped out of Tobruk as a PoW


8th July 1942: Shipped out of Tobruk as a PoW

A freighter was tied up in front of us, lifting gently in the light swell that was rolling across the harbour. This was our ferry for the trip across the sea to Italy. We were going back to Europe, but not the way that we would have wished.

At last, we got the signal to embark and as each man reached the gangway he was presented with a packet of Italian cigarettes and a tin of corned beef. This was to last us until we reached Taranto and together with a quantity of rusty water all we had until we landed.

We were packed into the holds of the vessel and given to understand that nobody would be allowed on deck in any circumstances. A number of buckets were then passed down and the Italian interpreter indicated that these were our loo for the trip. Some of the men already had dysentery and after two hours below, the atmosphere could almost be leaned upon.

Jul

1

1942

Australian tragedy – Montevideo Maru torpedoed

1st July 1942: Australian tragedy – USS Sturgeon sinks Montevideo Maru

Proceeding to intercept target as before. Altered course to gain position ahead of him, and dove at 0146. When he got in periscope range, it could be seen that he was larger than first believed, also that his course was a little to the left of west, leaving us some 5,000 yards off the track. Was able to close some 1,000 yards of this, and then turned to fire stern tubes as:

i) Only three tubes available forward, and at this range and with large target four torpedo spread desirable.
ii) After tubes had 70D/ heads, while heads forward were small ones.

At 0225 fired four torpedo spread, range 4,000 yards, from after tubes. At 0229 heard and observed explosion about 75-100 ft. abaft stack. At 0240 observed ship sink stern first. 0250 surfaced, proceeded to eastward, completing battery charge. Ship believed to be Rio de Janeiro Maru, or very similar type, although it is possible it was a larger ship, he was a big one.

Jun

21

1942

‘Stunned amazement’ and confusion in the desert

The NAAFI storemen are machine-gunning stocks of beer worth £20 000. I feel an enormous apathy as I watch others rushing about with cases of canned fruit, liquor, jam. There is a mad abundance. I see men hacking tins open with bayonets, drinking the syrup and chucking the cans aside.

Jun

20

1942

The fall of Tobruk

Shells were coming more often now, the tanks with their big guns, had now got sight of the harbour. Boats of all kinds were trying to get away. Some were burning from end to end, passing just by our port, some of the men were jumping off and swimming to shore, some jumped off with kit on their backs and sunk. Later the rocket guns on the Harbour side were blown up, we began to think then.

Jun

9

1942

Taken prisoner out in the Desert


9th June 1942: Taken prisoner out in the Desert

We had not gone far before a carrier, closely followed by a fifteen hundredweight, came towards us. ’That’s all right’ I said to the D.C.L.I. [Devon and Cornwall Light Infantry] captain, ‘a patrol to check who we are’. They approached us at about fifteen miles per hour, the carrier with the familiar rocking motion fore and aft. When they were about a hundred yards away I shouted ’Halt, friend’ They did not halt but put on pace.

The carrier swung to my right, the fifteen hundredweight to my left, and then halted forty yards away. The ‘carrier’ was a German half-track with a machine gun in it pointing at us: the fifteen hundredweight was a British vehicle but with a machine gum mounted in front with two visored caps manning it; and previously concealed close behind the fifteen hundredweight was one of those German semi-armoured tracked vehicles with the silhouette of a tank, and mounting a forty-seven millimetre gun which seemed to be pointing straight at my stomach.

As I realised this in a split second, a German non-commissioned officer with a tommy gun jumped out of the half-track shouting ‘Hands up’. ‘B-, they’re Bosch’ I said, and – there was not much time to think – ’it’s no good, pack in’.

It was a neat bit of work just as dark was falling, and, in the state most of us were in I honestly do not think that an attempt at fighting would have been any use. My first reaction was one of intense anger, my next – immediately afterwards – to turn round, tear off my rank badges and medal ribbons, and drop them with my field glasses and revolver in a hole I scuffled in the sand with my foot.