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tower of strength and, together with one or two of the others in our contingent, supported me physically and helped to take the weight off my legs. I was deadly scared about being unable to continue and of falling out, to be left to whatever tender mercies a local German populace might be inclined to bestow on me. It was safer to be with the crowd. The pain eventually vanished and I found myself able to give the same sort of aid as I had enjoyed to a young USAAF pilot who was feeling less than fit. We were walking in that north-easterly direction because it was the quickest route away from the advancing Allied front which, unknown to us, was day- by-day relentlessly and with little pause encroaching on German territory and overrunning the feeble resistance which was all that was being encountered. Our guards’ objectives were, first, to avoid being overrun themselves and, secondly, to get their prisoners inside a PoW camp at the earliest possible moment and we shared their second objective, for outside it was a dangerous, uncomfortable and hungry existence. Inside there would be comparative safety, shelter and some sort of sustenance. We had only a little food with us, salvaged from Red Cross supplies from Wetzlar and the attack at Mucke, and were mainly dependent on what could be picked up as we journeyed on and, presumably, on some that the guards could buy.


I believe we managed to get to one PoW establishment, whose name and location I did not and do not know, only to find that it too had closed just the day before and had moved its prisoners eastwards just as Dulag Luft had done. I remember walking through the pleasant town of Bad Hersfeld, remembered because HERSFELD had been outlined in gold on the name batten of my father’s piano. And I remember our arrival at Eisenach, where we ventured into the carriages of a parked train at the town railway yards in the hope of getting some rest and even something to eat. We were lucky. We had been walking through lovely country – the Black Forest in the province of Thuringia but, beautiful though the scenery was, I had already determined that I would never, never go on a walking tour of Germany or anywhere else. Eisenach proved to be the furthest northerly point we touched and it was memorable and lucky because someone in our entourage somehow managed to acquire a small bag of potatoes. They were not very good potatoes – it was now nearing the end of March – and they had probably been exchanged for a bar of soap or a few cigarettes from a Red Cross parcel. One of the Americans had a tin of oleo margarine, as was the name for the fat supplied by the American Red Cross, and a little further bribery persuaded our engine driver to boil the potatoes and deliver them to our carriage steaming hot. Never had we tasted such a marvellous meal. It was actually hot. It is difficult now to appreciate how we were feeling after days of nothing but cold fare, and the hot potatoes smothered in margarine were indescribably welcome and delicious. Of course, we were hungry.


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