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buttons and boots gleaming, and with knife-edge creases in their trousers. Another recent arrival in our compound was, fortunately, a senior British


officer, an RAF Group Captain who made successful representations to the camp Commandant to have the British PoWs transferred to a compound which had no-one in it except British officers like ourselves. Life became more tolerable then, and we settled down to the routine of a kriegie as comfortably as we could under the same physical conditions as we had enjoyed in the first compound. Our wooden huts were crowded and we, as late arrivals, had no choice of bed. I found myself on the top tier of one of the bed structures which should have been provided with wooden planking to support a mattress or whatever sort of bedding could be found. But earlier inhabitants had purloined the wood to burn for fires for cooking, and we had to do with the steel strapping from Red Cross parcels nailed across the wooden sides of the bed’s frame, and then spread the cardboard of those parcels on the strapping to form some sort of mattress base.


But at last we had showers. They were cold, but they were exceedingly welcome. And we had water in which we could wash our underwear and begin to feel clean and wholesome – a pleasant change after our unhygienic wanderings. There was delousing for everyone. I had not picked up lice. The lavatories were separate wooden huts with rows of WCs, no partitions, and quite open to the general view of those using them. It is amazing how quickly one accepts that the normal decencies are not the most important elements of life. We were literally all in this together! The guards were in no way intrusive. They looked as if they were, on the whole, middle-aged and not too fit, and they checked the outside of our compounds without coming inside the wire much more than to conduct the morning and evening ‘appels’, when we paraded to be counted off in fives. Among the prisoner colleagues we talked to there was no talk of escape or even thinking of attempting it. Many of us who had recently arrived knew very well that the War was in its last throes, and all we wanted to do was to survive over the remaining weeks or the month or two it would last. We had seen, on our travels through Germany, the utter devastation of the countryside, the demoralisation of the whole population and, in our last day or two ‘outside’, straggling units of the German forces pulling back from the front line in utter disorder. We had seen their army trucks short of petrol, one truck pulling two others behind it to save fuel, leaving the towed vehicles at the foot of any hill which could not be managed in more than tandem to be dragged up one by one. We had seen jackbooted Wehrmacht soldiers walking on the roadside with pushbikes with flat tyres. We knew, and they knew, that the War was over. But those among us who had been incarcerated for years had heard all this before! There was no way in which we could convince them that this time it was for real. They had heard that story too often, had been disappointed too many times, so we gave


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