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up trying to assure them, confident that a short passage of time would show us to be right.


Food at last was adequate. A Red Cross parcel contained in its steel-strapped cardboard box some 11lbs of food and delicacies. The delicacies were cigarettes and a bar of chocolate. The food was tinned meat, fruit and fish, with egg powder such as we had been using in Britain, and oatmeal for porridge. There was too much in some of the tins for one man to open and eat before it went ‘off’, so a system had been devised to cater for this. We were informed, early on, that we could expect each to receive one parcel every six days, always provided that the transport arrangements for their delivery remained intact. So the drill was to organise ourselves into cooking and eating groups of six and in that way we would have one Red Cross parcel a day to feed the group. If a tin of beans or meat or a packet of oats was to be opened, it could be shared between the six and dealt with at one sitting. We made porridge for the whole group from one packet of oats, cooked in a bucket and very welcome too. Where a piece of corned beef had to be shared, it was vital to share it absolutely equally – whoever cut it into six pieces was the last to choose his own, so he cut with exceeding care! My family must often have heard me, over the years that followed, crying ‘You cut! I’ll choose!’


The cigarettes were a boon not only to the dedicated smokers but to those of us who could do without them. Our guards had little or no access to cigarettes and tobacco by this time, and could be suborned with the offer of a packet or two to help in various ways. My cooking group – apart from Jimmy Ward I can now remember the name only of F/O Jock Blackley, a Scot from 8 Ronald Crescent, Larbert – decided to take part in a raffle which our compound guards announced they would organise. It was, we were told, for a sucking pig! Delicious! The guards wanted twenty entrants at a packet of twenty cigarettes from each, and we willingly threw our twenty Players into a wager which had the same odds as being missing on a Bomber Command raid. That was a wager we had already ‘won’!


And we won this one. The guards duly handed over a carcase, skinned and headless, with rather long and thin legs, with little meat on it and suitable only to be dismembered and fried. That is what we did with it, and we sat sucking and chewing at our tiny piece of freshly cooked meat which at least had some taste to it. We sat until one of the group – I think it was Jimmy Ward himself – suddenly said ‘Has anyone seen our compound kitten today?’ No-one had. And no-one did. It had disappeared, our nice little black kitten which was a compound pet and which we tried to feed with such scraps as we could spare. There was simply no doubt about it. It had now fed us. Wood or any sort of fuel for cooking purposes was at a premium throughout these weeks and anything which could be removed from the huts, my bed planks included, had been removed and burned. The technique was to shave slivers


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