Jack Read, 207 Squadron

Copyright : the family of Jack Read, 207 Squadron RAF: 'Wartime Log':
for permission to reproduce please contact colin AT ccollings.wanadoo.co.uk, replacing AT with @

Lancaster R5616 EM-J of No.207 Squadron Royal Air Force took off from RAF Bottesford at 2100 on 16th August 1942 for mine laying duties in the Kattegat coastal area of Denmark code named Geranium

It crashed in the sea SSW of Mano (Fano) Island.  Those who died were buried on 22 August in Fourfelt Cemetery, Esbjerg, Denmark. 

Sgt Jack Read was made POW and was in Stalag Luft III, prisoner no.42821.

Pilot P/O Anthony Jeaffreson SOUTHWELL RAF(VR)
Flight Engineer Sgt Jack READ RAF(VR)
Observer F/O Dennis John QUINLAN RCAF
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner F/O Wilfrid Milton EDMONDS RAAF
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sgt Robert ROBSON RAF(VR)
Air Gunner (Mid Upper Turret) Sgt Thomas DOUGLAS
Air Gunner (Rear Turret) Flight Sgt John Andrew McLEAN RCAF

The Squadron History of 207 Squadron ALWAYS PREPARED says:

"Then came what turned out to be 207 Squadron's final, and sad, mission from Bottesford, when six Lancasters took off on 16 August [1942] to drop mines in areas 'Willow' and 'Geranium'.  Two failed to return: R5616 EM:J piloted by P/O AJ Southwell which crashed into the sea off Fano Island, Denmark, and R5509 EM:G with F/Sgt NJ Sutherland and crew, which was also thought to have come down in the sea. A Danish newspaper Nationaltidende report next day stated that a British aircraft had been shot down by a fighter and had crashed to the South of Fano, four of the crew being dead and the fifth brought ashore injured.  This was Sgt J Read, Flight Engineer of R5616, who survived to be captured."

In fact Jack (right) was the only survivor.

Jack Read's account has been minimally edited, mainly to ensure that place and military terms are recognisable.

I wonder who first thought of the idea of these Wartime logs for POW's, the Canadians or the Americans?

I know the Canadians have had them sometimes and I am inclined to think they started the racket. It seems to me rather late for our own people to start sending them out to us at this stage of the war, when we are expected to wrap up almost any day.

I wish I had one almost two years ago when I first became a Kriegie because then things happened so quickly that many things I could have noticed and kept on record have now probably been forgotten.

There is one thing that may be worthy of note though. Exactly one year from the time I passed from under Army administration on 18th July 1943, I again came under the Army in this camp at Thorn on 17th July 1944. In the last camp I was working in the cookhouse and came here with the advance party to help organise the kitchen here, but on arrival we found that it was already run by the Army.

We thought that it would be a new RAF camp, but when we found that this was not the case I made up my mind to have a good rest or rather scrounge. This was not to be the call because I find myself Arbeit Fuken for 6 Squadron. This is rather strange because I never applied for the job at all but was asked to take it as I was in the cookhouse at the last place in spite of the fact that a number of people were trying to get in.

Before proceeding further I had better record briefly a history of my Kriegie life before I forget it completely as some has already been forgotten.  
Aug 17th (1942)
0200hrs Shot down into the sea near a small island off the coast of Denmark
1600hrs Taken by horse and trap to the main land, fording the sea at low tide, and taken to the Luftwaffer station
Aug 18th
By ambulance, train and ambulance to Schleswig train journey carried out on stretcher in box car
Aug 20th approx
By 2nd class train, and car to Holmark, the Dulag hospital Oberursel, Nr Frankfurt.  
Nov 28th
By 3rd class train to Obermasfeld Reserve Lazarett 1249 Stalag 1XC  
July 6th 1943
Left hospital at last by 2nd class train for Holsdorf  
July 18th               
By box car and 3rd class train to Berlin enrout for Heydekrug. Stayed a night in an air raid shelter of large barracks sleeping in there ten beds. Spent the morning in Red X hut at Charlottenburg.  
July 19th
1400hrs  Entrained 2nd class to Marienburg where we spent the night in a small waiting room
July 20th
Entrained 3rd class to Instinburg. Spent night in cell barracks
July 21st
Entrained 3rd class to Heydekrug arriving about midday
July 15th 1944
Entrained 20 in barbed wire pens in box car for Thorn, Poland. Spent the night in train beginning to move at about 0230
July 16th
Arrived Thorn in the evening spending night in Vorlagers
July 17th
Admitted to main camp Stalag 357
Aug 10th
Entrained 15 a side for Falling-Bostel, north of Hanover. Nearest town Celle.
Aug 12th
Arrived Falling-Bostel, Stalag 357 (According to German newspaper Heydekrug fell to the Russians on October 8th)
Feb 26th 1945
Admitted to hospital Stalag 357 with acute gastritise.

It is natural, I suppose, that my first impressions during my captivity should be the greatest and most lasting, though strangely enough the actual time I was shot down and landed is somewhat hazy.   I had been led to believe that I would not be treated too kindly by the Germans, so was pleasantly surprised to be treated with the utmost tenderness. In fact when they first found me they showed the greatest concern for my injuries.

Whilst waiting for the cart to come to convey me to the village the one in charge kept me well supplied with cigarettes and was quite indignant when one of the younger guards would not take my word that I was not armed but began to search me.   When the cart eventually arrived they half filled it with hay but were loathe to move me to place me there in for fear of causing me pain, so that they were to find I was able to move under my own power.

They placed a board across two sides of the cart to support my back and another for my injured leg and when the cart began to move the guard placed all his men together with a number of civilians who had gathered round, around it to steady it over the rough places.  

I had expected to find the natives very repressed, but instead they lined the village street, the men bare headed and the women with large bunches of flowers which they tossed into the cart. They were chatting quite easily to my guards and all gave the impression of a big happy family. I certainly saw no signs of oppression at that time and the people openly showed their sympathy with the Englander.   

When we arrived at the billet or outpost as it could almost be called, I was placed on the senior guards bed, that being the only single bed in the hut, and they stripped many blankets from the other beds to keep me warm as a guard against shock. They took away my wet clothes and dried them in the sun, lending me gym shorts and sweater the while.

My injured leg was supported by a stool outside of the bed and one man was detailed to bathe it continually with cold water to reduce the swelling. They brought me a meal of fried plaice, potatoes, cauliflower, and a huge bottle of milk. Afterwards when I asked for water to drink they gave me mineral water. At the time I would have much preferred pure water but I realised now, as is often the case in these small villages, the water was probably unfit for drinking, so they gave me their own issue of mineral water.   I cannot express the impression all this made upon me. When I expressed, as best I could at the time, my thanks mingled with astonishment for the kindness I had received they brushed it aside with a shrug saying in German, "English and Germans all good Comrades"  

But other surprises were to come. That afternoon they took me to the main land of Denmark and on arriving on the shore (we had crossed by a ford in a kind or four wheeled gig in which they took great pain to make me comfortable) I beheld a beautiful sight, which although it did not surprise me, remains with me as a most pleasant memory. On the shore was a pic- nic party comprising of what I took to be the women and children of two families.

One girl was about eighteen or so, particularly caught my attention on account of her striking beauty and dress. I never could remember and describe features so I must content myself with saying that she was one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. Her hair I remember was platinum blonde and shone in the sun so that it almost dazzled me. She wore a bright red jumper and a short red tartan skirt: Her legs were bare and on her feet she wore wooden sabots which were scrubbed white. I had already seen sabots worn by the poor fisher folks in the village I had just left ( though many of them were bare footed ) and I had a couple of them in my mind with poverty and sordidness, but here they went hand in hand with sparkling youth and beauty.  

The surprise followed immediately after. I had expected to find the country owing to German occupation plunged into poverty and misery. This did not appear to be the case. As we passed a beautiful park on the left of the straight good surfaced road we saw an ice cream vendor standing with his barrow at the gate. The officer who had now taken charge of me stopped the car and bought an ice cream each of us, himself another officer, the driver and myself. As we entered the town which was large and clean I noticed the shops were amazingly well stocked with provisions. Huge crates of eggs stood outside while the windows were crowded with sides of bacon and other food stuffs similar to English shops during the beautiful pre - war days. Silk lingerie and cloth there were in abundance.

The shoppers were well dressed and stood around gossiping gladly as if they had not a care in the world.   All of this made a great lasting impression on me that I will carry to my grave. I began to think that our own propaganda was false and that the English people had been misled. Later of course I learnt differently.  

These impressions I received on the first day of my captivity and the remarkable thing is that since then I have become devoid of all emotion. Nothing can impress me anymore. I feel no excitement, joy or sorrow. I seem to have sunk into a state of semi-coma from which nothing can wake me. The only sensation that I now feel is fear , though I have very little course to feel even that: When I heard that we had won the battle for Africa, of the invasion of Italy with the subsequent capitulation or the country, of the second front in the west, I felt absolutely no emotion what ever. It will be interesting to find what effect the end of the war will have upon me. 

On a Kriegie's thought of home

We all must think of home at some time or another yet I am convinced that the good Kriegies dwells on thoughts of home far less then most people suppose. If he day dreams too much about this subject, he becomes moody, low spirited and a poor companion, so that he and all those around him suffer in consequence.

If on the other hand he is a good Kriegie he settles down to make the best of his new conditions and occupies his mind with sport and study, gardening or model building, music or art according to his particular nature or temperment so that he dwells on thought not too much. In spiteof these divertions, however, it is impossible that some word or act, song or picture will not strike a cord which set the memories reviburating.   There are one or two songs which never fail to waken for me sad sweet memories, each song its own particular memory, but these are soft and feelings are never awaken.

The centre of my picture is an old manor house or perhaps a mansion, almost hidden by tall bare elm trees, whose naked arms are tossing and swaying against the pale sky. The rooks circle uneasily above the colony that they have founded generations ago in those trees. Just one , then another alight on the dipping topmost bough which sways beneath its reaching claws, sending it soaring and wheaving again to join the restless throng, whose incesant cawing, rising and falling on the wind sounds like the murmers of voices or waves breaking on a distant shore. Their nests mere clumps of twigs miraculously clinging to the disturbed branches defying storm and tempest which buffets them through all the seasons of the year.

I have failed, I am incapable of discribing the vivid mental picture I have of this scene. A dismal and dreary scene to some perhaps but to me it is the England for which I yearn.

Another memory to me almost as sacrid and which defies discription needs no prompting and is not awakened by any song as poem, but like Wordsworths daffodils, in vacant or in pencive mood, they flash upon the inward eye , which is the bliss of solitude. So does this scene, when I endulge in those rare moments of solitude in a Kriegies life come forbidden to my mind and I live again the beauty and peace of Rural English country life.

Night was stealing in on velvet shoes, as we crossed the old stone bridge that spans the Dee at Barton. This pleasent Sunday evening found us pleasantly tired and hungery having cycled some fifty or sixty miles since lunch, so I had sunk into that mellow mood when at peace with the world, one speculates on the probability of food and rest soon to be enjoyed in the genial company of ones fellow clubmen.

Not a word had been spoken for many a mile when we entered the pleasent old world village practically untouched by the modern world and instead of nostrils being offended by the smell of the petrol and exhaust they are assailed with the faint mingled scents of the farm yard. Thr rising street was boarded by small cottages whose lace curtained windows and closed doors gave, not the feeling of desertion, but cosy security.

Church was over and an air of restful peace disended upon the whole scene. The street seemed to end abruptly against the pale green evening sky at the top of the rise and at this point was situated on the right hand side, a converted double fronted villa now serving the purpose of surpplying food and accomadation to travellers. The three semi-circular front steps trespassed onto the footpath.

As we slowly ascended the street, two girls or young woman stood on the steps siluetted against the pastel sky. It was not this beauty that so attracted me, for I could not see the details of their features, though I am sure they must have been attractive with their health and vigure of outdoor youth and their forms seemed to radiate vitality. Neither was the detail of their dress clear, though certainly they wore woolen jumpers heavy tweed skirts, ankle socks and stout shoes, and each carried a rucksack and walking stick. As one rested on her stick, the other reached up to the knocker of the door.

I did not clearly see their faces, probably I will never see them again, or if I do I shall not know them, but they travel through life with me for ever, true and faithful friends who gave me companionship and joy when I am alone, I am constantly with them on those steps perhaps miles away from their home, pleasently tired, and I experience with them the delicate speculation as to whether they must plod on a few more miles before they find their deserved rest. They most probably never saw me, or if they did they immediatly forgot me but they have my heartfelt gretitude for those hours sacred to silence and to musing, to be treasured up in the memory and to feed the source of smiling thought here after.

This picture of the old world village, the peaceful Sabbath air and silhouetted against the pastel sky, those splendid examples of young British womanhood is a treasure I would not exchange for a crown.

On the Fraility of man

From observation to date 25-11-44 : "Feed the brute", How often is this said lightly in the course of a normal life without its full significence being appreciated, yet how true it is of one man and the beast. In fact it goes almost to prove that many men are not as far removed from the beast as many suppose. The statement will be probably challenged by those people who have only seen themselves and their fellow men at their best, that is, in good comfortable conditions, will find them well bedded, not necessarily in luxury, but at the same time not in despirate need. Yet we have learned by sad experience that even in those disirable conditions men will act in a most shameful manner, wife beating, filthy beastly living swearing vile oaths stealing and in many ways degrading themselves so that some animals seem noble by comparison.

I have been most distastefully surprised to observe how men, I am ashamed to admit, Englishmen, will conduct themselves at a time like this when food is scarce. It makes it more pityful that these are the men, who , a number of months ago, used to boast of the hardships they had unflinchingly undergone in action, and who took such pride in posing as being tough. No doubt they had withstood a great many hardships without becoming demoralized, the toil and sweat, mud cold and dangers of war left them unmoved. But there is one kind of hardship that will break a mans pride quicker and surer than anything else and that is hunger.

"The way to a mans heart is through his stomach." How very very true that is. When a man is well fed he is an amiable and pleasent being, when he is hungry he is cross and iratable, but when he is in real want he is a brute. The thin vanes (?veneer) of civilisation is very thin indeed and is sent assunder by hunger quicker than by anything else. It is most amazing to learn to what extent the stomach rules the heart and mind and how much a mans morale depends upon his diet. Hunger brings out the best - and the worst in a man and it is a lamentable fact that the worst frequently by far outweighs the best, yet it is so easy to retain ones pride and suffer the pangs of hunger with a little dignity, if only one will exert a little will power. Some men continue this study in silence, still maintaining a pleasant outlook, trying to encourage those about them to endure their suffering in a manner a little more worthy of men.

A day or two ago, three men were apprehended stealing camp food ( in this case potatoes I beleive ) and a charge had been laid against them before the British government. What the outcome of this charge will be, we can only guess, but this we know, it is a most serious thing to be accused of stealing rations, in fact it is a court martial offence. The case of these three men will of course be brought before the public notice and they will suffer the consequences while hundreds of other offenders go undetected.

This of course was a punishable offence though hardly more degrading than the many offences against manhood and civilisation, that, while demoralising to the perpetrator and disgusting in the eyes of his better companions go unpunished. Under this heading can be grouped such actions as grovelling amongst cabbage leaves, thrown out as refuse from the cookhouse or the eating of turnip peelings. Granted, the men here are hungry, we all are, but certainly we are not starving yet and there is no need to make a lack of self control apparent.

Nor does it end there. Petty pilfering is fast becomming the practise in the rooms. A few nights ago the lights failed while a man was toasting his bread ration on the stove and though he was quick to gather it up , yet he was not quick enough as someone had immediately stolen it. Again when a man is dividing the rations he has to be closely watched to prevent him keeping more than his share. Can anything be more dispicable, when we are all suffering alike, than one man trying to appease his own hunger at the expence of his comrades greater suffering.

In their attitude towards their former friends too they are completely changed. Where they used to be jovial companions, they are now bad tempered iratable boars, continually finding fault and bickering. Life has become a misery, a hell, to live with these men because of this perpetual suspicions and quarralsome nature. Study has become impossible owing to the noise and bable of petty childish squabbling.

When there is not a noisy arguement men sit around sullen and sulky, watching each other with baleful eyes, ready to pounce upon and make a huge mountain out of the least molehill. Everything is most uneasy and unpleasant just because these self professed " tough guys"in the venacular of the time "just can't take it". They are hungry and this will power is so slight that they have "gone to pieces", and have descended to such a moral state that one is given to dread what may happen if, through transport difficulties the German ration may also be detained. Where is their pride of manhood? Where is their self respect that they cannot tighten their belts for a few months without becoming degenerated snarling animals who would I believe, almost murder a fellow man for his soup ration.

Yet as already stated, they are not starving. Hungry perhaps but certainly a long long way from dying. Their ration is small but at least sufficient to live on. Each day they receive three small slices of black bread, a cup of soup (better described as vegatable water ) and three or four potatoes. The margarine ration, which is issued twice a week is hardly worth mentioning while the sausages - one of many verieties for which Germany is famous - issued once a week is even smaller. Some idea of a weekly sausage ration , which incidentaly is our meat ration can be gathered from the fact that we usually spread it all on one small slice of bread. We will not mention the cheese ration except to say that it is issued once every fortnight - providing there is any to issue. Incidentally it should have been issurd today but has not arrived.

These conditions are not calculated to improve a mans temper and I am afraid that not none of us are as tolerant as we might be but at the same time I cannot understand a man becoming sufficiently demoralised as to lose all self respect, pride and principle. General living conditions, too, it must be addmitted are bad. Men are hurded together like animals, literally sleeping on top of one another, and such a situation tends to cause frayed tempers.

The billets are dark and bare, the beds hard and uncomfortable. What little furnature there is, tables are rough boards, altogether giving a most dismal appearance. Yet men have born this more or less cheerfully because of their Red Cross parcels were coming through and they were comparativly well fed, but even as they feel the smallest pangs of hunger, these bluff hearty men become whining snivelling appolagies for humanity.

I have tried to make these observations with an unbiased mind, noting the result without preductive (?prejudice) and must admit that on the whole the RAF stand these conditions better than the Army. It is understood that the bulk of the air crew are drawn from the better class families who can afford to educate their children to air crew standards. Or if the financial question does not enter into it, they are drawn from families that are sufficiently enlightened to appriciate the value of education and this type of parent usually realises the value of moral training and up bringing.

What ever the reason is, it is most apparent that the RAF are the better bred men and are certianly drawn from superior class of people with more pride for themselves and consideration for their fellow men with the result that where the rough type become degraded and brutish the better men remain staunch. This is of course generalising, and I have seen air men desend to very low standards indeed while some soldiers remain Gentlemen throughout.

The fact remains that it is a disgusting experience to see one fellow being turned into loathsome animals by the first pangs of hunger, when it is conparatively easy, through mind over matter to tolerate a little discomfort, bare hunger with fortitude and view with optimism the next few months.

Camp Conditions

Sunday Jan 14th 1945.

As "Digger" Shaws now famous poem says "Bloody times are bloody hard".

The temperature is about 30 degrees C below and wet. I have had to sell my underclothes for bread. We definitely are hungry and realise now that bread is truely the staff of life; yet in spite of the cold, and 30 degrees C below is cold, we sell our underclothes to obtain it.

Those who are fortunate enough to receive cigarette parcels (our only means of currency here) can obtain enough to eat but have not enough to wear and are willing to sell their bread for warm clothing. Nothing can subdue any man quicker than hunger. He would gladly face cold or untold danger than go hungry, therefore, although we have little enough to wear, we are willing to do with even less and face the intence cold that we may eat. How I will stand this winter now I don't know.

It is bad enough on parade when I had a woolen vest to wear, but now I have eaten it and still have no food inside me to stand the cold it is going to be pritty grim. Still, if I should fall sick I shall be able to go into hospital which seems quite a good racket. I have just been to see Steve Biggs whom they carried in with stomach trouble and whom they found to be painfully underweight so they have kept him there and are feeding him normal rations with extras (whatever extras are) with the result he has gained a kilo in three days. This while everybody else is loosing weight, is a good show.

But hunger is not our only trouble. This morning just before going on Appell, we received orders to carry our matresses, tables and forms outside. This we were told was an inventry check but latter rumours went around that the Germans were going to take them away from us as reprisals for the treatment the German POWs are receiving in camp 306 Egypt. This proved to be the case and even before we paraded the Germans were loading on carts and taking them out of the camp.

Later an officer came around with an interpriter who read aloud a statement with much rigmarole about conditions in the above camp, no beds very little food or water, bad sanitary conditions unfit for Europeans. On account of this the AKW had decided to carry out its above reprisals which the Commandant hoped we would like in the true British spirit, which later sounds very much like pleading with us not to make any trouble. There was very little danger of us making trouble at the time as there seemed to be half the German army in the camp armed with machine guns and tommy guns. What an outlook. No tables, no forms on which to sit and we can no longer sit in comfort on our beds as they have taken away our matteresses. Sleep seems to be out of the question.

At least they promised (for what their promises are worth) not to touch our food or water ration. I think our food ration is safe because if they reduce it anymore we shall have none at all. God, how I wish I could get a parcel through. I would not smoke it , I would eat it.

Still two and a half years ago, when I sat cold, wet through and injured on the Danish coast I swore that Jerry would never break my heart and by God he wont.

I see in" The camp" a rag of a news paper which the Germans supply us with, that this is the worst winter that England has had for years. This is probably true, in which case I can see the people at home clustering around the fire, well fed and well clothed, saying how hard things are. Hard my arse. What do they think things are like for us here or, for what matter, what do they care? Of cause they just dont think of us hiding behind barbed wire, letting someone else do the fighting for us. I know that our boys at the front are having a tough timeof it, but I would most gladly change places with any of them. At least they are clothed and fed.

But people will argue, the POWs at least have a roof over their heads. A roof, dont make me laugh. I have two and still my bed gets wet. Yes two roofs. The normal one on the building in which the Germans house us (I almost called it a billet) and one I have rigged up myself over my bed to keep off the water that drips through the melting snow. Drip is hardly the right word. It pours through. The roof must be like a sieve.

I have rigged up two uprights from the side posts of my bed which is now the top bed lengthways along the wall and from those I have fastened to the wall more lengths, just branches or two brought in for fire wood. With the aid of the peices running lengthways and old rags and cardboard, I have made a lean-to roof or canopy. But it soon becomes sodden with water and still drips onto my bed. I cant take it down and wring it out many more times as the damn thing is so rotten it is falling to peices. Still, as I have already said, the Germans have taken away our mattresses so they cant hold any more water for us to lay in.

On top of all these discomforts the room is in perpetual gloom as there are only two small windows each end. Considering that these rooms are large enough to hold seventy two men the place is likely to be continual darkness. At night, too, when the lights are turned on and we can realy see to turn around without breaking our necks, the RAF came over and all the lights were switched off again at the main. Last night there was not even a raid and yet the lights were off. It is only with great difficulty that I write these few lines and it is quite impossible to read for long without straining the eyes.

Read did I say? What the hell are we going to read anyway now the libraries are closed as part of the reprisals afore mentioned. We used to have three libraries, the technical, the literary and the fiction. The literary and the fiction libraries used to be combined but owing to the "loss" of the best books, the fiction section was closed down and the books already in the rooms became the room library and these were changed every month.

As room librarian I used to pass the time very pleasantly, but now all these things are stopped and the book already in the room we are stuck with and as we have had fourty five book between seventy two men for over a month most of the men have nothing left to read.That is, nothing that they will read. Personally I have a few books that I will never tire of, such stuff as Essays and Poems. These books I can read over and over again, they are to me most beautiful as I am not particularly worried at the closing of the libraries.

The last few pages read as though I am beginning to succumb to this life and that it is beginning to break my spirit; but this is not the case. Certainly things are hard. Even sitting here on my bed under a dripping roof and canopy in a temperature of anything between 20 degrees and 30 degrees below my feet are wrapped in my great coat for warmth, I find great difficulty in writing this and probably at a latter date will find even greater difficulty in reading it: But I honestly believe that my morale is very high.

Certainly it is considerably higher than that of many men who are continually complaining of loosing weight: Of course they are losing weight. who is not? It is natural that on such a diet we will and will continue to do so. I firmly believe that we have an even worse time to come when the inturnal transport becomes so bad that even the German ration can not get through. It is already bad and we have a jam ration owing us for three weeks. there has been three trucks of bulk food on the way to us since Nov 22nd and one truck of Xmas parcels since Dec 21st and there is on sign of these coming through. Of course they have promised to make good the jam ration when it comes through but perhaps they should have said " if " it comes through . All this shows us what we can expect and I am affraid that we will be in pretty bad condition when we arrive home.

Heaven in Hell
March 21st 1945

In the last entery I remarked that I would probably find myself in hopital owing to my inability to withstand the hard condition here after selling my underclothes to provide bread for the combine. At that time I did not think there was much likelihood of such an event coming to pass, or that I should even enjoy the comforts which are the sole priveledges of sick men in this life. It is considered a lucky man indeed who is ill in this life, ill enough that is to be admitted into hospital, everybody being more or less ill all the time here. Yet my wildest dreams came true and on 20th Feb I began to vomit blood and my combine insisted that I report sick immediately, in fact Mac donned his great coat at once and dragged me off to the MI room. Useless it was for me to protest that they would do nothing for me, that they would insist on me waiting till usual sick parade.

What a misserable day it was too, with heavy driving sleet flying before the bitterly cold wind and the ankle deep mud seeping through our leaking boots. Even before leaving the billet I was damp, cold and thoroughly uncomfortable so that the walk to the M I room did not improve my condition or temper. What was the use, I protested of dragging ourselves through these conditions to be insulted and turned away , to wait till 4-30 sick parade.

To my great surprise I was received with courtacy and told to " Come in and sit down". The M O would be about half an hour would Mac care to come back then. While Mac was away they even sent word to the M O that there was a case waiting for him. This was contrary to all M I room traditions, the medical department of any of the services being the most unabliging crowd it is possible to meet. That is the gash orderlies, many of the M O 's are quite considerate providing the patient is not swinging the lead. The very fact that they sent for the M O made me think that I must be ill after all.

The M O arrived, looked me over, asked me a few questions and said I had better go into hospital for a few days for observations.

So I entered this haven of rest, this paradise in a Kriegie camp, warm dry, light and pleasant a seventh heaven after the squalor and misary of the Billet. Here I lie between clean dry sheets instead of thin wet blankets and have my food carried to me in bed , hot Horlicks or Ovaltine every two hours, porrage for breakfast, mashed potatoes in soup for dinner and custard for tea. They wont even let me eat the usual black bread, but give me a special ration cut from a so called white loaf, though it is really like our whole-meal.

Here I have lain in the lap of luxury for a month and I am not yet allowed out of bed so there is little danger of me being discharged yet. Who wants to get well and be discharged anyway. For the first time in my life I am glad I am ill and by comparason I am having a wonderful time.

I foregot to say I am suffering from Haenautemesiss - whatever that may be. Roll on the boat before I get well enough to be discharged and go back to the billet

Extracts from kriegie letters

" Darling I was so glad you were shot down before flying became dangerous"

"Darling in your May letter you asked for some slippers. What colour would you like?"

"Darling I hope you are staying true to me"

"The word after lousy when discribing your last camp was oblituated"

"Darling I have just had a baby, but dont worry, the American Officer is sending you cigarettes every week"

Reciever of Red Cross sweater, wrote to thank the doner and recieved the reply "Sorry you got it, I wish it had gone to someone in Active Service"

Letter from a Mother "I was at home when word arrived you were missing, and that as you will agree is a blessing"

last updated: 16 August 2008