Prisoner of War (1939-1945)

Secret Camp Radios
by J.D.Chew

Chapter 1 - Early Days in France

In 1940, I joined the early B.E.F in France, and one of the factors we missed, was the receiving of daily news bulletins via the B.B.C, and when drafted to a unit in a small village on the French/Belgium border , we felt very isolated and completely out of touch with Home and Overseas news.

When our unit (R.A.S.C No. 3 Field Petrol Depot) was allocated a Nuffield Radio Set, we were hopeful of a closer link, but true to form the set was acquired by the Sergeants Mess (to where other ranks were not allowed so we still had to exist on snippets of news and many rumours.

I recall deciding that on my first leave to the U.K. I would organise a small battery operated set, with the radio, battery and earphones as separate items, for convenience of packing in my pack or kit bag. This plan was not to be, for May 10th brought the German breakthrough via Belgium, and by May 20th our unit was trapped in one of Rommel's tank panzer movements.

Chapter - Polsen

Months passed and it was over a year before the matter of radio links cropped up again. As I recall, it was at Stalag XX1A at Posen, in Poland, that the first illicit radio news was heard from the B.B.C European News Service, but it was a very slender and unreliable link. It was during periodical German searches of the camp that they occasionally came across primitive crystal sets.

The more resourceful Signal Corps camp members found that among the coal supply to the cookhouse there were small particles of minerals that were slightly radio active, sufficient as at least to act as crystals as in the early crystal sets at home.

Also "by trading with certain Polish civilians whilst out on working parties it was possible to acquire the occasional set of earphones, (whipped no doubt, from German Military sources). The German search parties never took these "lash up" crystal sets seriously, normally only confiscating them, thinking the users were listening to their local German stations. Little did they know that under favourable atmospheric conditions, at periods when their local stations closed down for the night, there were small groups of radio hams with extended aerials, trapping in the B.B.C at 3 a.m. in the morning.

In early days the normal range of crystal sets was 25-50 miles, but for occupied Europe the B.B.C stepped up their transmission power to reach Poland. Unfortunately conditions were often unfavourable for a crystal set, and our link with England was very spasmodic.

Looking back now on the war years, and with the release of information that during and after the war had been placed on the Secret List (30 years duration) it is interesting to recall how both Germany and the Allies handled their release of news during the years of war. During the years 1939 to 1943 the German news, which in the larger P.o.W Camps was broadcast daily over their type of Tannoy system and often backed up by Lord Haw-Haw's sarcastic comment, was in the main, reasonably correct and up-to-date (obviously biased, but not far out). The early victories and successes were good news for the German people and there was no reason to hold back or distort their advances.

We too, were kept well informed of the great progress they were making on all fronts, including the fearful shipping losses of the Allies by their German U-Boat crews. We weathered all this glut of adverse news, taking it all very much "with a pinch of salt".

It was noticed on the other hand that such news we did receive from the B.B.C, as issued by the Ministry of Information of self same battle fronts and war activities were tempered down, being reported as "strategic withdrawals" (we had experienced some of those in France and were not impressed) other expressions "allowing the enemy to extend their lines of communication to breaking point" (as used in the North African campaign). As far as shipping losses, these it would seem, were never correctly released to the British public during and after the war, as records now show, the German figures were horribly correct.

It was as well for our own morale that during the early part of the war, both we in captivity, and the public at home, did not know the stark truth of that time. We in our camps did not take the German reports seriously. However, when Germany started to get her share of reversals and set backs, (we noticed this first when Rommel was being pushed back to Tobruk in North Africa), there was a difference of presentation of the German news bulletins, now it was Rommel who was allowing the Allies to extend their lines of communication - now we heard of German strategic withdrawals on their Eastern Front. For us in our camps it was becoming essential to get the B.B.C news of such successes that the Allies were now getting.

Chapter 3 - Radio in a Barrel

It happened in Posen, (our H.Q. Stalag) that working parties went out daily into the city on menial jobs, and one group of 6-8 men with their guard escort had the job of reinforcing the cellars of various Government buildings with baulks of heavy timber, so they could be used as air-raid shelters (At this time Allied bombers were penetrating deeper into occupied Europe).

At one of these cellar locations, it happened to be next to a German Ordnance Garage and with the building empty, and the elderly guard having his usual mid-day snooze, one or two of the lads went exploring over the building to see what they could "pick up".

Looking over the wall they saw parked, a large German Troop Carrier, the type with standard front steering and heavy tank tracks at the rear. Out of curiosity, over the wall they go, as there was no one about, being lunch break. There, by the driver's seat, was an impressive military radio equipped complete with two handles for sliding out of its rack, disconnecting the rear plugs, this set and P.o.Ws returned over the wall - Pronto.

Realising they were handling "hot goods"; they took it up into the roof area and hid it under some sacking in a dark corner under the eaves, returning to continue their afternoons work. After about an hour, there was great commotion and much shouting from next door as the missing set had been noticed.

A search party combed the area, including the cellar - the guard assured them that his prisoners had not been out of his sight, (he could not admit otherwise).

Off goes the search party empty handed and no doubt the set was written off as "stolen by persons unknown". Several days passed and before the cellar job was finished the time came to get the set back into the camp. It so happened that "the perks from the job" was off-cuts of timber for brewing up tea in camp and it was common practice for side packs or valises to be used to bring chopped wood back to camp.

So on the day decided, the set was uncovered and put into a valise that was topped up with wood. The guard on the main gate of the camp made a cursory check, seeing wood sticking out he let them pass.

This "super find" was immediately handed over to the British Camp Leader who summoned the Royal Corps of Signals experts, upon inspection, they found the set was not only a radio but also a powerful military transmitter with a range of 100 miles plus. Oh Hot indeed! P.o.W's in possession of valve operated radio sets were immediately sent to a strafe-lager (hard labour camp) and, if in possession of a transmitter, were classified as spies and shot.

The Camp Leader instructed that the transmitter section of the equipment, with its outer case, was to be disposed of immediately on the cookhouse fire, and only the parts needed for building a satisfactory radio to be saved. The problem then arose as to where the newly built radio was to be hidden and how it was to be operated undetected.

At this period of captivity, with the hot continental summers, and with the local water supply unfit to drink unless it was well boiled, an arrangement had been made with a local brewery that limited supplies of their watery beer could be delivered to the camp and sold through the Camp canteen.

To call it a canteen was somewhat an exaggeration, normally a few pencils, notebooks and toothpaste was the total stock and payment was made with lager-gilt, these were chits paid at a flat rate of 2 marks 20f. per week to those who worked, regardless of the type of work or how long. The concession of having beer available in the canteen was something- and this was delivered in wooden casks with the empties kicking about the camp until the brewery felt there were enough casks about to make a collection worthwhile.

It was in one of these "empties" that it was decided to hide the radio. First an enquiry was put about the camp as to whether there was a "cooper" among the lads, and sure enough there was a Charrington's cask repairer on the camp strength.

Under the instructions of the radio assemblers, a cask was opened up at the back) and internally in the front section a 2 gallon reservoir was supported on a platform from which one pipe led down to the tap and a further pipe led up to the vent hole in the bung making it possible for beer to be drawn from the tap and for the reservoir to be kept "topped up" via the vent hole. In the rear section of the cask internally, a framework was fitted that supported the radio.

The cask end then was replaced and in amongst the scorched lettering of the brewers name and address, holes were drilled & disguised where wire keys were passed through to control the set and others for plugging in the aerial earth and mains leads etc. Here was perfect concealment! A cask that supplied beer from its tap (however flat) and at the back a radio receiving station. There were occasions when search purges took place, when the beer was offered to the Germans (knowing they would refuse) but to the best of my knowledge. I understand the Germans never suspected or found this radio at Posen, and it served the camp over a long period. I myself moved out from Posen, so I lost trace of this radio's final finish but I guess when the camp was eventually evacuated in the path of the Russians sweeping across Poland, the "beer barrel radio" became silent.

Chapter 4 - The Lodz Radio Company

With myself moving on to several working camps still under Stalag XX1A, I eventually arrived in the early Spring of 1942 to Lodz.(this is quite a large Polish city west of Warsaw, known in pre-war days as the Manchester of Poland, as it was a textile centre with a damp climate suitable for spinning yarn).

At the time I arrived, most of the factories had been converted to engineering workshops under the control of the German Ordinance Corps, supplying repair services for the Russian Front. This Ordnance Corps was known as H.K.P 20 (translated - Rearguard Vehicle Repair Park).

As P.o.Ws, we found ourselves billeted in a previously discarded textile dye works, sandwiched between city buildings on the main city strasse (re-named after occupation 'Adolf Hitler Strasse)
The City had been re-named from Lodz to Litzmannstadt after the General who had liberated it from the Jewish Capitalists. This expression is taken from German Propaganda theme that the invasion of Poland and Europe was a worthy Crusade to liberate the Continent from the "shackles" of Capitalist domination.

Outside our barbed wire main gate, the City trams ran up and down all day and most of the night, taking the Poles and foreign workers to their factories of work. Our prison camp consisted of about 115 British boys under the leadership of a British R.S.M. and our guards were a squad of rather elderly or wounded German Army personnel under the control of a German Feldwebel (equivalent to a Sergeant Major).

Our camp still came under the oversight of Stalag XX1A at Posen some 100 miles to the West and being so far flung, we had minimum harassment from the German H.Q. echelon. As a working camp attached to the H.K.P set-up, we came under the day to day supervision of the German Army in the City, with our Camp Guards keeping a close check up on our whereabouts. In the main, we were relegated to menial jobs such as road work at vehicle parks and around workshops. I personally found myself under the supervision of the Army Paint Shop (and was attached to an interior decorating squad where we were often sent out into the City to re-decorate the German Officers quarters when they went on leave and needless to say, they occupied the best luxury flats in the area.

Life for us P.o.Ws in Lodz at the start was difficult, mainly because of the wretched camp conditions, and lack of space within the camp for movement and exercise. These conditions led to a "strike" on one of the working parties, and as you can imagine strikes were unknown and not tolerated under Hitler's Germany. "The ring-leaders were sought out and sent back to the H.Q. Stalag at Posen (as the boys had hoped). After 14 days in the "cooler" on bread and water only, and as a further part of their punishment, they were sent back to Lodz to our camp, so even the Germans did not rate our conditions at a high "star rating". True to form however, given time and opportunities, our camp gradually was transformed, when one bears in mind we had the whole of a large city to "scrounge at". Working parties went out daily into different areas, even out into the country to collect German Army food supplies from farms and the P.o.W's were allocated to 'German drivers of lorries as help-mates. It was not long before the odd chicken and egg supplies found their way into the camp, being bartered for cigs and chocolate from the Red Cross parcels that were then coming through regularly.

Camp fittings and concert props became available and even quite sophisticated stage lighting appeared, scrounged from sources unknown (borrowed for the duration!).

Our Life at Lodz, as it developed, became a saga of its own and could cover many pages, but an effort must be made to keep to the subject of our Radio Activities, which developed with all our other aspects of P.o.W Life.

Whilst at Lodz, during the period of 1943 and early 1944, the war was taking on an interesting twist, the German Africa Corps had been pushed back and fighting in Italy and the German Eastern Front in Russia was bogged down and there was general depression setting in among the German troops.

Over the German News there were phrases -"Heroic Stands" and "Valiant Fighting", "Dauntless Courage" and "Sectional Withdrawals".

We in our camp recognised the same phrases as used by the B.B.C in the snippets of news we heard in the earlier part of the war. With the Germans now themselves using these expressions, we commented - Hello! Posthumous awards are already being "dished out".

Up to that time, our Lodz camp had not possessed a radio and with S/M Taylor of the Royal West Kents becoming our new British Camp Leader, he felt it was time for us to get direct B.B.C news and not depend on part rumour that filtered into the camp from outside sources and to give us a clearer view of how the war was progressing.

The German News was now well and truly being "cooked" and badly delayed. S/M Taylor alerted all the working parties to keep keen eyes and ears open for any suitable valve operated radio, which could become available through either the Polish Black Market or any other source. One of our camp members did from time to time bring in snippets of "hot news" from the B.B.C, as it transpired this lad did billet duties for a German Unter Officer (Sergeant-equivalent) and in the billet was a radio which had not been "doctored" (N.B all radio sets in Germany belonging to civilians, when Hitler came into power, had been adjusted to tie them to German Radio Stations only on set wavebands.) As this particular Unter Officer had been in the pre-war Regular German Army, his set had missed being adjusted, so that it could be tuned onto the B.B.C waveband.

Therefore when opportunities arose, our camp chum tuned into England and received the occasional news flash. It so happened that the Unter Officer received notice that his Unit was due for duty on the Russian Front during the following month or so and such news was as near "a death sentence" at this period of the war.

The Unter Officer expressed his depressing news to the British boy, and with the turn of events there was a possible opportunity concerning the radio set! A tactful enquiry was made as to what would happen to the set, and it was indicated that it would be sold to one of the other Germans, but the enquiry went further, "What about selling to our Camp for English cigarettes?", "Impossible! I would be Shot!" came back the reply.

The German Unter Officer had become fond of English "Gold Flake for some time from the occasional deal with the P.o.W, so after a few days, the matter of the radio was raised again with the rather cold logic, that if the Unter Officer were to be shot on the Russian Front, what better than to die with a "Gold Flake" cough! The point was taken and the question arose, "How Many Cigs"? Back comes our billet cleaner to camp to discuss a possible deal with S/M Taylor, how many could the Camp offer?

Over a period of several days, the possible deal progressed, (Persian Market style) and at last a deal was struck with certain safeguards,- the radio to be supplied with no outer case ,or loudspeaker ,or any identity marks to get back to the vendor , but in lieu of the speaker, two pairs of earphones - military quality. The deal was not cheap, - 1000 English Cigs were involved. Back at Camp, our Camp Leader was trying to work out how 1000 cigarettes could be organised. The Red Cross issue at that time worked out at about 50 cigs per week per man, and if each camp member contributed equally over two issues, the 1000 could be possible, if everyone agreed !

After one of the evening roll calls, after the Germans had left for their quarters , the proposition was put to all the camp members. The radio was referred to as "the Baby" and it was stated that no one would either see or hear the set or know where it was to be hidden, and only two members of the camp would run it - one to take down shorthand and the other to control the radio side.

The Camp however would receive a nightly B.B.C news bulletin. Unfortunately, like most collections of we British, a few dissenting voices piped up from the rear rank, "if we cannot hear Saturday Night is Music Night, its not on" - we want our cigarettes". Our Camp Leader assured them that the risk of tuning into the B.B.C for news was risky enough, without attempt-to listen to a vaudeville programme. As it was not possible to get 100% agreement on any cigarette stoppages, S/M Taylor felt the whole matter of a radio deal would regrettably, have to be dropped.

However, there were second thoughts, the opportunity to acquire a 4 valve Telefunken un-tampered set was too good to miss, why not set up a Private Radio Company? If we cannot arrange amicable "Camp Control" try "Private Enterprise!"

In most P.o.W Camps of any long standing, it was found that members formed themselves into groups called "syndicates", consisting of usually 2, 3 or 4 chums who pooled food issue and Red Cross parcels, including domestic chores, and among these groups, some tried to "eke out" their food supplies between Red Cross issues and became dubbed as "Mossers" (referred to, normally with a slight sneer by those whose supplies ran out through gluttonous eating.) "Mossing" Syndicates preferred to be known as "Controlled Feeding Technicians". However, it was to the "Mossers" that S/M Taylor turned, when he looked for possible investment capital for the Radio Company, it would be the "Mossers" who would have possible "smokes reserves".

Ten groups were found who were willing to "chip in" 100 cigarettes each producing the 1000 required for negotiations to go ahead. It was requested that each group should elect one of their number to serve on a Control Board, in the capacity of Director. I recall this all quite well, as my particular Syndicate was involved, for as I had unexpectedly received a parcel of 500 "Lucky Strike" from a relative in the U.S.A, we were at that time fairly flush and we had this useful capital for "outside trading" such as eggs and civvy bread, flour etc. It was decided the radio would only be used to trap in the 6 O'clock and 9 O'clock news when ever possible and a joint summary read out to each room just before "lights out" and then immediately burnt.

The operators would be allowed to use their discretion that if any spectacular news came over they could apply a "time lag" until the Germans hinted in their own news the particular set back, as it was realised hot news items via the B.B.C, with 115 men in the camp, could be blurted out in the hearing of the guards and tip them off we were receiving news from England on a radio set.

Chapter 5 - Hiding the Radio

As to the location of the set when it arrived! Much thought was given to this and it was finally decided to build it into a strong damp-proof box and conceal it underground.

By this time we had a small concert and games room organised with a raised stage at one end and fitted with stage lighting and footlights with a control panel (all the equipment had been scrounged from Lodz city from various sources). At the back of the stage a concealed trap door gave access under stage to the original floor and along the wall, away from the trap door above, a further lower trap door was cut out and a cavity made, with the earth excavated retained in Red Cross parcel boxes nearby.

We then obtained the services of an ex-miner from our number to cut out the brickwork below ground level, sufficient to set in the radio in its wooden case and then brick it into the foundations, except for one loose brick.

We considered we had satisfactory concealment and when "the station" opened up, we radio guards came on duty, the operators then opened up the top trap door , crawled under the stage with the aerial strung up on hooks and the mains flex taken with them.

The brick was then taken out and the mains, aerial and earphones plugged in, and the controls adjusted through the brick space. The news was then taken down and the station closed down with all wires taken away. In the case of a search purge the cavity was filled in from the boxes, floor boards and trap door replaced and fingers crossed, that the brick in the wall below would not be spotted, even if the earth was dug out. In the whole of the first winter of having the "baby" it proved ideal with daily B.B.C news.

However, with Spring coming and lighter nights, two unforeseen problems arose, first the Germans did not turn on the internal camp electric current until well after the 6 O'clock news, so the Camp Band was called upon to hurry their tea and get down to the Concert Hall for an early music practice and ask the guard on the gate to arrange with the Guard Room to switch on the lighting, so they could see their scores. This usually worked but only after certain reluctance by some members of the Band.

However the more dangerous problem was, that with the lighter nights and more summer conditions, with the radio being underground the controls had to be tuned right up to oscillation point and occasionally over, which could be detected on the radio in the guard room.

It had been noted that when this happened, out came "the Ferret" snooping round the camp and .immediately he came out of the Guard Room the Baby was shut down.

It became imperative to find a new operating location, as sooner or later the "Ferret" would realise another radio was being used in close proximity on the same electric circuit. An emergency Board Meeting was called and after varied suggestions for a safer location, the following novel scheme was put in hand.

Chapter 6 - Radio in a Jam Tin

It so happened that with the issue of the German rations, once a week each room was allotted a spoonful of "ersatz" jam per man, the jam was of doubtful ingredients leaving ones teeth black.

Each room had their jam issue on different days and was supplied in cans, similar to a 5 litre paint can, with a metal carrying handle.

Over a period of time the empty cans were to be found in all the rooms, used mainly for the washing of socks and smalls. The jam stock was held with other food supplies in a store room next to the cookhouse under the supervision of one of the German staff, but after a period of time, to save personal trouble, the German left the key of the Store with the Cook on trust so that when items in the store were required, they were booked out on a list which was kept in reasonable order as a job in the cookhouse was too good to abuse by too much "fiddling".

The Radio Board, knowing the Cookhouse set up , decided a Jam tin could be the answer for the Baby's new home, so an unopened tin was borrowed from the Store Room and the contents emptied into another tin and after being washed out, a false bottom was soldered half way up the tin .

The bottom seam was then carefully unsealed and clips and lugs fitted internally, so that with a twist, the bottom could drop out and onto this "the baby "was rebuilt to fit into the secret compartment. It was found there was also sufficient room for the earphones.

The jam was replaced in the top section of the can, the greaseproof paper circle placed on top and the metal top clipped down looking completely "un-tampered with". I believe the spare half tin of jam was shared out among the Directors -"for Services Rendered".

The "Baby" Jam Tin was then replaced in the Food Store with the other stock. This became its daily hiding place but each evening it was taken out and delivered to a particular room where the operator and scribe were waiting. During the night after the 9 p.m. news it was placed under one of the beds and in the morning, taken back to the cookhouse.

Chapter 7 - Solving the Power Problem

To overcome the electric supply problem, at just about the time change of the radio location, I, with another of the interior decorating staff had been commissioned to decorate our own camp living quarters and to give the outside brickwork a coat of grey colour-wash.

It so happened, running along the outside wall under the window frames of our own first floor living quarters, there were several electric cables, and one of these was on the German guard room circuit and not switched off by day or night.

So in the course of re-decorating, our internal wall on the other side of these cables, we found it necessary to fill in a fictitious crack by cutting out a channel, placing a flex in and "making good" - this crack ran from one of the windows , right across the wall to the far corner- finishing at a concealed wall plug.

At the window end, the ''crack" led by the window sill and the flex end was fitted with needle points and jabbed into the electric cable required and bound with insulation tape,(not exactly a job that would be passed by an Electricity Board) but at least we obtained our 24 hours power supply!

From then on we continued to receive the 6 O'clock and 9 O'clock news via our "Jam Baby".

There was only one occasion when a search party from H.Q. descended on the camp when every one was out at work (except the Camp staff),and the search included the Food Store and one of the search party probed one or two of the jam tins with their bayonet but missed our "Baby".

Chapter 8 - Moving Camps

Inevitably the time came when we were informed that our camp was closing after some 2 and a half years, just when we had transformed it to how we wanted it, and with the news, we learnt we were being moved into south Poland, not back to Posen .

This meant we would come under a different German Command and as explained by our German Feldwebel, there was certain rivalry between the different Commands and every effort was to be made to see we moved south as "clean" P.O.Ws that is ,no illicit items whatsoever.

To achieve this, a special search squad was being sent from Posen to check us on all counts, our kits, our personal travelling packs and a body search. All our kits would be taken from us and travel in a sealed container until we arrived at our new destination when we would be searched again. We were assured that no illegal items could get through the programme ahead.

With this information, to get the "Baby" through seemed insurmountable. The day arrived for our general kit search, in came the special squad from H.Q. and every item was carefully examined then repacked and taken from us . All the kits were then placed under lock and key in the concert hall room, with a guard placed on the door. (All these kits were to be taken down to the Railway Station on the morrow and sealed in a special goods truck).

I recall our last night in camp, everywhere in uproar, knee high in old discarded clothes and old socks etc. with piles of accumulated bric-a-brac and among all this chaos, our "Baby" lay in the food store and it was brought up for the last time to tap in to the 9 0'clock news.

During this time, the Radio Board Management had been working overtime trying to decide the Baby's fate. Several thought it had served its purpose and should be burnt on the cookhouse fire.

The question then was asked, could it possibly be smuggled out with our personal kits? We were informed it would break down into some 25 items, for it to be of any future use and it had to be realised that, if only one component was found in the search, the Germans would want to find the rest. It was decided that method was too high a stake or chance.

At our last Board meeting just about at the 8 O'clock time we arrived at a perfect solution!

It now transpired that during the re-decoration of the camp we had painted the concert hall and when painting the ceiling, we had noticed in between the joists there was a sealed trap door that if opened, would give access to the upper room (which was our living quarters).

If the trap door could be opened from above, there down below were all our searched kits, padlocked and at the door with a guard outside! How about placing another kit down below for the Germans to take down to the Station?
Our last bulletin was read out and the Baby was then stripped down, with each component wrapt in an old sock and packed in an old discarded suitcase, with a fictitious P.O.W No. on the outside.

Not contented with packing the Baby, in went a soldering iron, solder and flux, tools, spare wire, spare valves (we had acquired) and even the circuit for re-assembly with the two pairs of earphones.

In fact nothing was left out. The lid was closed and a cord placed round the case.

There we had virtually a "Radio Bomb". After "lights out", beds were moved away from the trap door area and the trap door carefully prised open, and there below in the light of the outside camp lights that shone through the windows, was the stack of searched cases and kit bags and outside the door stood the guard on duty.

One of our boxing enthusiasts stood by as a blanket rope was lowered down into the hall and he silently climbed down, followed by our "Radio Bomb placing it amongst the pile of kits and climbed back. The trap door was replaced and the beds moved back. With a sigh of relief we all had a peaceful night with"Our Baby" sleeping down below.

Our last morning arrived for our H.K.P 20 Working Camp and with it the collecting lorry taking all the kits down to the Station for the goods wagon where it was padlocked, sealed for our journey corn to south Poland.

After our side pack and body search, we too left the camp striding down Adolf Hitler Strasse feeling quite "Angelic" - "Clean as a Whistle". If ever there was a case to cover the expression. "Sufficient unto the Day is the Evil thereof" this was one, for we did not know where we were actually going or what to expect - but, we did know the Germans were carefully looking after "Our Baby", with no chance of it getting pinched by any outsider.

After a long tedious rail journey, also in goods trucks, after many halts and stays in sidings (it seemed we were not priority to the German war effort) .we finally stopped at a rail siding out in the country, and after a long wait, along trundles an old army lorry with its German driver and a British help-mate.

On enquiry we learn we had arrived at Stalag 8B (Lamsdorf), a camp of some 25,000 (plus) consisting of all the Services and all nationalities. While we still waited, two of our number were detailed to help unload the kit goods wagon and throw them onto the lorry. When the "Baby" kit appeared, the driver's help-mate was alerted and it was diverted into the driver’s cab.

The German driver was at some distance, no doubt exchanging news with some of our guards, and the Baby case was opened and the contents placed under the seat of the driver among sundry tools. The case was closed and placed with the other kits at the back.

The lorry departed and in due time we disembarked and arrived in a large field and there dumped out in rows were our kits, rather like so many small heaps of manure.

We were instructed to locate our own kit and stand by them for the new search party.

The Officer in charge became very puzzled that there on its own was a lonely battered suit case. The appeal went out "Whose case is this"? No response! The case was kicked with impatience only to find it was empty! Little did they know - The Baby had flown!

With time pressing, the empty case was forgotten and the search proceeded and we finally arrived at this new camp - not just a comfortable 115 men but a small city of over 25,000 Prisoners!

The next morning, in came the old battered lorry with a load of potatoes and "OUR BABY" with all the bits and pieces was handed over to start a new life in Stalag 8B. By nightfall "our Baby" was back at work bringing in the B.B.C news, and until the final stages of the war, it served as the main receiver for the 25,000 personnel in the camp. At the finale, 8B was evacuated in sections before the Russians overran the area, when the camp was bombed and burnt out with incendiaries. No doubt "our Baby" was committed to those flames - not without giving excellent service. It should have received its own posthumous award for "Services Rendered" fulfilling its war-time Duty.

Chapter 9 - Conclusion

The writer sometimes reflects on the above Saga, and "feels that there are times in Life, after we have helped ourselves and organised to the best of our ability, circumstances do arise (rather like with "the Baby") we come to the limit of our own planning - even when odds are very much against us, things can wonderfully work out and our problems are carried for us.

Somewhere in all this there is a lesson for us to learn -there comes a time when we should no longer worry, and in spite of all our fears, circumstances work out better than in our highest expectations.

Home Page