I had only been in camp a few weeks when one morning there was a flurry of
excitement and someone said there were Canadian soldiers in the compound
immediately North of ours. They had arrived during the night. It was the
majority of the chaps from Dieppe. I recall Win Parker, knowing one of these
fellows from the pre-war days. Win was from Millarvilie. After a short while the
Dieppe soldiers were moved to the compound across from ours. The forest was on
the other side of them, they were abutted against the outer perimeter wire and
the sentry boxes. We were able to visit during the day, when the gates were
open, and I became good friends with Andy Nyman, Ken Smethurst, Dennis Scott and
"Shorty" Richards. They were from the Calgary Tanks, Red Deer and vicinity.
I became used to the camp routine. Of course it took a while to get used to being hungry all the time and disciplining yourself to spin out your Red Cross food, it was a great help being in a combine with communal sharing. It was still warm so being cold was not yet a problem, Red Cross parcels were coming in and the soups were good. It was probably the best time of the year to be in a Stalag. After a couple of months I got a parcel from home which included a pair of pyjamas. They were great, as your bareskin was not on the course blankets and one could also catch the fleas between your skin and the pyjamas. Then you could crack them between your thumb nails. Soon your pyjamas were spotted where the fleas had been killed.
Late in autumn the German's claimed that some of their soldiers had been found after the Dieppe Raid with their hands tied behind their backs and shot. The Canadians claimed this was untrue and propaganda. However, the Germans wanted retaliation so they tied up the Dieppe men, but they claimed these were not enough Dieppe soldiers so they tied up everyone in the R.A.F. compound as well. This was an ordeal because Red Cross string (like twine) was used. Your hands were crossed in front of you and tied very securely. If they were too tight you could go to a German officer who had them loosened, then the blood was able to circulate again. The German soldiers who first tied us up were from the Russian front and they went back home for rest and training. They were first class men, when we complained to them they said that it was a terrible thing the Canadians had done to shoot their comrades, when they were POW5 and to have tied them up before hand. It did no good to argue that this was false since they believed their propaganda.
We were tied up quite early in the day, then untied to eat our noon soup and use the forty holer. Then after a bit tied up again until evening. We were not allowed to lie on our bunks and there was not enough room for everyone to sit at the bench tables. And even if you could you couldn't play cards, write, etc. with your hands tied up. Walking was possible but awkward, as it was getting cold and we didn't have our coats on, so walking was a little colder than standing around in the barracks. If a guard found out that you had managed to loosen the string you were sent to a empty barrack in the Dieppe compound. Your hands were tied behind your back and you had to stand an hour or two facing a wall. After a couple of these ordeals I did not loosen the string again.
We were all untied on Christmas day and the guards were not out in force. I recall lying in my bunk and hearing Christmas Carols coming from the wash area in between the two ends of the barrack block. This was around 7:00 a.m. A Corporal Lawrence, R.A.F. had organized and trained a choir and they were following an Old English custom of singing carols early on Christmas day. They had gone into the wash area by opening the blackout shutters, then going through the broken windows. Their efforts were greatly appreciate and it certainly tugged on the heart strings. We had managed to hoard some of our rations, and the Germans issued a good soup, extra potatoes and some Wurst sausage. It was a day to enjoy. The next day it was back to the string, etc. One thing I poignantly recall was as the day wore on and you felt at the end of your tether, we would start to sing familiar songs for an hour or so until we were untied for the day. Luckily the R.A.F. chaps were used to communal singing in pubs and barracks, etc., so they lead the way. I recall some the R.A.F. regulars who had been in service for many years before the war. On their tours in the Far East, Middle East, etc. some of them had developed great story telling skills and they could sing parodies of various songs and events for hours on end. This was after lights out. A Sgt. Gibson "Gibby from East Anglia was the best.
I believe it was soon into the New Year that tying us up with string was discontinued, the number of guards greatly reduced and we were handcuffed. These handcuffs were easily removed and with less supervision, life was much more tolerable. I recall the period of being tied up as a very grim and trying ordeal.
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