The day we escaped we got the cars we had to fill into the area we were escaping from. The Brits helped us in this maneuver. Our guard was a young fellow whom we called "Squeaky . He had frozen his lungs on the Russian front. He tired easily and so he did not patrol the work area diligently. We realized he would be in trouble if we got away from the quarry but war is war. Shortly after we got to work we retrieved our supplies and changed our clothes. It was very difficult to climb out with the steep and high walls but we managed. When we got a few miles away we found cover and hid until nightfall. We started out again at dusk heading in a roughly Southeastern direction. We wanted to get to Krakow where Johnny had some relations. We traveled all night by moonlight. We avoided any farms or cottages and made fair progress, we followed this routine for a few more nights. One night we heard a clomp, clomp, clomp and to us it was an eerie sound. We hid in the ditch as we were on a road. Soon a unit of Hitler Youth marched by, they were singing a marching tune "ee, ee, i, oh, i, oh, it was an endless chant. Luckily they didn't spot us. Then another night just as dawn was breaking we came to a cottage. There were raspberry bushes on one side of the house. After a bit of reconnoitering and raising no dogs we sneaked-up and ate for a while. When we heard someone stirring in the cottage we quickly moved on. By now we were very hungry and hadn't washed for a few days. My beard was quite untidy but Johnny didn't have much of a beard.

Early one morning we came to the Polish border. There were concrete markers about 18 high and one side had "D for Deutschland (Germany) and the other "P for Poland. We were in a forested area, on the German side, the undergrowth was all cut and removed and it was well managed. On the Polish side everything was in its natural state. It was quite a contrast.

As we were now in Poland we felt more secure, so we decided to travel by day and hopefully get some food. We moved out of the forest and I recall one field where a fellow was cultivating his field, he was on a tractor. There were a few implements by one side of the field so we went there. There was no food but there was a water bottle. The water in it had a gasoline taste but we drank it anyway. The fellow saw us and he started towards us so we quickly fled into the nearby forest. In the late afternoon we were walking down a forest path when we came to a small, shallow river. As soon as we had waded to the other side two men stepped out from the bush. One had a civilian uniform and the other civilian clothes. The uniformed guy had a revolver in his hand. He was a jovial, chubby fellow and he had the smell of schnapps on his breath. The civilian had a shotgun, he had a "P on the back of his jacket so we knew he was a Pole. The Pole was pointing his shotgun, it was cocked and he had his finger on the trigger. Johnny talked to them in Polish. He told them we were working in the forest and he was taking me to a doctor because I was sick. I said nothing and I didn't understand a word that was being said. The Pole kept waving his shotgun around menacingly but we were used to the guards always pointing their rifles at us and yelling out orders so this didn't bother us. I could see Johnny was unable to convince them with his story, and of course it was hopeless. In occupied countries no one went anywhere without papers, etc., and we had no "P's on our jacket and no "Permit Slip for a doctors or even a known destination. So, finally Johnny admitted we were escaping British POWs. I whispered in this ear, "The best laid plans of men and mice go aft and go astray . That evening when we were locked up in a civilian jail Johnny said, "You silly bugger if you'd known the Pole was all for shooting us on the spot, you wouldn't have been talking about mice . Lucky for us the German was a policeman and he was in charge. As an aside, the people on the German/Polish border had a hard lot. If the Germans were in power then they tried to be good Germans and if the Poles were in power then they tried to be good Poles. Some had fourth grade German Citizenship's and obviously our Pole was trying to get a better ranking.
The next day a Gestapo officer came, and since we had our Stalag dog tags, the Gestapo would have been notified anyway of our escape, there was no problem and we were left in the jail a few days and then sent back to Lamsdorf. We were then returned to Lamsdorf rather than the work-party, so there was punishment to be meted out. The punishment consisted of two weeks solitary in the bunker. This was no problem, we could get reading material and we were allowed exercise, walks twice a day. In the winter people were pleased to go to the bunker because it had wooden floors and it was heated. The rations were the same as the main camp.

Previous Section
Chapter Headings
Go Back to Chapter

Next Section