He adjusts his jacket, sits and adjusts his trouser legs, tics, opens his book, pause. Stillness for a few moments. Speaks
After the war, I was in Berlin and an extra duty we had was train guard. This meant going to Magdeburg in the Russian Zone, picking up about 3000 German prisoners and taking them to Munster about 300 miles away.
Not long you may think, especially by train. It used to take us about a week for the return trip. No priority for POW’s on the railway then. The trains were made up of three pack wagons like guard vans and the rest were coal trucks.
The wagons that carried the prisoners were terrible with no heating at all, some died.
Later the ‘powers that be’ decided to put a small stove in each of the pack wagons and it was ok.
It was a mad rush at Magdeburg picking up the POW’s and getting them all packed into the trucks. Then we issued them with a loaf of bread and a tin of bully beef this was to last them for the 3 or 4 day journey but it was all gone in the first half an hour. Poor sods were starving.
Unfortunately they all had dysentery so every time the train stopped on the way a lot would jump out and crouch by the track. We had the job of shoving them back into the wagons and then getting into our own because the driver never waited.
When the winter got too bad we never bothered to get them back in the wagons as it was so cold, sod ‘em we’d say. We knew they would not run away because they needed to collect ration cards and de-mob papers. Some froze.
I was still with some of the friends I met during training but not my best friend. ‘Why don’t we keep together and join the 11th Hussars’, he said. So we did. Johnny Philpin who became my best mate came from Wallasey, near Liverpool where his father was a vicar.
He was the only person I ever met who did not think he would survive the war.
He got killed at Liverot, Belgium in 1944. His scout car got shot up and the crew baled out into a ditch. Johnny went back and tried to retrieve his small pack for his cigarettes and he got hit.
He, along with some 40% of the regiment were lost forever.