“AFTER THE WAR”

                                    This is taken from my Family Tree Booklets 
                         and is from Book 4 - The War Years - Kenneth J. West.


                                        RAF 1379867 Sgt. Kenneth James West. W/Op.  Ag.                                        
              Bomber Command Group 5, 97 Squadron at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.
                                 PoW No. 27510  at Stalag VIIB/344 Lamsdorf, Silesia.  

There has been some considerable discussion on the “Lamsdorf” FaceBook page about the aftermath of the experiences suffered by PoW’s in Stalag VIIIB and after the Death Marches, and how these experiences effected the survivers. Some committed suicide after the war, others just ‘clammed up” and told on-one, sometimes a few stories were “leaked out”, but most of all many just got on with their lived trying to forget what had happened to them without realising just how much these experiences had affected them, only their family and friends realised what was happening and as time went by it seemed obvious that so many were suffering from what we now call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.)

There are a whole list of Resources at the end of this adapted chapter so that you can further discover and appreciate just what these brave men went through.

But first, here is some background information about my Dad:

                                                                                    
                                                     Born 14th September 1922. Joined up with RAF 1940.

21/12/1942  97 Squadron, Woodhall Spa. (Lincolnshire.)
27-28/1/1943 Missing.  (missing upon return from Ops. over Dusseldorf.)


Details of the crash and colleagues etc.....
(This document, supplied by my brother’s contact in Holland, 
has been checked and corrected due to some mistakes.)

Date of crash:        27th January 1943
Type of Aircraft: A. V. Roe                   Type: Lancaster Mk 1
Squadron:   97                                      Group:  No. 5 Bomber Command
Squadron Code:  O F                           Ind. code:  A
Plane serial No. :  W 4135                   Base: Woodhall Spa, Lincs.

History of plane: Stationed at 50 Squadron in August 1942, 44 Squadron in November 1942, and in 97 Squadron in January 1943.

Target:  Dusseldorf                               Take off time:   17.20 Hrs.  
162 aircraft took part in this raid including:  124 Lancasters, 33 Halifaxes, 5 Mosquitos, from various bases. 6 aircraft FTR (failed to return) : 3 Lancasters and 3 Halifaxes.

Crew:							    Pevious employment:
Sgt. A. Robinson        1042473   (Pilot)			    Farmer.
Sgt.  K. J. West          1379867   (Wireless Operator)    	    Clerk.
Sgt.  A. E. Cfoome     1575679   (Bombardier)		    Pharmacy.
Sgt.   C. P. Bigg         1319633    (Navigator)		    Land Agent.
Sgt.  R. Harvey           1150604   (Flight Engineer)	    Driver.
Sgt. R. Muskett          1037820   (Mid Upper Gunner) (+)	    (Not known)
Sgt. R. W. Rea            R/108696  R.C.A.F. (Rear Gunner) ( Royal Canadian Air Force.) (+) Enlisted in 1940 whilst still attending High School in Canada.

Both Gunners were killed instantly and are buried at Eindhoven (Woensel/Oude Toren) General Cemetry,  R. Muskett at location JJB grave 1, and R. W. Rea location JJB grave 2.

Cause of crash: Probably shot down by flak from Flack Batteries 3./591 and 4./591.

Crash location: On a piece of farmland owned by Mr. Theodorus Wouters namely Isidorous Hoeve (Isidorus Farm) in a hamlet named Chijnsgoed near the village of Marheeze, Holland. (Near to the Belgium border.)  Time of crash: 20.25hrs local time. (on return from Ops.)

All were in solitary confinement at Dulag Luft - Oberursel, near Frankfurt. (Interrogation Centre.) for approximateley two weeks before being moved to:

Robinson was in camp   VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf PoW 27505         (Sequence of numbers may determine 
Bigg                     “                        “                 PoW 27525          arrival at the camp.)
Croome                “                        “                PoW 27515
West                     “                       “                 PoW 27510
Harvey                 “                        “                 PoW 27491

PoW camps visited or rested at during The Long Marches from Lamsdorf in January 1945:
Robinson     Gorlitz (8A),       Zeigenhain (9A).
West                  “                             “
Bigg                   “                   Fallingbostel (11B).
Harvey               “                   Bad Salza (9C).
Croome      Nurnberg (13D),  Moosberg (7A).

Only Robinson and West were on the same Long March - out of Zeigenhain; both escaped on 
9th April 1945, and liberated by US 3rd Army, 4th Cavalry Division on 11th April 1945.

VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf is now called Lambinowice and is in Poland rather than previous German Silesia.


                                    

                                     


27/8/1942 Prisoner of War, Stalag VIIB/344 Lamsdorf. (This was the date of official RAF confirmation - 7 months after the above date. 


                                                           

         Dad’s “dog tag” 27510 for Stalag VIIB/344 . He must have kept this in his pocket for it seems brand new!







                                                                                
                               Kenneth James West - “Safe in the UK on 19th April 1945”. (RAF Records).

I presume this ID picture was taken by the Americans after finding Dad living rough in the countryside at Rauschwitz on 13th April 1945; or it could have been taken when he arrived back in the UK at RAF Cosford on 18th April 1945. 

19/4/1945  Recategorised safe in UK at No.106 Personnel Reception Centre, (POW) Cosford, Shropshire.




                 Chapter 5. AFTER REPATRIATION:

“He spoke little of it, although it was clear to all the family afterwards 
that what he witnessed deeply affected him for the rest of his life.”

Many families of returning PoW’s from Lamsdorf made the above statement.

“All RAF POW’s that were deemed medically fit were granted 42 days leave, after which they were required to return to 106 Personnel Centre (Resettlement), Cosford.

They would then attend a medical board and if it was agreed they needed "toning up" they would be posted to No. 4 Medical Rehabilitation Unit (Cosford) before they were dispersed through one of the following routes:

1. To Refresher Centres, for all who expressed a wish to remain in Service and were medically fit (Four Centres No. 109 to No. 112)

2. To direct release, for those who wished to leave the RAF and were eligible to do so, and who could show that civil employment was actually available

3. To Resettlement Centres, for those eligible for release but for whom no ready-made employment was available (Four Centres No. 113 to No. 116) based at Scarborough, Rugby, Ascot, Chorley.

4. To selected postings arranged by the Air Ministry

                                            

Dad’s Medical Certificate (above) after a Medical Board held at RAF Cosford, Staffs, on 4th June 1945 where he was classified as A3B which meant that he was rated as “Fit for Air Duties (Combatant Passenger) and Ground Duties.”I presume this means that he was not fit enough to resume his role as an Air Gunner and Wireless Operator, but in a combat situation could only be a passenger. So in conclusion could only be fit enough for Ground Duties. (as a Clerk.)
From Dad’s RAF Records it is recorded that he was at “106 PRC” on 19th April 1945. This was transcribed for me as “106 Personnel Reception Centre (POW), RAF Cosford, Shropshire.” (for approx seven weeks - including home leave too?)

On 7th June 1945 he moved to “112 Personnel (Refresher) Centre, at W. Hering, Northamptonshire. (approx six weeks.)

19th July 1945 sees him transferred to 3 Radio School, Prestwick, Ayrshire but ten days later on....

30th August he was at 260 MU (Maintenance Unit), Shipton, Nr. York, Yorkshire, though it is not known why he was transferred there.

Five days later on 4th September he was at SAT Kirkham, Lancashire,

By 26th October he was at RAF Stradishall, Suffolk, and on..... 

11th December he was at 219 MU at Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, (near Birmingham) where his future wife, Dortothy Greevy was also working. 

(Family information has it that he had already met Mum at a social club in Cotteridge, Kings Norton, Birmingham. He was discharged from RAF duty at the 100 Personnel Dispersal Centre, Uxbridge, Middlesex on 21st March 1943, by which time he had married Mum on 23rd February 1946 at St. Patrick’s Church, Dudley Road, Birmingham. Apparently they had to get married as Mum was pregnant, later to miscarry.)

It does seem to me that Dad could not settle down to his previous role in the RAF as a WirelessOperator/Air Gunner. He spent seven weeks at the Reception Centre and on home leave, and six weeks at the Refresher Centre. 

After that he moved around quite a bit, for a few days at a time in some instances, ending up at an MU (Maintenance Unit) where Wireless Operating and Air Gunner training are non-existent. 

I assume that at the MU’s he was working as a Clerk, employment which he followed up after his discharge for the rest of his life. (apart from a short time as a Forestry Student in Dorset (from April 1946?) which ended in August 1947, one month after I was born.) He refused to continue his own Dad’s work as a Baker.

I have to make an assumption here as to Dad’s physical and mental condition after his return to the UK after all the trauma of being a PoW  at Stalag VIIB/344Lamsdorf and his horrific experience of being on a Death March and his survival after his escape from it and living rough for four days.

Dad’s Liberation Questionnaire was answered with the barest minimum of information and the dates given as to where he was were only approximate and not accurate. 

His colleagues answers (Andrew Robinson) were full of accurate information and much detail and painted an accurate picture of his circumstances after the plane crashed and whilst on the march. 

Andrew’s daughter told me that it took her father a few years to get well again and become his normal natural self, whereas Dad was married within ten months of repatriation (February 1946) and was trying to live a normal life.

Six months of careful eating ( “a little quite often” as his GP, Dr. Green, told his mother) increased his weight from six stone to a more average weight meant that as the year 1945 went by he had a lot of “catching-up” to do!!  

Most Sergeant RAF PoW’s were promoted to Warrant Officers and Dad was made a W/O on 15th October 1945 meaning that he had a pay rise!.

Here was a 24 year old man in RAF uniform, well-payed, with back pay and compensation, good looking again, and of course, wanting to enjoy himself and make up for lost time especially after his wartime experiences. And there were not so many men around at that time either due to the war. So the men that survived had all the women around and available!!

So why did he marry Dorothy Greevy? The answer given by the family was that they had to get married because she was two months pregnant by the time of the marriage in February 1946. 

Mum was still single, age 27, three years older than Dad, and another question asked was why had she not married before this point in time, after all, she did work at an RAF Station in Sutton Coldfield, where Dad was transferred to on 11th December 1945, where there must have been an abundant supply of eligible young men!

Dad was at that time more interested in a young girl known to the family who lived near the Bakery in Pershore Road, Cotteridge, and his cousin, Margaret Plant (“little Margaret” to the family) was hoping to be a bridesmaid sometime. They were both dismayed when they found out about the situation with Ken and Dorry.

Not long after mariage she had a miscarriage, but the deed was done. Some in the family think that this was not the case, maybe she did not have a miscarriage at all, and just a ploy to “get her man”, not many men around in those days and maybe she didn’t want to be left on the shelf at age 27. Maybe his “back-pay” was an incentive?

Maybe the pregnancy was an accident after all, and maybe she regretted it ever after, especially after my remarks above about the availibilty of all those RAF men at the Station in Sutton Coldfield. (See later chapter “Dorothy B. Greevy”.)

Mum and Dad actually got married without telling anyone (23rd February 1946) and none of the family were at the wedding. The answer given was that there was too much family interference in the preparations and so they decided to go it alone. Maybe they did not tell anyone that she was pregnant until after the marriage!! We do not know! 

I presume they lived at Osmaston Road (Mum’s mother’s house) for a while after getting married but later Dad was a Forestry Student living at Marshwood Cottage, Charboro Park, Almer, Blandford, Dorset when I was born seventeen months later on July 30th 1947. 

                                                                                                      Mum and Dad.
                                                              

                                         On holiday late 1945 or during 1946.          At Charlboro Park 1946 or 1947.

All his money had been spent on taxis, meals out, plenty of drinks, and generally living it up (Mum’s sister told me this) but who could blame him after his wartime experiences? Dad’s back pay etc had all gone and he was a student  and I suspect with no actual wages. I was told that babies were not allowed to students in Charboro Park, so they came back to Birmingham!! 


                                                          

                                                            More pics of Mum and Dad at Charlboro Park 1946 / 1947.

Dad did not want to work in the very confined space of his father’s bakery, especially after the confinement in a PoW camp, and so he opted for the outside life instead as a Forestry Student. As a child and teenager he had to help in the bakery, especially as a teenager delivering the bread locally every morning before school, and this he really hated doing. 

Dad’s parents had sent him to Sparkhill Commercial School in order to give him a good background before taking over the bakery, but after school he worked as a Clerk for two years then left home to join the RAF. Even after his return after the war he refused to work in the bakery despite incentives from his father. 

After I was born they immediately left Dorset and came back home to Birmingham in August 1947 to live with her mother, and later with his mother and father. Dad liked his drink and often had to be helped to bed at night! His Dad gave him the large deposit on a house at Glenwood Road, West Heath, near Cotteridge, actually paying the money to the Building Society and not cash-in-hand to Dad!! The loan was to be a “debt of honour” and to be paid back to his mother if ever she needed it, and that never happened, despite the fact that in later life she might have needed it. 

The honeymoon period was over now! Money was all spent. And just fourteen months after their marriager the rot set in and the euphoria of freedom had gone. 

One left-over from the Long March was the fact that he told Mum never to cook him any turnips or swedes because he had eaten enough of those on the march and could not stomach any more of them!! He would not allow any of us to leave or waste any food, we had to stay at the table until it was all eaten, even to the next mealtime.

Settling down was very difficult for Dad as my own National Registration Identity Card showed and it is stamped as follows:

(?--th) August 1947: Marshwood Cottage, Charboro Park, Almer, Blandford. (Dorset)

(?27th) August 1947: 66 Osmaston Road, Birmingham 17. (Harborne.)

30th January 1948: 98 Fordhouse Lane, Birmingham 30. (Kings Norton.)

13th October 1948: 68 Glenwood Road, Birmingham 30. (West Heath,Kings Norton.)

5th October 1951: 9 Grosvenor Road, Birmingham 17. (Harborne.) Stayed here until it was sold in 2011. (60 years.)
(These dates are the Registration dates and might not be the actual “moving” dates.)

Dad managed to get a job as a Clerk, which he did all his life but with different employers. (“Triplex”, “Super Oil Seals and Gaskets” and “Tube Investments”.

Stories are often told within the family that the newlywed’s liked going out drinking a lot whilst at Charlboro Park and this continued at Osmaston Road where Dad had to be helped to bed late at night after a night’s drinking! This continued at Glenwood Road where Dad would very often go drinking after a days work with his war-time friend Vic Holford who lived nearby in Green Acres Road. It got so bad that Mum had to give him an ultimatum, and you can imagine what that ultimatum was!!

Over the next ten years Mum and Dad had six children and it was that which held them together over the years. There wasn’t much altruistic love and affection going on between them and they were so busy being “parents” and “adults” that we never really knew them as people at all, and neither did their Grandchildren. Dad was ultra strict with all of us, routine and rotas were the order of the day, household jobs had to be done before anything else and we often discussed together as children if we were all adopted slaves!!   


                                                              

                               Dad with Patsie at Glenwood Road 1948.    Dad, Grandad West, and me, 1948.

We often felt his hand, and belt, if we misbehaved. He had a short temper and snapped easily. As young children he enjoyed our company but as we grew up into teenage years he just switched off the interest and communications with us and took no interest whatsoever. He never asked us what we were doing with our lives, jobs, education, friends, activities etc etc. It is often said that he got on better with strangers than with his own family.

We were never allowed to leave any food on the plate after mealtimes and we had to stay there until it was eaten up, sometimes given back to us at the next meal time, cold!  Dinner was to be at 6pm prompt and woe betide Mum if she was late presenting it!

I suspect that after the 14 months of honeymoon after the war he started to develop  Post Traumatic Shock Disorder and this became progressively worse as years went by. He seemed to switch off and lose interest in others in the family too and became more insular within himself. But still he, and Mum, put up the pretence of being a large happy family showing us off to all and sundry and taking in all the praise and congratulations from neighbours and strangers too! If only they knew the real story!!

                                        
                                             David, Patsie, Brendan and Catherine, ?1955, at Grosvenor Road.

                                                 

                                       Mum with me, Catherine, Peter on her lap, Patsie and Brendan, ?1956.

Even his own mother could tell what mood he was in just by opening the front door to him and glancing at his face for a split second. She often said, as did others, that he married far too soon after his return from the war and should have had much more time to settle down and recover, that he had rushed into marrying too soon, but what else could he do if his girlfriend was pregnant - it was a much different situation in those days compared to today.

Religion played a large part in all of this. I don’t know if Dad was already a religious person before this time but he certainly was now. But having said that I do have a New Testament part of the Bible given to Dad just a few days after he joined the RAF. Inside the front cover is written  “To Ken from Mother. 10th October 1940.”

I also suspect that the PTSD was manifest by Dad’s religiousness. He was involved with many church aspects of life at St. Mary’s Church in Harborne. He was an active member of the Catholic Young Men’s Society, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (helping the poor of the parish) and at various points in his life joined the secular orders of the Franciscans and the Carmelites. 

He often went away on weekly or weekend Retreats and spent some time too at Prinknash Abbey with the Benedictines. My brother Brendan and I stayed at Prinknash Abbey during two school summer holidays and helped out on the farm and in the walled garden.

Naturally all our lives revolved around this aspect of Dad’s life. Every evening we had to recite a decade of the Rosary in front of a candle-lit statue and we each took turns to lead this. This even took place when we had visitors and they had the choice of joining in or just being present, very embarrasing for us as we grew up! We went to church every Sunday and also to Benediction on a Sunday evening - I often went with Mum and my sister. Later as years went by we went for the Sunday Benediction at 5pm at St. Joseph’s Home in Queens Park Road, Harborne, run by The Little Sisters of the Poor. My two sisters were helpers every weekend there and myself and brothers were Alter Servers at St. Joseph’s as well as at St. Mary’s too, well into our late teens. 
I remember during Lent one year my sister and I went to Mass at St. Mary’s every weekday at 8.30am and afterwards at approx. 9.00am we had to eat our breakfast of cheese sandwiches in the school cloakroom and then joined our class afterwards. 

With Mum accompanying him, Dad also visited places of Pilgrimage, mainly to Walsingham, but often on his own he visited Canterbury and such places. We often went on Pilgrimages organised by St. Mary’s, and I do remember visiting Evesham on such a pilgrimage one year. He also went on continental pilgrimages including to Lourdes.

When I later passd the 11+ exam (?1958) and went to Lordswood Boys Technical School I did not attend the R.E. lessons for it was not a catholic school and that drew a lot of attention to myself as a result. Later Dad made sure that the Headmaster arranged for a catholic member of staff to lead a Catholic Assemby, hidden by large screens at the back of the main hall where the canteen was. When the normal assembly was over, and ours too, the screens would be drawn back, showing off all the catholics, for the days messages and notices from the headmaster.

Twice my sister, Patsy, passed the then 11+ exam to a non-catholic Grammar school but Dad would not let her attend the school because it was not a catholic one. Understandably she could not understand why I was allowed to go to a non-catholic school but she was not! But I think that Dad’s old-fashioned outlook was that boys should have a good education and that it didn’t matter so much about a girl’s education.


                                                           

                                Day out , Frankley Crossroads, ? 1960, on the way to our favourite picnic spot
                                                         in a field near some woods which is now part of the M5!
                                                        Me, Patsie, Dad, Brendan, Catherine, Peter and Anthony.

Dad’s religious affilliations lasted all his life even to the extent that he took to reading The Divine Office (the official daily prayers of the church) every day in later years, but his religious influences upon us all diminished as we all grew up and he seemed to switch off from us all. We had our own lives to lead and choices to make but Dad did not want to be involved in any of it! 

Despite all his religious convictions we did find out that he might have had two affairs during his married life! It must have been a handful for them both, having six (very different!) children but during our younger days perhaps we took his mind off things of the past and as we grew up into teenage years we were not so dependant on him as much as in the past and so he began to withdraw into himself even more.

He might have had a genuine religious conviction - even a priest at St. Mary’s said that he would have made a better priest than some of those at St. Mary’s - but Dad could never show any actual love or affection or genuine interest towards any of us, nor to Mum; she even had to pay her own fare when going on pilgrimages, when Dad had given the nuns at St. Joseph’s the fare as a donation!

Personally I don’t think Dad had a genuine religious conviction and so I don’t think he would have become a priest if his life had turned out differently. I think his religious attitude to life was borne out of a thanksgiving of having been ‘saved’ after his plane crashed; ‘saved’ after the effects of being a PoW; ‘saved” after weeks and weeks on the Long March and nearly not survivng all that. 

I have read in quite a few accounts of life in Stalag 344 Lamsdorf where it was noted that many PoW’s took to religion and that the chapels and churches in the camp were always full on Sunday and Holydays. It is thought that many did this because they had been ‘saved’ from death and were lucky to be alive, despite the intolerable situations in the camp, and so it was a form of ‘thanksgiving’ that drew them to religion, and especially for those who later survived the Long (Death) Marches.

It is well noted that captives often began to like their captors because their continued life fully depended on them! When I went to Lordswood Technical School our language subject was German and Dad went out of way to buy Linguaphone records to help me learn German; and he also began to learn the language too! After all that he went through personally I would have hated the Germans and their language but he seemed quite calm about it. 

Had he forgiven them? Was his over-religious activity in thanksgiving for his survival when he saw so many perish? Maybe the religiousness was a cover-up for what he was really thinking about his experiences. 

Perhaps the Post Traumatic Shock Disorder was manifesting itself in his strict, well-ordered, personally withdrawn, semi-religious life. Dad had a very short temper and would ‘snap’ very suddenly at the slightest little thing. He was a bad loser at games such as cards and would sulk for ages. Sometimes his ‘bad moods’ would last for days.

Perhaps he wanted to forget all his past experiences but just could not do it because they were still too vivid. Maybe he would not have got married to Dorothy Greevy but he had to as she was pregnant soon after they met! Out of all this mental confusion his whole life seemed like a ‘cover-up’, a chance to show off his large family and revel in the respect from neighbours and friends; and hence our own experiences of him affected all us children in many ways.


                                                                
                                                                      Mum and Dad, a typical Christmas Dinner.

All of us six children realised later in life that Mum and Dad never really got on with each other. We later found out, of course, that they had to get married, and that this happened seven or eight months after Dad’s repatriation when he was certainly not fully fit or recovered after such an awful time as a PoW  and being on the Long March. 

My brother, Brendan, asked Mum one day if she really loved Dad. Her reply was that “Well, I bore him six children.” And most of all - she never got on with her own two girls, Catherine and Patsy, fact; and she also left them out of her equal shares from her estate when she died in 2011. 

The two girls grew up to look nothing like any of the Greevy family, they were more like the West’s (Catherine) and Sreeves/Hemming (Patsy), whereas us boys definately looked more like Greevy’s. With their major personality clashes, perhaps this was why Mum did not treat the girls as equally as the boys. There may another reason for this but but I’m not prepared to discuss that here. 

                                            
                                                              Patsy’s wedding to William (Bill) Bullock in 1972.
                                Brendan, Anthony, Dad, Peter, David, Grandma West, Patsy, Mum, Catherine,
                                             Granny Greevy. Probably the last photo of all the family together.

Dad always liked a pint or two (as previously mentioned) and later in life started making home-made-wine (and beer) which he especially liked to drink at Christmas, or with visitors. He also developed a real “boozers nose”!! He was fond of going fishing and rambling too, often on his own, and he was a member of the Birmingham Ramblers Club for a long while.

Our house was never really a “home”. Dad often reminded us that “This is MY house, and if you don’t like the rules then you know what you can do.”

After Dad died Mum threw away all his letters from his mother to the PoW camp, (he had managed to save them all that she had sent him, even taking them on the Long March) and also every letter he wrote back from the camp!! Her reason when I asked her why she had thrown them away was that they were all full of family gossip!! 

I would have liked to have seen them and maybe copied them first, especially those from the camp back home, but it was now too late. They could not have been full of family gossip coming from the PoW camp, and what stories those letters from Lamsdorf would have told us about life there in those days!

To carry out such a deed shows how much she felt that Dad’s experiences during the war had had such an effect on him, and her too as a result. My guess is that she didn’t really want to marry him but had to, obviously, because of the strong Catholic tradition of the two families; and whilst she might not have regretted it at the time, having to marry him, when the fun stopped and the money ran out then Dad became a quiet introspective loner, who was suffering the effects of the Camp and the March and possibly developing PTSD as a result.


                                                        

One tale I must include is when Dad managed to leave St. Jospeh’s Home of his own accord one day and walked back home nearby to 9 Grosvenor Road. He rang the bell and Mum answered the door and she was horrified to see him there. She would not let him in, did not make him a cup of tea, did not feel sorry for him, but told him to get back to St. Joseph’s!! She then phoned up St. Joseph’s Home to come and collect him from the doorstep. I think her actions at this time summed up their life together!

Dad only mentioned his war-time experiences once, when I asked him when I was about ten years old, and Mum told me never to do it again. Dad drew a plan of VIIIB/344 and a watchtower and told me of his escape at the end of the march. 

He also told me that during one Christmas (either 1943 or 1944) he was put into solitary confinement for trying to cook something in the barracks and stealing a brick to help make the stove. He also told his nephew, Thomas Bullock, about his experiences when Tom was completing a school project on WWII.

Despite all his problems Dad had an outstanding positive attitude to carry on with life and he told me once that it was “mind over matter” in his quest to overcome the effects of Parkinsons Disease. (“Mr. Parkinson is playing up today!”) 

This was obviously manifested in his desire to continue walking and rambling even when his Parkinson’s gait was such that when he walked he looked like a drunken man, wobbling all over the place trying to remain upright and carry on as normal as possible.

It was this overwhelming attitude, mind over matter, that probably carried him on during his days at Lamsdorf, and during the Long March. He had obviously suffered worse things during captivity and on the Long March than with his present life!

(Coincidentally, the motto of the 101 Squadron RAF is “Mens Agitat Molem”  - Mind Over Matter! I wonder if Dad was aware of this!)

Some years later in 1982, when his mother died, he had been diagnosed that year with Parkinson’s Disease and during the late 1990’s Dad developed Lewey Bodies Disease - a form of Dementia. Some years later (?1999) he was admitted to St. Joseph’s Home, Queens Park Road, Harborne. He died on 28th July 2000 from Pneumonia, eighteen years after the original Parkinsons diagnosis.



                                             

                                                                                       14th September 1922
                                                                                                            to
                                                                                               28th July 2000




                               


RESOURCES.


RESOURCES 1:

http://www.lamsdorf.com

This web site must be your first port-of-call when researching information about StalagVIIIB/344 Lamsdorf. There is a wealth of information here.

“This website aims to provide as complete a picture as possible of the experiences of the prisoners from Commonwealth countries who were interned at Lamsdorf, as a historical record and a resource for research, but most importantly as a lasting tribute to all those servicemen who suffered imprisonment there, some for as long as five years.”

Please read the “Stanley John Woodman” diaires which can be found on the www.lamsdorf.com website under the chapter on “Long Marches”. then click Stanley John Woodman. It is the best account I have read so far.

RESOURCES 2:

A book I really do recommend and well worth reading is “Almost a Lifetime” by John McMahon, a summary from the cover follows..... 

 “Almost a Lifetime” by John McMahon:  “On his first bombing mission over Germany, on 2nd February 1943, 21-year-old John McMahon’s Lancaster was shot down. Of the seven young men in the plane, only Mcmahon survived. He was harboured, briefly, by a Dutch family, then apprehended by German soldiers and transported to Stalag VIIB in Eastern Germany. Mcmahon’s detailed and fascinating account of his two tears in the prison camp is a profound testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. (Page 45 onwards.)

Equally exceptional is McMahon’s account of the (actual horrors of the) “Death March” across Germany. In the winter of early 1945, as Russian forces moved west into Germany, more than 40,000 PoW’s laboured on foot for 400 miles across a frozen landscape. (He almost died towards the end of the march) (Page 176 >.)

(John MacMahon was repatriated at RAF Cosford exactly one week before Dad arrived there. “106 Personnel Reception Centre (POW), RAF Cosford, Shropshire.” 

RESOURCES 3:

Prisoners of War: (1945 - The Long Marches.)
1: Movements of Prisoners and Liberation in Germany:

http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Pris-_N102413.html

RESOURCES 4:

I highly recommend you look at this illustrated online report of life in Stalag VIIIB and what the Long March was really like. It was written and illustrated by Frank “Spike” Hughes..... (read especially from page 59 onwards, - click the pages to turn them over!) 

http://www.lamsdorf.com/frank-spike-hughes-gallery.html


RESOURCES 5:

One personal account of the Long March is well worth reading and can be found at: www.buckdenpike.co.uk/lamsdorfmarch.html

RESOURCES 6:

“The Last Escape” by Tony Rennell and John Nichol is an extraordinary look at the final days of World War II, giving more details about the Death Marches.

“As WW2 drew to a close, hundreds of thousands of British and American prisoners of war, held in camps in Nazi-occupied Europe, faced the prospect that they would never get home alive. In the depths of winter, their guards harried them on marches out of their camps and away from the armies advancing into the heart of Hitler's defeated Germany. Hundreds died from exhaustion, disease and starvation. 

“THE LAST ESCAPE” is told through the testimony of those heroic men, now in their seventies and eighties and telling their stories publicly for the first time.
John Nichol is a former RAF flight lieutenant whose Tornado bomber was shot down on a mission over Iraq during the first Gulf War. He was captured and made a prisoner of war. Tony Rennell is a writer for the Daily Mail and a former deputy editor of the Sunday Times. Their previous books include “Tail-End Charlies” and “Medic.”
This book is still available on Amazon.”

RESOURCES 7:

The book "In Enemy Hands" by Daniel Dancocks (Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, Canada, 1983) is a good read and copies are still available on Amazon and Ebay. It has many photos of the Camp and of the Long March too taken by Kenneth “Tex” Hyde.

RESOURCES 8:

 “The Long March” by Winston Churchill Parker, RCAF. (includes life in VIIIB/344):
http://www.spiritofcanada.com/veterans/stories/open.php?type=rcaf&target=theLongMarch

With thanks to 

My brother, Brendan, and a contact in Holland, who provided details and photographs of Dad’s plane’s crash site and a local map. Also copies of the Log Book, telegrams, and ID tag, as well as some photos.

Judy Fortescue, daughter of Sgt. Andrew Robinson (Pilot) who provided photos from her collection, as well as other information concerning the crash and the march.

Mike Holford for photos of his Dad, and mine, together in VIIIB/344.



Avro Lancaster Heavy bomber:

The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber designed and built by Avro for the Royal Air Force.

Wingspan: 31 m. (101 feet)
Length: 21 m. (68.8 feet)
Range: 4,073 km. (2,530 miles)
First flight:	9th January 1941.
Introduced: February 1942.
Retired: 1963.
Designer: Roy Chadwick.
Manufacturer: Avro.


                                                               

The first RAF unit to receive the new aircraft for operations (on Christmas Eve 1941) was No 44 Squadron at Waddington, quickly followed by 97 Squadron at Woodhall Spa. 

The performance of the Lancaster was simply outstanding. It could carry a maximum bomb load of 22,000 lb, its maximum level speed with a full load at 15,000 feet was 275 mph and it could cruise routinely at altitudes above 20,000ft at a range speed of 200 mph. With a full bomb load the aircraft had a range in excess of 1,500 miles. The Lancaster’s performance, its ruggedness, reliability and to many its sheer charisma, endeared it to its crews who were proud to fly this famous thoroughbred.

© David James West. 2nd June 2017. (Please do not copy this page but do refer the page to interested parties.)

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