The end of the war

As the war started to reach in conclusion, following the Allied landings on D-Day and the speedy advance of Russian forces in the east, Nazi-occupied Europe started to fall into disarray.

In January 1945, Alfie was at Stalag 357. The parcel trains from Switzerland were being disrupted by the Allied bombing and the inmates of Stalag 357 were receiving no supplies.

The International Red Cross told the PoWs that they had managed to stack up supplies at a warehouse in Lubeck. The camp leader, James “Dixie” Deans, approached the camp Commandant and explained the position. At the time, the camp inmates were aware that they could be sent out on a long march, so Dixie persuaded the Commandant to allow him and Alfie to go to Lubeck to try and obtain some parcels and arrange for a supply to reach the camp or, if the PoWs were on the march, the columns.

Alfie and Dixie were given permission and, with an interpreter, were sent out with a five-ton truck. Again, Alfie’s own words describe the journey…

We went through the outskirts of Hamburg and saw the devastation caused by the bombing raids.

The stench of rotting flesh filled the air as no attempt had been made to clear the rubble and the dead. And so to Lubeck where we first had a meeting with the harbour master about supplies being bought up the canal by barge. He was quite co-operative after showing him a large jar of coffee that had been brought along on the journey for just such a purpose. We stayed over night in a services hostel surrounded by German service men some of which were wounded and moaned all night long.

We were glad to seen the dawn of the next morning so we could load our wagon and proceed back to the camp with promises that lorries would be available on the march if not before.

We were soon on the march and some three days on the way we were receiving some parcels, it was now the responsibility of my staff to make sure all four columns were satisfied. Unfortunately after one such delivery, when the column were taking their parcels from the school house where they were stored, they were shot up by friendly fire and fifty of my friends were killed.

One barge load of parcels were intercepted on the Elbe which they said was for the French contingent at Stalag 357 but we soon convinced them that we were 357 and if they didn’t unload the barge we would sink it. We received the parcels with no further ado.

After the war…

 

 

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