Barbed Wire
Memories of Stalag 383

 

 

Chapter 3 :

Parcels Up!

 

 

There may be more important things in life than food. But not to a prisoner of war.

 

Where, but in a prison camp, would you find a fellow flogging his false teeth for a loaf of bread - and then borrowing them back to eat it? Where else would a man sleep with a loaf under his neck - only to find on waking that some other hungry soul had cut an end off?

 

And where else would you meet a character like Simon ('Simon called Kite-hawk' they named him) who preyed on Lamsdorf in the hungry days. A big, simple sort of fellow, harmless save when he was ravenous, which was pretty often, 'Simon called Kite-hawk' would swoop silently on any food he spotted - and promptly scoff it.

 

Then he would hover, conscience-stricken, near the scene of his crime and wait for the anguished cry: 'Who's swiped my spuds?' upon which he would immediately admit with wide-eyed frankness: 'I did Mate ... I've ate 'em ... I was 'ungry ... See?' and would hold out his jaw in retribution.

 

No matter whether he had robbed a little fellow, or the biggest tough in camp, 'Simon called Kite-hawk' would accept passively any hammering his victim cared to give him. But let anybody doubt his word if he had once declared his innocence, and he would fight with outraged fury to the end. A queer bird, Simon - and not unpopular.

 

There were queer birds, too, at Hohenfels, including a species who preyed on other people's cats, cooking and eating them, stewed like rabbits. These hungry hawks were much despised - partly because they ate cats which Ginger Darling and Bill Spink had, at some self-sacrifice, reared as pets, and partly because the idea came from Huns, who were wont to slaver over kitten boiled in milk.

 

But let that pass. Let the felines haunt their eaters, and let me turn from tales of hunger. For hunger, real hunger,was not our normal lot and it is with our normal lot that I shall henceforth deal, putting down briefly some facts about our food.

 

For nearly two years at Hohenfels, each and every Kriegie received a Red Cross parcel weekly, and these precious parcels were the blessing of our lives.

 

There was ten pounds weight of goodness in each parcel. Planned to supplement the German rations, they took account of more than need for vitamins. They contained little luxuries and the element of surprise. They might have been packed by some wise and kindly mother - for who else would pop bulls-eyes amongst the solid foodstuffs, or think of sending pancake mixture to prisoners of war?

 

Most of the parcels came from either England or Canada and both kinds were excellent; the ideal being to have a different sort of alternate weeks. The Canadian parcels were standard in contents and contained the following: a tin each of bully-beef, meat roll, salmon and sardines; a large packet of biscuits, quarter of a pound of cheese, a five ounce slab of chocolate, a pound of jam or marmalade, a packet of prunes, a packet of raisins, half a pound of coffee or a quarter of tea, four ounces of sugar, a pound tin each of butter and of powdered milk, some salt and pepper mixed and a small bar of soap.

 

The English parcels were less lavish in milk and butter, but they offered an attractive variety of tinned meats, puddings, vegetables and whatnots. It was a Kriegie's great delight to delve amongst the packing, pick out his prizes and decide on his week's menu, and perhaps the best pointer to the pleasure these parcels gave were the scrap books some men kept. In them were pasted labels and carton fronts, all different from tins and packets collected in the course of years.

 

To turn from the sublime to the ridiculous, German rations also figured in our diet, the bread and potatoes, at least, being vital.

 

In theory, indeed, the Germans took no cognizance of Red Cross food and under the Geneva Convention were supposed to feed us on the same standard as their own home-based troops. In practice, of course, the did nothing of the kind, and at no camp in my experience did they serve any sort of 'knife and fork meal' at any period of the day. Soup, and soup only - and that but once a day - was the nearest to a dinner they provided and the type of soup it often was can be gathered from our general term for it - 'Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life.'

 

Specific brands of this liquid included 'Sauerkraut Soup' (highly laxative and vilely vinegary), 'Celluloid soup' (named from its flavour but made from dried vegetables since genuine celluloid was scarce), 'Mock Mangelwurzel' (square, fibrous chunks of cattle food, fortunately tasteless), 'Fish Soup' (in which cabbage or something was mixed with the worms).

 

These last three delicacies were specialities at Lamsdorf, where the element of surprise, so delightful in Red Cross parcels, was seldom lacking in the soup. Apart from the Tuesday in September '41, when I found a morsel of meat in my bowl, the most startling novelty I recall was the 'Fruit, fish and nut soup' we got one day. Apparently the Turkish Red Cross had sent some bulk raisins, nuts and preserves for distribution to prisoners and what the Huns couldn't eat themselves they had just bunged into the soup, along with the decayed fish-heads.

 

What with fish bones, raisin pips, prune stones and nut shells to contend with, it was a pretty exotic dish and a Yorkshireman spoke for us all when he demanded: 'Who do the bastards think I am - Chu Chin Chow?'

 

But to return to Hohenfels, where conditions enabled us to control the cookhouses ourselves, the soup was always as good as could be made from Hun ingredients and sometimes just good, without qualifications. The best stuff served was known as 'Commission Soup' or 'General Soup', because the Jerry quartermaster had a habit of issuing more and beter ingredients when a visiting 'Protecting Power Commission' or a German Inspecting General was expected. Matching this craftiness, our own cookhouse chiefs accepted the extra ingredients with thanks - and used them the day after the visitors had gone.

 

Soups I can recall without nausea include those made from peas, barley and birdseed (millet) respectively (the barley being best used with podered milk from Canadian parcels), but I don't want any more Celluloid or Sauerkraut and no ex-Kriegie will complain if swedes are put on points.

 

Cooked in huge, attractively burnished boilers, the soup was drawn for each respective hut by its day's orderly armed with an ordinary metal washing bowl. In normal times, the hungrier types could usually 'double up' for a second helping, but in the thin days every mugful was watched and hundreds of Oliver Twists asked for more in vain.

 

It was no joke being the day's 'stooge' and having to draw the soup for fourteen men. Those underfoot conditions I have mentioned before were particularly foul near the main cookhouse and it was no uncommon sight to see an orderly, both hands holding the bowl, firmly stuck in the mud from which he could only extricate himself by stepping out of his clogs.

 

Just as curse-compelling was the glass-like surface of the roads in winter; and to walk up the glacier leading to Nine Company huts carrying a brimming bowl of soup is an experience I now repeat in nightmares. Seldom have I seen such heart-rending dismay on a man's face as when, at the height of the famine, a soup-carrying stooge slipped over, spreading his hutmates' meal down the icy slopes. His dumb distress forbade laughter and evoked sympathy. One neutral observer offered to break the news gently to the stooge's hutmates, while two others of us accompanied him back to the cookhouse to explain the tragedy.

 

Eventually, they were able to spare him some more and he departed, carrying the bowl as though it held uranium, though actually it was only a swede and birdseed soup that would have caused riots had they served it up at Dartmoor.

 

But so would most of the German rations, especially such delicacies as 'Stink Cheese,' which had to be kept on the roof outside the huts, or German jam, made from bad fruit, turnips and saccharine.

 

These 'dry rations,' however, were so minute in quantity that the quality didn't matter much. In Red Cross parcel days we hardly noticed them, while in non-parcel times were were glad to swallow homoeopathic doses of anything that would keep our gastric juices working. Most innocuous of the regular German issues was a soggy white mess ironically termed 'cream cheese.' This inspid stuff may once have been derived from milk, but all its flavour and nourishment had long since been removed by a process known only to German scientists.

 

Easily the best of the Jerry ersatz foods was the margarine (made from coal extract and flowers) which was not unpleasant in flavour, though I cannot speak for its value as food. Of German cheese, jam or honey we got only a few grammes once per week, but the margarine ration was issued in small pats daily and was a useful standby since we could fry and bake with it, and so preserve our English margarine for spreads. When there was a good run of the butter-laden Canadian parcels, we were so well off for fats that we could make lamps or grease Alf's gramaphone motor with the ersatz margarine, but on the whole there wasn't much we wasted.

 

Wehrmacht bread, of which, in good times, we received a fifth of a rye loaf (about 300 grammes) daily, was wholesome stuff, but could not be eaten by the many prisoners who had developed stomach trouble; these received instead a white roll daily. By racketerring with the Jerries a man could get extra bread and potatoes for cigarettes (which were issued with the parcels at the rate of fifty per week), so that, provided always that parcels were coming through, there was no need for a man to go short of bulk and the only hunger was for fresh meat, vegetables and fruit.

 

Minute but precious issues of lettuce, marrow and onions were made from the small camp allotments and never before, we told each other, had we really tasted these commonplace delicacies. But hunger and novelty make good sauces, and thus it was that hedgehog (cooked in clay) was voted 'tops' by a hut that caught some, while rabbits were consumed with zest by Aussies who had hitherto despised them as vermin.

 

Rabbits, for a time, were a great feature of Hohenfels and scores of huts had the most elaborate hutches and runs full of them. Chief credit for this must go to an enterprising gent named Boswick, whose stud farm for rabbits became a menace to the crops of Bavaria. Apparently, one or two Kriegies had either caught or racketeered doe rabbits and were keeping them as pets. Then came Mr. Boswick, with a couple of buck rabbits and a bright idea. The following advertisement appeared on walls and notice boards:-

 

BOSWICK'S BUCKS
DOES YOUR DOE WANT DOING?
Stud Fee - One Fag
RESULTS GUARANTEED

 

So nobly did the bucks respond to good treatment, Red Cross oatmeal and public admiration of their efforts, that the 'guaranteed results' were soon nibbling contentedly all over the Stalag. Rival studs such as 'Hutchinson's Hutch-fillers' and 'Sutton's Surefires' also worked overtime and all the carpenters in the camp got busy, making hutches out of Red Cross packing cases and hammered-out tins. Perhaps, too, rabbits outside the camp heard of the superior living conditions inside and slipped through the wire to give themselves up; but whatever the reason, the whole place was eventually teeming with brown, black, white and piebald rabbits, who waxed and grew fat on anything from Bemax to Sauerkraut soup, no sacrifice being too great to keep them happy.

 

Easily the higgest, fattest and smuggest rabbit in Germany was 'Old Bill' of Ten Company, who could be viewed for a fag a time and who looked like a kangeroo with dropsy. But though Bill could eat up the Hut's garden produce, have first dip at their Red Cross parcels, and make himself at home in the room if he wished, he no doubt ended up in the stew pot, like lesser rabbits, in the 'week of the long knives.'

 

This week of 'blood and tears' was the inevitable outcome of a Hun order tha, owing to this and that, all live-stock in the camp must be destroyed by a certain date or they would be confiscated and/or killed. There was evidence that this order was serious, so, rather than let their rabbits fall into the hands of the enemy, the Kriegies mournfully put some through the wire to feed on German farmers, and, not so mournfully that it spoilt their appetites, cooked and ate the others.

 

There must have been some full bellies that week amongst the chief rabbit fanciers, because there had been so many rabbits in the Stalag that the Germans once ordered a census to be taken of them. I won't say how many thousands were counted, because no one would believe anything that I wrote afterwards, but it was a hell of a lot of rabbits anyway, and they left behind them some very pleasant memories and a lot of fur and skins for glove and slipper makers.

 

Which reminds me that part of the reason for the Huns' grudge against rabbit fanciers was that the Kriegies had been ordered to hand over to the Third Reich the kins of any rabbits they killed; whereas, suspecting perhaps that they were contributing towards a fur coat for Frau Goering, the donated only half a dozen scurvy skins in eighteen months - and that with very bad grace.

 

The Huns considered this a clear case of 'holding out' on them and they were also suspicious that the hutches built to house the rabbit were hiding other things too, as, indeed, they often were: for we well knew that 'Moto' and his snoops were not nature lovers who enjoyed probing amongst straw and rabbit droppings, so when we had anything to hide, which was nearly always, we made full use of the bunnies' private quarters.

 

Yet another cause of friction over rabbits was the determination of the fanciers to get all the fresh grass they could for them. Now, the Stalag grounds were soon nibbled bare or verdure, except for one strictly verboten area - the 'No Man's Land' between the bardbed wire double fences and the 'warning wire'.

 

So, despite the plainly worded wooden notices threaded on the wire, rabbit owners would risk a shot from the watch towers by bending under the single strand and plucking the long grass from the untrodden corridor.

 

One lad was so convinced that it was okay to put his arm under the wire, providing his body didn't follow it, that he ignored the shouts of a Hun guard just outside the stockade and continued to pluck a supper for his rabbits. The Hun thereupon raised his rifle and shot him, the bullet mercifully missing a vital spot, though wounding him badly. However, the Kriegie, who was very philosophic about the incident, made a good recovery; the Kommandant issued a further warning against infringing the warning wire, but sounded a regretful note about the shooting; and most of the camp, though maintaining that a human being would have fired a warning shot first, admitted that the Hun had probably acted within his rights under the Hun regulations - and was only an animal, anyway, so knew no better.

 

Certainly, the rabbits went on multiplying for some time after that incident and certainly, too, grass from 'No Man's Land' was still included in their diet, but in the view of some fanciewrs, the Kommandant always looked with a jaundiced eye upon them from that day on, and the 'week of the long knives' was already casting its grisly shadow.

 

But all this talk about rabbits is not to give the impression that they figured very much on the average Kriegie's menu; for they didn't - and some huts, Hut Sixteen, for instance, never even tasted one. True, our next door neighbours, who had several hutches, were a bit sceptical about that; but how could we help it if the midnight rabbit rustlers who raided their stock chose to skin the rabbits on the spot - and leave the incriminating evidence outside our window?

 

No, the menu of most of us was made up of the Red Cross parcels and the German rations, plus a certain amount of racketeered bread and spuds, and it was only the Big Shot gamblers, racketeers and shop owners, who were able to vary their diet very much. Some of these Big Shots liked to dine on lamb and duck occasionally and they reckoned, anyway, on eating three good meals a day, so if you, 'Talkie,' or you, 'Topper,' or you, 'Nobby,' are still at large and have learned to read, don't think I'm referring to you in the following paragraphs. I'm not: I'm confining myself to the eating habits of the normal Kriegie, in the normal Hohenfels hut, in the average days of parcels.

 

To begin with, we formed into syndicates. A syndicate might consist of the whole hut - in which case they would pool all food in common and appoint a cook and quartermaster - or it might consist of two or three kindred spirits who took turns at chef and bottlewasher. But even when the 'syndicate' comprised one man only, the meal routine would be pretty much the same.

 

In place of reveille would sound the early morning cookhouse call, which meant that hot water was avilable for tea. Usually, the day's orderly would draw this for the whole room and unless there were some very determined 'lone wolves' in the hut, the big metal jug would be ready primed with tea from one and all.

 

Ranged on the table would be an odd assortment of tins and mugs, already set with milk and sweetening, and the orderly would fill them and hand them up to their owners, still ensconced in bed. Red Cross parcels would be reached down from shelves and the average man's breakfast would begin.

 

Except, perhaps on Sundays, when we liked to spread ourselves a bit, breakfast seldom consisted of more than a slice of bread and jam; but after roll-call, which might take anything from ten minutes to three hours, a mid-morning brew-up would be accompanied by a biscuit. Then would come soup at twelve o'clock, to be followed by bread and a spread of something and another brew of tea, the cookhouse supplying hot water. For supper at eight o'clock, cocoa was favourite, with a piece of bread and cheese if possible; but, in the meantime, would have come the real blow-out of the day - the Stalag Pie at tea-time.

 

Into this mighty meal, the Kriegie put his heart. Everything he could spare from his Red Cross parcel, everything he could racketeer from the Huns, would be set aside each day and provided the pie turned out all right, he hadn't lived in vain.

 

Potato was the basis of the pie - and sometimes, alas, it was potato bust. But not often. There were three or four tins of meat or fish in the average parcel, so proper handling would ensure that half a tin each day was reserved for the pie. And whether the tin held meat roll, salmon, stew or bacon, the recipe for making was the same.

 

Draw an issue of cooked-in-their-skins spuds from the cookhouse. Peel them, if you're fussy, and then mash. Take half a tin of something and chop or slice artistically. With some Jerry margarine, grease an open tin or dish. Pack spuds and filling in alternate layers, put some blobs of marge on top - and there's your pie!

 

To cook same, stick a tin disk with number on it in pie, and take to cookhouse, where trained chefs will insert in oven. Pie should be cooked an artistic brown and eaten hot - but won't be, if chefs are badgered about it.

 

Well, that was the Stalag pie in its simplest, one-man style; but, delicious though it was, it could not be compared with the sumptious specimens prepared by the bigger hut syndicates. A keen quartermaster could ensure that each day's pie had several ingredients - and the more ambitious efforts made the Jerries gape and sniff.

 

'Wonderbar ... wonderbar!' gasped a visiting Hun General to his staff. He was gazing at an Aussie hut's pie, displayed in a huge tin dish. Just a couple of stuffed marrows, with bacon, sausages, peas, spam and carrots. But it looked so good. The potatoes in which the whole was enthroned was so tastefully patterned and browned, and the design of the Aussie badge so cunningly worked in peas, that a General could not fail to be impressed.

 

Impressive, too, were the massive cakes, sometimes on display in the cookhouse. Made from racketeered flour or from crushed biscuits and often rich with raisins, they sometime carried icing (made from powdered milk) and nuts, derived from prune stones. They were at their most dazzling when made by professional bakers in the camp for the big club 'do's,' which were features of our life in parcel days.

 

As an example of what could be accomplished by judicious hoarding from parcels or by buying on the marts, here is the menu of the 'Cricket Dinner' of 1943, the catering arrangements for which were in the hands of Carl Menti, of Romano's. Carl was voted to have done full fustice, both to the famous restaurant and to cricket, but since they omitted to invite me, which wasn't cricket, I shall only remark that the number of courses would have been illegal in post-war Britain.

 

Menu

Thick Vegetable Soup
-----
Salmon Cutlets
Tomato Sauce
-----
Lancashire Hot Pot
Peas Carrots
-----
Apple Pudding
Sauce
-----
Cheese and Biscuits
-----
Coffee

Toasts

The King
-----
Cricket
-----
The Guests
-----
Business
Presentation of trophies for 1943 season
-----
Entertainment
Song by Trevor Hill
Jack Harris in "Mo"
Our Cricketing
Forefathers



 

 

But to return from the banqueting hall (K.2) to our humble huts, I must say a few words about cooking; for it wasn't always that we entrusted our Stalag Pie to the cookhouse and there were meals like porridge, dried egg, pancake or fry-ups, that couldn't be done in communal ovens. Also, half the fun of 'mucking in' with one or two others was to see who could do the least damage to the food, while sometimes our home-cooked efforts were eminently eatable.

 

Cooking appliances were simple. They included the smokeless heaters I have already mentioned, which could run on cardboard, paper or wood chips (according to the Voelkische Beobachter, these were the model for save-fuel German civilian stoves) and the famous 'blower fire,' which burnt the otherwise unburnable German coal dust. These gadgets, if worked properly, would boil a dixie of water in no time. They worked on the principle of a forge, a fan worked by a wooden wheel and bootlace pulley, directing a concentrated draught under a brazier. Prisoners from Italy were said to have been the first to introduce them to the Stalags.Another domestic applicance, useful for making brew-ups, was an 'immersion heater' run off the electric light. These gadgets were extremely unpopular with the Huns, for not only were they continually fusing the whole Stalag lighting system, but when handled they were, as I knew to my cost, as dangerous as the chair in Sing-Sing prison.

 

Hut ovens varied from big, gleaming affairs, made from scores of flattened and highly polished tins and fitted with trays and gadgets galore, to huge contraptions of clay which we used to build round the Jerry stoves in the early days.

 

Alf Tuck once erected in Hut Sixteen a clay oven which looked like an Esquimaux igloo and was big enough to live in, though we soon discovered that the rest of the room wasn't. I remember Bill Welch putting a bowl of stew inside this oven and later complaining that, though there was plenty of meat in the stew, it was pretty tasteless stuff. And I remember, too, the expression on his face when he discovered he was chewing lumps of clay from the oven ceiling.

 

But we didn't keep that oven very long and all I can recall about the iron one that followed it was that it took give or six hours of swearing and stoking before it was warm enough to melt margarine. At that time, Arthur Dallimore, the Aussie artist, and I had the misfortune to be mucking in together, and we could hardly get up early enough in the morning to get a meat roll warmed by teatime.

 

One day Dal offered to cook the meat if I would fry the spuds and since 'cooking the meat' consisted on warming up a tin of Argentine stew, I thought I could trust him with this, while I did the more technical job of frying. Dal put the tin in the flat over, while I put the frying pan on top, and at hourly interavals thoughout the day he asked me when the spuds were going to be warm enough to eat, since the tin already felt hot after the first four hours in the oven.Just before 'Lights out,' Reg. Witham warned me that the spuds were being 'burnt to a cinder,' which meant that they were slightly brown on one side, so I told Dal to open the tin of stew and we would get cracking on our tea.

 

There's nothing more to tell except this: Dal's tin of stew turned out to be a tin of syrup and, in trying to show him how to read a label, I knocked the pan of spuds on the floor. But the moral we both drew from it all was this: it's no good relying on a trance-bound partner.

 

Good partners, of course, were hard to find and the search for the ideal 'mucker' was unceasing at Hohenfels - the 'ideal' being a fellow with a very small appetite, who loved washing up and didn't smoke. Despite the abundance of eccentrics at 383, I never met one who answered this description; but for one glorious period at Lamsdorf I mucked in with a fellow who contracted yellow jaundice and couldn't eat his whack. That would have been clear profit, but for the fact that I caught it myself the following week, by which time he'd recovered sufficiently to eat like a horse for the pair of us.

 

That particular syndicate broke up over an apple pudding which we much treasured. Marking our names on the label, my partner put the tin in a big communal oven, and, his day's work over, retired to his bunk, asking me to wake him at four o'clock, which was the time we used to eat. Anxious, like a good mucker, to do my share of labour, I retrieved the pudding from the oven at the appointed time (wrapping a towel round the tin, which was too hot to hold) and decided to give him a surprise by opening it, all ready for eating. The surprise was mine. As the opener pierced the tin, there came a fizzing like a bomb, a sharp explosion as the tin burst and roars of delight from bystanders, as the pudding splashed the ceiling.

 

What my partner said to me for not having waited for the tin to cool, or what I said to him for not having pierced the tin before putting it in the oven, doesn't matter. Actually, though, there was some excuse for his oversight, because nine out of ten tins were already stabbed by the Huns before we got them, the reason being to prevent fellows from storing food for escape purposes.

 

The same tin-stabbing tactics were supposed to be employed at all Stalags, but at Hohenfels we generally succeeded in drawing our parcels intact, the string around them still unbroken. Generally, but not always. For, just about the time of the last 1944 delivery of parcels, the Kommandant, acting under pressure from Higher-ups, decreed that all tins in the possession of prisoners must be pierced immediately and that tins not so pierced would be confiscated if found.

 

Consternation in the camp! What about those tins of salmon and meat that we had so sagely put by for rainy day? Were we to scoff the food at once or were we to stab the tins now and get ptomaine poisoning when we eventually did eat the contents? Were the squareheads bluffing or was it true that big squads of them sere standing by to search the huts? To hell with them, anyway, said we all. Next to our lives, those tins were our most treasured possessions and we'd neither stab them nor give them up, without some sort of struggle.

 

Well, the squareheads weren't bluffing. One misty evening they were seen to be advancing, in some force, on Nine Company huts, armed with sacks to hold the unpierced tins. The word passed swiftly through the comapny - and then the fun began.

 

Stabbing stuff that didn't matter - tins of margarine, for instance, that would keep for weeks - we played 'hide and seek' with the rest; the rest being every form of tinned meat, fish and vegetable that the parcels ever held.

 

And the snoops were out to find them if they could. 'Palliasses are no good ... they're ripping 'em up,' a head announced, popping through the door. 'Stove-pipes are out, too ... they're pulling 'em down wholesale!' another spy informed us, so, since the huts were seen to be too 'hot,' some fellows started bunging tins in packs and kitbags and dropping them through the back windows, where accomplices collected them. The tins were then hidden in gaps between the rooms until fresh places could be thought of.

 

Alf, Bert and myself were not overburdened with stock, but we didn't want to lose what tins we had, so we loaded up a small mail-bag of mine, which I was charged to take to safety somewhere else. On my way I passed shadowy figures, laden like Father Xmas with huge sacks. They were dodging in and ouot of huts and alleys as the Huns passed by, gutteral shouts proving that they weren't all undetected. Here and there were figures digging like stealthy murderers in the garden plots, while a latrine I took shelter in was full of non-customers resting their well-filled sacks.

 

Five Company seemed pretty free from Huns and there I dumped my bag with a friend, Alan Burford, the Stalag magician. In Alan's hut they fed communally and fed well, but they saved some tins from every single parcel and all these tins - scores of them in all - were normally packed in a false bottomed table, the top of which slid back. Normally, I said, but not to-night. While the search bug bit the Jerries there was no sense in taking risks, so all their tins were safely 'somewhere else' and presumably mine joined them for they were given back intact as soon as the heat switched off Nine Company.

 

Not everybody was as lucky as that and one hut in Nine Company, Hut 28, was raided and deprived of over sixty tins by triumphant snoops. An amusing sidelight on this Jerry coup was that two members of the hut, Gilbert Horrabin and John Moor, the Aussie radio announcer, were playing together in the Ofladium production of Patrick Hamilton's play 'Rope.' Gilbert was given the grim news about the grub by some tactful sould in the wings, and never, he told me later, did he play the part of the murderer with such conviction.

 

However, there was a happy ending to this raid, for just as the grinning snoops were about to cart the stuff out of the Lager, where they would no doubt have had the feed of their sordid lives, that grand fellow in an emergency, David MacKenzie, the camp leader, barred their way.

 

'No you bloody well don't!' said MacKenzie, or words to that effect, and he made the snoops, who, quite rightly, had much respect for him, dump their swag in his office and fetch the Kommandant.

 

The outcome of their heart to heart talk was that the food was returned to Hut 28 and new arrangements were made about unpunctured tins. They were to be kept in a special store and their Kriegie owners could draw them as the liked, on application, which was fair enough.

 

And, apart from our Red Cross parcels, fairness was all we asked.

 

 

Next Chapter/.....

 

 

Music : Out of the Mood (In the Mood)

 

 

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