Stalag XXa
Torun (Thorn), Poland, 1940

When we arrived at Thorn, we were registered as prisoners of war, and after being fingerprinted, and photographed holding a piece of slate with our POW number on it, we were issued with a small metal tag, which was perforated in the middle. The camp number, and our POW number were stamped on both halves. This was so that, should we die, one piece went with the body for burial, whilst the other half was sent home.

The camp itself covered a wide area, and the accommodation included several Prussian forts, constructed under the command of the Polish Marshall Pilsudski. They included a moat, drawbridge, and portcullis. Conditions inside them were terrible, with dank corridors, and water dripping continuously from the roof and down the walls. Low wattage bulbs were the only lighting. Our accommodation was a vault- like room with straw spread on the floor, and the only light came from a small window.

Apart from the forts and a balloon hangar, the prisoners were housed in large tents around the hangar; again they slept on straw spread on the ground. I was held here for only a short period, perhaps four to five weeks, which was more than enough for me, as I was very weak with dysentery and general malnutrition, although I did not see a doctor, as there were men in far worse condition than me. I was keen to get out on a work party, as I understood that you stood a better chance of getting food outside. I also feared that if I stayed in the fort I would die.

The food was grim, a ladle of thin potato soup at noon, and a loaf of black bread between four or six men, with a little spot of ersatz margarine. The only things plentiful at Thorn were lice. We spent most of our time trying to kill them and pick out the eggs from the seams of our shirts, or burn them with matches (if you could scrounge any).