Journey to the POW Camp
Summer 1940

Wagons came and took the officers away. The men were divided into groups of 2-300. The first block marched for about an hour and the second block ran to catch up with them - that was how they proceeded. By the end of the day the men were dead beat. They'd had no food. The heat, the weight of their kits and exhaustion caused some of the men to throwaway their kits. Jack and three friends found an infantry kit which contained a blanket, four mess tins and a ground sheet which they seized upon because they knew it would make their lives more comfortable. When night came he and the others spread out the ground sheet and lay side by side, with the blanket over them to sleep. This they did every night, taking it in turns to be at the ends because there they'd have the blanket pulled off them! The weather was lovely during this first march so they weren't cold!

The next night the Germans set up a field kitchen and they had tattie soup made from potatoes they'd found growing in the fields so they had a meal that day.

On the march, French women put out buckets of water for the men to drink but the guards kicked them over. Some of the women held out bread but the Germans pushed them aside: routine inhumanity which they grew to expect from their guards. One day Jack got 6 red beans for lunch - that was his ration.

There was nothing the men or the French women could do. The guards were armed with rifles and bayonets which they wouldn't have hesitated to use against them. It was an introduction to hunger and thirst which were to torture Jack for the rest of his captivity although he describes it as "an experience". Never again will Jack say, like the rest of us, that he's starving because he actually remembers what starving was like ... and he doesn't like other people saying they're starving either; it's a legacy of his captivity. He remembers when he was working in Gloag's that his workmates would say they were starving just to wind him up!

They trekked through Belgium where, as before, the women laid out buckets of water and held out bread to them as they passed but the guards saw to it that they didn't get any. From there they were put onto coal barges through Belgium and Holland. They went through canals in built up areas and since the toilets were wooden structures on the outside of the barges, there was no privacy. People walking along the side of the water could see them doing their business. It showed the disrespect the Germans had for their prisoners.

When they got into Germany there were Swastikas everywhere. They were fed bread, rice and bowls of tattie soup. The next day passed well then the day after they were herded into railway wagons. German women were trying to kick and spit at the prisoners as they passed.

Eighty men were packed into Jack's carriage and the only ventilation was provided by four small, square rectangular openings covered with barbed wire. Once they were in the doors were locked; there was no escape, not much room to move around and not much air to breathe. A few of the men had steel helmets which the prisoners used as toilets and emptied the contents out of the ventilation holes. They made slow progress, stopping and starting until, 4 days and 3 nights later they arrived in Thorne in Poland.