WW II, a British focus  




Stalag 3D near the small village of Teltow in Germany was just a blur in the distance as we trudged through the snow. Having left the warm train we were now trudging our way along the lane way to where we were held POW.
Having finished our day stint of loading sand on to iron tip up trucks on small gauge railway lines, we were now looking forward to a boring evening of playing cards or dominoes or just reading that favourite book for the umpteenth time.

Now we could make out the lights in the huts and as we turned off the lane into the entrance of the camp a German guard opened the gate and we marched through.

Once the commando was through the gate the order, "Halt" was given. "Recht um" was the next order, and every one turned to their right. Then a Guard came out of the guardroom carrying a pad and pencil and he strode along the ranks counting. Eins, zwei, Drei, vier, funf. so on, then he wrote on his pad and waved a hand and said," Los vieter machen" ( carry on") This was one of the occasions when we were not searched. Possibly the guards were listening to their beloved leader spouting more promises over the radio from under his Charlie Chaplin moustache and wanted to get this over as quickly as possible.

Snow flakes began falling again and it was cold. The guard who had been with us all day marched along side us as we made for the barbed wire encrusted gate that led to our huts. The guard stopped at the gate as we passed through then he closed and locked the gate and went back to the guardroom.

Glad to be free now of any restrictions we drifted to our respective huts. As I approached the barrack room I lived in I could hear laughter, and suddenly a burst of cheering. The bloke next to me said, "I wonder if that means the Red Cross has finally sent us some parcels?"

I replied, "Don't you wish" and he grinned. I got to the door of the room I shared with a dozen or more of our blokes from different regiments. But tonight it was different. The table in the center of the room had a chair on it and all the blokes who lived in the room were seated all around it. At first I wondered what was going on. Then suddenly one bloke jumped up and sat in the chair and then another followed him and stood behind him. The other thing that suddenly struck me was they were all in their under wear. Then the bloke in the chair, said "now" and leapt up onto the chair he had been sitting on and raised his shirt tails. The other bloke suddenly struck a match and held it close to the backside of the bloke on the chair A blue flame like a welders torch suddenly erupted from the blokes backside and a huge cheer went up. The result was noted on a bit of paper so I gathered at the end of the game someone won, but what?

Some of the chaps sitting at one side must have been one team and the others the opposing team. I learned later that to compete in this game one had to acquire lots of dried prunes and apple rings. Anything that would induce body gas was legal. For a while as I watched as the contestants were pummeling themselves with a view to accelerating their body functions and thought how sick can one get. Then festivities were brought to a close a bit sharpish, when one very hairy chested bloke suddenly jumped up and got onto the table then sat in the chair. While we waited for the signal some one warbled, "Bloody 'ell, 'e looks like a bleed'n' teddt bear" And indeed the bloke did have a lot of black curly body hair. The only trouble was he also wearing long johns, a woolly suit that looked like a knitted boiler suit and buttoned up the front. He suddenly yelled, "now" and leapt up on to the chair and the bloke applied the lit match to within an inch of his back side. Then there was a huge, "waaaaaaaark" and the bloke with the match gasped and stepped back and the lit match went out. Quickly grabbing another match from the box the bloke struck it and it flared into life and as he held it close to the long johns there was a pop and it was like a photographers flash going off.

Instead of shooting out the gas had taken the easiest route, instead of struggling to get out through the long johns it had crept up under his long johns and through the curly black hair on his back where it ignited. He suddenly looked like a roman candle and the flame leapt up to his head hair and he was screaming, Fortunately someone had had the foresight to empty the fire bucket of its sand and fill it with water.

With water thrown on him the flame went out and the howls of laughter ceased as it was suddenly realized how close the bloke became to being barbecued by his own body fat. The now naked bloke with no body hair or long johns and minus head hair sat on one of the bunks shivering until a mate threw a blanket over him. The game was abandoned and it was never again attempted. But I remember it well. The names of some I can remember.

Wright from Liverpool U.K.
Hepburn from London. U.K.
Thompson. a London Cockney. U.K.
Howson Queens Regt from Leicester. U.K.
Dickinson. R.A.S.C. from Lincoln U.K.
Next doors room also had a look in to see what was going on, these in included, The Sgt Welsh Guards from Cardiff U.K. Geordie of the Welch Guards.from Gateshead.U.K.

2982252 Pte Barker T.O. 1st Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, Born 23 May 1921.
Tom Barker