I had been going out on joinery jobs with Ted and Ray as a very
unskilled carpenter's mate and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Soon we were all loaded on to the lorries, about 90 of them with
25 men to each lorry - it was all American transport - and included
were a few civilian refugees who claimed British nationality
under our protection. Three RAF men were left behind having married
women refugees and were not allowed to travel with us - to most
of us it appeared a foolish business having been done without
consent of the SBO and no doubt their arrival home would be much
As usual it took a long time to get going but by two o'clock
all the lorries were heading West through Freuenbritzen, much
was damaged, and on to the Halle autobahn. Our journey was eventful
to say the least as the Germans had blown up many bridges over
and under the autobahn so that frequently a lengthy detour had
to be made through woods; this was rough treatment for the lorries
which in any case were handled far from gently by the Russian
About seven o'clock we reached the River Elbe at Coswig near
Dessau and were very relieved to see American soldiers waiting
on the other side; the bridge was destroyed so we crossed on
foot over a pontoon bridge to board American lorries. We were
still in Russian territory for a few miles and it was a great
joy to us all when we crossed a little river with an American
sentry on the far side.
Most of us do not trust the Russians and certainly they have
not reciprocated in any way to the enthusiastic welcome which
we extended to them on their first arrival; there have been some
cases of theft at gunpoint from Allied POW of watches and other
valuables. Perhaps their unfriendliness is partly based on the
Russian attitude to their people who are taken prisoner and looked
upon as having committed a shameful act.
There were no road blocks on the American side and we speeded
along a magnificent road to Halle, noticing all the way how much
more cheerful the civilians looked than those in Russian territory.
We arrived late at night in a big army camp and airfield and
since then we have been waiting for the next stage by air but
the weather is holding us up. Our quarters are good and the food,
after POW diet, is splendid but, apart from a cinema, there is
little to occupy us and time passes slowly - we are used to that
by now and this time home really does seem to be close.
May 30 1945.
The days seemed unending during our unexpectedly prolonged stay
at Halle which we did not leave until May 25. Former POW poured
in throughout the week and by Friday the numbers put a considerable
strain on the catering facilities of the American 1st Army staff
who had fought their way to Halle and were themselves expecting
to return home in the near future. They did all they could to
lighten our stay and our sincere thanks are due to them.
Suddenly about midday on May 25 a fleet of Dakotas (DC3 aircraft)
flew into the airfield which was not very large and we were a
little anxious as to whether enough planes had arrived to move
all the 2500 ex-POW.
The aircraft were full of Russian workers from occupied Europe
but very little time was taken to disembark them and to get us
on board in batches of 25 to a plane. There was heavy cloud at
about 3000 feet and we flew just below the cloud base which meant
of course a rather bumpy ride and I regret to say that I was
airsick for the first time on this journey home; but I was not
alone and probably suppressed excitement was the cause.