realised that the half hour notice was bluff and, after the 11
of us were more or less organised, we prepared a huge meal from
the food which we were unable to carry and sat down to enjoy
At 01.00 hours we had to parade at the outer gate ready to move
off but after a few minutes we were told to return to our huts
for a few hours. I think this confirmed to many of us our wishful
thought that the move would not take place and throughout the
night we looked out to the wire expecting to see the guards depart.
During the night in our room we overhauled our packs, tried to
get some sleep and Ted Walker made a sledge out of a wooden crate
- this proved to be a great boon.
Finally after a restless night we were again paraded about 6am
on Sunday in heavy snow and this time we were off. All those,
numbering about 80, who were genuinely unfit to march were allowed
by the Germans to remain behind and were taken to our destination
by transport. Each man on passing through the gate was handed
an American Red Cross parcel.
The long column was at last lined up outside the camp ready to
march to Sagan. A considerable halt was made while the camp was
searched for possible escapers; we must have presented a strange
sight in all manner of uniforms with no uniformity, and carrying
a variety of packs. Some were made with great care and precision
others were just kit bags slung over the shoulder. Most fellows
had a part share in a sledge and in the snowy roads this was
the best method of transporting heavy loads.
After a weary wait until 9am the column moved off heavily escorted
by armed guards who were also carrying full kit and who were
in much lower spirits than the prisoners; we in fact were in
quite good fettle because, without minimising what lay before
us, we knew that all the hardship was a stage nearer our ultimate
release and the end of the war.
We marched through Sagan early on the Sunday morning and it was
clear that some of the civilian population had preceded us in
the evacuation; here we met a phenomenon which recurred many
times during the march. I refer to the apparent indifference
with which we were regarded by townspeople and country people
alike. We expected that considerable hostility would be shown
to a body of terror gangsters' as the population had been schooled
to look upon us but in fact the Sagan people showed no interest
in us and probably at this stage of the war most Germans realised
that the war was lost and their plight hopeless. We marched through
the town and on past the railway sidings to the main camps at
Karlswalde where we halted again.
Our disillusionment was bitter when we learned that the other
camps were on the road ahead of us and that we were to march
to a place called Spremberg more than 70 miles away - I think
this was one of the worst moments of the trip when we finally
realised that we really were going to do a forced march. Before
we started our Senior Officer, Group Capt. MacDonald, uttered
words of encouragement up and down the line and our Medical Officer,
Capt. Montuuis, brought up the rear with a cart drawn by his
assistants for any casualties en route. About midday a halt was
made for about half an hour during which we had a snack and adjusted
our packs - some fellows found the burden too heavy and ditched
those items which they felt they could do without.