Officers were in bed by this time but the news caused a buzz
of speculation as we had not realised that the Russians were
so near and our hopes began to rise. No preparations were made
or evacuation and most fellows slowly got to sleep.
19 April 1945.
Life went on as usual in the morning but an air of tension was
apparent everywhere and sounds of battle to the East became distinct.
All day the SBO was busy putting previously prepared plans into
a state of readiness and he announced in the evening that he
had been unable to get any definite information about the move
but it was clear that the Commandant had orders to prevent the
RAF contingent being liberated by the Russians.
20 April 1945.
Another day of tension with camp life apparently normal but all
this time the Russians were getting closer and we knew that the
Germans could not delay if they intended to march us out of camp.
In the early evening there was a considerable fire to the SW
which indicated that Juterbog, about 10 miles away, had been
taken by the Russians or fired by retreating Germans. At night
the SBO again addressed us to the effect that an evacuation was
unlikely and indications pointed to a German withdrawal from
the Camp in the near future; he stressed the importance of strict
discipline and warned those on defence duty to stand by all night.
21 April 1945.
A dull rainy day and everyone felt a great air of expectancy.
The first news was that no Germans had appeared in the kitchen
and that a number of Germans were seen with full equipment.
Lunch came and went with no further developments except for what
was to be our last Red Cross parcel issue of 1/4 per man; this
was issued in unbroken cases with the tins unpunctured and this
had never happened previously.
But then it came - suddenly and with no excitement - all men
with defence duties were ordered to their posts and on looking
outside the wire it was seen that all guards were withdrawn and
there were no Germans in the compound. The time was about 12.45
and I hurried out of the wire with my previously issued pass
and reported for duty at the former German canteen which was
being used as Police HQ. The first squad was quickly formed and
ordered to their posts through a still quiet camp with everyone
a little dazed at the situation. I donned my white arm band with
a green cross and reached the inner gate which I was to guard.
Outside in the Vorlager the last two platoons of German guards
were paraded for departure with rifles and equipment accompanied
by their officers. Rain was falling heavily and with water streaming
from their shoulders I have never seen such a dejected body of
men. For a few minutes it was a tense situation as a little incident
might have caused them to panic and fire but they departed without
As soon as the Germans left the Allied defence scheme took full
control of the camp but I should explain the working of the plan.
It included all nationalities except the Russians, who could
only participate to a small extent; these nationalities were
British, American, Norwegian, French, Serbian, Polish and a few
The Russians could not join fully as the scheme was passive and
emphatically non-violent whereas Moscow apparently expected her
prisoners to finish the war by killing as many Germans as possible.