Jack Hurton was from Mansfield, a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. This is an account of his time as a POW, starting with his capture in Greece.
We went to Navpleon, embarked on barges to go out to a ship. The nurses got on but soldiers were not allowed to travel with nurses, so back to land. (No-one will believe half of this!) Next day German paratroops landed, hundreds of them. We were told by our senior officers that there were no more ships coming and to surrender. April 28th 1941. We were marched to an enclosed area, probably a Greek barracks and training ground. It was there that I met Tom (Tom Roberts) again and we remained together until the war was over. We sat and laid on the ground in the open air for about a week. A tin of corned beef between two and a loaf of bread between two every third day. I was 21 about now, not a celebration. The aerodrome where some of our aircraft spotters were arrested at the end of 2001 was quite near. They complained about being in prison for a few weeks. We were in prison for four years and didn't complain as much. However, back to 1941. The chaps all said the Navy would come in and take us all off because there were a few thousand of us by then. No such luck.
We were entrained and taken to Corinth. We were imprisoned in an Italian prisoner of war camp. The Greeks had been fighting the Italians, but the Germans by then had released them. There were huts to sleep in on concrete floors. We had a dixie of lentil soup each day for six weeks. That is why I like lentils. We were also given a ships biscuit about every other day. They are about four inches square and as hard as iron. They also gave us olive oil if requested, so we split the biscuit in two and fried it in olive oil to make it digestible. Sometimes the lentil soup had goat meat in. One day Tom and I had the goat's head. We scraped and sucked it clean, but neither of us fancied the eyes. Even when hungry we were still pernickety and choosy. After about six weeks we were taken half way to Salonika but then had to walk over a mountain because our engineers had blown up the railway tunnel under the mountain. It was boiling hot day so Tom and I discarded a lot of our equipment. One coat, one groundsheet and one water bottle between us, and our toiletries. In our state it was hard work, the water was soon gone. Halfway down the other side there was a river and we were allowed to stop and bathe our feet. I drank some of the river water, mucky feet, dead bodies, and the lot in it. By this time, Tom was in a bad state so I finished up carrying his gear as well as helping him along. When we got to the station at the other side of the mountain, a train was waiting to take us to Salonika.
In Salonika, I had dysentery and was put in hospital. Iron bed, iron wire to lay on, no bedclothes or pillow. Tom brought our great coat for me to lie on. I was given charcoal and boiled water. My name was read out by Lord Haw-Haw on the German radio to England as being in hospital. The first genuine intimation of where I was. All Betty knew was that I was missing, presumed prisoner of war. Tom came after about three days. They were moving some away including him and everybody would be moved in time. However to keep up with Tom, I got up, discharged myself and joined the next batch to go. Tom met me at the gate of the new batch. He knew I would be there as quick as possible.
All together we were about three weeks in Salonika, then put on a train to Marburg, now Maribor. It took three days in a French railway wagon — ten horses or forty men painted on the side. The Germans couldn't count very well. We were let out only once in three days. There was a barred window at each end about one foot square. No food, water only what we'd carried in our water bottle. We detrained at Marburg and put in a camp there, given some bread and able to replenish our water bottle. I think we were there a fortnight. Everybody was lousy and we sat on the grass picking lice out of our trouser seams, go for a walk round and then sit down and start all over again. Our turn came at last; every bit of clothing was steamed in a de-louser. We were sprayed in the crotch and armpits with disinfectant. After a cold shower, walked about in the nude to dry off.
One day both Tom and I had a shave, a good wash, combed our hair. There was a rumour that working parties were going out so we went to the gate. Tom was picked out, but not me, he refused to go without me and as I was respectable they dropped somebody else and took me. We hadn't a clue where we were going or what the work was to be. Twenty-five of us in the party, put on a train to Graz, then a tram to Gosting, and billeted in the dance room of a pub. A field kitchen full of boiled potatoes awaited us, inside wooden beds with straw mattresses. Heaven. Next day we were taken to work, it was a military camp, most of which was a place for horses captured on the Russian front. Some were ok, some wounded. Vets tended the wounded and experimented on the very bad ones. We were put to work digging and breaking stone in a quarry to make hard core for stable floors, which were then concreted. They must have built forty massive stables for the horses and each stable held about forty horses. We worked from 5am to 6pm or dark in winter. The food was quite reasonable, bread and cheese or bread and jam, and a hot meal at midday. When anyone went sick they were sent back to the main camp at Wolfsberg. I got blood poisoning in my right leg, tried to doctor it myself to save going away. It got very bad so they took me to the German doctor for the camp. He asked why I hadn't visited before now and I explained that I didn't want to leave as I liked it there and it was better than base camp. He said he would treat me and put it right. He said that for me the war was over. I laughed, but not when they cleaned my leg, they kept asking if it hurt, but I couldn't answer and the sweat poured off me. I felt sure they wanted me to shout out. When they finished, the orderly took me back to the pub, where I stopped in bed for three days and he came every day to dress it. The guard wanted to send me back but the orderly wouldn't hear of it. After three days he said I could go back to work, and gave me a note for light work for one week. I tore it up to be on the safe side. Tom was pleased to see me, he thought I would have been sent back, it must have been my good looks. I did have quite a rapport with the orderly who spoke English; we kept off the war, talking about our families, homes and the countryside. Our guard was not very pleased about it all, he had to walk every day to bring me my dinner, but the Corporal over him made him do it. That guard grumbled to the other lads about having to look after me, little did he know what he would suffer later, we took the 'Mickey' whenever possible. He was a very little chap; his rifle stood nearly as tall as he did. He always marched at the front of the squad from the Billet to work, and the Corporal in the rear. The Corporal had been to Russia at the front and was invalided back. He was a decent type and very often said he was too ill to accompany us. Oh dear the little guard then went through it. We stuffed part of a bunch of flowers in the end of his rifle, he didn't know until somebody at the barracks shouted to him. Other times we would suddenly march quickly so that he finished in the middle of the squad, then slow down to his speed but keep him in the middle. We would march through the main gate of the camp, he would march to our cabin, but we would divert by another way, leaving him marching on his own. The Major would shout out of his window at him, then tell us not to take the 'Mickey' out of our guard, but he had a smile on his face when he turned away. The Corporal over the guard sometimes marched with us to work and a few times collapsed en route. We just picked him up and carried him to the medical centre.
After they got the main stables finished, some of us were put on gardening. We grew vegetables for the soldier's kitchen; any surplus was taken to another depot. I was put on gardening; the gardener was a Lance Corporal Ferdinand, Ferdie to us. I was called the 'young man'; I was the youngest there. The garden had a horse; he was not a shire, but that type, he was massive. He knew more English than the Germans and he was like a lamb with us, but deadly to a German. He had a chain behind him in the stable to stop him kicking the Germans passing. We even had to go on a Sunday to feed him; the Germans dared not go near his head. I don't know what happened to him when we left. He always got more food than the others, when the horses were fed the Germans went to a cabin and got each horses ration, we went along and said it wasn't enough. We were told that we couldn't have any more, but we'd pass a couple of fags over and get double rations. The next day, we would say, 'you wouldn't want us to tell the Sergeant that you demanded cigarettes off us for extra food for the horse would you?', and so it went on. He was groomed every day thoroughly. He had sweets and chocolate from the Red Cross Parcels when we had any, also some of our bread ration. The Major in charge was a First World War Dragoon, first class horseman. He would get forty or fifty soldiers on parade and ask us to bring the horse; they then got a lecture on how to look after horses. At dinnertime we would take most of his harness off and slap his backside, he always took the shortest route to our cabin; it didn't matter which way we went. He stood outside with his head through the open window. Ponting, one of our crew put the gardener’s hat on one day, he was stripped to the waist. The horse reached out and bit him on the chest, hospital for Dennis.
We were finding our feet and superiority and said the German's were stealing our rations, we wanted our own cook. Agreed. Mick Harvey took on the job and it was agreed for him to clean the billet every day, repair boots, repair clothes and they gave him all the tools, including an old sewing machine. He collected our ration every morning; sometimes he cooked it in the German kitchen, sometimes in our billet. We also gave him stuff from the parcels when we had it, biscuits were ground up and with sultanas, made into a boiled plum duff. Mick turned out to be a good cook, innovative with what he had. If he wanted anything from the garden, we got him it by fair means or foul. If he ran out of leather for repairing boots, a horse lost a bit of its harness. The Germans at the depot were either old, disabled or barmy. One soldier had a bad limp; Eric Sharpe hit him on the shin with a hammer and innocently asked if it was wood. A yell and a shout and a hop and we were told 'nicht holz', (not wood). Another one was always asking for cigarettes, so we got two hairs out of the horse's tail and threaded them through a fag, that made him cough and he didn't ask for another. Back at the billet at Christmas they sent us a four-gallon container of wine. It must have been watered down, one part wine to four parts water. We boiled some sultanas and put in, not much difference. Then someone had a brainwave; there was methylated spirits in shoe polish. So anybody who had shoe polish tipped it in after melting it. The black brown scum on the top was skimmed off and the wine was drinkable, just, but a short time later, we didn't know how to stand up. I lay on my bed and it couldn't have been worse crossing the Atlantic on that bed, it went up and down and side to side. I was supposed to be the First Aid man and somebody came and asked me to go to Crafty as he was very bad. I said let the bugger die, I am doing.' The urinal bucket got full that night, Kiwi said he would empty it, he threw the contents through the window, but forgot to open it first. It was a good job none of our beds were near that window.
The guards were changed now and again, when the little one left we got a big Mongolian with slitty eyes. He was always asking to taste our food from the parcels. He had to be taught, we mixed a can of mustard into a cup. He wanted to try it so we said it was custard. We gave him a big desert spoonful of it. He said it was good but hot and with tears in his eyes, he stumbled downstairs. He never asked again. I got my first letter from home in October 1941, the first news I had had since leaving home. Tom got one about the same time; we always read each other's letters. We were supposed to get a Red Cross parcel every week, but we didn't. I think it averaged out at about every two weeks. We got a fair supply of cigarettes; I had a parcel from Betty and a parcel from the Royal Engineers from time to time. At Gosting, Kiwi Coatsworth began to be disturbed, talking irrationally, crying in the night. We got the guard to take him to the doctor, we never saw him again. Later we heard he had committed suicide. He couldn't stand the life.
In January 1943 they moved us all out, split us up. All bosom pals were split and sent to different work camps. Tom and I were not split up for some reason; we didn't live in each other's laps perhaps. Chaps were sent all over, three of four of us were sent to Liebenau. I don't know whether they moved us because we were practically running the veterinary camp, or whether they thought it would be bombed. However, off we went. Tom and I and I think two others were sent to Liebenau. It was a bitterly cold day, snowing, but when we got there Sid was off sick, made us welcome, made us a cup of tea; nectar. That was our first meeting with Sid, Charles and the others we met at night when they left work. Tea was often in short supply, it was brewed, dried, boiled up next time, dried again and if we were short of cigarettes, it was smoked.
As soon as we had had a cup of tea we were taken to our place of work, Tom and I were split up. He went to a market garden, the same as me but different owners. I went to Herr Vesel in Rosengasse; they made my acquaintance and expected me to start work immediately. I politely told them to forget it; I would start work the next day. I don't think I ever got on with the boss after that, he was very old, late 70's and never worked. The Frau was a little better, the daughter, Albina, was like her Dad. We got on ok but she was a slave driver, but she soon found out how far she could go with me. The servant girl worked in the house for a short while and then out in the garden, Theresa, (Resi). I think she worked as hard as anyone did, but I got on quite well with her. The billet was part of a pub, the dance floor in peacetime. The pub was closed during the War. Our room was next to the cow stable and we were inundated with fleas. Every morning our shoulders and hips were covered in fleabites. -On a nice sunny Sunday we hung our blankets (2) on the fence, the fleas stood out in the sun, we squashed them between thumbnail and had one night of bliss.
The people we worked for had to collect us in the morning, 7am, and return us at night, 6pm or dusk in winter on weekdays. Sunday about 8am to 4pm, we only uncovered and covered the hot beds on Sundays. It was the one-day I had a decent dinner, roast chicken or rabbit with vegetables, the only time I saw meat. They got a little ration of meat, cheese, and butter for me, I never had it. I enquired and was told the old people wanted it to keep their strength up. The girls and me lived on boiled potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, maize meal and a bit of bread. I don't like spinach anymore either. The old man about 80 years would often grumble at me not working hard enough, I would reply that I wasn't there to win the war for Germany, perhaps not quite as politely. He upset me one day, I do not remember how, but I went for him with a fork, it had been years since he moved as quick, his daughter screamed at me. I don't think he ever spoke to me again. Resi did my washing every week; I paid her with a bar of soap or chocolate now and again. We were not allowed to talk to civilians or them to us. Actually the owners were only supposed to talk to us about work. It didn't actually work. People along the road usually passed the time of day.
When the bombing started round there more people spoke to me, agreeing with it if it would shorten the War and not affect them. One widow who lived at the bottom of our garden, a proper hag, used to shout at me and call me `schweinhund', I went to tell her the Russians were coming and signalled a noose round my neck and up into a tree and pointed to her. Albina, the daughter, used to move me away from that part of the garden and tell the woman to keep her mouth shut. There was one lady who came from Graz on a Thursday and helped get produce ready for market, tying together, washing etc. She got killed in an air raid on Graz. Her husband called shortly afterwards, I disappeared, thought it would be better, but he came down the garden to me and reassured me it made no difference between us. He said it was war and I couldn't do anything about it. Our garden was hit quite a few times. I had built a bunker to go into during raids. Once we were all in or at the bunker and the old lady said the dinner was on the aga and it would burn. I ran to take it off, in the meantime planes were overhead dropping bombs. I was just going out the door and I heard a bomb falling. I lay flat on the floor and got tiles and wood all over me. I went outside and a bomb had fallen near the bunker. Resi was just getting up, she was coming to warn me, and she had been lightly buried by soil. I think she was too near to the bomb for it to hurt her. She was pleased I was ok and I was pleased she was so we had a cuddle. I wouldn't have cared about anyone else. That bomb did a lot of damage to the house and buildings, the horse's stable roof fell in and the horse, very temperamental at the best of times nearly went mad, in fact it was screaming. Every time it moved it trod on tiles, the noise made it worse. No one could get in to let it loose, so I climbed through the non-existent roof, dropped into the manger and released It ran into the yard which was also covered in tiles, they couldn't catch it. After a bit I managed to get hold of its halter rein and led it into the lane where it quietened down a bit, it's body looked as though it had been rubbed with soap suds.
We had quite a bit of work to do apart from the garden, our people got Tom to come for a few days to do a bit of brickwork and plastering. I think we had four or five bombs in our garden, holes had to be filled in. The gardener at the end of our road was always friendly, he came round and said 'Johann, there is a hole in our pigsty.' I went round; there was certainly a hole but no other damage. I looked in and could see the tail fins of a bomb. I told him he had an unexploded bomb and walked quickly away. I told him to go in the house to the other side and stop in. He rang the police and a PC came and shouted to me 'are you a POW?' I agreed. He said 'you think there is an unexploded bomb?' I said 'no, I am sure.' He cleared off; he hadn't been within a quarter of a mile of it. Later in the day, soldiers came with a gang of workers and dug it out. I believe they used Russian POW's or convicts from their own prisons. (Dig out ten bombs, if you are still alive you are free.)
During daylight raids the Americans bombed indiscriminately, one end of Graz to the other, during the night the RAF Pathfinder dropped a flare on what was to be bombed and most of the bombs were dropped in that area. The marshalling yard and railway were bombed one night. Next day there were engines and wagons up ended, on their sides, railway lines stuck up in the air. The chap who carted manure from the camp in Gosting (where I had worked) to the market gardens had a tractor and large trailer. We went to Gosting the next day, Albina and Resi cycled but I went on the trailer. The driver said when we passed the railway, 'Johann, do not laugh, you don't know who is watching.' On the way back we were in the middle of Graz when the Air Raid Warning went again. All traffic except Emergency Vehicles had to stop and everyone had to get to the shelter; we were near to the tunnels under the clock tower. I told him I wasn't going in there with hundreds of Austrians, so I climbed down off the load of manure and sat underneath it, he had to do the same because he didn't dare leave me. I also went with the same man for manure for the other gardener at the end of the lane. Once when we got back and unloaded they took me in and gave me bread and cheese and cider, on returning to our place the girls were hoeing potatoes. I lay down at the end of the row and fell asleep. Albina played hell, Resi laughed, I think if Albina had dared she would have kicked me awake.
For a short period we had a Ukrainian girl, only fifteen. She had hardly any clothes for cold weather. Wooden shoes and a piece of cloth for socks. I did persuade the girls to give her some proper clothes to wear, which they did with bad grace. They gave her work which I found heavy, she was quite uneducated and a peasant. I finally told her to tell the powers that be that the work was too heavy; glory be they agreed and took her away. Our people knew I had something to do with it, but I denied everything. However another girl came, absolutely different, we both knew a bit of German by this time. She could discuss Dickens, Sir Walter Scott books and Shakespeare plays. She was also a little devil. She was always looking for a bit of sabotage, putting her foot through the glass, walking through the seedlings, all sorts of things to annoy. She got on to me for not doing the same, I said if I did it as well we should both get locked up. She laughed like hell and asked if it would be in the same cell. They got rid of her so I was on my own again.
Meantime at the billet, some of the chaps had girl-friends. Verboten. Sid had Anna, Cecil Thorne had his boss, a widow. Dickie Baird had his boss's daughter, Jack Watts had a very smart piece, a solicitor. One or two of the lads went down the road to a French POW camp, there was a brothel there and the girls were inspected regularly. Of course Gordon MacCallum had to be different; he picked a middle-aged lady from Graz, who gave him gonorrhoea. Panic stations! We told him to go see the doctor; she lived in a big house near our billet. He took her some chocolate and asked her to keep it quiet. Low and behold she treated him and kept quiet. Each time he went he took her soap or chocolate or something out of our parcels. Of course all these meetings had to be at night, except Sid, Anna worked on the next garden. The billet had double doors, one opened for normal passing in and out; the other was fastened by finger bolts pushed up and down in the closing part of the doors. We hammered a spoon handle very thin which could be inserted between the door when we were locked in end pushed the bolts up and down. Both doors would then open together and out they went. When they came back before lights out, we opened the doors, let them in and fastened the bolts again. One day someone hadn't fastened them properly and the guard spotted it when he unlocked the doors; he also saw the scratch marks. The powers brought a big iron bar to go across both doors, fastened to the brickwork, hinge at one end, clasp and lock at the other. This rather curtailed the Romeo visits. Christmas came and Jack Watts wanted to go to his girlfriend's Christmas party, he also wanted to take Tom because he could play the piano. The two of them made up their beds and went out before we were locked in. On their return they were supposed to knock on the window. We were beginning to think they had been caught, but about 2am we heard a knock. We knocked the guard up and said a lot of us were sick with diarrhoea and would he let us out. He grumbled but got up and unlocked the bar and the door and about ten of our lads went to the toilet, but twelve came back in. Tom had had a smashing time playing the piano and drinking and eating.
In the meantime something had to be done to get the lotharios out and in. The windows were barred, two down and four across I think. We sawed through each one, fastened them with soap mixed with black shoe polish. All who wanted to go had to go at one time and return at the same time, and then the bars were secured again. This was always after lights out when we were in bed. At that time it was my turn to be MOC — man of confidence they called it, I was told to stay behind when the SS were coming to check up. We were not allowed unopened tins out of parcels, they all had to be opened before leaving the parcel room. Of course we got plenty out still closed but took them to work out of the way, but not Freddie Hertzog; he hid one tin in his mattress. Of course it was found, the SS took every mattress outside and emptied all the straw out and left it, they found no more tins. When the lads came in from work, they played hell with Freddie, I think he was the least liked anyway. But worse was to come. They turned the place inside out, photos, tins for shaving, water, everything was thrown out. Worse again, they went round trying the bars on the windows, and would you believe it, one set came out in their hands. One of the SS stood there with the bars in his hands in front of him. I could see the funny side and laughed. The Sergeant stood to attention, his hands stiffly at his side and shouted his head off at me. It was a typical German reaction, and of course everybody was frightened of them. I just stood there; he said `do you understand?' I said 'speak slowly and don't shout.' His face was blue, then red and then white. He fetched our guard in and set about him, he had to get some clean pants after they had gone. I said the bars must have been put in a long time ago, but they said the bars were put in when the billet was opened to keep us in. I said they had done that because we had never had an escape. The same day a welder came and welded them all together. The Germans had little sense of humour.
We had a stove in the billet and each gardener took it in turns to bring wood for us to burn, there was plenty of wood about, there was a big saw mill not far away. We ran out at one time and were without wood for a couple of days, except what we carried from work or nicked from fences. However the lads decided not to go to work until someone delivered some wood. I was still in charge. The gardeners all came to collect us in the morning, we were all ready for work but refused to go until some wood was delivered. The guard rang though to the barracks, a Corporal and Private came and took me away. Somebody delivered the wood but the lads would not go back to work until I returned. In the meantime I was put in a cell at the barracks. After a few hours I was taken in front of a Major who quietly read me the Riot Act — strikers were shot in Germany he said. I was marched back to the billet and to all the lads there. After explanation they all returned to work. The guard said he would take us all, but we just walked out on him and went alone. The next day we got a new guard, a decent sort actually.
Sid came round all the gardens one day, visited ever POW and told us the Invasion had started. My folk wanted to know what Sid wanted, I told them. They were rather quiet but said I might soon be going home. We had a radio set at the billet; the wordks were in the guard's room and a speaker in our room, we could only get one German station. However, some of the lads listened to English radio at work, and found out Churchill was broadcasting one evening. O'Meara, an Aussie was a wireless operator, electrician, the lot. He from somewhere got some coils I think and put them in the radio. At the appropriate time, Athol Heath and me went to talk to the guard and keep him occupied whilst the lads listened to Churchill. Suddenly the guard said 'quiet', stood up and said 'Churchill.' He picked up the wireless and threw it across the room. He said 'I have treated you more as friends than POW, if anyone had heard that I would have been shot.' We said, 'sorry' One day at work I was told to go to the kitchen and tell them what was on the radio. It was Richard Dimbleby, commentating on the crossing of the Rhine. They must have listened to the German language broadcast on that station, they couldn't understand English but knew it was something exciting because of the shouting and the guns. I told them what it was, and they said I would soon be going home.
The Russians were advancing and the British and Americans were coming up from Italy. The Germans rounded up all POW's ready to go to the Tyrol out of the way. Sid and Charles disappeared and were captured by the Russians but released later. Tom and I also cleared off but when we found out the Russians would be nearest, we decided to go back. The police picked us up and took us to a camp where a lot of others were who had decided not to be picked up by the Russians. There were about 200 of us, and we followed in the footsteps of the earlier party. We walked across Austria, about 100 miles. We had a tin of beans given us; they were soaked every day and boiled every night and still were as hard as iron. We were also given a part loaf of bread for the journey. When we got to the journeys end there were thousands of allied POW's and also thousands of Russians, but kept in a separate stockade to us. We were released by the Americans on May 8th 1945. They couldn't do enough for us. The Russians had typhus in their camp and the Americans inoculated thousands of us against it in the matter of a few days. They arranged for food, only a little, but very welcome. They rigged up radio and loud speakers, told us to listen at 11am on May 9th, Churchill would speak. (Not sure of date or time.) We all stood there, you could have heard a pin drop, not many dry eyes in the compound. It hadn't been too bad a time compared with some of our lads, on heavy work, down in the salt mines etc. Also, it couldn't be compared with the Japanese POW's. The good times were easy to remember, the bad forgotten.
Anyway, after a few days the Americans split us into parties of 25 and told us to stop in that party. Lorries came and picked up a party at a time and took them to Salzburg Airstrip. It was a continuous shuttle during the day. Planes then took 25 to France, en route home. Our party was the last one that day, no more planes. Americans gave us a film show, breakfast the next day (bacon, sausage, pineapple, egg, bread and coffee). We had slept under the trees. After breakfast we were told to get to the Air-Strip quickly. We did. A Dakota mail plane crewed by Canadians was there returning to England empty. All the other planes had flown to France, then to England by another plane. We thought we were lucky, but we ran into a lot of turbulent weather, thunderstorms, wind and rain. One of the crew said 'you are looking crook mate.' I said I was and felt it. He told me to lie down on the floor. I did and felt a lot better. The plane only had wooden benches round the sides. Anyway, we landed in Brussels, the crew said it wasn't really safe to go any further. The Red Cross met us in Brussels, took us to hostels, beds with white sheets, (The Ritz). They gave us some money to go out and get some food, back in by 10pm, up at 7am, breakfast supplied, back to the plane, flew home to England, somewhere down South, I think it was near Amersham. I think this was the 25th May. We went through a rehabilitation depot. New clothing, foot wear. Interviews, any cruelty or whatever. Medical examination. People there to alter clothing to fit. Kit bag with all the equipment. A telegram to send home, all printed except for address and signature. Probably the PO had a code word for it all. When we got off the plane I kissed the ground and told Tom, 'that's it, never again.' I did though after I retired and was into my dotage. May 28th train to Nottingham, it was a through train to York, all ex-POW's. Got off at Nottingham, told it was a long wait for a train to Mansfield, so was taken to the bus station by a porter who carried my kit bag. Bus from Nottingham to Mansfield, crossed Mansfield to bus for Langwith Junction, queue for bus, never seen one before so put my kit bag down and stood at the head of the queue. I received glares from the woman behind and wondered why. Bus came in and Mrs Steele (Aunt Lil) got off, kept me talking so avoided any confrontation, on to Langwith Junction.