Work Camp Kalsdorf bei Graz GW
Location: Kalsdorf bei Graz
Type of work: Hardware factory
Man of Confidence: Unknown
Number of Men: 20 approx.
|M.J.||Boloski||Pte||4839||New Zealand; also 565/L|
|Frank Stanley||Garraway||Gnr||RA||5057||also 10232/GW, 10931/GW|
1st April 1945
Easter Sunday - but one with a difference - the previous holidays had always brought a festive air into the village despite the war, with the menfolk in their Sunday best and the womenfolk with their full quota of colourful petticoats and aprons and knee-length stockings. That this one should be on April 1st, All Fools' Day, was coincidence as not many people were fooled about the changing times that were ahead.
With an unusually early start, the air-raid alarm sounded at 9.30 and we betook ourselves to the shelter, annoyed that our Sunday quiet should be so interrupted. Air raids in working time were one thing, but having our leisure interrupted another. However, there it was, and it was not long before the familiar drone of many bombers sounded and the white trails of condensation patterned the sky - the greater part of the activity seemed to be in the south.
Around 11 o'clock when the waiting around was starting to become tedious and there was little immediate air activity to gain our attention, rumours began to spread. Kurzman, the factory policeman, had a word with the guard and hurried off across to his home. On the road, a military convoy headed south. Several of the civilian workers went by armed with cases, bags; or one or two with handcarts laden with, doubtless, their more precious belongings. Later, the same convoy that had been going south reappeared in a northerly direction.
The rumours naturally spoke of Russians breaking through here, there and everywhere, but there was not any fact to be gained from anyone and so the day went on - no All Clear, consequently no lunch. This latter was not of great consequence as we were by now fully prepared for these long waits in the shelter. Eventually, the All Clear sounded at 4.30 and we returned to the billet, and thence to a thrice-welcome though belated lunch.
The German Sergeant came down to see the Guard in the evening and later he came in and announced that we should pack our goods and chattels, taking only the essential articles and leaving behind those that we could do without as there was the possibility of our having to march up into the hills as the Front Line was coming our way.
Consternation - three years in one place and one becomes rather settled and has accumulated quite a collection of books, clothing, etc. However, the order was there and a process of selection had to be followed. Clothes, yes; boots, yes; blankets, yes definitely. Books - oh dear, what a lot of them: German grammars, my German book on Crete, and novels - no, no, much too heavy. Alas! Food - twice definitely. And so with much pushing and packing, our loads were reduced to sizeable proportions, and for myself I had instituted a system allowing for discarding the less valuable should our travels become too arduous and our loads to be lightened. A haversack, a kitbag and a roll of bedding which with the aid of rope (the very long rope I had kept from Crete and which had been so handy in lowering water-bottles down deep wells there, and which had bound my luggage from those long, long ago days), as I say, with this rope I achieved what felt to be a good portable load without too heavy a sacrifice.
Tea, supper, 9 o'clock and all ready and waiting. But for what? Nothing, and so to bed.
But not for long - Midnight did not bring the solitary sound of the village church clock breaking the still night - it brought instead an air raid alarm. Sleepy-eyed and heavy we garbed ourselves and once more took the familiar path to the shelter. With no civilians in occupation, we had the length of the shelter to ourselves, ourselves that is and the Russians and an odd Yugoslav or two. And so, chatting, dozing, nibbling an odd snack or so, we waited and waited.
2nd April 1945
The All Clear did eventually sound that night, or should one say morning, for it was 4 a.m. when the murmur and hoot of sirens penetrated our drowsy minds and we tottered out into the grey light to return to our billet for a more comfortable if not long sleep. Certainly not long, for just before 8 o'clock the Sergeant told us to get our things, as we would soon be off.
Soon after 9 o'clock one of the Office Staff from the Factory appeared and with great punctiliousness proceeded to pay each of us our quota of Reichmarks for the preceding week's work, made up right until the Saturday.
The German sergeant was coming with us, as well as the Guard, and he enquired whether there was a handcart in the factory. Oh yes, the old four-wheeled hand-wagon we had used for so many different jobs - iron carrying, coal, sawdust, anything and everything had been pulled by one or more of us in the last few years. We could take that and tell the Foreman that we were using it to take our baggage and that of the Sergeant up to the Station. I think the Sergeant knew something because he had a massive great rucksack bursting tightly with all his possessions, a blanket or two round it, and his greatcoat.
10 o'clock - away! With a parting glance at our billet - the home for most of us for the past three years, a wave here, a word or smile for such of the factory workers who lived near us - chatter and laughter from the Russians and Yugoslavs, even some tears from the Russians who even then were in a highly excitable state, possibly imagining a band of Cossacks charging round the corner at any minute. Along the lane on which we had marched twice a day to our meals, round the corner by Pendl's Gasthaus, up the short hill past the Church, across the road into the courtyard of the Finzehof Gasthaus for our last meal from the hands of Herr Streck - our host (if such we may call him) for all those years.
We were too early for lunch - but a second ration of milkless ersatz coffee was at least refreshing if not tasteful, and then with his customary air of bestowing the largesse of the kitchen upon us, Herr Streck proceeded to distribute what were optimistically termed four days' rations - meat (?), rissoles, tinned meat, margarine, bread and potatoes.
I could never really estimate Herr Streck's true worth - indeed, how could one of anybody in poor, Hitler-ridden Austria, but I do think he did his best for us. The coloured eggs at Easter were after all not essential, and he often came in with a smile and a cheery word coupled with an apology for the paucity of the rations - and how could an Inn-keeper in wartime Austria really be cheerful?
So, Kalsdorf, farewell. Have we seen the end of you?
They certainly had seen the end of Kalsdorf. Over the next days parties
of POWs slowly gathered together and walked to Markt Pongau, arriving on 30th
April. On 28th May Gerry flew out from Salzburg and was back in the UK on the
They certainly had seen the end of Kalsdorf. Over the next days parties of POWs slowly gathered together and walked to Markt Pongau, arriving on 30th April. On 28th May Gerry flew out from Salzburg and was back in the UK on the 29th.