My war experiences are not unique and I was just one very ordinary soldier in a very ordinary war. Many other service personnel were involved in much more dangerous and unpleasant situations than I was. So you may ask why I bother to write about them. I suppose I would answer that because firstly, I survived when so many gave their lives for you who are now reading this, and secondly that there is a recent end to my 'war' experience that I never expected to fulfil. More about that later.
September 1939 was not the best time to start a war! Indeed, with a fairly new decorating business just beginning to show some long term promise, an 11 month old marriage and a baby due in one months time, it was probably the worst time possible. However, twice the war office were good enough to postpone the inevitable until in September 1940 the war started in earnest for me with a free train ride to Ossett and the promise of free accommodation, training in a new career as wireless operator in the Royal Signals and payment as well!
When the 'street bashing' (we did not have the luxury of 'Squares'!) finished, we were posted a few miles away to Huddersfield to do 5 months wireless training. The next stop was Richmond in Surrey, with '5 star' accommodation in the Richmond Palace Hotel. Most of the work was done in St James Park next to the pigeon loft (yes, the signalmen really did use carrier pigeons!) However, for me the work was done in Morse code and when 'Phantom' Division of signals was formed, I was draughted in with my trusted 'oppo', Watty Adamson - another Scot from Cydebank. We were to stay together though out the war and only separate when preparing for demobilisation.
Things were fairly humdrum and 'cushy' in Richmond but one of the highlights was working with our Captain, Peter Astbury, who was an outstanding academic and developed the 'Fumf' machine for encoding and decoding Morse messages. Very little has been said or written about this man who was much more at home with a blackboard and chalk, working out formulae, than he was at soldiering. I accompanied him as wireless operator when he went to the G.P.O Research Station at Dollis Hill, where the 'Fumf' machine was given its initial trials with the Post Office Telecommunication engineers. They were astounded at his ability to locate faults which occurred by simply getting on the blackboard with the formulae! At the end of 1943, I was transferred to L Squadron in Dollar, Scotland to train in mountaineering and survival for a proposed diversion in Norway during a possible cross channel landing.
On Day 1 of the Normandy Landings, our Colonel - Colonel McIntosh was summoned by General Eisenhower to be told that whilst American communications had failed, he had a perfect picture of the British & Canadian force movements through the efforts of Phantom Signals. McIntosh was instructed to get a unit of Phantom Signals to him Pronto! We were mobilised, travelled to Portsmouth and embarked on an LST. Arriving at 'Mulberry' , we were quickly alongside 'Monty' and set up communications with the 3 fronts. As decoded messages were given to 'Monty' at TAC HQ, I was rear linking the traffic to Eisenhower who was on the south coast of England. The weather was good and the activity around was 'hot'.
At the beginning of September 1944, we were flown by Dakota right to GHQ Paratroop Regiment at Harwell. We knew that something big was about to happen as we were issued with whatever kit we wished, including our red berets and jumping smocks. No questions asked! After a number of cancellations we were soon assigned a Horsa and set to work loading it with a Jeep with wireless gear, trailer, motorcycle and a folding cycle. Apart from our rifles, we had a Bren gun and a Piat anti-tank gun. The Horsa stood on the tarmac for 3 or 4 days. Each day we went in and checked the lashings on the equipment. Each day they were loose and the bottle screws had to be tightened up! It didn't strike us then, but thinking about it afterwards, it was obvious that the Horsa was sagging under the weight!
Sunday 17th September arrived bright and clear. We were assembled on the tarmac and addressed by Lord Tedder. After the usual pep-talk, he said - 'good luck lads, they're waiting for you' which turned out to be a prophetic statement! Setting off around 11am, the flight over the channel was uneventful and frustrating, as the inside of a Horsa is as black as the ace of spades and fairly cramped with the kit and troops. Five of us were in 'Phantom' detachment of the Royal Signals (advanced corps HQ) - Capt. Peter Astbury, Signalman Watty Adamson, myself, Harold Chapman the cipher clerk and a despatch rider. Others were 'hitching a lift' and included a Sergeant (possibly Russell Greenhalgh of RASC - only because he is the only casualty reported in the Tilburg area on 17th September and his grave is in Tilburg General Cemetery) and an American Officer. My diary records that there were 10 of us in total but that probably included the 2 glider pilots.
Things livened up a bit as we crossed the Belgian coast cloud and dense flak was reported by the pilots. Within minutes, the turbulence eased and the noise level diminished. The pilot reported that the tow rope had parted, presumably by the action of the flak or turbulence, and that although we were a few miles from the Landing Zone, he would try to glide most of the way. With the weight aboard, the Horsa had all the soaring capabilities of a breeze block and he quickly came back to report that he would have to land well short of the LZ but that he would get us down OK. He was right - the landing was superb with no casualties of either men or machinery.
On landing, we climbed the canal bank which was only a short distance away. There were some people - possibly farmers - running down to the opposite side of the canal waving yellow handkerchiefs. They warned of approx. 40 German troops at a bridge about half a mile up the canal. Pete Astbury stripped off on swam over to try to pinpoint our position on the map. He then returned for a larger scale map and swam across again by which time the German troops were beginning to surround our position and fighting commenced. The Jerries were throwing 'Potato mashers' at us and the British Sergeant caught the full blast of one of them. One of the lads who was closest to him reported that he had been killed. It soon became evident that we were vastly outnumbered and the American Officer waved the white flag and it was all over. I slipped down the bank and secreted my pocket book and diary under a bush, intending to return for it in the foreseeable future!
The glider was not ignited prior to capture and I am unaware of it's fate eventually. Watty and I and the 2 Glider pilots were taken by truck to a local jail - possibly Breda? where we were interrogated and during the following days were shuttled between Dordrect, Amersfoort and Rotterdam before finally being taken by train to Limburg This train journey took 3 days and 4 nights and was particularly uncomfortable. We arrived at Stalag 12A on Friday 22nd September. On 12th October we were tranferred to Stalag 11B and on 10th November to Salzgitter, where we worked as slave labour on the railways at the Herman Goering Steel Works, until liberation 11th April 1945.
In 1994 I visited the 50 year
Arnhem Commemoration and was able to march with the other veterans. That was a proud
moment indeed. I am a Christian and on this trip
took a Bible and a camera. During the hurried exit from the Glider, I left the Bible and
camera under the seat. During interrogation, I requested the Bible from the Glider. The
German officer said this was not possible. However, after some hours, I was recalled by
this same Officer and presented with a Bible belonging to a Sergeant Ernest Rowe or Rove
who was fatally wounded. (It could not have been the one in our Glider as his belongings
were catalogued and kept in a steel cupboard in the Officer's room.
I got the impression that he may have been killed a few days earlier and is likely to have been an airman).
When I vowed to return it to the Officer's wife on my return to Britain(!), the German gave me the dead
man's wallet as well. The Bible was well used during
incarceration, not only by me, but by 80 other prisoners in the hut where it circulated
every day. On return to Britain, the Bible and Wallet were eventually returned to the
officer's widow, Hilda, but unfortunately I have lost her address which was in March,
Cambs. The Bible was presented to them on the occasion of their wedding in Morecambe.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! In 1995, my son got in touch with Mr David Hall of the Glider Pilots Association who was able to identify our Glider as Chalk No 413, piloted by S/Sgt Campbell (Alex Campbell was originally from Portpatrick) and Sgt Mark. from 'A' Squadron, GPR.. The Tow plane was a Stirling Mark 1V piloted by F/Lt W M Stewart 125583 and navigated by F/O P. L. Avery 142337. The Operations record Book, RAF Station Harwell says ' Rope parted near Breda, all safe' and gives the landing position as 5137N 0457E which is just SE of the town of Dongen, between Breda and Tilburg. When in the vicinity on business, my son called in to the local Police Station to get the names of local radio stations and newspapers so that he could try to trace anyone who may recall the landing of the Glider. Within minutes, the police had traced a member of the resistance who recalled the event and laid on transport to view the landing site. The Police constable arranged to go on Local Radio the next day and make an appeal for any memories of the landing. This produced 8 contacts with photographs memories and memorabilia. One person still has the folding cycle taken from the glider and another is the daughter of the farmer who talked to Capt. Astbury. She was present at the meeting! On September 17th 1997, exactly 53 years after the first event, I stood on the exact spot at noon, with a number of people who recalled the event, together with Dutch TV, Radio and Newspaper reporters and commemorated that event.
The Dutch people of Dongen invited me to a civic reception, escorted me to a number of local museums and - the highlight of the trip - took me up in a modern glider, flew me over the Arnhem and Nijmagen bridges and landed me on the field at Groesbeek where I should have landed 53 years previously to be with the HQ of 'Boy' Browning. Who knows what might have happened to me if I had landed there originally? The Dutch people were so good to us. Their gratitude has spanned these 53 years and shows no sign of waning. They counted it a privilege to do this for me but it is I, and so many other soldiers who are indebted to them for their care, protection and consideration both during the war and after.I am now 90 and although I enjoy reasonable health, I am not quite as fit as I was in 1944! I doubt that I will ever go in a glider again but am glad that I was able to complete my mission, even if I was 53 years late!
Editor: Mr. Fulton also kept a Prisoner Of War diary. This is what he had written in it.
Liberated by the Yanks:
11th April 1945 STALAG XIB ARB/KDO 7001 Sunday 17th September:
It was a good day that morning and we set off by from Harwell (Now the Aldermaston site near Oxford) by glider about 11am to Holland. The take-off was good and in the air all went well but we struck cloud over Holland and as a result of a bit of jolting/AA fire the tow rope broke about 8 miles or so from the Landing Zone. This happened about 1.30 pm and the pilot made a very good landing where fields were small and ditches in most of them. We got a bit of a jolt on landing but pulled up just as one wheel slid into a ditch. About the place was an odd farm and so Pete (the Captain) decided to make for one of them and see how the land lay then, as there were only 10 of us we would come back and collect the jeep etc. and get going. As we approached the farm, the farm folks flocked towards us but between us was a river or canal. Pete decided, as they were very friendly, to swim across, take a map and get our location. He stripped and with nothing but short pants and shirt, swam with the map above the water. He got our location and came back but took another map over for accuracy. However (about an hour after landing), before he returned, shots were ringing out. Civvies told us that there were about 40 Jerries along at the bridge who could be overcome as moral was very low. They however had got round us and were potting from all angles and were closing in on us. A Yank officer, Watty and myself were detailed to stay put and the rest would retire. But as we had only 1 Bren magazine and a couple of rifles against potato mashers and automatics, the Yank, after a sergeant got shot, decided to pack in. With hands above our heads, we were marched to the bridge, along with the rest who gave up behind us. We were stripped of most of our kit although I managed to keep my signals satchel with washing and shaving gear. Here we were parted from Pete but Harold Chapman, Watty & I and the 2 pilots were taken to the main road about a mile away and there they put us on a lorry and took us to a nearby town (later found to be Dongen) where we stayed in the room in the HQ (later found to be the town Hall).
The German officers were very good and one spoke not too bad English. He had a cousin married to Price, a well known London writer. At dark about 8pm, they put us on a motor lorry and about 6 guards all with their guns levelled on us. After a rotten journey, we arrived at Dordrecht about 2pm and parked on some chairs in the guard room. In the forenoon, we were interrogated by an officer who was very good. I told him I had left my Bible in my bedroll in the glider but he said it was too late now. However, later he called me in and gave me a Bible which belonged to a Sergeant who was killed (RAF, probably some days before) called Ernest Rowe. When I said I would try to return it to his wife, he gave me his pocket book with its contents as well. He seems to be a Christian according to the snaps and booklets. I was ever so pleased with the Bible as this was going to prove a blessing. In the afternoon, we were taken to Rotterdam by truck but as the trains were not running and things at a standstill, we were taken to a big house HQ and there in the porch we spent the night. In the morning, we were returned to Dordrecht. There we joined other 30 odd Airborne Troops who had been captured. We were put in a cellar and almost suffocated as they made us close the shutters to keep the Dutch from crowding round the windows and nothing but shots from the guards kept them away. Eventually the guard opened the door and gave us some air. Next day we were taken to Amersfoort by truck and then into carriages (3rd class with windows) with 10 to a carriage. We spent 3 days and 4 nights in this. At night I tried the rack, seat and floor and all sorts but were glad to get out at Limburg (near Koblenz) and march to our first POW camp - Stalag XIIA.
Saturday 23rd September:
After being stripped and searched, we were deloused and then issued with a Red Cross parcel. There parcels are whole stories in themselves. We all say - God bless the Red Cross! The RAF visited Limburg about a week ago and we were taken down on Sunday to dig bodies from the wrecked buildings. It rained all day and we got real soaking wet. Arrived back and instead of being in the brick hut where it was crowded with about 500 men and even then the floor was covered with men. I being one of them, we were put in a huge tent with nothing but ash as a bed and 1 blanket. I spent the night shivering and thought of pneumonia and all sorts. But the Lord said no - you are alright and prevented what was obviously a dose of flu at least.
About 10 of us were picked out and marched about 2 miles to Diez where we were put in a prison which resembled an old castle overlooking the town. We had mixed feelings as we climbed the stairs and were put in single cells which were cold but we had 2 blankets and straw beds. There we spent 3 nights and 3 days. Although the guards were good and one or two could speak a little English, I was glad to have my Bible to read and I did enjoy Pauls prison epistles. After interrogation, which was done mostly at night, we were put in a communal room with about 15 beds and were given a Red Cross parcel, which made all the difference and we settled down to 10 or 11 days in that place. How I wish the folks cold see the joy these parcels bring - it is indescribable. About the 11th October we were marched to X11A again and there joined 500 more paratroops and boarded a cattle truck (45 in ours). There were no windows and the only ventilation and light was through the cracks and crevices. We were so tight that we could not stretch out. We were parked in all the marshalling yards and stations they could find for hours on end. We were 3 days and nights on this deadly journey with awful sanitary arrangements (1 milk can) and so we arrived at Stalag XIB.
Here, after a search, we got dumped into a hut with 500 and I managed to get a bed, although it only had 2 long boards and 1 blanket. Some were sleeping 2 to a bed and most of the floor was covered. The conditions were better and the food better if anything. One is always hungry. A bulk ration of Red Cross was issued a week after we arrived but it was not as good as the American boxes. The routine here was roll call at 6.30 am, a cup of sienna tea at 7 then outside from 8 till 10 to allow the hut to be cleaned. A wash, a read of my Bible and a walk round the wire till dry rations came up about 12.30 if the RAF didnt stop them. This consisted of a 6th of a loaf, half an ounce of margarine, 1 spoonful of sugar and either a piece of stinking cheese or a quarter tin of herrings or a spoonful of jam. Tonight I have had the pleasure of a third of a Red Cross box. In the afternoon the meal of the day was a pint of whispering grass barley soup, or sour krout or carrot soup with 5 small potatoes with their jackets on. That is the lot until the next day at 6.30 am. Can you wonder at us being hungry?
Started on board a cattle truck for a working camp. Spent a terrific cold night and was glad when daylight came, even with 46 packed like herring. Two alerts during the night and we thought we were going to cop it in Hanover station. Arrived at Broistedt (probably Braunschweig (Brunswick) about noon 10th and were we glad? There were no sanitary arrangements. Marched about 6 miles to Herman Goering works (at Salzgitter). The conditions here are much better. Hot water and clean lavatories and with a hot shower between 1000 men in camp.
The first days arbeit for Jerry and what a day! Oh the cold! Reveille 0500 hours, moved to rail embankment at 0600, half hour off at 1230 for dinner - if any! Then finish at 16.30. So this is it! The food is slightly better but still no extras. Fifth of a loaf, 1 oz marg, one oz sugar or jam a week, spuds 3 times a week and about one and a half pints of skilly the other 4 days. Nothing but hard work to do.
Finished the first week and, like the rest, on our knees. Today we were deloused at Hallendorf (could be Burgdorf a few miles from Salzgitter) and that saved us going out to work. Roll on the end and we hope for good news on the 6th December.
Today we were returned from work at 9am and just at the lager were turned round - it was a false alarm. We got a bit of a thrill as we thought the war was over but not this time. Perhaps by the end of the month! - Then what! The work is very heavy and cold.
When we arrived in from work the parcels were on our beds - what a thrill! After I had a bean feast I was violently sick, but was alright in the morning. It is unbelievable the joy these parcels bring.
Received half a parcel yesterday and 16 cigs. Today there was a raid over Hannover and we watched the waves of bombers go in over the target and heard the stuff go down - it was deadly.
The RAF have been over the last 3 nights and struck the factory - lets hope they dont have any near misses!
Was working in the factory and when we got back had half a parcel - morale now 100% News very good.
Had a carol service and the siren just went as the minister finished. One bomb dropped on a lager and killed 4 and injured 30.
Jerry is reported to have launched a counter attack and has moved into the Yank lines. I dont put too much weight on this as it may be his downfall.
The weather this week has been very cold and it has been bad at the front as well. Glad to get finished at 3.30. The Book of Job is very appropriate thee days.
Christmas day 1944:
MENU: 7am, 2 slices of bread and spam and a cup of coffee Dinner - Spuds gravy veg and corned beef. Concert at 2pm which was very good. Tea - Two slices of bread and spam and coffee 1 pint beer and corned beef sandwich Not a bad days scoff! The rumour is that we have made a pincer move and lots of prisoners are being taken. I expect to be home by Easter now that winter is here.
I changed 3 cigs for a klim (dried milk) tin of wheat and it saved the situation - makes a good soup.
The snow is on the ground and yesterday was the coldest day I spent on the railway - what a mighty change from a year ago! The Lord knows best. Mail has been reported at Stalag for some of the airborne boys.
1st January 1945:
Coffee at 5.30 as usual with 2 slices of bread and spam and slept till roll call at 8.45. Freezing cold. There was a big raid on nearby and they dropped leaflets saying that the Home Guard are giving themselves up. Dinner - spuds, turnips, gravy and bully beef - Prunes and raisins and a Canadian biscuit. Tea 2 slices of toast and marmalade. Supper the same as tea. So I have spent the first day of 1945 in a POW camp. Lets hope we will be clear shortly. I think we should make it by Easter.
Received 1st Christmas parcel and it is a Scots one - Prima! Had a tin of stewed steak with my spuds, then a piece of cake and honey. God bless the Red Cross.
Today was Christmas dinner day and we had a real good scoff! Spam for breakfast, spuds and a tin of stewed steak then a 1lb tin of Christmas pudding and a pint of my own custard - it was prima! For tea I finished the cake and chocolate and for supper had toast and spam - ended a real good days scoff. We are getting air raids every night and although a bit off in the Hanover direction, they seem very heavy. I have found great comfort in reading the Psalms and in fact, the whole Bible takes on a new aspect.
We were issued with 50 Jerry fags tonight, the first time since being captured but they are no good for trading.
The news tonight is good and they are making headway according to plan and to Jerry. Psalm 20 ;18 is very suitable - Some trust in horses and some in chariots, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
Sunday 14th January:
Today we were bombed and it was terrific - bombs on both sides of us but only the canteen was hit by debris and the piano smashed. We reckoned about 1000 tons of bombs hit the area. It was terrific! The place rocked!
Another raid nearby and also one at night lasting a long time. Leaflets dropped about our advance. The weather is very cold and the lights are off since the raid on Sunday so things in the lager are not too bright. We are burning boot polish and what a smoke in the place! I will be glad when the lights are on again.
Today the lights went on and we are once again in comparative luxury. The factories are not working and not likely to be for some time. Today finished 10 weeks on the toughest party in the lager (30 party). Today it started snowing. There has been a good 4" of snow today. However in spite of us working in it all day, the Russians have advanced and also the armies in the west. According o the griff all around, the war should be over in about 3 weeks - lets hope so!
The famous party was out arbeiting today but owning to the snow I went krank. The news is really good but I have made my calendar up to the end of April. Lets hope this is the last and I dont have to use half of it. No Red Cross parcels this weekend but there is a possibility of a whole one next week.
The last day of 30 party and what a day! We were kept late and the police took the wood off us. I am now on 35 party.
We started off with a strike and the 2 sentries got their rifles trained on us and said "arbeit or nix arbeit". We decided discretion being the better part of valour to get the garbles in our hands at least. The ground was too wet to stand in. Joe (Russians) 80 km from Berlin and a break through in the west by the Americans. Roll on the day of liberation!! Or as we say - roll on these mighty armies!
Half a parcel after over a fortnights break. Hopeful for the next 2 weeks. What a blessing these parcels are!!
Today we had the shock of 6 men to a loaf - 250 gms not so good but we have expected it. Today we had another half parcel making 3 in one week - certainly a red letter week. The searchers on the gate were on the warpath but only the goodness of the Jerry Sgt. let me through with 2 kilos in the bottom of my smock.
Sunday 11th February:
Had a real good dinner out of the English parcel - currant duff, tinned strawberries and also the issue custard. The news rumour is that the Yanks have made a big break through.
Tonight I have had my first letter since being a POW. What a thrill!! I have read it twice already and will have another shuftie before the night is out. Its Cissies 7th letter and - oops - there goes the overhead!
Have replied to Cissies letter and just had a good scoff of egg and spam thanks to the Red Cross - What a Plus!
More raids during the day and strafing as well.
News of a big push by the Yanks. Also a prisoner en route from Fallingbostel (north of Hannover) says that he spoke to 5 Airforce chaps and they say that Blighty gives it 2 months - Good!! Another cut - Skilly 1 litre a day (1.76 pints) and 500 grams of spuds a week. This is almost half rations. This is a good sign but hard to bear!!
Horrific raid about 7 or 8 miles away. Seemed to be Brunswick. Lasted from 9.15 till midday. The griff is that there is fighting on the streets of Koln. This month will see big changes.
News good. Had a lucky 4 kilos from over the wire - Nae bother at a. No letter cards issued this week. Another sign of the end which is in sight.
Last night we had a raid on the factory - about 10 bombs were dropped in the area which made us jump. It seems to be Mosquitoes as they dont half get in and get out!
Received my second letter!! Truly the Lord is good! Surely the Lord is good. He is marvellous. How he cares and plans for His own. What a blessing to be one of His! Among the circulars and bills, today I got the thrill of thrills. That treat Im always dreaming of, a batch of Air Mail from my love. Youve heard that letters build morale, for prisoners, far from home, but Pal, I tell you, from a loving wife, they are the very breath of life!
Although it was Sunday, I was out working today. Yesterday Jerry admitted British and Yanks are over the Rhine. Speculation is running high - some say the end of the month, others 10 days. Myself I would give it to the end of the month. Would to God it was all over now. Alerts every night and during the day as well. Firewood was taken off us today - this makes us very bitter. The bread is now cut to 1600 gms per week (3 lbs 10 oz), so is the marg. ration.
A big raid this afternoon lasting over 3 hours. They dropped leaflets and the griff is good.
There was a terrific raid over the Hannover direction. How do they stand up to this? The weather is good and by the end of the month we should hear good news, or at least guns. Roll on these liberating armies!
The news last night was encouraging and tells the people in no uncertain sound what is coming from east and west. The griff re parcels is good. There is a load at Lubeck (on the north coast above Hamburg) but there is no transport.
Mail yesterday but none for me and still none for Watty. Air raids 3 a day at least and big ones too! I have read of smoke palls but today there was one over Hildesheim direction and it darkened the sun in a cloudless sky. Gives a terrible feeling, News is good of advances this side of the Rhine and the fall of Stettin. "Roll on these mighty armies".
A truck came from Stalag today and brought one letter - it was for me!! Arent I lucky!! It was posted 20th December. Had to stand a lot of banter as lots of the boys havent had any yet.
Had a good scoff of veg and stew from the parcel. The weather is super this week and so are the raids! Night and day and all around us.
Today rumour of airborne landing in 2 places this side of the Rhine.
Again good news. This is the final phase. 8 POWs were brought in on a cart, they are some of XIIIA & B who have marched across Germany. 6 weeks on the road. One of them died coming in the gate, the others are in a bad state. Reported that 70 British and 125 Yanks died en route.
Still more news of advancing armies but the parcels are finished and no prospect of any more. A quarter of the Med. parcel in store for issue when we are on our knees. Mail yesterday but none for me so I just read my 3 letters and especially the 1st one Ciss wrote. What a letter!! Last night saw the first alert-free night for the past 50 nights but the overhead has just gone so the war is still on - yes- Ill say! There was a raid and they bombed the factory. We were fortunate as they caught 2 parties out although nothing hit them - they were only a few yards off some bombs and nothing hit the lager. The light is off but the water is still on.
Holiday today - Good Friday. Although early yet, there have been a lot of alerts. The news is good although Jerry claims to have stopped the Yank thrust.
After arriving in from work we were issued with a quarter of a Med parcel and the news is that Kassel has fallen. They are only 80 Kms from here. Spec. is running high about arbeit. A big raid this morning - one plane blew up in the air and we saw some of the parachutes come down near the lager. Pieces of clothing fell on the lager.
Got a letter from Ciss dated 4th January. Good reading. The troops are supposed to be here in 5 days and the war over in 8. Roll on the boys.
Holiday today. Weather not so good as last week end. Went to concert in afternoon. It is amazing what can be done in a POW camp. How I am thankful I am a Christian with a hope that carries me beyond his world!
Report that Kassel fell last night confirmed. Krieg reported to finish in 10 days by Swiss radio. Para landing near Hannover.
Last night a rumour spread that we were being marched from here. But I have prayed that we are not moved as we have not much reserve to stand up to a road journey. The armies are slowing up again. Tonight I had my first egg since POW. Bought 2 for 2 oz tea and I fried one with some pinched spuds and we were issued with half a pint of cider. It made a really good meal.
Rumours of moving are strong. We will keep praying that the enemy collapses as this will be better for all. More of the boys have arrived after marching across Germany. They are in a very bad way - one died today.
No arbeit today. Was told last night to get ready to move at half an hours notice. So we are ready to go now. The day is good but only Proverbs 1:33 keeps me calm. 28 lads came in to join us and the armies are moving up behind them.
Still standing by. The rumour is we are cut off - lets hope so. Also the armies are only 38 kms away. One fellow caught trying to escape last night. Met Les Rickman, the first Christian in the camp. He is a Baptist. As I talked to him we got orders to parade at 3.45, so we left Herman Goering works. It is a beautiful day. We marched until midnight and not long after we left the fighter came over and strafed the works and barracks. In fact we thought we were for it as a column of 1500 men make a good target. Although a fighter sheered off we have a feeling they know we are here. We ultimately got to a big grain store at 2.30 am more dead than alive. We also had a Mitchell bomber shot down over us so the day was filled with excitement.
4 years ago today I came into the army. What a bit of life I have seen. I must confess the Lords hand has been with me and surely He has blessed me all the way through. The word of the Lord to Job which was inscribed on my Bible I got from the class is appropriate. This morning Bob Cass said that the boys were 8 to 10 kms away and that was our guns that were blazing away. The general alarm has gone in the village and the folks are taking to the fields. The Jerry guards with us are obviously worried and on the verge of collapse as they are much older than us and their feet are giving them gip.
11th April: The Day of Liberation!!
What a day. We were put on the road again yesterday and after marching about 10 miles we turned into a disused sugar beet factory. What a place. However I got a place in a dark corner and there were spuds in the building. Watty got half a sack so we made a boiling of spuds and a brew of tea and got down to it as we were foot sore and weary. There was heavy artillery fire all night and it shook the place. I was cold and couldnt sleep very well. Watty got up at 6 and made a boiling of spuds and I made the tea. Then I went out to get some water about 8.30 but I saw some of the lads carrying in milk and asked where? There was a creamery next to the factory where they were lobbing the milk out holus bolus and I got my share. I thought it funny the way they were dishing it up. However, after filling my inside I carried as much as I could into Watty and Bill. Just as I got in the cry went up - "Theyre here!! , the boys are here!!, Heres the Yanks!" Well you can imagine there was a mad rush and sure enough, at the level crossing a big Sherman was pulling up and another behind. There was a race across the railway to the tank but as the shots were flying I decided to stay put. Some Jerries opened up but in a few minutes the Yanks quietened them. After I quietened down I offered a silent prayer for liberation. As far as I could make out, our Captain and Lt.(Jerry) were both killed in the fray. In a short time we saw our guards being lined up and after shaking hands with some of the good ones, they were marched off. It was a touching scene seeing the decent fellows being stripped - but this is war and the tables were being turned. I went into a nearby house which looked like the creamery managers and the women were in a state. I gave one with a child in her arms a tin of Ovaltine and she was pleased. Then I came out and said to Watty and Bill, sit down and we will have a scoff. I opened 1 tin of creamed rice, 1 tin of raspberries and 1 tin of condensed milk, knocked them together and had a slice of bread with it. Just the job!. Then I strolled along and took a Jerry pack and some odds and ends that I needed and went along to the creamery. There the boys were piling out with butter by the armfuls and milk by the 5 gallon. So in I went and had about 3 lbs of butter, got Watty and Bill and we had a real good scoff of tinned meat, butter and Ovaltine. We lay to recover in the sun till 5. In the meantime, the American tanks and equipment rolled past and it was a sight for sore eyes. We were lined up - that was all who didnt get on the road beforehand - and were marched 2 miles to the nearest village where we were allocated billets in the civvies houses. We had boiled spuds and butter and so to a real soft bed. The night was the longest I had put in for a long time. I was too warm and al the experiences of POW went through my mind and so kept me from sleeping. Little wonder this has been a memorable day. Thanks be to God who releases the prisoners.
We watched the American transport going through and it is one continuous stream. Doesnt half shake the old prisoners. No word of moving yet and the rations havent come up yet so we are living on civvies more or less.
Had a good plate of soup and tea and treacle for breakfast. Egg soup and meat, spuds and carrots for dinner. This is breaking us in for bigger scoffs.
After a good dinner of milk, soup spuds and meat and a pound of honey I took out of a Jerry pack. We got orders to dress and move down to Yank trucks and load. They were driven by black americans and do they go! We had no less than 3 punctures all at one time. However, he wasnt long in putting them right by changing wheels and off we went arriving at Hildesheim about 5 pm. We queued for about 2 hours to register then for some K rations and a good scoff. Then we parked in one of the many drome buildings which were badly shattered by the bombing but nothing like the town its self. I have yet to see anything like it. What like must Berlin be? Not having any blankets, I didnt sleep much so at 6am. I rousted and got looking for a fire and some breakfast. Then the med. Exam and queued for 3 and a half hours for a mug of soup and coffee from there. Queued again for coffee and doughnuts - that took us till 5pm. I managed to get a letter away to Ciss so that is one good thing. I have just read Proverbs 10:3 - isnt it true? The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.
We hung around all day listening to names being broadcast but only Watty has a plane for tomorrow. I went and got a splinter out of my hand but my thumb is not good. About 30 planes took off to England after 7pm so it looks as though they are flying at night.
Had to go to the doc and when he saw my arm he said upstairs for 2 or 3 days. Did my face drop? Then Mac came up and told me I was allotted plane no. 81 but Doc said "no". I may lose my finger and I was to wait. So up I went and they gave me some scoff and penicillin. "He knows best".
Had 8 shots in one arm since yesterday and it is only 8pm. The arm is a bit better and the thumb too. Hope to get the plane tomorrow. The sights here are terrible.
Editor: The diary ends here and Mr. Fulton was repatriated the next day to Harwell and from there travelled via London and Glasgow to Ayr
by train. Mr. Fulton currently lives in Troon in the southwest of Scotland and has two children.
Sept. 2001: I have recieved the news that Mr. Fulton sadly passed away on the 26th September 2001.