Bill Goodall's Diaries: 1941/1945 
 January 1945

Editor's note: Bill recalled in 1985: "During January 1945 the Russians made a big push Westwards and there was a likelihood of our camp being overrun so, in order to hold Allied officers as hostages the Germans marched us out before the Russians could reach us. At the time I kept a record of our experiences on the march and of what happened after the arrival of the Russians. This account was scribbled in difficult circumstances and I must emphasise that this copy is exactly as I wrote it."

January 1945, "The Great March"

Excitement began on Sunday, January 21 with news of the Russian push which had started a few days previously outside Warsaw and which we had not expected to gain momentum so quickly; although the news was so good it alone would not have raised our spirits to the extent which was caused by the unending trek of weary civilians passing our camp from Sunday onwards. Almost without exception they had their worldly goods piled high on farm wagons drawn by tired horses through the snowy roads and in the bitter cold of that week.
Throughout that week the refugee trail went on and life within the wire took its accustomed course except that on Monday each man received a full Red Cross parcel having been on half rations since August. To offset this our bread ration from the Germans was first halved and then on Thursday it ceased due, said our captors, to the heavy demands made on local bakers by the huge influx of refugees.
Meanwhile of course there was great speculation as to whether or not we would be moved, until on Thursday the SBO [Senior British Officer] obtained an interview with the Camp Commandant - he then stated that it was most unlikely that we would have to evacuate. On the other hand the SBO instructed us to make preliminary arrangements for a march, particularly as to what food and equipment we should carry with us, he also advised us to limit our packs to 20lbs per man.
Tension grew rapidly as the week progressed and on Saturday afternoon, January 27, it was known that the Russians had crossed the River Oder to the South and were on the East bank not many miles from us. Opinion was still that we would be left behind by the Germans but about 7.30pm a Fiesler Storch communications aircraft circled the camp, dropped some coloured flares and landed in a field just across the main road. Whether or not this had any significance we did not know but at 9.45 the order was given to be ready to move off within 20 mins, subsequently we learned that this order came from High Command and was not the responsibility of the local Commandant.
Naturally this caused a tremendous amount of activity, not panic, among the 1100 or so inmates of the camp as, although some preparations had been made, we were by no means in a fit state to undertake a long march. In my room we were just about to play Bridge and within five minutes the place was a shambles with gear of all description littering the floor and tables on which it was discarded as being of no further use. Our greatest problem was food which formed the bulk of every Officer's pack and I think my load was fairly representative - 2 blankets, shaving gear, one change of socks and underwear with food consisting of dried barley, raisins, a tin of meat, half a loaf, biscuits, cheese, chocolate, tea and coffee. For actual wear I had my greatcoat, RAF issue boots, uniform, pullover, golf jacket, woollen scarf and a pair of long grey stockings into which I tucked my trousers.


© 1995 William Motion Goodall & Ian William Goodall 

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