Bill Goodall's Diaries: 1941/1945 
 February 1945

Early in the afternoon we experienced a high wind with blinding snow which made marching very uncomfortable along flat roads through fields covered with thick untrodden snow or along avenues of pine trees; it was a very sparsely populated area and singularly unattractive after one has seen the pine forests for the first time. Towards dusk when we knew we must shortly halt for the night the column took a wrong turning and had to retrace the route for a mile; spirits were already low and this incident was a further blow after a long hard day of unaccustomed marching. However soon after 4 o'clock we entered a long straggling village called Kunau and at the far end we came to a large farmyard surrounded on three sides by big barns where we were to spend the night. These barns and the lofts were used for storing flax straw and were completely without heat or light so that by the time 1000 men had managed to find space to lie down it was dark and there was no alternative but to settle down for the night.
The barns were not locked but guards were posted all round the farm on which a number of French and Polish prisoners were working but these guards were not vigilant so that a few Frenchmen among us were able to contact their compatriots and hide until the Russians arrived - at least that was the plan but we never heard what became of their venture.
As for our party of 11 this first night in the flax was by far the worst we had to endure; in spite of two blankets each, all our clothes and burrowing deeply into the flax, the cold was intense and sleep impossible; in addition most of us had difficulty in keeping the circulation going in our toes. When I set out next morning the pain in my toes convinced me that I had frostbite and this together with blisters which had developed on each heel made the following day an agonising one.
Meals in the barns of course were very scratch affairs although our group was lucky enough to succeed in bribing the farm people into supplying hot water for a brew at breakfast time. This was the first of many occasions on the journey when bribery was accepted and we were surprised at the willingness of Germans to trade with prisoners of war for cigarettes, coffee, soap and chocolate; they had been short of these things for many years but I doubt whether British civilians would have behaved similarly towards a body of German prisoners marching through England.

February 1945. The next day's march began soon after 8am with snow still falling and everyone feeling somewhat worse than the previous day mainly due to lack of sleep for two consecutive nights and a good deal of foot trouble. We had spent such an uncomfortable night that our party of 11 was determined to fare better at our next farm so two of us had their loads lightened and shared between the remainder in order that they could lead the column; in this way they would be able to find a stable or other warm accommodation at the end of the day. We plodded on with short breaks every hour and 30 mins for lunch normally in the middle of a thick wood for shelter.
Here I must pay tribute to the German Commandant of Belaria who accompanied us all the way, usually on foot himself, and always with his magnificent Alsatian police dog. He had no responsibility for the march beyond delivering us from Belaria to Spremberg and I consider that he did try, within the limits of his powers, to act humanely towards us. If the SS had been in charge it would have been a very different story.


© 1995 William Motion Goodall & Ian William Goodall 

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