only real trouble has involved some French POW who apparently
were allowed by the Germans to come and go between the camp and
the town and it is difficult to restrain them now. Inevitably
several got out on Monday night and four Frenchmen got into trouble
with a Russian patrol in the vicinity with the result that three
were shot and killed.
Yesterday my back became very painful due to continued standing
on guard duty at the gates and I was relieved of my duties. By
now most fellows have become resigned to a fairly long stay here
before repatriation and the whole camp is gradually being made
into the semblance of a RAF station with all the usual sections;
even sports and entertainments are being organised on a proper
footing for the first time.
Today however an interesting new development has taken place
affecting our small group of four as Ted Walker has been asked
to organise a Carpenters shop in order to carry out repairs and
any small jobs which may crop up. A workshop already exists outside
the camp and since the German departure it has been used by a
few Frenchmen for their own purposes. I accompanied Ted to the
workshop and acted as a somewhat inadequate interpreter in order
to prepare the French for our occupation. We had HQ permission
to move in and use part of the building as living quarters but
we expected to meet considerable opposition from the French;
however they accepted the situation without argument and we immediately
began to arrange things to our satisfaction with Ray Hartwell
and Johnny Sutton thus retaining our group intact. Actually only
Ted and Ray are skilled carpenters but no doubt Johnny and I
will be able to pull our weight as unskilled labourers.
May 5 1945. Since
I last wrote much has happened but nothing which gives us any
hope that our repatriation is near. To continue the story following
our occupation of the workshop, it requires much cleaning and
reorganising both as living quarters and as a Carpenters shop
so that it took two days before we were really settled. We were
given free rein in the Stores and we appropriated spring beds
and other bits of furniture so that we were more comfortable
than ever before in our prison life besides enjoying peace, quietness
and some privacy; we even managed to acquire a radio set which
was a great boon.
About the same time as our removal was taking place a Russian
repatriation Committee of about 100 arrived, including some women.
At first this caused great rejoicing but it soon became known
that they held out no prospect of an early return home and for
the time being could only help to make us as comfortable as possible.
During this period we knew from reports and actual gunfire that
considerable German forces were still in the neighbourhood so
that it was generally accepted that the Russians could not move
us until these forces were eliminated. For the reason therefore
that this was still very much an operational area, the Russians
issued an order that no one was to go into the town as not only
would prisoners endanger their own safety but their presence
in the countryside would hamper Russian operations. In fact this
order was not being strictly obeyed owing to holes in the wire
but so far no untoward incidents have occurred.