April 30 1945.
There was very heavy gunfire in the district and we went to bed
to the accompaniment of explosions to the N and E. About 11pm
there was a loud banging on our front door and a guard from the
main gate was there to warn us that a German attack on the camp
in order to get food was imminent; consequently we were advised
to return within the wire. We wasted no time and while Ray and
Johnny returned to our old barracks, Ted and I went to HQ in
search of the facts; we learned that the Germans were no longer
likely to attack but that our section was detailed to move the
next morning as an advance party to prepare a big camp near Juterbog.
When we got back to our old barracks all the lights were out
and it was impossible to find a bed, so we retreated to the main
Guard room and claimed two palliasses on the floor. This was
quite comfortable and we dozed off only to be disturbed at 2am
by the guards coming off duty; we were duly ejected from our
temporary sleeping quarters but this was too much and we decided
to return to our own beds in the workshop, Germans or not. At
the gate we were stopped by fully armed Russian guards who ignored
our passes and made it very clear that we would not be allowed
out. Finally we got beds at Police HQ and slept until daybreak
when we succeeded in getting through the wire into our own quarters
feeling tired and fed up.
May 1 1945.
We were up and about early in order to prepare for the move but
before describing the extraordinary events of that day I must
mention an incident which happened to Ted the previous afternoon.
He went to the stores with a small handcart to collect some tools
and he left the cart outside the door while he talked with the
storekeeper When Ted came out after a few minutes the cart had
gone and from a bystander he discovered that an American NCO
had calmly walked off with it; Ted quickly borrowed a bike and
dashed off to the American quarters where he failed to find any
trace of the cart. On his way back he was stopped by a Russian
who dispossessed him of the cycle and so within half an hour
Ted lost both handcart and bike both of which he had borrowed
in the first place.
After our disturbed night we packed as much as we could find
of carpentry tools and personal kit so as to be ready for immediate
departure but it was nearly midday before we were instructed
to join the main party at the other end of the camp. No transport
was forthcoming, although it had been promised, so we had to
rush around for another handcart in order to get all the packing
cases to the main gate. There we found that there was only transport
for equipment and that personnel had to march so the four of
us decided to take our handcart and tag onto the rear of the
party. We made our way through woods and sand flats for a few
miles until we reached the main Berlin-Dresden railway line after
which we walked along the track to our destination.
We had no Russian guards and were led by a member of our Reconnaissance
Section who had done the journey previously. After being cooped
up for so long it was a very pleasant walk with evidence here
and there of recent battles but no damage was seen to country
dwellings or to the railway line. All the houses displayed white
or red flags and many had notices written in Russian on the gates
but very few people were seen.
Everyone kept a wary eye for signs of any Germans, who were known
to be scattered in disorganised bands throughout the area, but
none were seen or heard. During the walk we were passed by several
POW on cycles who were trying to reach the American lines across
the River Elbe and numbers were leaving the camp for this purpose
contrary to Russian and Allied orders.