Stalag Luft 6 and 4 Notebook – Stalag Luft IV Sketch

(Posted: July 13, 2011)

The boats* (see previous Notebook post “Hold of Boat”) docked at Swinemunde and what relief it must have been to be in the fresh air after the stale stench and heat in the overcrowded conditions in the hold of the boat for two days.  But what would be next?  The only positive was that they were all in this together and they had the support of each other – the stronger and healthier helping their weaker and unhealthy comrades.  There would be moments of strength and weakness for all involved and they more than likely took turns encouraging each other to hang on. 

One can only imagine the feeble state of these men herded like animals without food or water and nowhere to relieve themselves at a time when dysentery was running rampant and their bodies were infested with lice.  They rode together in total discomfort for two days and they would be marched to be loaded into boxcars crammed together once again to continue their journey still fearing the unknown.

They realized that the potential to be bombed by their allies was a possibility as the cars weren’t marked.  They were locked into these boxcars without moving for hours, finally proceeding to their destination.  The mental, emotional and physical torment had to be unbearable.  They finally arrived at the Kiefheide train station, shackled together in twos, for their next harrowing experience – the run for their life two miles up the road to their next home, Stalag Luft IV in Gross Tychow (present day Tychowo, Poland).

The men were forced to continue in their deteriorating conditions.  They were double-timed up the hill at bayonet point with vicious dogs attacking anyone who fell behind.  There are many heartwarming and heroic stories of the more able bodied individuals helping those who faltered.  Many, in order to make the trek up the road, had to lighten their load by giving up their meager possessions.  The men would have been shot if they tried to escape and the brutal treatment by the guards was meant to incite just that action but fortunately the men stuck together well aware of the waiting machine guns.  An ex-POW, Oscar (Mick) Wagelie, who was involved in this frightening and cruel exhibition has written that he credits their camp leader and elected “Man of Confidence”, Frank Paules, for saving many lives by encouraging the men to stay cool and keep together and no matter what not to try to escape as they would be shot.  He perhaps saved my father’s life. 

It is also a possibility that my father was responsible for saving someone’s life.  It seems that when he arrived home from the War and spoke to his sister, Helen, of his particular experience in the “run” that he mentioned that the man he was chained to was unhealthy and weak and that he had to help him.  I believe that.  I only wish I knew the name of the man he was with.  It is most likely one of the names listed in his notebooks.

When the men arrived at their destination, Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow, on July 18, 1944, most of them had lost their belongings.  Many of them had multiple bayonet wounds and dog bites and were given little or no treatment.  I have read that they spent their first night or possibly 2 nights right where they were in the open and they were housed in tents for a few days until they were assigned to their barracks.  Another statement of this event by “Mick” Wagelie is the fact that he knew that one of the prisoners expired due to the wounds that he had suffered in this outrageous march.  My father would certainly have known of this death and perhaps would have known the victim.  This “Heydekrug Run” as it was called was another of the events involving the brutal treatment of the POW’s that would be addressed in the War Crime Trials after the War – another of the tragic occurrences that my father was part of.   And again, it was another happening that he put behind him.

 

This sketch of a Guard Tower at Stalag Luft IV could have been made as my father sat on the ground waiting to be assigned to a barracks or as he sat outside his barracks passing the time or perhaps it could possibly have been a view out of his window.  There’s no way of knowing but it is definitely a sketch outside the buildings as it obviously only encompasses the guard tower, the guard, the fence and the trees in the background outside of the complex.  This would be a view that the POW’s witnessed day after day after day dreaming of someday being free to walk outside the complex among those trees.

*The two freighters that the POWs were transported in from Stalag Luft VI to Stalag Luft IV over a two day period were the “Masuren” and the “Insteburg.”

5 responses to “Stalag Luft 6 and 4 Notebook – Stalag Luft IV Sketch”

  1. I found your posting to be insightful! Thank you.

  2. ???? says:

    hooray, your writings on theater and writing much missed!

  3. Louis says:

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  5. Delorse says:

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