A selection of entries in Samuel Houghton’s wartime log, made by fellow prisoners at Milag Nord prison camp
I’ll Be Home for Xmas - ?!!
By Cpl. J. Clifford, P.O.W.
Christmas Day in Gefangenschaft [captivity] 1940 ‘41 ‘42 ‘43
Well once again we have reached it “IT” being the (fifth) last one behind barbed wire. It’s a long, long time ago since we began to make plans for a real slap up dinner at home on Christmas Day 1941. As you will well remember it came and went so, having finally got over the disappointment, we decided that a super slap up would be arranged for Christmas ‘42 to make up for it.
And then suddenly it was New Years Day ‘43 and far from having indulged in our super S.U. we found ourselves shovelling snow from the base of our railway turntable in a very cold part of Germany. Our natural disappointment was alleviated “etwas” by much reference of the press to second fronts, etc. That of course was just what we wanted. When it starts we’ll give the war a couple of months allow a month to sort us out, etc., a week to get home “and Bob’s your Uncle”. So reasoned we but somebody else reasoned otherwise. October came but no second front but, a boatload of “repats” went home for Christmas! Well, as that day approached we were forced to give up the idea of being home to greet it. Still “repat” had started and we were sure to be on the next boat or at worst, the one after it. But they both sailed with somebody else on ‘em and we began to wonder what we were doing at this time ??? Poland and why such a b word as repatriation was ever invented anyway. Then out of the blue there came news of the almost despaired of second front plus the arrival of the letters hundreds of ‘em all bearing we’re about to be “repatted” so keep your chin up etc, etc. Well, I ask yer chums what would you do? We dig! “Now supposing the invasion is held up why worry we’re going to be home anyway.” “Don’t worry Buddy this Christmas you WILL be home.” But the truth must be faced and the truth is we ain’t. So here we are trying to figure out just when we will spend Christmas and if we won’t be too old to enjoy it after all. It’s so long now since we did that I can only vaguely remember the familiar terms used at Christmas. I seem to remember “Christmas Waits” for no man incidentally and if you ain’t there on the 25th you’ve had it. “Holly Leaves” scratches on the hands of the poor gink who has to hang it. I sure remember that. And “Carol” sounds familiar. Wasn’t that the little blond at Blackpool ? I forget now but “Crackers” reminds me that I must be to keep on talking about being home by Christmas after all the shattered hopes of the last few. However I know that someday I shall be if I live long enough and if the war ever ends and if the boat comes and if I don’t miss it and if Aw hell who turned out those so and so lights ?
1945! To Be or not to Be? By A.J. White, P.O.W.
I prefer the former, you do too don’t you? Of course you do. Though really, what you prefer and I prefer makes no durned difference. You see as “Uncle Tom” once said, “We’re only a little cog in the great wheel.” (I’ll tell you about “Uncle Tom” one day.)
Well, I’ve got to get down to it; I’m one of those fellows that can always get rid of the “Blues” when I have a few thousand pencils and bags of paper (and right now I’ve got the “Blues”). That’s the only way, with satisfaction, that I can while away monotonous time.
During this life in captivity I have tried to write silly poems, two gun books, and my own life story (not very nice for good people to read) but nevertheless readable I hope?
Of course, I used to do a little writing in civvy street (you know, a bob each way and all that). But I was always a rotten failure, couldn’t tell the difference between “Blue Peter” and Mahatma Gandhi; I’m a downright unlucky person. Even at the moment I am suffering something awful with an undergrowing toe-nail (left foot, big toe) and believe me my toe’s so big they had to give me an extra bed to rest it on (night Arbeit).
Well “whynockten” (pardon my German) is upon us once again complete with snow, carols and a few B-awful high pitched baritones. And yet within a very short time we shall see the dawning of the first golden hours of 1945. But what you and I want to do is to cut our way through these coming twelve months and try to see if that “ever elusive day” is anywhere in sight? If it is well pack your toothbrush and start singing! If it isn’t (I’ll leave the next few words to you!) Remember boys, not too harsh!
Sea Raider by Walter Raymond Shaw
It was but a few days after Xmas in the year 1940 when I first made my acquaintance with the ill-starred ship that ostensibly was to take me on a voyage to the subtropical island of Aruba in the Dutch West Indies. I use the term ill-starred advisedly, for with the departure of the “Canadolite” from Halifax on what proved to be her last voyage, began an adventure that was destined to last four long years and have its ending behind the barbed-wire entanglements of a prison-of-war camp in Nazi Germany. Four years during which time I was to suffer all the sorrows and disillusions of a life so unnatural as to be hardly conceivable to anyone who has not undergone the torments of captivity when civilisation itself tottered perilously on the abyss of total darkness until God in his infinite mercy had compassion for our sufferings and the light of peace once again descended to brighten a weary, yet strangely arrogant world.