black and white by quietpurplehaze

black and white

Once again, a photo of a dahlia to introduce a short passage from my dad's PoW diaries, not that there were dahlias, or any other flowers, in a PoW camp, but because one memory of him is his love of gardening, including the magnificent dahlias he grew - earwigs and all!

In early Sept '43 my dad, having been captured at Tobruk, was a prisoner in a camp in Benghazi, guarded by Italians:

"Wed 8-9-43. During the morning, our hut went out on a walk. Little did we know at the time that it was our last walk there. When the evening came, we heard that an armistice had been signed between the Allies and Italy. As we had already heard of the invasion of Italy a few days beforehand, this fresh news seemed quite feasible.

The whole camp immediately broke into jubilation. The camp leader (Sergeant Major Garnett) told us he was awaiting confirmation and he would make a statement at 10 p.m.

As the evening wore on, we began to see signs to encourage the truth of this good news. The Italians were running about shouting to each other and crowds of our fellows had congregated near the gate by Hut 23. At 10 p.m. everyone gathered in front of the cookhouse and the camp leader spoke. ‘Well, chaps,’ he said, ‘It’s right!’

At once a mighty roar went up and the noise was terrific. I could not bring myself to believe I was FREE. We sang The National Anthem and then dispersed. The Italian in charge of 73 had told the camp leader that there were small bands of Germans in the vicinity but he was going to send some of his men out to rope them in! Our camp leader said he had told the Italians we would help them to fight the Germans if we were given arms. We received no arms and were advised by the Italians to remain in the camp. We could do very little about that as the guards were still on duty.

That evening called for great rejoicing.

Everyone’s spirits were sky high. Jack and I made some porridge at midnight which was all we had left of our parcel. The thoughts of home welled up before us and we were almost in tears. It did not seem believable - it was too good to be true. Jack and I turned in at 2.30 a.m. after tiring ourselves out completely. Home………

The next morning, Thurs 9-9-43, the blow fell.

I was only just awake when a fellow rushed into our hut with the words, ‘There’s a German armoured car outside!’ Heads popped up from pillows and I heard one or two remarks passed telling this chap where he could go. Anyway, my bed being by a window, I peeped outside. I could see right through Huts 42 and 41 as the windows were in line. Sure enough, I could see Germans crouching in the fields! Practically everyone dressed immediately and went outside.

Along the road Germans were passing, bristling with machine-guns and at the corner by the parade ground was an armoured car. At once my heart sank as I realised we were once again prisoners.

The Italian sentries were still on duty round the camp, but their position was very uncomfortable. They regarded the Germans with one eye and us with the other and my impression was that they were wishing to come inside with us! As the morning wore on, there was increased activity along the road. German trucks and motor cycles roared up and down whilst infantry closed in on the camp. I realised by this time that we were doomed and our freedom had gone.

The rations came along as usual on this day, but there was no parcel issue as the parcels had expired. We heard some amazing rumours, which raised our hopes once more. One rumour was, ‘Our troops have landed in the north of Italy and all these Germans are cut off.’ Another one said, ‘The Brenner Pass is closed and is guarded by Italians.’ Such news as that cheered us up immensely and we still entertained hopes of going home soon.

The most amusing incident I saw on that eventful day was when the Germans relieved the Italian sentries of their duty. I saw a small party of Germans marching close to the wire. As they approached each Italian sentry, they halted and the German N.C.O. told the ‘Italian’ to ‘beat it’ with a jerk of his thumb and a German soldier took his place. The ‘Italian’ slunk away, still retaining his rifle. The whole camp was taken over in this manner without a single shot being fired.

The day after the Germans took over our camp, no rations came in. The position was not too good but later in the day some parcels came along. I do not know where they were raked up from because the parcel magazine was supposed to be empty. The issue was a parcel between six men and this was most welcome and meant we could eat again.

The following day the bread came along at 7 p.m. We had no skilly for two days and when it was finally dished out all we had was a pint of hot water with a few pieces of onion or carrot floating on the top. However, these improved as the days went by. We received another sixth of a parcel each and some personal parcels were shared out also. These personal parcels were those unclaimed such as fellows who had left the camp. These parcels when shared out entitled every man in the camp to at least one article. I received a haversack which I have still and is extremely useful.

from the PoW diaries of my dad Bert Martin 1941 - 1945

©SWWEC

n.b. My dad went on to spend time in Italian camps and in a workcamp at a cement factory at Cossebaude,Germany. He finally arrived home to his wife in May 1945.
Beautiful B&W image with lovely detail against the background Hazel, thanks for the very interesting extract from your dads wartime diary, must have been very depressing to realise they would not be back home for Christmas 1943:)
September 11th, 2016  
Love the detail in this. The B&W is so effective!
September 11th, 2016  
Very pretty.
September 11th, 2016  
lovely
September 11th, 2016  
A beautiful dahlia capture and impressive in B/W. A sad entry in your Dad's diary I felt his jubilation and then the big disappointment of not getting home.
September 11th, 2016  
A beautiful flower in memory of your Dad. Very poignant.
September 11th, 2016  
Another great instalment. What a time of highs and lows. Must have been such a terrible time.
September 11th, 2016  
Beautiful tribute.
September 11th, 2016  
A lovely b&w image Hazel.
September 11th, 2016  
Lovely shot, petal layers
September 11th, 2016  
Lovely B&W!
September 11th, 2016  
Great shot of this lovely flower.
A lot of readind for me but worth the time. Thanks for sharing.
September 11th, 2016  
Lovely... interesting reading thrown in at no extra cost! Great stuff.
September 11th, 2016  
What an almighty blow for your dad & his fellow prisoners. Good job they didn't know it would be another two years before freedom. Thank goodness for the parcel.
September 11th, 2016  
the image has great impact as does your dad's story
September 11th, 2016  
The contrast in this shot is so well done (I would love to learn how to do this!). The contrast of the beauty of this and then reading what you posted and thinking of the horrors of war and POW camps is striking. Thank you for doing both the photograph and excerpt. Both are treasures.
September 12th, 2016  
Fabulous image and info fav
September 12th, 2016  
Incredible picture. Congratulations on making the Trending Page and the PP. Well deserved.
September 12th, 2016  
@granagringa

Thank you - you can do it too. I use FastStone for editing, free to download, just a small initial donation (£5 will do) requested. It comes with an instruction guide but I've just 'played' to find out what I want to know and do.
September 12th, 2016  
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