a dahlia for my dad by quietpurplehaze

a dahlia for my dad

Anyone who has followed my posts from the PoW diaries of my dad, Bert Martin, will know the 'dahlia connection'.

I've recently been posting one extract per month from my dad's diaries. Today's extract, for me, illustrates man's humanity to man even in hard times.

My dad writes about working in the cement factory of Dickerhoff and Widmann at Cossebaude, in the vicinity of Dresden. He had been working there for about one month when he wrote this account in November 1943:

"The days seemed to go much quicker now there was something to do. The Germans gave us overalls and gloves and from the canteen we could buy beer (occasionally) matches, cigarette papers and other odds and ends. I was working outside all the time I was there so I bought myself some wooden clogs. These kept my feet dry and very warm although they were not too comfortable.

We received pay for working and this varied according to the type of work. I used to receive about 45 to 50 marks a month and sent some home. The British Government gave us £1 for 15 marks and altogether I sent home 480 marks and since arriving in England I have received the correct amount in English currency, i.e. £32.

We did not work Saturday afternoons but generally on Sunday morning our gang had to go in for 2 or 3 hours to load railway trucks. During the week we had time off which we put in on Sunday. The Germans were quite fair in that respect but they were glad to give us our time off after we had worried them long enough!

In early November ’43, I had a sore throat and so visited the German doctor who sent me to bed for a few days. I was soon quite well again and resumed work.

I feel I should mention the ‘rackets’ which went on there. In the factory there were 8 or 9 Frenchmen working. They were captured in France as soldiers and in April ’43 they ‘turned civilian’. They were no longer behind barbed wire but lived over a public house. They could go out to Dresden as they pleased and had almost the same privileges as a German.

There were some Russian lads working in the factory also. The Germans had captured these lads when they advanced through Russia and brought them to Germany to work. There were some Russian girls too, who worked in the wire-shops making reinforcements for the concrete.

I was able to barter with one or two Frenchmen which enabled me to obtain various articles. One Frenchman worked in the canteen as a cook and I used to give a bar of chocolate to him for 2 kilo (4½lbs) of sugar. I thought there was more goodness in that amount of sugar than in a bar of chocolate. It enabled me to have a sweet cup of tea always.

As time wore on, we got to know which Germans would barter and who wouldn’t. We had to be careful on taking the stuff into the camp; it would never do to allow the guards to see anything. But they knew later on we did ‘business’ in the factory and we even started up with them.

Any German was very keen to secure a bar of chocolate, which he hadn’t seen for years. We could get flour for making cakes and bread to help along our rations. As long as we profited in every deal, I saw no reason why we should not barter with Red Cross food. After all, it was given us for our own welfare. One got more satisfaction from 8lbs of bread than a bar of chocolate.

Clothing used to arrive in bulk from Stalag and was distributed as fairly as possible. It arrived at irregular intervals and sometimes there were such things as toothpaste, shaving soap and blades. The barracks was kept like a British Army camp, blankets folded neatly. The commandant often came round on a tour of inspection and he was very particular.

As the days grew shorter, we found ourselves starting work in darkness. As we worked outside, the hours were shortened accordingly and were 6.30 a.m. to 4.50 p.m. The men working inside came under those hours later on, mainly to save light and fuel.

When the weather became colder, we used to dash in a workshop for a warm. Every shop had a huge fire inside for the purpose of drying out the concrete and we found those fires very handy. We were not by any fire long before our foreman would come in and get us back to work. We christened him ‘Tashy’.

Working with us were three Germans, one was called up soon after our arrival. He was very decent to us: it was during our spell of no parcels and he gave us lots of tobacco. The other two Jerries we knew as Martin and Alwin. The latter was far the better of the two and quite decent to work with. The former, however, was terribly scared to be seen doing nothing and was always working. We had many discussions on politics - when our knowledge of the German language increased. We generally made ourselves understood."

from my dad's diaries, written as PoW, 1941 - 1945
© 2017 The Second World War Experience Centre.
© 2017 IWM (5193) 1981.
It's a lovely photo
November 9th, 2016  
wonderful capture
Love reading your fathers diaries. This sure is a wonderful treasure to have.
November 9th, 2016  
Incredibly interesting and good to read such a straightforward contemporary account.
November 9th, 2016  
A lovely capture and pov of your pretty dahlia. Another fascinating account from your Dad love the way he can improve on what he has .
November 9th, 2016  
Lovely shot and finding your dad's diaries full of interest
November 9th, 2016  
A lovely pov and such a beautiful flower. Thank you for sharing your Dad's diaries :)
November 9th, 2016  
Nice focus, dof
November 9th, 2016  
Stunning and humble
November 9th, 2016  

A lovely and succinct comment - thank you.
November 9th, 2016  
Such an amazing insight to your father's life as a POW - you are so privileged to have it, and we are so honoured that you share it with us :) And I love your dahlia too! fav
November 9th, 2016  
So interesting Hazel, your dad's diaries are a treasure! How enterprising all those soldiers were. Such a hard time away from families.
November 9th, 2016  
What a treasure. I am so honored that you share your dad's stories, thank you.
November 9th, 2016  
Gorgeous close up love the soft colours and composition, thanks you Hazel for the interesting extract from your Dads war time diary:)
November 9th, 2016  
Amazing diary, as you know. The shot is so nice; I like how the focus you used make those specific petals such a strong focal point.
November 9th, 2016  
The commentaries from your dad's diaries are so interesting, and this is a lovely image.
November 10th, 2016  
Incredible diary - thank you for sharing
November 10th, 2016  
Another very interesting installment from the real ' inside' of WWII. Beautiful shot of the dahlia too.
November 10th, 2016  
Great tribute. (Capture and story) .
November 10th, 2016  
perfect flower, a great shot! Thank you for sharing a diary!
November 11th, 2016  
Thank you for sharing your Dad's story. I love the picture, great focus and dof.
November 11th, 2016  
A beautiful dahlia, such a lovely shade of pink. Your Dad's diaries are so interesting to read and it is indeed heartening to hear there was kindness shown despite all horrors of war. People definitely had to be resourceful and we could learn much from this in our everyday lives which are so 'easy' and straightforward in comparison.
November 12th, 2016  
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