The Craxford Family Magazine Blue Pages

{$text['mgr_blue1']} Nessworthy 3

Thirty one days in Stalag IX - A

Introduction

Badge of the Royal Tank Corps

Royal Tank Corps Badge

My sister Doreen heard I was looking for family history information and dug out an old shortbread tin she had kept after Mum died. The words BIRTH CERT, DEATH CERT, BAPTISM etc were written on the lid. Inside among papers on Dad, Mum and her parents I found tucked in the corner a small French Agenda (diary). Doreen said that Mum had destroyed Dad's earlier war diaries as they were too upsetting to keep. I'm glad she kept this one.

Dad was in the Royal Tank Corps and served during WWII. He was captured in 1942 in North Africa. It is evident that he was kept in POW camps in Italy and then later in Germany. This is an account of his final days in Stalag IX-A prior to his liberation in 1945. The first few pages of the diary are blank but from March 12th onwards and written in pencil the following entries made me realise just what he had gone through. Food and friendship were very important.

What follows is my copy of the entries verbatim. I have tried to decipher some of the obvious elements of 'POW slang' but the derivation of a few ("Crank"; "Bucks did 8 of 12") have eluded me. The links will take you through to a large scale reproduction of the actual pages.

John Nessworthy

The diary: March 10th - March 21st 1945

Diary Cover
The fly leaf

The diary: cover and fly leaf


10. Mars

11. Mars

Mon   12. Mars
Arrived in Ziegenhain (9a). Made a combine with Nobby Clarke & Fred Screen, also Ernie Collinson. No rations issued in camp. (Tents for 300 men).

Tues   13. Mars
1/7 of loaf per man. & good soup also 70 grs. of jam. Managed to get some straw for our beds. Mint tea 2 times. Carrot soup

Wed   14. Mars
In the first 50 for a bath 1st since Jan 15th. Met some of our batt. Scrounged 2 fags between the 4 of us. Veg. Soup. 1/7 loaf Marg. 25 grs. Mint tea twice.

Thurs 15. Mars
Barley soup. 1/10 of loaf 25 grs. Marg. Poor day still feeling weak. Mint tea twice. ½ bucks on soup. Wrote 2 letters 3 cards.

Friday   16. Mars
Swede soup very good 1/6 of loaf 50 grs. soft cheese. Mint tea twice. Good day. ½ buckshees on soup.

Sat   17. Mars
Mixed veg ok. 1/7 loaf 70 grs. jam. Mint tea & coffee in the afternoon. Visit from the I.R.C. (International Red Cross Rep. Rumours of paroles. Still not able to walk around.

Sunday   18. Mars
1/7 loaf. 50 grs. marg. Soup, peas not very thick. Had a shirt & vest given from Lofty Ward & Povey. Coffee. Up twice. Delouser tomorrow at 6-o'clock.

Monday   19. Mars
Mixed veg 1/7 loaf 25 marg. Not feeling so good stayed in bed all day. Coffee twice.

Tuesday   20. Mars
Swede soup. Ernie went sick with berry berri kept him in dock. 1/7 loaf & jam. 70 grs. Still in bed & have dizzy spells. Coffee & mint tea.

Wednesday   21. Mars
Mixed veg. 1/7 loaf 25 marg. Air raid. Straffed the camp. American thunderbolts 11 killed, 30 - 50 wounded (Frenchmen) Still crank. Coffee & mint tea.


Continued in column 2...



Added: April 10th 2006
Last updated March 18th 2012

The diary: March 22nd - April 8th 1945

POW camp Stalag IX-A

Stalag IX-A (1)

Thursday   22. Mars
Barley soup very good. More raids. Visit by the protecting power. 1/10 loaf & cheese. The sunniest day since last summer. Had our soup & bread outside on a blanket. Had no smokes for a while.

Friday   23. Mars
Thin veg soup. 1/6 loaf 25 marg. Out in the sun all day. Feeling a little better. More raids all day. Toasted the bread .Had our meals outside. Coffee & mint tea.

Saturday   24. Mars
Barley soup had blicks very thick. Feeling full . Outside all day for our meals. News good from west (Monty's push). 1/7 loaf 25 marg. Coffee & tea. More air raids all day.

Sunday   25. Mars
The worst soup since a P.O.W. Pea soup. 1/7 loaf 25 marg. Outside all day. More raids. Good war news from the west. Nobby crank. Ernie still in hospital. Put in for the next Comission yesterday. Main topic all day is food & menus. Coff. & mint tea. Bucks did 11 sec & 1 of 12. (crust end)

Monday   26. Mars
Mixed veg very nice indeed, 1/7 loaf 25 marg. News still good. Hope we don't have to evacuate again. Nobby crank. Coff. & m. Tea. Bucks did 8 of 12. Rained nearly all day.

Tuesday   27. Mars
Pea soup. V.G. 1/7 loaf 70 grs cheese. Nobby taken in dock very crank. Only Fred & I left. Rained, pretty miserable day. Bucks did all but 2 of 13

Wednesday   28. Mars
Swede soup. G. 1/7 loaf. 25. marg. New mucker in the combine. Tom Convery from Morpeth. Warned another March tomorrow. Decided to stay crank. Bucks did all but 2 of 7 section

Thursday   29. Mars
Stayed behind with Fred, Tom & the crank. *Smashing news at 9-2.p.m. practically free men. Germans leaving crank behind. Whoopee, cant believe it yet every hour counts. Coffee. Dysentery started again.

Friday.   *30. Mars*
Good Friday what a day. 2 soups 1/7 loaf. 25. marg. The American tanks seen in the morning. Jerry running everywhere in full retreat. The moment I have lived for. The yanks arrived at 1-40 p.m. A free man once more. Don't know whether to laugh or cry. Moved into barracks at last. Still crank. Vomitting everything I eat. Never mind will be home soon.

Saturday   31. Mars
Still very hard to realise. Coffee very sweet. Could not sleep last night. Barley & spuds. Fried eggs sausage & mash. Very Good. Still got shits bad. Fred did the shopping. 15 lbs. Bread.

Sunday   1. Avril
Easter Sunday. Scrambled eggs on toast & marmalade. Coffee with milk & sugar Dinner dry toast. Fixed my stomach ok. Fred out shopping again

Monday   2. Avril
Wrote home & to Maud. Airgraph

Tuesday - Friday   3 - 6 Avril
Good yankee rations & cigs. & chocolate

Saturday   7. Avril
Good yankee rations & cigs. & chocolate. 1st white bread issue! 1/3 of 2 lb loaf & best butter

Sunday   8. Avril
Good yankee rations & cigs. & chocolate



Continued in column 3...

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The diary: April 9th - 14th 1945

Monday   9. Avril
Left stalag by motor for Giessen. Arrived 9 boarded Dakota. T. C. Plane. at 6-50 p.m. Saw the rhine. Koblenz, French beaches, at last the cliffs of good old England. Arr. 9-20. Marvellous reception at Wing. Left for camp 93 arrived 1-a.m Cup of tea & good bed.

Tuesday   10. Avril
First morning in Blighty. Good breakfast. Delouse shower. New complete kit. Everybody good to us. Wire off home. Can't wire sweetheart yet. Hope she can get leave. Going home tomorrow. Whoopee. Fred & I still together.

Wednesday   11. Avril
Home on leave. Harry married at Blackpool today. Dad's accident..

The main diary ends here although there are three further brief entries. Dad was uncle Harry's best man at his wedding to Mum's sister. My Mum's father had an accident on the same day as the wedding. Dad went on to marry Mum (Maud) on the 5th May 1945.

Friday   13. Avril
Fred Screen's birthday

Monday   16. Avril
Back to good old Blackpool

Tuesday   17. Avril
Saw Dad in Dock. He looks not too bad considering what he must of gone thro'

John's marriage to Maud Yeagers: May 1945

John Nessworthy marries Maud Yeagers

Footnote

During the second World War Germany was a signatory at the Third Geneva Convention which established the provisions relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War. At the start of the war Germany was divided up into seventeen military districts, each known by a roman numeral. Prisoners were housed in camps of different types defined by the nature of their inmates. Enlisted men were kept at base camps (the Stalag or Stammlager) whereas officers were housed at Oflager camps. Each camp was noted by a capital letter suffix to the military district. Stalag IX-A was at Ziegenhain in the Hesse Region of Germany.

"In 1940, French prisoners of war built Stalag IXA not knowing that for the next five years it would be their home. During the war years it held over 3,000 French soldiers. Included among them until he escaped, was Pierre Mitterand the present President of France. In January of 1945, 1275 Americans arrived from Stalag IXB. Later in the year about the same number of British and an assortment of prisoners from other Allied forces filtered into the camp. These emigre's swelled the population to over 6,000 just before liberation." (2)

After the war the camp was converted into a reception centre for displaced persons run by the US Military and the village was absorbed by its neighbour, Trutzhain (3). In turn these have been amalgamated into the larger connurbation of Schwalmstadt which lies midway between Frankfurt am Main and Kassel. Parts of the old camp have been preserved and converted into a warmuseum.

References

1. Stalag IX-A: "Healing The Child Warrior"
2. Richard W. Peterson: 'Reminiscence and Return - Stalag IX-A': Indiana Military Org
3. Trutzhain: Some information about Germany on Wikipedia

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