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A previously unpublished war diary
Gunner Neil MacLean’s son shares his father’s prisoner camp memories
Last week, the Courier shared more from the war diary written by Campbeltown soldier Gunner Neil MacLean after he became a prisoner of war following the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St Valéry-en-Caux during the Second World War.
The diary, and several photographs of Neil, taken during and after the war, were supplied to the Courier by Neil’s son Calum, who knew nothing of the diary until after his father’s death.
This week continues on from July 1940.
July 18 – We received our first RCP (Red Cross parcel) between six of us, it was just a snack. Just the usual routine.
July 23 – We posted our first letter. Sent it to Glebe Street (sent letters 7? through the RC before but don’t think they would get home). The potatoes we were receiving were very bad, some new ones arrived on the 30th. I had to go to the workhouse to peel spuds. Between six of us we managed to steal (or should I say take) a stone of them. At night we put a fire on in our room and boiled them, put some meal over them and did we enjoy them (the best meal since we were captured) but they found out about it so that put an end to it.
August 4 – Posted letter home to Jessie. On 6th we had all our hair off and we sure looked some sight but soon got used to it.
August 7 – RCP between five men. The dinner here started to improve. Working parties started to grow. I was put in one but refused to go as Alex was left. On the 15th we moved out in a work party (after a good clean up).
Six Campbeltown men in our party. Landed at Wongrowitz and went out to work on the 16th at a Jewish cemetery. Spent a few days there and then 10 of us were put to pull down a large building along with the Poles. The Poles were very good to us, giving us smokes, drink, fruit. We were glad to get it as the food at the camp was very poor. No breakfast, soup (water) for dinner, one small loaf between two and a teaspoonful of jam for tea. We complained all the time.
Continued in next week’s Courier.