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A previously unpublished war diary
Gunner Neil MacLean’s son shares his father’s Second World War prisoner camp memories
The Courier continues to share 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, during and after the war, were supplied by
Neil’s son Calum, who knew nothing of the diary until after his father’s death.
This week continues on from September 1940.
September – 5th received a letter from home Connyglen. 7th had photo taken. Received no pay up until now, so on the 8th received a loaf and knew our pay would be coming soon. On the 10th we received our first pay, 4.80 marks, and on the 11th, 3.80 marks. On the 13th we received our first bulk issue, meat, fruit, oval sports and cigarettes (Gold Dollar), our first smoke.
On September 16, we were moved out and went to a large camp Schubin, no reason given. On our arrival we received Red Cross Parcel (RCP) between three. Stayed here for three days. Going out we received an RCP for each man. I received a new pair of boots and socks, which I badly needed. The boots were very poor but glad to get them.
(At Wongrowitz we had long hours, up at 5.30am, started work at 7am. One hour for dinner and finished at 6pm).
Arrived at Stretna after a good train journey. Cleaned up the camp for a day or two then went to work making a new sports field. Received our second pay on September 25 – 7.70 marks.
The rations here were better. Dinner soup, tea one loaf between three, lard every night, jam every second night. Working hours better, started at 8am and finished 5.30pm, one-and-a-half hours for dinner but worked all day on Saturday.
October – Letter to Jessie on October 8 and posted letter to Glebe Street. The lice still bad but they are doing everything to get rid of them. I, at present, am free from them. Worked away every day and here we were able to buy a lot of extras which did us good. October 27, received our first pay here, 1.63 marks. (I was due more but they made a mistake).
November – On the 1st got an RCP each. Living very high at present. On Sunday we had dumplings made (not like home of course). November 3, pay day, 7.35 marks.
On the 10th we had our photos taken with the guards, not very good but they were taken off us. November 17th, pay day, 8.40 marks. November 24th, posted letter to Jessie. 26th RCP bulk, cheese, jam, meat, cigarettes.
December – Very cold and some snow. Not a very good month. 3rd, posted letter to Connyglen. 4th, pay day, 8.40 marks. 14th, MY FIRST LETTER FROM HOME CONNYGLEN (very happy). 15th, posted letter to Jessie. 16th, Duncan McLachlan’s 21st birthday so we had a small party for him. It turned out very good. That day we were stopped work. Frost into the ground and too hard for the picks. No more work this year, very cold and hard frost.
Christmas day we had three bottles of beer per man, so we had a toast to all the folks at home. On Hogmanay we had a concert and dance, had a bottle of beer left since Christmas and brought in the New Year. Our thoughts were of home. Had a very good time under the circumstances.
1941 – Start of 1941 was very cold and we were not working. Our time was taken up with mending in the morning, bridge in the afternoon and debates at night. On January 6, I had to take some clothes over to the hospital to be deloused. From the nurses we received cigarettes, bread, meat. Had a good time that night and breakfast next morning.
A heavy fall of snow on the 8th and on the 9th, we were out snow shifting. On the 16th, I received four letters from home, one from Jessie, my first from my dear Jessie. Pleased to know all well. January a very cold month, out now and again at the snow.
February – Just like January, at the snow now and again. Heard we were not getting paid for it, very disappointed. A few boys were put to work at a sand pit, about seven miles going and coming, good exercise. At the end of February I got a job making brooms for the town (good job).
Continued in next week’s Courier.