Down Memory Lane, December 18 2020

Neil MacLean and the men of the Campbeltown-based 201 Anti-Tank Battery, which served alongside the 51st Highland Division in France in 1940, photographed at a reunion in Campbeltown around 1960. 
Neil MacLean and the men of the Campbeltown-based 201 Anti-Tank Battery, which served alongside the 51st Highland Division in France in 1940, photographed at a reunion in Campbeltown around 1960. 

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Gunner Neil MacLean’s previously unpublished POW diary

The Courier continues to share more from the previously unpublished prisoner of war diary written by Campbeltown soldier Gunner Neil MacLean, who was captured following the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St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 from September 1941:

September – 1st, two of us were called up. Tonight unsettled. Wake at 7am, have one hour for dinner and one hour at night. It makes a big difference.

2nd, received five parcels, one clothing from Connyglen and tobacco. Our RCP and cigarettes arrived on the 5th, our issue for the month, 75 cigarettes in one parcel.

Each week working at odd jobs. On the 29th some of our boys were called back to Stallag. That left us with eight in our party. Started digging the potatoes on the 29th with no machine. Heavy going and our backs were pretty sore. Our bread was cut down very poor ration.

October – 1st, no parcel arrived yet for this month but expect them any day. Parcels arrived on the 6th, only three each man per month and 50 cigarettes. A mistake made. It may be altered next month.

Received 400 cigarettes on the 9th, I think from Jessie (no name inside).

12th, went over to some of the boys in another farm and received some [illegible] which came in very handy. Finished the turnips on 27th, then started on the sugar but they are very poor. Weather getting colder.

November – 1st, started work at 7.30am and finished at 4.30pm, two hours’ difference and it sure makes a big difference to us. Snowing nearly all day. No Red Cross Parcel (RCP) or pay for this month. 7th, received our pay, 18.90M. RCP arrived. 9th, received 150 cigarettes and also received RCP, we were short last month. 10th, finished putting [?] the sugar beat. 13th, covering potato pits, very frosty. Frost in about a foot. 14th, received a parcel from Jessie of games and books. First of that kind. Also received a stick of shaving soap and 15 cigarettes. (A small parcel between eight men). 20th, my first letter from Margaret, all’s well. All the turnip and outside work finished. Many farms harvested their potatoes with the last heavy frost. Some of ours were frosted in the pits, but on 21st we started boiling them and putting them in to a pit. They stay there till the summer time (very good idea) for the pigs. 29th, finished washing and boiling potatoes, filled one large pit with them. Held back some days with severe frost but otherwise everything went okay. Lots of potatoes ruined with frost.

December – 1st, start work 8am and finish 3.30pm. 4th, got weighed today, 9 stone 9lbs. 6th, pay 13.15M, pay cut… working shorter hours. RCP and cigarettes arrived for the month, and 1lb butter between eight men.