Down Memory Lane, December 25 2020

There is nothing to stop us remembering, in our own time and in our own way, the sacrifices of soldiers like Gunner Neil MacLean, photographed here, who spent five years as a prisoner of war following the 51st Highland Division's surrender at St Valéry-en-Caux during the Second World War.
Gunner Neil MacLean.

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The Courier continues to share more from the previously unpublished prisoner of war diary written by Campbeltown soldier Gunner Neil MacLean, who was captured following the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St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

Thrashing up till the 10th, then started driving…to the station. Finished driving SB to station on the 22nd – four Poles went on holiday. 23rd, guard went on holiday and the other guard that came we had him before. Old guard. Received two packets cigarettes, 300, don’t know who from, Cottons Edinburgh.

I had a half day on 24th, then two days’ holidays for Christmas. Christmas Day, we had bacon and egg for breakfast, pork, potatoes and beans, apple pudding and custard, then tea and cake for dinner.

Had visitors from another farm in the afternoon, we played cards. Good tea and supplies, and drank a toast to all at home. 26th, went to see some of the boys across from us. Snowing very heavy but enjoyed the walk, and gave us an appetite for dinner. Worked all day 27th and 28th. Sunday, washing and cleaning up. Had a good dinner today, potatoes, beans and duck and soup, steamed apples and jelly, tea and cake. 31st, had a sing-song and dance. Eight of us stayed up to bring in New Year and drank a toast for all at home. No beer this year.


January – 1st, holiday, received Red Cross Parcel (RCP) and 50 cigarettes. Three good meals today. Some of the boys came over from the other farm, we had afternoon tea and a good chat. 4th, up at 5.30am, breakfast and then eight of us left to catch the train for Marienwerder about eight miles from here. Had a photo taken in a studio. Went to the camp we were working at for three weeks and had lunch and a good chat with some of the boys. We came back with the 2.45pm train (hope the photos turn out OK).

5th, worked for one hour and then had an hour off for dinner. Afterwards we went to beat hares on our farm here. When it was finished we went back three miles to another farm. The ground was heavy with snow and the going was very heavy. In all we had 15 hares for nine guns. Enjoyed it up to the round up, it was getting dark then and we were hungry. When the last round was finished we found out we had to walk home, nobody very pleased but once in our little room and got off our wet clothes and had supper we were all in good order but very tired, so we all had a sound sleep.

One of the gentlemen there could speak good English. During a conversation with him I found he was interned during the last war for four years and three months and since then he has been to Scotland for a holiday.

18th, up to now we have been chatting every day, nearly all the boys have the cold just now. Received our pay last week, 13-50. Today I was down in Pankendoff buying a few things, was down with the guard. A pony and trap, very cold driving. 22nd, letter returned from Margaret written by me August 10th 1941. 23rd, received our photos, very good. Up to the end of the month we were thrashing and finished it on the 31st of the month.

Continued in next week’s Courier.