Down Memory Lane, January 01 2021

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The Courier continues to share more from Campbeltown soldier Gunner Neil MacLean’s previously unpublished prisoner of war diary. Gunner MacLean 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:

February 1942 – 1st, sent another letter and a clear photo to Margaret, hope it reaches. 2nd, the farmer killed two pigs, a calf and a stirk making a lot of it into sausages to last them for a year. The farmer was in a bad rage today, shouting at all the boys most of the time. He had been like this before and then on the 3rd the controller came so we reported the farmer to him and we hope he will settle down a bit and if not we will go back to Stalaig and go out to another farm to work.

11th, finished the dung today. It was a very cold day, taking it from the farmyard to a pit in the field. One of our boys was shot at Pankendoff with one of the guards. I went over to see the boys on the 18th, all OK and getting on not too bad.

A new guard came to them on the 7th till the end of the month. Some days working in our room separating peas from barley (very tiresome). Shifting snow, all the workers on the farm received 27 cubic cm of wood each so we were down giving them a hand to saw and chop it up, it should be finished by next week. We heard we are being shifted out here so time will tell.

22nd, sent all our washing to be done by one of the women in the village. Saves us a lot of time and at present we have plenty of money.

March – The hours of this month should be 7am till 6.30pm but as we are well on with our work we are working from 7.30am till 5pm. Up till the 9th we were sorting out peas and doing odd jobs. Pay day, 12-96. Up till the 16th, taking down old trees and pruning along with Finlay Huie. On the 17th Alex and I went into Marienwerder and bought a pair of glasses for reading costing us each 17M. Enjoyed the day out and met a few of the boys. Then three days empting the dung mill… then four days shifting snow on a side road, then odd jobs till the end of the month. (No RCP or cigarettes).

April – 1st, very cold morning, put out to the fields to cut holes in the snow to let the air through, turned out very wet so came home. 3rd, day off for Good Friday. 4th, went to visit some of the boys at Deit. Monday, off and received a nice tea. 5th, day off, went to see the boys at Pankendoff. 6th, boys came over from Crufern. 7th, at night 20 Russians came to take over our jobs, great excitement, We thought we would be leaving the next morning. 10th, received 150 cigarettes (no smokes in our camp) from friends in Argyll.

Doing odd jobs up till the 14th when we received word to go back to Stalaig. All the boys very happy as the food here was getting a bit scarce, they could have given us plenty more. 16th, up at usual time cleaning up billet. Snowing all morning, moved out by train at 12.45pm and went to Marienburg and went to the head office and received our pay.

Our mail has just gone off when we left. Received a clothing parcel from Connyglen then marched to the Stalaig, arrived there around 6.30pm. Had our tea and then a look around. Met some of the boys we knew and had a good chat. No lice in Stalaig but plenty of fleas. 17th, received word in the morning to stand by to go out on a work party. Hanging around all day but did not move out. 18th, 5.30am, the guard came and told us to be ready to move out at 6am.

Arrived at Tiegenhof about 10am. Had a good plate of soup and then went to work unloading coal. We were placed on a small railway and have a good place to sleep, only the work is really dirty. 19th, being Sunday we thought there would be no work but at 10am we were told to go out and unload two wagons.

Continued in next week’s Courier.