Down Memory Lane, January 8 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The Courier continues to share more from Campbeltown soldier Gunner Neil MacLean’s previously unpublished prisoner of war diary.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 April 1942:

Up to the 25th unloading lime and coal. 26th, some men had to go out to work so we cut for it and Alex and I had the day off. The bulk issue has been given to all work parties and yet we have not had any so asked the guard to phone Stalaig about it and he is going for it tomorrow. 29th, RCP and cigarettes arrived for one month. No bulk issue left for us to receive and I think we were better off with the parcels. We sure enjoyed a good meal once again. The work we are on is very heavy and we were going down the hill but the old RC will pull us back up again.

May 2nd – 1st of May being a holiday all over Germany. We did not have it here in Tiegndoff, they held it on the 2nd, so we all had a free day but had to go to work tomorrow which is a Sunday. 4th – went to work in the repair shop, changed places with Finlay as my side was giving me a bit of trouble with the heavy work. All very nice to you in the shop.

5th – More ration cards arrived today for the heavy work we were doing so we should be well off now along with the Red Cross Parcels (RCP). 6th – received 21 letters today. This is my record so far. Making a water tank for one of the engines inside… Pretty heavy going.

May 11th- Birthday just like any other day. 17th – Went to see the boys who work at the brewery and had a nice time. 19th – asked the boss for a piece of ground for a garden and received four different pieces. One piece outside our billet he fenced off for us and it looks very smart. We planted potatoes, carrots, beetroots, cabbage and cauliflowers, lettuce, beans and some peas. Up hill now, everything doing well.

31st – Boys came over to see us from the brewery.

June 1st – Working with another man in the repair shop who mends the wagons and carriages. We get on very well together and he gives me plenty of work to do on my own. When no repairs in, we make new wagons so I am always learning something new.

12th – Being two-year prisoner today and working we could not celebrate but arranged to celebrate it with the boys at the brewery on the 14th. Went there after dinner and had a couple of bottles of beer and a talk. At 4.30pm we had tea and home-made duff, made out of biscuits, then cheese then meat and bread and home-made scones. Had a walk around and looked at the rabbits in the garden and then settled down for a good sing-song. Two [illegible] of home and then off to bed after a very enjoyable evening.

17th – three men arrived today to work in the repair shop. All English men. 19th – received two rabbits tonight from the brewery so hope they will do alright. Received another rabbit from the brewery, all doing well. 29th – 200 cigarettes from Connyglen. 150 French in Argyll.

July 1st – Bought five rabbits and hut, combined 50M. The next morning one of them had eight young ones. All doing well. One of our young rabbits died so that leaves seven. Everybody is after them as they are off a good strain, so when they are four weeks old we intend to give them away to the men we work with. 8th – Some new chaps arrived. 15th – Another three chaps arrived. 28th – Parcel from Connyglen, posted in January, our RCP and cigarettes are coming up every month.

Routes to places from September 1st 1939: Campbeltown to Aldershot.

1940: Boarded to France via Southampton, landed Le Harve, Bolbeck, Armin Semes, Arras, Bethume, Le Doulain, Bouvange, Thirst, Moinering, Klangs, St Margarets, Budding, Yates, then to a sawmill in and out woods till we reached the Somme district around Redcamp… then up to St Vararie. Taken prisinor and marched Forges, Le Odur, Hignuns, Lehetalain, Arrans (rest), Donnald en thal, Doullins, St Palbethine, Seclin, Tourina (Belgium), Reninaig, Marcchode, Aalst, Lokerlin, Moorlik. Train through Holland, barge to Germany, Emmerith, Bochile (Poland).

1941: Shoken, Wongrowing, Strelno, Surdof, Prusia, Willenburg, Morien werder.

1942-1943 +: Lousenhoff, Willenburg, Lugenhof.

Continued in next week’s Courier.