Down Memory Lane, January 22 2021

Neil MacLean in later life.
Neil MacLean in later life.

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Prisoner of war Neil MacLean is ‘hame at last’

This week sees the final instalment in the serialisation of Campbeltown soldier Gunner Neil MacLean’s previously unpublished prisoner of war diary.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 March 1945:

March 1st, moved out at 8am and marched through wind and rain till 6pm, 38km Trepow. 2nd, Alex weak today. Day of rest. 3rd, moved out at 7.30am and marched 25km. 4th, moved out at 7am and marched through snow till 6pm, 42km. All tired and wet and slept in an open field for about two hours. Too cold to sleep, so very numb.

5th, moved out at 6am and marched 35km. 6th, moved out at 10am and marched 20km, very hungry. 7th, moved out at 8am and received a Red Cross Parcel (RCP) between two at Machlen, 20km. Met Alex today. 8th, moved out at 9am and marched 20km, received an RCP between 21.

9th, moved out at 9am and marched 20km. 9th, moved out at 9am and marched 20km. RCP between 62. 10th, moved out at 8am and marched 20km. RCP between 2 [illegible].

11th, day of rest, up all night sick. 12th, started walking but was so weak. Managed to get on the back of a lorry, about 26km. Up all night, no control of my bowels. 13th, went on a lorry, I had to go for a s**** and the lorry went off without me. Caught up with it at Waren where we waited. I went back there [illegible], 50km. Try to [illegible].

Arrived at camp about 12pm, about 6km north. 14th, received an RCP per man, tins all priced but can’t eat anything. Put in a large room with 60 sick. 15th, went on sick [illegible] today. Received some powder to bulk, passing blood yesterday and today. 16th, better today an RCP between two.

17th, 18th, 19th, still weak. 20th, an RCP between two. 21st through to 27th, getting better but still weak. 28th, bathed and deloused. 29th, an RCP between two. 30th and 31st as before.

April 1st, went to draw rations and when I came back, had to lie down. Dispute about parcels… an RCP between two. 6th, six RCPs between two. 8th, examined by the [illegible] medical officer. Heart weak, to take things easy – no work. Told me to see the [illegible] medical officer about my ear, see him every day.

11th, an RCP between two. 13th, an RCP between two. Held two minutes’ silence for President Roosevelt’s death. Friday 27th, ordered to move out. Held a meeting and decided to stay. 28th, hearing shelling and air action. During the afternoon, at 11.55am, the Russian tank made contact with us, a few shots fired but nobody hurt.

May 17th, moved out of Neubrandenburg at 2pm by lorry, driven by Russian and moved into the American lines. Arrived at 2am at Schiverin (USA). 18th, moved out at 10am by USA lorries and arriving at Lunenburg with our own boys in charge. 19th, moved down to the airport and took off at 2pm.

So landed in dear old Blighty at 5pm at Ford (Sussex). Received a cup of tea. Moved to Worthing by lorry. 20th, in camp all day. On 21st, moved out at 4 o’clock and arrived in Glasgow. HAME at LAST.

See next week’s Courier for a poem written by Neil during his time as a prisoner of war.


Gunner Neil MacLean, aged 30, when he was called up to fight. NO_c04neilmaclean01

Neil MacLean in later life. NO_c04neilmaclean02