was always known as Denny and was the wireless op when flying. We
had double helpings of everything. After tea we were told we would
be leaving for Bankau and we were issued with a Red Cross parcel
between two, and a carton of chewing gum each. Denny and I shared
a parcel. We marched down to the station once more and piled on
board a train. As soon as I got on board I recognised Mike Bzowy,
who was at Linton with me and had been shot down a few weeks previously.
The trip was scheduled to take three days to Bankau. The worst was
the crowded compartments with hard wooden seats. It was definitely
not the ideal form of transportation and at night it was torture
trying to sleep. The general feeling of the men was good; all were
a little excited, for who isn’t excited on a train journey
through a strange country, even if the circumstances are not the
best? The guards were not too bad; they got us hot water and gave
us plenty of bread so we were well fed.
Note. In fact, although we thought the journey in railway compartments
was bad, remember we were only days away from soft living with full
bellies. It was sheer luxury compared with my later long-distance
journey in a cattle truck during the evacuation of Silesia.
Note. I think we were all touched with euphoria at our escape from
death; that’s why we were not down in the dumps in the train.
We passed through many cities on the way, all suffering in various
stages of blitzing, and we realised with new force just what an
effect bombing has on built-up areas. The journey took us from one
side of Germany to the other as the new camp was near Kreusberg
near the Polish border. At last we arrived at the tiny Bankau Station
on Saturday 5th August, 7pm. We walked up the long road from the
station preceded by wounded in a farm cart and were amazed to see
our new camp. It was in the process of being built; the accommodation
was in sheds. There was a goodly crowd watching us entering the
camp, for there were quite a lot of us and we formed an entire new
section. Mike was put in charge. At this stage I will close this
diary for the present. All the previous pages cover merely eight
days, but I would be pushed to find material enough to fill one
page in eight days in camp. So I will close until more interesting
things occur. Bankau August 1944
Note. Mike Bzowy was a very interesting character. He was a Canadian
of the first generation and his parents were Russian. His particular
talent was in languages and he could make himself understood in
the majority of European and Slavic tongues. He was also a natural
leader and was good friends with everyone; when you talked with
him he was always interested in you and what you wanted to say.
Stalagluft 7, Bankau, Silesia. Description
of the camp August 1944
Large square compound, encircled with barbed wire, roughly 500 yds
square with 8 guard towers accessible only from outside camp. One
main gate with small compound for guards’ accommodation etc,
second guarded gate into main compound. A main building in prison
compound had cooking facilities and assembly hall. All other buildings
were Bliby (?) sheds 8ft x 16ft with 6’6” centre ridge
to 5’6” walls. 6 men accommodated in each hut, later
increased to 7 men (Oct 5th). Each man allotted 2 thin blankets,
1 paper palliasse, 1 bowl, 1 cup, 1 spoon. Hut equipped with 4 stools,
1 knife, 1 fork, 2 papier mache wash bowls, 1 tea jug between 2
huts and a water jug between 3 huts. The camp accommodated 1,100
men in 195 huts. Some huts were communal for libraries, orderly
room, sick bays etc. The water supply was near the cookhouse: 4
stand pipes with taps.
the summer turned to autumn the authorities built a more permanent
camp next door to that occupied by the huts. It was large huts with
a central corridor and rooms opening off each side. Each room was
equipped with a slow combustion stove and two tiered bunks, accommodating
up to 20 men. The bunks had loose boards to support the palliasse.
Unfortunately, many of the loose boards were missing or stolen for
fuel so it was quite a balancing act to sleep. Denny and I took
turns in top or bottom bunk; it was a toss up which was the riskiest.
Evacuation from Bankau POW camp (brief report)
On Wednesday 17th January 1945 we were told to pack the minimum
kit and to be ready to move in 1 hour. However, we did not actually
march until Friday morning at 5am. That dark and cold morning we
assembled out in fours with German guards at each side of the long
column. That day we marched to Winterfeld where we arrived at 6pm.
100 of us were crowded into a small barn. Although worn out with
the 23 km march, none of us could sleep, it was so crowded. On the
way we had jettisoned everything possible; the weather was terrible;
some dragged makeshift sledges; carrying suitcases was impossible.
Most of us only kept blankets and spare socks etc. At 4.30am we
were roused out into the dark snow, arriving eventually at a brickworks
at Karlsruhe at 11am. After a short stay we were on our way again
at 8pm. Many people tried to evade the guards by hiding in piles
of bricks etc, but dogs were sent in and random shots fired persuaded
most to assemble, with the warning that we must cross the Oder that
night. We marched 41km, arriving at another large barn at Wauberty
at about 11am. Next morning we were away once more at 4.30am, arriving
at Grosse Jankwitz, another barn at 3pm. By now we were all in a
bad way. Even the fittest were struggling. The weather was appalling
- continuous snowstorms and freezing winds. Many had frostbitten
feet, and all were so apathetic they hardly noticed their friends
falling by the wayside. I have little record
of the following days, just nightmare memories. Food was so scarce
as to be non-existent.
Stops were as bad as the march - generally we were herded into farmyards
to find what shelter one could get. More than once Denny and I sheltered
under farm carts or lean-to sheds. An added hazard was keeping one’s
boots from getting frozen; they were best in bed with you. Our
route was roughly, from remembered place names, Wansom, Heidersdorf
, Pfeffendorf, Stansdsorf, Prausnitz and the last march to Goldsberg,
from where we got ‘transport’ on 5th February at 11am.
We were then stuffed into cattle cars where we were locked in until
8th February at 11.30am, with 65 men in each boxcar. We finally
arrived at Stalag IIIA at about 3pm. IIIA was situated just outside
Itinerary of the march
Left Bankau (Bakow)* 3am 18th January. 30km to Winterfeld (Zawisc)*
at 6 pm 18th January 1945.
Left 19th 4.30a.m, 20km to Karlsruhe at 11am.
Left 19th at 8pm, 41km to Dugnitz at 11am.
20th Crossed the R. Oder at 3am.
Left 22nd at 3am, 20km to Gro. Jankwitz at 12am.
23rd at 7am, 20km to Wansom (Wiazow)* at 4pm.
25th at 3am via Strechlin, 30km to Heiserdorf at 3pm.
27th at 11am, 20km to Pfeffendorf at 5.30pm.
28th at 5am, 22 km to Stansdorf (Stanowice)* at 12am via Schwednitz
to Goldberg (Ztotoryja)*.
*Note by Craig Scott (David’s son) May 2007
In order to help researchers, and others interested in seeing the
exact route of the march, I decided to mark the place names mentioned
above on a modern map of Poland. However this was easier said than
done as many names had been changed, or reverted to, Polish ones
after the war. After a surprising amount of research I was finally
able to identify at least some of them. These are the place names
written in italics and appearing within brackets above.