Saturday, February 25, 2006
Running a Staging Camp in Germany in August 1945
Photo shows: The Cathedral at Ulm, before and after the bombing of the town. A page from my Album
Thursday 16th August 1945
My (22nd.)birthday was celebrated in the Squadron canteen. Aided by Vic, Hewie,Wyatt, 29 tins of beer and 6 bottles of beer I got very happy and so to bed
19th Aug Advance party of A Sqn moved to TUNIS camp, ULM on overland leave route
22nd Aug A Sqn main party left to relieve 17/21st Lancers at ULM. Rear party commanded by Lt.Balfour remained at TRIEBEN to guard Armd Cars
Sunday 19th. August 1945
Moved off at 7.15 am through Salzburg, Munich, Dachau, Augsberg and arrived in Ulm about 6'ish. Had dinner, shower and went to canteen where I met Dizzy.
Running a Staging Camp in Ulm in Germany
In September we (that's A Sdrn. 4th Queen's Own Hussars) landed another interesting job, that of running a staging camp in Germany. At that time there was an Army scheme in operation called L.I.A.P., which stood for Leave in Addition to Python. Python was the code name for leave that was given to troops that had done four years or more abroad and were due for home posting, whereas LIAP was now being given to those who had "only" (my inverted commas) done two years and nine months overseas service.
To get the returning warriors home, a series of staging camps were set up, starting in Italy, extending across Germany and France and finishing up at Dover. "A" squadron had been chosen to run the camp at Ulm, about l5O miles north of Munich and so off we went again, for the first time in Germany itself. On the way through Munich we passed the famous Beer Cellar where Hitler had made speeches in his early days. Lt.Walmsly and Major Paddy O'Brien stopped the truck they were travelling in and posed for me. The snap is still in my album.
We settled in very quickly.
Every evening about seven o'clock the convoy of lorries used to arrive and then facilities were laid on for the two or three hundred men to be fed, refreshed and all their needs attended to before they left the following morning at O7OO hours.
My own particular job was the cushy one of camp librarian and my duties were simple, to say the least. At the beginning of the "run" in Italy all troops were given opportunities to purchase paperback books from the NAAFI canteen. As they arrived at each staging camp in turn, they could swap on a one-for-one basis and so they had plenty to read en route. As librarian I was only on duty from seven in the evening until 9pm and then the rest of the day was my own. One other small duty was taking down the news from the BBC broadcasts and posting it on the canteen notice board.
The giggle was the fact that on some occasions reception was bad and the announcer spoke too fast. When this happened I used to fill in my own version of the news, regardless of the accuracy of the statements, but I don't think that anyone was ever the wiser and the next bulletin was always updated.
As we were now a British outpost in the heart of Germany we often had visitors turning up looking for repatriation to England, and I was often called in to interpret. On one occasion a strange young man turned up claiming to be of British origin and I was told to translate. When I found my German was not enough to cope with the situation I switched to French and Italian whereupon the young man said to me: "You must be Jewish," going on to say that the only British he knew who could speak so many languages were Jewish.
The canteen at the camp had a film projector and nightly shows were given for those in transit. Because we had a different audience every night, it must have occurred to someone that it was not necessary to change the film, and therefore the whole month that we were in Ulm the film was always "Cover Girl" with Betty Grable. As the town itself was off-limits to the camp staff, we would invariably find ourselves watching the film and consequently we knew all the script and the dance routines backwards! For months afterwards some of the lads would break into one of the complicated song and dance routines. One favourite lyric was "Who's complaining, I'm not complaining, together we'll see this thing through, Because of Axis trickery my coffee's now chicory, and I can hardly purloin a sirloin."