Kandos and Rylstone History P.26
Phone interview with Diane Simmonds
POW in Stalag 13c, Hannelburg,
(Of television’s Hogan's Heroes fame.)
(Mr McLeod is 93 years of age. It was very hard to decipher what some of the words he was saying were, especially the places. He couldn’t spell them, and sometimes he wasn’t sure of the name himself, so the interviewer has taken an intelligent guess at some things. If I have it wrong, or the spelling is wrong, please email me and set me right. I have kept Mr McLeod’s original words to be true to his character.)
We fought the parachuters in Greece.
We had a win there with the parachuters, when the Germans landed troops on the place they took us away. We run out of land.
On were on the island of Crete, looking after an airstrip.
We had German parachuters as prisoners of war. We won that day, but then later that day at Suda, they landed there and brought troops in and we had to give up where we were.
The Colonel told us to destroy our weapons.
They took us back to Greece, to Athens.
Back to the top end of Greece on our way to Germany from there.
It was about 1941
We were in Greece before that. We went to the Yugoslav border and battled the Germans there. They had the best of everything.
We had nothing and a rear guard coming back from the Yugoslav border.
We were on the Pompoli - a path over the mountains.
We kept going south and they put us on a destroyer and took us to Crete, the British did.
And we finished up prisoners.
It was a little after 1941.
Where the war is going on with the Israelis now, we trained there early in the war.
We were a little way from Gaza. That was the camp where they are now (fighting in the Middle East).
Israelis were just getting back into Palestine then. Most of them were Arabs then.
We were prisoners of war for 3 1/2 years.
What they did with us, they took us on work parties first.
During the night we were locked up with a guard in a local hotel, in like a dance hall.
We worked every day with the farmers.
You had your meals with the farmers.
When the day was over you went back to the place where you were staying.
The stalag was fenced in, but they didn't keep you in the stalag. You had to go to different places to work.
You went to that farm, and if you tried to escape, which we tried to do a couple of times, me and a couple of others. And when they pick you up from escaping they lock you up for a month, with no exercise. The only exercise was that you walked around with the guard there, briskly.
The food was ordinary, but on the farms you eat with the farmer and his family. You had black bread, then meals dinner time and night and then went back to the place on top of the pub (dancehall).
It was locked up at night.
They were a nice family, very staid, very staunch Catholics, very proper.
And the farming we did was the same time of farming as they had done 100s of years before, all hand work.
Out in the fields cutting the hay, potatoes, always hand work.
They had some pretty daughters.
I have a scarf that I picked up as a souvenir.
It has the flags of the time on it, but not Australian, it has the NZ one.
It was made during the Berlin Olympics, before the war, when Hitler was in charge.
The girls worked out in the fields.
It was a funny thing. They had no fences around the blocks. They had scattered blocks. They had one in one part and you had to go from one to the other.
You had a cow stall, or horse stall at the house and first thing in the morning you had to clean the stalls out.
We didn't have time to fall in love with them (the girls).
They were good people.
They were good to work with.
They were very proper and when I came out of Germany, I was flown out by the yanks near the end of the war and when I got to England, I was surprised how the morals of the people had changed.
It surprised me how far.
There was a song going around at the time, I don't suppose you mind, it was "roll me over in the clover, lay me down...."
That was obscene, but it was a war song sung by everybody in England and Scotland.
I was surprised.
I've never married.
I'm been going for 93 years looking after myself.
They were just like ordinary people. They weren't like the where the Jews were, the Israelis. They knew about the treatment that the Jews were getting, but a lot of the people, the people I worked with didn't know what was happening in the stellos. They didn't know what was happening. They knew the Jew was on the outside, but they didn't know
They knew about the humiliation, scrubbing the footpaths etc. But not the other part, burning them in the ovens etc.
Actually, I did contact them after the war. They were the Arnold family, he had one daughter that was a nun, and their order, they used to teach them English and they were sent overseas to South Africa. She sent these photos taken at the nunneries where they were working.
You made friend with them. France Arnold had two sons and they were both killed in the war. One son was about 17, and he got called up for the army, and he became a village, a mountain hunter.
When I was working with him, he used to ask me, can you sing "The Sigfree Line". He got killed and another eldest son got killed.
He had 3 daughters.
One was a nun, the other an army nurse, and the other working on the farm.
We smuggled a rope into the place where we were, over the pub, and we had to keep the peace. There was one toilet in the place and the window was a slot and we worked and pulled it out and smuggled a rope in and climbed down the rope. In the meantime we were getting food parcels and we saved the chocolate up and lived on it while we were away.
Once we got as far as Worthsborg, from Hennelburg, and we got picked up there and brought back to the stalag. But when you come back you didn't go back to the same farm, but went somewhere else. I finished up at Ladore and worked at a sawmill.
We escaped for about a week or so, or maybe a couple of weeks or so. We travelled mostly at night, lived in the forest, and travelled in the forest. We were heading for Switzerland if we could have. When we got to Worthsborg, we had to cross the river.
We camped the night, and next day in the daylight we thought we could cross the river.
But we were camped on a Mildred parade ground, in the bush, with scrub on it and in the morning we could hear, "rifles down" (in German), and we looked out and around near us was a squad of German soldiers training and we were on a parade ground. They were practising camouflage. Two soldiers were sent into where we were hiding in this bush and one of them seen a fellow named Owen, and went back and told the sergeant, and they hunted us out. Of all places to hide.
We give ourselves up the second time, as we ran out of food, and went into an Australian work party and we were taken back and dumped at Worthsborg. We still stayed where we worked and went were back in the night to the stalag, 13, in the stalag.
The food was all right, straight out food. They had doonas made and when they made a doonas they used to pluck geese, and every village had a flock of geese, 12 or more, and in the winter time they plucked the down off the geese and bagged it and sent them out to grow more in the winter time. So we were warm in the night.
We stacked timber, and we went out in the forest with a draught horse, to get timber, and bring it back to the mill. It was sawn on the machines in the mill and we had to stack it.
They had wagons to go and get it. We used the horses to snigger, to pull the logs for the drivers. You pull them out to the wagon and hook on to them and drag them.
Paton’s army came through and got into the stalag and were going to take us away. On the road we had German guards with us marching us away from the American army, but we escaped and finished up we camped the night on a farmyard in the cow stalls and in the morning we made our way back.
Everybody seen on the streets would be shot, but we were on the street and they would have shot you. So we came out and made our way back to the stalag and the Americans.
They flew us out on American troop carriers to England. Paton's army, the general who pushed into Germany from France. He was American. They busted the stalag and opened it up. There was a heap of Russians there on the loose. We were in Tommy battle dress, English battle dress, so they knew we weren't Germans.
No, I didn't have any illness. I did twist an ankle in Crete jumping into a trench. I've had a lucky life all through. No I came back to Sydney, and worked at different jobs, on the waterfront and everywhere. I found my family before the war. I am the last of my family now. They are all gone.
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