“I feel one can say with some conviction that no man should willingly leave his home to fight, wound, maim or kill other men about whom he knows little and whom he certainly does not hate. When all men refuse to commit such follies the foundations of a true civilisation will have only just started to be laid.”
- Sam Sutcliffe, circa 1974 (extracted from his Memoir)

Sunday, 11 November 2018

’”There is an Armistice!” one Soldat bellowed…’ Sam’s November 11: the real Armistice Day as experienced by a Tommy in a German POW camp…

Sam’s Memoir – paperback and e-book – and the e-excerpts from it are now available in their third and final editions with added Endnotes and, in the Memoir, added documentation.

It’s war’s end at last – but Sam’s blog, Facebook page and tweets will continue until his Memoir concludes with the Centenary of the July, 1919, Peace parade in London…

For details of how to buy Sams full Memoir(1) in paperback or e-book & excerpted Gallipoli Somme& Arras 1918/POW etc mini-e-books & reader reviews see right-hand column
For AUDIO excerpts click Here  Join Foot Soldier Sam on Facebook Here

All proceeds from all versions of Sam’s Memoir will always go to the British Red Cross - and the current running donations total at November 1 is £3,644.84 (I can't update it in the Donations box below because the "edit" tool has vanished!)

Dear all

A hundred years ago this week… Henry Nicholas John Gunther found a sad place in history as the averred “last soldier killed” in World War 1: at 10.59am on November 11, one minute before the legendary “11th hour”; this German-American, aged 23, a Private following demotion from Sergeant because an intercepted letter home criticised front-line conditions, was said to be trying to prove himself and regain his rank when he bayonet-charged a German machine-gun post, fired some shots despite the “enemy” soldiers trying to indicate it was all over and was killed. This happened at Chaumont-devant-Damvillers in Lorraine (the German-occupied province where, that day, my father was still a POW – see below)
    On Monday, November 11, at 5am, Allied Commander Marshall Foch signed the Armistice on a train at Rethondes station in the Compiègne forest. Bar British troops’ dawn retaking of Mons, Belgium (notoriously lost on August 24 1914), and the Allies subsequent unopposed advance into Germany (from November 16) and the German Army’s exit from France (complete by the 18th) that was more or less it for military action. But the diplomatic and political wires were buzzing.
    In Germany a clutch of dukes and kings followed the Kaiser in abdicating (November 11 and later that week), while the German Navy’s surrender was negotiated in the Firth Of Forth aboard the cruiser Königsbergby representatives of the Workmen’s And Soldiers Council Of The Fleet (15 onwards; this body had emerged from the wave of German Naval mutinies). The Emperor Of Austria abdicated and a German-Austrian Republic was proclaimed instead (13) – it promptly requested union with Germany. Then the Hungarian government concluded a separate Armistice in Belgrade (15) and declared itself independent the following day.
    Around eastern Europe, in the immediate aftermath a new national Government formed in Estonia (11), Jan Masaryk became first President of the still-hyphenated Czecho-Slovak republic (14), and Poland declared independence with Jozef Pilsudski Head Of State (16 – and a revolt began in Ukraine (15).
    Down in Africa, among the last to hear of the Armistice was General Von Lettow-Vorbeck who led his former East Africa force, which had fought for months on the run from the former German colony, to the Zambesi in then Rhodesia before the news reached him (November 14) and he surrendered the next day.

[Memoir background: my father, Lance Corporal Signaller Sam Sutcliffe from Edmonton, north London, 16-year-old underage volunteer in September, 1914, fought at Gallipoli with the 2/1st Royal Fusiliers (Blogs September 20, 2015, to January 3, 2016), then on the Somme Front with his second outfit, the Kensingtons (Blogs May 15 to September 25, 2016)… until officialdom spotted his real age – 18, legally too young for the battlefield. So they told him he could take a break from the fighting until he turned 19. He accepted, though with an enduring sense of guilt. December, 1916, saw him posted to Harrogate, Yorkshire, and re-allocated to the Essex Regiment 2/7th Battalion (Blogs November 27, 2016, to November 11, 2017). During this interlude he suffered various illnesses while recovering from trench warfare’s privations (he spent his 19th birthday, July 6, 1917, in a Sheffield hospital). That summer, his Company Officer offered him training for a commission, but Sam detested ordering men around so he refused; he may have requested his subsequent “reversion” to Private, or perhaps it was a “punishment”, I don’t know. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France and dogsbodied for Brigade HQ in Arras and at the nearby Front until, in mid-March, he ran into his own Essex Battalion; they moved into the trenches near Fampoux, about six miles east of Arras…  just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28 left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW (Blog March 25, 2018). For several months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups, until a train took his latest band down to a rural area between the Rhine and the Black Forest near a village called Hügelheim. There they settled into a slightly less filthy camp for the summer, tending sick German war horses, before moving on yet again, westwards to a village in Lorraine… ]

FOOTSOLDIERSAM SPEAKS
November 11, 1918, Armistice Day in occupied Lorraine: my father, Signaller Sam Sutcliffe, now eight months a slowly starving POW – of late in an improvised “camp” which is actually a village hall – last week stayed practical as rumours of war’s imminent end abounded by stealing a cabbage. This he shared with his Tommy pals Wally and George, partners in a snaffled-food syndicate which had helped keep them alive of late.
    Now it’s the morning of that historic day – not that, as yet, the POWs knew for sure what was going on, much less what day it was…

‘When dawn came, however, so did the Soldaten(2). But with differences. Gone were the black-and-white Iron Cross(3)ribbons, worn on the breast – decorations for bravery won by every man in their Army, it seemed to me. These they had replaced with bright red decorations, and Regimental buttons worn on their caps had given way to red ones.
     We saw no more German officers, not at any time after that sudden move to the political left. If this was the revolution – and it looked like it – then it must, we decided, be the most peaceful ever.
     The guards gave us the usual piece of bread and litre of acorn juice(4). Then we awaited events. Lorries hurried past, each displaying a large, red flag and filled with shouting troops. They all went one way – eastwards. “Fertig(5),” occurred frequently among the excited words they called out to our guards, and even the dimmest among us knew that meant “finished”.
     “There is an Armistice!” one Soldat bellowed at us as he passed by, driving a pair of horses pulling a haywain covered with rope netting under which sat many chickens. That evoked a cheer from those of us who heard the thrilling bit of news.
     Wally, George, and I found ourselves in a state of intense, excited joy, though unable to tell each other of the relief from the worry, doubt and general misery which, since becoming prisoners, had defeated most of our efforts to remain normally hopeful. Although Wally had managed to smile sometimes, I felt sure that in happier times he would have been just the cheery chappie everyone loved to have around. Now the grin, which I and my parents were to find so pleasing at a later date, began to illuminate his somewhat Punchish face – his nose was not quite so big nor quite so hookish as Punch’s, but his mug nicely suggested the puppet’s profile.
     I certainly had benefitted from my association with that young man, whose fair dealing and lack of wile and guile put new life into my ability to trust my fellow men – which had faded because of the deplorable overall standard of behaviour and of honour among those with whom I had dwelt recently. The discomforts, food shortages and absence of any of life’s pleasures had so quickly reduced them to the level of wild animals with all their snarling and violent grabbing of anything edible…
     Not so, Wally, though he was nobody’s fool and capable of protecting his own. His word, given to me and to George, really was his bond and he expected and got the same from me. From George – older, married with children, and therefore “been through the hoop” – Wally asked slightly less, reckoning George couldn’t be expected to contribute quite as much as we youngsters. That seemed reasonable to me, even gave me a feeling of some slight superiority, walking ragbag, skeleton-with-a-skin-covering though I was. Stinking pride, as my mother used to call it, can be a morale-booster at times.’

So passed Armistice Day, 1918(6), with us prisoners leaderless, but not without our well-nourished Preacher(7) sounding off in loud prayers of thanks for deliverance. Although he and his cohort sang hymns and, later on, sober songs like Will Ye No Come Back Again and Auld Lang Syne, belting them out full-strength, no reproof came from the Germans, who seemed to spend all their time in discussion, while keeping up only the appearance of maintaining a watch over us.
     Late that evening, we got the usual stewed veg dished out, not by the Jerries, but by our Preacher and several of his cronies – a further indication of our guards’ loss of interest in us.’
(2) Soldaten: soldiers.
(3) The Iron Cross: originated in Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars, says Wikipedia, it became degraded by mass awards in World War I, during which the German Army handed out at least 5.4 million, including two to Adolph Hitler.
(4) Acorn juice posed as coffee in times of shortage.
(5) Fertig: finished.
(6) The final steps towards Armistice had begun on September 29, 1918, when General Ludendorff told the Kaiser he could not guarantee holding the line for another 24 hours; he called for an immediate ceasefire, ceding to the demands of President Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points”, issued in January, 1918. Soon after that, Ludendorff changed his mind about suing for peace, but by then the German Army’s morale had collapsed and the Navy mutiny of October 29-30 (at Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea, then Kiel on the Baltic) incited a revolutionary spirit which rapidly spread across the country. The combatants agreed the Armistice on November 11, the day after the Kaiser’s abdication, and it came into force at 11am Paris time (hence “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of sonorous cliché). The German soldier whom my father heard shouting about it may have got the news a day or so later or perhaps he was echoing a false rumour in advance of the actual signing – although my father’s assumption remained that this was indeed November 11 and he may well have been right, although generally he hadn’t been able to keep track of dates. Having nothing else definite to go on, I’m tentatively dating events from here on as if the German soldier and my father were indeed correct. Under the Armistice terms, Germany agreed to complete demilitarisation and the occupation of the Rhineland by American, Belgian, British and French Armies. The parties did not agree and sign the final Peace Treaty (of Versailles) until June 28, 1919. The establishment of Germany’s Weimar Republic followed in August.
(7) See the October 28 Blog for a characterisation of the Preacher, ostentatious in his religiosity, Sam reckoned, because he had grown modestly fat while others wasted away because he took full advantage of his position as a POW “trusty” in the camp cookhouse.

All the best– FSS

Next week: Sam’s long walk westwards begins… the still hate-filled guard he calls “Haybag” drives the POWs past a blazing ammunition dump… and before the day is out Sam is tottering along on his own… “I felt like the last man on Earth”.

(1) In his 70s, Sam Sutcliffe wrote Nobody Of Any Importance, a Memoir of his life from childhood through Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras 1918 and eight months as a POW to the 1919 Peace parade.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Sam contemplates “freedom” – with “armed guards still lounging around outside the wire”! While wondering what next, the POWs sing their way through the night… and Sam, too near starving to get lost in euphoria, temporarily escapes to forage for food…

Sam’s Memoir– paperback and e-book – and the e-excerpts from it are now available in their third and final editions with added Endnotes and, in the Memoir, added documentation.

For details of how to buy Sams full Memoir(1) in paperback or e-book & excerpted Gallipoli Somme& Arras 1918/POW etc mini-e-books & reader reviews see right-hand column
For AUDIO excerpts click Here  Join Foot Soldier Sam on Facebook Here

All proceeds to the British Red Cross - and the current running donations total at November 1 is £3,644.84  (I can't update it in the Donations box below because the "edit" tool has vanished!)

Dear all

A hundred years ago this week… The Armistice manoeuvres continued… “apace” you might say, except that thousands on the front lines still had to suffer wounds or death in these concluding days. The main steps were: President Wilson sent a note of acceptance of Armistice proposals to Germany (November 5); the Allies’ military leader in France, Marshall Foch told the German delegates to advance towards the French front lines (7); he met them at Rethondes, near Compiègne and told them the Armistice terms, apparently negotiated already, had to be accepted or not by 11am on the 11th (8) – as everyone knows this formality was left until that last minute (next week in terms of this blog).
    Meanwhile, the German Naval mutiny spread to a battleship in Kiel (November 4), a revolution broke out in Berlin (9) and that same day the Kaiser’s imminent abdication was announced, followed by his exit to Holland (10).
    On the Western Front, the one-way, but often still fierce conflict saw the Franco-American Meuse Argonne Offensive (September 26-November 11) drive towards its conclusion as the Advance To The Meuse took Vervins, Rethel and Sedan (6), then Mézières (10). During this long campaign the Americans suffered 122,000 casualties, the French 70,000 and the Germans 70,000.
    Further north, Field Marshall Hague’s British and French Army Group encountered strong resistance at the Battle Of The Sambre and the Second Battle Of Guise, advancing beyond Valenciennes on a 30-mile front towards Maubeuge and Mons (November 4-5) – the battles included the bloody crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal where poet Wilfred Owen died. The French took Guise and Origny-de-Tiérache (5; Aisnes department), the British Maubeuge, Avesnes and Tournai (8-9;  in the Nord and Pas-de-Calais departments, except that the last is in Belgium).
    Elsewhere, winding-up moves occurred, politically and militarily. Poland assumed control of Galicia from Austria (November 8) and Czech forces declared national independence at Ekaterinburg (9; i.e. a very long way from Czecho-Slovakia because of their extraordinary campaign battling for the Allies along the Trans-Siberian Railway). The Italian Navy mopped up ports and islands along the Montenegran coast and further Balkan activity saw King Peter Of Serbia re-enter Belgrade (6; ousting the Austrians), the Yugo-Slav conference in Geneva decided to form a government (7), and Romania briefly and nominally rejoined the war on the Allied side after rejecting their May, 1918, treaty with Germany and ordering the invaders’ Army to leave their soil.
    However, down in Africa, the wandering German force which had been driven out of German East Africa, pressed on with its invasion of (British colony) Rhodesia, winning a fight at Kasama (9; about 600 miles north of Salisbury/Harare).

[Memoir background: my father, Lance Corporal Signaller Sam Sutcliffe from Edmonton, north London, 16-year-old underage volunteer in September, 1914, fought at Gallipoli with the 2/1st Royal Fusiliers (Blogs September 20, 2015, to January 3, 2016), then on the Somme Front with his second outfit, the Kensingtons (Blogs May 15 to September 25, 2016)… until officialdom spotted his real age – 18, legally too young for the battlefield. So they told him he could take a break from the fighting until he turned 19. He accepted, though with an enduring sense of guilt. December, 1916, saw him posted to Harrogate, Yorkshire, and re-allocated to the Essex Regiment 2/7th Battalion (Blogs November 27, 2016, to November 11, 2017). During this interlude he suffered various illnesses while recovering from trench warfare’s privations (he spent his 19th birthday, July 6, 1917, in a Sheffield hospital). That summer, his Company Officer offered him training for a commission, but Sam detested ordering men around so he refused; he may have requested his subsequent “reversion” to Private, or perhaps it was a “punishment”, I don’t know. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France and dogsbodied for Brigade HQ in Arras and at the nearby Front until, in mid-March, he ran into his own Essex Battalion; they moved into the trenches near Fampoux, about six miles east of Arras… just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28 left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW. For three to four months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups, until a train took his latest band down to a rural area between the Rhine and the Black Forest near a village called Hügelheim. There they settled into a slightly less filthy camp for the summer, tending sick German war horses, before moving on yet again, westwards to a village in Lorraine… ]

FOOTSOLDIERSAM SPEAKS
Early November, 1918, occupied Lorraine: my father, Signaller Sam Sutcliffe, now seven months a slowly starving POW, of late in an improvised “camp” which is actually a village hall, has been observing signs of war’s impending end – and trying to stay alive in the meantime. To this end he has formed a scrounged-food partnership with fellow POWs Wally and George.
    Last time, a convoy of German soldiers and officers in cars came rolling eastwards past the camp – “Zu Österreich!” yelled one (i.e. Austria). Diligent oversight among the camp guards collapsed and the POWs took to singing – hymns and other, less reverent ditties:

Time on our hands now. Opportunities to compare opinions about what was afoot and to look at possibilities from a new angle: that of free men… What men?… Free men. Who? Us… Us… Free…
     That was a laugh. Armed guards still lounging around outside the wire. Prominent in his devotion to his Kaiser’s heaven-given superiority and rightful demands for the tireless services of his loyal, if hungry, subjects, Haybag(2) now stood out from the ordinary Soldaten. The others relaxed, stood around talking, perhaps walked around the perimeter to consult with a mate. Visibly, they shed their soldierly bearing, yielded to a mixture of hope and fear – victims, playthings of rumour and counter-rumour, like us.
     As the day dragged on, more and more groups of soldiers passed along the nearby road. Frequently, our guards hurried out to question them.
     That night, careless of what our bosses thought of it, our men sang loudly parodies of songs and hymns such as had helped them on many a route march – bawdy, filthy, derogatory to NCOs and officers, and now, to Jerries. If ever our captors were to administer the final bashing to the despised Englander, now was the justification for having a go. But nowt happened.
     Seeking a spell of relief from the noise, I went outside. Total darkness, utter silence. Where was everybody? Where were the guards? A prowled round the wire, not a Jerry to be seen or heard.
     I went in again, found Wally and George, and took them round the confines. We agreed: we had been deserted, at least temporarily, by our very dear friends. Following up a little preparation Wally and I had made in case an opportunity to recce nearby territory occurred, we went into the privy – enclosed, in this case, because of our proximity to the road and some houses. We had quietly loosened the nails on two boards in the tall, outer fence which, for its length, replaced the barbed wire and would give us access to an open field. Nobody, as far as we knew, suspected our work; we even kept it from George.
     As appointed scrounger to our group, when we moved the boards I slipped through the gap, which Wally covered once more. Difficult to describe the feeling of loneliness as I cautiously stepped along, came to the wire, and realised that, if we had made a mistake and some Germans remained on guard duty, I might be shot – particularly if Haybag spotted me. Probably the very situation he’d been praying for. But I didn’t meet him, not just then at any rate.
     In the blackness, I slowly moved away from the prison, trying to walk in a straight line so that I could turn round and return to the same place. I saw nobody, heard nothing unusual… When I came to a fence I carefully climbed over it; it was only a couple of feet high and the dim sight of a cottage ahead told me I was in a back garden. Fearful of raising an alarm, I felt around on the ground nearby, got my hands on a big, hearty cabbage, pulled it, brushed the earth off its root and stuffed it into my waist sack(3).
     The singing, now louder than ever, aided my return to the bog. I guessed it could well continue all night for all our vanished Germans cared. I told my pals I had apparently been free to walk away without hindrance. I produced the cabbage, which delighted them, and, with no means of cooking it, we pulled off the outer leaves and chewed the pale leaves from the heart. A pinch of salt would have embellished the meal, but we weren’t fussy eaters.
     The night being so dark, we all decided to wait till daylight before making any move.’
(2) My father’s nickname for a particularly obnoxious Prussian guard who (see last week) “wore a look of undying anger” and bore an enduring hatred for the prisoners.
(3) Not standard issue! A tubular bag he’d devised early in his POW period to tie around his body under his prisoner’s uniform as a repository for anything handy, especially edibles.

All the best– FSS

Next week: ‘”There is an Armistice!” one Soldat bellowed… Sam’s November 11 in a German POW camp…

(1) In his 70s, Sam Sutcliffe wrote Nobody Of Any Importance, a Memoir of his life from childhood through Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras 1918 and eight months as a POW to the 1919 Peace parade.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Sam, near-starving, reflects on the coincidence between religiosity and the well-nourished look of POWs working in the camp cookhouse… Then German infantry rushing eastwards yell “Zu Österreich!” and war’s end really does seem nigh…

Sam’s Memoir– paperback and e-book – and the e-excerpts from it are now available in their third and final editions with added Endnotes and, in the Memoir, added documentation.

For details of how to buy Sams full Memoir(1) in paperback or e-book & excerpted Gallipoli Somme& Arras 1918/POW etc mini-e-books & reader reviews see right-hand column
For AUDIO excerpts click Here  Join Foot Soldier Sam on Facebook Here

All proceeds to the British Red Cross - and the current running donations total at October 2 is £3,542.64 (I can't update it in the Donations box below because the "edit" tool has vanished!)

Dear all

A hundred years ago this week… Armistice was the word on the politicians’ lips even if plenty of soldiers had yet to feel the benefit.
    First, just about, Turkey and the Allies signed up for a ceasefire at Mudros on the Greek island of Lemnos (October 30). Then the Austria-Hungary Empire struck two Armistice deals on the same day (November 3), with Italy and with the Allies. At more or less the same time, the Allies agreed to Germany’s proposal that there would be an Amnesty based on the terms advocated by US President Woodrow Wilson – but no next-day peace occurred in that case. Well, it was often more complicated than that.
    And on the Western Front, the French-American Meuse Argonne Offensive (September 26-November 11) proceeded with heavy fighting around Verly on the Oise and Grand Pre, northwest of Verdun (28); then after the French crossed the Aisne they won the one-day Battle Of Chesne (November 1; 45 miles northwest of Verdun), while the Americans took Buzancy (2; 37 miles west of Reims). Due north near the Belgian border, British and Canadian troops recovered Valenciennes.
    Germany was further undermined by a sequence of naval mutinies beginning at Wilhelmshaven (October 28) and spreading rapidly to Kiel and to unionised merchant seamen.
    Down in Italy, the Battle Of Vittorio Veneto (October 24-November 4), saw the Italian Army, with Allied support, complete driving the Austrian occupiers north from the Piave and east from Monte Grappa – their cavalry (and cyclists!) entered Vittorio Veneto itself (October 29) and an amphibious force took back Trieste (November 3) on their Armistice Day… before pressing on regardless into the Tyrol. The battle’s casualties totalled 40,378 Allied troops, 80,000 Austrian plus 448,000 taken POW.
    The pattern continued in almost every theatre: the Italians pushed on in Albania; the Croats took Fiume from Hungary via surrender (October 30); the Serbs recovered Belgrade (November 1; lost to Austria on October 9, 1915); British troops won the Battle Of Sharqat, Mesopotamia, forcing the surrender of the Turkish Army on the Tigris (October 28-30).
     An oddity occurred in Africa where the itinerant German force on the run from German East Africa entered Zimbabwe and attacked Fife (November 1).
    Further, amid all the political manouvering in Europe, Poland and Ukraine found reason to declare war on one another.

[Memoir background: my father, Lance Corporal Signaller Sam Sutcliffe from Edmonton, north London, 16-year-old underage volunteer in September, 1914, fought at Gallipoli with the 2/1st Royal Fusiliers (Blogs September 20, 2015, to January 3, 2016), then on the Somme Front with his second outfit, the Kensingtons (Blogs May 15 to September 25, 2016)… until officialdom spotted his real age – 18, legally too young for the battlefield. So they told him he could take a break from the fighting until he turned 19. He accepted, though with an enduring sense of guilt. December, 1916, saw him posted to Harrogate, Yorkshire, and re-allocated to the Essex Regiment 2/7th Battalion (Blogs November 27, 2016, to November 11, 2017). During this interlude he suffered various illnesses while recovering from trench warfare’s privations (he spent his 19th birthday, July 6, 1917, in a Sheffield hospital). That summer, his Company Officer offered him training for a commission, but Sam detested ordering men around so he refused; he may have requested his subsequent “reversion” to Private, or perhaps it was a “punishment”, I don’t know. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France and dogsbodied for Brigade HQ in Arras and at the nearby Front until, in mid-March, he ran into his own Essex Battalion; they moved into the trenches near Fampoux, about six miles east of Arras… just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28 left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW. For three to four months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups, until a train took his latest band down to a rural area between the Rhine and the Black Forest near a village called Hügelheim. There they settled into a slightly less filthy camp for the summer, tending sick German war horses, before moving on yet again, westwards to a village in Lorraine… ]

FOOTSOLDIERSAM SPEAKS
Late October/early November, 1918, occupied Lorraine: my father, Signaller Sam Sutcliffe, now seven months a slowly starving POW, of late in an improvised “camp” which is actually a village hall, is observing some odd goings-on in the apparent closing weeks of the war – German guards easing off and being quite nice; a return to formal morning parades which both POWs and their captors seem to appreciate in terms of dignity restoration; encounters with newish English prisoners, conscripts from Birmingham, who ask Sam about “his war” then won’t believe him when he says he was at Gallipoli and the Somme…
     Now he observes a new religiosity running through some of his fellow prisoners and ponders its significance:

I only had to cope with the Brummies at night-time, but one of them stands out in memory because of his habit of kneeling on the floor by his bunk and praying for half a minute or so before turning in. He had managed to get himself employed in the cookhouse, stewing up the horse and veg and coffee substitute. Naturally, the Germans took any meat in the boiler and dished out the dregs to us, but judged by this devout son of Jesus’s well-fed appearance, he also had a dip into the fleshpots before we got our meatless portions.
     It reminded me that, in Malta(2), I had walked behind one of the Roman Catholic priests and been struck by the fatness of his neck and the immensity of his behind – whereas his skinny, scantily clothed parishioners often went barefoot. No doubt, like the priest, our mate needed extra nourishment to maintain his ability to kneel in the presence of so many sinners. Nay, I now remember he gave us even better value, for he read aloud from the Good Book before getting down to the silent prayer. I do not ridicule religious beliefs or observances(3), but feel they should be accompanied by Christ-like living. Too often the zealot has an undue regard for Number One.
     One Sunday afternoon, as I loitered optimistically by the barbed wire(4), I heard singing coming from the hall and sought the source of this unusual sound. Inside I found another producer of our superb stews(5) – his face and figure full, his voice strong, his manner confident – standing on a chair and holding forth about the virtues of the good life and humility and accepting hard times cheerfully.
     The preacher chose a repertoire of popular hymns which even the least religious would have learned at school, and one had to admit the singsong served as a tonic to the men. Actually, just raising their voices in song after all the quiet and subdued, hungry and well-nigh hopeless weeks or months since their capture could count as a creditable achievement by the cookhouse evangelist; his chapel friends would do him due honour when he rejoined them after hostilities ceased. Meanwhile, he had eased himself into the best available position to survive present, difficult conditions.

At one of the now regular morning line-ups, prisoners and guards alike were startled by the clatter of galloping horses, the rattle of metal, the clash of wheels on bumpy road, and the roar of lorry engines – a medley of all types of artillery and ancillary units on the move. Finally, some cars carrying German officers appeared, the whole caboodle heading away from the direction in which, we knew, lay the battlefield.
     “Zu Österreich!”(6) and other shouts came from the rankers as they rushed past; and such was the speed of their going that the considerable column passed out of sight before our bosses could gather the full significance of the swift departure.
     Our guesses came thick and fast until all of us shared the certainty that the enemy was cracking up. Only a matter of time, we knew. The officer in charge of us clinched our belief that the worst war ever was nearing its end by dismissing us without allotting any toil for the day.
     Assembling in the village hall(7) to discuss matters, we shared our elation and developing joy. Our feelings found some outlet in singing the marching songs we’d not dared to indulge till then, because bayonet point or boot would have silenced us. Only one Posten(8) tried to stop us – one of the old-time Prussians who regarded a prisoner as inferior and to be kept that way by all means available – but we disregarded his efforts and he gave up the attempt.
     This martinet, who wore a look of undying anger, cultivated a Kaiser Wilhelm moustache, the ends pointed upwards at an angle of 90 degrees to the transverse portions. Always strictly on duty, he never allowed a smile to sully his face. On every occasion when it had been my misfortune to be accompanied by his nibs on marches to places of work, he had managed to create an atmosphere of oppressive misery, pushing a Gefangene(9) here, prodding another with his rifle butt there, unfailingly turning a sunny day into one overhung with gloom. More of this haybag(10) later.’
(2) Sam trained in Malta with his first Battalion, the 2/1 Royal Fusiliers, February-August, 1915, until they sailed for Egypt, then Suvla Bay, Gallipoli.
(3) My father remained a strong non-denominational believer until his death in 1987, aged 88.
(4)“Optimistically”? He hoped the still very French villagers (despite German occupation since the Franco-Prussian War concluded in 1871) might proffer a word of news or even some morsel of food.
(5) Sarcasm, in case you wondered.
(6)  Zu Österreich!”: “To Austria!”
(7) The village hall, surrounded by barbed wire, had become their billet/POW camp.
(8) Posten: means “functionary”, but “guard” here.
(9) Gefangene: prisoner.
(10) Hay bag: one word or two, do people still use this as a general insult? It was quite common even through to my childhood in the 1950s. I can’t find the origin anywhere i.e. why it should have seen service as non-specific abuse on a par with, say, pillock or bugger.

All the best– FSS

Next week: Sam contemplates “freedom” – with “armed guards still lounging around outside the wire”! But, while wondering what next, the POWs sing their way through the night… and, thinking practically once more, Sam escapes temporarily to forage for food to share with Wally and George… 

(1) In his 70s, Sam Sutcliffe wrote Nobody Of Any Importance, a Memoirof his life from childhood through Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras 1918 and eight months as a POW to the 1919 Peace parade.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Sam’s new Brummie POW neighbours, recent conscripts, make him feel old by refusing to believe he fought on the Somme… Meanwhile, their guards pretend nothing’s happening, act normal and maybe defeat will never come…

Sam’s Memoir– paperback and e-book – and the e-excerpts from it are now available in their third and final editions with added Endnotes and, in the Memoir, added documentation.

For details of how to buy Sams full Memoir(1) in paperback or e-book & excerpted Gallipoli Somme& Arras 1918/POW etc mini-e-books & reader reviews see right-hand column
For AUDIO excerpts click Here  Join Foot Soldier Sam on Facebook Here

All proceeds to the British Red Cross - and the current running donations total at October 2 is £3,542.64 (I can't update it in the Donations box below because the "edit" tool has vanished!)

Dear all

A hundred years ago this week… Everywhere the fighting went the Allies’ way, though not without opposition, and several crucial moments marking inexorable movement towards Armistice occurred. 
    On the Western Front, the British renewed their attack at the Battle Of The Selle (October 17-25) and the Belgians repulsing a German response at the Canal de la Dérivation concluded the victory. The British also entered Valenciennes (22) and took Bruay (23), beating back a German counter at Maing (26; just south of Valenciennes).
    Further south, the Meuse Argonne Offensive (September 26-November 11) pushed on with the Americans fighting north of Verdun and taking Bois Belleu on the north bank of the Meuse (October 27) while, to their northwest, the French, supported by Czecho-Slovaks, advanced between Rethel and Sissonne (25) and within a couple of days had their opponents on the retreat.
    The Italian Army at last launched its big attack on the Austrian invaders long encamped north of the Piave river and up into the mountainous area further west. Reinforced by British, French, American and by then ubiquitous Czecho-Slovak troops, they broke the stand-off across the river near the coast in the Battle Of Vittorio Veneto (October 24-November 4; north of Venice) and also advanced from Monte Grappa.
    The political moves arising included the resignation of German Army joint commander General Von Ludendorff (October 27; freeing him to begin a career promoting Hitler’s rise through the '20s), the continuing exchange of “notes” regarding an armistice between the German Government and US President Woodrow Wilson, while the Austro-Hungarians wrote to him direct (27) suing for their own separate peace regardless of the rest and, that same day, proposed an armistice to Italy.
    Further east, peace did not immediately threaten, it seemed, but in Syria the Pursuit To Haritan (September 29-October 26) reached its destination after the multi-national Egyptian Expeditionary Force, fronted at this stage by Arab cavalry, won the Battle Of Aleppo and captured Deraa (25-7) then stalled in face of last-ditch Ottoman opposition at Haritan (seven miles due north of Aleppo) and Deir al Jamal.
    In Mesopotamia, British and Indian troops conducted an even brisker winding-up onslaught on waning Ottoman resistance in the Battle Of Sharqat (October 23-30) via twin advances along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers aimed at taking the Mosul oilfields. They regained Kirkuk (25; lost on May 24) and advanced more than 70 miles in a couple of days to the confluence of the Tigris and the Little Zab.

[Memoir background: my father, Lance Corporal Signaller Sam Sutcliffe from Edmonton, north London,16-year-old underage volunteer in September, 1914, fought at Gallipoli with the 2/1st Royal Fusiliers (Blogs September 20, 2015, to January 3, 2016), then on the Somme Front with his second outfit, the Kensingtons (Blogs May 15 to September 25, 2016)… until officialdom spotted his real age – 18, legally too young for the battlefield. So they told him he could take a break from the fighting until he turned 19. He accepted, though with an enduring sense of guilt. December, 1916, saw him posted to Harrogate, Yorkshire, and re-allocated to the Essex Regiment 2/7th Battalion (Blogs November 27, 2016, to November 11, 2017). He passed many weeks in various hospitals because of a meningitis scare, German Measles, and recovery from the effects of trench warfare’s privations (he spent his 19th birthday, July 6, 1917, in a Sheffield hospital). During that summer, his Company Officer offered him training for a commission, but Sam detested ordering men around so he refused; he may have requested his subsequent “reversion” to Private, or perhaps it was a “punishment”, I don’t know. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France and dogsbodied for Brigade HQ in Arras and at the nearby Front until, in mid-March, he ran into his own Essex Battalion; they moved into the trenches near Fampoux, about six miles east of Arras… just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28 left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW. For three to four months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups, until a train took his latest band down to a rural area between the Rhine and the Black Forest near a village called Hügelheim. There they settled into a slightly less filthy camp for the summer, tending sick German war horses, before moving on yet again to a village in Lorraine… ]

FOOTSOLDIERSAM SPEAKS
Late October, 1918, occupied Lorraine: my father, Signaller Sam Sutcliffe, now seven months a slowly starving POW… but hoping he just has to survive a few more weeks maybe – because rumours of imminent German defeat abound (the prisoners have no solid information, of course, and only a limited notion of what day it is).
    In the last month or so his grand strategy has been an extra-food-sharing alliance with fellow Tommy POWs Wally and George – be the supplement raw liver from a pig’s trough, small spuds dug up from a roadside hole or a hambone traded through the wire for wool from a Red Cross parcel. Anything “edible”, even in the most inverted-commaed sense.
    Just now POW camp life clearly feels on hold for the German guards. But 20-year-old veteran Sam finds that, even at this stage, he has a new problem to deal with - young whippersnappers!

Hindsight gives one a lovely sense of “I told you so” power, and I am no exception to that self-indulgent practice. What I saw happen then I see today taking place in Britain; although disruption of life as we know it threatens(2), people of necessity carry on as if all is well.
     That’s how the Germans behaved in autumn, 1918. They tried to maintain some sort of purpose to each day’s routine and sent us off under guard to do something which, really, lacked credibility from the point of view of their national interest; we worked to clean up and re-pack the sleepers on a single-track railway for which – if, as we believed, they had near enough lost the war – they would have no further use because they would soon be scuttling back to the Fatherland as fast as their legs or their few remaining road transports would take them.
     They had even had some of their wooden bunks erected in a corner of the hall in which we lived, and I found myself sleeping among men with whom I had not previously been confined, mainly from the Birmingham area as far as I could judge. Lying on the hard boards produced more wakefulness than sleep and they chatted endlessly, often mentioning the Bull Ring(3). In my ignorance, I wondered what this Bull thing was.
     Came a time when the silence on my part was not to the Brummies’ liking, although up to that point no opportunity to join in had presented itself. All the usual enquiries about where I had been captured led me to tell of earlier experiences in the war, but when I said I had been an acting Sergeant on the Somme in 1916, and that even earlier I had seen active service on that misbegotten peninsula in Turkey, they finally refused to believe me. All made-up yarns, said they, adding descriptive adjectives not worth repeating.
     This reaction saddened me, for I realised that here we had a new generation with no knowledge of the beginning of the war who cared nothing about those who had been engaged in it. Conscripts, they felt no concern with anything but their own survival. Well, didn’t we all, if it came to that?
     So, aware of this gap between these young men – the conscripts – and me, I did ask them a little about their own experiences, and added my own guesses… Apparently captured on almost their first turn in the front line… previously busy in the workshops of a manufacturing maze, making big money by the standards of those times… then suddenly called to training for war and, after a few months of NCOs shoving them around and screaming at them, they encountered the shattering horrors of artillery bombardment, then they were raked by machine-gun fire, scattered by showers of stick bombs, and finally driven from their trenches at the points of bayonets and herded into barbed-wire pens… all so rapidly they had no time to realise what was actually happening to them…
     Then what hope had I of convincing them that I had, on and off, been going through that sort of thing for some years? No point in trying to enlist their sympathy, or hope they might touch the forelock when addressing such a 20-year-old veteran as myself.
     For a while, I felt old and lonely and full of regret for the years I had wasted by volunteering for service when I might have stayed home and maybe made lots of money. But, on further reflection, I started to see these inner moans as the idle thoughts of an idiot who’d done what he’d done from none of the highfalutin’ motives which he would sometimes cite to excuse himself his silly conduct. And I knew that, later, more deflation of my ego would follow when I tried to come to terms with a mode of life to which, after four years of Army life, I had become a complete stranger(4).’
(2) I’m not sure exactly what my father was referring to, but given he was writing roughly 1972-6, my guess is he was thinking of the oil crisis in particular, possibly with a side order of the not-unrelated 1972 and ’74 miners’ strikes, see http://ow.ly/oG4m30mhtrQ.
(3) The Bull Ring: market place specialising in textiles, formally from 1154 when chartered by King Henry II; the market grew and diversified through the centuries, survived World War II bombings; redeveloped from the 1950s onwards as a shopping centre. Before he joined the Army, Sam had never travelled north of London (and, incidentally, like many of his comrades, he never travelled abroad again after World War 1 even though he lived to be 88 – the cheap package holidays which started in the ’60s came too late for him).
(4) That is, the civilian mode of life – in case you weren’t clear what Sam meant here.

All the best– FSS

Next week: Sam, in extremisfood-wise, reflects on the coincidence between religiosity and the well-nourished look of POWs who work in the camp cookhouse – but still he feels better for the hymn singsongs… And then even moreso when infantry rushing eastwards yell “Zu Österreich!” by way of explanation and the end really does seem nigh…

(1) In his 70s, Sam Sutcliffe wrote Nobody Of Any Importance, a Memoir of his life from childhood through Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras 1918 and eight months as a POW to the 1919 Peace parade.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sam and POW pals suddenly find themselves on a “Pay Parade” – of a sort. Oddly, it makes them feel more like men again. Also he sneaks some contraband through the wire, then finds a blessing in the pages of a prayer book: they make a handsome roll-up!

Sam’s Memoir – paperback and e-book – and the e-excerpts from it are now available in their third and final editions with added Endnotes and, in the Memoir, added documentation.

For details of how to buy Sams full Memoir(1) in paperback or e-book & excerpted Gallipoli Somme& Arras 1918/POW etc mini-e-books & reader reviews see right-hand column
For AUDIO excerpts click Here  Join Foot Soldier Sam on Facebook Here
All proceeds to the British Red Cross - and the current running donations total at October 2 is £3,542.64 (I can't update it in the Donations box below because the "edit" tool has vanished!)

Dear all

A hundred years ago this week… The Allies’ apparent plans for an autumn advance followed by a winter rest and triumph in 1919 were revised forward because of success on the battlefield and the evident wilting of German resistance and ability to conduct rearguard actions.
    The Battle Of Courtrai (October 14-19) picked up the Flanders Advance after a couple of weeks recovery as Belgian, British and French troops, led by King Albert 1 of Belgium (who had often appeared in the front lines during the war), attacked briskly on a line from Comines north to Dixmude capturing Menin, Roulers (15), Ostend, Lille and Douai (17; the latter two in France), Courtrai, Bruges, Zeebrugge and Marchienne (19).
    The Battle Of The Selle (October 17-25) followed failed German counterattacks (14 and 16) by following up the Allies’ Cambrai victory on a 10-mile front south of Le Cateau. British, American and French troops crossed the river (20) as the Germans retreated northeastwards.
    In the long Meuse Argonne Offensive (September 26-November 11), at the Battle Of Montfaucon (14-17; later, as a “destroyed village”, the place became a monument to WW1), after a series of bloody setbacks, the Americans broke through the Hindenburg Line then pushed on along a front from Grandpré to Vouziers (18; Grandpré is about 50 miles east of Reims).
    Meanwhile, Allied, but chiefly British interventions in Russia gathered pace as forces who had landed at Vladivostok on the Pacific reached Irkutsk (October 14; a journey west of almost 2,500 miles ) and Omsk (18; almost 1.500 miles further west – which sounds as though it must have been different Battalions, surely). Other incursions, enormous distances apart, saw the British capture Dushak in Transcaspia from the Bolsheviks (17), advance to Soroka on the White Sea (18) and repel Bolshevik forces at Seletsko (18; 160 miles up the Dvina from Archangel).
    Elsewhere, Italian troops retook Durazzo, Albania, and the French Ipek, Montenegro (both October 14) from the Austrian Army, while the French also supported the Serbians’ recovery of their country from the Bulgarians, occupying Knyazhevats and Krushevats (17), the French the penetrating Bulgaria as far as Vidin on the Danube (19).
    Further south and east, the multinational Egyptian Expeditionary Force’s Pursuit To Haritan saw Homs (of current notoriety in the Syrian civil war) occupied (October 15), after which the combined cavalry, including many armoured cars by this stage, set off towards Aleppo (20, 115 miles north).

[Memoir background: my father, Lance Corporal Signaller Sam Sutcliffe from Edmonton, north London,16-year-old underage volunteer in September, 1914, fought at Gallipoli with the 2/1st Royal Fusiliers (Blogs September 20, 2015, to January 3, 2016), then on the Somme Front with his second outfit, the Kensingtons (Blogs May 15 to September 25, 2016)… until officialdom spotted his real age – 18, legally too young for the battlefield. So they told him he could take a break from the fighting until he turned 19. He accepted, though with an enduring sense of guilt. December, 1916, saw him posted to Harrogate, Yorkshire, and re-allocated to the Essex Regiment 2/7th Battalion (Blogs November 27, 2016, to November 11, 2017). He passed many weeks in various hospitals because of a meningitis scare, German Measles, and recovery from the effects of trench warfare’s privations (he spent his 19th birthday, July 6, 1917, in a Sheffield hospital). During that summer, his Company Officer offered him training for a commission, but Sam detested ordering men around so he refused; he may have requested his subsequent “reversion” to Private, or perhaps it was a “punishment”, I don’t know. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France and dogsbodied for Brigade HQ in Arras and at the nearby Front until, in mid-March, he ran into his own Essex Battalion; they moved into the trenches near Fampoux, about six miles east of Arras… just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28 left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW. For three or four months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups, until a train took his latest band down to a rural area between the Rhine and the Black Forest near a village called Hügelheim. There they settled into a slightly less filthy camp for the summer, tending sick German war horses, before moving on yet again to a village in Lorraine… ]

FOOTSOLDIERSAM SPEAKS
October, 1918, occupied Lorraine: my father, Signaller Sam Sutcliffe, now 20 years old and six months a slowly starving POW, is trying to survive what he hopes may be the last few weeks of war – having heard a passing German sailor tell the guards about a Navy mutiny, along with other hints and rumours.
    Part of his strategy is a food partnership with his pals Wally and George – sharing every little extra they can find, swap or snaffle, even though the arrangement comes under strain every time one of them gets hold of some tidbit in absence of the others. Last week, before conscience restrained him, Sam took a bite out of a fruit pie – covertly passed through the wire by a kind, brave village woman. Then George got a Red Cross parcel and scoffed much of the edible contents by himself before coming to Wally and Sam with a apologies and sharing the rest. They understood, forgave and resumed their vows.
    But the parcel included a few items potentially useful for trade, including a hank of wool. For now though, a striking, possibly weird development in relations between the POWs and their guards:

With that promising sense of change still in the air, one morning the Jerries lined us all up on a grassy area outside the barbed wire surrounding the village hall. There, they had placed a trestle table with a chair. We stood in two ranks facing the table, aware of several Soldaten(2) in position behind us, rifles at the ready, while in front stood one low-ranking NCO and an impressively immaculate Unteroffizier(3).
     Then two officers appeared – and you would have had to see them to appreciate the elaborate decorations which enhanced their well-cut uniforms. “Bla bla bla!” yelled the obvious senior gent and the UO loudly replied, ending with “Herr Offizier” or “Herr Kapitän”. Everything done at the yell, far louder than our British equivalents. They appeared to hate each other, but I guess it was only “bull”.
     “Komm!”(4) yelled the UO to our man first in line, seating himself alongside the Kapitän, placing paper and pen on the table and opening a briefcase which, I spotted, contained some more of those Gutschein(5) tickets they had given us once before. So we have a pay parade! Our lad steps forward and, from force of habit, slams his heels together and smartly salutes. “Name?” – meaning plain to all, despite the “Naamuh” pronunciation – “Vorname?” (Tom, Dick or Harry), “Regiment?” (pronounced “Raygiment” with a hard “g”). Then, the UO announced how many marks and pfennigs(6) the prisoner was due and pushed forward some of those coloured tickets. Our boy saluted and picked up the moola, about-turned and marched back to his place.
     I could see this display of correct behaviour impressed his nibs. None of us had so far ever saluted a German officer on, as we thought, good principle. But I later learned that British officer prisoners did observe such courtesies and I regretted that I had not done so on the rare occasions when I had encountered a German commissioned officer. Each man thereafter did his best to comply with this discipline, and we felt something approaching dignity emerge from this new experience.
     Some villagers had congregated at the nearby roadside and, naturally, I tried to identify the lady in black who had slipped the lovely pie through the barbed wire(7). Careful not to appear interested in any one person, I did see her standing behind the others. I tried to catch her eye and she nodded slightly, sufficient to tell me she knew we had seen one another previously. Without comment to anyone, I did not attempt any further communication, but told Wally about my friend and suggested that something might come of it. Bringing in George, it was agreed that I should try to effect a trade of, first, half the Red Cross wool for something to eat, no stipulation being made as to what the rate of exchange should be.
     Perhaps our exemplary behaviour at “pay parade” had done us some good in the Jerries’ eyes, for thereafter we paraded each morning, whether or not they had work to send us to. The villagers who happened to be around at that time of morning would stop and look and a few soon approached just a little closer. The Germans may have felt flattered by this show of interest at first for, after all, these people in Lorraine had lived under German rule for 48 years(8) and must by now have become loyal to the chosen race…
     My first transaction was carried out right under the noses of the guards, though in a straightforward manner. As I stood near the fence and displayed the hank of wool behind my back to a young lady who had come fairly close to our line of prisoners, my eyes directed hers to my offer and she smiled and nodded when I said “Essen” and then “mange”(9). She moved off, but soon returned and, behind my back, an exchange was effected so smoothly that I swear the man next to me knew nothing about it.
     At the safe moment, I slipped her package into my under-tunic sack and later we unwrapped the parcel. Though necessarily small, it contained a hambone with some nice meat still on it, a piece of rye bread, and, to us smokers who hadn’t had a drag for weeks – for me, not since the trip to the showers in Mühlhausen(10) – the boon of a large screw of home-cured tobacco leaf.
     I had, some time back, acquired a French prayer book I’d found in a damaged and discarded German tunic – former property, I gathered, of a soldier who had died, I knew not how (at the same time, I’d taken the opportunity to dump my heavy clogs(11) and put on his badly worn jackboots – in such poor condition were they that no guard questioned my possession of them). Now the prayer book, which the Jerry must have pinched off a Frenchman, supplied us with fine cigarette papers.
     So I was already returning something for George’s contributions from his parcel. I proudly disposed of the remainder of the goods to the satisfaction of my partners, without being spotted by our captors, and they elected me official dealer and Dolmetscher(12) to the organisation — an unpaid appointment, which I endeavoured to discharge effectively until events separated us.’
(2) Soldaten: soldiers.
(3) Unteroffizier: Sergeant or, I gather, sometimes more generally other non-commissioned officers.
(4) “Komm!”: come!
(5) Pfennig: in pre-Euro German currency one cent, a hundredth of a Mark.
(6) Gutschein: vouchers given to the POWs instead of money – just the twice in the case of Sam’s itinerant group. See blogs August 12 and 19 for the previous occasion.
(7) See blog September 30.
(8) Since the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1.
(9) “Essen”: to eat. in German. “Mange”: eat, in French.
(10) and (11) See the same blogs shown in (5) – Sam’s British Army boots were nicked while he was in the shower and a German guard came up with some clogs for him to wear.
(12) Dolmetscher: interpreter.

All the best– FSS

Next week: Sam observes the guards pretending that nothing’s happening, act normal and maybe crushing defeat will never come… And his new Brummie bunkmates, recent conscript POWs, just don’t believe Sam, a veteran at 20, could have fought on the Somme and so on: “I felt old and lonely…”

(1) In his 70s, Sam Sutcliffe wrote Nobody Of Any Importance, a Memoirof his life from childhood through Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras 1918 and eight months as a POW to the 1919 Peace parade.