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Herbert Heinemann

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The wartime memories of Herbeit Heinemann

BUTTERWICK CAMP Nr: 163

[The] Commandant of the camp was - as far as I remember - Major Harris, a sharp officer. We were collected each morning and furthermore once or twice a day to irregularly times and often during the night even when it was raining. Wet through we went back into our tents not very pleasant to us.

I did not count the number of the British guards; they should have been up to 30 or 40 soldiers. We were about 5000 PoW’s shared out to three cages numbered A,B,C, per 2000 of us in cage A and B, l000 in cage C.

We began by digging trenches around the every tent to prevent water comes inside. It always was very slippery on rainy days and very muddy everywhere in the camp. But very soon sun was shining again and everything was ok until it was raining again.

At the 8th of May we were regarding a sort of firework, but very soon we saw the guardsmen shooting in the air. WAR HAD COME TO ITS END. I personally [felt I] was very lucky at that moment and I am sure the most of us were much more than only lucky.

Butterwick was a PoW working camp; there were no officers among us. At the very first time I was [kept] busy in the guard’s camp for a few days doing all sorts of light duty. In the following [days] I was commanded to a job called fire-point, a place outside the camp across the road. Nearly every day a tall guardsman with rifle expected me at the camp gate. Passing the guards camp on the way to that point he offered me a PLAYERS cigarette. I was wondering and this gesture had been occasion to fill me with astonishment.

Fred YoungWithin fewer days we became friends and we are still very very good friends. His name [was] Fred Young [who, pre-war, was] living in Stroud. He gave me his address before he left Butterwick camp. I contacted him after I was repatriated. My wife and I visited him at [his] home in Stroud and we invited him and his wife [to Germany] a couple of years ago to spend a good time with us.

A brilliant story isn’t it!! I think this event should be worthwhile to be mentioned.

Food in Butterwick Camp was pretty short, one trowel with porridge every morning, one with soup at about 12 o’clock and 7 of us [sharing] a loaf of bread with a piece of margarine and small sausage or something else at night. Not sufficient at all for the youngest of us. We always were very hungry. Later I was told that food was even rationed for the people in your country.

On display in the middle of our cage we got the information that the USA had dropped the atom bomb, strange to me I never heard of things like this kind of bomb before. That was the end of WORLD WAR II.

In the meantime farmers had started harvesting the crops. Nearly all the lot of us had to work on farm in the area, it was thrashing time. They took us to the farms by lorries. A change for us being outside the camp at last, contacting people working there. Sometimes we used to sing passing villages on our lorries and we noticed people were listening to our songs, that made us PoW’s happy. In the following time we were picking potatoes, afterwards pulling sugar beets and turnips. We did every kind of farm-work. Farmers sometimes offered a cup of tea or even a cigarette when he was good tempered. Farmer Wilson in Market Weighton - I remember him very well – supplied us with sandwiches, tea and cigarettes because we worked very hard pulling turnips in November. Meanwhile [there was] a fall in temperature at that time.

In the early morning of the 9th of November a few hundred of us set off to camp Bellasize, marching all the way from Butterwick camp passing the village [of] LANGTOFT to get to the railway station [at] Great Driffield. It took us a long time to get there. By the way, Butterwick was camp [Nr]163, not [Nr]159, I am sure.

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