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Herbert Heinemann


The wartime memories of Herbeit Heinemann

My next job doing farm work [was] for LORD SETLAND. Green grass from the fields had to be turned into hay[, being] transported by a conveyor belt into a case of stainless steel with holes in the base. Hot air in full blast changed the grass into hay within 15 minutes. We had to turn the grass permanently to keep it going. We were wet through [with perspiration] caused by the heat; our feet too. The size of these cases made about 10 to 8 yards. We were lucky to finish this job after three weeks time, you can say that again! Still we thought [we had] to come in handy.

Our next turn cutting weeds in fields when the foreman grew jumpy we did not know what’s come over him. Then he whispered "The LORD the LORD is coming”. Lord Setland appeared wearing a mackintosh and Wellingtons. Never before I had seen a Lord. He was very kind asking us, "How are you lads?” In reply to his question we answered “we are ok" and one of us mentioned added, "but we have nothing to smoke". At once be told the foreman to fetch cigarettes in [from] a shop in Gilling, 20 PLAYERS NAVY CUT for each of us. Before he went we were having a chat and I thought, “well he is a Lord in deed” saying "bye-bye see you again". And we did some days later on presenting us cigarettes.

Christmas Eve l947 we were invited to a celebration into SHETLAND cinema building in Richmond by a Christian sect. Three lorries took us there. We were deeply hit when the parson gave us a warm welcome calling us "Our Christian brothers”. Some of us had wet eyes. We were put in among the English people. The service let me become very thoughtful remembering Christmas time at home. A young girl sitting next to me gave me a pound note, another one [gave me] 20 cigarettes. At that moment I thought “I am in a different world again”, as I did many of times throughout my stay in England.

Back in camp, according to reliable sources, everyone kept presents in his hand; everyone! We said "good night”, going into our huts with wide open hearts and in great sympathy with our English friends.

Usually on a Sunday afternoon we took the opportunity [of] biking to Richmond to watch people and often talk to them. Again and again visiting the famous RICHMOND CASTLE and a fish & chips shop at the market square to get a portion for half [a] shilling1 when we could afford it. [We would] Dance at night in the Town Hall. We dared visiting the overcrowded dance hall with young people. No one ignored us PoW’s, not at all, everyone was in a good temper. Young girls [were] asking us to come into the ballroom to dance with them. I myself never before went to a dance. Dances were not allowed in [ Germany at] that time during the war. Everybody was bound to fight for the German "ENDSIEG” (Victory)!! No wonder I must have been very clumsy trying to be in step. I was totally speechless the girl, ladylike, whispered; “Oh you are dancing pretty good” even [though I was] standing on her feet all the time. That is British humour. [It was a] Ladies choice for one of the next dances and the same lady asked me again to dance in spite of all [of my clumsiness]. This time it seemed to be like a folk dance singing, “Oh hokey hokey cokey” all the lot clasping hands, going down to the floor, and [doing] the same again and again. I hardly can explain how I felt but I thought once more again like being in heaven. Nearly every Saturday night a comrade of mine and I went to dance at Richmond Town Hall enjoying [ourselves] to be among cheerful young people.

Andrew Johnson in North Africa Andrew Johnson German POW

At ten o’clock we were supposed to be back in camp, nevertheless we took the last bus to Hartforth Grange [, arriving late,] and the English soldiers in camp never told us off!! In every way they always were very gently!!! In one period about ten of us had to clean cups and plates in the Sergeants Mess in Catterick Camp. They took us there by lorry in the morning. A Scotsman had been among the British personal to carry out various jobs. His name Andrew Johnston, we called him “Jock”. I remember another one's name; Frank Lake, [from] Bexleyheath, Kent.

I spent a jolly good time there in a pleasant group of British soldiers. Later on Andrew Johnston moved to North Africa from where I received letters and a photo with comrades of him and even a German PoW among them (enclosed photo). [During] 1979 we met in Glasgow where he lived, drinking whisky, and remembering the time behind in the Sergeants Mess of Catterick Camp. He passed away 16.8.1994. I shall not forget him.

Carrying on with usual farm work Monday to Friday, sometimes Saturday including, I took a bus to visit Darlington. There I met PoW’s from an other camp. They took me to a dance hall in the middle of the town called “Palace de Dance”. The owner told us to come without entrance ticket, gave us a packet of cigarettes and even a cigar. I asked myself, “[To] what kind of race do the British people belong to after all my unusual nice experiences [that where] taking place in that time”. [It was] Not until [the] next morning [that] I caught the bus [back] to Hartforth Grange Camp. Nobody had been missing me, not even the British soldiers in camp, [who were] supposed to keep a watching eye on us!!

Herbert and a fellow prisoner oustide Hartforth Grange Camp, summer 1947

The physical condition of us [PoW’s] – 200 men in this camp – was on the whole pretty good with regular meals and reasonable medical care being available to all. The mental condition of a lot of prisoners – particularly the elder ones – however was something different - some having no contact with their family [many of whom had been] driven away from [their] home in the eastern parts of Germany by the Soviet Army or possibly being killed at the end [of the war]. The Red Cross was involved [in trying] to find out what’s the reason these men could not be in contact with their family.

[My] Time [here] was over, I had to leave behind this peaceful camp Hartforth Grange, there was no way I could stay any longer.

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