18826 Memoirs of a P.O.W. during the years 1940–45, Edward Vernon Mathias.
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Before the war Vernon Mathias (Mr Mathias, Bon Marche) worked at John Lewis, Oxford Street in London. At the beginning of WW2 he joined the Queen Victoria Rifles Regiment. By May 1940 he was on his way to France. He saw action in and around Calais, was wounded and was captured. There followed a 5 year term of imprisonment at several camps eventually ending up in a POW camp in Poland. His detailed and honest account describes daily life in a POW, the hardships and hopes for a better future back in Cardigan.
“We moved off stumbling over the railway lines, a stinking, dirty and dishevelled mob…”
“the Red Cross food parcel was the one thing that we looked forward to…”
“Physically I lost weight in a rapid an alarming manner and the side effects were weakness, an outbreak of skin sores, loss of some teeth and worst of all, one’s weakness encouraged the infestation of body lice which practically made life unbearable”
In the camp he meets up with another Cardigan boy – Jack Griffiths!
Autumn stretches out to winter: “The river Vestula froze to a great depth…”
“The frosty nights were marvellous and I would look at the stars and imagine Nan (later his wife) also looking at the same stars…”
He is then moved to Heydebreck. 1941 …1942… and 1943 beckons and life was hard – digging trenches while air raids were common especially throughout the summer of 1942. Then arrived a new medical officer – a Capt. James, originally from New Quay… (He died in 1981). There follows a failed attempt to escape from the camp… but leading only to (eventually three periods) of solitary confinement “ the room was roughly 6ft by 10ft…”
“1943 gradually came to a close and Christmas was here again…”
“whilst we POWs grumbled over our lot, it was as nothing compared to what the Jews suffered…”
22 January 1945 the march to freedom began, fleeing the Russian advance. After weeks of marching he eventually reached Burgermeistr, Bavaria.
“We flew home via Holland…when I arrived in Carmarthen railway station there was a taxi waiting for me. It took me the last 30 miles to Cardigan arriving in the evening where quite a few people were waiting to welcome me. My sister and my parents were waiting at the front door.”
“My journey was over” and it was time to look to the future.
A fascinating account of what life was like as a prisoner of war.