“We saw the Germans attempting to blow up the bridge over the river which the GIs would have to cross. Later a tank approached over the bridge and the Germans held up their arms in surrender. White flags appeared at all the windows of the surrounding buildings. Freedom was nigh!
Soon American infantry entered Colditz. They were kissed by the French and had hands shaken by the British. They informed us that earlier they had instructions to raze Colditz to the ground and it was only because someone had the foresight to put Allied flags out that saved it.
It was a day to remember. Freedom after 2 ½ years. For some it was since Dunkirk. The Yanks gave us food and real coffee.
Arrangements had to be made to move us and it was made difficult because the war was not yet over. In the meantime I, amongst others, went down to the village. I met and embraced a 16-year-old polish girl. The first female I’d seen for many a long day. She had been forced to work as a maid for a German general since the age of 14. She was extremely pretty and I spent an ecstatic few hours with her.
While waiting for the transport to move us I ambled around the camp and was shown the glider which was being made by two RAF officers. It was situated in a camouflaged room in the attic under the roof. It was made out of wooden bed posts and sheets. The idea was to knock a hole in the roof, put it together and glide off far enough to get over the river. The Americans were most impressed. So was I.
Our convoy took us through a forest and suddenly we stopped as apparently there was fear of an ambush. A patrol was sent forward to search things out but fortunately it was a false alarm.
We passed by Leipzig, which was being sheltered by our forces. The enemy were still holding out. We came under a bit of shelling ourselves and were glad to see the back of that episode.
Eventually we reached an aerodrome, which I think was somewhere in France. We were to fly home in a Dakota. Before I boarded the plane I was stopped by an American soldier who said that I wasn’t allowed to take the German pistol that I had pinched from Colditz as a memento. He said he would give me a bottle of Scotch for it. I was only too pleased to make the swap.
We sat on the floor of the Dakota. We took off and it was hard to believe that we were on the way home. The plane rattled and vibrated. It was the first time that I had flown and I prayed that it would make it because it sounded to me as if the engine was about clapped out.
We crossed the English Channel and there before our very eyes we saw the white cliffs of Dover. Men cried and all of us were speechless with emotion. It was some time before anyone spoke. We embraced each other.
We landed somewhere in Buckinghamshire. We were greeted by bands and cheering crowds. We were deloused and medically examined and then given a new uniform and regimental emblems to be sewn on. We were able to send a telegram to our loved ones saying that we would be home in about a week. I suppose they wanted to spruce us up a bit.
Each of us was handed over to the WVS. I was taken in charge by a lovely young lady. She took me to her home which was a farm near Great Missenden. She sewed all my emblems on and generally knocked me into shape.
I had an embarrassing moment as I wandered round the farmyard with my hosts. I saw two chickens which I thought were knocking the living daylights out of each other. I pointed this out to my chaperone, who made no comment but gave a sort of sardonic smile. I slowly began to realise that the chicken which appeared to be less belligerent seemed to be enjoying the battle. A tinge of red coloured my face.
The week on the farm was heavenly and only tainted a little by the thought of going home.
The big day arrived. I said goodbye to my farmer friends. They had done me proud. They said I could return any time. In fact, I was to see the young lady many times again.
I packed my few belongings and made my way to the station. I think I arrived at Marylebone. I caught a tube to the Oval and then a 59 bus to New Park Road. It was a sheer delight to be travelling under my own steam without being surrounded by armed guards.
I walked down New Park Road and entered the gates of Byng House. There were flags flying from all the windows. I was home after 3 ½ years.”