"PRETTY VILE CONDITIONS"
"The Jerry paratroopers arrived at the same time as we did," said Sergeant E. H. Everton to-day in describing how he came to be taken prisoner in Greece in April, 1941. Sergeant Everton, who left New Zealand with the Second Echelon, returned yesterday.
After their capture, Sergeant Everton and other New Zealand prisoners were taken north to Salonika in cattle trucks. These trucks were marked as capable of carrying 40 men or eight horses, but the New Zealanders were transported 50 to a truck. Part of the journey had to be made on foot, and, while the Kiwis were not in good shape, their marching was better than that of their captors, one of whom died during the trip. Thev were in Salonika a week, being fed on donkey and horse flesh and barley.
They were then again loaded into cattle trucks and transported to Wolfesberg, in Southern Austria. They were five days in the trucks, not being allowed out during that period, and conditions were "pretty vile." Except for some biscuits and half a loaf of bread they received no food. At Wolfesberg they were put into their first organised prisoner-of-war camp, and conditions there were better than those they had experienced previously.
Sergeant Everton was next sent to a working camp for two months and a half. "There I got my first letters from home and my first Red Cross parcels, of which I can't speak too highly. You can't go on living on what the Jerry gives you, and without the Red Cross parcels you would fade away." Conditions in the working camp were good, according to German standards, and the camp was fairly clean.
Four Light Operas
At the end of this period Sergeant Everton was sent to a non-working camp for n.c.o.'s for about 18 months, after which he was moved to Hohenfels, near Neuremberg, in Southern Bavaria. At this organised nonworking camp there were about 350 New Zealanders and men from Britain, Canada, Australia and South Africa. During Sergeant Everton's two years at this camp the prisoners, who had to provide their own entertainment, put on four complete Gilbert and Sullivan operas. They had a full symphony orchestra, a military band and three good jazz bands, all the instruments being provided
by the Red Cross. Conditions in the camp were quite good until last. Christmas, when the arrival of Red Cross parcels ceased. "We then did a short hungry spell," said Sergeant Everton. "We celebrated Christmas with an issue of Red Cross parcels in the middle of March. It was wonderful, believe me.
"We were told one night that we were to be split into three parties of about a thousand each and marched south. We did not know where we we're going and we thought we were being taken as hostages for Nazi party members. If this was the intention it fell through. "I was in the first party to leave. En route we picked up every manner of transport we could—prams, gocarts, anything .with two or four wheels on to which we could put our kit instead of lugging it on our backs. Going south we crossed the Danube at Regensberg. The Russians were coming up the river on one side and the Yanks were approaching from the north on the other. After we had crossed the Germans blew up the bridges. Prom the first village at which we stopped at we could hear the Russian gunfire." Lived off the Land In the daytime they slept in barns or in the open woods, and at night they marched. During these days they lived off the countrv. "We were very fortunate in that three 'white angels' (transports from Geneva with Red Cress food parcels) arrived on the scene. The lads fattened up amazingly with this extra food. The Jerries could not take us any further and they made off. leaving some thousands of us in the Landschut area, near Munich."
Mr. Churchill, he concluded, had promised that the prisoners would be got out of Germany within 11 days, and, sure enough, on the 11th day they were flc.wn to France, where they were royally treated by the Americans, after which they were sent to Kent.
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CATTLE TRUCKS, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 184, 6 August 1945
CATTLE TRUCKS Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 184, 6 August 1945
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