One man’s true story of five years as a prisoner of war, this book gives an insight into the feeling and comradeship that existed throughout the camps.
Obviously not the best five years of his life, he tells how the Polish civilians risked their lives to give what little they had to the prisoners, and talks of their great courage and fortitude.
Extract from the introduction
As a rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on May 10th 1940, I received a telegram ordering me back to my unit in Dorset. On re-joining it I learned that we were moving out at 11pm on the 12th May. After stopping the night at Herford we reached Rayleigh in Essex on the 14th. Here we were “standing to “at dawn and dusk scanning the sky for non-existent German paratroopers. On the 17th we moved again to Bury St Edmunds. The next evening for some reason, we were ordered to hand over our armoured scout cars to the 10th Hussars in Hampshire – another night’s drive for some of us returning by train late on Sunday.
On Tuesday evening we were told that we were moving again at 11pm and we arrived in Southampton about midday on Wednesday, where we boarded the Royal Daffodil in the evening only to find ourselves in Dover next morning. A German plane tried to bomb us but missed and was driven off by our destroyer escort. When we reached Calais the docks were already under spasmodic shell-fire but we got ashore unscathed and later our vehicles were unloaded from another ship. A battalion of the riffle brigade had us in their vehicle ship arrived much later, by which time the shelling had increased so much that the ship sailed back to England without unloading and still carrying some of our ammunition. The Queen Victoria Rifles (Territorials) had landed the previous day and were already in action but their vehicles had not even got further than Dover. As someone said: “It’s an extraordinary way to go to war”.
We moved to the outskirts of the town near Pont de Jourdan and the night was fairly quiet, but at dawn we came under heavy shell-fire which continued all day. Our Platoon had a good position on a steep bank but we lost one man. In the evening we were told that we were too stretched on this outer perimeter and we moved back behind the canal and spent most of the night searching houses for fifth columnists but found none. Under constant shell-fire, machine gunfire and some bombing, we held our position for most of the next two days but the Germans had mounted a heavy onslaught on the docks area and by Sunday afternoon we were surrounded. At about 6pm one of our officers called out: “There’s no ammunition – It’s now every man for himself”.
About the author
Brian Asquith was born in Halifax in 1916 and won a scholarship to go to Rishworth Boys school in Halifax. After leaving school he worked for the Halifax Building Society until he joined the King’s Royal Rifles in 1937. He was discharged from the army in 1945 and six weeks later married and became a farm worker after discovering his love for animals while he was a POW. In 1966 he bought the village stores in Ellingham until retiring to Oakworth, near Keithley in 1978. Jean Asquith died in May 1992. However with Brian’s positive attitude to life he decided to write his own story helped by letters written home to Jean during his captivity. Brian died in May 2008.
The book will be available from Wangford Vets for a donation to the Suffolk Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. Find out more about the appeal on our Poppies on 4 Paws appeal page