Just over ten years ago I composed the account of my time behind barbed-wire solely for the information of my family, and all purely from memory; no diaries, no written records. However, at that time Freda, my wife, was an enthusiastic member of a writer’s group. She and her colleagues insisted that my writings justified wider publicity in book form.
The interest in this book has already engendered is most gratifying and now, because of the website (designed by my eldest daughter, Gillian) the demand for copies is even greater.
I have received, and attempted to answer, many letters – a few from fellow P.O.W.s, but chiefly from their children or, latterly, grandchildren. Sadly, in one case I was able to identify to a nephew his uncle shown in the 1941 group photograph of the coal mine working party, who, regretfully, was shot dead in 1944 by a German guard for not resuming work quickly enough after a break.
A grandson of the late R.S.M. Sidney Sherriff has also been in touch. R.S.M. Sherriff as the S.B.O. was much respected and well known to all who were incarcerated in Lamsdorf and richly deserved the honour he received after his return to the UK. A third example concerns a colleague who was directly responsible for smuggling Wing Commander Bader out of Lamsdorf wearing army uniform to a working party on Gleiwitz Aerodrome in 1942.
Remarkably, an Australian correspondent has tried to persuade me that Bader was not in Lamsdorf in 1942 but in a hotel in Liverpool where the writer waited on him. According to him, the German authorities had allowed Bader temporarily to return to the UK for special treatment to his leg stumps, on the understanding he duly returned to Lamsdorf! I am still not convinced!
In the end, there was so much correspondence that we started storing it in cardboard boxes – and so when writers asked if we’d heard from their old comrades at arms that their relatives had mentioned, it became increasingly difficult and time-consuming to go through all the letters to find out if we had any trace of them.
However, little did I realise then that we were about to enter a technological revolution – and neither did I think at my great age I would be expected to get to grips with it. Fortunately, with the advent of the internet, my daughter Gillian has now been able to create a website called Lamsdorf Reunited (www.lamsdorfreunited.co.uk) on which we keep everyone’s contact details on a separate database and the incredible reach of the worldwide web means we can easily bring together people from all over the world.
So, where before I was receiving letters I now mainly receive emails from places as diverse as South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Where I could not help personally, I advised the correspondents to contact the Ministry of Defence and the Committee of the International Red Cross in Geneva. This applied particularly to relatives seeing information about the sites of graves of those of our comrades who lost their lives, either by gross neglect by the German authorities or unfortunately by ‘friendly fire’ during the death march in the snowbound months of early 1945.
One factor has surprised me! Not one of my ex-colleagues on the working parties in the coal mine or at Gleiwitz Aerodrome has contacted me. There must be a few still about!
The website (www.lamsdorfreunited.co.uk) has dramatically revived interest in my book, necessitating a Third Edition. I am shortly about to arrive at the eighty-ninth anniversary of my birth and am still fortunate enough to drive my car and disport myself on the bowls greens of Kent.
Please continue to send your letters and emails!
Arthur Evans 2005
Arthur, as you may be aware, passed away on 18 March 2011. His granddaughter Jo Harrison, for several years, has been responsible for the website and the sales of his book. Just before he died, Arthur requested that some of the profit from the sales of the book would go to The British Red Cross. At the time of this request I hadn’t realised quite what The Red Cross meant to him. We have recently been reading his letters home, during his 5 years incarceration. Reading about the Red Cross parcels and seeing how important they were to the survival of Arthur and his peers is astonishing. So, we are pleased to be honouring his request and donating monies to this worthy charity.
It is important to note here, we no longer keep contact details. Now that Lamsdorf Reunited has become Lamsdorf Remembered, we no longer take submissions of photos, stories or memorabilia from relatives of former prisoners of war at Stalag VIIIB. But you are welcome to view them on the old Lamsdorf Reunited pages. Alternatively you can submit photos and stories on the Facebook page:
So, as we enter a fourth reprint we hope you continue to enjoy this firsthand account of life behind the wires as a prisoner of war.
Kathy Gower, May 2011