John McMahon PoW
The following images and details are taken from John McMahon's book
A drawing of the corner of the Airforce prison compound at Stalag VIIIB. Note the shaved head and the chained wrists.
The 'Irish Potato Racket' was a scary pastime. John would sneak to a window outside the cookhouse and potatoes would be passed out and smuggled back to the camp. These additional rations made this risky activity worthwhile.
Unteroffizier Josef Kussel, better known as Ukraine Joe, was in charge of the RAF compound. When his count at roll call did not produce the correct result he would shout, "Kommer off, Mistas" meaning the airmen were to line up properly. Unteroffizier Josef Kussel was eventually sent to the Eastern front where he lost both his legs.
Red Cross parcels normally arrived each week (although they could be delayed) and one parcel had to last two men a full week.The contents of these were combined and shared between small groups of "muckers" who would go to great lengths to produce a varied menu.
Preparing a meal on a small homemade stove. Sometimes bedboards would be broken up to provide fuel. Both images above are drawn by "Toad" Hughes.
The typical contents of an English Red Cross parcel.
The typical contents of a Canadian Red Cross parcel.
Towards the end of "The Long March" John could walk no further and lay down in the snow and expected to die. Miraculously, he was picked up by a female German civilian and taken to a Serbian and Russian working party. This is described in a very moving chapter of John's book.
His new friends took him to the Obermassfeld Prison Camp Hospital where he was cared for. The arrival of American tanks signalled the end of their ordeal. A flimsy piece of paper says that from the 2nd April 1945 he was under the control of the United States Army.....this was a good feeling for John.
After returning to the UK and being transported to Wolverhampton, John sent this card to his fiancee, Alice McAdam, who was living in Belfast.
The card didn't tell Alice very much but, at least, she knew that he was alive.