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Here is a copy of my father's POW camp identification certificate. He was in Stalag IXC. I've often wondered what the bottom part says? Can anyone help?
In front of me, I have a Wartime log of my step father`s 4 years 9 months captivity in Stalag IXC, POW No.107. There are 44 signatures and addresses of fellow POW'S as well as several photographs of fellow POW'S. I believe they worked in the salt mines?
My father`s name was John Mackay Cooper regular soldier with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. His place of capture was at a place in France called Sargnevillle where they were taken to Bad Zulza Weimar.
Please contact me if you know of my step father William Cooper
This is my father, Jack Dickinson, who died some time ago, spent five years almost, either on the run or a prisoner of war. He spent most time in Stalag 9C near Bad Sulza.
My father is 2nd from right, top row in the group.
Thomas "Ran" Ransley-Lightfoot is on the Bottom Row second from the left.
As a reservist Sapper Jack Dickinson rejoined his unit when war was declared in September 1939, and very shortly afterwards was on active service in a small village on the Belgian border. From there his unit were kept moving, to Lille and finally to Metz near the Maginot line. Cheifly they were employed repairing or building anti tank defences. This was the so called "Phoney War". For the men it was, during that long cold winter, to say the least a miserable time. Jack had one leave in February 1940 when he married.
During May and Jone 1940 his unit was in the rearguard action from Metz to the Normandy coast.
Enroute, roads were almost blocked by streams of refugees bearing their possesions in vehicles of every description. The Germans tried to frighten them off the highways by constant dive-bombing, low level machine gunning and by releasing bombs which emitted the most spine chilling scream in descent. Many homes had been left empty, with meals still on the tables. Confusion, chaos and harrowing sights all the way.
What remained of the unit eventually reached St Valery en Caux, where thier commander, General Fortune surrendered, although in the chaotic conditions the soldiers were not, at first aware of this. With no air cover or boats to take them to a british ship lying a mile or so off shore, the men were at the mercy of German bombers and snipers who were picking them off from the cliff tops. Many had fallen to thier deaths on the rocks below when scrambling down or having ropes that were too short for the cliffs.
Jack escaped sniper`s bullets by sheltering under a shelf of rock and probably saved the life of a shell shocked soldier whom he was shielding. Bullets were hitting the rock above his shoulder. When the firing ceased he led his charge to the Village of Roses and left him lying on a blanket with other wounded, before being taken proisoner himself. From there they were taken to a large prepared compound, surrounded by hedges with guard posts at each corner.
Carefuly noting the movements of the patrolling guards, Jack dived through a hole in the hedge into long grass in the next field. and crawled on his belly to a further field. For some time he watched for signs of life at a nearby farm. Avoiding the germans who were everywhere. Reaching the farm safely, he found only two starving dogs and hungry fowls. For the latter he slashed open a sack of grain hanging in the outhouse. In the farmhouse kitchen he found a crust of bread on the table and in the cellar half a bucket of butter. Underneath the benches in the kitchen he noticed several discarded French uniforms. He put together a bicycle that was hanging in pieces in the outhouse, and discarding his own uniform for clothes he found in the house, so that he looked like a farm worker, he cycled off, southwards he thought, with the vague idea of perhaps reaching Switzerland.
He came to a busy little town and asked directions from two Gendarmes. Their attitude arroused his suspicions and he made off quickly down the nearest road. Noticing and almost concealed drive to a large house, he rode in and hid, only minutes before two German mortorcylists rode past. Possibly looking for him, he thought. After a while he rode on again, getting off to rest at the end of a long road. Unnoticed by him, A German Officer approached on foot, and indicated by signs that he wished to borrow the bicycle which he would leave at the next village. Pretending he was a deaf mute or the village idiot, Jack handed over the machine, which he decided not to reclaim.
Continuing on foor he came to a cafe and bought a cup of coffee, still haveing some French Francs left from his army pay. From a map on the wall, he tried to take his bearings and with a stub of pencil wrote down names of places leading to the coast, on a scrap of paper. He decided to make for a seaside town opposite the Channel Islands, unaware that thses were shortly to be occupied by the Germans.
On his journey he came upon the abandoned home of a doctor, a beautiful place with shining medical instruments still in the surgery. He made a meal from some eggs he found in a drawer. As he rested upstairs he heard the sound of a car outside and looking out of the window he saw two Germans eneter the house. Quickly he hid in a corner formed by an armchair behind the open door of the room. The Germans looked briefly in and left shortly afterwards.
Continuing on his way he came to Ruon, where he bought in a small shop a bottle of red wine and a tin of sardines, which he consumed hungrily, not having eaten for two or three days. Afterwards he was violently sick. During the days he was wandering around Normandy, the weather was very hot and the streams almost dried up. Often he had to quench his thirst from the muddy water from the bottom of these.
Eventually he reached a small seaside town, which he later believed was Cartret. It was dusk and the streets were deserted becasue, as he discovered later, there was a curfew in force. Making his way to the beach he took a small rowing boat from its moorings and rowed out to sea until exhausted.Hoping he was well on teh way to the Channel Islands, he made a sea anchor and settled to sleep in the bottom of the boat. Some hours later he awoke to find himself being dashed on the rocks beneath some cliffs and had to cling on by his finger tips as the boat went to pieces. He managed to scramble ashore up a short cliff and after walking a short way came to a farm house where he was fed and dried out.
Realising that he was still in France, and that the people were obviously nervous about him being found in their home by the Germans in teh area, he left and walked along the cliff tops to some rather primative holiday chalets where he rested for a while. This place was possibly Les Pieux.
Later he met a farmer who took him to a barn down a lane where h estayed for several days. Here he was visited by a young woman who brought him food, and made kindly overtures which he was too exhausted to take advantge of. Several times he heard German soliders marching by.
At this time he was befriended by a man who had a stall in Cherboug market and several times Jack went with him to the town. On one of these days he noticed posters stating that anyone found harnbouring allied soldiers would be shot, and by this time, disheartened by his faileur to really escape, and not wishing to bring trouble on the people who had befriended him, Jack Dickinson decided to give himself up and was later picked up by the Germans at a road block. He was taken to the Naval barracks at Cherboug and put to work clearing bomb damage.
After a few days he scratched and aggravated a patch of psoriasis on an elbow and asked to see a doctor. He was seen by a sympathetic French doctor at the Martime Hospital in Cherboug, who enveloped the arm in bandaged and "experiemnted" with various treatments, keeping him there in hospital for about three months, until inspected by a German doctor, who pronounced him fit to be moved to a permanent prisoners` camp.
While he was in the hospital he had met several interesting people including a French interpreter who had worked for the Cunard Line. He helped Jack with the language. Then there was a Senegali plantation owner who promised him two or three wifes if he should visit his country after the war. There were wounded children in this hospital too. In another wing were prostitutes who were imprisoned there after being rounded up by the Germans. It was noticable that coloured prisoners were quickly repatriated.
Local French women visited the hospital and pushing past the German guards took the names and addresses of the prisoners. One Mme Suzanne Bricout, befriended Jack and by secret means got news to his family that he was still alive, thus ending six months of anxiety as to his fate. Somehow this lady learned of his transfer to Stalag 9c, and sent him letters and parcels of clothing through out his nearly five years in captivity. Since she numbered each parcel he was aware that many did not reach him.
The Dickinson family kept in touch with this brave lady until her death in 1980, a sequel being that he niece met and married Sapper Dickinson`s stepson in 1954.
One cold winters day in 1941, in the darkness of the early morning, along with other prisoners, Jack was put on a train for Paris. Rumours, probabally started by the Germans were that Switzerland was the ultimate destination. Somehow Mme Suzanne and her friends learned of the departure and were at the station to cheer the men off, pressing small gifts into thier hands. This was a tremendous boost to his morale.
After travelling all day and into the darkness of the cold winter evening, teh prisoners were taken off the train at a station in central Germany, whose name is not recalled, all very cold and hungry. For the next two or three months the prisoners worked at the nearby sugar beet factory, helping harvest this commodity.
The next move was to Nordhausen, where he had to work for a time at a tobacco factory. Here in scrupulously clean conditions, various sizes of chewing tobacco plugs were processed. Whilst here he witnessed the arrival of trainloads of beautiful Jewish girls from Vienna, who after a brief stay, were sent on to gas chambers known to be situated a few miles away. There were tearful and harrowing scenes when these hapless people departed, being unaware of the fate that awaited them.
While at Nordhausen he made another escape bid, but was quickly recaptured and put into a cell for a week. Shortly afterwards he was sent to Badsulza, a salt mining area. This was a well organised and important industry. The mines were deep with electrically lit passages. He worked below ground until he received a head injury from a falling rock. A few weeks earlier a prisoner had been killed by a falling slab.
Later he was employed on the surface, covering with strong paper the cracks in the old trucks. Still obsessed with the idea of escape, he one day fastened one of the huge sheets of strong paper across the corner of a wagon on which he was working, intending to sit behind it as the salt poured in and to get out who knows where and leave the truck at a suitable moment out in the countryside or some sidings at night.
He had noticed that the salt tended to form a cone in the centre of the wagon and he thought he would be safe behind his barrier. Unfortunatley, with in the firts few seconds, as the salt poured in through huge nozzles, he became trapped by the ankles, and he was unable to rise from his crouched possition. Very soon he had only one hand free and the salt was beginning to cover his face. He knocked franticaly on the side of the wagon, and another prisoner who was in the know, alerted the operator. Another few moments would probably have cost him his life.
Knowing full well he stood little chance of success, he never the less tried to get away another six or seven times during his captivity, because he couldn`t stand the thought of meekly doing as he was told by his captors.
Another time he hid between sacks of salt on a train and got onto a barge on a river, but terrified Russian prisoners working nearby gave him away. He did not blame them for the Russian prisoners seemed to be the most harsly treated of all prisoners. To have been found helping him would have brought severe punishment on themselves.
Another train ride between sacks brought him to Shenbeck on the Elbe, where he got out, thinking he was only going deeper into Germany. A railway guard noticed him hiding behind the wheels of a wagon, and handed him over to a huge civilian policeman, who promptly smashed him on the nose. With blood streaming from both nostrils, he was marched through the streets to a camp which was mostly occupie by French prisoners. Here, conditions were far more relaxed than at Stalag9C. There was no barbed wire and the men were engaged repairing wagons or at work on farms. These men crowded round him, eagerly questioning him for any news, pressing small gifts on him, and treating him with great kindness the one night he was with them.
He was escorted back to Bischofferoda to work on the railway sidings at the salt mine. Inspite of periods of solitary confinement he left the camp once or twice more and finnaly went for several months to a punishment camp at a rock quarry to be taught a lesson. Treatment was harsh and some prisoners deliberatly injured hands or legs badly hoping to be sent away for treatment. Such extreme measures met with no sucess and one man who had placed his hand under a moving truck suffered agonies with no treatment of his severe injury.
At this place, an extremely hard type of rock had to be broken up by wielding 14 pound hammers, an almost impossible task to the inexpeienced, for the hammers just bounced off the unyielding stone. When shown by the german civilians how to find the grain of the rock, the task became easier. A prisoner would be given a plastic disc for each tub he filled with broken rock, and would be punished if not enough tokens were handed in at the end of the day. He might be struck about the head or dug in the ribs with a rifle butt. Some guards could be bribed by being given items from a prisoners Red Cross parcel to hand over extra discs. Another punishment was to send a man to scrub the floor of the hut, but before the task was allowed to be completed the guard would kick over the bucket of water several times.
Eventually Jack Dickinson was allowed to return to Badsulza and the salt mine and more months behind the wire followed.
An incident which saddened him whilst working on the railway sidings was the arrival, in closely packed cattle trucks of Russian girls from the Ukraine. Shoeless, heads shaven bare and clad only in potato sacks, these poor creatures were in a pitiable condition after travelling for several days. They were put to work in the sidingd. JAck once or twice managed to pass a small piece of chocolate or soap to one of these girls.
He was greatly impressed by the extraordinary discipline of the local citizens. For instance in winter, on an order from the mayor, all able bodied people of either sex would turn out with all thier shovels to clear the streets after a snowfall. In summer, a line of laden fruit trees by the roadside between the camp and the mine would not be touched until he gave the order. Many of these people detested teh Nazi regime but were afraid to voice their opinions even to closest friends. No-one dared trust another. Jack gathered this from the chance remarks on an elderly civilian with whom he had to work at times.
in teh camp itself the prisoners got on reasonably well together. Jack recalled only one occasion when blows were exchanged. This happened one day when unexpectedly and unusually, the men were given two very medium sized jacket potatos each. Two Scots quarreled when one accused teh other of taking the largest potato of the four left for them.
There was little if any entertainment in his section, and generally the men would sit around chatting amongst themselves in any free time, exchanging items of "news" picked up on the camp grapevine. In each section there was usually one man who wsa suspected of being an informer, so there would be no careless talk while he was about. Toward the emnd of 1944 a prisoner wrote a play which some of the men performed.
Generally the Germans treated conforming british prisoners correctly. The food was poor, of course, the basic daily ration being a bowl of watery cabbage soup, (six or seven cabbages boined in a huge cauldron of water, with the addition half a pound of margarine) and a chunk of bread. They were always hungry.
Each group of men had a "trusty", trusted that is by the prisoners and the Germans. He would share out as fairly as possible, the contents of the infrequently arriving Red Cross parcels. There was rarley one of each man. Of these the Canadian parcels were considered to have the best nutritional value. Letters from home were few and came at very irregular intervals never the less morale remained high throughout the camp. Jack remembered only two men who became mentally unbalenced.
Two kittens wandered into the camp and were named Churchill and Victory, thye provided endless amusement. The Germans at intervals printed and distributed a small news sheet proclaiming thier victories in the air on land and in particular boasting of the tonnage of British ships sunk, propaganda which the men refused to believe.
For some time Jack was camp cobbler and became quite proud of his hand stitching. He was kept busy as leather rotted quickly in daily contact with the salt. Another task allotted to him was to assist a middle aged farmer who brought along a very ancient leaky pump to clean out the latrines. His clothes became odorous when thus employed, and his comrades would, in army vernacular order him to "clear off".
An incident indicative of teh times occured during his captivity. An American pilot jettisoned a fuel tank which landed in the camp compound. first on teh scene was the village doctor who siphoned off, for his own use, some of the fuel left in the tank. Jack had been walked the two or three miles to this kindly elderly man`s surgery to have his head wound, mentioned earlier, clipped together and had learned of his frustration at being kept short of medical supplies, for he was responsible for a large area, including the mine.
Actually the mine at the village of Bischofferoda was situated several mines from the transit camp Stalag 9C at Badsulza, where all nationalities and ranks from every branch of the allied armies were sorted and sent out to various work camps or to places reserved for officers.
If at any time, prisoners were judged to be becoming resistive or perhaps stroppy towards well known guards, a new lot would be sent in, and a period of extra discipline would be imposed. One method was to parade the men in the early hours of the bitterly cold mornings, and keep them standing for long periods at a time.
Towards the end of the war, the guards themselves were afraid of putting a foot wrong, for thier threatened punishment was to be sent to the Russian front, to almost certain death, if not from a bullet, then from the appalling weather conditions known to exist at the time in that area.
Posters were everywhere, asking for any items of warm clothing for the soldiers serving on this front. Another slogan much in evidence on railway stations was translated; "The wagons must keep rolling for victory" Inside one of the wagons on which Jack was working, someone had cynically chalked "And the prams must roll for the next war."
At last the news filtered through that the American army was approaching, and the prisoners were told to prepare to march off towards the Hartz Mountains, which could be seen from the camp. Ever escape minded, Jack hid beneath the floor of his hut, and a comrade sprinkled pepper around to confuse the guard dogs should they be sent in. These were fearsome looking creatures, with thier ears removed to sharpen thier hearing. These savage German dogs were specially trained to tackle anyone wearing khaki.
With much shouting, and the occasional rifle shot, the party at last moved off. After waiting under the floor for several hours, our escapee emerged and made his way to the now deserted mine, where he his for two or three days in the space housing the mechanism of the wagon weighing section on the sidings. All night long he heard the clop clop of the horses` hooves drawing the vehicles of the retreating German army as the passed though the village, followed at last by the Americans.
Coming out into the open a free man once more, he saw the bodies of German soldires lying by the roads, and witnessed the shooting of one trying to escape. He saw an Elderly German civilian gape in open mouthed horror as an American Soldier smashed with his rifle butt, the communications panel by which the mine had been controlled.
Before leaving the area, Jack decided to say good-bye to the farmer who had shown him small knidness, but on approaching the man`s home he was met by the obviously frightened man, embarrassed by his coming. In small woods nearby were discarded German uniforms, sso it was likely that deserters were hiding in the farm, hence the man`s agitation.
Jack Dickinson then started his journey homewards, hitching lifts from some of the many American supply trucks returning to base. Taken to thier quarters at one town enroute, he was given a hearty meal at a well stocked canteen. This proved too much for his digestive system after days without food, following years of semi-starvation, and he was extremely ill all night, not daring to leave the rather crude army latrines.
The American soldiers were reprimanded for fraternizing with a stranger, by teh officer in charge, for apart from the tattered remains of a British uniform, he had no aids to identification.
After interrogation by an American officer at another town, his story was accepted, and he was given a complete American uniform, 4000 francs and treated most generously by all with whom he came in contact.
Finally he arrived in Brussels, where he had to wait about ten days for a plane to England. Here shops were open and life appeared to be returning to normal routines. Arriving in England on April 16th 1945, he was given immediate leave, and shortly afterwards demobilized.
This is the outline story of a very ordinary man, a smnall cog who lays no claim to being a hero in the smallest degree. Thousands like him, caught up for five or six years in a war not of thier choosing, could tell similar tales. Tales illustrating the senseless devastation of beautiful cities, the brutalities, the bravery of civilian and soldier a like, families torn apart, the anquished partings as men left home, never sure they would be lucky enough to return.
In the telling of this story, memories of countless unrelated incidents have surfaced, which if there was time to record would fill a book. In some of his first days in France, Jack recalls how ashamed he was when British soldiers, exposing their own ignorance, ignored the officers of a small contingent of the Indian army. These handsome, be-turbaned, dark skinned men looked magnificent, as did the glistening coats of their beautiful little mules.
Amd what lay behind the mute scene he stumbled upon in a copse during the wanderings of his first escape while still in France? In a hollowed nest sheltered by over hanging brances of trees, he found the personal letters of British soldiers scattered about, and a tea chest still half full of that prized commodity, and poignantly nearby, the lonley graves of several soldiers, marked by the customary wooden cross and tin helmet.
He had entered many houses in search of food, apart from the ones mentioned earlier, small house, farms, and one chateau, fitted out as a hospital with empty beds neatly arranged in the rooms. What personal loss or tragedy had befallen the owners?
He remembered vididly the mournful mooing of unmilked cows, and the howling of hungry dogs, running aimlessly to and fro around deserted farms. There were the swollen bodies of once fine horses lying by the roadside. Soldiers butchering a cow from a nearby field in the first P.O.W. compound and himself trying to borrow a tin for his share of some stew made in the field kitchen to be rebuffed with a curt "I`ve lost things that way before." The findinga champagne bottle under a tree, colecting a few table spoons worth after breaking off the neck.
At St Valery, at dusk, soldiers attempted to swim out to the British ship lying a mile off shore. (all the boats on teh beach had been holed) but when daylight came the ship was shelled, receiving a direct hit, with what consequences for those on board he could not say.
He remembered the badly shocked soldier who dived into a stream to rescue a baby flung there when a German bomb trigged off prematurely the mines laid beneath the bridge by British Engineer, at a time when refugees were passing over it. The badly injured baby died in its mother`s arms.
He recalled when as a prisoner at Cherbourg, seeing huge stocks of Bfritish army stores at teh naval barracks. He helped stack cases of coffee, rum, cigarettes and so on, which never reached intended desinations, but had found its way on to the black market. Here too he had to load casks of French table wine for transportation to Germany. Some of the prisoners drove nails into these.
With some amusement he remembered the fraternizing by cheery waving between soldiers and the prostitutes in the separate wings across the square outside the hospital.
Passing through the ruined town of Aachen on his way home, he saw a very old woman crawling from beneath a heap of rubble where sh ewas probabally then living, to ask an American soldier for something, food perhaps, or drink, only to be pushed roughly aside. Large "No Fraternizing" posters were much in evidence. Could this have been the reason she was rebuffed?
When this was written down, January 1981, Jack was in his 74th Year, active mentally and physically, apparntly almost unaffected by his experiences, except for a rather cynical outlook in regard to those in authority.
Mary Dickinson (Jack`s wife)
I have been researching my Great Uncle Ran and found a photo of him on this site
My Great Uncle was in the camp he was called Thomas Ransley-Lightfoot (Known as Ran) and I think was living in Aldershot at the time although he lived most of his life in Didcot. He was with the 2nd Battlion of the Grenadier Guards and was captured in France in 1940.
Above is a story about Jack Dickinson, in the first group photo is a picture of Ran on the Bottom Row second from the left. This picture I think must be early on as he lost the tops of two fingers in the salt mines when he grabbed the chains of a railway cart that had broken loose. I believe he also used to take part in the plays performed in the camp.
Anyway I was wondering if anyone has any information about him, as he never talked about his experiences and died before I knew him.
This picture was taken of a group of workers at a Plywood Factory at Niederorschel, one of the detachments of Stalag IXC. My Dad is the big fella standing up on the left. Sgt. Michael Russell (Paddy)
Does anyone else know him, or have any information, photos etc. that would be of help.
He was at Stalag IXC from July 1940 to October 1943, also Stalag 383 October 1943 to May 1944, Stalag 3A from May 1944.
Prisoner of war camp Stalag IXC Bad Sulza Germany
Middle row from the right 1st is Neil Gold from Ashington; next to him is Joseph Walker from Hartlepool; 4th from the right is Johnny Tolan from Batley (he emmigrated Christchurch New Zealand after the war)
Prisoner of war camp stalag IXC Bad Sulza Germany
Prisoner of war camp stalag IXC Bad Sulza Germany
2nd from the left in the back row is Joseph Walker from Hartlepool. Front row 2nd from right is Banty Russel also from Ashington.
There where a number of men from Northumberland in this P O W camp.
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