The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

July 27th, 2016

June 21, 1945 Springhill Record

    – Prisoners of War Tell of Experiences in Prison Camp

     Rfmn. A.W. Fraser, Winnipeg Rifles Gnr. Fraser, liberated from a German Prison Camp is home again.  Enlisting the R.C.A. in January 1943 he went overseas in July of that year.  He was reported missing Oct. 12, 1944 in Belgium.  Later an unofficial message from Ottawa stated he had been seen passing through Holland, a prisoner of war, October 15. 

     Sometime before in a conversion from Artillery to Infantry, as re-enforcements for Belgium, he had been transferred to the Winnipeg Rifles.  He thought they could have a little more training, but believed they had made a good showing and that their casualties had not been unduly heavy.  On October 11, at the Leopold Canal, his unit was reduced to nine men and no re-enforcements.  At any rate, the nine were holding out, but found themselves hopelessly surrounded.  They were lined up and started out for Germany.  In Holland, they spent a night in a farm house and left a list of their names to be given to any allied units which might come up, which was the source of the word received that they were prisoners.  (They had previously been listed as “Missing”).  They were assigned to Camp Stalag 11B, as was Aubrey Ross of the Black Watch, taken prisoner October 10.  Wesley was put to work in the Salt Mine Shaft and Ross, after leaving hospital, in the Mine.  The work was not strenuous, and at that the men had little strength on the ration served once a day – three slices of black bread and turnip soup.  (On Liberation Day there was found at their camp, enough food to feed 3000 men for two months.)  But for the Red Cross parcels they would have ended up as skeletons. The contents of the boxes, made to last a week, fended off famine and were the means of sustaining life for the time being.  It is good to learn, too, that the boys were not knocked about.  It was a matter of behavior, evidently, and making the best of it.  They saw, however plenty of kicks and blows. 

     On Sunday there was an extra ration and a time to relax.  There was not much heart or strength for real play, but some of the men liked a turn at football.  It was on a Sunday that Aubrey Ross and his companion got away.  The Germans knew the time was up, when the sound of Artillery was heard at the camp.  There had been numerous breaks which were not being taken very seriously as the Germans did not want to be burdened with too many to take care of.  Fraser’s working party was sent on a forced march, some 40 kilometers, further into Germany.  They slept in a barn and the following day were returned to camp.  It was somewhere along here, in the vicinity of Celle, that the men saw the Germans opening up and enjoying Red Cross boxes that had been blown up.  It was not a pleasant sight for tired hungry men.  However, on the day following their return they were liberated by the British First Airborne Division and taken out by truck, then taken to Brussels where they received an issue of clothing and necessities and then on to England, catching up enroute with Ross who was having a rather harrowing time following his escape. 

     Wesley said he thought he had seen enough of barbed wire – but believe it or not - inside a week he was doing a bit of fencing.  As with many other things it depends on the point of view.  He is glad to be home.  He is getting acquainted with his two year old son Harold Douglas.  Needless to say the boys are receiving a warm welcome from family and friends.

L/Cpl. Aubrey RossBlack Watch Regt.L/Cpl. Aubrey Ross, a son of Daniel Ross, who escaped from a German Prison Camp (Stalag) and eventually arrived safely back in Great Britain April 13; arriving back in Canada on the “Volendam” June 7.

     Enlisting in Halifax, early in the war, 1940, with the Searchlight and Anti-Aircraft Battery, he was posted to Newfoundland where he served two and a half years.  Returning to Halifax he took a special course, and went overseas last summer, transferring to the Black Watch Regiment.  He was wounded in France in August, remained on duty.  Word was received by his father in October that he was missing after action, October 10.  Word came at Christmas that he was a Prisoner of War; and in April that he had escaped and was safe in Britain.  This was the brief history of almost five–years - service.  Family and friends could only imagine the rest.

     “Now it can be told” and Aubrey to a certain extent has been filling in the blanks.  He was wounded three times in France, Belgium and Holland, receiving both shrapnel and gunshot wounds.  In the October action he was shot in the ankle and thus was unable to avoid capture.  He was for a time in Hospital in the German Camp.  While there he had a bullet removed from the upper part of his body, the operation being performed without anaesthetic.  He said when he winced the Doctor reminded him coldly that the knife was sharp and he “didn’t care where it went.”  When taken prisoner his weight was between 160 and 170 lbs.  It was much nearer the 100 mark when he left hospital.  Later he worked in the Salt Mines – roused at 3:30 in the morning they went to work at 4 o’clock without breakfast had a half-hours rest at noon then worked until two – and received their day’s ration of food at 5 o’clock – 3 slices of black bread and about a pint of thin turnip soup. 

     He tells of his escape beginning with a football game.  A long kick of the ball into the bushes - and–he after it – he and one other.  And they kept on running.  They each had their day’s ration of bread.  The flight lasted about four days and nights of alternate travelling and hiding until they reached the British lines and were cared for and eventually reached England.  His companion had to have Hospital care.   


Errors or omissions please report to the