Private Eric Reeves, 1/5th Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, recalls the black market in his POW camp and being saved by a German with a sense of humour.
Eric Reeves
Private Eric Reeves

We had a concentration camp of Jews about a thousand yards from our camp all those years which we learnt later had come out from Auschwitz instead of going to the gas chambers. So we worked along side, we knew all about that, but we were also getting regular Red Cross parcels right through 1942, 43 and we were building up like fighting cocks, you see. So if you took out a bar of chocolate from the Red Cross parcel you could get a dozen eggs. The German egg ration was 2 eggs a week but through the Polish black market and I will explain this, you were counted off into working like 20 men and a guard marched you into the refinery which was itself a prison camp. Guards at all the gates and all this. And then different foremen or managers from different firms who were building this oil refinery would come up and pick their men - two, three, five, ten, whatever, and so the guard would leave you there and then you could not get out and so you just worked among the civilians. So chocolates, cigarettes, stuff like that, you could buy a dozen eggs, you could buy flour, so in order to get your eggs home you got an old sock or a sheet, you dropped an egg in and put a piece of Red Cross string around, put another egg in, Red Cross string, dropped it down and pulled it up here in your groin. So everybody walked back bow-legged. Now the trouble was if 2 or 3 blokes on a 20 man working party got a dozen eggs each you could not get them in. So as I say I could speak a fair bit of German which old MacPherson had taught me so I worked virtually as an interpreter between the guard and the blokes so I was always in the back 3. So we had to have a rota and I would say "Right, Angus McClarty, you don’t get any eggs today" because he was a bloomin nuisance out of the Black Watch. "What is the matter with you?" "No it is not your turn", I said, "Your turn will be tomorrow". So a bloke would get a dozen eggs, so 6 of you would have 2, or 5 would have 2 eggs each and he would have the other 2, and he would get them into the camp. When they searched you, you stood with your legs straddled and your arms out and they went from the bottom up. You were not allowed to take written literature out with you or bring any in, in case you were spies, German mentality, and when they got up here [the groin], they often went "Whoops!" and I bet they thought we were he men, when they had these couple of eggs. So they never learnt because instead of searching 20 men and then sending them all in as 20 men, they searched the first 3 and they would say march off, the next 3 march off, so OK you got a dozen eggs in you know. This day we are coming back and McClarty is gradually coming back through the ranks. Real mad, hard man he was. He is gradually coming back through until he is one in front of me and I said "What is the matter Angus?" He said "I've got an egg." "What?" "I've got an egg." I said "Where have you got it?" "In my hand". I said "You had better throw it away". "No" he said "I am not throwing it away". I said "Throw the bloody thing away, Angus, you will get us all hung. We will lose the lot". So he said "I am not going to throw it away". Anyway he is in the last three with me now. So he searched old matey there and he says "Forward!" He starts to search Angus. Now Angus being Angus he got a load of letters from home and stuff in his top pocket which is forbidden. "What have you got here in your pocket?" Old Germans used to swell up you know. I said "For Christ's sake what have you got in your pocket, Angus?" He still stood there. I said "Perhaps he has a few letters from home". "Shut your cakehole". "I am an interpreter". "I don’t care who you are, shut your mouth". Now the Sergeant Major of the guard who was a regular Army Wehrmacht Sergeant Major and a gentleman, and he was. He used to say to us "You act like soldiers I will treat you like soldiers. You act like Gypsies, you will get treated like Gypsies". I could see him standing there looking at all this. [The sentry] gave Angus a whack on the side of the head and the bloody egg came out [of his mouth] all over him. That, I am not kidding, was the most terrified I had ever been, even in the bombing. I thought he was going to shoot us out of hand, you know. He had all this egg all down [his chest]. I was too frightened to say anything. I thought "Christ, we have had it" because I got involved in this. And Angus just said "It's an egg". The [Sergeant Major] was leaning on the guard room door and he was [laughing] and he started to walk towards us and he said "Sentry fall out. You two people march off quick" and quick we did. We went straight through that gate like a rocket. There was a little wicker gate. That was the most frightened I ever was in the prison camp because they could have shot us out of hand. I mean it was an assault.