Private Sid Whyte, 2/5th Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, recalls a terrible march across Northern Germany in the winter of 1945 and his release from captivity.
Sid Whyte
Private Sid Whyte

This was in 1945 it was in the February they marched us out and the Russians were at ?Elbing about 30 miles away. We used to hear the guns. The winter it was severe. Had severe winters out there. I have seen the Baltic frozen many a time. We started the march and we kept more or less to the coastline and as I say the Russians were advancing at that time and cutting in behind us usually but the majority of them were down land, you see, in land and the march, you see in the end we were starving you know. Really starving, because we were the last to come out of that area and the evacuees were all over the roads. I know I had dysentery and that on the march then. I had these stomach cramps, I thought I would get up on one of the evacuees' wagons and have a lift and the guards saw me, he pointed his rifle you know, told me get off so I had to get off, so, no, you, if you were caught short you just had to go at the side of the road. It was all that. I did go and knock up a little old sledge with a couple of bits of board, I went behind someone's back and done this, and we pulled that along three of us and we pulled this along with our kit until the snow and ice was sort of thawed out a bit and the boards got worn down right so we discarded it. There was a MO [Medical Officer] there, a Captain Rose. He was, you know what he had done, you know attending to the sick fellows, you know, after a day's march and he go round and he did not have much to do it with. All he could give us for the runs was charcoal you know, we had charcoal and water. But we tried to eat sugar beet and all that but it was alright, it was sweet, but then it got bitter as you chewed. They were dishing out soup powders and then starting fires to boil them like and so it went on until we got to ?Ludwigslust and they made a camp, we were in the barn and the rest were in old brickworks you know. From this village this is where they sent us to and fro to ?Ludwigslust to clear up bomb damage and this was getting on near the end of the war you see. Only another few weeks at the end of that and of course the Typhoons used to patrol that area. Anything that moved and on this occasion of course it was when we waited for our trucks to take us up the line to work that another train came through. They pulled off on the side-line and the train went through. But that was an ammunition train full of land mines and things. We saw the Typhoons come down firing and the ammunition train just got through the tunnel the other side of the embankment when the first Typhoon blew it up with its rockets. The second Typhoon was right in the dive and of course he got blown apart because they come right down to the treetops. There was a Polish camp one side, wasn’t a brick standing on the other. The other side was a pine forest. They cut that back just like a field of corn you know. The hole it made, you could get three trains in it and twisted metal everywhere you know. Everything, there was not anything whole at all. Then of course they took us in to fill the hole in and some of us was on the village retiling and there is I say, this is where I saw the house just opposite, the walls went out and the roof sank in with the concussion. We went back to where we billeted in barn, everything, what kit we had was blown out the door.
Yes they took us and of course the end of the war was almost here. This was early May, I suppose the 7th May or the 8th. When the Germans packed in the Russians were one side of us, the Americans the other and it was the Americans who came through the camp. Their guards had gone except for a few, the better ones I suppose and they volunteered to do chores for us. Then the Americans, they were short-handed so they got us to help them, control the military that was coming in. They had to be put in one side of the fields and the civilians, evacuees the other. Of course they got us to help do that, clear the roads. So it was chock-a-block everywhere and I remember there was one German officer who came along on his motorbike and sidecar and in the sidecar he had, full of iron fists you know. The anti tank weapon you know and this American officer he nearly went mad. He might have set them off like. So we were there, we still could not, we were told to remain there. The Americans did give us a bit of food rations. We had to hunt for some ourselves and we had to wait till our fellows came to transport us you see. So it was two or three days before they came and they transported us to Luneburg you see but before we left I was covered in eczema and ulcers and apart from powdering us with those little puffers for drowsiness they put ointment on our face and then of course we rode on open trucks and the dust and the sun burnt the face and you know made it ten times worse. By the time I had got to Luneburg it was pretty sore and we got there and they put us in a German barracks they took over. I remember we stayed one night, we had showers and everything. Change of underclothes but they did not have enough battle dress so I actually came all the way home in the battle dress I had on the march you know, I had had it on all the time you know.