Re. George, the man to tidy up

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Ramiles, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I have this letter, written by my grandfather to my grandmother... showing some of his experiences just after the war in Europe ended circa late May - June 1945 I guess.... so many thoughts and questions were to my mind arising just having read this :unsure: , so I thought it might just be interesting to share, albeit I did manage to find...

    The Crock of Gold (novel) - Wikipedia

    Re, the novel he was reading. He quite often mentions reading books as he goes (to my grandmother), and as I wouldn't have expected them to have an accompanying library (or am I wrong :blush: ) one question, for example, might be where might he have been getting these from? I'd assume perhaps the members of the regiment who had a few in their personal possessions just shared them about, or else he found some on his travels... from people using them to learn English perhaps.

    7880500 Sgt.B.Symes
    Sherwood Rangers

    Dearest Phyl,

    With nine men I am on guard for 72hrs over a factory, one of the modern types built in parkland. They produced small shells and lactate. The work people were mostly Russian. When they were liberated they ran amok for a while, smashed a lot of windows and threw office paper about. Then they decided to camp in the better parts of the factory and I suppose borrow any stuff they require from the locals. Well, here they are and it’s the craziest joint ever. There are loud-speakers connected to a radio, it was going at 12.30 last night and at 6 this morning it was blaring, some of them stand in a circle and sing, anywhere will do, they bunch up tight and let rip, talk about “Darkest Africa”, no wonder the Germans thought themselves the master race if they’ve seen these for the last few years. They have a boss who is more intelligent than all the 499 together and five nursing sisters who are a credit to their profession considering the conditions too.

    They brew their own drink, they offered some to one of the chaps, he took one sip and warned everyone against it, some say they brew it from potatoes, others say bread, whatever it is it’s deadly poison.

    A few yards up the road there’s…


    …a shower of Italians interspersed with Hungarian damsels, it’s a trial sitting in the office where I have bed, desk and telephone and a man to tidy up and watch (George, the man to tidy up, has just produced a waste paper basket) all this crowd moving in and out. They are supposed to have a pass signed by a higher authority but they are impossible, they think that they have to use it once and then throw it away.

    Of course there is the other side of all this. They throw their scraps anywhere, they use the trees in preference to the lavatories and there are rats and flies still in the world. They have all this in mind, the authorities, and we’ve been trying to drum it into the boss of the Russians, but what can you do with people who are wood from the neck up. So there will be a rat plague.

    There’s been dozens of British bombers passing over all morning. I expect they are picking up ex-prisoners.

    I’m reading a book, probably well known to you, “The Crock of Gold” by James Stephens. It’s just the stuff for reading to Rob.

    Well that’s a lot about how we are spending our time and what we see, George (the man to tidy up) is a German, he’s one big shake all the time, he was beaten continuously for 56 days in a concentration camp for saying Hitler was no good. So I’ll send a kiss to Rob and Janet and all my love to you dear from your loving husband Ben XX.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  2. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    I think that letter gives a greater insight to post war Germany than many history books and how our troops had to be deployed to bring some order back to the people.
    It also shows the humanity of the British Army/Soldiers who gave such people as George a chance of a job, to get him back on his feet as such.

    Books. I suppose there were many ways of books, circulating among the troops. Once read passed around. Troops who had been on leave bring them from home, Maybe distribution through NAAFI, Red Cross and other organisations.
    Incredibledisc and Ramiles like this.
  3. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    I did read somewhere a few years ago that there were special "pocket" editions of books produced to distribute to men at the front - might have been US forces only though.
  4. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

  5. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Thanks for that, he (gd) mentions his Irish friend "Murphy" in the SRY quite a few times, so I had half sort of wondered if it was perhaps his (Murphy's) book.

    "James Stephens wrote many retellings of Irish fairy tales. His retellings are marked by a rare combination of humor and lyricism (Deirdre, and Irish Fairy Tales are often singled out for praise). He also wrote several books (The Crock of Gold, Etched in Moonlight, Demi-Gods) which are fiction, but loosely based on Irish fairy tales. 'The Crock of Gold,' in particular, achieved enduring popularity, and was frequently reprinted throughout the author's lifetime." (Quote from

    There is a pdf of
    The Crock of Gold by James Stephens
    online at The Crock of Gold by James Stephens

    So I considered having a browse to see if it was the sort of thing I might like ;)

    Having just 9 men (+him) to "watch-over" the behavior of 500+, in addition to all the other stuff, does rather juxtapose (in its shear, contrasting detail) for example with the SRY War Diary that has just

    23rd May 1945: Commander 8th Armd Bde. visited T targets 14.15 hrs. Many incidents with Poles and Russian DP, such as pilfering of clothes and food, stealing bicycles and attempted rape.

    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017

Share This Page