Stalag XB Sandbostel POW camp

Stalag XB Sandbostel which was situated near Bremen in Germany.

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Dorothy Duffield

Posted: 25 May 2011

My Father's story
Maurice Archer
"I was 17 when we sailed out of Liverpool on 21st June 1940 the ship the Wendover was bound for Bordeaux carrying coal on passage France had fallen to Germany so orders were changed and the ship was diverted to Rio De Janeiro on 12th July I celebrated my 18th Birthday. On the 16th I was captured and burly German officer turned to me and informed me "the war is over for you son" but this was just the start of 4.5years in concentration camps which I witnessed death hunger cold and disease. On the 16th July 1940 I was on 4-8 watch when according to the 8-12 watch a ship with bows displaying Yugoslav colours had opened fire from the Port Quarter killing the radio operator and setting fire to the bridge. During the one-way exchange of fire (the raider kept of range) an AB George Smith was seriously injured and the third engineer, Mr. Gibson and the steward Mr. Gernardt were killed. George Smith died later of his injuries. After 4 months aboard the The raider we were transferred to a prison ship, conditions on the Raider were passable but the prison ship were deplorable. We eventually landed in Bordeaux after a few weeks. We were taken to the prison camp Caserne Colonial Bordeaux. This prison camp bordered on primitive in every sense of the word. Our first night here we had doors for beds we weren't sorry to leave here after three days in a cattle truck we reached Dransy Paris. The least said about our stay in this camp the better. The only good thing I remember about Drancy was the kindness of the French women who had nothing themselves but threw loafs of bread to us past the guards.
The majority of prisoners were sent to concentration camps from here. After 5 days of normal transportation (cattle Trucks) we arrived at Bremervorde, we then marched to Sandbostel Stalag XB to be greeted by the stench of death the same smell lingered in Stalag XB until we left 2 years later that I will never forget.
Although it's 65 years ago, I felt as if we were marching into another world, after injections from the medical staff we were ready for the three tier bunks and the layers of straw, we were used to roughing it at sea, but the future looked bleak in that environment, especially when the Russians entered the war. We received Red cross parcels pretty regular and when possible passed camp grub to the Russians through the wire , eventually the Swiss Red cross informed our officers that Typhus was spreading in the Russia sector and we were on the road again to marlag und Milag Nord from where I was repatriated in early 1945
There were times when I think of the few months of kindness and friendliness shown by Frau Wilmbrock and her family of Kirch when in Stalag XB as Jock Reid and myself worked their farm. Little did I know but back home I was missing presumed dead and my name was and still is on the wall of Remembrance in the Mission to Seaman in South Shields.