(Below is the text of two letters written by Donald Fetter from the camp.)
Well, here's another letter from yours truly. I am still in good health and my wound is coming along well. There is only a space the size of a quarter that isn't healed. I have regained my balance and can walk pretty good now. You see the loss of my arm threw me off balance for a while. We had sausage and tomatoes for supper and apple pudding for dessert so you see I am still eating. Have you told Betty Curry yet? I wonder if she still cares for me?
Have I got a medal yet? I have the 'Purple Heart' coming, you know.
Write very soon and don't worry.
Your soldier boy, Don
Well I have just finished a letter to Gramp and I figgered that you deserved a letter now. I haven't received any mail as yet but I am waiting hopefully. I am drawing American Red Cross parcels and each one has 180 cigarettes in them. Not bad, eh? The parcel consists of: 1 tin coffee, 3 tins butter, biscuits, meat rolls, Bully, egg powder and so on. It is really okay. I certainly miss the family but I guess I'm always missing something or other. I hope Mom isn't worrying because I just don't want her to worry. Just pretend I am on vacation (or in the state Big house) Ha Ha! I've certainly met a lot of swell fellows here so I don't have any trouble getting my face and hands washed. Well dad take care of the family when I get home we'll go on a tear just you and me.
In April, 1945, Don Fetter's mother sent a letter from the USA to Dan McAuley, care of Work Camp 11017/GW. By the time the letter arrived, the war was over and the camp had closed. The letter was duly returned to Mrs Fetter. Sixty years later, Don Fetter's son Kent managed to trace Dan McAuley's sister, Mrs Cathie Todd, and the letter finally reached the McAuley family in Scotland.
These letters were in an Australian paper (name unknown) on a page named P.O.W. The column is titled Stalag XVIIIA. The paper is dated Wednesday, November 15, 1944.
6th June 1944
Your last letter to hand dated 21/5/44. Glad to hear you received some mail and hope the good luck continues. As I have written very regularly, I can’t understand why you have received so few; I have had nearly all of yours, plus three clothing parcels, last August, Dec. and March. I am still hoping that some of the tobacco parcels will arrive. At present tobacco and cigs. are scarce, and there seem to be very few personal parcels coming in to relieve the situation. I am still in the Stalag and do not know when or if I am going out to work again. The weather has taken a turn for the best, and the last few days being beautiful. There is plenty of football and other sports, a concert every week or so, and pictures. The only thing wrong with the flicks is that the talking is in French, which is one language I know nothing about. Love to all at home.
18th June 1944
I received a parcel of 200 cigs. from Australia House last Friday, which brings the total on hand to something like 800, so with 50 a week I should not want for some time. The new hockey equipment supplied by the Red Cross is quite up to standard. I should enjoy my first game shortly. The Red Cross has appealed to the Stalag for money to carry on the good work. So far results have been astonishing. Collections are made at every theatre performance, raffles are run, and collection boxes are hung up everywhere with the inscription, “Give till it hurts.”
4th July 1944
There are quite a number of next-of-kin parcels arriving now; there was a race meeting and an open air concert last week in aid of Red Cross funds, and although the weather was quite threatening, 13,000 marks (928 Australian pounds) was collected – quite a considerable amount. Some new tennis balls arrived last week; they were welcome, as the others were very worn out.
6th August 1944
Last week was a good one for me. Received your letters dated 7th and 15th, and 1st May, also six others from various ones. Glad to hear you were all well and still smiling. Also received parcels of books from Eileen. Two had been taken out of the parcel and a book on Jews substituted. I make a rough guess how this occurred. Your January clothing parcel also received –boots, chocolate, mouth organ, etc., all complete; many thanks. Glad you received the last photo. May not be able to send any more, as there are some new instructions out regarding them. There is always some triviality that we have to put up with. Summer is here, although we have had rain for the last two days, and I have managed to get browned up quickly. We are back on canal building, and I feel as though I was born with a shovel in my hand. I can wield them so well. It will all be strange to have to return to office life. Have become fairly good at soccer, at which we play during the weekend occasionally. The other week we went up the mountain wood-cutting. It was good for a change. I certainly enjoy the outdoor life. It would be better, of course, if we were free. We are still getting our Red Cross food parcels; they certainly keep us going. Without them we would not be in the good health we are enjoying. We are looking forward to an early finish of this struggle, and then to better times. Trust this year will see the end of it, as I long to be with you all again. Three and a half years is a long time. However, we are still smiling.
9th September 1944
Four letters today; one from you, Mother, and one from A.E and Aunty. They are all full of bright news to comment on them all, but, nevertheless, they are all well worth some praise. I noticed one letter was dated the day following the Invasion of France. Lord, what a day that was in the lives us exiles! A figurative turning of the key in that long-locked door; but more of that some other time.
How I bless the thought of your simple understanding! Reading your proposed reception on my return, I said” Now, there's a dashed sensible family,” ‘Tis true, I shall just want to sneak in through the back door, and then slip into a nice comfortable chair in the lounge – any suggestion of flag flying I should bolt straight through the front door and disappear forever; noise, visitors and repeated requests to tell my experiences and whoosh! I am gone again. Believed me this is the voice of thousands of many prisoners who are crying out for perfect peace and quiet. Frankly, I fully expect my stay at home to be short, and I want it to be as much like home as it was “thousands of years ago”.
This is really a difficult letter; there is a noisy brat here called Herbert playing cows a few feet from me. He has a positive mania for pretending he is one of the many farm animals; at the moment he is bawling lustily and has several lumps of old iron around his neck –bells! Always tying himself up with string and jamming his head through gate bars – reminds me of Peter as a small boy when he used to spend his holidays with us at Moss Vale.
This is part of the text of a letter written by Arthur Duggan, Dvr, RASC, to his wife, probably from a Work Camp in Flachau or Work Camp 11017/GW in Fürnitz.
We had another concert and I think our concert parties are cutting red tape. I appeared in the Bunk House Boys and sang "I'm an old Cowhand". We make our own make-up and with the aid of civvy clothes, make a real good do of it. There were a good number of civvies from the village nearby, so you see we are helping to make the lives of ourselves, the guards and the villagers as happy as possible. I am very busy hair-cutting this morning and have done a great deal of drawing lately. I am hoping to bring my books back home with me (the sooner the better).
I hope you like the attached drawing, it's off a Xmas card, the words on the back are my own. I picture you and I having our 5 min nap after dinner. How great it will be when those days roll down again, will make up to you then. Tell Eileen and Derek that I still love and think of them always and just as proud. As for you, you're still 'Heart of Mine' and will be sweethearts for ever. I am sure that I am paying for the greatest mistake of my life. I ought to have listened to you, dear. Never mind, the debt's nearly paid.
So, with all my love and kisses to you and ours, I shall always be
Your loving Sweetheart and Dad
This following was written to Mrs Duggan by Staff Sgt J.V. Beacon, Camp Leader of Work Camp 11017/GW in May, 1942.
Dear Mrs Duggan,
I am writing this letter on behalf of my comrades who form this working camp who knew your husband. It is with regret to speak of your loss and we offer our condolences. Arthur had been poorly for a few days and he was confined to his bed. He was looked after by two of his friends, W. Jordan of the RASC and W. Pearce of the Royal Engineers. He passed away. It was a shock to us all. On Wednesday he was given a military funeral and the German authorities gave us all the help they could. He was buried in the country churchyard. A beautiful wreath in familiar colours, Red, White and Blue was placed on his grave. Well, Mrs Duggan, I do not know you but I do know how you must feel, But I can assure you that I am sorry that it has ended this way. Please accept my deepest sympathy.
Arthur Duggan died of heart disease on 12 May 1942, aged 41. The view of Corinth in Greece shown below was drawn by Arthur, showing the place where he was captured.
(Details kindly supplied by his daughter Eileen and granddaughter Heather.)
Dear Frank, I was very pleased indeed to receive yesterday your letter dated 6/11, and to learn you are safe and well. I was only talking to your old friend Smacker Smith the other day about you and I mentioned about you calling to see the folks. I was very pleased when I heard the good news about you, we heard fairly quickly that you were on your way. I only wish that I had been with you. Things and life in general has changed a great deal since you left. Very little mail comes through now and officially we are drawing a parcel a fortnight. Owing to various circumstances though several camps have had no parcels for a long time. We here in Stalag have been very fortunate in that up to present we have been having a parcel every two weeks. I am very grateful to you, Frank for paying a visit to our house and for telling my Mother just how I am keeping. I suppose you know by now about Stalag being bombed. I was outside No 3 at the time and it didn't take me long to hit the deck. The old camp suffered a great deal. No 7 and the hospital are no longer there also a few French and Italian huts were hit. Well Frank look after yourself. I hope it isn't long before I see you again.
Cheerio and Best Wishes
Sapper Frank Marshall, RE, escaped successfully in 1944 and returned to the UK. Gunner Arthur Rawlinson, RA, would have to wait another 4 months in Stalag 18A until he was free.
Details supplied by Barry Marshall, son of Frank. He would like to get in touch with the family of Arthur Rawlinson. If you have any information, please email me.
This is part of the text of a letter sent by Sgt Reginald Dexter, RA to his wife on New Year's Eve, 1944. Sgt Dexter had been captured in North Africa in 1942 and spent over a year in POW camps in Italy before being taken to Stalag 18A. In the letter, Reg lists all the letters and parcels he has sent and received during the year and since he was made a POW.
My Dearest M....., Sunday Dec 31st 1944
This is a special letter - more or less about what I have received during the year. 24 letters from you, 2 Personal Parcels, 4 Cigarette and 1 Tobacco parcel. I have written you 57 letters and/or cards. Since I have been a POW I have sent 354 Letters or Cards of which 200 to you, dear (including this, the last of 1944), 30 to Mum & Dad, 52 to Office & the rest to various friends. A red Cross Parcel every week up to beginning of November when they were altered to one per fortnight. Red Cross shirts, pants, vests, socks & boots - all so very very acceptable. Perhaps you will send another donation to the Red Cross out of the £50 I have asked Pay Master to remit you. By way of entertainment we have had some jolly good books throughout the year - concerts at intervals and this Xmas found us still happy together. Christmas Eve we had a Concert & Carol Service, Xmas Day a little party in our room, & Boxing Day our famous 'Banquet' followed by Music hall Memories. At the latter the usual toast were drunk & we specially remembered 'Our Folks at Home'.
Regards to dear Mum & Dad. Love, Reg.
This is the text of a letter written from Markt Pongau at the end of the war by Pte Sidney Puzey, Green Howards to his wife Violet. Sid was first a POW in Italy and then at Work Camp 107/GW
My Dearest Darling Vi,
This is the first chance I have had to write you. I am quite fit and well and just waiting for that Boat or Plane to take us home. The war is over and I am a free man, no more barb wire, it feels good to able to walk along the road and no guards to worry you, gosh!, it doesn't seem true. So sorry I could not send you a letter for your birthday, so here's hoping you spent a happy and pleasant day. We are living in tents, every tent has an electric light installed, some of us have radios, there is plenty to eat and everybody is looking fit, will close now love and see you very shortly.
Lots of love, Sid
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