Work Camp 10760 L
Date of visit: 20 May 1943
Location: Weidegg (South-west of Spittal)
Man of Confidence: L/Cpl Bernard Webb
Number of men: 23
|Andy||Anderson||Pte||2/6 Inf. Bn.||Victoria, Australia; repatriated 10/44|
|Bill||Archer||Spr||6 Fld. Coy.||749||New Zealand|
|Danny||Behrman||Dvr||RASC||7383||London; also 1107/L|
|Jim||Clifford||Pte||2/4 Inf. Bn.||3915||Bangalow, Australia|
|Stanley||Curphey||Pte||2/6 Inf. Bn.||Australia|
|L.||Joseph||Pte||2/2 Inf. Bn.||3834||Australia|
|Ian Leslie||McEwan||Pte||6 Div. Fd. Cash Off.||3975||Australia|
|Arthur||Plowman||Spr||6 Fld Eng||3648||New Zealand|
|Kenneth Adrian||Turner||Cpl||2/2 Fd. Wkshp||3954||Australia|
|Bernard||Webb||L/Cpl||RAC||2779||MOC; transf'd to Stalag 344|
|Francis||Zeis||L/Cpl||1 A.C. H.Q.||3664||Australia|
Photos supplied by Carole Mules, daughter of Andy Anderson, Ross McEwan, son of Ian McEwan, Julie Ritchie, daughter of Francis Zeis, and Glen Turner, son of Ken Turner. The information below, other than the Red Cross Report, is provided by Carol Mules.
The camp is lodged in a former stable building which was transformed for this purpose. It is on the main road of the Gail valley. As everywhere in this district, the views of the mountain ranges are exceedingly lovely. The work of the POWs is of the agricultural type.
There is a day-room, a sleeping-room and a wash-room. Heating and lighting are satisfactory.
Bathing and washing facilities
There are two boilers supplying hot water for the baths. The arrangements for washing are not adequate. The drains are out of order, the floor is mostly under water and in a bad state. The Accompanying Officer took note of this and will arrange that it shall be put straight.
Adequate. There is Lysol for disinfections.
Food and Cooking
The prisoners draw their rations and have their own food prepared by one of the men who is a professional cook. There is a good stove for cooking.
Medical attention and sickness
There is no acknowledged sanitation in this camp. First Aid is given by the Man of Confidence himself. For medical treatment the prisoners go to Kickback to a civilian doctor; if necessary he comes to the camp. For dental treatment, such as fillings and extractions, the men go to a dentist at Koetschach but have to pay their own bills. This question will be taken up with the Stabsarzt (Staff Doctor) at Stalag XVIIIA. There is an adequate supply of medicaments.
Everything in order. The employer provided the prisoners with rubber boots and protective trousers for their work.
The men do it themselves.
Money and Pay
There is no canteen in the camp but beer can always be bought. From Stalag small supplies of various little things arrive occasionally.
The POWs were informed the Stalag XVIII A/Z would arrange for a visit by a padre as soon as possible.
Recreation and exercise
Near the barn where the POWs live there is a yard where they can get some sport. Swimming is also possible in the nearby river.
Letters arrive regularly and there are no complaints.
The POWs complain about the bad smell in the dormitory. The room has a common wall with the stables and ammonia is filtering through. Moreover there are only little windows on one side of it. The question will be studied and put straight.
Weidegg prison camp in the bleak wintry month of January 1942.
Written by a New Zealander in a prison camp in Austria.
In accordance to our custom, we left the comforting warmth of the lager and stepped out into the paralyzing coldness of the bitter, freezing atmosphere. One’s very blood seemed to congeal and cease to circulate. Hands become numb, and toes felt as if they had been belted out with a mallet.
In ragged resemblance of military form we marched off to work, as unwilling and melancholy band as ever portrayed by an American chain gang film.
The way to work was by descent of a winding road, its surface a glazed treachery, presenting the risk of injury to the unsteady of balance. As we descended to the lower altitudes of the level country, our sense of coldness increased until our very faces became frozen.
“How long Lord, how long” one unhappy Australian murmured. “The Western Desert was as nothing compared to this. Sand, heat, lack of water, desert sores, all preferable to this damnation of ice and mist.”
The scene of arbeit lay in a narrow valley then, by means of prison labour, in the process of drainage and realigning. A young moon as yet riding high in the heavens, shed a faint light on the desolate scene, as dreary a spectacle of snow and mud as could possibly be imagined. The civilian labourers, with their horsedrawn sledges, were beginning to arrive, each vehicle, as it appeared through the mist, resembling some ghostly fantastic craft cleaving a tedious path through a waveless ocean. Colourless of face, pinched and hollow of cheek, the civilians looked far from cheerful. Even the privilege of working for the 3rd Reich seemed little recompense for being abroad that wintry morn. Frozen icicles hung from moustaches of luxuriant growth rivaling the tusks of some Antarctica creature.
Handkerchiefs, it would seem, were not considered necessary apparel in this part of the world. Young and old men, prematurely aged women, and more children comprised the ranks of this oddly assorted working party, the observance of which would convince any British of the worth of Democracy.
We dispersed to various tasks, such uncongenial occupations as the shoveling of snow, the loading of gravel carts, and the more unfortunate descended to the depths of a canal.
Forty comrades in a similar plight, aliens in foreign soil, victims of circumstances over which we had no control.
A French Prisoner of War passed nearby. He supplied us with fragments of “griff” as war news is incongruously termed in prison dialect. “The Russians”, said the Frenchman “ were going great guns on the eastern Front, Churchill in his latest push had expressed unshaken confidence in the allied conduct of the war, and Roosevelt according to a recent speech was supremely optimistic as to the final outcome of the conflict, all very vague and unsubstantial, but, heartening, never the less.
To relieve the monotony of the slowly passing flight of time, we fell to discussions of the usual controversy.
The Australians quarreled over local amenities. The boys from Melbourne disputed with the lads from Sydney, the scenic attractions of their respective cities. Buildings, streets and parks were compared, beaches became a subject for contrast. Prisoners from Ballarat extolled hometown advantages against corresponding beautifications possessed by Bendigo. Queenslanders differed with South Australians, men from the Northern Territory argued with West Australians. The New Zealanders said little, perhaps the memories of their far distant island home were too well cherished to be given voice in this unhallowed atmosphere.
Morning tea arrived, to the undisguised envy of the civilians we produced large Canadian biscuits smeared with layers of butter and marmalade. From tins were brought forth slabs of corned beef. "Thank God for the Red Cross," breathed a fervent Englishman, "but for whose timely assistance we would all be six feet under the inhospitable earth".
We expressed similar sentiment. We offered tea to the civilians. Hospitality existed even in these outlandish backwoods. They drank deeply inserting their icicled faces onto our dixies; nice people!
At 11 am the sun rose, peering over the precipitous heights of the Rattendorf Alps, its warmless rays dispersing the mist revealing to vision, a scene in many ways beautiful.
On both sides of the valley were the mountains, their slopes a coloured contrast of dark green foliage and the dazzling whiteness of snow. Green and white the invariable Austrian colour scheme. At 12 o’clock we walked to the barracks that served as a mess hut. Dinner arrived, the culinary efforts of our cook Herr Joseph Murtel. When the lid of the containers was raised a stench was released, so odious as to cause the nearest bystanders to reel backwards. The bill of fare was not impressive. A dixie of watery potatoes, sauerkraut that offensive vegetable that looks and tastes like rank ****, and the lights and liver of some horse whose career had in all probability, been cut short by disease. In short, just ménage by Murtel, just one of those appalling hashes offered to us in the name of food.
Later, we returned to work. Conversation assumed an athletic nature, football became the topic if debate. Supporters of Collingwood were loud in their praise of Australian Rules. Englishmen emphatic in their condemnation of players who stooped to handle the ball, whilst the New Zealanders just classified mankind into two orders, the enlightened who play Rugby Union and the uncivilized who do not.
The 3.30pm train, the Rottendorf-Kirchbach transport, rattled through, as incongruous a locomotive as ever sketched by Walt Disney, drawn by an engine of 1905 manufacture, and followed by carriages of equal antiquity, it presented a strange spectacle rumbling its discordant way through the mist. Yet heralding as it did the day end, it appeared to our eyes more impressive than the Euston-Glasgow mail, more noble than the Rome-Vienna Express.
The sun had long since disappeared, leaving the world colder than ever. The chill of early evening was already upon us, relentless as death, as keenly penetrative as made one internally ill. And as seemingly indeterminable day, dwindled to a close,
At long last Karl, the guard approached and with a gesture of finality said “Arbeit fertig zu hauser gehen.” Work was finished, we were going homewards to the Lager. For some inestimable blessing we could ask no greater or more glorious gift from God.
Some come all my
fellows with hearts brave and true
Don’t trust any woman, no matter what you do
Don’t trust any woman no matter what kind
For a year boys is a mighty long time
Written by a New Zealander (Stuart Wilson) at a working camp, in the winter of 1941- 42.
For some time now, we have been earning our daily bread by the monotonous task of pushing, to and fro, heavily laden wheel barrows, but it is not until a few days ago, that one of our members suggested the combination of work with pleasure, in the form of a wheel barrow race, in the form of a Derby. The idea obtained instant popularity. A course was marked out, entries received, wagers offered and accepted, and a sweepstake instigated. Conditions, were ideal, visibility was good, the track in splendid condition; in fact even the chilly atmosphere was perfect for the setting of the Waidegg Derby.
At 3.PM, a formidable field of wheel barrow pushers, lined up at the starting post, including Bluey Ashcroft, the Sydney crack, Clifford the noted barrow man from Bangalow and Ivan Stevens, better known as Ivan the Terrible from Victoria.
Starter Joseph, waved his shovel as the signal **us handles at them. Snowy O’Brien from Brisbane was the first to show out, and led the field, until he had the misfortune to fall at the 30 yards mark, with the impact reminiscent of a railroad crash. Jim Clifford took the lead and turning into the home strait, seemed an easy winner, when he was strongly challenged by Ashcroft who quickly passed him, and ran in an easy winner. Vic Rivetts the only New Zealander represented in the team, showed his good form by gaining 2nd place, although not in light plates. To tell the truth he wore gumboots.
The second heat was even more exciting, for the onlookers anyhow, for three barrows came down at the turn, and then in a thrilling finish, 6’2” of Andy Anderson outstripped Ian McEwan (5' 2"), to win the event, a performance which delighted the onlookers and would have been overwhelmingly popular with the population. Ken Thompson and Taffy Hogan got the lead in the third heat by half a barrow, but Kelly Talbot put in a fine turn of speed, when the straight was achieved. It was unfortunate that his barrow could not travel at the same fast speed, but after the crash Ken Keith seized the handles and scored a narrow victory over Taffy, In the dying light of the receding day, the talented trio of finalists set off on a heart breaking bid for the laurels of the camp. It was a thrilling race, one could not separate them at the turn. The barrows themselves seemed to scorch the way the track was burned up. It was Ashcroft who finally sorted himself out, in the straight, and with a grand show of stamina, forged his way to win the title of barrowman No. 1 of his Lager.
So ended our classic race.