A collection of Smith family stories: Chapter 4

We were like a bunch of teenage delinquents

4th November 1942

Smoke mingled with the early morning mist in a small clearing made by newly felled trees. The sound of an axe clop, clop against a tree somewhere in the dense forest close by echo’s through the mist. A small group of young solders are dragging branches across to a fire that was beginning to flame up; every fresh needle laden branch caused a new flare up on the fire. “George what you playing at you’ll have the whole forest alight if you put any more on that fire.” George was busy trying to push the fire over with a long pole he had fashioned from a branch. The flames had caught the lower branches of the surrounding trees alight. The undergrowth was beginning to smolder as the heat of the fire dried it out, if it had been a dry summer’s day the whole lot would have been ablaze by now. Fortunately it was still wet from the early morning mist, still it kept flaring up then dieing back. “George you’re Mad?” “No! Come on if this lot goes up they will have to get every one out here to put it out.” He was interrupted as a shot range out in the wood close by, then shouting. “Run for it he’s really flipped this time.” More young solders come running out of the woods “Robo’s has done it, he’s only cut a tree down onto the power lines, Fritzes has taken a shot at him.” With this an elderly forester, comes panting breathless out of the woods waving a hunting rifle menacingly towards the scattering group of young solders. They dive for cover as he lets off another shot taking a large chunk of tree bark with it as the bullet ricocheted through the densely packed trunks of the plantation. Fortunately he was in such a state of frenzy that he hadn’t aimed the shot at any of his tormentors. “Fritzes! Steady on with that gun could do some damage.” “Robo leave it he’s lost it this time, we’ll have to calm him down or we’re never get back to the camp.” They had started to realize how serious their predicament was becoming. Prisoner of war out on a work party with local forester shot dead trying to escape. Even if the camp commandant knew that they weren’t likely candidates for escape, the Foresters word would carry more weight than there’s if it came to an inquest. “Hey! Fritzes your need us to put the fire out.” Put the gun down. Another shot rings out more bark flies into the air. “Smug you Ok?” “Close one. Fritz you need us alive.” “Save you breathe he only speaks German.” Suddenly Fritz drops to the ground out of sight. “He’s a bit quiet over there can you see what he’s up to Smug?” “Can’t see him from here better watch out, he’s up to something.” “George can you see him from there?” “He’s lying down, I’ll try and get closer see what’s, what.” “He gone a funny colour, don’t look to healthy.” George is crawling on towards where Fritz is lying. “He gone and snuffed it, silly old bugger.” “George how do you know?” “I’m a bloody medic should know a stiff when I see one.” “Bloody Hell what’ll we do now.” “We could make a run for it.” “Bloody long way back to Blighty from here mate, got a map.” “We’ll have to go back to the camp, sorry no freedom today.” “Best put this fire out or we’ll be back out here again, you bet.” Reluctantly they start beating the fire out until it finally gives up to the rain that had been getting steadily worse all morning. By know they where wet cold and going back to camp was looking the best bet. They then had to think about what to do with Fritz. “Can’t leave him hear they will never believe us until they find him.” “Have to carry him back.” They then set about building a make shift stretcher from the scattered branch left from their mornings felling. “Christ he’s a heavy bugger.” “Smug get that end, you two take the middle lets get going before it gets dark.” The motley crew set off on what was going to be a long muddy trail back to the Stalage 8B. in the forest. After an hour of struggling with their deceased guard they reach the main entrance to the camp.

“Halt!” The guard on the gate came forward to the group.

“Christ its mad Polish Joe.” George recognized the guard “Halt, where guard, please?” “He’s here! He’s dead, see.” “No guard you can’t go in.” “He’s here! He’s dead.” “No guard.” This bizarre conversation went on for about 10 minutes before a senior officer arrived on the scene. Still no progress “Sorry you can’t come in unless the guard gives the pass word.” “He’s dead. He can’t.” More delay and more officers arrive this time the British most senior officer in the camp with the camp Commandant. “What’s the problem chaps.” “Its Fritzes here he’s had a heart attack and died, Sir!” “I can see that Smith, up to your old tricks, what!” “No Sir! He just died on us.” “Pigs might fly. Any way we have a delicate situation to resolve here, haven’t we, What!” After much discussion the gates where opened and they managed to carry the guards body through the gate. They where confined to camp for a while, but the need for workers in the forest soon meant they where out felling trees again.



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