WW II, a British focus



Memories of Flight Sergeant Harry Tenny

What can one say about Muhlberg? I could fill reams of paper and not capture nor convey to the reader a quarter of what went on.

We were held in huge wooden huts that held a hundred and sometimes a hundred and fifty men in each.

We slept in three tier wooden bunks with a straw mattress on about fifteen bed boards about two feet long by the width of six inches and about an inch thick.

There was a wood-burning stove for heat, and a string of electric lights strung at random down the center of each barracks. Washing facilities were outside at the end of the hut as were the toilet facilities, if one could call them that.

They consisted of a raised bit of concrete with a pit beneath open to the elements and public gaze.

In each hut a senior man was elected to look after the interests of the hut and to see that each man got his fair share of what ever was on offer such as soup or the daily ration of black bread.

This black bread was in a long length and had to be cut into thick slices, one loaf to ten men. Sometimes when the bread was cut it collapsed in the middle and turned to dust. Some of it had a date on the wrapper "1941"

It had been returned from Africa when the Germans finally got defeated at the battle of El Alamein in the Western Desert.

We were allowed to do more or less as we pleased but had to keep well clear of the wire and not congregate in bunches except when taking lessons in certain activities that ranged from religion to brothel keeping.

Each day, or sometimes for months at a time, there were groups of POWs sent out of the camp to work nearby on small jobs where the risk of sabotage and chances of escape were almost impossible.

As a Non Commissioned Officer I had to dodge the boredom by trying to work out a scheme to get me out of this place.

I spent a great deal of time thinking about this problem until I could find someone who was on a work party and willing to swap places and stay in the big camp while I, masquerading as him could easier escape from a work party than from the camp itself.

Escape from the camp was almost impossible due to the large amount of guards, dogs, and the huge amount of open space in the immediate vicinity of the wire outside of the camp. And of course the guard towers every so often within sight of each other with heavy machine guns and searchlights manned by two guards, at least that is how I saw it.

One day in the showers I met a young man who was very annoyed at being put into one of the working commandoes as the work parties were called.

He had a project going and wanted to stay in the camp.

I approached him and he agreed to swap identity disks and top clothing.

The only shadow cast on our little enterprise was that Tom, that was his name, was a strapping six footer while I was a mere five foot seven on stilts. But I turned up the bottoms of the now longer trousers and decided to risk it.

I suddenly became Pte Tom Barker of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with one stroke of luck and marched proudly out of the camp and into the unknown.