The photos on this site mostly look as though life in Stalag VIIIB was very dignified compared to some of the descriptions my father, Cyril Hamersma, finally came out with after 40+ years of bottling it up. He died in 1994. He was one of the ‘Belisher Boys’ – called up in the first batch 1939 – and was in the Royal Army Medical Corps when captured in Greece. There’s a photo of him on the White Pages. The first 12 months or so of his capture were the worst because no humanitarian efforts were in place, but it seems that gradually things got a little better.
He was a passionate artist all his life and even at the tender age of 20 he was sketching scenes from the tiny window in the crowded cattle truck journey across Eastern Europe and in the camp itself. He taught painting and drawing to his fellow prisoners when the Camp School was set up. Years later, when he was able to confront the horrors he experienced, he sketched the scenes from memory and wrote a short account of his four years of incarceration.
I am trying to compile a book of his writings and sketches relating to this period of his life. There is currently an illustrated biography entitled ‘Hamersma: Inspired with our Environment’ (ISBN 0 9544465 1 8) which describes his life and work from the 1950s onwards. Here is a short excerpt from the introduction:
Cyril Hamersma spent his life observing colour, shape, shadow and the magical effects of light that was surrounding him and surrounds you now. He was difficult to live with, at times, but as children we don’t know any different do we? And by adulthood our love, companionship and respect is so established that our parents’ temperaments are a characteristic taken for granted.
The depth and complexities found whilst studying his notes may never be fully understood. The breadth of his embrace to incorporate the human condition and its desire for the belief in the power of good is a refreshing and important angle in art which will confirm Hamersma’s place in the history of Art.
I believe the war experience and subsequent release from captivity had a profound effect on him and yet informed his art throughout his life. If you remember Cyril Hamersma, or would like to buy a copy of his biography please email me, Mrs Bernie Ross and I will keep all informed on progress with the new book. Its working title is ‘Hamersma: War Artist Unrecognised’.
Received: August 2005
From: Bernie Ross
On behalf of: Cyril Hamersma