Norman started his Second World War journey in Egypt, leaving New Zealand in August 1940. After being captured in Crete in May 1941 time was spent in transit camps both in Crete and the Greek mainland before being transported by train, in cattle trucks, to Lamsdorf. Norman didn’t speak of his five years away much but little snippets came forth when various situations arose. The first of these was:
The journey in the trucks was unbearable, many men packed into each truck in intense heat. The train stopped to refuel with water; I sidled along to the person operating the water hose and convinced him to pour water over me to cool down. The operator took the risk but could have been shot for his kindness. The intense heat became intense cold as we neared Lamsdorf, with all still in summer uniform we couldn’t win.
At Lamsdorf Norman was given Prisoner number 22595 and worked in the Cobblers shop BAK 37B which also made artificial limbs for amputees:
I decided that escaping wasn’t an option for me as most escapees were either shot or brought back to camp and their lives made even more miserable. However if that was their choice to try then I would help them. Working in the cobblers shop I had access to German uniforms so was able to steal them for those who did want to escape.
This story was told when he met up with a fellow prisoner in 1974. The fate of most escapees he knew but not this one. Had he survived or not? He had.
Stalag VIIIB had a name change in January 1944 and Norman remained at the main camp renamed Stalag 334. May 1944 and Norman was then working in E 714, attached to the synthetic fuel plant in Blechhammer. This camp was disbanded, so from where Norman started the Death March, or the route, we don’t know. But what we do know is that he carried with him a lot of memorabilia from his five years including many photos, Red Cross chits, clothing chits, copies of the Clarion and an address book full of names.
The photos include life in Stalag VIIIB and the Blechhammer area (Erenforst) and some of Berlin and Stalag IIID.
Norman returned to New Zealand in 1945, the physical effects of his incarceration staying with him until his death in 1974.
If anyone has more information they can provide, particularly on E714 or why Norman had photos of Berlin and IIID (did he go to the holiday camp?) I would be grateful.
Possibly the funeral of Bob Elgar.
Received: December 2013
From: Helen Walker
On behalf of: Norman Spencer Macdonald