Merchant Navy Prisoners of War

Illustrated Poem

May 21st, 2012

“MEMORIES” By Tom Marrie, aged 92, 1999

PoW Milag,

Master of SS Peterton, sunk 17/9/1942 by U-109

One time youngest Master in MN


GESTAPO JAILFrom the French jail in Lorient

To Wilhelmshaven in Germany we were sent,

Arriving during a very heavy air-raid,

“Link arms with us” some German Officers said.

They led us to Dulag Nord, a Gestapo jail,

To attempt to escape would have been to no avail.

We were met at the gate by an officer named Meiers.

Who told us, of the discipline, that the prison requires.

“While you are here, you won’t Speak Wrong, Look Wrong or even Think Wrong,”

He was typical of the Nazi swine that we had come among.

Fairly severe treatment now came our way.

Starvation, and interrogations sometimes three times a day.

I got fifteen days solitary’ confinement:

In a cell that had superheated pipes as a refinement.

There was a very loud air-raid siren over the jail.)

Very often its warning it would wail.

I was asked to speak on the “Voices of the Seven Seas.”

At the third request I consented hoping my wife to please.

Send a message to her and nothing else,

As I knew that she must be ill with suspense.

As to my whereabouts and state of health.

But I got another message away by stealth.

On the back of the gaolhouse lavatory door.

Our means of communication was very poor.

One skIpper wrote he’d been informed by a goon.

That he was to be shifted to Marlag und Milag very soon.

Were there any messages that he could carry .

“Yes” I wrote ” Tell Lawrence Chisholm from Tom Marrie.”

“That I hope to see him soon” he was a cousin of my wife,

Whose ship very early in the war had run into strife.

When in the Indian Ocean she’d been captured by a raider .

When he heard where I was he’d write to his sister,

It was quite coincidental, and no doubt deeply emotional,

That letters and Radio message should arrive together in a manner so strange,

My Radio message must have been loud and clear.

As letters came from far and near.

I’d asked anyone listening to contact her.

Which they did by the score.

By the time she’d answered them all.

She was a bit fed up with the Radio call.

Her pen holding fingers had the cramps, And her tongue was dry licking the stamps.

In the meantime we had been taken by train. To a prison camp on the Lunenburg Plain. From Westertimpke railway station. We marched seven miles in the wrong direction.

My feet were blistered so I went on strike. No further could I possibly hike. This made the sergeant in charge relent. So back to an army camp a guard was sent

Who arrived with a lorry, just as it was growing dark. What a relief to ride instead of having to walk Through the village of Westertimpke then on to Milag Met at the gate by Feldwebel Rompa a bit of a wag.

“Welcome to our Holiday Camp” he said. Also present was the British, Camp Administration Head. Captain Finlay-Notman was his name. A man of apparently no mean fame. I was given a palliase stuffed with straw. And two blankets. Army. Grey. Then across the Middle Platz to Barrack seventeen. My first impressions of my roommates that they were mean.

They were all clanish Welshmen and I, the odd man out. That I wasn’t very welcome they left no doubt. “Have you anything to eat” they asked me. “I have Black bread and German Worst.”

I was getting annoyed and under my breath I cursed. To be treated like this by men of my own cloth. Was enough to make an angel wroth? All I owned was an empty milk tin, a needle and thread.

The clothes on my back and a slice of black bread. I’d bathed and dried with a handkerchief. Better conditions would have been given to a thief.

My Morale was getting low. I was getting ready to blow Lawrence Chisholm saved the day. Just before I opened up and had my say.

He brought me an armful of clothes and goodies. Pajamas, underclothes, Towels and Woolies. Tins of food, Tea, Coffee. And chocolate. Knife fork and spoon, a mug and a plate.

Soap. Razor, a toothbrush and Toothpaste. I broke the chocolate and had a taste. His gesture had nearly moved me to tears. That we would win through I had no fears.

Lawrence made sure I had a good feed. My roommates ignored me and took no heed. Instead of a bath I had a sponge down in lieu. It was after lights out and strict curfew.

After a very troubled night. When hundreds of bugs came out to bite. I complained next day; they said what a tale. You must have brought them from the Gestapo jail.

So was the start of my incarceration. And nearly three years of tribulation.



Captain Notman


Interior of typical barrack room


MILAG NORD POW CAMP.Over the years the Types of Commandant did vary. From strong men of honour to a fairy.Korvetten Kapitan Schulze was known as “Poop deck Pappy, He was humorous and always seemed quite happy. Another name he bore was ” Taschensclagschif’ Meaning in English “The Pocket Battleship”.He was only five feet high but nearly five feet wide. He seemed completely honest and did nothing snide. He had an English wife so it was rumored. And on his chin he was adorned with a Goatee Beard.Prusch his 2nd in Command was known as Jimmy Sauerkraut. Even the village kids took up the shout “Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut.” One winter’s morn the POW’s were on Appel. When he arrived in his Sleigh feeling full of hell. ” Stop the nickname I order” And he drew out his revolver.The Prisoners started laughing at the joke. The wooden expressions on the faces of the Guards broke Even the Feldwebels followed suit. This took the wind out of the brute.He retired with what dignity he could muster . But even his officers were in a fluster. To be laughed at by their own men Was something out of their ken.Major Henzel, next Commandant to arrive. Certainly kept the camp alive. He wore stays to keep him slim. But as a Pianist there were no flies on him. There was a room next to the Galley. With a Piano, where for hours, he would dally.One night they had scrounged some chickens. And he had a share of the pickings. He washed it down with camp hooch. Known in the camp as Jungle Juice.When he tried to stand, his legs gave way. So the Galley Staff decided to call it a day. They put him in a wheelbarrow and took him to the gate Where the Soldat on duty did not hesitate. He had no other choice. But to hide him in the guard houseS. S. men had been snooping around. And if this dereliction of duty had been found, He’d probably have been sent to fight in Russia. And not to have been sent home in disgrace to Prussia.Then came “Frying Pan.” Commandant Nibli was the man. He liked “Bruno” tobacco in cans Which he exchanged for Frying Pans.Supply Inspector Heuken was very fat and jolly. To ride a Motor Bike so small was sheer folly. His huge backside hung over both sides of the seat. To keep his balance was quite a feat.

“Old Mother Arbeit” owned a farm. (Her real name being Mrs.Braun.) Just outside the perimeter fence. She treated the Prisoners with great kindness.Those who worked for her were fed very well. Although at times she had to yell. “Arbeit, Arbeit!” (“Work, Work”) To those who were apt to shirk. No doubt her nickname arose because of this quirk.She would throw apples across the wire. Although the Guards threats were dire, During the forced march from Marlag to Lubeck. She hid dozens of absconders from the trek.At the end of the War she gave shelter . To Foreign Women Workers running Helter-Skelter. Their final destination, they knew not where. But anymore bombing they could not bear.

Poor old Ma Arbeit deserved a decoration. But all she got was the confirmation. That her two sons had been lost. On the Russian Steppes in the frost. The end of the War was grim. The Nazis cup of woe was full to the brim, Hitler, Goebells, Himmler and Goering comitted suicide All died by taking cyanide.

I must have gone soft over the years although I didn’t shed any tears, But I couldn’t stand the cruelty I saw At the end of that terrible war.

I could kill in battle or blind passion, But cold blooded murder was not my fashion. WE hadn’t been shot when we were captured, but in captivity we certainly had not been pampered.

Our front line troops were tough, and their treatment of Nazis was rough, They’d heard of concentration camp atrocities, They retaliated with their own brand of cruelties.

Life to them was only satisfactory, When revenging Nazi brutality, Gussfeld* was captured in Lubeck He knew he would get it in the neck So by his own hand he died, By taking a capsule of Cyanide. Old and hated Kapitan Ostermann From the Gestapo jail in Wilhelmshaven.

Was caught, tried to escape and was shot. Schuff * was taken with money and jewelry in a case, He wore civies and had disguised his face, But that availed him not one jot. He was later shot

Kapitan Schmidt overall Commander of the camp, was caught dressed like a tramp, But he was treated with courtesy, Whilst being held in custody.

‘Greencoat’ * was caught and must have felt a fool, When greated by jeers, boos and ridicule. Arbeits Fuhrer, Tony Funk, When captured, he was very drunk,

He dropped his suitcase on the roadside, And when he stooped to pick it up he was kicked in the backside. The watching PoWs groaned with displeasure, Because quite often, instead of work, he had given them leisuer.

All ex-guards were paraded outside the wire, and the lads inside were asked to express their desire. Was he good? Or Bad? Or did he deserve death? The answer was awaited by them with baited breath.

On the answer depended their later treatment, With most older Guards, the boys were in agreement, Their behaviour had been mostly tame, to blame them for atrocities would be a shame. Heavy casualties had ocurred, Liberating Marlag und Milag Nord The Scots, Welsh and Irish Guards under Montgomery Had lost more men than since landing in Normandy.

They were still primed for slaughter, And were not keen to give quarter. I was standing by a tank, when out of the woods marched a rank

Of Nazis under a white flag, What happened next made me gag, The tank opened up with heavy machine guns And it was goodbye to somebodies’ sons

I said to the Sergeant, “My God, They had surrendered, They should only have been apprehended” He said, “Captain, If you had fought all the way from France, You would not take a chance.”

“You would have no compunction in killing every man and woman in Germany, They cannot expect to fight to the last bullet, And come out with their hands aloft. And maybe, a hand grenade under their coat.”

I was still in camp on VE Day But at last I could safely say

“I’m bound for Blighty, Dear old Blighty”



“Frying Pan” Nibli

Ma & Pa “Arbeit” (Mr & Mrs Braun)


“Leather Arse” Schoof

* Gussfeld, the Milag Gestapo officer. * Schuff, Gussfeld’s Deputy – Gestapo * Greencoat, German camp fuel officer?

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