I stayed in cell 437 for eight days in which I grew accustomed to our rations which consisted of ersatz coffee, without milk or sugar, served in the morning, a half loaf of black bread which we received later, and a bowl of soup just after midday. Sometimes we would get a small piece of cheese and while I was at Fresnes, a period of eighteen days all told, we had two half Red Cross parcels given us to share between four. The parcels were from the French Red Cross and contained very little sustaining food. They were eagerly looked forward to, and at the time occasioned great excitement. We were all certain that the Germans were rifling the parcels but I don't think they took more than sardines and the occasional tin of meat. I later saw a full French Red Cross parcel and it is on this that I base my deductions.
    After the eight-day period with the Jew, and Marcel, Harry and I were moved to cell 421 which was on the other side of the block. Here we met an American pilot, Frank Vratny, a good-natured typical go-getter, who had a wonderful "biggest in the world complex" regarding anything American. Later we were joined by Bill Powell an American navigator. Bill and I used to join forces and argue mightily, though not very successfully, about religion with Frank and Harry. Harry was an avowed atheist. We had started reading Bill's bible aloud, more to pass the time than for any other reason, and Harry would stop us and tell us to account for some obscure passage which quite outwitted us as we were only in the "Genesis, Exodus" period at the time of the interrogation.
    The toilet arrangements in our new cell were slightly improved but the whole contraption gave off noxious odours from time to time. Opening a window or breaking a pane meant three days without soup. We very nearly got put on a soupless diet when a guard peered through the spy hole and caught one of us shouting out of the window asking for news. The barber who called every four days to shave us was our best news source but he was a prisoner too and his news was often pure conjecture. A great deal of shouting went on between the prisoners despite the no soup ruling and we kept up a good liaison between an Englishman called D.K. (whom I later met as Derek Measures, and for whom I have high regard) and the boys on either side of our cell. On one side was Bob Mills, an Australian whose voice I had last heard at the Victoria Inn at Con Unit. You may remember Bob, Vera, he was a tall, good-natured, rather thin Aussie and he tells me, he faintly remembers you. On the other side of the cell, were a mixed company. There was an Englishman, an Australian and a Canadian. Derek Measures was contacted by shouting down the heater flue, which opened into his cell below. Bob Mills was easily engaged in conversation as the wall was mouldy and eaten away near the toilet and voices could be heard through it easily. The other celli have mentioned was kept in contact by morse signals. A blow on the wall with a boot produced our equivalent of a dash and a spoon's little click was a dot.


Delta Tech Systems Inc
  Duke of York's Royal Military School
Royal Hibernian Military School
World War I - The war to end all wars
Books and Militaria
Publications and Papers
Wellington on Waterloo
Related Links

© A. W. Cockerill 2008

Site Map     Contact