We gathered, from sifting news from these sources and putting obvious rumours to one side, a fairly accurate idea of the advance in France. The realisation that if the Germans did not move us soon the allies would encircle Paris and this gave us heart. Daily, we would consider our position to be improved, and go to sleep at night listening to the bombing and hoping that the Germans would evacuate and leave us. Our hopes were short lived for on the morning of August 15th, we were assembled in the gallery below and told we were leaving for Germany. Whether we were going to a POW camp or not the Germans did not say. Through an interpreter we heard that the journey would take three days. We were warned that if one escaped, five would be shot. After a long wait, some people met crew members, and I met Bob Mills, we were herded outside and literally squashed into trucks. We drove through Paris past the Gare de l'Est and out to a freight depot where our train was waiting. One truck at a time was emptied and it's cargo of men forced into a cattle rail car. Each railway car had been crowded with Frenchmen before our arrival. That made little difference to the German officers in charge. As a result, we had nearly eighty men in our little four-wheeled wagon. Of these, one or two were removed after they had thrown a fit or passed out altogether dead. One man had to be held down by four others. A young woman from the Red Cross stood up to a blustering German and I think that the wretch was left behind, the epileptic - not the German!
The heat in the railway car was hellish, as of the four small windows two were boarded up and all were laced stoutly with yards of barbed wire. The sliding door was closed and we remained stewing with perspiration for several hours. We were given a five-gallon can for water and a smaller metal drum for service as a latrine. The Red Cross distributed some parcels one between three men. Prior to this the Germans had given us half a loaf of bread each, a tin of horse meat between six men, and a packet of Rye biscuits. We were told to expect no more food and that what we had was to last us for from two to seven days. Everyone was depressed, and the tension in the car grew when people tried to find space to sit down. The French had a few personal belongings with them and these took up a great deal of room, littered as they were all over the floor and guarded by their several owners. Organisation of some sort was obviously needed and a red headed American took it upon himself to see that it was established. His efforts were well meant I have no doubt but he spoke very little French and incurred the displeasure of all the Frenchmen by repeating at very short intervals, and in stentorian tones - "Tezzey - voo" - I write this phonetically. There was a French Colonel in one corner of the truck. He made no effort to assert his authority and in general was quite useless.
Our first night in that truck was absolute hell. Most of us sat cramped on our haunches. Fighting men tumbled about trying in desperation to win space enough for a seat. There were no lights, none were allowed. The train started or stopped with mighty jerks, throwing us about and wearing frayed nerves to breaking point. At last morning came. I had spent the night next to a small red headed Englishman, Frank Salt, whom I later got to know very well. Ray Parry and Eric Davis, friends of Frank were all camped near me and I recall trying to fit faces to voices as we tried in the dark to grope about and arrange ourselves as comfortably as we could. A crippled Frenchman of enormous girth kept rolling off his little suitcase and nearly smothering me. I shall never forget that first night of our trip to Germany. But with daylight things improved. I claimed no great powers of organisation but decided that my limited French would probably achieve slightly better results than the American's brusque orders. I called for silence and told the English speaking community what I proposed to do, having been given good advice by Frank. I told the French that we should have to occupy separate ends of the car and by allotting a certain number of men to each space between two roof beams reduced the chaos and soon had a semblance of order. A little Frenchman, Georges, who was only about twenty-two years old, but had been a sailor in the French Navy was appointed as the French leader. I was in fact a little dictator in the railway wagon after this and only hope I did not take on any pomposity. We did get things moving in a more seemly manner after this seizing of power and toward the end of the trip, the French and Anglo-American parties were in a state bordering on harmony.
Quite early that morning we entered a tunnel and stopped in the dark, smoky place for over three-hours (we had no watches but I think it was for that length of time) and then backed out into open country and detrained. We were made to carry the German guards heavy equipment, and left the railway tracks, descended the embankment and were herded together in truck loads in a large field by the side of a river. Here we were counted, hostages were selected (who were to be shot if any escape were attempted), and after a few minutes in which we ate a frugal meal we started to march, still encumbered with German luggage. We covered about six or eight kilo metres travelling in a wide semicircle so that we skirted the foot of a large hill and came at length to the other end of the railway tunnel. A bridge had spanned a river - The Marne, here and it was attacked eight nights previously by bombers of the RAF that had smashed the bridge and necessitated our walk. A smaller road bridge about a mile downstream still linked the banks of the Marne, but this bridge too had been severely damaged and was impassable to vehicular traffic. A train of cattle cars awaited us and some of our party was immediately loaded into them. I was in a party that was made to work unloading huge packing cases from a truck. Later we were forced to cross the river again, by the road-bridge, walk to the mouth of the tunnel and carry a trunk belonging to a German officer's wife, back to the train. Next, I found myself in a party carrying packing cases from one end of the train to the other. My shoulders and back ached after this work, unaccustomed to it as I was. A seat in the cattle car was very welcome. After a time the Germans allowed us to walk back along the train to the level crossing at Saacy sur Marne, where the French Red Cross, greatly hampered by the Germans, were trying to give a little food and drink to the prisoners. I was lucky enough to get a sandwich and a tin full of weak lemonade, tasting strongly of saccharin and only vaguely of lemon. The girls would have given us more but the "master race", with their inevitable shouting herded us back to our truck. It was here that I saw the New Order for the first time in all its glory. French women were forced to do their toilet and obey the calls of nature under the trains on the railway lines or in the grass by the track. These girls and women were facing us, quite unabashed, smiling even and shrugging their shoulders. On our side of the line was a long stream of English and American prisoners, and on the other side was a handful of German troops. Such was the spirit of these daughters of France, such their loathing for the Germans!
We left Saacy sur Marne that night with rumours flying around that the Maquis was to make an attempt on the train. In one car a floorboard had been pried loose, with a hammer (which belonged to the Germans and was being used for fixing barbed wire on the windows of the cattle cars) and from the car in question seven men made their escape that night, among them, some Americans. When the escape was discovered the Germans were almost beside themselves with rage and took terrible reprisals on the rest of that car's occupants, with a grim promise that thirty-five were to be shot. The whole carload was stripped absolutely naked and spent two days wondering whether the shooting was to be carried out. Once they were bidden to get out of the car thirty at a time (there were ninety-two men in that cattle car) and when the first thirty got out a line of soldiers with rifles at the ready faced them. The Sergeant in command of the rifle party then told the prisoners to urinate, to the enormous glee of the Germans and the relief of the wretches, naked by the roadside. Later a far more sinister and criminal event took place. A youth was standing with his hand resting on the wire of the window. A German soldier fired at, and hit the hand. The prisoners asked for first aid for the boy who was dragged out of the truck. He was asked if he was French, and when replied that he was, received the order to walk down the embankment. As his back was turned shots rang out and without a murmur he fell dead. Two Englishmen were ordered out to dig his tragic little unmarked grave, and that grim train of despair rattled on, the ghastly interlude to all appearances unnoticed. Our journey was a long round of bullying by the guards. It took five days and to the last day we did not know our destination, but presumed that we would be separated from the French and go to POW camp. This was hardly what happened, as you shall read. On the morning of August 20th we arrived at Weimar and there followed a great deal of shunting. The women were separated from the men and never shall I forget the wan smiles of those poor creatures as they passed bravely by our trucks exchanging "Bon courage" with the men, some of whom were their husbands. My memory is haunted with the recollection of a sickly little woman some eight months pregnant, being supported by two of her country women as she struggled over the railway tracks, harried by a florid, fat German shouting -"Kom, Kom, Kom"!