WWII Diary and Report of Escaped P.O.W Sgt. Robert J. D. Powdrill. Service Number: 6014816 (Buffs) Royal East Kent Regiment.

I joined the Territorial Army early in 1939 and was called up at the end of August 1939 as a private in The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). By the time my regiment went to France I had been promoted to sergeant (Acting Platoon Sergeant Major) and I was taken prisoner of war by the Germans during the Dunkirk evacuation. I spent most of the years from June 1940 to January 1945 as British ‘Camp Commandant of a prisoner of war working party of some seventy men on the borders of Poland &East Prussia. In 1943 or 1944 I was court martialled by the Germans and served a sentence of 21 days solitary confinement for allegedly insulting a German Officer. In January 1945 at the beginning of the Russian ‘push my camp was evacuated and together with many other prisoners of war who joined us en route we began to march back into Germany and away from the oncoming Russian Army. For the first 6 or 8 weeks the weather was atrocious with deep snow and 10 to 20 degrees of frost. Many P.O.Ws died of exposure or malnutrition during this forced march which lasted until the end of April. By this time we had marched almost to Hamburg and had then been headed south towards Czecho-Slovakia. In the vicinity of Liepzig I learned that we were being rushed through a narrowing corridor between the advancing Russian and American armies. I decided to escape to the Americans and with one fellow prisoner of war (Sapper G. Hartley) successfully reached their lines on or about the 24 th April 1945 at a town called Muhldeberg. After interrogation by the authorities we had a personal interview with the Brigadier in charge of this sector (American 104 th Infantry Division) and after long discussion he agreed to allow tome lead a small but heavily armed raiding party back through the German lines in an attempt to re-locate our marching column of prisoners of war (which now included several thousand Americans hence this permission). The raiding party consisted of Sapper Hartley and myself with an American Major (Hugh Carey) and five or six G.I.S. After crossing the Muhlde river at dusk and getting through the German lines which fortunately were not very well manned at this point we commandeered a German Army lorry (complete with driver) and drove some 10 or 15 miles to the area where we expected to find our fellow prisoners of war halted for the night. We hid the lorry and leaving the German driver with one American soldier on guard we continued on foot. We found the Allied prisoners of war in a lightly wooded area –some 7000 of them –with guards patrolling the perimeter which was outlined by lorry headlights. Supper Hartley and I ‘Infiltrated back into the ‘camp area whilst Americans kept us covered out of sight.
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