The Crusader, Eighth Army Weekly, No. 26, Vol. 2, October 26th 1942

T h e Germans clap 107 British cers and 1,269 N.C.O.’s and mer irons. We reply by manacling same number of German prisoner The Germans bluster : “Do that - and we'll put chains on three times as man-; > tish prisoners.” From Rome, Muss squeals : “And I’ll take reprisals, too." And in the desert we are scratching o - heads and saying “W hat the hell is it a;.: about ? Who started it and where will it get anybody, anyway ?” W ell, it all started officially just afte'r the Dieppe raid, when the Germans alleged that prisoners taken by us had had their hands tied to prevent them escaping during the ac­ tion. They flung a number of our men into chains as a “reprisal.” There is nothing in any international convention to forbid the tying of prisoners during action. But the Bri­ tish Government, leaning backwards to play “according to the rules," countermanded the original military order to secure German prisoners in this manner during action, in case the enemy should do just what he has done — make it an excuse for another bit of “frightfulness.” For it is at once a mark of the • honesty id simplicity of the desert soldier that he •edits the Hun with a few fundamental aits that are characteristic of almost every British soldier, however tough. Decency, for instance, and fair-play for the man who is down and out of the fight. The Hun wants us to keep that way. While he smashes rules of war which even savages observe when it suits him and he feels safe from reprisal, he wants us to maintain our code and standards. Because then he knows that the worst that can hap­ pen to him in our hands won’t be very ter­ rible. And it gives him a chance of produ­ cing a new and dirtier trick another day. The shackles he has clapped on our men's wrists are light indeed compared with what he has done and is doing to the peo­ ples of a dozen prostrate nations. And the sufferings of these unfortunate people are light compared to what is in store for our folk at home, should the Hun conquer Rrtniu. _paaaooocaoaaoooaoaoaoaDacoooQQOODDQOOBDaaoaaaoaaaoQoaDDcooQaaaaooaooDOODaaooaaacoo? o q c d c^ This article has been wrilien by Sgl. Cyril James who has ! I been in the Arm y since the beginning of the war. At the j moment he is serving in "The Blue" A great many important people will, no doubt, express i i their views on the recent incident concerning the shackling. ] i "Crusader" naturally prefers the comment of a member of j Britain's Fighting Army. ^Qaao? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ooDaDaooaooaooQoaQOODQQaaDoaQOQaDQOoaaoaooQoaoQoaooooooDODDoaaoaaaaaaoooo0^ and you 1 1 see once again the spectacle of the Nazi at his favourite pastime. Nobody loves war more than the Ger­ mans — when the war is going their way. Nobody shouts more loudly about the “rules of war” than the Germans — but they add the qualification : “Of course, we are al­ lowed to make up the rules as we go along.” And unde'rneath all this business of putting helpless prisoners in chains lies as vicious a piece of Nazi blackmail yet. W e all know now that when the Hun starts moaning, it means we’re hurting him somewhere. No matter what form his moan takes, it can always be traced back to the fact that he is being forced to swallow some form of the medicine he has prescribed for someone else. The Huns’ Number One prescription for Britain was mass bombing. W e took it. But now we are dishing out the mixture, triple-strong and in increasing doses. The Germans don’t like it, but they have to take it. They cheered wildly when Hitler promised them the other day that the Luftwaffe would take a suitable revenge. But promises don’t stop the thousands of tons of R.A.F. bombs which fall on the Reich. And the 'planes of the Luftwaffe continue to fall like autumn leaves out of the Russian skies. The Germans would love to call a bomb­ ing truce- until the Luftwaffe is strong enough again in the W est for them to break it. But since the R.A.F. doesn’t talk that kind of language they have looked about for some lever to help force a Ger­ man bargain. I have spoken to men who have been at hand-grips with the Germans, who have fought him in half a-dozen toe-to-toe slog­ ging matches. And, at one time or another, they have all said the same thing : “Jerry's a good soldier, make no mistake about that. And by God, Rommel’s a clean fighter." Yet that same Rommel, guest of the unspeakable Gobbels, complained the other day that the British were “unfair” in their desert warfare, that we have scored our successes only by the use of “Maoris and head-hunters.” Captured German soldiers, scared for their skins and knowing very well what happens to Poles and Russians captured by the Reichwehr. are only too eager to flatter our sense of “sportsmanship.” They know it pays. “English soldier goot fighter. German sol­ dier goot fighter. Italian no goot,” they say. And how do we in the desert receive this calculated flattery ? Your “good soldier” of the Afrika Korps will do in London as his comrades have done in Warsaw' and Prague and Belgrade, the moment he is given the order. He may be browned by the same desert sun. He may joke about the flies, the sand­ storms, the Italians — subjects that can be humorous to you and to me. But there all contact with us. as men, ends abruptly — though he seeks to pre­ tend that it doesn’t. For the German soldier and nobody else on God’s earth has made possible the ghast­ ly crimes of Hitlerism. And, though he may crack a thousand jokes with us, he is as surely pledged to destroy us and everything we value in this world as Adolf Hitler him­ self. Shackles and shambles... It seems a bit of a jump from the shackles of our men at Dieppe to the shambles of Swansea or Southampton. But it’s all part of the Nazi jig-saw pic­ ture. And it’s our job to smash the pieces so ruthlessly that even a battalion of cuti"-e Hitlers won’t form the dirty pattern again. In fact, none of the German prisoners ta­ ken at Dieppe were tied. But our Govern­ ment’s announcement that it had counter­ manded the hand-tying order was hailed by the Germans as a “climb-down" and a “con­ fession of guilt” and the British prisoners were released from their bonds. Then came the recent commando raid on Sark. A few German prisoners were taken and were tied so that their arms might be linked with their captors to prevent them making a break for freedom and so raising the ala:rm. All perfectly legal. But the Ger­ mans, seeing a chance to make the British eat “humble pie” again, immediately raised a howl against this “unheard of atrocity” — and flung the unfortunate Dieppe prisoners back into their chains. But this time the British Government wasn't playing. Instead of backing dow'n as expected with profuse apologies for nothing, we replied promptly by clapping an equal number of Germans into irons. And so the “manacle marathon" was on. At fi'rst glance, it all seems stupid and senseless. But think it over for, a while — were manacled. But the Germans didn’t play even this dirty game according to their self- made rules. No, the cards were already marked ; the deck was phoney. They knew that we hgve fewer German prisoners than they have British. Our favourable balance of Axis prisoners is made up of Italians. So that if the “manacle mara­ thon" went far enough, there would be more Italian prisoners in chains than any other nationality. But little things like the feelings of an ally don’t worry the Ger­ mans. They think they have a lever which will shift us fur­ ther than all the might of the Reichswehr and Luftwaffe could do. But, whichever way you look at the inci­ dent. it does seem ra­ ther curious that a na­ tion which boasts that it has perfected the in­ vincible war machine should, after three years of war, be obliged to use disarmed prisoners as a weapon. Yet it isn’t curious at For that is where we, in the desert — who ought to know our Hun better than any other British soldiers — still tend to have a strange blind spot in our view of the German as an enemy. Do we remember Coventry, shattered and smouldering, while the Hun broadcast gloatingly that a new verb — “to Coven­ trate" — had been coined ? Do we remember our seamen, machine- gunned as they struggled in the water ? Do we remember the countless dirty tricks of the desert Hun — his use of Red Cross ambulances to screen lorried infantry, his almost systematic violation of the white flag of truce ? Do we remember the shambles of defen­ celess Rotterdam, the corpses that littered the streets of Belgrade, the fate of the wo­ men of Poland, the hostages who are but­ chered every day in hand-picked bunches ? Or, nearer to us again, the prisoners of Tobruk who were set to work under Bri­ tish shell-fire ? And, when they protested, the comment of “great-hearted" Rommel — “There will be the fewer to feed No, far too many of us look at the grin­ ning Hun and repeat: “Good soldier, Jerry." They wanted to hurt us through some­ body who can’t hit back. They looked at the thousands of British prisoners, disarmed, helpless, and said “Just the job !” They didn’t need an excuse — though being Germans they would love one so that they might redouble their cruelty and fury. Then came the “incidents” of Dieppe and Sark. And so all the following about the “rules of war" and “humanity” — from the butchers of Eurjpe. More and more of our helpless prisoners _ T h ey talk about "the ruie, tare sh ow s bodies o f Russia^ u , lated and throw n into a p d c St- Paul’s still stands proudly, dom inating foregrou n d o f sham bles cau sed b y Nazi bom bing o f non-m ilitary ta rgets in London. British prisoners m arch to "stalag' German prisoners a rrive at British port.
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