Extracts of Diaries written by Roger Collinson

whilst a prisoner of World War II

21st February 1943 to 18th May 1945

Roger Collinson

Sapper in the Royal Engineers - 2127902

To browse this Diary just scroll down or click on any of the following to go direct to a specific month:-

Feb March April May June
July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb March April May June
July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb March April May

February 1943


21st Feb - 04.30hrs - Moved from Bivvy area to front line between Kasserine and Thala. I went with OC as batman, runner, fighter, clerk together with HQ personnel, Bill Ford, Clark, Armitage and Tubby Bastard.
Section 1 and 2 set up mortar positions, dug in and prepared to support boys of Leicesters. Tanks still retreating from Kasserine towards Thala Road. Stuck in mud - dug slit trench. Dug hole for rations and comoflaged them. We prepared for night vigil. Reported Germans approaching. 1st army tanks still retreating in valley in front of us. 19.50hrs Tried to contact brigade Headquarters (HQ) over wireless - No Contact. HQ informed that German tanks approaching about 200 yards away. No action taken. German voices on hill beyond road firing over us. Germans speaking English "Come out boys". Took most of section 1 and 2 prisoners including Ernie, Dave, Bill, O.C. Bill , Jerry and I about 21.00hrs. Left all rations. Germans anxious to get Tommy gun and ammo. Most anxious moment when I was ordered to proceed to the road with hands up expecting a bullet, but Germans proved likeable men or at least soldiers. Congregated on the road and marched about 2 miles with other troops to a compound and stayed the night. Learned we had been captured by Rommel's Africa Korps in the battle of Kasserine Pass.

Click hear for details about the Battle of Kasserine Pass

22nd Feb - Whilst approximately 100 of us where being marched towards Kasserine we saw Rommel. Later in the evening marched again to some trucks.

23rd Feb - Arrived by truck after a ride of several hours packed like sardines at a sandy olive grove. First food for 48hrs. Bean soup with bread and a coffee. Stayed the night. Americans came in later.

24th Feb - Went from olive grove in the middle of the afternoon on a 100 mile ride in open trucks to Sfax and where put in a barbed wire compound. Slept in holes dug into sand with Ernie, Dave and Bill.

26th Feb - Moved to railway station and put into cattle trucks. Dave & I separated from Ernie & Bill

27th Feb - After traveling overnight put into Sousse. Dave and I bartered with some Arab for bread, oranges and cake. bread cost 100 francs a loaf. Robbed but hungry. Spent another night in the truck.

28th Feb - Continued journey and arrived in Tunis. Marched several kilos to German Camp. Spent the night in a school.

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March 1943

1st March to 6th March - Moved to German Base Camp (GBC) in Tunis which was an old rubber works. 800-900 men in G.B.C. - ESCAPE? Sent Blue card home on the 2nd March. Joined by Section 3 men from Green Hill. Rumours of move by aeroplane or ship. Italian and German Photographers around for propaganda purposes.

7th March to 14th March - Boarded ship at Tunis for Italy. Reunited with Ernie and Bill. Sailed but heaved too off Cape Bow. Put in the hold ventilation poor. Bartered my watch for 1lb cheese, 2 loaves and 5 biscuits - watch worth approx. 10/-. Rations given out daily at 10.00hrs - 1 biscuit and 1/2 a tin of billy beef. Evensong on Sunday evening 30 minutes service and where informed of time of sailing. Allowed on deck on two occasions. Informed by officers of escape plan if the ship was bombed or torpedoed. Moved back to Tunis for rations and then set sail for Italy in this old tub, built on the Clyde, fitted out at Tyneside for the French, only to be handed over to the Italians for the Germans.

15th March - Still sailing.

16th March - Arrived in Naples and saw Vesuvius. Then boarded a tender for the shore. Put on train going North. 50 in one cattle truck. Put into siding at Capua.

17th March - Arrived at Campo Concentramento P.G. 66 (Capua) - Searched once again given substantial mid day meal of cabbage leaves, macaroni, peas some meat and a small loaf with cheese. Two blankets issued per man.

18th March - Up at 07.00hrs - Coffee for Breakfast. Mid day meal of soup some meat and a small cob of bread. Pay 20 Lire between 5 men. Received first Red Cross parcel from Southall which was shared between Bill Ford and I. Filled another blue card in as rumors the first card sunk. News of 1st & 8th Armies pincer on Tunis.

21st March - Check parade at 08.30hrs followed by Holy Communion Service in room 10' x 12' - 81 present.

22nd March - RSM read news of large commando raid on Sicily. Red Cross parcel form Leicester excellent mixed fruit pudding and syrup. 25 cigs issued. Nigro concert in the evening entitled Zulu War Dance.

23rd March - Canteen open 8 Lire for 1 Kilo of Oranges. 15 Walnuts for 4 Lire. Concert at night - excellent talent.

24th March - Holy Communion attended by 60-70 inmates. 2 oranges issued per person. Bacon and Tomatoes for tea.

25th March - Carried 4 Red Cross parcels from other compound everybody remarked how weak they were afterwards. Started to make game of Lexicon. Air raid during the night

26th March - Some new shirts and shoes issued. Rumored fall of Tunis.

27th March - Up at 07.00hrs - Handed jacket in to have red patch put on the back. Tomatoes for breakfast. 1 orange between 2 issued. Identification parade. Handed trousers in to have patch put on - Imagine no pants and walking round the compound in great coats - good job its warm. Pants returned. Lettuce for tea (very bitter). Made set of dominoes with Ernie.

28th March - Post card home. Church Service. Walked round compound 3 times. Cribbage contest.

29th March - up 07.30hrs - Check parade 1/4 hrs too early. Clocks put on 1 hours by Italians. Rumours heard of fall of Sfax. Pants to tailors for patch. Took stripes off. Walked round with blanket as a kilt. Red Cross parcel from Hitchen.

30th March - Check parade. Learning to play cribbage. Bill interrogated. Pants returned. News of terrific explosion in Naples - Italians evacuating Tunisia. Bombers over Rome. Russians 60 kilos west of Smolensk. Rain here.

31st March - Rain. Writing Hymn sheets for Padre. P.T. voluntary for 1/2 hour. Paid 10 Lire. Celery 1 Lire for 3 roots.

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April 1943

1st April - Dave and Ernie wished me many happy returns. P.T. Collected parcels. Further rumors of Tunis.

2nd April - No p.t. - Received first towel since capture had to share with Bill. Dust storm after dinner. issued with 50 Italian Cigs. Air activity so lights out for an hour or so.

3rd April - Beautiful morning. Lecture by Sgt Entwistle on "Demobilization" or as he preferred to put it "Re-mobilization"

4th April - Charlie brought news that Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler were meeting at Vatican City on April 25th. Great jubilation and optimism in the hut. My feelings were optimistic, but treated supposed B.B.C. broadcast rather with contempt but feel as if my prayers for an early conclusion to this war had been answered. Later Tubby brought a different conception to the news, and was inwardly glad that I had not treated the news as authentic, but nevertheless was very hopeful of such a meeting eventually taking place. General feelings that his Holiness the Pop was working, and had always been working for peace.

5th April - up 07.30hrs - Coffee - washed shirt and shaved - Beautiful day - Air Raid - Red Cross parcel from Leicester - 2nd Air Raid - Dave not well - No tea.

List of items in British Red Cross parcels
(14-18 in each parcel)

Meat & Vegetables
50 fags (issued separately)
Curried Mutton
Meat Paste
Meat Roll
Canned Beef
Oatmeal Biscuits
Condensed Milk
Lemon Cured
Stewed Beef
Creamed Rice
Mixed Fruit Pudding
Pork Sausage
Curried Veal
Sultana Pudding
Service Biscuits
Blackcurrents in Syrup
Prune (Dry)
Gooseberries in Syrup
Crushed Pineapple
Apple Pudding
Celery Cuts
Ginger Biscuits
Diced Carrots
Egg Flack
Apricots (Dry)
Greens Pancake Mixture
Beef & Tomatoes Pudding
Carleton Pudding
Irish Stew

6th April - Dave not Well. Drawn to play with Harold Beamish in cribbage contest. New Moon.

7th April - Dave improving. Arab tied to post for stealing bread. Heard of Fleetwwod boy on staff here. P.t under Roy Taylor - lost first cribbage game to Ken Manning. Bought this notebook for 5 Lire. Started this diary. Two air raids.

8th April - Charlie reported Stirling bombers arrive at Algiers - 2 Hospital ships sunk in Naples harbour by U.S. troops - 200 odd people kidded in Naples - Berlin pounded by 1500 bombers new 1200lb bomb used. Red Cross parcel from Hove. Very wet, cold and wild night.

9th April - Bought tea for breakfast with Jerry Daley. Re-count on parade, bath parade but cancelled owing to about 250 more prisoners coming into another compound. They would need bath & fumigating. PT. Extra large piece of cheese issued - Lecture by Sgt Entwistle on "Civvy Street" Cribbage "Choose your own partner" Contest Ossie & Joe won first round. Weather a little better - Snow on hills in the North - window broken.

10th April - Up 07.15hrs Lovely morning. Went for bath. P.O.W. newpaper dated 28 Feb 1943 issued. Won first round of cribbage contest with Dave agains Charlie Beazeley and Bill Campbell 2.1. Paid 9 Lire - 1 Lire deducted for share of Barrack Room Damages - Damages taken over whole camp of 2000 men - 3 times round compound with Ernie - Air Raid - RAF concert off.

11th April - Beatiful day - Wrote letter & card home. Church Service - Passion Sunday .Lost second round of cribbage match to Emlage & Payne - Put dried apricots to soak 30 between Bill and I. Air Raid - Rumours that some of us going to be moved.

12th April - Still rumours of 5 power meeting - Skin inspection - Hair cut - Bulk rations issued - cigaretts 25 State Express 333. Draw partners for crib drive - Joe Houghton & I - Thunderstorm. Given Easter greetings telegram - Prunes one bucket between 4.

Camp Song

Campo Concentramento P.G. 66
Seldon you'll see a frown
There's English and Irish and good old Welshman too
and the Scotsman who will never let you down
At Campo Concentramento P.G. 66
There's Black & Whites but never Blues
and soon will come a day
When we will sail away
From Campo Concentramento P.G. 66

13th April - up at 07.15 - tea but no milk. Joe Houghton and I beat Fitz and Thompson in crib contest 2-0, beat Jones and Alder 2-1. 40 Itailian Cigs issued. Concert in the afternoon - concluded by 4.30 by R.A.F. Varoius sizes and shapes of hats made from unside pockets & trouser legs introduced because of the sun.

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May 1943

Nil entries.

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June 1943

16th June - Travelling - Supposed to have travelled through Rome - Arrived at Campo Concentramento P.G.53 (Sforzacosta) - Searched thoroughly - sleeping on floor owing to lack of beds - good sleep.

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July 1943

22nd July - Up 06.00hrs P.T. walk - Took library book back - heard of bombing of Rome. Received 3 letters from home dated 20 April, 5 May and 20 May. Red Cross Parcel from Perth. Roll Call. Spoke to a Blackpool chap called Rooney

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August 1943

Nil entries.

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September 1943

22nd Sept - Arrives at Stalag 7A.

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October 1943

Nil entries.

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November 1943

1st Nov - Up 06.15hrs Tea and finished food off (almost). Parcel of food packed up and sent away. Dose of cough mixture. Parade at 1 o'clock for search prior to being moved. Cliff Parry was unfortunately mauled by one of the dogs. Search finished at 4. Riffle shot , man hit.

2,3 & 4 Nov - Cold and damp Moved from Stalag VIIA (Moosburg) at approx 08.30hrs received one loaf each and 3 tins of bully between 8 - 1 washing soap, 1 toilet soap and a piece of shaving soap. Marched to trucks by 10 - Just missed Munich in train all the night - 48 to a truck - little sleep - cold and foggy when it came to daylight. Went through Linz - allowed of train for wash etc for about 1 hour. At 4 o'clock received a drink of coffee - searched - marched to baths for de lousing spent hours waiting. Everything except cups and bottle went for fumigation - waited in room with nothing on only a blanket & shoes for 1 hour or so. Had all hair from everywhere cut off - paraded outside in cold & eventually marched to barrack room, old stables and given blanket & slept all night. Received hot turnip soup whilst waiting for bath - bedded down about 9 - bitterly cold & got a bad cold too.

Arrived Stalag XVIIA - 3.11.43 Wilflingdorf (Kaisersteinbruck)

5th Nov - Paraded for identification received first POW Number 154111. Went to store for check on cloths received pair of long underpants a pair of Dutch clogs and thumb print taken.

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December 1943

24th Dec - Up 06.15hrs - Tea - Cold & Freezing - Difficulty getting through th guard on our way to work - distributed Xmas parcels and cigarettes - had bath, shaved and haircut. Dubbened shoes - Ernie busy making trifle for Xmas day - bed 9.

25th Dec - Christmas Day - Up 07.00hrs - Washed before breakfast - breakfast of bacon & egg flakes - marmalade - tea - Church service at 9 taken by interpreter Norman Druce and Sgt Tom Sedgewick - 1st Lesson read by "Topper". Very nice especially prayer by Druce for those at home - Left service and went to see carol singer - B Booth & Co. Returned to pea soup and potatoes - Bob Booth & Co, E Bickle returned the visit - German sausage & margarine issued - Compounds 31 & 32 open to 29 and vica versa - Had Xmas pudding hot but could eat little after, in fact did not feel any to well. bed early.

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January 1944

Nil entries.

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February 1944

Nil entries.

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March 1944

Nil entries.

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April 1944

Nil entries.

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May 1944

Nil entries.

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June 1944

Nil entries.

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July 1944

Nil entries.

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August 1944

Nil entries.

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September 1944

Nil entries.

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October 1944

Nil entries.

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November 1944

Nil entries.

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December 1944

24th Dec - Up 06.30hrs - Work - to the station from 9-2. Pianoforte recite by French Pianist in afternoon - Dance at night after carol service - 31 Barrack to bed at 9.30

25th Dec - Christmas Day - Up 08.30hrs - Bacon & egg for breakfast - Holy Communion at 10 - Dinner at 11 of chicken, roast potatoes - spam as stuffing - rice pudding - Cigs given by Harold Evans - Air Raid - Concert in the afternoon - 31 Barrack at night - Xmas cake - Dance - Bed 9.30.

26th Dec - Work at 9 - fine but frosty - Air Raid - at work until 2.30. Triffel made by Ernie. Carnival dance at night very good. 31 Barrack - Firewatch at 10.

27th Dec - Very cold - News bitter - Andy handed over offically - Heard that boys going tomorrow - Two letters from home - Farewell dance - Said good bye to most of the boys.

28th Dec - Cold and frosty - 1st Party did not go out at 3am. Left Barrack and went to 26 Barrack and later returned to 31 & 32 - 2nd Party did not leave Barrack - A party out to 17 Barrack - bed 9.30

29th Dec - up at 06.30hrs - Cold - Les Hooker gave me shoes. 2 parties still here - snowing - Bed at 9.30.

30th Dec - A party out at 3am - Up at 06.30hrs. Busy day and bath. Few Cigs in - quite night.

31st Dec - Up at 07.30hrs - work at 9. Snowing - saw Fred Pitt - New Years Eve Dance - Eric Soutar played New Year in - Brews.

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January 1945

1st Jan - To work at 9 - Party did not come up because small party going away. This included "Topper". Letter home - Fire watch 4-5 with Jimmy.

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February 1945

Nil entries.

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March 1945

Nil entries.

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April 1945

1st April - Orders to move, that is evacuate camp at 2.30 - moved about 4 after bomb dropping 130 yards away. Picked up 2 parcels per man and left camp in daylight about 6. Sommerin, rest on road side for 3 hours. Washed feet. danger area moving through GAP. Slept in ploughed field & everybody under the impression we would be retaken, tank fighting all around us i.e. 8 kilos & fires.

2nd April - On our way again at 3am. We heard the Russians entered the village an hour after we left. Went through No Mans Lan, passed aerodrome and over mined bridge, which were blown later and we heard that all the Serbs were retaken by the Russians.

Forced marching - Mödling later taken, near Baden night in field - beautiful weather - Jimmy truck broke down the first day. Tragedy of Russian & Rumainian P.O.Ws dying on the route.

Third day heard of evacating of Wien and Munich - blowing of dumps near our rest at midday. Refugees in hundreds on the roads, all flying from the Russains, we appear to be on the dodge all the time. Vienna woods, Primroses and wild violets - livestock from Austria.

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May 1945

Nil entries.
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Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers Museum

Wilimedia Foundation
Mannschafts-Stammlager (Stalag) VII A
Brtisih Red Cross