DECEMBER 1944 - ENGLAND
.....I vividly remember December 1944 , my company was stationed at P.W.E. #1 near Moreton-in-Marsh, England.  It was very cold and damp.  The post commander had a particular affection for Bing Crosby's rendition of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."  We were confined to camp, all passes had been cancelled.  One could not escape the sounds of "the Groaner" dreaming of a White Christmas on the tinny Tannoy.  It did wonders for troop morale.  The hoarfrost would build up on cold external surfaces to 1" to 2" in thickness.  We had been subjected to training with 50 caliber machine guns which certainly are not anti-personnel weapons.  Each guard tower around the enclosure was equipped with a 50 caliber M.G. with armor piercing ammunition.  We joked that firing these one of these machine guns from a rickety guard tower would send it crashing to the ground.  We didn't know why we had this seemingly overkill capability at the time, but were to learn that later from an article in a British newspaper.   British Intelligence had learned that in coordination with the Ardennes Breakthrough from which the Germans had hoped to capture the port city of Antwerp, Belgium there was to be a mass breakout of the German P.O.W.s in England whose camps saturated the countryside of the U.K.  The Germans even had battle plans to capture British armor.  This intelligence is further documented in a book called "The March on London" by Charles Whiting.   

.....Elsewhere in December 1944, there was  an audacious plan hatched by Waffen SS officers and some Fallschirmjäger troops to break out of their camp in Devizes, Wiltshire and seize weapons, including tanks from a local army depot and march on London, all this was to coincide with the Ardennes offensive which was taking place in Europe. The Ardennes Offensive lifted the moral of many German prisoners as they though this would lead to their liberation but they were very much mistaken. Although the plan sounds ludicrous it caused the British some concern and not unfoundedly as there were around 250,000 prisoners in Britain (the equivalent of 48 divisions) at that time and the British and American forces stationed in Britain numbered considerably less as they were fighting in Europe and the Far East. The plan was fortunately discovered and the perpetrators were dealt with, being sent to Comrie Camp in Perthshire (Camp 21) in the wilds of Scotland which housed hard-line line Nazis (mainly young Waffen SS, Fallschirmjäger and U-boat crew prisoners) out of the way of other moderate prisoners. This did lead to one very unfortunate incident where Feldwebel Wolfgang Rosterg-a known anti-Nazi was sent by mistake. He was believed to have informed of the plot to march on London and after a severe beating was hanged in the latrine. Five prisoners were caught, tried and hanged in Pentonville Prison in North London on 6th October 1946. Another prisoner- Unteroffizer Gerhard Rettig was beaten to death for his open criticism of the plan and was beaten to death after being chased round the camp and two other prisoners were executed in November 1946 in Pentonville Prison.

.....We were to learn in subsequent years after the war, that we had been scheduled to have our company dismantled and we, its troops, sent to the Bulge as infantry replacements.  Our captain managed to convince someone higher up that we were in the right place with the proper training and experience for the job we were doing.  Besides, there were no troops available to replace us.  Whew!
.....Glossary:
...........E.T.O. = European Theatre of Operations  
...........O.C.S. = Officers Candidate School
...........C.P. = Command Post
...........P.W.E. = Prisoner of War Enclosure
...........Tannoy = A public address system favoured by the Brits
...........M.G. = Machine Gun
...........P.O.W.s = Prisoners of War
...........U.K. = United Kingdom
 

June 9, 2003 - Best regards Gene

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