Sunday, January 02, 2011

Part 4: Working conditions at Latchen POW camp, Kelsien.

Private Joseph Driscoll one of the Prisoners of War describes the working conditions at Latchen camp:

National Archives WO/161/361
"I was employed to work at the camp for the first day of work. When the men came back they told horrible stories, such as falling in the snow over dead unburied Russians who must have been lying out for weeks and months. Some men were working in the trenches under light gunfire and very often heard the hiss of bullets in the snow. Others were working on ice at the River Aa. This was a line of communication between the German blockhouses and Mitau. Work was really ice breaking in front of the bridge over the Aa. Some of these men had no books, and only rags to wrap round their feet, kept to work from 6 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. With two rests of 20 minutes each at 10 and 1.No food supplied , or at all from 6 to 5 p.m...........

Next day I went to work in the trnches. We were taken to Kelzien, a German Pioneer depot. There we received picks and shovels and were sent to the trenches six or seven kilom. from the camp. These trenches we were making were communication trenches. We were in full view of the Russians , and aways under light Russian gunfire. One man was struck by shrapnel, Shells were bursting 20 yards from the men. Also there was no protection given us against gas. 250 men would go to these trenches each day.........

Other work was what was called the wood party, hardest of all. This was cutting down large wood, cutting up and taking away to road, Always working up to thighs in snow."