His Story, His Words Part Eleven

Russians Continued….

There were Russian female soldiers and they used to dance. They used to do point duty, dealing with the traffic, they had a red disc and a green disc, they were like robots, they were fantastic, I used to stand watching them dealing with the traffic.

At night they used to build a fire and they enjoyed themselves and drank vodka, I did not drink any more of it. They played instruments and the men used to dance as well. I quite liked them and still do, I have nothing against them because they were good to me.

Prague…..

As we were travelling, the roads were filled with people cheering, they dropped me off the tank and I carried on into Prague by myself. I got into Prague, I got into the city itself, Prague is a lovely place with a lot of bridges. There were still some Germans there, single Germans who were hiding on the roofs away from the Czechs who were after them, every now and again you would here a shot. I had heard that the Czechs had been issued with British rifles and five rounds of ammunition, the Czech underground I suppose.

It was getting towards night time and I met two Czech lads and I gestured with my hands if there was somewhere to sleep and they gave me some money and I went to a hotel and I got a bed for the night and some food the next morning.

I carried on walking to the centre of the city and there was a man and his wife and his daughter walking down the road. I said “hello” to them and the girl said “hello mister” in English and I said “you speak English” and she said “yes”. The girl was about 16 years old, her family were rich people and during the German occupation her father owned a factory. She had taught herself English and she could type in English, she used to send me letters, I still have one.

I said “I would like somewhere to sleep, I have nowhere to sleep, I am a British soldier” and she spoke to her mom and dad and they said “come”. I went to their house, it was magnificent with great big gardens. I had a bath and I had something to eat. We were sitting around a table and her dad put a bottle on the table, it was a bottle of Scotch Whisky which he had kept hidden and I had a drink.

Sonja Nejedla

The girl was called Sonja Nejedla and I slept in her dad’s study on a settee in a pair of his pyjamas, she was a marvellous speaker, her dad’s factory was called Brothers Scrabota, neither her dad or her mother could speak English. I was with them for quite sometime and she used to take me on walks around Prague in Wenseslas Square, she used to take me to a barbers and this barber used to shave me for free.



Sonja Nejedla

I used to go to parties because the war was over, we knew that Hitler had died and the Germans had his picture in windows with a black band around it stating the Der Fuhrer ist tot  (The Fuhrer is dead), I was not sure if Roosevelt had died as well because I did not know much about much, I could not let the missus know or anyone know where I was at the time. I was in celebrations there when the war ended and someone gave me a pair of shoes. There were parties in the hotels and cafes, plenty of singing and dancing, I was enjoying myself.

While I was there in Prague I saw a German soldier strung up by his feet, the street was beautiful and it had murals on the wall, the walls were covered in bullet holes and this German had been in a house and slung a little girl out of a window and killed her, people had put flowers where she died but they got him, strung him up, fastened his hands and then they burnt him alive.

I also saw Czech women who had been associated with the Germans, these women had had all of their hair cut off. They were making them carry rocks that the Czechs had used in the roads as barricades. The Czechs also had whips. There was also a school with some young Hitler Youth inside and the Czechs had told them to come out, they would not come out so they fired on the school, I don’t know whether they killed them or what happened.

When I used to go on walks with Sonja I always stepped on the outside of the path by the gutter and she said “Jim why do you do that, why do you put me here”, I said “well it is an old English custom, in days gone by when the roads were muddy, a cart could go passed and would splash and also it gave a man with a sword time for him to get his sword out, if he was on that side he could not get his sword out and he could be attacked”, she thought that was a beautiful story.

I stopped with this family for about two weeks then I met a Czech which Sonja had arranged for me to meet, he had a truck, we got to a check point and got through because the guard could not read English or whatever and he let us through.

Returning Home

I went to the American lines at Pilsen, it was all quite happy, they said “nice to see you” and all that. I was put onto a Dakota plane and flew to Brussels, I remember the pilot or co pilot had a cigar in his mouth and I said to him “are you allowed to smoke in here” and he said “yeah” and gave me a cigar, there were two or three other lads on this plane as well. He flew over Berlin and he said “that’s what has happened to Berlin” and to me it meant nothing because it was all flat. While flying to Brussels they gave me some PK packets in which there were sweets, chocolate and biscuits.


Example Of A Dakota Plane

When I got to Brussels there was a little air force bloke with a big moustache and he gave me a little white plastic pot in case I was sick when I was flying, I said to him “I have just come from Prague” and he said “well, anyway you have still got to have this, you could be sick”. I got onto a Lancaster bomber, I lay on the floor of the bomber, we started off and I remember the pilot saying “ we are now flying over the north sea”, we landed at an aerodrome near to Oxford, I don’t know which one it was, I just know it was somewhere near to Oxford. As I got of the plane two RAF girls took my arms, one either side and walked me to this hangar. I was deloused and given another uniform to put on, they put me a ribbon on, the 1935 to 1945 star, I did not know what it was then. In the hangar there were tables in there and a lot of lads were in there sitting down. I sat down at the end of one of the tables, there was a tea urn empty on the table and a loaf of white sliced bread, I remember that very well. An RAF girl came up and said I will go and get some tea in the urn, when she came back with the tea she said “who has eaten the bread” and a bloke said “he has eaten it” and she said “dear me I will have to go and get some more bread”.


Example Of Lancaster Bomber

I can’t remember what the meal was and after that I sent Marion my wife a telegram to say that I was back in England and I was coming home and that I would be at home by a certain hour.

When I got to Walsall station there was nobody there to meet me so I went out into the street, there was a policeman there, I had no money in my pocket to get a bus because it was a decent walk from the station to where I lived with my mother in law. I said to the policeman “I want to get to Leamore” he said “well get on the bus”, I said “I don’t have any money”, he said “well where have you come from” and I said “Prague”, he said “Prague, where is that Sussex, Surrey”, I said “no it’s in Czechoslovakia” he must of thought I was round the bend or something, I said “I have been a prisoner of war and I have just come back and I thought my relations would be here to meet me”. He said “okay lad” and stopped a trolley bus and told the driver and conductor to drop me off at Leamore.


I got to Leamore, I walked down to Leamore Lane where I lived and people were saying hello, they did not know I had been a prisoner of war, they just said hello because I was still in uniform. I got to 18, Leamore Lane where I lived with my mother in law, I knocked on the door, there was no answer, I knocked again and there was no answer, I kicked the door and thought God I hope they have not moved. I was walking away and I heard the door open, I just stood there and my wife was there, she gave one squeal and shouted for her mother, it was great, She had not had the telegram and did not know I was coming. That night a cousin of my wife said “come on out and have a drink”, there were no decorations or joyful come back, I was home, different relations came to see me.


This is 18 Leamore Lane Where Jim Returned To In 1945

I had a son at the time, he was five years old and he had the measles. I gave him some silver Czech coins that Sonja had given to me and he was giving them to all of the kids in the street.

After I had been there a few days I said “I had better go to Sunderland to see my mother”, I got on the train to go up to Sunderland, it was full of American troops and other people, there were no seats. We went in a guards van, the three of us, myself, my wife and my son Brian, everyone was standing up packed, there was a shelf by a window which had bars in it. I sat my little lad on the shelf and he looked through the bars and he said “dad when you was in prison did you look through bars like this” we had plenty of room after this. We got to Sunderland and my mom was over the moon to see me. I kept travelling to Sunderland then going back to Walsall

I had not seen my son since he was a baby, I had photos of him on my first leave, I had no chance to see him between one and five, I had lost all of that, it was strange to find my baby was a little lad who was going to school, he is 55 years old now (1994), he had been shown photographs of me, I was able to get on with him straight away.

I had to go back to Chester Military Hospital with my knee, I was in there for about a week but they did not do anything. My wife Marion came down with me, it was Whitsun time and they would not let here into the hospital and she had to find her own way back.

   
Photograph Of Son Brian With Rear Showing Stalag VIIIB Stamp

I did not have any trouble getting back into normal life but I was sent to a rehabilitation centre at Wolverhampton, I had a period of leave and I was sent there. We were doing arithmetic and various things, they must have thought I was round the bend, I was alright. I also went to another rehab centre in Washington, they transferred me up there, I was doing similar things here as at Wolverhampton and we were also making things. In my case I did not see any reason for me being at a rehab centre but in other lads yes, in my case I was of sound mind.

When I got back to England I was going to report about Sergeant Major Metcalfe leaving me to be a prisoner. I did meet a Durham chap and I asked him if he knew anything about CSM Metcalfe, I can’t remember where I was when I asked him but he told me that he had got killed, he was teaching intake recruits how to throw hand grenades and one blew up in his hand and killed him, he told me he also won the MC (Military Cross) so he must have been an officer, he must have taken a commission. I have been trying to find out for a long time what happened to Metcalfe before he was killed but no one seems to know. I still feel bitter about it, I was left for five years, I should not have been taken prisoner, I could walk and I could run.

I managed to find out the name of the young lieutenant I ran across the field with and crossed the canal, his name was Rudd, Martin McLane told me that.   I once wrote to Captain Annand and asked him if he knew if Mr Rudd was still alive, I would like to meet him and he said he was dead and that was that. If I had asked earlier I may of met him, he saved me by telling me to keep running but I had to leave my mate Geordie behind.

I was demobilised on the 17th March 1946, I went to a class Z reserve. I went back to the bus company to get my job back as a conductor, they knew all about me, I said I can’t conduct because I have a bad leg and I can’t drive. My knee still used to swell up and it was getting worse. I asked if there was a job in the sheds and they said no it’s full up and so I did not get any work.

I went up to Sunderland to me mothers and while I was there I got a job in the post office, I used to walk nice and easy. I was on the walk for about a month and then I went for a medical. The next day after the report had come through to the post master he called me into his office and he said “I have got some bad news for you Mr. Miller”, I said “why what is wrong have I done something wrong with the post” and he said “no, I’m afraid you can’t be a postman, you are under the height regulation”, I said “under the height” and he said “yes you are half inch too short” and that was it. I came back to me mothers and said to Marion “I have lost me job Marion, I’m not a postman” she said “why” and I said “I am too little”. I had been a soldier all of those years. I wrote to The Old Codgers (Daily Mirror) about it some time later and they said he was a pig. I asked them what the minimum height was and they said five foot four, it still is five foot four but there are postmen on the post now and some of them are only about five foot. On some of my army records I am down as five four and five five, boots on boot off, my army discharge papers say I am five foot five.

I felt very angry, is this England, is this what I have come back to, all that suffering, I did not do anything about it, I was a bit thick in that respect being a prisoner, you don’t go to an MP or a councillor, I had just lost my job, it was going back to the days before the war, you are sacked and that is that.

After this we came back to Walsall, I got this house and I got a job at Talbot Steads in Green Lane, Walsall, it’s called Tube Investments now. First of all I started labouring, shoving bars through a die, it was easy work, nothing hard and then later on I was made a charge hand and I had my own inspection key for the government. I came off that job and I went into the stockyard, I was on the staff and in charge of the stockyard. My leg was getting bad again and I went into the offices doing pay and productivity, there was a lot of work and writing to do. I stayed with the same firm until I retired.

I was still bitter about what happened when I came out of the army, I got a twenty percent pension for my knee, I got that pension straight away because it was on my medical records, I should not have been in the army, I should have been sent home, I couldn’t march, I kept going into hospital with fluid on the knee, synovitis and my ankle was getting weak, I was having trouble with that.

I had been given a suit by the army when I left but I went to get another suit, I went down to the fifty bob tailors, when I got the suit one sleeve was too long and the other was OK. I said they must have made a mistake so I took it back for them to take it up. I said to them “look at this sleeve”, they said “that’s funny” and they measured my arm and they took it up. Two years later I had another suit and there was the same problem again, so I took it back and said “will you measure this arm”. One arm was an inch and a half shorter than the other. This had happened because of the injury to the shoulder, I can’t lift my arm up too far now, it is too painful, this is from my shoulder wound, this was never treated. One night I woke up in bed and said to my wife “Oh Marion the pain is terrific”, Marion said “you have rheumatics”, I said “this is not rheumatics”. I went to Doctor Govender and I said “doctor I can’t move my neck” and he felt around my shoulder, I was sent to the hospital, I was x-rayed, they said “how long have you had this in your arm”, I said “I don’t know what it is”. I don’t know whether it is a bullet or shrapnel but it is still there and other shrapnel on my shoulder, I never knew. What had happened, it had moved and it’s still there.