Given today is Easter Sunday, and I spent the morning stuffing my face with chocolate cake, I wondered how the air force prisoners I am studying spent their Easters in captivity.
Interestingly, Christmas is mentioned a number of times in letters and wartime log books but I only found a handful of Easter mentions in the personal collections I ‘hold’. It seems as if Easter didn’t have the same resonance for the majority as a time of Christian celebration but, for some, it provided a handy point of reference when recalling events. For some, it was point from which they could look forward, hopefully marking the end of their captivity.
For Geoff Cornish, it marked the beginning of captivity. He was ‘marched off to a car … and taken away up to Amsterdam, and that was Easter Thursday 1941 … I spent Easter Thursday in gaol in Amsterdam’. Then, on Easter Monday, he was taken to Dulag Luft for interrogation. ‘There they questioned you, tried to get information about you more than your name, rank and number but it was fairly easy to resist, there was no torture or anything like that. If you didn’t answer you didn’t answer.’
Courtesy of Paul Royle, via Charles Page.
At Sulmona in Italy, Albert Comber sent a special message to his loved ones via the Vatican for Easter 1943. He was much cheered by the recent war news and, ‘everyone of course wishes that the whole business would end very soon’. But when Easter came and went, ‘one realised how quickly the months slip by—perhaps Christmas will see me home’. (It didn’t; by that stage he was in Stalag Luft III.)
Courtesy of Cath McNamara.
Prisoners of war needed a lot of humour to help them cope with a seemingly limitless captivity. And chocolate. Just after Easter 1943, Justin O’Byrne wrote to his family and told then how the big Easter Monday sports day had been marred by the weather. Life, however, was not too bad in Stalag Luft III. ‘I have become quite used to the diet now, but look forward to the chocolate in the clothing parcels ... so bung in the chocolate for all you’re worth’.
Courtesy of Anne O’Byrne.
In April 1944, George Archer sent Easter greetings to his family. ‘Once more Easter is with us and I only trust the next service will be at St Marks’, his local church.
Courtesy of David Archer.
He was to be disappointed. He was still a prisoner of war at Easter 1945. By Easter 1946, however, the war was over and he and his fellows were free men at last.
I couldn’t find any drawings relating to Easter in wartime log books but I am quite taken by this rendition of Bugs Bunny by Cy Borsht, poking fun of the their kriegie accommodation. Happy Easter.
Courtesy of Cy Borsht.