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Of Polar Bears and Imps: An unpublished folio of notes compiled by Tom Anderton.

Memories - The reflections of Tom Anderton

A reflection on what it was like be in the 4th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, in 1944/45.

On the left is a copy of the inside of a cigarette packet. It was passed surreptitiously to a member of 18 platoon - Roy Jarvis - after he had been taken prisoner in Arnhem. Inside was one cigarette only. He smoked the cigarette, of course, and sometime later, having nothing to do, as is the wont of P.O.W's - he discovered the empty packet in his pocket, having for no obvious reason placed it there. Pulling it to pieces and flattening it out, he discovered the message inside, reading as follows:

  • "We spent hours to put this papers in it. But never mind. People says Hitler and Goring are dead, and the war is soon over. We hope you can soon return to yours. Thank you for all you did for us. We have had a terrible 5 years, but now we are soon free. Goodbye, love you all."

The stench? Putrefaction, excretion, cordite, all bound together with diesel fumes. Tactile, odious, evil. Described thus by an observer of the times. The smell was all-pervading and overpowering. So strong, in fact, that pilots of light artillery observation aircraft flying over the area reported, that the stench affected them even hundreds of feet in the air. Above the battlefield shimmered a miasma of decay and putrefaction, everything was covered with flies and bluebottles. In the hot August sun the cattle which had been killed only days before were masses of crawling maggots, and the unburied Germans swollen to elephantine grossness, by the hot sun inflating the gases in the stomach, lay with blackened faces in grotesque positions. Here was no dignity in death. In the worst bombarded areas fragments of bodies festooned the trees. Some roads were impassable due to congestion caused by burnt out tracks, dead horses, smashed tanks and destruction which the Western Allies had never seen.

H.K.Dawson remembers Major Stokes being killed at Falaise. At the time he was his batman. They got mixed up with a 88mm shell fired from a mobile gun. He himself was wounded in the arm and leg.

Cliff Ellwood confirms my own understanding that at the farm at Groenwoud the 16 platoon patrol that was ambushed were initially overpowered by Germans who had hidden in the straw. He himself was taken prisoner along with Lt. Taylor, Sgt. Dickinson, Cpl. Wright, and Ptes Furness, Woodward, Marshall and four others he can't remember.

Bill Hudson 49th R.E. writes as follows: While carrying out the burying of cattle near Audreau, an elderly madame told us about a mass grave of soldiers buried alive. After reporting the matter, they were exhumed and found to be about 40 Canadians and a dozen or so of 49th Division. They had been shot through the head with their hands tied behind their backs. This caused our division and the Canadians to take no prisoners, for quite a long time [see notes].

Anderton also notes that, "Over the Antwerp-Turnhoutt a young German prisoner indicated my shoulder flashes, and said in perfect English 'Butchers of Fontenay'" [See editor's notes below].

Finally, many of the old battalion wonder why we named the German soldiers 'Tosker' or 'Tosca'. I learned from Magnus Magnusson, talking on the radio, that the Icelandic name for a German was 'Tosker'. So now we know!


Editor's Notes -

1: Tom Anderton says that Lord Haw-Haw refered to the 49th Brigade as the 'Butcher Bears'. Today, 65 years on, we can only speculate as to how that name was earned.

2: 6th June 2009 marks the 65th Anniversary of the Normandy landings. The Normandy Veterans Association have announced plans to disband later in 2009, due to falling membership.


Of Polar Bears and Imps - Index - Top of This Page

The Lincoln Imp Polar Bear, 49th Division, Divisional Flash

Of Polar Bears and Imps - Index - Top of This Page

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Of Polar Bears and Imps - Index - Top of This Page