RAF 166 Squadron

The Last Flight of Lancaster RF154 AS-B
16th March 1945
Flg. Off. Bud Churchward & Crew
       Section 2

Chapter 4 The coach journey to Munich and interrogation.

[TED/T]

Then later on we were taken to a coach , I’m hesitating because I think we actually were given something to eat it was boiled potatoes and something it was in the skin anyway it was an apple anyway they put us in this coach and this coach it was quite a small one and on the back was a big cylinder and actually what it was it was a gas generator that you filled the top half full of wood chips and then the bottom half there was a fire burning which had to keep going with flames, well the top half you put chips in there which then generated the gas to drive the vehicle and we set off from that and after a while, half an hour , that sort of thing, we stopped and Alf and Lefty, the Navigator, came on board.
That was a bit of an experience actually that trip because every time you came to a bit of a steep hill every one had to get out and we had to stop and get out anyway and help to fill the top with fresh wood chips and stoke the fire up and when we went through any towns or villages the curtains all had to be pulled, I mean you had a little squint and some of them were in a terrible state, they looked just like ploughed fields with a load of rubble mixed with them.
We didn’t know where we were being taken to, we finished up in Munich for interrogation, they always had a central area and it had obviously recently moved to Munich because of the front line moving, Frankfurt, I think they used to go to anyway we went to Munich and we were in the Gaol there for, once again, for a couple of days or so. They were largish share of the cells with just the straw on the floor so you just laid down where you could .

[ALF] The journey to Munich was uneventful, except that as the lorry came to the foot of each hill, all the prisoners had to get out and push! However there was no chance of escaping because we were heavily escorted by armed guards.
After a journey of about twelve hours, [12] we arrived at the interrogation centre at Munich, and for the next few days I spent various periods being interrogated by fluent English-speaking German inquisitors, but I pride myself that I managed to convince these people that this was the first operational trip I had made. Their source of information about RAF activities was obviously good, because they were able to tell me to which squadron my aircraft belonged, and were able to name quite a few of the Officers of that squadron, including Wing Commander Vivian, the Commanding Officer.
It then became time to move again, and we were escorted from the interrogation centre to beside the railway line at Munich where a train was standing, the station at Munich having been destroyed. I boarded the train, together with a number of P.O.W’s and our escort, and commenced our journey north to an unknown destination. After travelling for quite a while without food or drink, we drew into a station, and, on looking out of the window, I saw the dreaded name ‘Dachau’. At that time I had not heard anything of what went on at this place but speculation was rife amongst the various P.O.W’s about what would happen to us when we were ordered off the train. However, after not many hours, we were once again taken out of the camp and back to the station and put on to the train and it soon became apparent why we had been taken off, because most of the railway track just a short distance away had been destroyed by bombing.

[LEFTY] Then I was taken to a wood burning gas bus for a trip to the interrogation centre in Munich. When I got on the bus I discovered my bomb aimer, wireless operator and engineer.
[13] The engineer’s head was completely wrapped in bandages. He had also been scorched before bailing out. Also on the bus was a navigator from our squadron who was a good friend of mine. There were seventeen of us on the bus altogether.
This was quite a bus. We had to stop every hour to refill the wood burners which generated the gas. When we came to a steep hill everyone had to get out and walk up as the bus couldn’t make it loaded. Going through the towns we had to draw the shades or get bricks thrown at us by the civilians. It took seventeen hours from Schwabach to Munich [12] , a distance of about sixty-five miles.
During this time we had two slices of bread and a bit of blood sausage.
We were put in a jail here along with ten Americans who had been taken prisoner in Yugoslavia. There were four of us to a cell with one wooden platform wide enough for one, which was supposed to be a bed. They also gave us two blankets and a straw filled mattress between the four of us. The following morning [ Monday, March 19th] it was a cup of ersatz coffee and a slice of bread. That afternoon I was taken out of my cell and over to see a doctor. He looked at the burns and said something to a nurse who put a bit of salve on them and wrapped them in paper bandages.
The afternoon we arrived we got a bowl of soup and two slices of bread with a bit of cheese. Next morning [Wednesday, March 21st] at seven o’clock we got a cup of coffee and our day’s ration of bread (about three thin slices). We were to have our bowl of soup at 11:30 a.m. but the air raid sirens went and all the guards headed for the shelters so we didn’t eat again until five o’clock, when we had another bowl of soup. This happened six days in a row.
On the third day here [Thursday, March 22nd] I was taken over to the hospital to have my dressings changed. When the paper bandages were taken off my hand and leg most of the dead skin came with them as they’d soaked through the bandages. The doctor trimmed off all the loose skin and put a bit of powder and another set of paper bandages on. After being here a week we started being interrogated. Mine lasted about ten minutes, as we were interrupted by the sirens.
Chapter 5 The train journey back to Nuremberg.

[ALF]
It then became time to move again, and we were escorted from the interrogation centre to beside the railway line at Munich where a train was standing, the station at Munich having been destroyed. I boarded the train, together with a number of P.O.W’s and our escort, and commenced our journey north to an unknown destination. After travelling for quite a while without food or drink, we drew into a station, and, on looking out of the window, I saw the dreaded name ‘Dachau’. At that time I had not heard anything of what went on at this place but speculation was rife amongst the various P.O.W’s about what would happen to us when we were ordered off the train. However, after not many hours, we were once again taken out of the camp and back to the station and put on to the train and it soon became apparent why we had been taken off, because most of the railway track just a short distance away had been destroyed by bombing.
Our journey north continued, and after another long period without food or water, we arrived back at Nuremberg and from there was taken to Stalag 13D

[TED/T]
I think we were probably there( ?) overnight and then they got us out of there and we were all left at the side of a railway line in a side railway sidings and then this train made up of cattle trucks came in ,which we were all sent into , so many in each one and Alf was definitely with me in that one and that just shunted along cause they were shut, you couldn’t get out except every so often they did stop for you to just get out on the side to relieve yourself, we were worried about being attacked by aircraft and we couldn’t have got out. (They were) Allied aircraft, for which of course they were doing a lot of , anyway, that’s another story, we did stop for quite a long time during one night but we didn’t get out of those trucks till we got to Nuremberg sidings or near Nuremberg anyway, obviously a lot of the place was smashed up and they stopped wherever they could we eventually got out near Nuremberg and had to walk then to Nuremberg Prisoner of War camp through an area which looked as though it was an industrial area but all it was mounds of brickwork and twisted girders sticking out of it and at each crossroad there were piles of our incendiaries which hadn’t gone off and we walked passed their parade ground where they had all their parades (The Stadium)
I said to Alf I’m going to walk on it, because we were quite close, and so I just walked about ten yards to one side and walked along the edge of it, nobody bothered and anyway we eventually got to Nuremberg Prisoner of War camp.

[LEFTY]
Next day [Friday, March 24th] we left for the prison camp. I had to be carried two miles by the rest of the fellows to the train as my leg had stiffened up in a bent position and the bandages had stuck again to the burns. It took twenty hours for the trip to Nuremberg. Overnight we stopped in the Dachau marshalling yards.


End of section 2