My Grandfather is a 95 year old who volunteered to enlist at the beginning of the war. He was part of the 129th Manx Regiment and was captured by the Germans on Crete - before that he was a gunner on the large mounted guns defending Suda Bay.

Once captured he was taken through transit camps to Stalag VIIIB and then ended up in working camps too. He lost his eye in one of these. He got into a fair few scrapes and was part of resistance in the camps.

He's currently at home alone, as my Gran has had to go into a home due to having Alzheimer's, and as he's not busy caring for her any more I think it'd be great to let him share his story.

I'll be typing for him (due to his age and a lack of dexterity), but all answers are his own.

Here he is before capture

Very back row on the right

From the local Newspaper 5 years ago

With my Gran

(Let me know if I need any additional proof)

Edit: Thank you so much everyone, he's having a great time answering!

Edit 2: He's asleep at the moment, but I'll pop round after work tomorrow and get some more answers, feel free to keep asking away!

Edit 3: aaaaaand we're back!

Edit 4: Sleeping again, but I will continue to get him to answer when possible if there's anything else people want to know. Just post the questions and I'll get the answers to you asap.

Comments: 138 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

sven034116 karma

While in as a prisoner is it true that all the prisoners maintained their rank and rank structure within the prison camp? Were there any attempts to escape that you participated in, or heard of? Successful or unsuccessful? ?

ABarrettWWII21 karma

There was one or two, but some of them were a bit silly about it. One fella just went up in the hills with his guitar and was playing it up there and got sent back to main camp.

There was a New Zealander who was being picked on all the time, so he did a bunk and was sent back to main camp. He was glad to get away from them.

They tried to dig a tunnel so we all slept on bunks with only a few slats. The guards fell straight into the exit hole the night before we were supposed to go out.

sven03413 karma

Thank you for the reply, and your service.

ABarrettWWII11 karma

He won't accept any thanks at all, but he's very much enjoying answering the questions and being able to talk about this stuff, so that's a wonderful thanks in itself!

ABarrettWWII15 karma

Oh no, you were more or less on your own. In the camp we worked we had a Sergeant, he had some say, but it mostly applied to the high ranks.

dajoeker13 karma

What did you do to kill time? How were you treated? How were the soldiers towards the POWs? EDIT: What battles did you see?

ABarrettWWII18 karma

We didn't have any boredom at first as we were working in a wood wool factory where they made wood wool (like what you see in packings and boxes, shavings of wood). For two days they closed the factory and then I worked as a carpenter with two German men and they were very good friends to me for the rest of the war. One of them became a very good friend - Alfred Rudolph (he has refered to this man before as "Adolf Rudoplh, and Rudolph Alfred). Alfred treated me very well and stuck up for me.

They varied. There was one fella named Henry who was walking round sticking his chest out and he wasn't all that flippin' brilliant either. He was like a Czech German and he was in the factory one day and a fella named Johnny Holker realised the machines weren't cleaned by the civilian workers so they stopped doing their jobs, Johnny refused to clean and Henry said "clean it out from under the machine" Johnny refused and Henry got a bit excited and got his rifle and pointed it a Johnny, he refused, so he changed his mind about shooting him, swung it over his head and went to hit him with it, and changed his mind again - but still holding it by the barrel he said "go down or I'll shoot you" Johnny was killing himself laughing.

dajoeker4 karma

Wow, amazing Sir. I thank you for your sacrifice.

ABarrettWWII29 karma

He laughed and said "that's no sacrifice, there's fellas fighting those stupid wars like Afghanistan and getting blown up, very difficult wars, you don't know who your friends are. They aren't in Uniform. That's very difficult."

Diastoliv11 karma

What's the worst thing that he experienced whilst there?

ABarrettWWII20 karma

They made us sit out in the sun in Selonika, and in Selonika it was sun, they made you sit for ages with no hats or coverings, and then they would make you stand up fast. You'd fall straight over and that was a game for them.

ABarrettWWII15 karma

There was an event where the men were using the latrines, and for fun the guards decided to throw some grenades in after them. They made us clean up the mess afterwards.

There was a disagreement with the soldiers over something and one fella, I don't know who he was, him and the man in charge of the camp - a Sargent Major he used to be, a very fair guy - whatever was going on I don't know, but he had his pistol out pointing at this fella, and he was standing strictly to attention, but I came along just then and said "what's going on here" thinking I could break it up and I was told to stay out of it.

Eventually they said to him, well if you do it again I'll just have to shoot you, there's nothing else I can do. Whatever it was all about I don't know.

IVthatShit10 karma

Wow! Thanks for doing this.

How did the guards treat the prisoners?

ABarrettWWII19 karma

When I did my eye I went down to Freiwaldo as they couldn't help at camp. There was lots of German soldiers waiting to be seen at the local doctors, but they all parted and let me go through, despite the fact I was a prisoner.

akshay2410 karma

What was it like after the war when you returned from Europe?

ABarrettWWII22 karma

Well it was all mixed up like a dog's breakfast, you'd been knocked about and you'd been living with guys all the time. All the language was "any grit?" "any news?" all the time.

I came back on my own, I'd been discharged and I managed to find a boat going back to the Isle of Man. When I got back there was an American guard on duty and he said "What army you been with, Soldier?" I said "The one that's been doing the fighting, soldier" (My Grandfather is a perpetual joker). I was 6 stone and some people were quite alarmed to see me.

Some of the farmers felt said things about me being in a holiday camp.

throwawayrunaway467 karma

Were any of the guards nice? Did you make any friends?

ABarrettWWII17 karma

Most of the guards were nice, there was only one who wasn't, but I had a few arguments with him. He was just always wanting to shoot people and things like that.

StretsilWagon7 karma

Do you come across any Irish soldiers during the war?

ABarrettWWII11 karma

Yes, there was Irish fellas. I also came across one who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

We had other Irish lads with us too in the Prison camp. Johnny McCauley who became a friend of mine.

Snailic6 karma

How large was the camp you were in? How were the living quarters? How strict were the rules? Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!

ABarrettWWII7 karma

Stalag VIIIB was one of the biggest. The quarters were not much at all really, really big and they had windows until they got smashed, then you had to get tin and bend it over.

There was no comfort, I wouldn't say any home comforts at all in Stlaag VIIIB.

It was very different in the factory because the Missus was looking after us, she kept us. You used to get scarves and sew them together into blankets. We had decent beds to sleep on there, she'd seen to that. She liked her Englishers.

Snailic2 karma

At least that shows that not everyone involved with the camps were bad people which is what a lot of people generally conclude through stereotyping all Germans in the war as bad people.

ABarrettWWII7 karma

There was lots of good men in the camps, many of the older guards had lived through the First World War and had sons fighting away, they didn't want it any more than us.

*My Grandfather is always very complimentary about the Germans and got on very well with a lot of the guards. As he says, there's bad people everywhere. The SS tended to be the most nasty as they were the ones who were brainwashed, especially the Hitlerjungen.

Huntskull6 karma

Did any of the guards treat you or other PoW with respect or show any act of kindness???

ABarrettWWII8 karma

I made very good friends with Rudolph Alfred who I did carpentry with, he often defended me and helped me a lot. He taught me how to be a joiner which was my job after the war.

fundygud6 karma

What were your emotions when you got to leave the camp?

ABarrettWWII8 karma

When he left the camp he was being marched with a group of sick men (due to the loss of his eye), he was not yet free and was scared that they were going to march the sick men in front of them to defend them (as they did in Crete).

On top of the world when the Americans got through to us.

I asked him how they released them

I think we released ourselves once we saw them.

Otakusmurf5 karma

You mentioned Rudolph Alfred as a guard who you learned from. Did you keep in touch after the war? Did you ever return to Europe again?

ABarrettWWII7 karma

Oh no, I wish I had, by jingo he taught me a lot about life and my trade. He was a very good man. He got sent to the Russian front even though he could hardly walk.

We were in Czechoslovakia with Bill and Jenny (he was in the camp with Bill), the friends we had were their friends* and we stayed with them as well, they used to keep a goat in part of the house there and they got the milk from the goat.

*Bill was released differently from Granda and helped by some Czech people who he kept in touch with and would visit with Granda, Gran and my Mum and Aunt.

ibbity5 karma

How exactly did you hurt your eye?

How did it all go when the war ended and the prisoners were let go from the camps? Was there some kind of system for getting everyone back where they came from or did you all have to find your own way back?

ABarrettWWII8 karma

I was sabotaging - I was getting the lyme down from the brickwork for they used it for mortar which was in metal bowls, I was getting rid of them. It was during the dinner hour and I went to get this one down and was almost on the floor and it slipped in my fingers and I got a load in my eye. They couldn't do anything for me at the camp so they took me to Friewaldo. He said "I've got nothing I can do to help" and threw some water in my eye. He was very low on supplies but really did try to help me.

As I had a sickness pass, we were taken to Ausburg the big railway junction - bigger than Crewe. In the middle of this there were three huts and I refused to go as it was a target. So I wasn't going down and we all refused so they took us on to Memmingham in Barvaria overlooking the Alps. There were rumours they were going to march us in front of them as a shield - they did this with the sick in Crete before and our lads were shouting for them to fall forward but they couldn't as they were scared to get a bullet in the back. We had to shoot them in the legs and drop them. Not nice at all. I was worried.

We met men who thought we were from a recent fight, but I explained that we were captured from 1940/1941 and the Civilians who were looking on stopped throwing things as they realised they had been mislead about us.

ABarrettWWII5 karma

Everyone was flown back to the UK, but not necessarily to the airfields nearest home. We then had to get home from there, we were given train tickets. I managed to find my own way - luckily everyone was friendly as I was in uniform an they helped me back. I got to Liverpool docks and managed to get a ride on a fishing boat which was going back to the Isle of Man.

Nopleone5 karma

I just wanted to say thank you for your service. Many of my family is or was military (all different branches). You are a true hero in my eyes. You risked everything so those suffering could have a chance. Thank you sir. As for a question, how was the food?

ABarrettWWII7 karma

Thank you very much.

It was mainly stew and soup that you got. I think we were pretty lucky as the woman we called the missus at the factory, she saw us right. You had your Red Cross parcels as well if you hadn't misbehaved.

In Stalag VIIIB the best soup you got there was pea soup because if you got turnip soup you wouldn't get much vegetables. The potatoes were rotten and they left the skins on to hide it.

I kept body and soul together.

JustAGirlFromHolland4 karma

Were there also soldiers that didn't like beating you up and stuff like that, and actually helped you and the resistance? Did you or a fellow resistant get caught once?

ABarrettWWII25 karma

No no, you were on your own in regards to that.

They were going berserk once because we refused to work - we found out they were making us make wood wool to help the German war effort, so stopped as it wasn't right. After Stalingrad the Army was about where we were threatened, they were going to shoot us, we were against a wall and had to the count of three to move and get back to work, they had machine guns pointed at us. At one some moved, at two more moved, at three we finally all moved.

We burned the factory down after that, but they couldn't prove it was us. When they rebuilt it, I was responsible for the dome as I was a joiner and I managed to partly saw through the joists so that when it snowed the roof would collapse. I warned the lads so they could stay clear. After that I had to go back to the main camp because of my eye, but they got word back to me that it had happened.

breakerbreaker3 karma

This is fucking amazing. I'm so glad for this AMA.

ABarrettWWII2 karma

I still can't believe he didn't brag about this more! I only found out that he'd done it by accident. He's so blase about it all "Yeah, we just burned it down", oh, okay then Granda.

wetgooseberry4 karma

What motivated you to sign up so early? Did you ever regret it?

ABarrettWWII12 karma

I was the first to go from St Johns, and the first to go out of the workshop I worked in. We were mobilised in August 1939. I was in the territorial army and I wanted to defend my country.

(I asked about regret) No, no, no. Never.

gentlemansincebirth4 karma

You must have had many negative experiences while in camp, but what positive experience stands out the most to you till today?

ABarrettWWII9 karma

Well there's one thing about the camp, when they dug a tunnel we had to give up our bed boards, you kept about three and got string or wire to hold yourself up in bed. Then they built the tunnel out through and that was a fun time.

There was a man who thought he was speaking German and kept asking "Fish paste?" to the guards, thinking it was "Vie Spate?", the guards would give him the time anyway.

VerumInInanis4 karma

What do you know of all the raping that was going on, on the european women?

ABarrettWWII17 karma

I'm afraid I'm not going to ask him about this because he finds it deeply upsetting. He has mentioned it briefly before and I really don't want to cause him any distress.

Basically, they had no idea what was going on, they were in a camp away from it all and didn't find out about any of this until post-war. At this point he felt like he should have done more to help - same with the concentration camps. He just didn't know what was going on outside of camp apart from a few snippets about troop movements which were gleaned from contraband radios.

Jack21424 karma

What was going through your mind when you were taken prisoner and how did that happen if its not to troublesome to ask? I know stuff like this might not be comfortable to answer...

On a lighter note if the above is uncomfortable , After the war did you move back to Manx? and what are some of the biggest changes you've seen in the UK from then today?

ABarrettWWII7 karma

I didn't think anything to tell you the honest truth, the only thing I kicked myself for was not shooting the buggers.

Oh yes, that was my home so I came back. I came home on my own and when I went through in Douglas there was a Yank on guard and he said "what army do you belong to, soldier?" I said "The one that's doing the fighting, soldiers".

There's been loads of changes and I don't think they're all for the better either. Edit: We seem to have more freedoms, but we're tied up more with these blinkin' things now. If you wanted a job then you went and found one, like when I came home I was just in my second year of apprenticeship when I went to the war and I tried to get back to McKibbins and he said he'd that many coming back but he couldn't take any more. I went back to Jim Kewley and he offered me 3rd year apprentices wages after all that flippin' time working. His son didn't go away and got paid a lot more than me.

nuclear_souffle3 karma

Was the experience anything like the films that were made after the war? Or were they "Hollywoodized"?

ABarrettWWII4 karma

He's not a fan of any of the films! He just laughed when I asked him.

Wiseau_serious3 karma

Do you enjoy watching films about World War II? Are there any in particular that you would recommend?

ABarrettWWII8 karma

Quite a bit of them are junk, I don't like watching them.

EightBitMatt2 karma

How did Pearl Harbor affect you when you first heard about it?

ABarrettWWII3 karma

It didn't really, I can't remember hearing about it. I wasn't American and didn't really know much about it all. There wasn't much news in the camps as it wasn't allowed.

atchafalaya1 karma

Looks like I'm too late, but I'd like to know what it was like when he started seeing American prisoners arrive, if he did.

ABarrettWWII2 karma

He's telling me about a big fight between the "Yanks" and other prisoners. It's a bit rambly and typing it down didn't go well, but I think the basics were - he found some of them very pompous, but got on with the majority of other prisoners.

atchafalaya1 karma

Hey, that's very interesting! More details, please? Interesting to hear him say he found Americans pompous, since that's one of many stereotypes Americans hold about the English.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

The fight was when one of the Scottish fellas was being picked on by a Yank. The Yank came by the hut and started fighting, we pushed him out and he came back with more Yanks and their commander. He said to our Scottish high up "We're here to fight" and he replied that the fight may start in here, but it will finish out there and the machine guns will start up. The Americans then left.

I think from what he's said there was some issues with the other Allied troops having something of a routine and some of the American soldiers feeling that they were the heroes of the piece and could come in and change things. This is just what I'm taking from his stories though. (My fingers can't keep up with all of them, and he's mixing them together a little.)

atchafalaya0 karma

Hey, thanks for the follow up! Tell him I'm sorry some of our guys acted that way, but it sounds like they handled it well.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

There's some in every crowd! He definitely doesn't hold it against anyone.

KennyFM2 karma

First, thanks a lot for your service, Second did you ever try to break out?

ABarrettWWII5 karma

No, I never had the chance. I could have escaped when I was first captured, but I wasn't warned the Germans were coming. I had ammunition, but no chance to fire.

*He mentions this a lot, but honestly even if he had been able to get some shots off he would have just ended up dead. Crete was overrun with Axis troops and he could never have defended himself against all of them. I understand his regret, but am very glad things happened the way they did, so that I have him in my life.

ArminscopyofSwank2 karma

63 comments.

How soon we forget.

I guess I need a question.

When you came home did you feel different than other soldiers that were not captured?

Did you tell your wife any of what happened?

My great grandfather came back from "The Great War" and when my great grandmother asked him how it was his answer:

"Fine"

She never pressed him, but he became MORE religious, surprisingly.

You probably won't see this, but thanks.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Well I can't say I felt different, but you're not the same as you were before you went by any means. You lose a lot of confidence and all that in yourself. (He was treated very differently by some people who felt he had had a bit of a holiday in the camps and hadn't been fighting like the others.)

Well not really I don't think no, not really. She knew about my eye bust, but not much.

beamfollower2 karma

You called Afghanistan a stupid war and I understand that's from a tactical perspective, no clear enemy etc. If you were a young lad again do you think you would enlist to fight today?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Well, I was a TA and I signed up to fight to protect my country. I would sign up again to protect people.

czarist2 karma

If you don't mind me asking, how did you lose your eye? Did you ever return to Crete after the war ended?

ABarrettWWII6 karma

The eye - he was resisting and got quick lyme in it. They had poor medical supplies and couldn't do anything for him. It's in another comment somewhere, but I'm afraid I'm not entirely sure which question it's in.

Crete: Yes, I didn't go the first time they went* they took their wives and all with them and all that carry on. We went back after that on our own, we had to pay our own digs and all that carry on, but we enjoyed that. Crete is a very interesting place and there's a place - I forget the name now - it must be donkey's years old and everything's done in an old fashioned way. It'd be well worth going if you ever got a trip there. Also go to Suda Bay where we go - the boys are buried there.

*The Manx Regiment who survived the war, 129th branch.

buffaloburley1 karma

How many children did you have? Did you ever tell them about the war?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Two daughters. Not very much really, I told them a little about funny things. I tell you (he means me) more because of your studies.

I wouldn't want to trouble them.

danimaru1 karma

Hi! I would like to know: did you have a feeling of what was going to happen before the WWII exploded? If yes is there anything we should pay attention to in order to predict any other similar conflicts in the future? I feel this generation would not be able to understand a danger like this, should it become real.

ABarrettWWII2 karma

No no, war broke out in September and we were up in Aintree sleeping on the Jockey's room floor. We hadn't a clue.

Well the likes of that Russian fella, whatja call him? (Putin), he's like Hitler. Hitler didn't declare war, Britain declared war on him. Putin's working the same way, no one's going to war with him yet, but it's just a matter of time.

moaningpilot1 karma

Thanks for the AMA, when you first got home - what's the thing you had been most looking forward to doing and how did it feel once you'd done that?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Seeing my family, but my mother had died while I was away.

I ate a jolly good meal though.

WitchoftheWasted1 karma

What did your time in the prison camp teach you? What was it like when you came home and first saw your family again? What advice could you give to today's young generation?

Thank you so much for answering these questions, sir :)

ABarrettWWII1 karma

I don't think it taught me anything apart from joinery. It was just you were all there in a hut and Reggie Cowin and I used to play draughts and things like that, the others did things too like I made a small table and four fold up chairs for people to use if they wanted to sit around the table and play games. I made mats in the toilet to keep their feet off the floor.

When I got home from leave before I was captured the first thing I saw was how ill my mother was, I got her into hospital - she was in within a week of me coming home, and they kept her in another week and there was nothing I could do for her. Then I had to go back to Newcastle, I got there and she had died. I got back from Camp and saw my father sister and brother and that was it like, you just get back into it. Our house wasn't much of a place at all, but there we were anyway and we just mucked in.

Advice - Well, stay away from war if they can. But if there is a war then they won't have an option. No option whatsoever, you have to do as you're told and go. Lets hope it never comes to another war.

BinLadenBComin1 karma

When and how did you find out the Allies had won the war?

ABarrettWWII2 karma

We heard some news all the way through the war, so we knew what was happening. Some of the fellas had radios and used them to keep us up to date with what was going on.

We wanted the hut walls cleaning and the Jerries refused, so we drew a map with the Russians and Americans advancing and they booted us out of the hut and onto the parade ground and white washed it. We got a lovely clean wall.

BinLadenBComin1 karma

Wow. Amazing that you managed to keep your sense of humor! I guess they call you the greatest generation for a reason.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

It was laugh or cry, and they didn't give you enough to drink to cry all that much.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

It was laugh or cry, and they didn't give you enough to drink to cry all that much.

BinLadenBComin1 karma

What was it like being captured?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Not very nice. Not very nice at all. We had to lie in the snow. I had tatty shirt and shorts on. We were marched across the white mountains back to Suda Bay and weren't given any water or food. It wasn't very nice at all.

alien138691 karma

What was the hardest thing you had to do?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Towards the end of the war we sick ones were moved to a railway sidings. A train of German officers pulled up and they were playing cards and reading and the like, and then some Allied planes appeared. Their leaders jumped off the trains and threatened to shoot anyone who ran so they just kept on doing what they were doing. The bomb dropped and didn't hit them, but the shockwaves killed every one of them. They were all sat reading and playing cards, but they were all dead.

They made us take the bodies off the train.

oggie3891 karma

Has he been back to Crete since? What was his impression of being on the side of an airbourne invasion?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

He went back to Crete with a fellow veteran years later.

We were trying to shoot them down, there was dust clouds blowing up and you couldn't see so they'd tap you on the shoulders to tell you to aim left or right. I wanted them to wet the ground down, but they wouldn't, they wanted the cover, but you couldn't see your target.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

He adds "you never thought about killing the pilot, just getting the plane out of the sky."

lastnameiswhalepenis1 karma

What is your favorite TV or radio program? Also what is your favorite desert?

Edit: Thank you for your response. Have a good day y'all.

ABarrettWWII2 karma

I've just been watching one that's just snooker, I like to watch the news, I don't watch the telly a lot. Sometimes I put the wireless on and listen to whatever's on, sometimes there's a good singing contest on and I like to listen to them. Especially the likes of John McCormak and an Austrian Tenor as well. I've got some recordings of them and they were great.

I don't know if I have one. I should think your Gran's gingerbread or Christmas cake (he's an utter Christmas cake fiend). Rice pudding is good as it's good for you, but we don't have a lot of deserts here, I'm pretty full as we got starved and my stomach got made very small.*

*This is a lie, he loves cake and biscuits.

cobawsky1 karma

Hi !

Thanks for the ama first and foremost.

As you guys were on Crete, as far as I know, you would probably fight against german paratroopers, mountaintroopers and fliegercorps (Fallschirmjägers, Gebirgsjäger and 22 Luftlande-Division), a well trained, skilled and well equipped german elite unit.

  • How could you describe the battles against them?

  • Did the aussie, greek and new zealandese troops had decent training to fight as well as the british?

  • Could you please tell us your unit and date of the event during the time you where captured?

Thank you in advance.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

They didn't drop around us, they dropped up around the airfield and the commandos were up there as well and one plane came in to land and the anti-aircraft boys opened up on it and the commander didn't want them to as if they'd let it land they would have machine gunned it. The plane got through the anti-aircraft fire so they weren't very pleased really. We were at Suda Bay by the harbour, things happened there as well, but there we go. It's all, as far as I'm concerned Crete was a mix up in a Dixie, we shouldn't have been there.

Oh yes, the ANZACs were more or less infantry trained and we were all artillery, we were firing the bigger guns. They were infantry lads and they were all pretty well trained, believe you me. The commandos of course were special lads.

129th battery of the 15th Isle of Man Regiment (he reeled this off speedily!), 10th June 1941.

lucky_e1 karma

Hello Greek here. I would love to know how the Greeks fought and what impression you had for us? Wikipedia says alot about civilian resistance to the invasion.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Wonderful people, the people on Crete - Crete-ans, not Cretins - they were very very good and very very good to us too, they were indeed. There was an elderly people lived in a house near our gun, had been out in America for years and spoke perfect English. That's where I get my Greek from, he was teaching me Greek.

Kugelblitz601 karma

How did you track the progress of the war?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Well there were wirelesses in the war, they made the wirelesses up. I think a fella from here - Jimmy Corlett was involved. He was living in the same hut as the New Zealanders and was interested in radios and they had a receiver they could get news from so we were getting bits of news through that way.

Kugelblitz601 karma

So the German guards were OK with the POWs having a wireless set? Listening to BBC radio? Or was the set concealed and brought out when it was safe to do so?

Thanks for the response!

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Oh no, the guards weren't allowed to know. We all worked hard to keep the sets hidden. They could be anywhere, one fella, a Manx fella, they had a hollow log they hid theirs in.

Kugelblitz601 karma

Did the progress of the war, i.e. the Allies winning, the invasion in June of 1944 and so on, cause your treatment as POWs to change? Did you se a change in the morale or comportment of the guards around you as the war wound to its conclusion?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Not too much, they would get awful riled up if you said too much about it though. Then they started sending away our usual guards and replacing them with very old guys or young indoctrinated ones, some of them could be a bit nasty.

kevinkit1 karma

Hello, thank you for doing this AMA!

I am very curious about history, and this was a perfect opportunity!

I would like to know about the daily routine you went through while in Crete. I know that it is a basic question, but I feel that it would allow more insight into what you went through when you were there.

Also, what are your thoughts on the war looking back?

Once again, thank you!

ABarrettWWII2 karma

I can tell you right now, looking into the sun for enemy aircraft coming in, and they'd be all looking the other day. One day I spotted a plane coming in the way they were looking and the Sergeant says to me "Why aren't you keeping a lookout", I told him it was because I was looking into the sun all day every day.

  • I asked about shifts - At night time there was a guard on where there was no real action, you did guard shifts at night. My guard time was 2-3am or 3-4am. Then you slept.

SoBroYo1 karma

Did your father ever meet or hear of Louis Zamperini while he was a POW?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

"Who?" "No."

SilentlyCrying1 karma

How did this experience affect your personal relationships?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

Well the personal relationships on the gun between me and them were very thin. We didn't get on very well at all.

Well, I don't know I didn't hear from my family at all, I don't know if I ever got a letter form them to tell you the truth. Just from the Red Cross and things like that. Apart from that I don't think I got many letters. I got some from a girl I knew in Liverpool, and a very nice girl she was too, but after I came home I got home and she told me she was marrying a sailor. I've got her photograph somewhere.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

Did you ever experience survivors guilt or did you believe that you had experienced what you had and lived for a reason?

ABarrettWWII1 karma

I'm not sure he's entirely understood when I asked him, but he told me about a few of his comrades who died because they didn't listen to him.

It sounds like he made some pretty shrewd choices and also like he thinks luck was part of it.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

Was he spiritual before he went off to war and how did the experiences affect his belief.

ABarrettWWII1 karma

I was a Christian before I went, and I'm still a Christian now.

ramon_von_peebles1 karma

My grandfather was also a POW for much of WWII. He was in Stalag Luft III as well as others. He always had a very hard time talking about it. He only really told us the humourous stories, and hardly ever the bad ones even though we knew he had very hard times there.

So I guess my question is: how hard is it to open up about your experience of the war? Does it hurt to relive it? How can you ever expect any of us to understand what you went through?

ABarrettWWII2 karma

Well I try not to talk about it really.

I don't think I could ever explain it so you understand, I don't know if I would want to.

*He will speak to me about it because I am studying the experience for my PhD thesis. He's never spoken about it before, but is opening up a bit more in his old age. He's occasionally told funny stories, and very rarely we got awful stories about men being shot, but it wasn't often.