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The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry
6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968

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1959-1968

 

 

Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry

14585595 John Henry (Jack) Birch

DCLI - SCLI - LI

 

Michael Birch - Son of Jack Birch - Writes

I found this Web site, and was looking for messages on DCLI regiment. in Stalug 7A . My father, who was Corporal John Henry Birch, know in the Army as Jack. His service no 14585595, and he was POW for 9 months toward the end of the war. He was captured in Italy, but was advancing from Anzio towards Monte Cassino.

My father was in the Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry whilst in Gibraltar He retired in 1970 in Northern Ireland Ballykinlar. My Father will be 92 in February 2017. !

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Stalug 7A at Moosburg

Everyday life in STALAG 7A

Shortly after the beginning of World War II in September 1939, a POW camp called Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager (Stalag) VII A was established north of Moosburg. Originally it was planned for 10,000 prisoners, but at the end of the war more than 70,000 Allied soldiers were detained in the main camp and its labour kommandos. A total of 150.000 POWs passed through Stalag VII A.

Oberst Otto Burger (1888-1964)
Lagerkommandant 1944-1945

More than 500 persons had been in charge of security and aministration of the camp. Some 150 guards formed the sentinel squad. The bataillon consisted almost exclusively of elder soldiers not fit for combat or younger but disabled soldiers. Some treated the prisoners correctly but there also were many to torment or even murder the prisoners.
The field office of the Arbeitsamt (work force authority) inside the camp assigned the prisoners to the different work commands of their region. The military hospital was in charge of the disabled, the sick and the treatment of the undernourished prisoners. In some times this medical treatment due to lack of medicine, lack of food resources, and the constant malnutrition was not taken care of. The rate of casualties rose to unbelievable numbers- corpses had been brought to a special cellar and evey morning transported to mass graves.
This situation was baleful and degrading. In the tents it was hot in the summer and much too cold and wet in winter time. In the large massive buildings no heating was available and it was so fully packed so that prisoners suffered from tuberculosis and vermin in clothes and beds.
Every morning there was a roll call. Meals were not sufficient – coffee made of roasted malt, watery soup of beet and raw potatoes, 250g bread a day, sometimes a little fat, simple wurst or treacle. Prisoners from the West and some from Poland could subsidy their food by the content of parcels sent to them from home. Fierce fights were reported among the sentinels and Russian prisoners who sometimes tried to get a second helping.

Main Watchtower

Map of the Camp

Jack Birch served in the Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry 2nd Bn during WW2 - with 10th Brigade, 4th Division, captured in Italy including the attacks on Monte Cassino, the Battle of Incontro Monastery and the Gothic Line.

After his release from POW for 7 months at STALAG 7A at Moosburge near Munich. He left the Army for a short while after the war, but he did not like factory work in the Midlands, and went back in until he retired in 1970. His second service number was 22222257.

His total service was 24 years with DCLI in Jamaica, SCLI Osnabruck, Plymouth, Gibraltar, Berlin, Gravesend, and LI in Northern Ireland.

He remembers serving with: RSM Royffe - RSM Passmore - RSM Worster - Sgt Ian Hill and several others.

 

Jack Birch in Jamaica 1958 - B Coy.

 

Copyright Text & Images: Jack Birch

 

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