A P.O.W.'s Life in Scholes

A P.O.W.'s Life in Scholes

from The Barwicker No. 35

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Franz Kamp was born in Münster (Westphalia), Germany in 1921. He was called up into the army in 1940 and served in France and for three winters on the eastern front. He was captured in August 1944 and was interned in Italy and then in the USA. He was brought to England in 1946 and has lived here ever since. He married Pat Goodall, "the smart young lady with beautiful auburn hair" whom he met at Kiddal Hall and who sadly died in 1992. They have five children. The following is an extract from his autobiographical writings concerning the time when, as a prisoner of war, he worked at Whinmoor.Nook Farm.
Although our camp in Britain was reasonably comfortable, it never reached the level of camps in the USA. It had at least one advantage though over the USA. There was no barbed wire in Sherburn-in-Elmet. The guards were infinitesimally small in numbers. The labour and work was arranged and supervised by civilian personnel. Almost immediately teams were formed. But we had been short of food for some time, we were hungry men. Therefore any farmer who recognised that and offered food was immediately acknowledged as a 'decent' man. He was literally quids in. The payment was similar to that in the USA - Camp Money.

The first teamwork for me was pea-picking in a field between Sherburn and South Milford on the A162. I did not like it and I was already planning to get in to a single person squad, then at least there was a chance of improving my English. As luck would have it, on return to Camp that evening a chap came up to me and told me of his farmer who was not only a farmer but also a builder, building a block of two semi-detached houses. My co-prisoner thought that since I had building experience I might prefer to take his place. He was dead right.

So off I went to the Labour Officer, Frank Booth, the soul of a man, to get his agreement. It was forthcoming on the spot. Frank Booth was a civilian, just released from the Army. He was also the first Englishman I ever spoke to. The man was simply a delight. Not only was he a philosopher, he was also a master psychologist, true and honest, open and considerate. He was also the first Englishman who impressed me with his integrity and candour. He could be approached at any time. He brought with him, no doubt a British Army expression, which he frequently used when expressing surprise and amazement, He would stand back on his heels, lean his body gently back and say; "Bugger me twice!" I had no idea what it meant. The sound of the expression conveyed an innocent but acute emphasis and it seemed to have the right touch. I liked the tone of voice and have adopted the pronunciation from time to time. Frank Booth's senior officer was Captain Chippindale, a civilian whose office was in Harrogate with the West Riding Council War Agricultural Executive Committee.

The next day I was sent to the farmer and builder I had asked for on the previous day, at Nook Farm, Whinmoor, on the A64 trunk road, some hundred yards east of the Scholes to Thorner Railway Bridge. The farm building was set back off the road by some three to four hundred yards. The farmer's name was A K Chippindale, his wife was Freda. I estimated that the farmer was some ten years older than myself. A K Chippindale (Ken) interestingly was the brother of Captain Chippindale. The farm seemed to lack maintenance, but appeared to have been put to the plough seriously during the war.

The bus taking the men to work had dropped me off on the A64 and I had walked along the farm track to the farm. Here I found Ken and Freda in the mistal (cowshed) busy milking. I had no idea what to make of it. I had no idea what was expected of me. Fortunately although I was a town boy, I had seen farming first hand in various places, not least in Ostbevern, where we had spent our holidays as children and at Homann, where my parents had built their house in 1933. However, I had never done any farmwork, yet I could use and handle a shovel.

Whinmoor Nook Farm 1994

A short personal introduction had taken place and it then fell on me to muck out the mistal. A brush and shovel together with a wheelbarrow were now essential elements for that purpose. The wheelbarrow, loaded with the accustomed cow excrement, then had to be moved and unloaded on the muck heap in the yard. I soon grasped that wheeling my barrow with some ‚lan up a plank leading to the top of the heap was the easiest way, to be up-tipped when the top was reached. Thus the muck heap was built for storage until late autumn.

The cows were facing the wall and a large gutter served to collect both cow dung and bedding straw. This became my regular morning job right from day one. I did not particularly enjoy the mucking out job since I thought myself rather above what I considered a menial task. But in the end and having survived that effort, later, when I was working with and in charge of working men, I was quite proud of having done the mucky jobs and done them well.

I never told the Chippindales for more than forty-five years the full details which brought me into their farmyard. I did not tell them that I had arrived hungry in England. If and when I recall the circumstances of that time then I am sure my story would have appeared incredible and I would most likely not have been believed by anybody in England. People would have assumed that I had an axe to grind. There was, I suppose, also my own personal pride which prevented me from showing any weaknesses, not least in the light of the anti-German feeling in the Press. The Chippindale family never expressed such an attitude.

For some reason that I cannot remember, I had to go to the main camp - PoW Camp 53 - Sandbeds Camp near Selby. Walking into the hut to enquire about the whereabouts of my target, I bumped into Fritz Bürling from Münster. I had been to Grammar School and Technical College with him. In conversation I mentioned to him the shortage of food we had experienced during our period in Belgium. Fritz, well established at Brayton Camp, knew how to deal with the matter. From then on he would send me a loaf of bread when I needed it in a cloth bag which I would send back empty to him via the camp courier. It was then returned filled with a loaf. This exercise went on for at least two months.

Let me pay credit here to Fritz and his ingenuity to get loaves from Brayton to Sherburn. Thank you Fritz Bürling!

As time went on I gradually got to know all the farms along the A64, particularly those between the 'Fox and Grapes' public house at the corner of Kiddal Lane, and the 'Red Lion' at Seacroft.

In order to get to our workplaces, a bus would pick us up at the camp and take us to Barwick-in-Elmet where the first squad of prisoners was dropped off, followed by Kiddal Lane and A64 into Scholes. The picking up took a reverse route after work. If, however, prisoners were not at the collecting spot, it was fairly usual for the bus driver to ask me to slip to the farmhouse to make the appropriate enquiry. As in France, now some six years later, I was again deemed to speak 'perfect' English. I knew our bus driver was a decent bloke. Occasionally he would give one of his mates a lift along the route. Then one of the prisoners of war asked me what the driver and his mate were talking about. They were asking me because I usually sat near the driver and of course I spoke 'perfect' English. Firstly I did not speak 'perfect' English; far from it, and secondly, I eventually discovered that the driver and his mate were speaking 'perfect' Yorkshire!

Not very long after starting work for the Chippindales, the occasion arose when the men working at Kiddal Hall were not waiting at the pick-up point. I was duly sent by the driver to ask at the farmhouse,. So I went into the rather strikingly beautiful farmyard, where there was a dog on a chain barking viciously, near the back door. I managed to knock at the door. The dog's barking had already attracted attentiom at the house and a smart young lady with beautiful auburn hair, beautiful hands and varnished fingernails opened the door. I immediately became conscious of my grey-tinted hands which had been caused by handling the cement on the building site. She first told the dog to keep quiet and then she asked me what she could do for me. She had immediately recognised that I was a prisoner of war and I in turn asked if the men (PoWs) were ready to leave. She turned and called out: "Dad, are the Germans ready to leave for camp?" There was an answer from inside which I could not hear properly. She translated; "We shall take the men back later in the car". Little did I know that this walk into the yard of Kiddal Hall should become the most important steps I ever took in my life.

Gradually a routine created itself. My job was to muck out the mistal and then go down to the 'buildings', as Mrs Chippindale described the pair of semi-detached houses under construction by Ken. On the site I functioned as labourer, feeding the bricklayer, Ashley, an Irishman, and Ken, with bricks and mortar. Albert, the other labourer, and I also carried out the digging of the sewers and general labouring. As time passed and the buildings grew, eventually only Ken and I remained on the site.

At the end of the road, Arthursdale, where we were building the house, lived Ken's parents. 'Old' Mrs Chippindale was always concerned about me and my welfare. My guess, at the time, was that both Mr and Mrs Chippindale (Senior) were well over eighty years of age. Ken's sister too made a welcome acknowledgement of me. Ken, always civil and courteous, was if anything a little aloof. He seemed to be his own man. I liked him a lot. He was some ten years older than I and very good at whatever he tackled, therefore more experienced than I. He would take a tractor engine apart for repairs, then the car. There was also the building and farmwork.

Later when I was billeted at Nook Farm in the old cottage, I watched Ken working on his engines in the old workshed. He was always pleasant but at the same time I could soon tell if there was something not to his liking. My cottage no doubt was quite primitive and lacked a great deal of comfort but it had the advantage that when there was a roll call in camp, I was free to move anywhere I liked after working hours. In addition, it was not long before I could be left in charge of milking, also at weekends, thus relieving Ken and Mrs Chippindale of their otherwise seven days a week chore. Ken paid me in Sterling for overtime and consequently I was a relatively well-off PoW with real money.

Mrs Chippindale was always friendly. I felt at times that by the nature of the circumstances surrounding the household, my presence so near her family may well have been an impediment to her. She made excellent meals. Additional food was now no longer necessary. As I am writing these lines, I remember with some regret that I have never thanked her for her efforts, for having and tolerating me and bringing my food consumption back to some normality. If she comes, hopefully back to England some time in the future, I must buy her a bunch of flowers, for Ken and Freda Chippindale together with Nigel emigrated to Canada.

Another member of the Chippindale family I knew reasonably well was Uncle Isaac. He was a bachelor and an engineer by profession. From time to time he would tell me about his job. Ken confirmed that he, Isaac, learned German because at the time only German textbooks covered his needs. The last time I saw him, sometime in the fifties, he was still driving his Morris Eight and when I spoke to him he said to me: "You look even more English than the English". I presumed that he was paying me a compliment. He died just a few weeks before his hundredth birthday and he is buried in Barwick Churchyard.

Generally there was no tuition on the farm. Farmers assumed that we, the prisoners, knew what was to be known. The fact was that we did not. There was one occasion when I was ploughing with a Fordson tractor, an ancient model even in those days, with spiked wheels. When attempting to turn on the headland, I slipped into a ditch with the front wheels and was quite unable to get it out. In the end I had to go to the buildings to fetch Ken. He was not too pleased, but having more experience, he got it out and all was well.

POSTSCRIPT (21 October 1993; after Ken Chippindale's death).
Since death is final, here we have lost a man, although living in Canada, seemed to be present in Barwick and Scholes. I would like to leave it there, for he was one of the people I met in my very early days after my arrival in England in circumstances beyond my control. He was human, he was a dignified man, a man I liked for being modest and understanding.

Mrs Freda Chippindale, together with her son Nigel and daughter-in-law, visited me on 19 September 1993 at Mary Freeborn's house in Barwick-in-Elmet during their recent trip to England. I was able to give her that bunch of flowers that I had mentioned in my writing.

Requiescas in pace, Ken Chippindale!

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