Stammlager 344 is better known as Stalag Luft VIII-B and was a prisoner of war camp for non-commission air crew situated near Lamsdorf in Silesia. It had been operational in World War One and was reopened in 1939 initially housing Polish prisoners. It was to see 100,000 men pass through its gates during the Second World War and it was regarded as one of the better run camps. As other ranks, men were expected to work so many were sent off in small working parties called Arbeitskommandos, with up to 600 groups being absent from the camp at any one time. Like all prisoners of war, the men at Stammlager 344 were permitted to send postcards home to their loved ones to tell them they were safe and well and tonight we have an example that was sent from the camp to a Mrs H Slater in Hampshire:The details of the sender in the corner show which camp he was stationed in and his name, Edwin Edmunds:Whilst the stamp in the top corner indicates that the card was sent through the German postal system in November 1944:The rear of the postcard has the prisoners message:This reads:
My dear Vi + Harold. I hope you are both well. I received a cig parcel this week. I expect it was from either you or mother. It came at a good time. I was right out of a smoke. Well dear I hope this will be my last winter here. It is very cold now. Must close. Keep smiling. Your loving brother Eddie.
It would indeed be Edwin’s last winter in captivity as the following May Germany would be defeated. Sadly before then the weather would become much colder and in January the prisoners would be marched west in bitterly cold weather on the so called ‘death marches’ to escape the invading soviets. Those that travelled far enough west were liberated by the Americans, those who didn’t were taken by the soviets and used as virtual hostages for several more months, only being liberated at the end of 1945 through the port of Odessa.