Prisoner of war camp magazines, 1943-1945

Reference: NLW MS. 22424F

Here we have 7 issues of the magazine ‘Cymro’, created by Welsh prisoners of war during the Second World War. These prisoners were members of the ‘Cymric Club’ in the Stalag IVB camp near Mühlberg, Germany. The magazines were produced between July 1943 and December 1944. The manuscript also contains 2 issues of ‘20 Bees Buzz’, which was an English weekly magazine created by the prisoners of hut 20B in the same camp during January 1945.

William John Pitt from Treharris (1920-1988) was the owner of the manuscript. He was the editor of ‘Cymro’ magazine in Stalag IVB, and also contributed to the magazine '20 Bees Buzz’ during his time there. The manuscript was bought by The National Library of Wales at Sotheby’s in 1987.

Cymro

The manuscript contains 3 issues of ‘Cymro’, with one special Christmas issue, and 3 supplements. 8 magazines were created, and out of these one was lost in the camp. Although most of the issues are in English, 2 pages are in Welsh. As was the case with all works ‘published’ in the camps, only one copy of each magazine was created to be circulated around the camp.

Each hut in Stalag IVB had a representative who was responsible for transferring any material to be included in the magazine to the editor William John Pitt. Also the editor was very keen for the soldiers to report back any news they had in their personal letters. He states in issue 2 of ‘Cymro’ from May 1944: ‘…comb those letters for news from home. The rest of the club wants to know it as well.’ And again: ‘Let us all resolve to do our best to strengthen the club until the Cymric Club becomes the hallmark of the effort in the club.’

The magazines' contents

The magazines included news and articles of interest to Welsh soldiers, such as articles on The Welsh Guards, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, famous Welshmen including the actors Emlyn Williams and Stanley Baker, and the boxer Charlie Bundy. Also included are versions of Welsh tales, such as the tale of Gelert by Dai Davies, and Arthur’s tale by Emrys Evans, as well as the histories of different regions such as the history of Pumlumon by Idwal Pugh. The magazines also give us a small insight into the lives of the prisoners in the camp. The editor William John Pitt stated: ‘The choir is the epitome of Welsh endeavor and the formation of one here seemed a natural conclusion.’ Most of the issues include watercolour works and cartoons in pen and ink.

Among the contributors were:

  • William John Pitt
  • Ellis Evans
  • T Tyler
  • Idwal Davies
  • C Evans
  • Idwal Pugh
  • Gareth Prytherch
  • Dai Davies
  • Eddie Williams
  • George Evans
  • Emrys W Evans
  • W V Roderick 
  • Ken Wiltshire 

20 Bees Buzz

Unfortunately only 2 issues of the magazine ‘20 Bees Buzz’ were created. This was a weekly magazine filled with news and entertainment created by the prisoners of hut 20B during January 1945. The short life of the magazine reflects the fact that the living conditions of the prisoners had deteriorated substantially by the end of the war, with less resources coming into the camps. In these 2 issues we are given news on the different performances held in the camp as well as short stories.

Stalag IVB

Stalag IVB was one of the largest prisoner camps in Germany during the Second World War. It could hold 16,000 prisoners. The camp was located near the town of Mühlberg, between Berlin and Dresden. Soldiers from 33 different nations passed through Stalag IVB. 

By the time the Soviet Red Army arrived on 23 April 1945, the camp was overflowing with 30,000 prisoners, with 7,250 British soldiers. The prisoners suffered greatly as a result of overcrowding with food, bedding and clothing shortages. Around 3,000 prisoners died in the camp – most suffering from tuberculosis and typhus.

Further reading

  • Audrey James, Flightpath to Stalag IVB, The story of W. O. Arthur Briggs, RAF (York: Ebor Press, 2004)
  • James Arthur Davies, A leap in the dark. A Welsh Airman’s Adventures in Occupied Europe (London:Leo Cooper, 1994)
  • Jim Longson & Christine Taylor, An Arnhem Odyssey (London: Leo Cooper, 1991)
  • John Richard Worthington Poole-Hughes, Escape (Llandaff Society Occasional Paper, 9, October 1993)
  • Sydney Prichard, Life in the Welsh Guards 1939-46 (Talybont: Y Lolfa, 2007)
  • Tom Swallow & Arthur H. Pill, Flywheel, Memories of the Open Road (Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1987)

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