Torpedo boat T24
Torpedo boat T24
After being bombed by the Allies on 24 August 1944 at about 7 p.m., my father Kühn Alfred was rescued by one of their lifeboats stationed at the mouth of the Gironde River. There were 172 survivors out of a total of 211 sailors. Of these, 38 were seriously wounded, 33 were moderately wounded, 5 were slightly wounded and 96 were able-bodied). 39 sailors were killed.
The survivors of T24 were brought ashore. The first night, the crew spent it in a hangar on the quay. The next day they were transferred to the Pointe de Grave fortress to reinforce the various positions.
As for the Z24, which had been bombed on the same day as the T24, it also sank on August 24, but a little before midnight. The survivors were taken ashore where they spent the night. They were then also transferred to the Pointe de Grave fortress.
After training, the crews of the T24 and Z24 became (SeeBataillon NARVIK) Naval Battalion NARVIK.
On 20 April 1945, the entire German garrison surrendered and was taken prisoner in their own fortress.
Depot 184 in Soulac
It was in this camp that my father fled with two friends to Spain. According to information circulating in the camp, there was a possibility of reaching Germany via Spain.
They were recaptured at the Spanish border and brought back to depot 94 in Angoulême. From this camp, the prisoners left to work in different places. As he was a fugitive, he was transferred to Chasseneuil in Charente. He was one of sixty German POWs organized in a commando at Chasseneuil, “with shovel and pickaxe, mixing concrete or hoisting enormous blocks weighing more than 2 tons. They began the work, raising the stones to a height of 21 metres.
Gigantic work! Built in memory of the heroes of the resistance.
It was very hard work: the weakest prisoners couldn’t keep up, their state of health didn’t even allow them to smoke a cigarette: cigarettes often led to their death. So they could not smoke. My father told me that he got out of it thanks to children who gave him grapes. There were vines behind a fence that separated them from the outside world. He had been hit in the arm by mortar shrapnel from a previous bombing. He had been treated on his boat, and his arm was consolidated.
Through this slave labor, shrapnel came out. Unable to work, the camp officials sent him to the camp in Angoulême to treat him.
After his recovery, he resumed work, this time on farms in the region. My father and several prisoners were taken to the villages: in principle to the main square of the village and it was there that the farmers from the surrounding area came to take their labour. My father was on a farm in Baigne where he worked under the supervision of the farmer armed with a rifle.
Later, in a farm in Jarnac: (in Sigogne with the Peynaud family), he was very well treated because Mr Peynaud’s son had been a prisoner in Germany. He had just been released and knew that it was very hard to be a prisoner in another country and to know neither the language nor the customs. He experienced this situation and told us about it: to his son Michel and to me. We always had contact with Michel through our parents when we were young and we kept it.
Mr. Peynaud saved my father’s life and especially mine as he told us, since one day Mr. Peynaud who was looking for my father, did not find him at the farm. As Mr. Peynaud knew the customs of the young people of the village, he went to look for his prisoner in the café, since at the time, the custom of young thugs was to make the Germans drink, get them drunk, and fight with them. The Germans, who were not used to the pineau charentais, sometimes fought to the death. More than one would have been killed in those conditions. In any case: “He was only a prisoner! »
Seeing my father very drunk and knowing what could happen to him, Mr. Peynaud said to him: “Go home! There’s work to do! »
The farmers were not allowed to keep the prisoners too long: they had to be brought back to the camp after a certain period of time, and they were not to be befriended.
4 examples of mail, prisoner of war correspondence, which was pre-printed in French and German is distributed by the Red Cross in Germany for German families who had a prisoner in France. This prisoner of war correspondence also existed for French prisoners of war held in Germany.
Correspondence of 20 July 1946: An acquaintance of my father.
Correspondence of September 28th, 1946
Correspondence of December 25th, 1946
Correspondence of April 11th, 1947
On February 3, 1947, prisoner Kühn Alfred with the number 833.895 at the depot n°94 of Angoulème of the 4th region with other prisoners are brought to the main square of Berneuil, a small village in Charente where the farmers of the surroundings came to get the prisoner(s) of their choice. Mr. Brangier, my grandfather, chose the prisoner Alfred, to work on his farm at Barabeau commune of Berneuil. Mr. Alfred Kuhn worked there as a prisoner until September 26, 1947 and then as a free worker until October 1, 1948.
To be continued…