Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Scraper's Diary, Saturday March 29th, 1947, Munsterlager


We reached here, strange as it may seem, by the scheduled time, by the right roads, and in time for the dance!

As the members of the card school are broke, the losses at solo will not be payed until we get next week's money.

This place is known as the "Larkhill" of Germany, being on Luneburg Heath. Except in that the camp appears to hold some life, I agree. Except also, of course, that there are only three of us in this room, and that the lavatories aren't frozen. I have intended to mention for some time now that German inventiveness and thoroughness has made even details in barracks here better than British creativeness can make details at home. Windows open and shut properly and are double-glazed. Bathrooms function efficiently, as they are meant to do, as do electrical switches.

For gadgets, buy German.


Sunday, March 30th, 1947

We went for a walk this afternoon to see the place in daylight. It is a small, straggly town, with few shops. There are two cinemas, one British, one German, but there is no show tonight. The Salvation Army Club opens at 6.30,  the NAAFI, a mile and a half away, at six. However, there are some promising woods hereabouts and we are soon going to explore.

Three in a room; I had to sign for the windows being in good order. I have just swapped our bust bulb for some stranger's good one.

Very pretty girls here, also many Poles and V.D. posters.

It is quite warm, the air is soft with the smell of pine trees, and the heavy fragrance of Spring, subtly sharpened by a faint suggestion of petrol..........  Symbolic, if you insist.


Hamburg, Monday, March 31st, 1947

As the entire band is off duty today, the Band Master obtained passes for us and we are spending a day's leave in Hamburg. This is a two hours' journey from Munsterlager, but it's worth it.

The town, very largely, does not exist.

I've used all the expressions I know to describe the devastation of German cities, but Hamburg is flattened, - albeit to a lesser degree than Bremen, - over a larger area than any place I've seen yet.

It has been a fine Spring day. Warm and happy, the temperatures many degrees above freezing point,  and yet there are large chunks of ice still on the river, and occasional patches of snow in the country ditches. Heavy clouds rolled up after tea and after an egotistical announcement of lightning and thunder, it rained hard. The sun set in a livid jaw of sky and it's nearly dark now. Dark and wet. Heigh-ho.

We did quite a nice lot of business this afternoon in several jewellers' shops, had tea, and are now waiting patiently in the NAAFI  gramophone room for a Beethoven piano sonata to dry up so that we can hear the March Slav (Tchaikovsky) and (Sibelius') Swan of Tuonella.


  1. Another, vivid, time-warp journey. I agree entirely about German products always functioning as intended - pity other countries haven't learned from them!

  2. Liebe Friko,

    ich kenne Munster gut und auch den Ausdruck Munsterlager noch aus meiner Jugend. Der Ort in dem ich geboren und aufgewachsen bin, liegt nur knapp 30 km (keine Ahnung wieviel Meilen das sind *lol) entfernt.

    Ich finde Deine Erzählungen wie immer wundervoll, spannend, unterhaltend und sehr interessant.

    liebe Grüße aus der Lüneburger Heide,

  3. Friko

    I've been looking forward to the next installment. Thanks for making my day.

  4. You are so right about German products. I wonder if it possible to have both the efficiency and the creativity in one place? Doesn't seem to happen much!

  5. Jinksy - I am sure they like to hear that, sometimes I wish our stuff here would work as well.

    her at home - thank you for continuing to read, hah.

    veredit - Ist die Lunebrger Heide in Niedersachsen? ich weiss kaum noch Bescheid in Deutschland. Gruss aus Clun, im schoenen Shropshire

    Martin H - thank you for being another faithful reader of the the Scraper's diary.

    elizabethm - no it doesn't, does it? Does that mean, you can only be creative if you are inefficient? Surely not.

  6. "Very pretty girls here, also many Poles and V.D. posters." and...these are all related in his mind in some way?

    Nice post. We forget too easily what it was really like.

  7. The matter of factness of the voice,set against the then-normal state of the countryside .... 'flattened' - it's very real.

  8. An unimagineable landscape to me - but what strikes me is that, amidst all that devastation, life just went on. Human beings are remkably resourceful. Thank you for this, Friko. I really enjoy stepping out of time and place here.

  9. I always look forward to the Scraper’s Diary – it really sounds authentic. As for German products - they are top quality like cars – we had a VW for years bought while my husband was in graduate school and even though it was old we drove it from Pennsylvania to Georgia. When I had my first camera my father bought me the best at the time (for a teenager) a Zeiss Ikon – it took beautiful black and white photos.

  10. A blast from the past. My dad was on Luneberg Heath at the time of the surrender. He also spoke of frozen toilets, if I remember correctly. Maybe some things change over time?

  11. Bin mal weder spät dran. Das Bild von Hamburg in Trümmern tut meinem Herzen weh. Die Kirche (St. Michaelis oder im Volksmund Michel) sehe ich wenn ich an meinem Arbeitsplatz meinen Blick schweifen lasse1945/46 und 1947/48 müssen besonders harte Winter gewesen sein. Meine Großmutter pflegte zu sagen "als wollte der Himmel uns für unsere Verbrechen strafen" kein Holz und keine Kohle zum heizen, kein vernünftiger Wohnraum und Mangelernährung. Viele Menschen sind damals in ihren Betten erfroren.


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