Sound: POW remembers liberation from Odessa

POW memories: Liberation from Odessa - frozen bodies and shower song, Wes Jack

Hear Wes Jack talk about seeing concentration camp corpses and sharing a shower with large women in the final stages of his journey to Odessa.


From Czestochowa down towards the Odessa - the thaw had started - like it comes all of a sudden - you get a warm wind and the ice starts to melt but on the way down where the German tanks had come over the roads - they didn't bother burying German prisoners - anybody who was on the road was just run over and squashed in the ice and then the slush turned to ice and it became thicker and thicker. One old lady's dead grey hair was in the ice and .. in the run off of the road before us. There were dead bodies of 'stripeys' all along the side of the ... you couldn't bury them because you couldn't dig a hole in the ground. It was all like steel.

So that when you say stripeys you mean..?

They'd be from the concentration camps.

So that when you were walking along the road there were just bodies, frozen bodies..?

Just left there. They didn't bother to shoot them, the German guards. They just sat down and froze to death - they couldn't go on any further...This Russian who was with us he was even eating a raw potato. I gave him a Canadian water biscuit, a Canadian biscuit with plum jam on it and gave it to him. Well I tell you what, he never left my side. He was with me all the time!

We - this is another beaut. There were no bathrooms or anything except a communal bath and shower and we got to Odessa and we were told to take all our clothes off. Take our singlets off that were lousy, throw them away and we had this shower and I had some lifebuoy soap - those days - you can't get it now, can you? - lifebuoy soap - beautiful pink soap with a smell of antiseptic and we were singing - and through the door came about a dozen women, stark as the day they were born and all looked like weightlifters. They had bosoms on them like balloons, they had arms on them like weightlifters and these are the women who were working on the railways and because they had no men and they were doing all the heavy work. And anyway, here they all are, us puny, weak, skinny New Zealanders and Englishmen and all sorts there, and the Russian women just got under the shower too and I handed them my lifebuoy soap. Never saw it again - they'd never seen soap like it.

POW Memories: showers song, Wes Jack

Here he describes seeing the British rescue ship off the coast of Odessa and sings the song he and his fellow POWs sang at this emotional time.


We were formed up at the top of Odessa and we had to walk down the King Charles [Potemkin] steps to the port and lo and behold in the distance we could see this British ship with a great big Union flag painted on the side of it and that's when we really felt we were home.

It must have been very emotional..?

It still gets me - we were free. And the Tommies started to sing:

[sings] I've got a sixpence, a jolly, jolly sixpence
I've got sixpence to take home to my wife
I've got tuppence to lend
And tuppence to spend
And nothing to take home to my wife
No cares have I - believe me
No pretty little girl to deceive me
I'm as happy as a king - believe me
As I go rolling rolling home

And then the New Zealanders replied with [sings]:

I'm sick of the army
I want to go home.

And of course we were a hell of a long way from home because we were in Russia and New Zealand was a long way away.


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