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Tony Neal sent me the following.




An old soldier’s short war on the front and 3 years as a POW  

This is taken from a handwritten account put to paper by Uffz. Büschenfeld, who was a member of Trench Mortar Comp 41. I know a lot can get lost in a translation but thought it may be of interest.  

The War 1914-18
 

I was a former infantryman who at the age of 39 and father of 4 children (sons 16, 11 and 2 years old and a daughter aged 8), was called up in January 1915.  

As I’m a machine fitter, I was posted to a unit with a new weapon; Trench Mortar Company 41. After training and a test of our skills, we were sent to the Western Front.  

We set both of our trench mortars up in the position shown to us and then took over a dug out built by experienced sappers. Opposite our position was the French firing range Schalom, this gave the French the possibility of bombing us with heavy ship’s guns and mortars.  

On the 25th September after a 36 hour bombardment, the French made an advance of 5km, about 25000 of us were taken prisoner.  

In the following 3 years as a POW in camps between the north and south of France, I came to know just as many pleasant people as rascals, but don’t want to mention any details. We had to fell a lot of trees, mostly quite a way from the main roads and quite often we could hear a train roll by in the distance, or engines whistling. Oh how we longed to go home and we could have escaped and ran, in spite of all the dangers of working under armed guard.  


Finally, after being a prisoner for 3 years and 4 years of absence from my family, there was light at the end of the tunnel. The joy of a prisoner exchange.  

All fathers over 30 years of age with 3 or more children are to be exchanged via Switzerland. I don’t know why, but there seemed to be a delay in the news reaching our guards until suddenly, the French couldn’t get rid of me quick enough. My friends helped me pack my few belongings as quickly as possible.  

At the same time, an old farmer and his wife happened to be passing our accommodation with their horse and cart, when the soldier in charge of the guards stopped him and summoned me. I didn’t use the door of the hut which was in the opposite direction, instead, I left through the window which of course was only 1.5 m from the ground. I then climbed onto the farmer’s cart with one of the guards, the horse trotted off and with a tally ho we left for the next town. Upon arrival, I said to the farmer “merci” from the bottom of my heart and gave the horse a pat on the neck. Now to the train and the French/Swiss border.  

Here our baggage was searched by 2 officers. One of them said I had stolen the wood he found in my bag and had to leave it behind. After I explained I was given the wood, it wasn’t stolen, the second officer said “take it.” Again, one’s a bad person, the other is good.  

After 3 days we were sent on the exchange train from Geneva to Konstanz, arriving in Konstanz on 7th Nov. 1918 (my best friend Emil’s birthday), I found myself once again on German soil. In stages (naturally by train) I neared my hometown of Bielefeld and was eventually home with my family. The joy of seeing my wife and especially the 4 children quite fit and well after an absence of 4 years was the biggest of my life.   
To my wife, who I can now only visit in the Senne cemetery, I will be thankful till I die.
 
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