Denys Parsons's father in P0W camp, on the German/Polish border, 1940s Item Reference : cny03421
Denys's father is pictured here 4th from the right in the front row. Whilst the POWs look warmly dressed, these clothes were given them to wear only while they were photographed. They then had to take off the coats and pass them on to the next group of men. Many pictures of this nature were taken for POWs to send home, so that their treatment appeared to the outside world more humane than it really was. Denys Parsons was born in 1934, one of eight children, seven of whom survived. His father, Ernie, was taken prisoner at Dunquerque in 1940, and endured a forced march from France to the borders of Poland, where he was incarcerated in a labour camp and put to work in the coal mines. As the Russian Army advanced on the Germans, the prisoners were again forced to march back into Germany, in a far poorer state of health than that in which they had arrived. Ernie recalled having to dig through several feet of snow to find grass to make soup. Once over the German border, the guards abandoned them, and they were eventually found by American soldiers, and sent home. Denys's mother Eva was left to care for her seven children alone, at a time when there was no Welfare State to help. She worked 12 hour night shifts in the melting shop at Port Talbot Steelworks, whilst her children slept at the houses of friends and relations. She got home in time to collect all the children, wash, dress and feed them and send them to school. She snatched a few hours sleep, before they came home from school, and she would have to get up to make their tea and look after them until it was time for her to start work again.
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