Twenty-six days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana over Magdeburg, Germany, George Edwin Farrar (my dad) was allowed to write his first letter home. At the time, he was in a prison camp hospital, unable to walk from injuries suffered in the collision.
Farrar was also treated for wounds possibly sustained from the collision and/or perhaps during his capture. In a letter to his mother after he was liberated in May of 1945, he wrote, “When I hit the ground I received a little rough treatment from the Germans, but I expected it.” The “rough treatment” could have been anything from my recollection of what he described as being beaten with a stick to my Aunt Beverly’s recollection of his telling of being attacked with farm implements, like pitchforks and hoes. She also recalled his telling of the German soldiers saving him from being killed by the German peasants, and carrying him to a house where he was held until the next POW transport train took him to the interrogation center.
Aunt Beverly is my dad’s youngest sister, who was eight years old when my dad returned from the war. She also recalls him telling her that his wounds were treated with what she remembered as “gen-gen violet”, a liquid medicine that turned his skin purple. This must have been the antiseptic used by the Germans in WWII, gentian violet. Beverly is the only one of my dad’s siblings still alive today, and whose memory of the events of 1944 and 1945 in the Farrar household are helping me put together this history.
Farrar was held at Stalag Luft IV in Gross-Tychow, Poland, which was a subsidiary camp of Stalag Luft III. Even though this letter is dated October 24, 1944, it was not postmarked until December 15, 1944, and was not received by the Farrar family until January 18, 1945, exactly one week before his mother’s fifty-fifth birthday.
October 24, 1944
Lager-Bezeichnung: Stalag Luft 3
[Postmarked December 15, 1944]
Dearest Mother: I find it rather hard to write even a letter as small as this. Of course, we can’t say much, but are being treated O.K. We have plenty books and I spend most of my time reading. I hope you will have plenty chicken when I get there. I think I could eat a couple all alone. I guess Gene is doing good in school by now. Tell him to study hard, and make good grades. How is Martha getting along with her new job. I hope she likes it. I’ll bet by now she is having a hard time with her boyfriends. I wish you would send me some candy. Be sure it is something that will keep until it gets here, because it is a long trip. I’ll make up for these letters when I get home. Love to all, George
Was Farrar telling his mother that the small letter was “hard to write” a way to tell her that he was injured? The reference to being able to “eat a couple [chickens] all alone” was probably a way to tell her he was not being fed much and was starving. Martha and Gene were a younger sister and brother. Martha would have been 16 and Gene would have been 13 years old at the time of the letter.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014