by Greta Rindner Silver
Unit: “B” Company, King’s Royal Rifles.
Served: France (captured)
Army No: 6844600
POW No: 8417
Prison Camps : Stalag XXA and B
This story has been contributed by Greta Rindner Silver the daughter of Bugle Major Reuben Silver and the niece of Provost Sgt Fred Silver
My father, Cpl Reuben Philip Silver, 6844600 KRRC was born in Portsmouth 13.3.16. He came from a military family in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. His father, Cpl Barnett Silver KRRC was killed in the WWI Battle of Deville Wood, France prior to his birth. Cpl Barnett Silver is buried in a common grave at the Thiepval Memorial, France. He had two brothers, both in the KRRC, Fred Silver and Moni Silver.
My father went to the Duke of York Military School in Dover. He joined the KRRC and as far as I remember, from the stories related to me as a child, did some service in N. Ireland and then was shipped out to British Mandate, Palestine. He married my mother in 1936 and I was born in 1938 in Aldershot, Hampshire.
Off to france…
My father was called up and shipped to France in 1940 when I was 18 months old. He was captured in Calais in May 1940. From the stories he told me on his return from POW camp Stalag XXB, the following is what I remember.
The ship was nearing the French coast when the Germans began firing on them while they were crossing the English Channel. He jumped into the sea with a group of about 20 soldiers. They were located in a bay, and he was headed to the opposite side of where he thought the Germans were. He was a very good swimmer; he swam underwater away from the Germans, all the time being shot at, however, when he reached the other side, the Germans were waiting for him. He was the only one to reach the other side, which was Calais. The Germans congratulated him on his swimming, pulled him out of the water, gave him a French uniform to wear, and jokingly said that they would be in Devon, eating Devonshire cream the
following week. He was 21 years old.
He told me the worst moment he experienced was at this time when he was taken to a large park, and all he could see in the dark were outlines of bodies lying on the ground. He thought that he was going to be shot and that all the bodies were dead bodies, however, this was a holding area for the POWs.
From this area, they began marching, a march which lasted six months. He related incidents about the march.
He was in a French uniform, and the German fed the French, so he would march behind the French soldiers and get in the line for food. The Germans did not have food for the British. He told me that once on the march they came to a house that had been deserted and found a lump of margarine, and just ate the margarine. After the 6-month march they arrived in Danzig and were held in Stalag XXA.
In the stalag…
He told me that they were put to work on the railroads in the sub zero freezing cold winters and that it was just unbearable. His friend who slept on the upper bunk said he could not continue on with the railroads and was going to get out of it. My father wondered how he was going to get out of working the railroads. That night, his friend fell out of the upper bunk and broke his arm, this put him in the hospital and off the railroads. My father was not going to break his arm, but he had a bad tooth from which he could draw blood, so the next day, while out on the railroad, he began coughing and spat out the blood, the Germans immediately thought it was TB and whisked him off to the hospital. My father told the Army doctor what he had done and that he could not continue working on the railroad. He kept him in the hospital for a little while and then he was transferred to Stalag XXB and put to work on the farms. This was much better, the food was better and the farmer’s wife, whose husband was on the Russian front, treated him pretty reasonably. He told me that there were 3 other POWs on this farm. One Christmas they were asked by the farmer’s wife to kill a pig for the holiday, having never killed a pig before, the way they went about it was closing the pig in the yard and with an axe tried to kill it. The animal just started to run around and around the yard with a huge gash in its neck, they finally were able to kill the thing, but it was quite a feat.
Home to blighty
I think he remained there until the Americans liberated him and he came back to England. When he arrived back, I was seven years old and wanted to have nothing to do with him. It was a big adjustment, I had only had a mother, and I did not want anyone else in my life. I did not want to speak to him. At the time of his release, I was away in the Southwest of England in school, and was called home to Portsmouth to meet him. My mother and Father picked me up at the railway station. The street shot shows him when he picked me up at the station, and he was trying to talk to me. He was a stranger to me. After the war, he continued serving in the KRR’s in Winchester, and again in Sennelager, Germany and Derna N. Africa.
He promoted to the KRRC Bugle Major and of course I eventually was very proud of him when he used to march in front of the band on Parade. Today, when I hear the marches (there is a KRRC web), memories and nostalgia bring tears to my eyes. I did not have much time with him, unfortunately, after surviving this horrible war and coming home, my father passed away of a heart attack at the age of 45 years in Berlin where he was stationed in 1960. He was buried with full military honours in the Berlin Military Cemetery.
He was awarded the Palestine Medal, 1939-45 Star Medal, 1939-45 War Medal, Regular Army Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.
If there are any POWs still around who knew my father, I will be very happy to hear from them.
Bugler Major Reuben Silver KRRC
Reuben Silver was the brother of one of Arborfield most well known characters – Fred Silver the Provost Sergeant.