POW Camp 161

POW Camp 161 long poem

It was where I learned to read,
and write, and count;
I counted the days.
It was where I realised carrying
a cello was harder than playing it.
It was where I engraved my name
on the playground wall,
beneath Rudolf Schwarz 1945,
and was caught and frogmarched
to the headmaster’s office,
and punished between puffs of pipe smoke.
It was where I gave my first poetry reading,
aged eleven;
watched the space shuttle launch:
and where I passed, in order of priority,
my cycling proficiency test
and eleven plus.
It was where I learnt the words
of sectarian songs,
and how to hate fenians,
and the importance of adding
sugar to petrol bombs.
It was where we played football,
and pretended we were soldiers
killing Germans,
always Montgomery and Rommel,
it was where I first kissed a girl.

It was also where the prisoners learnt
English, accountancy and shorthand,
where they formed a choir
accompanied by violin and cello,
and where Father Muller
celebrated mass each evening,
and Chaplin Richter
led Sunday worship,
(the Catholics being more
devout than the Protestants).
It was where Josef Haefele
practised dentistry without
“Radiotherapy and X-ray Technology”
by Zanker, despite having requested
the text on several occasions.
It was where the prisoners
passed money through the fence
to children, to bring them
fish and chips from Ritchie’s,
and where, on 7th March 1945,
Wilhelm Thone hung himself
in his room.

By December ’45
The prisoners had gone home.
I left in the summer of ’83.
I returned for the final time
fifteen years later,
to put a ballot in a box;
the beginning
of forgetting
the past.

Orangefield Primary School was a POW hospital
from January 1945 to November 1945

This poem is part of the Poetry Book Black Eyed Peace

Rate the poem
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
We are posting your rating...

Have something to say about the poem?

Profile photo of david atkinson

david atkinson

Signup / Login to follow the poet.
Irish poet, who spent his early years in Belfast and now lives in Coleraine with his wife and 2 children. His first collection "Thomas" was published by Lapwing in 2005, and his second collection "Black Eyed Peace" has just been published. It is available as either a free eBook or in traditional printed format. His work has been widely published in magazines, anthologies, and on-line. His work has also been broadcast and published by the BBC and a number of his poems have achieved competition success. He has been involved with the Ballymoney Writers for over 15 years and has edited and published 3 collections of their work.
Poems you will love

Give your feedback / review for the poem

2 Comments on "POW Camp 161"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest

That was a hard journey! your poem—but do we ever forget the past?
sorry just my thoughts after reading, which can I say I enjoyed.