Friday, January 14, 2011

Cymro and 20 Bees Buzz

Doing research on Ceridwen, her cauldron and the weird tale of Gwion Bach, I found The National Library of Wales. More particularly I found the archive of magazines made by Welsh prisoners of war between 1943 and 1945 when they were being held in the Stalag IVB camp near Muhlberg, Germany. Very curious artefacts. The Cymro ('Welshman') magazines hold such a strange concoction of articles, poems, stories and illustrations to keep up the readers spirits and national pride: 'Wales and the Welsh', 'Memories', 'From Knappin to Rugby', 'The Welsh Guards', 'Arthur's Gold'.


News on camp life is, tellingly and frustratingly, sparse. The small nagging reminders about choir rehearsal or hygeine are more riveting than they should be but the magazines are really from the inside looking out, by men dreaming of home. One person from each hut was responsible for collecting stories but in the second issue, dated May 1944, the editor encouraged all readers to contribute. "Don't forget to hand your articles, short stories, poems, critcisms, etc, to your hut representative. Also, carefully comb those letters for news from home. The rest of the Club wants to know it as well" (p.1). These aren't war diaries, which is perhaps what I was curious for. These are insights into what men think about when they're in captivity, what they hope for, what they think will keep their bunk mates going for another day.

The Library also has the only two issues of '20 Bees Buzz', the English weekly mag created by prisoners of Hut 20B in the same camp. The play on words delights me more than it should.

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