Arthur Cecil Lovell
1985 Radio Interview
(Interviewer - Mervyn Tout)
Like many other men who were conscripted into 7th Battalion, the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was in his late teens at the outbreak of war. He was initially based at a house called ‘Highcroft’ in Dyke Road, Brighton, near to the TA HQ.
Edna Wood, his wife-to-be, used to watch him from her office window at Brighton Railway Station, marching down Queens Road, Brighton, to the clock tower. When permitted, they would meet up for tea and Edna used to provide the beetroot sandwiches. They planned to marry in June 1940.
Arthur was a man of strong religious belief, with deeply held Christian values and this influenced his path in life. On being called up to 7th Battalion he asked to be in the signals unit, believing that this would not require him to carry a rifle - for carrying a weapon, with the intention of using it against another human being, was something he was not prepared to do.
His experiences before May 20th 1940, were similar to other men in the Battalion. Regular marches into Brighton, ‘square bashing’ and the other trappings of military life during times of conflict. He never spoke much of this or his time in France, before the commencement of the Battle.
He did describe though how, as battle commenced, he realised that the rifle he had carried, believing it was an essential element of the drill carried out in training, was intended to be used to kill others. After ‘wrestling with his conscience’ he entered the building being used as a first aid post, manned by Tony Verth and asked if he could help. The reply from Verth was “Do you know first aid?” to which the reply “I used to be in the St. John’s Ambulance.” Brought the response “You’ll do!”
During battle, Arthur helped the wounded and recalled two incidents, which strengthened his faith and religious conviction. On one occasion, as he went out to bring in injured men, a shot rang out from above and behind him but the bullet entered his ‘billy can’ but didn’t pass through it. In a separate incident he described how, whilst helping two ‘walking wounded’, one either side of him, back to the First Aid post, a machine gun opened up on them and killed each man beside him.
Despite returning from war weighing a mere six stone seven pounds, he wasn’t slow in describing his POW experiences as relatively comfortable, when compared with others. He wrote home fairly regularly. His letters to his sister Betty show that much of his time as a POW, was spent in Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf.
On 13th September 1940, he was in Stalag XXID (Schildberg, Poland). The next news comes from Stalag VIIIB Gepruft: Nr. 15a (Lamsdorf, Germany) on 22nd February 1942 and he was still there in December 1944.
Before the war, he had been a carpenter and his skills were put to good use during his time as a POW. He describes how he was employed for some time, making windows and doors for a hospital being built near to the camp. Having worked for some time, making a particularly elaborate hardwood door, he was apparently chastised for cleaning off the pencil marking out, before his German supervisor had had it inspected as part of ‘his’ work towards a master craftsman qualification. He also worked for some time in a drinks factory which, in recognition of the ‘help’ from the POWs, provided soft drinks for the camp's Christmas celebrations.
His diary shows that, on 21st January 1945 he was at Stalag XXIB
and from there, like thousands of other men, set off on many months of forced marches,
known as a ‘Death March’. After liberation he wrote:
My Dear Mother,
It is a great joy to be able to write to you again. On Monday last I was released so have been a free man for four days. Tomorrow we start our journey home and expect to land in England on Sunday. How great it is. I have so much to tell you but must wait a few more days. Please let Edna know. You will be pleased to know that I went to church within a few hours of my release. So hoping to see you soon I remain your loving son. Arthur.