Skip to content

Poetry in Mission veteran’s war diary provides insight into experience of Canadian POWs

Bert Moody fought in failed 1942 Dieppe Raid, held captive in German POW camp for over 2 years
Bert Moody and other soldiers of the Cameron Highlanders eat Christmas dinner in 1939 in England.

The poetry in a diary kept by a Mission veteran during his time in a German POW camp provides insight into the experience of captured Canadians during the Second World War.

Bert B. Moody was one of nearly 5,000 Canadians of the 2nd Infantry Division who took part in “Operation Jubilee” along the coast of France in Aug. 19, 1942 – commonly known as the Dieppe Raid.

The mission was a military disaster; no other Canadian battalion would suffer greater casualties in a single day during the war. Within eight hours there were 3,367 Canadian casualties, including 916 dead and 1,946 taken prisoner.

Moody fought in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, which saw fierce combat. Out of the unit’s 503 men, 346 were casualties, including 76 killed. Moody was wounded three times in the fighting.

His diary logged brief descriptions alongside significant dates in his service, from his enlistment in Winnipeg in 1939, arrival in England, inspection by the King and Queen of England, combat, eventual capture, and the arrival at the POW camp called Stalag VIIIB.

The German guards cut out most of the dairy’s logs from his time in captivity. The last entries describe Canadian soldiers being tied together with rope as punishment, then having the rope “replaced by chains.”

What remains in the diary is a collection of poems written during his time in captivity, reflecting on the combat at Dieppe, and the loss, hardships and feelings suffered by the soldiers afterwards.

Dieppe, page 3

It was the 18th day of August in 1942

We sailed away from England, no man knew where to

We had received no orders, No friends to see us leave

The second Canadian Division, with the blue patch on the sleeve

Early the next morning, when everything was still

We saw those tracer bullets, coming at us from the hill

But we kept right on a sailing, and no man will forget

The morning that we landed, on the beach there at Dieppe

The enemy were waiting, and had taken up their post,

We met a hail of bullets, as we landed on the coast,

But every man there landed – at least he tried,

Though many there were wounded, and many more had died.

It was early in the morning, when we started in to fight

The mortar bombs came at us, from the front and left and right,

They shelled us from the cliffs, and bombed us from the air,

But the second Canadian division were not so easy to scare.

We fought them for eight hours, from 6 A.M. till two,

Our losses were terrific, but there was nothing we could do,

The navy came to help us, but their boats they could not land,

So we had to surrender at Dieppe there on the sand.

What is left of us are prisoners, beneath a foreign flag,

Here in the heart of Germany, in this camp they call Stalag,

Many of our comrades fell, but we never will forget,

They gave their lives fighting, in the battle of Dieppe,

When this war is over, and once again we’re free,

To our homeland we’ll be sailing, to a land of liberty,

Though many have a battle scar, but no man will forget,

The morning that we landed, on the French coast at Dieppe.

A photo of the Canadian captives being held at German POW camp, Stalag VIIIB.
A photo of the Canadian captives being held at German POW camp, Stalag VIIIB.

Courage, page 4

It’s easy to be nice boys, when everything’s Okay,

It’s easy to be cheerful when you’re having things your way,

But can you hold your head up and take it on the chin,

When your hearts nearly breaking, and you feel like giving in.

It was easy back in England, amongst the friends and folks.

But now you miss the friendly hand the joys the songs the jokes

The road ahead is stern boys unless you’re strong in mind

You’ll find it won’t be long before you’re lagging far behind.

You’ve got to climb the hill boys. It’s no use turning back

There’s only one way home and that is off the track

Remember you are British when you reach the crest

You’ll see a valley cool and green dear England at its best.

You know there is a saying sunshine follows rain

And sure enough you’ll realize that joy will follow pain,

Let courage be your password, make fortitude your guide

And then instead of grumbling

Remember those who died.

Simple Soldier Boy, page 7

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark

And whistled gaily as a lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum

With crumps and lice, and lack of rum.

He got a bullet thru the brain.

No one heard of him again

Ye crowds who watch with kindling eye

When soldier lads go marching by

Sneak home and pray

You’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.

Moody’s poem “Dieppe,” on page 3 of his diary.
Moody’s poem “Dieppe,” on page 3 of his diary.

What Price Dieppe, page 13

Did you ever hear of Dieppe boys

It’s a little town in France

The brass hats sent us in there

To make the “Jerries” dance.

It was our first taste of action

As we waded in and fought

But Jerry was expecting us

And our fighting counted naught.

We kept right on a-going

The blood and limbs flew high

We saw our comrades falling

And we had to let them die.

There must have been a reason

For slaughter such as this

Surely someone will account for

The faces that we miss.

So much for Dieppe boys

And our plans that hit a snag

While we wait for the armistice

In a lonely old Stalag.

Bert Moody’s missing in action photo printed in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Bert Moody’s missing in action photo printed in the Winnipeg Free Press.

After the war, Moody would describe the mistreatment he and his fellow comrades suffered at the hands of the Germans in a submission to the War Claims Commission.

Moody was severely wounded in his left arm during the fighting at Dieppe, and recounted how he was barely given any treatment beyond a simple dressing. He said the lack of medical attention led to the loss of two of his fingers.

He described Canadians being forced marched with no food other than the “odd slice of bread from (a) Frenchman.” Three times they were packed into overcrowded box cars with no toilets, ventilation and little food or drinking water.

When the soldiers arrived at the POW camp, their captors – which Moody believed were Waffen S.S. soldiers – shackled the prisoners, causing “great distress” to his wounds.

He described being chained together with other prisoners and forced to stand in the cold for hours with very little clothing.

The soldiers remained chained together for over a year, according to his claims to the commission.

The camp was liberated on Jan. 15, 1945, and Moody was discharged several months later due to his wounds.

Moody was born in England, grew up and enlisted in Winnipeg, but moved to Mission in 1948. He bought property and raised a family here, passing away in 2002.

Bert Moody with his parents the day he came home from Europe.
Bert Moody with his parents the day he came home from Europe.

Daily Journal Entries

Sep. 2, 1939 – Enlisted at Winnipeg

May 24, 1940 –Left for Camp Shilo

Oct. 13, 1940 – Left Shilo for Quebec

Dec. 12, 1940 – Left Quebec

Dec. 13, 1940 – Arrived in Halifax

Dec. 16, 1940 –​ Sailed for Eng

Dec. 25, 1940 – Docked at early Xmas morning, Xmas dinner terrible, boys thought it was boiled seagulls, tough as leather!​

Dec. 27, 1940 – Arrived at Grenoch Scotland

March 21, 1941 – Inspected by King and Queen

July 1, 1941 – Left for S. Coast where we spent 6 weeks

Aug. 15, 1941 – Went to C Camp

Aug. 25, 1941 – Went to Farnborough

Oct. 15, 1941 – Returned to coast

May 15, 1942 –Went to Horsham

May 19, 1942 –Went to Isle of Wight

July 3, 1942 – Boats

July 12, 1942 – Returned to Horsham

Aug. 1, 1942​ – Went to F worth

Aug. 18, 1942 – Prepared for raid to be made on Pourville France. Left from Newhaven

Aug. 19, 1942 – Raid began for us, 05.40 hrs. Captured 14.00 hrs. wounded in arm

Aug. 19, 1942​ – Went to Dieppe hosp. put in box cars

Aug. 20, 1942 – Arrived at Rouen France

Aug. 21, 1942 – All day at Rouen hospital

Aug. 22, 1942 – Boarded box cars

Aug. 23, 1942 – Arrived at Camp in Vernicul France

Aug. 28 to Sep. 1, 1942 – Travelled in box cars labelled 40 men or horses, through France, Belgium part of Holland into Germany to Stalag VIIIB. Put in New Lazarette (the hospital)

Nov. 2, 1942 – ​Dismissed from hosp

Oct. 8, 1942​ – Canadian prisoners were tied up with rope as a reprisal

Dec. 2, 1942​ – Ropes replaced by chains

Sep. 25, 1943 –​ Chains removed due to the prisoners from Italy coming in

Oct. 18, 1943 ​– Rechained

(Remainder of pages cut out by German gaurds)

The diary logs.
Bert Moody (left) with friends.