When I visited Brother Herbert Kaden in December 2012, he gave me the address of Mr Helge Tecklenberg, a son of Rudi Tecklenberg, one of the prisoners in the Trumpington Prisoner of War Camp during World War II. Brother Herbert is a Benedictine monk at Turvey Abbey in Bedfordshire. During the War, he and his mother had befriended German prisoners living at the POW Camp. Both had been refugees from Nazi Germany but held no bitterness towards their countrymen, who had to fight in the German army.
In May 2012, Mr Helge Tecklenberg phoned me and I asked if he could tell me a little of his father’s time as a POW in Trumpington. Mr Tecklenberg told me that his father had fought in Russia including Stalingrad. Not long before the war ended, he managed to make his way to the Baltic coast in East Prussia, from where he escaped by boat further west along that coast. He was taken prisoner by the British, who released him after four days. He then made his way home to Quedlinburg before the war had ended officially (Quedlinburg is north of the Harz mountains in Saxony-Anhalt).
He was tipped off by someone who warned him that the Gestapo were after him, because he had dared to mention that the war was lost. He fled further west and gave himself up to the British Army for the second time. He was subsequently shipped to England and was taken to the POW camp in Trumpington. As he was a baker and confectioner and could cook, he became the chef for the officers in the camp. He felt very well treated and, of course, had always enough to eat. He was then transferred to a smaller camp at Elsworth and eventually to work at the American Air Base in Alconbury, where he was in charge of the kitchen in the officers’ mess.
In 1949 he brought his family over to England, as their home town had been handed over to the Russians by the Americans and British, as part of the territory later known as East Germany. He felt his family would be better off living in England than under communist rule and Russian occupation. In 1956 Mr Tecklenberg’s mother died, leaving his father with four children. He remarried twice and in 1978/79 returned to live in Germany, where he died in 1984. Two of his elder sons have also died since.
My conversation was with the third son, now aged 71, who has one younger brother. He told me that his father had spoken very little about the war and what he was able to tell me he had put together with his younger brother from what they remembered when young.
In his memoir, Brother Herbert referred to Rudi Tecklenberg as being one of the prisoners who stayed in England after the War. He remembered the Tecklenberg’s second son, Helge, as always wanting to be a railway signalman, which he accomplished, later becoming stationmaster in Harlington, Bedford.