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Wartime Log

Public Submission
Marlag und Milag Nord POW Camp, Westertimke, Germany
1941 - 1945
Materials & techniques
Paper, fibre; Handwritten, hand drawn
Romeo Hamelin
Restigouche Regional Museum 2005.10.1
Wartime Logs like this one were distributed by two organizations, the Red Cross and the Canadian Y.M.C.A, to men who were being kept as Prisoners of War (POWs) in Germany during World War II. They contained lined pages to keep journals, grey pages for photo albums or scrapbooks, and completely blank pages for drawings, and were often used to keep an account of life in an internment camp. Each one is unique.

This Wartime Log was kept by Romeo Hamelin of Montreal, a crewman on the A.D. Huff. The Huff, a Steamship under lease to Canadian International Paper, carried newsprint from Dalhousie, New Brunswick, to Britain. In February of 1941, on a return trip to Canada, the Huff encountered the German battlecruiser Gneisenau 600 miles east of Newfoundland. The 410 foot freighter was no match for its much larger, faster, and far more heavily armed opponent and was sunk after being hit more than 30 times. Two of the 42-man crew were killed, and the rest took to lifeboats before being taken prisoner.

The crew eventually spent 14 months in the notoriously inhumane Stalag XB before the German government, under pressure from the International Committee of the Red Cross to remove civilian non-combatants from POW camps, enlisted the prisoners to build the Marlag (Royal Navy Camp) and Milag (Merchant Navy Camp) camps near Westertimke. Here, prisoners were able to send and receive letters from home, got regular packages from the Red Cross, had access to a sports field and a library, put on plays in the camp theatre, and could participate in courses on a variety of subjects that were taught by their peers. They were finally released on April 27th, 1945.

Romeo Hamelin dedicated and gave his Wartime Log to a fellow Huff crewmember, Paul Hachey of Eel River Crossing, New Brunswick, who he called his best friend during his time in captivity. It exists as a fascinating glimpse into the lives of ordinary individuals in extraordinary circumstances, and represents the bonds that are often formed during times of great stress and danger.
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