“Algerians. When they dropped the bombs there, those that didn’t explode, they pulled them out and got five hundred francs for each bomb they pulled out. It was risky, it could blow up. And they got a bottle of rum. Then they dragged two of them under a big bridge, two bombs, and they said that the Germans would come, that they’d pull the pin and that they’d take them away [in a carriage]. Except they didn’t come, the French movement detonated them overnight, and the whole bridge collapsed.”
“So we worked on the western wall. Altogether about two million [workers? - ed.] all the way to the Spanish borders. All the way down. We worked day and night, we made shelters, submarines bases, and so we laboured day and night, all the time, so they’d be protected against the Allies. The Allies were already dropping bombs, so we moved to and fro. Whenever they broke something up, we repaired it again. Rails at train stations, and so on.”
“We disembarked there. We sailed around Dunkirk and saw sunken ships in the English Channel, the masts of English ones sunk by the Germans. They were bombarded as they were disembarking. So they took us to Ostend. Then we went back to France, and we had tanks assigned to us there. So I was posted with the tanks. Those were light tanks, they were called [Stuarts - ed.].”
“They deployed us, and we drove to Dunkirk. We were in Hazebrouck, St Omer, ready. The first and second tank battalions were already there, they were equipped with Cromwells, and Shermans as well. They had those already. We were the third tank [battalion - ed.], which was formed later on. So we waited for some order, and then the Allies crossed the Rhine, and the Germans were surrounded [in Dunkirk]. There were some twelve, thirteen thousand [German soldiers - ed.] left there.”
“One time I was [on duty] guarding petrol [at Dunkirk]. The boys would go and steal it. I always turned the other way. It was a meadow, and it was full of canisters of petrol. All the officers were stealing it, and the amount of petrol that was stolen would have been enough to fuel another war. It was stolen to bits. They Americans stole when they here, too. In Horažďovice. Always into their stores.”
We were prepared, if someone would fall, we would take their place
Lieutenant (ret.) Josef Adámek was born on 2 January 1920 in the village of Chřešťovice near Písek. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a housewife. Josef Adámek trained as a joiner and then worked in Podolí and Milevsko. Then he received a summons to forced labour. His destination was Berlin, where he was to be supervised by the Todt Organisation. From there he was commandeered to build the Atlantic Wall in northern France, which was supposed to aid the Nazis in their defence against the expected Allied invasion. While there, the witness got in touch with French Macquis partisans, who wanted to liberate France from Nazism. When the Allied assault began and the Nazis started falling back to Germany, Josef Adámek deserted to Canadian units in September 1944. He was ferried to England, and after a brief stay in a POW camp he signed up to the Czechoslovak army. He underwent tank training in Britain at Duns near Edinburgh, Scotland, he then served on patrol duty at Southend-on-Sea in the south-east of England. He finally embarked to Ostend in Belgium, subsequently moving on to the French port of Dunkirk. He served as the driver of an American Stuart light tank with the 3rd Tank Battalion, which was kept in reserve at St Omer. When the fighting ceased, he traversed the ruins of Germany to the Horažďovice in West Bohemia; after the demobilisation he moved to Trutnov, where he worked as a joiner. He then returned to his native village in South Bohemia, keeping to the same profession. In the last years of his life he moved to a nursing home in Písek, where he died on 20 July 2013, aged 93.