Reviews of Lambeth to Lamsdorf: Doug Hawkins' War

Sheds light on a relatively unknown aspect of WW2
It is a sad fact of life that most of us only really reminisce when we are getting old, when it is too late to do anything else about it. This was the case with Doug Hawkins, or almost. It was a chance meeting at the local bowls club that has brought Doug Hawkins' recollections to a wider world. Robin Green and Doug Hawkins played bowls together and a conversation after a game touched on Doug's experiences during the war and the fact that he would like to tell his story but did not have the tools to do so. Fortunately Robin Green was able to provide the tools in order for Doug to bring his wishes to fruition. The book traces Doug's early life and experiences in Lambeth and Mitcham before he joins the Home Guard and then the Middlesex Regiment when he became old enough. He describes his training at Saighton Camp, Chester and then his journey to North Africa where he was re-assigned to the Cheshire Regiment and thence to Italy where he took part in the “Break Out” from the Anzio Beachead. It was here that he lost a close friend and was captured in a German counter-attack. This began his long journey to Lamsdorf in Poland, captivity and finally the Long March to freedom. It was interesting to read about his experiences in Italy and life in Lamsdorf, but Doug's experiences during the Long March are what sets this book apart and sheds light on an event little known to those who were not there. The Long March took place during the final few months of the Second World War. Some 30,000 Allied Prisoners of War were force-marched across Poland and Germany in terrible winter conditions, lasting from January to April 1945. It has been called various names including "The Great March West", "The Long March", and "The Long Walk".It was also known as "The Lamsdorf Death March". The months of January and February 1945 were among the coldest winter months of the twentieth century, with blizzards and temperatures as low as –25 °C, even until the middle of March temperatures were –18 °C. Most of the Prisoners of War were ill-prepared for the evacuation, having suffered years of poor rations and wearing clothing, particulary boots not suited to the winter conditions. I read this book from cover to cover, hardly putting it down, although it is not a very long book (just over 100 pages). It certainly left me wanting more and having been brought up on “The Great Escape”, I would have been interested to learn more about day-to-day life in Lamsdorf. I knew Doug Hawkins as he was a fellow member of the Southern Region of the Cheshire Regiment Association, although our conversations usually only touched on our mutual love of cricket. I was aware of the fact that he had taken part in the Long March, but he never spoke to me about it in any great detail. I met Robin Green at Doug's funeral on 2nd March 2016 and I was interested to know how he had managed to coax out of Doug all the information necessary for the book, particularly as Doug's memory began to fade before the book was completed. He told me that he had had a large number of short conversations with Doug, each one to give him an outline of events that covered a particular period or event. Robin would then research further in order to give himself a more holistic view of the events that Doug described. It also allowed Robin to prompt Doug further with “Do you remember this?”, thereby triggering Doug's memory once again. Robin Green's research is carefully, almost seamlessly woven into Doug's story and this enables the reader to follow his story in context. Despite the horrors and privations of being in action, incarcerated as a POW and suffering the inhumanity of the Long March, the book is not without humour and kindness. Doug Hawkins' War was short, in comparison to others, but I have no hesitation in recommending his story to you.
A review written by George Szwejkowski on 11 Mar 2016
Gone but not forgotten (thanks to this book)
The subject of this book is Doug Hawkins. I am his son. Doug died on 13 February 2016 after a different war - this time the enemy was Vascular Dementia. Robin Green and my father were bowlers together before Dad became unwell. Robin had heard Dad talk of his war experiences and asked him if he would share those experiences so that they could be captured in words and published. Robin spent many hours with Dad going back over those war years and I think Robin was amazed at the detail Dad could remember. Fortunately Robin was able to prepare the drafts for this book before the dementia robbed my Dad of his ability to remember. I would not normally read this type of book (I am more a murder mystery reader) but obviously I wanted to read this to find out about my Dad's war. Robin's writing style makes this easy to read (even though the subject matter is not always an easy read) and he has shared my Dad's experience with a much wider audience. Robin came to Dad's funeral where once again we were able to tell others about the book. I guess that was the final chapter and I am grateful that what Robin has produced is a legacy of my father's life and indeed the many others who endured the horrors of World War 2. For Doug Hawkins War is Over and he is at peace.
A review written by Stephen Hawkins on 07 Mar 2016