Billy Graham Center

The Moody Church News
July 1945 (Vol. 30, No. 7)


Mr. Guilding's Own Story

The past four years of my internment seem more or less like a dream. Although I left the barbed-wire enclosure only 24 days ago it seems to me an event which happened in the distant past. I suppose I shall soon forget all about it, especially if the way opens up for a speedy return to the Lord’s work in Kenya.

I don’t know if it will interest you to read a brief outline of the happenings in my life since March 1941. I feel that you have heard or read so much of the experiences of people in - German hands that to read it once more may be a bit boring. However, may this little epistle be of some use in the Lord’s hands to stir us afresh to put our whole trust in Him, who is able under every circumstance in life to keep us in perfect peace, provided our minds are stayed upon Him.

The “S. S. Zamzam” left the States in the latter part of March 1941 with some 200 passengers on board, of whom over 200 were missionaries. We were having a pleasant voyage. We called at Trinidad and later at Pernambuco (S. America). Many of us missionaries met daily for prayer and listened to brief messages from the Word of God. When within four days of Cape Town, unknown to us but known to the Lord, a German raider suddenly poured shells into our defenseless boat. That took place on April ,7th 1941 at about 5:40 AM. As far as I could see there was no panic amongst the passengers. My wife acted with great calmness under the firing, making no rush to our life-boat; in fact we were the last to enter it. After the danger was over and we were aboard the raider, the Captain inquired as to how many were killed, and seemed surprised to hear that there were no deaths (one man died later). A text of Scripture used freely after our marvelous preservation was II Cor. I To, “Who delivered us from so great a death. and doth deliver : in whom we trust he will vet deliver us.”

For five weeks we were in a German merchant vessel which took us to the south of France, where the American subjects were released, the British being taken on to Bordeaux.
were there for a week in a clearing camp. my wife and I being separated. After that we were taken by train across France and Germany to Bremervord where I was told I could speak for two minutes with my wife. She informed me that the British ladies were being sent to South Germany. We were so taken aback we could hardly speak. Once again we proved that underneath are the Everlasting Arms.

From June 5 - July 23, 1941, I with others were put into a merchant navy camp through some mistake. As civilians we were supposed to be treated differently to prisoners of war. We applied to be transferred to a Civilian Camp. The matter took six weeks to settle and then one day we were told very hurriedly to pack up and be ready to move the next da). We found out that was the method with the Germans—long delays when requests were made—then presto and off you go in a rush. Well, to the trusting Christian he finds that his God is the God of all patience and can afford to let patience have her perfect work: when it comes to a rush then he is able to experience “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.”

Most of my internment was spent in Upper Silesia (July 1941 - Nov. 1943.) The camp there (a vacated, lunatic asylum) was much better than the previous one. (You may smile at that). The food was better, and on the whole a better class of men, but more than that we met with a number of Christians. The first service which we attended was conducted by a Lt-Colonel of the Salvation Army. We were glad to hear the old Gospel given out to some who paid the greatest attention.

Since being released some people have asked me how I spent my time. Somehow we found ourselves busy, taking a long time to accomplish a little. Roll calls twice a day would take time, especially if there was a mis-count. Whenever we went out, it may have been to fetch parcels or to the recreation field, there was a counting and re-counting to make sure of the right number; a similar thing when we returned. Queuing up for hot water, for getting rations, for baths, etc, etc. would cut into the day. These inconveniences were trying to the flesh but gave a real opportunity to manifest the grace of God which is always sufficient under every circumstance in life. I took up the study of Greek thinking it may be a help to me later on in teaching the Word in Bible School. I found it difficult hut enjoyable. Sorry the past year has been so unsettled and inconvenient for study that I have gone back rather than forward.

At the end of 1942 the Nonconformist Chaplain resigned on account of health and I was pressed into that position. That kept me fairly busy, especially at certain times. The veek1y service to conduct (although only preaching occasionally myself), manuscripts of sermons had to be sent in to the Germans for censoring. The room had to be prepared as others used it during the week, and several other duties of a small nature but which took time to accomplish. There was a mid-week Song Service and a series of Bible Classes, Prayer Meeting every evening, and certain days for visiting the Camp Hospital. Our recreation consisted chiefly in walking around what we called “The Park,” in other words, the barbed-wire enclosure. Once around took three minutes, so it was a case of round and round. I don’t want to visit a Zoo. I don’t care to see caged animals, at least at present.

There were times when we had real thrills for instance, when our wives visited us. Mrs. Guilding came twice from Berlin. You can guess, or perhaps you cannot, the enjoyment of it, even under those circumstances. There was the preparation for the visit, the actual visit and then the looking back to the brief time spent together.

Our camp at Tost (Upper Silesia) consisted of British subjects. A part of the time about a hundred Americans were camped with us. I have been asked of the attitude of the men in camp to spiritual matters. Perhaps the fact that only about o out of 1200 attended our services is sufficient to show’ that only a few had any real interest in the things of God. I should say, however, that about the camp were Roman Catholics. Some others were strict adherents to the Church of England. While there was wonderful attention given at every service—the Gospel clearly preached— many saving they enjoyed our services—yet on the other hand some of those men thought little of using obscene language. engaging in Sunday sport and spending some evenings playing cards. It seemed to me that on the Continent (the homes of most of the men) there must be a form of godliness which denies the power thereof. Only a few conversions can be recorded. but perhaps eternity will reveal some surprises. May it be so.

From time to time there were great expectations of repatriation and when a move took place from Tost to Eastern France. many of us felt it was a step towards home. After a cold railway journey we landed at Giromagny, N. Belfort. on a wet dreary day in November 1943. to go into stone barracks, rooms unprepared, no fires. etc. The first night there was no sleep. After a little while we got settled down and three pastors were able to occupy a small room. We got some coal and made it a hit comfortable. In this room we had our prayer meetings and good times of fellowship together. The scenery was magnificent. being at the foot of the Vosges mountains. The snow on the trees was a sight not to be forgotten, but the outlook from our little room was such that I used it as an illustration when preaching one Sunday. Our window was wired, another four feet and more barbed wire, coils of it strewn on the ground, a guard pacing up and down carrying his rifle, beyond him a high wall with more barbed wire, beyond that the tops of two houses. No wonder I urged the people to turn their eyes from the outlook to the uplook, to Him Who died for their sins and is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Our internment at Giromagny came to an abrupt ending. We knew the American army was not far away. Half our camp were being repatriated and we hoped we might be left and was not far away. Half our camp were being c repatriated and we hoped we might be left and E be delivered by the on-coming army, but suddenly came the German order for us to be moved back into Germany to Westertimke (N. Bremen). This proved to be the worst part :
of our internment, living quarters much poorer, food worse, parades in the snow and rain, no a coal a part of the time, damp wood: we could say we really felt the pinch. That was a real j test and we who called ourselves followers of the Lord Jesus Christ had to show our colours. “Now thanks .be unto God who always causeth t us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of’ this knowledge by us in-S every place.” “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I preached one Sunday on Philippians

We were about five months in that Camp. Then came one of those sudden moves. It was only to an’ adjoining Camp to be once again with merchant seamen. This was better in some respects. Opportunity was given to preach the Gospel to a large number of men and some 250 attended services. The majority we felt were not true Christians and so we did not fail to tell them they were sinners needing to be cleansed in the precious Blood of Christ. There were some• converts in this Camp, prior to our going there, and we were privileged to meet with them and others in Bible Study, Prayer Meetings and Testimony gatherings.

As we got into the month of April we knew our British forces were heading our way and we began to hear the guns and see the activity of German tanks preparing to resist. Planes were overhead day and night—we watched dive bombers and in a little while fighting was going on in a neighboring village. It did not dawn upon us that fighting would take place round our camp, but such was the case. German tanks were just outside the wire and a self-propelling gun was hidden in the bushes near the football field. Shells began to whistle over our heads. Hastily dug trenches were occupied by many of the men. (There were several thousand in the Camp.) Somehow I could not feel that any harm would come to us. Day and night the guns were booming, but I slept well. “He giveth His beloved sleep.” About midnight on April 27th a Tommy came to the barbed wire (I was sleeping) and made it known that they had taken the Camp. We were FREE!! We could hardly believe it. No one was hurt in our Camp, but some civilians were killed and others wounded in an adjoining Camp. Once again II Cor. I :10.

After our release the next thought was getting to England. On Mat’ 12th we left the Camp and on the 18th we were in London having flown from Luneberg to Brussels (22 hours) and later from Brussels to London (2 hours’). What shall we say of these things? Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy Name.”

One very important factor which I have not forgotten, but have left until the last, that is, your prayers on my behalf. Whatever good was accomplished during internment is only because you prayed. Your prayers held me up, gave me encouragement, corrected me when I became s1ck or failed the Lord. I still need your help in prayer to get me back to the Lord’s work in Kenya and to my dear wife whom I have not seen for over three years. The Lord has graciously supplied the needs for getting me hack. I am waiting for transport.


Yours in the fellowship of the Gospel,

W. J. Guilding.

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