Alojzy [George] Juhlke (1925–2007)

Alojzy Juhlke was one of many millions of East Europeans whose lives were changed utterly by the Second World War. He was born at Tuchola near Bydgoszcz in Poland, the son of a farmer, and expected to train as a carpenter, but at the age of about seventeen was conscripted as a slave labourer by the German invaders, and sent to Sweinmunde (Swinoujscie) where, with thousands of others, he shovelled sand to create camouflage for the rocket research establishment at Peenemunde.

He escaped during the confusion after the site was bombed and made his way across Europe, passing through Lille and Gibraltar en route to England. He trained as a tank driver in the First Polish Armoured Division, with whom he fought in Normandy, where he received a severe knee injury in the fighting around Caen. After recovering in hospital he served as a tank driver on a firing range near Fraserburgh in north-east Scotland, and after demobilisation trained as a miner at Oakdale in South Wales.

He married a Welsh woman, the daughter of a miner, in 1950. He worked for eleven years in the Crumlin Navigation Colliery, and subsequently at the Nine Mile Point and Oakdale pits, until 1969 when, after a hernia injury, he left to work for a company making brake linings for motor vehicles.

He returned many times to Poland, but had made his home in Wales. He nevertheless enjoyed the advances in technology that made it possible for him to view Polish television in Oakdale. An account of his life is retained at the Big Pit mining museum.