I would not have missed my time here for anything
HEINRICH Steinmeyer, the German who has bequeathed his house to benefit the elderly of Comrie, was in the village on Monday to meet old friends and take a tour round Cultybraggan Camp.
The former POW was visiting the village courtesy of German newspaper Bild, which has been impressed by the friendship that has sprung up between the people of Comrie and the former World War Two Panzer grenadier.
The paper’s London correspondent Philipp Hedemann, who accompanied Heinrich on his trip, told the Herald: “People who were fighting against each other in WWII became close friends.
“The fact that Heinrich Steinmeyer wants to pass on his belongings to the village shows just how well he has been treated by the people of Comrie and how much he wants to thank them.
“Mr Steinmeyer is now 84 years old. We brought him to Scotland to give him the chance to meet old friends and those who will benefit from his generosity. It might be his last trip to Scotland.”
And, Mr Steinmeyer was overwhelmed with the warmth of welcome he received, first at a reception for him in the Royal Hotel library, where he was presented with a booklet on the history of Cultybraggan, and later when he visited Dalginross House care home and the Servite sheltered housing complex.
One of Comrie’s oldest life-long residents, Jenny Macgregor, remembers clearly the day Mr Steinmeyer and his fellow German soldiers arrived.
She said: “They came into the station on a Sunday at about 12.30pm and were marched up Drummond Street and Dalginross.
“What enthralled me was their marvellous singing. They sang as they marched up the road.
“I don’t know what they were singing – songs about us, no doubt.
“They were very disciplined and smart and held their heads high as if they still thought they had a chance of winning the war. Most of them were very young.”
Coincidentally, holidaymakers Camilla and Gordon Garment were also revisiting Comrie on Monday and were amazed to come across the gathering in the hotel.
The brother and sister spent their childhood in the village after their father deemed Scotland to be a safer place for them than their home in the south of England following the Battle of Britain.
Camilla said: “We had a wonderful time in Comrie, despite the war.”
The siblings also remembered the day the POWs arrived. Gordon said: “I was probably one of the ones that ran down the street shouting things at them as they passed.”
Maps of the camp were then pored over, with Mr Steinmeyer identifying immediately where he had been lodged behind the wire.
He told the Herald he was excited but not nervous at the prospect of seeing the camp again and once there described how there were up to 100 prisoners in each of the large huts, which were surrounded by barbed wire.
Despite their confinement, the men were comfortable and had access outside. Inside, there were plenty of stoves to keep them warm.
He loved to gaze up at Ben Halton and what he called “the black hills”.
“It’s a lifetime since I was here,” he said, “but it hasn’t changed. The countryside is still as lovely as ever. People were very kind to us all over Scotland after the war.
“There was no antagonism towards me. They had no resentment. They just said ‘you had to fight and we had to fight’.
“Scotland has always been in my mind. I would not have missed my time here for anything.”