April 26, 1942, was a day of anticipation and relief for the Allied prisoners of war at Stalag IX-C in the central German town of Bad Sulza. It was relatively early in World War II, and the POWs had no reason to believe they would be released anytime soon. They lived a squalid, crowded exis- tence and were emaciated from meager ations of cabbage soup and hard bread. But that Sunday marked a rare occasion for smiles: The inmates—who came from any nations, including Poland, Belgium, and France—had been given permission to put on a concert, complete with a stage, sets, costumes, and lights. Dubbed Strike up the Band, the evening gala featured sets by a rag-tag orchestra by the name of Jimmy Culley and the Stalagians, and a smaller jazz quartet billed as the Four Bilge Brothers.
Guitars often help their
owners get through tough
times, but few have seen
times as tough as those
faced by British Royal Air
Force pilot and
war Alf Binnie
and his 1940s
BY CRAIG HAVIGHURST
PHOTOS BY BRENDA AHEARN
Above: Alf Binnie’s archtop features a rich
antique burst finish and a pearloid pickguard.
Left: Alf in a photo taken of his POW camp
band, Jimmy Culley and the Stalagians.