Booty, Looting etc.

Discussion in 'General' started by Ron Goldstein, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    On another thread I asked forum members to solve the mystery of Dave's Japanese Swords and it set me thinking about a facet of warfare that is usually glossed over, namely looting.

    As my thread title suggests, in my experience, it was never referred to as looting, if it was discussed at all it was usually referred to as liberating and I honestly don't think it was ever considered as a crime of any type whatsoever.

    To start the ball rolling, consider this little piece I penned on the BBC WW2 Archives, it starts off with a simple diary entry:

    Wednesday 25th. April 1945
    Moved off at first light. Stopped at casa where Busty fitted out old people with suit. Pulled into new H.Q. area then out again. Finally stopped at factory

    This episode about Busty was a piece of pure ‘black comedy’.

    The squadron was advancing Northward, and in the middle of the night of the 24th we came across a small farmhouse. Busty, Tommy Gun in his hands,very melodramatically kicked open the door of the house then, as no-one was in residence, rummaged through a chest of drawers.

    He found and ‘liberated’ a tweed suit saying ‘this might come in handy later for a bit of swapping’ .

    The next day we were at another farmhouse where the occupants gave us a bottle of vino and Busty promptly gave them the suit he’d ‘liberated’ the previous day. I couldn’t help wondering at the time whether or not at some time in the future farmer A would see farmer B and ask him ‘Where did you get that suit from, I used to have one just like it !’

    Looking back at this event some sixty odd years later I suppose that other folks might have considered this came under the heading of looting. In all honesty,Busty would have hotly denied this and I suppose that as I shared in the bottle of vino I was also an accomplice and I certainly don’t feel guilty of any such crime.

    I now intend to rummage around and find a few other instances that fit the title of the thread, in the meantime I would be interested to hear from others on this subject.

    Ron
     
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  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Then there was this episode:

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/veteran-accounts/15095-%22another-lifes-unsolved-mysteries%22.html#post145721

    By October, our division, the 78th or Battle-Axe Div., was involved in the battle for Termoli, and here I had a rather bizarre experience relating to the evacuation of the town by the local civilians.
    By now my Italian was pretty fluent, if not 100% accurate, and therefore if any discussion with the locals was required I would find myself in demand.

    At this point in time. Termoli had just been taken by our troops and one of the officers had decided that it would be a good idea for a foray into the empty town to see if there was any furniture "going" that would be suitable for the officers' mess.

    I, another gunner and the mess corporal entered this large block of flats and went into the first room that was not locked. It turned out to be a fairly luxurious flat and there on the dining room table was the remnant of the meal that had been so rudely interrupted when we had shelled the town prior to its capture. The mess corporal quickly chose a leather settee as being just what the mess was short of and we picked it up and carried it to the door.

    To our embarrassment, the former occupant of the flat chose that particular moment to return to his home and we promptly put the settee down and prepared to argue the toss. To our utter amusement the owner then said to me, and I promptly translated for the benefit of the others: "Please don't take my furniture, I will gladly help you carry out my neighbour's, as he will not be coming back!"

    Just for the record, shortly after this event the Germans counterattacked and we were temporarily driven out of the town.
     
    What I didn't write then, for whatever reaon, was the fact that before the owner of the flat appeared on the scene my co-helper, who's name I fortunately can no longer remember, produced a jacknife from his pockets and proceeded to cut a painting out of its frame.

    When he saw me looking at him with obvious distaste he said "I send them home to my wife marked as a gift" so he had obviously done this before.

    In some respects by helping to provide the officer's mess with a piece of furniture I was equally guilty of, dare I say the word, looting but I can still remember the bad taste left in my mouth when my fellow gunner cut the picture out of its frame.

    There you go........


    Another memory into print !
     
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  3. definitly not what i would call looting. but not correct as the one former maybe ended up with an black eye.
     
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    April 2003, I entered Basrah Palace with 7th Armoured Brigade to take over occupation from 42 Commando/ 3 Commando Brigade. Many of the rooms within the palaces (There was a few) and out buildings were missing the gold light and electrical socket fittings. The penny then dropped as to why some Royal Marines were seen leaving the complex with half hidden chandeliers in the back of their Land Rovers/BV's.

    RMP's were soon posted on the entrance of the complex to check vehicle contents but it was too late. Much looting was done in Iraq during 2003 by both military and civilians.
     
  5. Fireman

    Fireman Discharged

    Of course it's 'looting' or thieving certainly not 'liberating'!. It was not yours nor where you entitled to it. That has to be the verdict in a court of law or even in the minds of normal people. There are many distastful things that happened during the war that were 'justified' but the bottom line where someone takes something that is not theirs is thieving. That it is called 'looting' is some sort of sop to a criminal act. That it has gone on since time began doesn't change it. Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, was also accused of looting (thieving) a small object from the ruins in Iraq. I thought the accusation was ridiculous as did most people. But what if he had taken it from someones house? Looting, thieving! I suppose it depends in part where the 'object' is taken or found. Incidently I would probably have behaved in exactly the same way as you did so don't go for my throat!!!

    Slightly differently but on the same theme, In thirty years as a Fireman I saw the same attitudes displayed many times. Objects found in a factory fire would perhaps seem fair game but the Police would always have looked at it differently!!!
     
  6. Of course it's 'looting' or thieving certainly not 'liberating'!. It was not yours nor where you entitled to it. That has to be the verdict in a court of law or even in the minds of normal people. There are many distastful things that happened during the war that were 'justified' but the bottom line where someone takes something that is not theirs is thieving. That it is called 'looting' is some sort of sop to a criminal act. That it has gone on since time began doesn't change it. Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, was also accused of looting (thieving) a small object from the ruins in Iraq. I thought the accusation was ridiculous as did most people. But what if he had taken it from someones house? Looting, thieving! I suppose it depends in part where the 'object' is taken or found. Incidently I would probably have behaved in exactly the same way as you did so don't go for my throat!!!

    Slightly differently but on the same theme, In thirty years as a Fireman I saw the same attitudes displayed many times. Objects found in a factory fire would perhaps seem fair game but the Police would always have looked at it differently!!!

    agree
     
  7. blacksnake

    blacksnake As old as I feel.

    I think the phrase that best represents the theme of this thread is... "Spoils of War!".....:unsure:
     
  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  9. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    CL1

    I had a look at your Wikipedia link and noticed this:

    Looting is loosely distinguished from scavenging by the objects taken, scavenging implies taking of essential items such as food, water, shelter, or other material needed for survival while looting implies items of luxury or not necessary for survival such as war trophies, art work, or other valuables
    .

    I find that of interest as it distinguishes between "essentials" & "luxuries".

    The settee for the officers tent that I mentioned might "possibly" be considered as "needed for survival" whilst the picture cut from a frame was most definitely looting.

    I would also like to throw into the pot, although not necessarily as justification, that in the times of which we speak we literally did not know whether or not we would be alive the next day and that, as I once read, certainly used to sharpen up one's mind :)

    Ron
     
  10. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I'm currently reading this:

    [​IMG]

    To The Victor The Spoils - Sean Longden.
    A very interesting and balanced account of the looting, boozing, VD, and general lawlessness that followed Armies (and has no doubt followed all armies since warfare began).
    Focussing on the British & Commonwealth forces, It's not a 'controversial' book, it's just not a mawkish account, and isn't silly enough to compare the actions of the allied individual with the institutional and more formalised 'higher' crimes of the Nazis.

    Send a few million boys off to war, give them weapons and a high likelihood of being killed, and some/many will misbehave, no matter how just their cause, & to believe otherwise is a bit daft.
    It remains respectful to the utmost to the 'citizen soldiers' of WW2, but also rounds off and adds to their story with a decent dollop of honesty regarding some of the 'goings on', something that's often ignored.

    I don't believe being an angel was ever a certain prerequisite for being in the forces, no matter the period.
     
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  11. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Adam

    When ever have time to spare, I turn to my dog-eared copy of "The Autobiography of the British Soldier" by John Lewis Stempel.

    It starts in 1415 at Agincourt and finishes at Afghanistan in 2006.

    All the early wars are full of tales of the looting of dead officers on the battlefield that was very much part of a rank and file soldier's "income" and a piece on the Napoleonic Wars says " the soldier seldom returned without plunder of some sort "

    So, Plunder must be added to list of "what the soldier did"
     
  12. Bernhart

    Bernhart Member

    Flames that destroyed a 98-year-old hotel in Oliver, B.C., have been out for almost a month but a new controversy is raging in the wake of the south Okanagan fire.
    Two members of Oliver's volunteer fire department have been suspended and an RCMP investigation is underway into allegations six kegs of beer were removed from the Mesa Hotel as it was gutted during the May 23rd blaze.
    At least one of the kegs was tapped after all six kegs were moved to the Oliver fire hall in a private truck.
    Oliver Mayor Pat Hampson says he was informed by the fire chief that three members of the fire department admitted to removing the beer.
    Mr. Hampson says the hotel owners have since been paid for the beer but he says the actions amount to a breach of trust because Oliver residents deserve to expect the fire department will safeguard their property.
    He says council won't order any further discipline while the police investigation is underway, but a ban on drinking alcohol in any town building has now been issued.

    i think final result was 2 week suspension for all involved
     
  13. Jen'sHusband

    Jen'sHusband Punchbag

    I'm currently reading this:

    [​IMG]

    To The Victor The Spoils - Sean Longden.

    I simply devoured that book.

    My grandfather was one of the troops involved in the wholesale theft of pretty much everything in Le Harve when it was liberated. He spoke about taking so much money that my grandmother couldn't change it fast enough when he sent it back to the UK. He burned the rest after the war.

    He also spoke about liberating another waterbottle - one for the alcohol they'd found, another for water.

    Yes it's theft and yes it's ultimately wrong but sitting on the sidelines 65 years or so after the event and criticising the actions of young men who's lives where on the line is just not cricket.

    I find the whole moderately seedy 'undergound' world of troops in WW2 totally fascinating but don't for one moment want to appear so sanctimonious as to denounce the very idea. They did what they did because they could. Hell, tomorrow, they could be killed...
     
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  14. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Not all looting, liberation, booty, call it what you will turned out in favour of the would be looters. My father related to me several tales. The one that made us laugh the most was in Best 1944. 5th Camerons went to Best to help 15th Scottish Division. Word soon spread that the BATA Shoe factory was there. Several of the boys decided a new pair of shoes were the order of the day. They entered the factory serching for a fine new pair or pairs of shoes. However, as they searched every area of manufacture they could only find shoes of the left foot variety, not a PAIR of shoes anywhere, all left feet.
    They did do better on a fighting patrol in Best, fighting the Germans in a Factory, they discovered it was a silk factory, they were stuffing silk stockings in their tunics even as they were fighting. No doubt their adversaries were doing the same.!!!
     
  15. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    I think it has to be accepted that Italy was pretty thouroughly turned over by both sides in the war. Huge proportions of the population turning to begging and prositution or dragged off to factories, or up hills to be muleteers/porters... or executed by german troops or just killed inncoently in the crossfire.

    I know of hundreds of incidents of looting. There was an incident reported by the Guards not far off your sofa story Ron, when 2 coldstream asked a local if it was possible to get hold of a pianno for the officers mess... he turned up with a grand piano from a local fascits house (so he said). A trail of pilfering stretched back all the way to Algeris from trieste. You could probably follow them back with orange peel.

    I'm sorry to say that no matter which way you look at it, it is most definitely looting... and its been going on by armies since the dawn of time. Whilst rape and pillaging are at the top of the list, there appears to be a general spectrum of acceptance with some minor forms such as sofa snatching, and opportunistic booze burgling- that to be honest don't seem as bad when you put it in perspective of brutal murders of local populations, mass bombing and artillery bombardments and young teenage girls paid for sex with soap and razor blades. Its all about perspective which a lot of people these days, including myself, honestly don't have.

    After seeing your mates killed, and whole towns like cassino turned to rubble and strewn with corpses, to be fair I don't think anyone can realistically complain on the same level about a suit or a sofa, even if it was on an army scale. Its not as if the locals are going to turn up and and tell the entire mailed fist division to stop, they'd just be told "You and who's army?"

    Fact of the matter was that the locals would be horrendously upset and their lives were shattered by a number of things... if they were alive or ever going to return in the first place. If the worst that happened to him was that his next door neighbour appeared the next day wearing his suit, he was probably one of the lucky ones.
     
  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Phaethon
    are you inferring that the 6th Armoured Division were a thieving lot - if so I must object most strongly as we were the very epitome of angelic behaviour in North Africa - Italy and Austria - looting - raping and pillaging indeed - we left that to Gen Juin's French North African divisions !
    Cheers
     
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Bernhart -
    One of the main problems with the stealing of the six kegs of beer at the Oliver B.C. fire was the facts emerged that the fire house was being used as a drinking hall for the volunteer firemen-before and after the stealing -and their buddies and as a consequence it was more than likely that a fire - somewhere - might be attended to by a bunch of drunks larking about with hoses- when lives were at risk - hence the suspensions and the cease and desist orders from drinking in the Fire Houses !
    The Oliver area is subject to Forest fires which can wipe out the whole town - especially with this weather we are experiencing at this time..so sobriety is called for !
    We have to back that kind of ruling !
    Cheers
     
  18. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Flames that destroyed a 98-year-old hotel in Oliver, B.C., have been out for almost a month but a new controversy is raging in the wake of the south Okanagan fire.
    Two members of Oliver's volunteer fire department have been suspended and an RCMP investigation is underway into allegations six kegs of beer were removed from the Mesa Hotel as it was gutted during the May 23rd blaze.
    At least one of the kegs was tapped after all six kegs were moved to the Oliver fire hall in a private truck.
    Oliver Mayor Pat Hampson says he was informed by the fire chief that three members of the fire department admitted to removing the beer.
    Mr. Hampson says the hotel owners have since been paid for the beer but he says the actions amount to a breach of trust because Oliver residents deserve to expect the fire department will safeguard their property.
    He says council won't order any further discipline while the police investigation is underway, but a ban on drinking alcohol in any town building has now been issued.

    i think final result was 2 week suspension for all involved

    To me, they should have been fired for theft and breach of feduciary duty. It is our obligation to protect the property of any structure we enter.
     
  19. Ropi

    Ropi Biggest retard of all

    I think it is a difference of size... I mean: you take a souvenir at every stop, you take water, food, whatever: it is liberating. If you start emptying the house of all its goods, that is looting.
     
  20. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    Phaethon
    are you inferring that the 6th Armoured Division were a thieving lot - if so I must object most strongly as we were the very epitome of angelic behaviour in North Africa - Italy and Austria - looting - raping and pillaging indeed - we left that to Gen Juin's French North African divisions !
    Cheers

    Don't worry Tom; I wasn't implying at all that the 6th Armoured were anything of the sort. I was just saying that a lot of terrible things went on in the war; the pilfering trail I was reffering to was from the 1st Guards Brigade who arrived in Algeirs with the 78th, ate all the oranges they could find, and then 'aquired' a number of bottles of Vino, a huge amount of cattle, a Piano, quite a few mules, muleteers and porters, a large number of houses, some wirless sets (for the news) and near the PO... a large number of horses (and this is just what I've got up to so far in my research). Some of this was neccisarry... some not quite so, but the character of the Division, or Ron and his freinds was never in question. I don't think these instances were anything to write home about.
     

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