Operation Coal Scuttle - Post War Germany

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by Ramiles, Mar 25, 2016.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    In a documentary I recently saw about Hamburg during WW2 there was some interesting (to me) black and white footage re.coal truck convoys and Operation Coal Scuttle. So I took a look for a source and found this:

    A DEFEATED PEOPLE : a film about the government of the British Occupied Zone of Germany
    The problems faced by the military government, both practical and moral, in the British zone of occupied Berlin.
    A DEFEATED PEOPLE : a film about the government of the British Occupied Zone of Germany [Main Title] (CVN 252)

    (Nb I've not often seen films actually to view on the IWM site, perhaps I just haven't looked enough yet ;) and so usually at this point I have to say something like "not currently available to view online" - but in this case it is!!! :) )

    Commentary describes the German defeat, over footage of the damage inflicted upon Berlin and the refugees left over. "The Allied Military Government cannot afford to leave the Germans" and must "prod [them] into getting their house in order." Reconstruction - railways etc. The housing problem; thousands living in deprivation in bombed streets. Krupp mansion, Villa Hügel, in Essen occupied by coal control who have taken over coal distribution on the Ruhr; "Operation Coal Scuttle". Forestry. The Hamburg Central Postal Enquiry Service registering missing persons. Movement and processing of refugees. (Reel 2) Law and order: military government courts; new German Police Force. Health: RAMC and Red Cross. Education: the need to tell the children "that there are other things in life than Nazism and war". Ruins: school, Reichstag - "Berlin still has the aspect of a battlefield". Krupp family singled out for criticism. Demobilisation of Wehrmacht; each soldier interviewed, and Nazis are winkled out and sent "back to the cage". Night-time curfew; people disappear into air-raid shelters. New judges seen being sworn in; children playing; implied vision of a new peaceful Germany.

    There was little more info. I could readily find about "Operation Coalscuttle" (at first) but I see from here: Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction

    It says... "A similar project, ‘Operation Coalscuttle’, was less successful, with around 30,000 former soldiers released to work in the coal mines, far fewer than were needed to restore output to pre-war production levels."
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Re. the film "A Defeated People" on the IWM website: A DEFEATED PEOPLE : a film about the government of the British Occupied Zone of Germany [Main Title] (CVN 252)

    Does anyone happen by the way to have a "best guess" about the unit that the fellow at 6.52mins might be in... I don't know if there is enough from this snapshot picture - or if actually looking at the moving image might be easier?


    All the best,

    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
  3. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96


    thanks for posting.

  4. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member


    Thank you for the link

    Think the coal yard guard is a member of an Infantry Battalion of 53 Welsh Division who were responsible for garrisoning the Ruhr in Spring 1946
  5. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Definitely a film solely of it's time.

    Lovely bit of German train around 9mins in. And very strident "controller" on the tannoy c10mins - was watching the soldiers there as they seemed to loiter along and at the last minute leapt to get on... what were they riding in by the way? Surely not cattle/goods trucks??!

    I wondered if the "Nazi" that they interviewed c15mins in was actually a British soldier co-opted for the role for the camera? Would seem unusual for an actual "event" and surely a "re-construction"? It was quite odd watching the camera, switching ominously between the interviewer and interviewee showing a conversation we could not hear (because silent-film) for what seemed like an age with the music playing almost Disney-esque in the background (bold brass and screeching violin?). And any lip-readers out there??! That bit seemed to go on for an age... Loved the "shinny mac" too! Very "sinister" - - bit of a "give-away"? ;)


    Ps. Don't know much about the various different uniforms of the "Infantry Battalion of 53 Welsh Division" so will look-up! :)
  6. Historic Steve

    Historic Steve Researching 21 Army Group/BAOR post VE day

    Bluebell Minor is spot on but the exact ID is very difficult...from the HQ 1 Corps District Historical Records

    HQ North Rhine Coal Control recorded 19 Jun 45 with change of title by 27 Aug 45 to HQ North German Coal Control with HQ at Villa Hugel near Essen with SEVEN districts in the Ruhr area

    By Aug 46 the Commander was Colonel WPS Curtis OBE with a team of staff officers, however no records on the Jul 47 Order of Battle, assuming the "lone soldier" was at an Essen coalfield have on record for Essen Garrison:

    1st Battalion Manchester Regiment to Oct 45
    7th Battalion Cheshire Regiment Oct 45 to May 46
    76th (Highland) Field Regiment RA from Jul 46
    1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment to Jun 46
    1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders from Jun 46

    Hope this helps
  7. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    From this "New Miners in the Ruhr - Rebuilding the workforce in the Ruhr mines 1945-1958": http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/4376/1/WRAP_THESIS_Roseman_1987.pdf

    It refs. "Operation Coal-scuttle" in August 1945, and: http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/germany-1945-1949-a-case-study-in-post-conflict-reconstruction

    Has "Over a million German soldiers, captured and detained at the end of the war and held in the British zone, were released between June and September 1945 to work on the land and bring in the harvest, in a project named ‘Operation Barleycorn’. A similar project, ‘Operation Coalscuttle’, was less successful, with around 30,000 former soldiers released to work in the coal mines, far fewer than were needed to restore output to pre-war production levels. British army engineers restored much of the transport infrastructure and the economy started to revive, but severe shortages of labour and raw materials meant that production remained at very low levels."

    So I'd put that "bit" of the film, having been made around June-September 1945 perhaps? And while I can't see a definitive date for when various bits of the film at: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060022222

    ...might each have been made, the IWM has the "whole" compiled as - Catalogue number - CVN 252, Production date - 1946 and Place made - GB. Probably comprised from sets of film clips made and used (elsewhere?) prior to this?

    BTW (not in ref to the soldier - but to the voice over artist) - did anyone else notice the "Hartnell, William" listed "as cast" in there by the IWM? (It says Commentator - on the production "card" at around 58seconds in)

    William Hartnell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hartnell


    "Hartnell continued to play comic characters until he was cast in the robust role of Sergeant Ned Fletcher in The Way Ahead (1944).[6] From then on his career was defined by playing mainly policemen, soldiers, and thugs. This typecasting bothered him, for even when cast in comedies he found he was invariably playing the 'heavy'."

    :) A very young Dr.Who?? Or someone impersonating him in commentary (with just the very same name?) perhaps?

    All the best,

  8. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Film actually has a wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Defeated_People

    With: "Footage for A Defeated People was shot in the British Zone of Occupation, covering the north-west of Germany. Filming started in August 1945. The main location chosen for filming was the area in and around the devastated city of Hamburg, with scenes of Cologne, Essen and Aachen also used."

    And a page on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0139148/

    Does say "the" William Harnell too: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0367156/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

  9. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member

    As a lifelong railway enthusiast (brought about in part by the thirty years I lived in Germany by virtue of BAOR postings) I rewatched the railway sequence with considerable interest

    I believe it was filmed in atleast two separate locations with three different locations.

    1.The opening sequence (Eilzug nach Hanover (semi fast train to Hanover)) was shot on the mainline platforms of Hamburg HBF and shows a fairly conventional passenger train of the era formed of veteran ex Prussian State Railways wooden bodied coaching stock (those at the front of the train appear to be non corridor 6 wheelers).

    2. The second and fourth sequences (Eilzug nach Dortmund(semi fast train to Dortmund) was shot on the same platforms and is relevant to Operation Coal Scuttle. The first clip shows passengers clambering into empty coal wagons, the second the train departing from Hamburg HBF. I have in my possession a short history of the Railways of Hamburg published in 1997 by a German Railway Enthusiasts Magazine. This contains a captioned photograph of the same/similar train taken in January 1946. The passengers are clearly seated on wooden benches and the caption includes the comment that empty coal trains provided the only link with the Ruhr at the time.

    3. The third and final sequence does indeed show a train formed from cattle trucks (including a Belgian State Railways owned one (Capital B Iin an oval surround). Don't think the location is Hamburg (Hbf is in a cutting and not withstanding the severely bomb damaged roof would have been in shadow. Also a train to Kiel would not have travelled via Luneburg,(there are two other direct routes), might be Hanover therefore.

    The reason for this eclectic mix of rolling stock was that in addition to the severe damage to the German railway infrastructure mentioned in the film 70% of the rolling stock was unserviceable by virtue of bomb damage or lack of maintenance at the end of the war. It took time to rectify the situation and civilian long distance passenger traffic was given a very low priority in allocating resources.

    Incidentally there was a parallel scheme to OP COAL SCUTTLE within the British Occupation Zone. OP BARLEY CORN was put into place from July 1945 onwards whereby selected Wehrmacht POW with an agricultural background were put to work harvesting the crops and preparing the land for the next.
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  10. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Morgenthau Plan and post-war Germany (BBC radio documentary)
    On Things We Forgot to Remember,Series 8 Episode 2 of 4 (last on Mon 4 Jun 2012): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jgj0p

    Michael Portillo remembers the Morgenthau Plan which aimed to strip post war Germany of its industry and turn it into an agricultural country. It was replaced by the Marshall Plan.

    "Many of us remember the Marshall Plan, the US programme to rebuild post war Europe. Far less is known about the Morganthau Plan (also drawn up in Washington a few years earlier) which aimed, amongst other things, to destroy German industry after the country had surrendered. Winston Churchill also signed up to the plan which would turn Germany into an agrarian "pastoral" society, unable to manufacture the machinery of warfare in the future. Michael Portillo examines the Morganthau Plan and discovers it was in fact drafted by a Soviet agent working high up in the US Administration. He considers the implications of this, looks at how far the plan was implemented and asks why we have forgotten to remember it."

    (And discusses too the film "A Defeated People" mentioned in posts above).
  11. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Found this recently in Hansard (HL Deb 17 October 1945 vol 137 cc321-53): GERMANY'S INDUSTRIAL RESOURCES. (Hansard, 17 October 1945)

    Showing a lot of detail on the problems and suggested solutions there, with mention i.e of the "Operation Coal Scuttle"

    "The men who were managing the mines under the Allied Control Commission struck me as men not only of great ability but of immense devotion to their task. What are their difficulties? Of course the first difficulty is man-power. I can only give over-all figures, but I believe that the labour force of 350,000 before the war in 1938 had been raised by the Germans in 1944, with the addition of slave labour, to about 380,000. That does not mean that there were only 30,000 slave workers, because you have to take into account wastage of workers due to old age and so on. The Germans did, however, get to that peak figure of 380,000. It is now, I think, although. I forget the exact number, in the neighbourhood of 220,000. Of course, when you talk about production you have to think of the age of the workers. Certainly they are all six years older than normally, as all the men under thirty were put into the Army. The one thing I noticed about the workers was that they were elderly men, men too old for that job. But everything possible is being done. Soldiers have an amusing way of inventing names and they have what they call an "Operation Coal Scuttle" going round trying to find Germans capable of going into the mines.

    Somebody gave me a letter which had been written to a German who, I suppose, would be '.equivalent to a county councillor in this country. The letter was not intended for our eyes but had fallen into our hands by accident. It was a letter explaining the point of view of the miners in this Ruhr mine and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to read an extract from it. It was written in June and the writer said: 338The miner himself knows best the need for coal prevailing at present and in the future, and he might be looked on as absolutely willing to do his important job. Nobody knows better than himself that only work and work again will lead him out of the dark future he looks into. That was written by a German miner about his job, and was not intended for our eyes or for recitation in your Lordships' House. What sort of difficulties face the management of the mines? Because, although the board of directors has gone, the technical management is there, I made inquiries of Germans, one of whom spoke excellent English. I have said that one difficulty is man-power but, having got the men, what other obstacles do the. management find? One curious obstacle is brought about by the presence of an enormous number of displaced persons. The average worker is afraid that when he is down the mine some displaced person will steal things from his home or do worse things to his family and home. Then there is the difficulty of getting men to the mines. I heard of miners who had to walk 10 kilometres. That is a long way to walk to work on inadequate food." etc.

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
  12. CL1

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

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