Was my grandad really one of the first into Belsen?

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by Steve hiscox, Feb 1, 2020.

  1. Steve hiscox

    Steve hiscox Member

    IMG-20200205-WA0001.jpg IMG-20200205-WA0002.jpg
     

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  2. Steve hiscox

    Steve hiscox Member

    That's my grandad
    And a postcard sent home inc.what he wrote.
    My dad is posting a photocopy of the map/s
    Can anyone identify if the papers tell what regiment he was in and how it related to belsen.
     
  3. Steve hiscox

    Steve hiscox Member

    Sorry about the postcard text..my brother photographed it in Australia
     
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  4. CL1

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

    it is a Christmas card sent from NW Europe with his best wishes

    unless I am reading it incorrectly it look like he had an accident and was hospitalised

    apply for his full service records and see what you get

    I
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020
  5. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    It is my belief that the first British troops to reach Belsen was a patrol commanded by Lt John Randall 1 SAS of Frankforce. First troops into Belsen were 249 Battery 63rd ATk Regt.
     
  6. CL1

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

    I'm Brian
     
  7. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    First servicemen into Belsen were the Reconnaisance Party led by Brigadier Glyn Hughes RAMC (Reel 2 Williams, William Richard 'Dick' (Oral history)). They were there at the request of the Germans who wanted to declare the area around Belsen a fighting free zone on humanitarian grounds and due to the fact there was an outbreak of typhus. Do you have any references regarding Lt Randall?

    Tim
     
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  8. snailer

    snailer Country Member

    ln the aftermath of war, an astonishing number of men claimed to have been the first Allied soldier into Belsen. It is part of the ‘What did you do in the war, Daddy? syndrome, where otherwise anonymous people saw their chance for 15 minutes of fame.
    Others may have been genuinely sure they were the first. One man who makes the claim says that all the guards had gone, but that was never the case. When Randall and Brown got there, there was still a skeleton SS staff on duty. They were still fully armed and, bizarrely, even managed to shoot the odd prisoner after the arrival of the British.
    John Randall has never contradicted these men because he does not have to and because of the kind of man he is. He is simply stating the facts. ‘The official SAS report from Operation Archway does not mention the camp at all, and the pamphlet produced shortly after by General Miles Dempsey`s Second Army gets it wrong: ‘lt is believed that Brigadier Glyn Hughes, Deputy Director of Medical Services . . . was the first to arrive. The first British
    Unit in was an Anti-Tank Battery of 63 Anti-Tank Regt." lt is probably from this source that the confusion and anomalies arise. Glyn Hughes was indeed there, and his medical work to help the desperate inmates was nothing short of magnificent, but doctors do not spearhead patrols and he could not possibly have been the first man there.
    Sergeant Duncan Ridler, of 1 SAS`s Intelligence Unit turned up in a jeep on the evening of 15 April, but he, like john Tonkin and Reg Seekings, got there after Randall. So did johnny Cooper who was one of several men inoculated against typhoid. Randall and Brown seem to have had no inoculation at all.

    The Last Gentleman of the SAS: A Moving Testimony from the First Allied Officer to Enter Belsen at the End of the Second World War.
    John Randall
     
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  9. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Interesting when you compare it to the testimony of Dick Williams who describes the formation of the Reconnaisance party under Brigadier Hughes and how they entered Belsen under a white flag. Perhaps they had been and gone before Lt Randall turned up.

    Tim
     
  10. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    In the light of Dick Williams testimony this is obviously wrong. Further delving has turned up Wellcome Library | List of British Army, Red Cross, etc., units at Belsen Concentration Camp, May 1945, with an account of achievements in clearing the camp and nursing its inmates, produced for the benefit of newly-arrived British army personnel.
    This states the German delegation turned up on 12 April, the special truce was drawn up on 13 April and 249 Battery arrived on 15 April. Dick Williams states that the Reconnaisance Party with Brigadier Hughes and himself went to Belsen "whilst the negotiations were taking place". I would therefore assume that this Party entered Belsen 12/13 April. It appears this could have been before Lt Randall arrived who probably would not have known about the earlier visit.

    Tim
     
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  11. Steve hiscox

    Steve hiscox Member

    I've just found some papers related to my grandad.
    I'll take a look and see if some of them are related to his war service.
    Wait there.?
    Or there...
     
  12. Steve hiscox

    Steve hiscox Member

    Here's something that you might find interesting
     

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  13. Steve hiscox

    Steve hiscox Member

    And this
     

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  14. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    A personal account of the first troops into Belsen on 15th April here: BBC - WW2 People's War - The Liberation of Belsen Concentration Camp

    The "Lt Sington" mentioned was the O/C of the 14th Amplifier Unit. Their war diary records entering the camp at 15:00 hrs on the 15th April with elements of the 23 Hussars.

    Sington later testified at the Nuremberg trials and married one of the woman prisoners he helped liberate from Belsen.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2020
  15. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    For all who have contributed to this thread (please note, not posted as an entry into the "who was first in" discussion).

    Extract from typed transcript (an old one) written by Doc Patterson of 2 SAS (from his personal papers now held in The Imperial War Museum) My apologies for the poor quality (I'm ashamed to say it was one of those stuffed away and not kept in the condition it deserved, but I had no wish at the time to dwell on the contents). It found its way to me many years ago through a direct route straight from "the horses mouth" so to speak.

    All those that were witness to what was the horror of Belsen carried the mark of same for the rest of their lives.

    Always remember, never forget.

    Kind regards, always,

    Jim.

    Doc Patterson extract 1.jpg

    Doc Patterson extract 2.jpg
    Doc Patterson extract 3.jpg
    Doc Patterson extract 4.jpg

    Doc Patterson extract 5.jpg
     
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  16. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Jim,
    A very interesting narrative. However, in my opinion, the writer is not referring to Belsen.
    On 8 April 4,000 prisoners were loaded into freight cars at Celle for transportation to Belsen. The train was hit by an Allied air strike together with a nearby ammunition train. There were many casualties and many of the prisoners, who tried to escape, were hunted down in what became known as the Celle Hasenjad (Celle Massacre). I think the above narrative is referring to the liberation of the survivors being held in Celle or another nearby concentration camp rather than Belsen.
    Celle massacre - Wikipedia

    Tim
     
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  17. Hi Steve,

    Good luck with your research, a "RABBIT HOLE" of discoveries awaits ! The following page from the imperial war museum has a great segment on the camp and which may hold some information also. I have found that 249 Battery, 63 Anti-Tank Regiment (Oxfordshire Yeomanry), Royal Artillery were the first British Unit to enter Bergen Belsen. So there is a possibility being that he was in the Royal Artillery.

    The Liberation Of Bergen-Belsen

    Best Regards, Damion.
     
  18. Side Note: Bergen-Belsen was also the place where Anne Frank and her Sister Died.
     
  19. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    As so often happens on this Forum I have become distracted. I actually had no interest in Belsen until stimulated by this thread as my interest stemmed from the involvement of 249 Battery who were the successors to the WW1 Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars.
    Whilst it really doesn't matter who was first into Belsen, I have another indication that it was not Lt Randall.
    From the timeline for April 1945 on Timeline Jan - 14 April 1945 which indicates an inspection party on the 13th which wouldtie in with a Recce by Brig Glyn Hughes.
    upload_2020-2-10_21-40-53.png

    As an aside. Winston Churchill had previously been a long serving officer in the QOOH and was in 1944 it's Honorary Colonel. The Regiment had been somewhat sidelined and a plea was made to Churchill for more active duties. Churchill intervened and the Regiment was sent to France in late 1944 - the only Regiment to have been moved on the personal order of the Prime Minister.

    Tim
     
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