Booty, Looting etc.

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

  1. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I can say quite openly that we never looted anything...From anyone, or any place.

    As to rifling through dead mens pockets? Unheard of in my own Company, or come to that any other Regi or Corps. has anyone here come into contact with men killed in action?...... The last thing anyone wants to do is go near them...What sort of Ghouls do you think we were??? Its also a very odd idea that British Army discipline would allow men to go round robbing the dead. Our feet would not have touched the ground.....
    Let me recount this true story, for it illustrates the situation very well indeed.

    We came to a farm outhouse, this was one of those typical Normandy outhouses where they kept the great cider barrels up on racks at the back, and on the cobble stone floor. Spread-eagled on the cobbled floor, was a dead German officer, resplendent in full uniform with sword and Nazi dagger, his medals pinned on his chest, including the iron cross. Knowing the Germans and their dirty tricks, we were only too aware that moving him would set off a booby trap of some description. Spud and I talked about "making him safe" by putting a rope round his feet, and giving him a pull from a safe distance, to set off the very loud bang we knew would follow, in the end we decided against it, some else could do it, it would be far to messy.
  2. arkrite

    arkrite Senior Member

    I recall seeing a documentary of an ex British soldier returning to a port in Norway. During a commando raid he and his friend had hidden in a house all decked out for Christmas, not knowing the family were hiding beneath them. He took from the table a small item then returned to his ship. Guilt of the theft stayed with him for many years and the program ended with him, an old man, trying to return what he had stolen. The same family still lived in the house, one lady being a child at the time remembered the sound of his boots. They had noticed the missing item but had not considered it theft. More a lucky keep sake needed by a soldier in danger and far from home. They made him keep it.

    At the other end of the scale Looting and Robbery escalated during the war on the home front due to a shortage of Police. We all know of people who are light fingered and to some stealing is a way of life. These people do not change their habits just because they don a uniform. With mass enlistment theives entered all of the Services while others discovered they had the gift for it. In fact I think if you dig around you may find some of these ner'do wells used their skills for good.
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Just to add, I'm surprised no one has mentioned Gurkha's collecting ears from the men they killed, I guess that is a kind of theft.

    Taking items from the dead has gone on for centuries (As Di has already mentioned) and still goes on today I would assume as it was happening in Iraq in 2003. I recall the sale of many items taking place with rear ech American units coming through the outskirts of Basrah wanting souvenirs to take home.

    A good friend of mine who was in the first gulf war told me quite a few stories on my first tour about what they did to the dead on the 'highway to hell' from Kuwait. Many acts involved giving them cigarettes, hugs and cuddles and sun glasses. I stongly suspect the same happened in the Falklands. Why would WW2 or in more recent times, Afghanistan be any different?
  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I have to say that we were a very proud company. Looting was not one of our pastimes. The very idea of disrespect for the dead by rifling their pockets is utterly abhorrent. and repugnant. We did not indulge in such behaviour.

    Arms found on the field of battle that took your fancy? It was quite amazing how much was left lying about.

    Spud and myself actually found a King Tiger, brand new, in a wood in Belgium. Can you imagine.... Can I bring my tiger tank home?

  5. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Dont know if any ones mentioned the offficial looters..hhavent read all of thread yet...T Force same author of to the victor the spoils..better known as Target Force in 1945..Some familiar names there..Wreford Brown..Flemming and good old where sdid he get to...Brian Urquhart of Arnhem intelligence fame..Add some Royal Marines..some hospital and shell shock cases..ignore the Craer stop order and we have an elite British firm of official looters..
  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Regarding riffling of houses,it was quite common for people in occupied countries to find their houses ransacked after they had been hauled in for questioning by the Gestapo.In fact it appeared to be one of the considered perks of the Gestapo.It did not matter if the householders were proved innocent or not,the Gestapo and its affiliates,such as the Milice would take as much goods and food as they could carry off.

    Incidentally as Brian has said,riffling of enemy dead always carried the risk of the booby trap, a question of catching out the the avarice off guard.
  7. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Very often we found that as we advanced the enemy had spitefully dragged everything out of the houses into the streets. Arm chairs, bedding strewn about...God knows they had little enough in those Norman Villages.

    We often got blamed for this as we were first on the scene.
  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    18th century pistol taken from Italian museum is returned 66 years later after deathbed wish of British soldier with 'troubled conscience' | Mail Online

    18th century pistol taken from Italian museum is returned 66 years later after deathbed wish of British soldier with 'troubled conscience'

    A 250-year-old antique pistol taken from an Italian museum by a British squaddie as a souvenir during World War II has finally been returned, fulfilling the old soldier's death bed wish.

    Sgt Stanley Parry had served with the Eighth Army and had been involved in the Allied push up through Italy, having also seen combat in North Africa.

    At the end of the Second World War while on his way back to Britain across the English Channel he noticed a fellow soldier about to throw the 18th Century ornately decorated pistol into the sea, stopped him just in time and put it in his rucksack.

    With its coral and silver bodywork the pistol, which is valued today at £15,000, had been too much of a temptation for the solider and he had stolen it from the Stibbert Musuem in Florence in 1944 which had been the British Army HQ at the time.

    A report at the time from the museum's superintendent revealed: 'The billeting of hundreds of soldiers within the building, who used it for sleeping, eating, washing and shaving caused all sorts of damage.

    'They roamed the entire museum, resting their kit bags and their weapons everywhere and at the same time they amused themselves by posing with the exhibits of armour, including helmets, shields all ripped from the walls.

    'They threw mattresses down on the floor wherever they liked and emptied the display cabinets with many of the artifacts now being missing and unaccounted.'

    The report added how among the missing items was an '18th century coral and silver Turkish flintlock pistol that had been attached to a figure, which is still there.'

    Museum officials appealed to British authorities for helping in tracing the gun but had no success until out of the blue they received a phone call from the Italian Embassy in London telling them the pistol had been found.

    Mr Parry had taken it to his home at Holywell and it remained there for 66 years, at times playing at his conscience as he knew it should be returned but he never got around to doing it - until his daughter June Cooke completed the mission.

    He had asked her to return the pistol and after she got in touch with the Italian Embassy in London a unit of carabinieri police stationed there and specialised in antiques arranged for its safe return.

    Mrs Cooke was flown to Italy specially for the handing over ceremony which took place almost 66 years to the day since the last British solider left the Stibbert Museum.

    Mrs Cooke said: 'Dad always wanted the gun to be returned and it was his last wish that it should be.

    'I don't really know why it took so long to get it returned it's one of those things that happen in life.

    'We actually went over in 1962 to explain what happened but didn't really get very far but it's come full circle know and it's back where it belongs.

    'Dad just said he was on a ship coming back at the end of the war when he saw this soldier about to throw the gun in the sea and he shouted "no way it's too nice" and he kept it.

    'Dad said he always wanted to give it back but he was also keen for the museum to know that he didn't steal it and that was made clear to them.

    'The family is just glad it's now all completed and we did what he asked.'

    Cristina Piacenti, the director of the museum, said: 'We are delighted to finally have this exhibit back after 66 years and can't thank the Parry family enough.

    'It's a fascinating story and we were amazed when we got a call earlier this year from the embassy in London telling us they had recovered the pistol.

    'Mr Parry had saved the pistol just as it was about to be thrown into the sea by another solider and he kept it with him all this time. He never returned it but his daughter carried out his final request on his behalf.'

    Mrs Piacenti added: 'From what I understand Mr Parry died last year and the fact the gun was not returned had been troubling his conscience and he asked his daughter to arrange for its safe return.

    'I have no idea why it took 66 years - I suppose he may have felt worried at reporting it was stolen and he may have got into trouble so he waited until he was close to death before revealing all.'

    Mrs Piacenti went on: 'In fact we have several items still missing from when the museum was used as a headquarters by the British and we would appeal for anyone else who has artefacts to return them.'

    The museum is dedicated to Frederick Stibbert, a Cambridge educated Englishmen who was born in Florence and contains more than 30,000 pieces from armour to porcelain to furniture from Europe and the Middle East.
  9. gliderrider

    gliderrider Senior Member

    Im not sure if its looting or spoils of war, but i know of a Tankie who landed on D-Day who said he came home a lot richer than when he landed, and well as he said he found it in a German half-track,so had no idea who the owner was, but they were antiques which he sold and they set him up in civvy street.

    Were the Germans who got the supply drops at Arnhem looters, after all was not their stuff, its a fine line we draw when trying to put a tag on what men do.

    After 15 years in the Army, id say soldiers are/were the finest thieves or pick-up men going,all as long as its not their mates stuff. :D
    dbf likes this.
  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Regarding loot and the reaction of the opposite side,I have revisited research into the activities of the various Jedburgh teams operating in central Finistere,an area I know quite well.The wartime memorials on the main roads now are situated in quiet laybys,a consequence of the upgrading of the road network.The width and winding of the former main roads gives a good idea of the difficulty there must have been in making progress on such roads and the ideal situations available for the mounting of ambushes.

    This is an extract from the report made out by Capt BMW Knox who led the Jedburgh team,Giles in and around Chateauneuf du Faou during July 8-September 9 1944.Their role was to organise the Maquis and FFI, arrange DZs for delivering arms and equipment for the various groups.They were the huntered and the hunters and had continual engagements with German troops who tried to search them out and outwit them.

    Consequently a number of German prisoners fell into their hands.

    The Giles team consisted of Capt BMW Knox (US).Capt Paul Lebel (France) and Sgt Gordon H Tack (Wireless Operator.Great Britain)

    An extract of Knox's report reads as follows:


    In the course of these attacks a considerable number of prisoners were taken.Capt Knox together with Legal interrogated them. (Yues Legal the chief of the central Finistere Maquis who Knox spoke very highly of as a young man of great ability,courage and future).They were all from the 2nd Paratroop Division,and all of them Hitlerites to a man.They admitted to the atrocities they had committed,refused to believe that the Americans had taken Rennes,refused to discuss the Hitler regime and refused to explain why they had French jewelry,money and identity cards on them.They were all very young,(one of the worse was only 17) and they were subsequently shot by the FFI.Even if we had wished to prevent this shooting,we would have been powerless-these men had burnt farms and farmers with their wives and children all the way along the main road.(That would be the main road beween Chateauneuf du Faou and Pleyben).
  11. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    I see that this thread has widened it's scope a little to include the treatment of prisoners, in this case, by the FFI in France.

    I am minded of the only time I was witness to seeing a German prisoner who had been captured by the Italian partisans and who was still in their hands as the war came to it's close in the extreme North.

    The thread is here: and I had just replied to my good friend Peter G, who must surely be the only forum member who was actually there, on the spot, in those terrible times. I reproduce my comment below.


    Thanks for that excellent piece on the Italian forces in general and the partisans in particular.

    With regard to the latter, I remembered writing on the BBC site about my first meeting with these immensely brave men and I reproduce the relevant section here:

    Monday 14th. May 1945
    Moved off at 8 am. Stopped for night just North of Udine at small village that had been bombed by us. Partisans swarmed all over the place, one with Robin Hood beard.

    The Partisans were something new in my experience. In my estimation these were genuine heroes, to have been captured by the Germans would have meant certain death for themselves and probably their families. Without exception they were all bearded and dressed in the most motley of clothing. They were armed with mainly captured German weapons and at this point in their lives they were living a dream come true. We saw one small group who had recently captured a German soldier. They were pushing him along in front of them to lord knows where. The soldier was grey in face as if he knew what fate awaited him and no one in our party made the slightest move to ask them what was going on.
  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


    I see that this thread has widened it's scope a little to include the treatment of prisoners, in this case, by the FFI in France.

    :unsure: Has it Ron? I thought Harry was referencing how those German soldiers were robbing and then killing their victims, and how as a result, (quite understandably in my opinion) they received summary justice.
  13. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    I was merely referencing the the incident when Allied groups captured Germans in central Finistere who had carried out atrocities against French civilians and were caught with their possessions,namely jewellery,money and identification cards.Now it was one thing to take the enemy's possessions whether they be civilian or military and be caught with them in one's possession.The other is that victors are untouched but the captured are usually held to account either rationally or not, for items found in their possession.

    It was well known that Germans took exception to personal weapons such as Lugers found on Allied POWs,the same question would also be asked by Allied personnel of how personal weapons such as Stens were found on German POWs.The question always in the minds of those who captured such people as being,"what were the circumstances in which you obtained these items",sometimes from a rational approach,sometimes not.
  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    :unsure: Has it Ron? I thought Harry was referencing how those German soldiers were robbing and then killing their victims, and how as a result, (quite understandably in my opinion) they received summary justice.

    I was merely stating that the thread had appeared to broaden it's scope but I am now equally surprised that you appear to take objection to my completely harmless & innocuous statement, viz.
    I see that this thread has widened it's scope a little to include the treatment of prisoners, in this case, by the FFI in France.

    I would have thought by now that my respect and admiration for the Maquis and Partisans in general have been well enough aired on this forum that I shouldn't have to defend myself against implied innuendos


    Your original response re events in the Finistere region were, as always, crystal clear and as someone who was never involved in that theater of war, of much interest


  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Gosh Ron,
    I was simply wondering what your post about partisans had to had to do with booty and looting.
  16. mickykay

    mickykay Junior Member

    My father who was in the 6th Guards Armoured Brigade told me about a time when they moved from Brest to outside Liege in belguim, one day an officer asked if he and 3 other guardsmen would like to go into Liege, they were to report to the officers mess, when they turned up they were told to load a number of crates onto the lorry, Liege was in the american controlled sector, when they arrived they carried the crates into a building, there were American officers there, my father said the crates were opened and were full of engraved antique shotguns and nazi swords, he waited outside with the guardsmen and an officer came out and gave them some belgian francs and told them to have a couple of hours in the city, what annoyed my father was a couple of months before they had a large collection of beautifully engraved swords and were told to destroy them by the officers, later they were told they could keep one each but by then they never got anymore, my father got two metal toy tanks which he planned to bring back but as he had to keep them on the outside of the tank they got lost, he did bring home a lovely tablecloth and a jug and a pair of clogs and some german military items, he said most of the stuff he couldnt carry home
  17. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Old Hickory says that looting was quite common once they crossed the Rhine. To quote him, "that was one of the benefits of being the first one there." With him being in Recon, that was quite often. He said that in France and the Low Countries, they didn't touch anything, but Germany was different. He said they generally didn't take things much beyond food and liquid refreshments and he said that they didn't go purposefully damaging houses they entered or requisitioned.

    He tells me story of one day while he was a short leave in late October or early November in Holland. He had a family in Heerlen he visited with regularly and he remained good friends with them after the war. Anyway, he was on a short R&R and the people on the street where "his family" lived were having some sort of block part (for lack of a better word) and had invited Old Hickory and some of his friends to join them. It was mentioned that no one had any meat to go with all the fixings, so Old Hickory and a pal set out to change that. He and one other soldier drove several miles back into Germany to a chicken farm and took about a dozen chickens from a farm there at gunpoint. The owner protested briefly, but the carbine that Old Hickory carried changed minds. He says he knows it was stealing, but in his mind considering what had been stolen from the Dutch, it didn't really bother him then, nor does it bother him now.
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  19. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    On the subject of "helping oneself", my grandfather told various stories of his time in NW Europe in late '44 to mid '45.

    One involved being billeted in some sort of Schloss where, it was discovered, there was an intact wine cellar, as well as some very nice glasses. The wine (I'm sure not all of it) was duly drunk from the glasses. And the glasses were duly thrown into the fireplace - "Russian style" - after each round.

    After the war, my grandfather developed an interest in antiques (he even had a small shop at one point in Dundee). He was mortified to discover that the glasses he and his mates had smashed were (or rather would have been) very valuable!

    Another story is that, shortly after the end of the war, several servicemen got stopped carrying "stolen goods" going through some sort of checkpoint and got into hot water but granddad - who had his "fair share" - was in a taxi and was waved through!
  20. piaf

    piaf Member

    During WW1 my uncle 'took' a small metal crucifix from a ruined church in France, he gave this to his Mother on his next home leave.
    After her son was killed in 1917 my Grandmother had the crucifix mounted onto to a wooden cross which then sat on top of a wooden box in which she kept silver threepenny bits which she would give to us her Grandchildren if we had been good.
    I now have this in my possesion and it brings back cherished memories, not just of my Grandmother but also the remembrance of a young man who has no known grave in Paschendaele

Share This Page