Help needed - British units at liberation of Belsen?

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by divebomber35, May 21, 2009.

  1. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    The Lt. Col. Bob Daniels interview - or another version of it - from the above clip, featured in a BBC documentary on the 50th anniversary of the liberation in 1995. If you can bear to watch it, he appears to be almost in a trance. He neither looks at camera nor interviewer and appears to be almost reliving he experience as he speaks. I've interviewed perhaps thousands of people, maybe hundreds of old soldiers but I've never seen that sort of recollection. I'm sceptical by nature and by experience but I can't usually get to the end of that interview as it horrifies me so much. Nothing moves me to rage so easily as those who casually claim that the holocaust is exaggerated or some sort of propaganda invention.
  2. JulieAnne

    JulieAnne Junior Member

    Hello, my Uncle was in the 113th British Royal Artillery LA during WWII. It was not until my Mother's death that we found a diary written by my Uncle that she had kept all these years in a box with various memorabilia. He left England in 1944. His journey takes him through France, Holland and then into Germany with orders to go to Arnhem to defend the bridge. The diary concludes with the liberation of Belsen and his 23 hour journey to the camp where he remained for five weeks.
    It is no wonder that he never spoke of his experiences to us his family but we have now published his journal exactly as it was written 67 years ago. If you want to know more, then the diary can be found on iBooks.
  3. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    British combat camerman, Sergeant (Sgt) Colman Michael (Mike) Lewis, Army Film Unit, uses a De Vry camera to film a group of women at Belsen.

    Sgt Lewis originally served with the Royal Fusiliers, then the Queen's Royal Regiment, and later trained as a parachutist. He joined the Airborne Section of the Army Film Unit, filming in Arnhem and at the liberation of Belsen.

    Near Hanover, Germany. 17 April 1945. A British soldier talking to an emaciated Louis Bonerguer, an Englishman who was dropped into Germany by parachute in 1941 to gather information for the British. He was caught and interned at Belsen concentration camp. Imperial War Museum photograph BU4002. (Donor R. Wells)

    An informal group portrait of soldiers of the Welsh Guards who liberated the Belsen concentration camp on 15 April 1945. All are unidentified except for an Australian official war artist, VX93880 Lieutenant (Lt) Alan Moore (front row, second from the left wearing a beret). Lt Moore was briefly attached to this British unit during his war time service with the Australian Army.
  4. AMO65

    AMO65 Junior Member

    The 11th Armoured Division, known as The Black Bull i know because my Granddad was one of the soldiers
  5. ossura

    ossura Member

    Hi All

    I am searching for information on my grandfather A/Capt Christopher Slade.

    According to his service records, Christopher ‘disembarked North East Europe’ on D-Day with 225 Company Pioneer Corp 21 Army Group and was moved to 71 Company Pioneer Corp, then 229 Detachment Military Government.

    The 225 Company diary provided by the Royal Pioneer Corp notes that (then Lt) Slade and his party landed at Mike Green beach west of Courcelles Sur Mer at H + 6 hours.

    6 sections of the company were moved to Belsen in May 1945. Christopher was then part of the British Army of the Rhine and part of the 618 Military Government ‘R’ Detachment.

    Christopher was at Belsen until around June 1946, and was awarded a papal medal by the Vatical Mission at Belsen in March1946. While at Belsen he met Marlene Dietrich in relation to Marlene’s sister Elizabeth.

    All comments appreciated!
  6. Omegaman

    Omegaman Member

    RAF Regiment 2827 was in the first group to get to Belsen. My father was in the regiment and he told me what happened and what they saw - and did.

    He said that a small detachment of 2827 arrived with an army unit and they took the camp and held it until support arrived later. He spoke little about what they saw but did recall the absolute horror, which is graphically described elsewhere. He said that SS soldiers were killing prisoners and that there was some summary justice as a result.

    There are other accounts from Regiment members at the time, I have seen references to that regiment as being viewed as "shock troops", they were in the front line a lot of the time and were the first RAF to set foot in Germany. 2827 took Kiel aerodrome, and were at Kastrup, Luneburg and many other locations thoughout Schleswig-Holstein.

    1 Flight were attached to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry for a period
  7. anobium

    anobium New Member

    Sorry to barge in on this topic but came across it whilst doing some research on my family.
    My late uncle who very rarely spoke about his time during WW11 did let slip that he was one of the first to enter Belsen.
    He was in the Pioneer Corp.
  8. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Hello and welcome to the Forum.

    If you are researching, perhaps trying to obtain the Service records of your late Uncle will help answer a few question, but as with all Research, perhaps create further questions to be answered.

  9. snailer

    snailer Country Member

    Just read through this and other threads on Belsen’s liberation and I’m expecting Uncle Tom Cobleigh to pop up and give a “one of the first” testimony very soon.
    BrianM59 likes this.
  10. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Snailer, I suppose as Belsen has imprinted itself so graphically on the public consciousness and is ingrained in memory so deeply, that it's inevitable many would 'remember' it. My experience would tend towards the opinion that lots of 'remembering' is in fact reconstruction. As I recall (and it is only that) my father saw the newsreels as many soldiers stationed in Germany at the time did. His unit was never stationed nearer than a couple of hours from Bergen-Belsen, but the images of those now infamous newsreels were obviously powerful enough for him to remember them. He never claimed to have been there but when the newsreels were shown on TV, he would say, "I remember that". People will always want to be associated with something momentous, even if it is terrible at the same time and the way that history is presented to us, particularly in a media age, as a bag of goodies to choose from, doesn't help. Interesting point.
  11. Quis Separabit

    Quis Separabit Junior Member Patron

    With the 75th Anniversarty of the Liberation of Auschwitz and a range of documentaries relating to the Holocaust and camps, I have taken another look in to my Dad's own (brief and late in life) recollections about what he witnessed with 9th Infantry Brigade/2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles in their advance through North West Germany.

    The short (and only) version was that, on their push forward, they stumbled across a camp with starving and dead people. They were told that the Red Cross were only 3 days behind and that orders were that they were not to delay and maintain their push forward. So they simply cut open the gates and left the prisoners to their own devices, leaving behind only what little rations and chocolate they could gather up from the men for them to eat.

    It clearly weighed very heavily on him and over time either the story (or assumption) was that it was Belsen, which I now know was circa 90 miles to the East of where his unit were advancing.

    I had therefore put it down to a "false memory" and or "collective memory" of what the British forces had witnessed until I discovered that whilst most people have heard about the "big name" concentration camps, few are aware that there were also hundreds (and potentially thousands) of other smaller satellite camps where the same/similar atrocities were borne out.

    Major Nazi camps in Greater Germany, 1944


    and when I look closer I can see that there were several camps en route between Lingen and Bremen (to the West of Belsen) where they were advancing during April 1945 and so it more than possible that he encountered one of these along the way.....

    In short, I'm sure that large numbers of troops advancing through Germany will have witnessed their own versions of "Belsen" from one or more of the hundreds of satellite camps and, even if it wasn't Belsen itself, I'm sure that the experience will have been just as harrowing.

    So probably best not to, as I had initially, dismiss any/all recollections as "false" or "collective" memories, even if they do emanate from Uncle Tom.....

    EdSav, Chris C, stolpi and 1 other person like this.
  12. snailer

    snailer Country Member

    Yes there were many camps and lots of servicemen saw the horrors inside them at some point, but that wasn’t the point I was trying to make.
    If you look through this thread and others on the same subject you will see the phrase “one of the first” crops up quite regularly and it seems to be unique to this subject, you don’t see many “one of the first on the ships at Dunkirk” or “one of the first off the landing craft on D Day” or “one of the first out of the plane / to hit the ground, at Market Garden”.
    To me it seems that either these men, or more likely their relatives aren’t satisfied with them going to Belsen at some point or even “liberating” it as they put it, but they had to go one better and describe them as “one of the first”.
    Owen likes this.
  13. CL1

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

    Mostly we get people on the forum stating their relative was the first one into Belsen along with half million other British troops family memory.
    Owen likes this.
  14. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    23rd Hussars War Diary:

    April, 1945 - Germany

    29th Armoured Brigade remained in position whilst 159th Infantry Brigade Group completed bridging over the River Leine and cleared to River Aller.

    23rd Hussar Group moved over the River Leine at 2345 and into area 2649 whilst the bridgehead was being formed north of Essel, 2957. At this time a German Deputation vainly attempted to negotiate for a Neutral Zone north of the river Aller to include Belsen.

    At 08.30 hours 23rd Hussar Group moved over the River Aller and turned west to Winsen, 4755. As 15th/19th group took all day to clear this place, 23rd Hussar Group leaguered at 3157.

    At 08.00 hours. 23rd Hussar Group moved through Winsen, turning north, "B" Squadron leading. Some Bazooka and machine gun opposition was met north of Winsen in 4758, but this rapidly cleared and the enemy dispersed by setting fire to the wood. North of Walle, 4862 there were notices in English declaring the Belsen area to be typhus infected and to be a Neutral Zone. This was observed without incident and we passed the camp at great speed, little knowing what horrors it concealed. At about 14.00 hours "A" Squadron Group which had moved via 5186, passed through "B" Squadron Group which had established itself in Bergen, 5070 without incident. 1/100,000 Sheet M4.

    Sgt William F. Gray, B Sqr, 23rd Hussars:

    "Two or three days later we were halted and informed that there was a 24 hour truce and we had to remain where we were. I later learned that a camp full of Jewish prisoners was nearby. This was the notorious camp called Belsen. We were actually the first tank to reach the white ribbon that stretched across the road. Somehow I thought this was a ruse and it allowed many high ranking officers to escape. On passing through the village I often wondered how the villagers could deny knowledge of its presence. I could see and smell the emaciated prisoners clinging to the wire fence as we passed through."
  15. Matt71

    Matt71 Member

    Holy thread resurrection batman. As already mentioned this "first into Belsen" thing is getting a bit like "I was on the embassy balcony". But I do have an input as such.

    I came across this website Bergen-Belsen and it's got lots of info that people might find interesting.

    Apparently my Grandfather (58th LAA Regt RA) didn't talk about the war because of what he saw at Belsen. I will never claim he was first in simply because I cannot find the evidence to support such a claim.

    According to Patrick Delaforce in his book The Black Bull on page 235 he states that "Maj Charles Chapman 58th LAA and his Bty and then 63 A/T Regt took over responsibilities for the camp, the German guards were made to bring out the dead.

    Other accounts have the 63rd A/T Regt as being the first into the camp. Although it is documented that there was a SAS patrol that went in first. If the 58th did hand over to the 63rd then there's a very small possibility that my GF could of been in the camp very early.

    From what I've managed to glean two battery's, 172 and 174 from the 58th LAA RA were used as the camp garrison after the liberation.

    I've no doubt he was there, and I'm not fussed if he was first or last, because for me he was and will always be my hero.
  16. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    First into Belsen has recently been covered on this Forum at Was my grandad really one of the first into Belsen?
    As I showed there my belief is that the first into Belsen were the Recce Party under a white flag on 12/13 April following the approach by the Germans for a truce around the area.
    Williams, William Richard 'Dick' (Oral history) and from Timeline Jan - 14 April 1945
    13 April
    Wehrmacht takes over the camp.
    Hungarian army takes over the role of guarding the prisoners in Camp 2.
    Members of the British Army inspect the camp.

    On 14 April Lt Randall and his SAS Patrol stumbled on the Camp. He always believed he was the first into Belsen, mistakenly I believe as he would have been unaware of the Recce the previous day.
    First troops into Belsen were 249 Battery 63rd A/T Regt. On the 14 April (I think about 1430) shortly after Lt Randall.

    JimHerriot likes this.
  17. Squid

    Squid New Member

  18. Squid

    Squid New Member

    Hi Matt,
    Doing some research about Belsen as the 75th anniversary approaches. Found you here.
    My grandfather was Major Charles Chapman.
    He only spoke of his experience just before he died.
    He was 44 years old when he crossed over to France and fought all the way to the Baltic coast before returning safely to my mother and grandmother. He was my hero !
    Nick P, JimHerriot and Matt71 like this.

Share This Page