National Archives catalogue number WO 171/4773.
AA & QMG
A & SH
31st (March), 1000 hours
Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General
Army Group Royal Artillery
Army Group Royal Engineers
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Corps Commander Royal Artillery
Deputy Director Medical Services
Forward Maintenance Centre
Field Security Personnel
General Routine Order
Light Aid Detachment
Nothing to Report
[?] Despatch Rider
Month and year : March 1945
Commanding Officer : Lt-Col. R.I.G. Taylor, DSO, MC, RA
1st March 1945
1015 - CCRA visited Regiment and 146 Battery who have just returned from under comd 1st Canadian Army and participating in Operation VERITABLE.
2nd March 1945
3rd March 1945
1500 - Orders received that one 6-pr troop (251 Bty) would be required tomorrow to act in the same role as C Troop 249 Bty. Later heard they were to R.V. at 877086 and come under comd 108 Heavy AA Regt at 1500 hrs tomorrow.
1600 - Told to have one SP Bty ready to move tomorrow to under comd 30 Corps. 144 Bty detailed for this.
4th March 1945
1000 - Told that SP Bty would not now be required by 30 Corps. Tp 251 Bty left for VENLO area.
5th March 1945
2230 - CCRA telephoned and said Regt would have to move tomorrow from ZOMEREN to MIERLOO 5218. This was rather short notice as we had been in ZOMEREN for two months. Arranged for recce parties to leave at 0745 hours and main body at 1300 hours.
6th March 1945
1300 - Moved from ZOMEREN to MIERLOO. Regt took over all accommodation vacated by HQ 8 Corps Main.
7th March 1945
Day spent in settling into new location.
8th March 1945
C Tp, 249 Bty and H Tp 251 Bty reverted from under comd 10 AGRE and 107 HAA Regt respectively and returned to MIERLOO.
9th March 1945
10th March 1945
11th March 1945
1215 - Telephone message from RA Corps to say one 17-pr towed tp would be required to move with Corps tomorrow for local protection in their new location which will be somewhere near the R.RHINE. Rest of the 17-pr Bty will join them the following day. 249 Bty has been detailed for this task.
12th March 1945
'A' Tp 249 Bty left for ISSUM 0927 and came under comd HQ Sqn 9 Corps Main.
1915 - CCRA rang up to say an SP Bty Commander was to report forthwith to RA 8 Corps. Major Flower, 146 Bty, left for ISSUM 2030 hours.
13th March 1945
Remainder of 249 Bty left for ISSUM 0927 but remain under Regtl control.
1215 - Warning Order received that 146 Bty would move at first light tomorrow.
14th March 1945
0630 - 146 Bty left to go under comd 52 (L) Div. Bty HQ est 126325.
15th March 1945
1115 - Telephone message from RA Corps to say 144 Bty would be required to move up tomorrow.
16th March 1945
144 Bty left and est HQ at VOSSUM M.R. 988194 and passed to under comd 6 Gds Tk Bde. We were told to recce MAASBREE 8207 as probable place for RHQ and 251 Bty to move to. This was done today.
17th March 1945
18th March 1945
Received orders for RHQ and 251 Bty to move to MAASBREE 8207 tomorrow.
19th March 1945
AM - RHQ and 251 Bty moved to MAASBREE 8207. LAD moved to 144 Bty area (STRAELEN 9717) so that they will be more central for the forward Btys.
20th March 1945
2IC returned from Course and leave in U.K. GRO's published the award of Commander-in-Chief's Certificate to BSM. R.C. SMITH (249 Bty) and Sgt H.G. OWENS (late 63 A tk Regt).
21st March 1945
P.M. - Warning order received from RA Corps to prepare to move tomorrow to ISSUM 0927 area.
22nd March 1945
0630 - RHQ and 251 Bty moved from MAASBREE to ISSUM area. HQ est 102290 and 251 Bty at 085294.
23rd March 1945
LAD moved up and joined RHQ.
24th March 1945
0415 - 144 and 146 Bty left their present locations and moved up to the R.RHINE in area 1044 in preparations to cross on rafts. 15 (S) Div had made an assault crossing of the RHINE in this area at 0200 hours. As soon as 146 Bty were across they were to link up with 6 Airborne Div who were being dropped at 1000 hours this morning. They are under comd 6 A/B Div. 144 Bty are to do the same with 17 US A/B Div and come under their comd. Owing to the long time it took to construct the rafts 146 Bty did not cross till late at night and 144 Bty did not cross at all today. Lt McKIE (144 Bty) was accidentally shot and killed while waiting to cross the RHINE. The shot was fired from a Valentine tank belonging to 102 A tk Regt.
25th March 1945
144 Bty eventually completed crossing the RHINE during the morning. Both 146 Bty and 144 Bty had joined up with their respective Airborne Divs by evening. Wireless contact was established from RHQ to 144 and 146 Btys by having a step-up set on the West bank of the RHINE.
26th March 1945
1000 - 146 Bty reported their position as 228485 and 144 Bty in area 2841. HQ 8 Corps with Tac HQ 63 A tk Regt crossed the RHINE during the day and took over command of 6 Airborne Div. 249 Bty crossed during the night. 17 US Airborne Div came under command 9 US Army and 144 Bty remained under comd 17 US Airborne Div.
27th March 1945
Main RHQ crossed the RHINE during the night 27/28 March and harboured on the outskirts of WESEL 2240.
28th March 1945
Regt less 144 Bty now under command 6 Airborne Div and moved to M.R. 375495. Considerable difficulty in getting to this location owing to blown bridges.
29th March 1945
Considerable progress being made and RHQ moved with 6 Airborne Div HQ to RHADE 4450.
30th March 1945
Message received from 8 Corps that 146 Bty would remain under command 6 Airborne Div but the remainder of the Regt would concentrate and come under comd OC 121 LAA Regt and would carry out administrative duties in the rear. 2IC went to contact OC 121 LAA Regt and Adjt visited rear Corps and saw the AA & QMG who said Regt would have to leave RHADE tonight, as this was now in the American Sector, and would concentrate in the WESEL Sector. At 2200 hours main RHQ and 249 and 251 Btys left RHADE and proceeded to HAMMINKELN 2148 arriving there about 0230 hours 31 March.
31st March 1945
2IC visited OC 121 LAA Regt who had received a message from RA 8 Corps saying we were no longer under his command. During the day RHQ moved to DINGDEN 2253 where there was better accommodation. At 2200 hours a SDR arrived from Corps with a message dated and timed 311000 hours saying we were to come under comd 1 Cdo Bde in area GESCHER 5073 and we were to contact them immediately. Btys were told to be ready to move at once and 2IC left to contact 1 Cdo Bde. RHQ and 249 and 251 Btys moved to GESCHER 5073 during night.
Month and year : April 1945
Commanding Officer : Lt-Col. R.I.G. Taylor, DSO, MC, RA
1st April 1945
Owing to the 12 hour lapse in receiving the message from Corps telling us to come under command 1 Cdo Bde, when we arrived in the Bde area at about 0600 hrs the Bde were moving out and we were no longer required. Corps therefore told us to concentrate in GESCHER and to supply all the transport we could for lifting ammunition and stores. Ten 3-tonners went sent (having dumped all our stores) under comd Capt Ashton, 249 Bty, to 60 FMC.
2nd April 1945
Orders received from RA 8 Corps that we were to get 3-tonners back from Admin duties and to move up to GREVEN 9388 for flank protection of the Corps Axis. Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting back the 3-tonners which had been sent back to Road Head on the River MAAS.
3rd April 1945
The 3-tonners had not arrived by midnight so we had to move without them leaving rear party to look after the dumped stores. 251 Bty left at 0330 hrs, 249 Bty at 0430 hrs and RHQ at 0630 hrs. HQ established at M.R. 930885. Both Btys doing flank guards on the Southern flank.
4th April 1945
RHQ moved from GREVEN to ALTENHAGEN 177007. 249 and 251 Btys moved to the North flank in support of 11 Armd Div.
5th April 1945
RHQ moved to OPPELTEN 5211.
6th April 1945
RHQ moved to BUTTING 608174 and 249 and 251 Btys concentrated in this area also.
7th April 1945
Static - advance delayed by River WESER.
8th April 1945
9th April 1945
RHQ moved to MUNCHENHAGEN 006269. 249 and 251 Btys remained WEST of the R WESER on the Northern flank.
10th April 1945
Static - advance delayed by the River LEINE.
11th April 1945
RHQ moved to ARBENSEN 2743. 249 and 251 Btys remained WEST of River LEINE on the Northern flank. Note: Up to this date 146 Bty had been under command 6 Airborne Div. 144 Bty had reverted from under comd 9 US Army on 4 April and had come into Corps reserve. 6 Airborne Div were today relieved by 15 (S) Div with 6 Gds Tk Bde under command. 144 Bty were put under command 6 Gds Tk Bde and 146 Bty reverted to Regimental command in Corps reserve.
12th April 1945
Static - advance delayed by River ALLER.
13th April 1945
14th April 1945
RHQ moved to ESCHEDE 6962. Lt MHL MATHER, MC (144 Bty) was killed when the M.10 in which he was travelling was hit by a Panzerfaust. 249 Bty moved to take over the concentration camp at BELSEN (See Appx 'J' Folio 1).
15th April 1945
16th April 1945
Sgt BAXTER commanding a troop of 144 Bty had a very successful action at first light when he broke up an enemy counter attack in the area STADENSEN 9079 knocking out 9 S.P. guns and 6 half-tracks, and killing many German infantry. This was achieved with 2 M.10's, being the only two in his troop at that time. 251 Bty now under command 6 Airborne Div.
17th April 1945
RHQ moved to SUDERBURG 8380.
18th April 1945
19th April 1945
20th April 1945
RHQ moved to LUNEBERG 7820. 144 and 251 Btys reverted to Regimental Command. 249 Bty at BELSEN were relieved by an Army LAA Regt and moved to CELLE, to set up a camp for released Russian POW.
21st April 1945
8 Corps has now reached the River ELBE and it is not thought there will be any further advance for a few days.
22nd April 1945
23rd April 1945
24th April 1945
251 Bty moved up to DEUTSCH EVERN 8015.
25th April 1945
26th April 1945
27th April 1945
28th April 1945
249 Bty relieved in CELLE and moved up to LUNEBERG where they are to take over Garrison duties in the town. 146 Bty come under command 6 Gds Tk Bde.
29th April 1945
Operation ENTERPRISE commenced at 0200 hrs this morning. 251 Bty moved to LUNEBERG. They are to establish control points on bridges over River ELBE which will be constructed by tomorrow. 144 Bty moved to BUTLINGEN 7834. They will provide defence on the River ELBE against E boat attacks on bridges. It is thought possible that E Boats and submarines may come up the river from HAMBURG. J Troop (146 Bty) crossed River ELBE under command 15 (S) Division.
30th April 1945
146 Bty (less J Tp) crossed River ELBE under command 6 Gds Tk Bde.
Month and year : May 1945
Commanding Officer : Lt-Col. R.I.G. Taylor, DSO, MC, RA
1st May 1945
249 Bty doing Garrison duties in LUNEBURG. 251 Bty in support of MIL GOV for barrier control on bridges over R. ELBE. 144 Bty under comd 100 AA Bde for River defence on the ELBE. 146 Bty under comd 6 Gds Tk Bde.
2nd May 1945
Corps HQ moved across River ELBE but HQ 63 A tk Regt remains in LUNEBURG.
3rd May 1945
144 Bty relieved on ELBE by 86 A tk Regt. 144 Bty moved across R. ELBE and joined Corps HQ for local defence.
4th May 1945
Information received that all German forces facing the Second Army had surrendered unconditionally.
5th May 1945
HQ 63 A tk Regt moved up to LUBECK.
6th May 1945
251 Bty relieved of barrier control duties on R. ELBE by 92 Fd Regt.
7th May 1945
144 Bty moved up to KIEL area and took up duties of coastal defence. HQ LABOE. 251 Bty moved up to LUBECK and took over control of 4 DP camps in LUBECK area.
8th May 1945
Recce parties from RHQ went to KIEL area to recce accommodation for RHQ and all Btys. More detailed recce to be done by Btys tomorrow.
9th May 1945
Further recces carried out in the LABOE area, and the plan was made for RHQ, 146 and 249 Btys to move into LABOE and 144 Bty to stay there. 251 Bty are to move into STEIN.
10th May 1945
RHQ moved into LABOE and established their HQ in the school. LAD are centred on the quayside.
12th May 1945
146 and 249 Btys moved into LABOE. 251 Bty still in LUBECK.
13th May 1945
249 Bty took over responsibility of receiving PW at MONKEBERG Oil Jetty and marching them to Area F (Area PROBSTEIERHAGEN - SCHONBERG). During this and subsequent days many thousand PW were disembarked at the Oil Jetty having come from DENMARK, the FLENSBURG area, the East BALTIC Coast and SCWINEMUNDE.
16th May 1945
251 Bty moved from LUBECK to STEIN, near LABOE, into hotels on the sea-front. 146 SP Bty in Corps mobile reserve.
17th May 1945
Notification received that Lt Williams 146 Bty and Sgt Baxter 144 Bty have been awarded the MC and MM respectively.
21st May 1945
249 and 251 Btys moved into KIEL and took over the responsibility of guarding military installations from Bns of 46 Bde. 249 Bty HQ on board ship near KIEL railway station; 251 Bty area of German Naval Arsenal, KIEL.
22nd May 1945
RHQ and 146 Bty moved to LUFTWAFFE BARRACKS, HOLTENAU, North of KIEL CANAL. 146 Bty took over responsibility of PW at the Oil Jetty from 249 Bty.
28th May 1945
Troop 146 Bty moved to WIK BARRACKS and came under comd 9 Cameronians in expectation of unrest among German PW on the arrest of the DOENITZ Government. An average of ten 3-tonners a day are being detailed for outside tasks, such as conveying of Displaced Persons, setting up of V.I.D., etc. Troop 144 Bty relieved of estuary defence task at FRIEDRICHSORT and returned to LABOE.
29th May 1945
The R.E's demolished a seaplane hangar close to the Barracks. 144 Bty took over 146 Bty's duties at the Oil Jetty.
30th May 1945
Rehearsal held for King's Birthday Parade on 2 Jun. Troop 144 Bty relieved of Coast Defence task at TRAVEMUNDE and moved to LABOE.
31st May 1945
During the month warning orders have been received for the demobilization of Age and Service Groups 1-11.
146 (A & SH) BATTERY, 63 ANTI-TANK REGIMENT, R.A.
[Note: The following dates are March 1945]
Date. Summary of Events and Information.
1/5. Remained in resting location maintaining and fixing extensions to tracks.
6. Moved to MIERLOO and continued as above.
14. Moved at 0630 hrs to area BONNINGHARDT 1251 under command 52 (L) Division. Harboured centrally and remained concentrated.
15. Remained concentrated and maintained. 2 guns from L Troop fired 40 rounds at Church Steeple in BISLICH. Steeple damaged badly, but not destroyed. Later fell down.
17. 2 J and K guns destroyed WESEL Church steeple and set grain silo on fire.
18/23. Remained concentrated.
24. Moved to Marshalling area at XANTEN at 0400 hrs, arriving 0745 hrs. M.10's crossed RHINE at 2230 hrs and proceeded to join 3 Para Bde 6 Airborne Division at 2330 hrs. B Vehicles remained in Marshalling area, moved at 2230 hrs to Waiting area.
25. Carriers and Jeeps crossed by ferry at 0030 hrs, remainder by Ferry at 0700 hrs. All moved to 6 Airborne Division area South of HAMMINKELN.
26. One M.10 K Troop direct hit by HE on engine cover plates, but not knocked out. No casualties.
27. Battery moved East of BRUNEN to 2 miles of ERLE.
28. Battery concentrated at ERLE. One NCO accidentally wounded by Grenade.
29. Troops under Grenadier Guards moved forward. J and K with 1 Sqn, L and M with 2 Sqn. Guns moved to 2 miles South West of COESFELD. Tac HQ at GR REKEN. B Echelon at Kl REKEN.
30. L and K Troops with Grenadier Guards and Air Landing Bde moved through BILLERBECK to 1 mile West of GREVEN. 4 ORs casualties - W/Sjt Houston and W/Bdr McIntyre killed, Gnrs Corbett and Nials missing.
31. Tac HQ at 6788. J Troop 838842. K Troop 907887. L and M Troops area 8686, B Echelon 834840.
144 (A & SH) BATTERY, 63 ANTI-TANK REGIMENT, R.A.
1 to 5. Civilian billets. Routine training. Repairing of roads and assistance in bridge building.
6 to 15. Moved to MIERLOO. Civilian billets. "Control of Germany" course run by Major Geddes. Maintenance and training.
16. Battery entered GERMANY. Under command 6 Guards Armoured Bde.
19. Major Geddes went to [?] to contact 17 U.S. Airborne Division and met Maj-Gen MILEY the Divisional Commander.
22. Major Geddes returned to Bty.
24. Rhine "D" Day. Battery left STRAEIEN 0345 hrs and moved to concentration area and thence to Armour waiting area preparatory to crossing the Rhine. Now under command 17 US Airborne Div.
25. Crossed Rhine 0630 hrs on rafts. Contacted L.O. from 17 Div at MUHLENFELT. By HQ with 17 Div HQ. "D" Tp with 507 Para Regt, "E" and "V" Tps with 513 Para Regt. "F" Tp with 194 Glider Regt. "B" Ech at MUHLENFELT.
26. "D" Tp with 507 Para Regt made limited advance and shot up light flak guns and infantry. Sgt McWilliam's gun hit but not knocked out and no casualties. "E" Tp with 513 Para Regt supported infantry attack with H.E. and Browning. Thereafter advanced with infantry. "F" Tp with 194 Glider Regt also supported infantry attack. Shot up two 20mm "flak" guns and captured 50 prisoners. "V" Tp in defence of Div HQ.
27. Went back under command 6 Guards Armd Bde. MUNSTER advance began at 1430 hrs. Halted near PEDDENBURG held up by [?].
28. Advanced at 0030 hrs. By-passed SCHERMBECK and entered HOLSTERHAUSEN at 0700 hrs. Bty HQs, "D" and "E" Tps transferred to 4th Coldstream Gds. "V" and "F" Tps remained in Bde Reserve. Coldstreams advanced 1330 hrs. Held up at LIPPRANSDORF by '88s' sited on main axis. M.10s shot up farms and infantry. Continued advance at dark and passed through HALTERN. Continued to advance during night.
29. Arrived at dawn at X rds outside HAUSDULMEN. One Churchill "brewed up" by German SP sited in wood on flank. Engaged by "D" Tp. Column split by burning Churchill and threat from SP. Two German ammunition trucks approaching X rds were destroyed by small arms fire. Many prisoners taken. Spent remainder of day re-organising in HAUSDULMEN. "F" Tp under command 6 Fd Regt RA and "V" Tp under comd 3rd Scots Guards.
30. 4th Coldstreams advanced at 0100 hrs along Centre line. 250 Battery (less 2 tps) left at 0500 hrs. Passed through DULMEN and rejoined 4th Coldstreams outside BULDERN at dawn. Held up for 8 hrs by fanatical snipers and bazooka men. "E" Tp shot down BULDERN Church tower. Advanced after dark to APPELHULSEN. "E" Tp returned to Scots Guards. Scots Guards advanced on left.
Appendix 'J' Folio 1
REPORT ON BELSEN CAMP
by Lt-Col. R.I.G. TAYLOR, DSO, MC.
Appendix 'A' attached is a short account of the condition of the camp as known before the entry on 15 April.
Appendix 'B' is a copy of the agreement concluded between representatives of the Allied and German Armies on 12 April 1945.
On 13 April I received written instructions from B.G.S., 8 Corps that I was to assume control of the area as given in the agreement, that I was to command all enemy troops remaining in the area, and "in principle British troops were to be employed to give authority of enemy forces vis a vis other British troops rather than assume guard responsibilities themselves".
I was ordered to take one towed Anti-Tank Bty with me and selected 249 (Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Bty, commanded by Major B.C. Barnett.
Early on 14 April I joined the Bty. in 11 Armd Div area near ISSEL, but it was not until approximately mid-day on 15 April that our forward troops penetrated the area which was to be regarded as neutral. 11 Armd Div provided a loudspeaker van which joined me at this location.
At 1330 hrs an L.O. (Capt P.T. Ashton) was sent immediately behind 23 H, to contact the Camp Commandant, Oberst HARRIES, and to arrange for the latter to meet me at the entrance to the camp.
I took with me 2 troops of Crusader towed 17-prs, leaving the third troop and all the 'soft' vehicles to follow later. I also had an escort of 1 NCO and 6 men.
Upon contacting Oberst Harries I explained to him, through an interpreter, that I was the Allied Military Commander and demanded to be shown quarters for my troops. I had previously arranged that the loudspeaker should broadcast a message from the Corps Commander as soon as it was possible to enter the camp.
I demanded a nominal roll of all Wehrmacht and Hungarian troops which was promised by the following morning. I learnt that their strengths were approximately 800 and 3,000 respectively. Of the 800 Wehrmacht a large proportion were entirely administrative personnel and were not considered by the Commandant as capable of bearing arms.
In reply to further questions Oberst Harries stated:-
(a) The S.S. were solely responsible for, and had complete control of, the Concentration Camps, and dealt with all administration.
(b) He merely acted as L.O. between the S.S. and the 'army' (presumably the Wehrmacht).
(c) Oberst Shmidt the second-in-command held a similar position liaising between the S.S. and the Hungarian troops.
(d) The camps were at the moment quiet and so far as he knew no prisoners had escaped.
(e) He could give no details of figures or records of the internees as the S.S. were in complete control.
(f) Sentries and notices of 'TYPHUS - DANGER' had been posted on all roads leading to the camp. He was ordered to see that these sentries remained at their posts until further notice.
(g) Outside telephone lines had been cut on the arrival of the first British troops. This was NOT checked.
Immediately after the interview a PHANTOM officer arrived with information that there was shooting in Camp 1.
A S.A.S. Officer at the same time reported that he had found a soldier of his unit who was a prisoner in Camp 1. He was given permission to remove this man, by name Jenkinson, and later reported that he had done so.
I, together with Major Barnett and Oberst Harries and the escort proceeded immediately to Camp 1, where I met the S.S. leader, KRAMER. He stated that his men were armed, and that if they were disarmed they could not administer the camp, as they would be overpowered by the internees. In view of the fact that there was no alternative form of administration available I agreed that they should temporarily retain their arms. He stated that his men worked in the cookhouses, and did all the administration in the camp.
I immediately ordered a troop of 249 (Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Bty to move to the camp to keep order, and arranged for them to occupy the best billets.
KRAMER was then told that all shooting inside the camp was to stop and I would hold him personally responsible for any man killed. I explained that the troop would help with the work of administering the camp and would assist in keeping order.
The S.S. leader was then ordered to accompany myself, Major Barnett, the interpreter and escort to his office.
In answer to questions he stated:-
(a) All papers with regard to the prisoners had been destroyed on orders from Berlin, having previously stated that 2,000 papers were available. When asked why he said this he stated he did not know the order had been carried out.
(b) There were approximately 40,000 men and women in the camp, a large proportion of whom had only recently arrived from another camp that had been over-run.
(c) There was enough food in the camp to feed the prisoners for 3 days.
(d) So far as he knew no prisoners had escaped.
(e) There were approximately 25 S.S. personnel administering the camp. A nominal roll was asked for and when this was produced it showed 50 names. No physical check was made of S.S. personnel.
About this time Brig. HUGHES (DDMS Second Army) arrived.
A report was received that there was rioting in one of the cookhouses and that a quantity of food had been stolen. Accompanied by Brig. Hughes and the rest of my party, together with KRAMER, we set off for the cookhouse.
The living quarters of the S.S., both men and women, and the Wehrmacht guards are separated from the Concentration camp proper by a 10 foot high barbed wire fence. Hungarian guards were posted on the gate.
An occasional shot was being fired from inside the camp, and on passing through the gates we saw the camp and the internees for the first time.
I later discovered that the camp was divided into 6 blocks. Each block being separated from the other barbed wire. There were 4 women's blocks, 2 mens - there being 5 cookhouses in all.
Inside these wire cages were approximately 100 huts, some with bunks and some without. It was quite impossible for all the internees to enter the hut allotted to them at the same time, a large proportion were therefore living in the open.
As we walked down the main roadway of the camp we were cheered by the internees, and for the first time we saw their condition.
A great number of them were little more than living skeletons, with haggard yellowish faces. Most of the men wore a striped pyjama type of clothing - others wore rags, while the women wore striped flannel gowns, or any other garment that they had managed to acquire. Many of them were without shoes and wore only socks and stockings.
There were men and women lying in heaps on both sides of the track. Others were walking slowly and aimlessly about - a vacant expression on their starved faces.
There was a concrete pit near the first cookhouse we visited, with a few inches of dirty water in the bottom - this was the only water supply that was seen, and crowds were round it trying to fill tins and jars tied to the end of long sticks.
On arrival at the first cookhouse we found the place practically deserted. I saw one copper three quarters full of soup made of turnips and potatoes. This was the theft and rioting reported by the S.S.!
Still the occasional shot was ringing out as we made our way further down the camp towards the potato patch. This consisted of a few rows of potatoes covered by earth, and on it were lying 6 or 7 corpses which had obviously just been shot. There were other living skeletons that had been wounded, and who were crying out with pain. No attempt was being made to relieve their distress, although S.S. troops were in the vicinity.
After a little gentle persuasion the internees returned to their blocks, and it was while this was going on that I met a French girl who I knew. She had been seized from her flat in Paris 18 months previously for helping Allied officers to escape.
I later learnt from her that the S.S. women were as cruel as the men. As an example, when working in another camp near Berlin they would only allow the internees to lie down for 2 hours each night - for the remainder of the time they were made to stand up. Thousands of internees were dying daily and it was three days since she had had any food. Her hair had been cropped twice, and women internees were made to drag corpses to the big open grave.
By this time it was after 2100 hours, and getting very dark, and we returned to our own quarters.
I later ordered KRAMER to be placed under close arrest, and confined to his own sitting room.
I then despatched an L.O. to Corps H.Q. with an urgent request for food and water, and further military aid.
At 0830 hours on 16 April after picking up Harris, Brig. Hughes and myself went to Camp 1. I had previously been informed that 172 L.A.A. Bty was on its way to the camp.
I ordered a second troop of 249 Bty to the camp.
My Troop Commander informed me that he did not think anyone had been shot during the night, but many had obviously died of starvation, and were lying dead along the main roadway and also behind the barbed wire of their cages.
KRAMER was placed in a jeep with 3 military policemen and led us to the crematorium. This consisted of a single furnace which owing to shortage of coal had not been used for some weeks. Nearby was a covered in grave.
There was no sanitation of any sort in the camp, not even trenches for use as latrines.
Lt-Col. Michie (A.D.H. 8 Corps) later reported that he had seen figures indicating that 17,000 bodies had been cremated during March.
We then drove through the womens camp and saw 2 large piles of naked corpses and the uncovered pit some distance further on.
There were heaps of dead in every cage and it was quite obvious that unless food and water arrived soon the whole camp would starve to death.
A message was broadcast telling the internees that food and water were on the way, the German rule in the camp was over and that we were doing everything in our power to relieve their misery.
Brig. Hughes and I then made a short tour of Camp 2, which had only been formed a week previously.
Here conditions were very much better, the internees living in stone barracks, guarded by Hungarians, but it was quite obvious at a glance that the majority were starved almost beyond recognition.
I interviewed the S.S. leader who produced a nominal roll of S.S. personnel with 34 names on it, in spite of the fact that he declared he only had less than half that number in the camp.
In reply to questions he said:-
(1) There were 15,133 internees in the camp, and no women.
(2) There was food of sorts for 1 week, but this consisted chiefly of potatoes, turnips and a little flour, and practically no meat.
(3) Soup was served 3 times daily.
(4) There were 400 Hungarian guards round the camp which he considered sufficient.
The same message as was broadcast in Camp 1 was rebroadcast here, to loud cheers.
I told the S.S. leader that all shooting would stop and I would hold him personally responsible to see that it did, and that for every internee that was killed one S.S. man would be shot.
On returning to my quarters soon after mid-day I ordered one troop of 172 L.A.A. Bty to Camp 2.
The B.C. (Major Chapman) was ordered to place the S.S. leader under escort, and later that day he arrested all S.S. men.
The rest of the day was spent trying to procure, and then issue, food and water to Camp 1. This was eventually achieved and I am certain that most of those capable of walking received something to eat. There was no attempt to rush the food lorries or water carts when they arrived, and it was quite obvious that in spite of their appalling condition the internees were doing all in their power to help us.
So far as I had been able to see the S.S. made no material difference to the administration of the camp so I determined to arrest them forthwith, but by the time the food was issued out it was too dark, and I delayed it until the morning.
However I took the precaution of removing KRAMER from the camp, and placing him in an underground cellar below the officers quarters.
On 17 April the remaining S.S. were arrested in Camp 1, 28 men and 25 women being taken. KRAMER's deputy was missing from the parade, but was later picked up in the camp disguised as an internee. The whole lot were locked in the cells, just outside the concentration camp proper, much to the delight of the inmates.
The men were later set to work carting the corpses from the camp to the big pit - the women joined them later helping with this job. They were given the same ration at the internees had had prior to our entry. During the first night one committed suicide and 2 more attempted but failed to do so. The following day 2 tried to run away but were immediately shot.
KRAMER after being questioned several times by the F.S.P. was removed by them to CELLE P.O.W. camp on 18 April.
A British internee from the Channel islands who was released stated that he had seen cannibalisation in the camp, and Major Bennett saw a corpse which had had several fleshy parts removed.
The death rate in the camp hospitals on the night 16/17th was reported as approximately 500, and I do not think it an exaggeration to estimate the total deaths during each 24 hours as between 500 and 1000.
This part deals only with my dealings with Oberst HARRIES in regard to the return of Wehrmacht troops to their own lines.
Prior to my arrival at the camp, I was given to understand that a large proportion of Wehrmacht troops in the camp were entirely administrative and would remain in their present jobs when the agreement terminated.
Harries informed me that about 500 were so employed and at an interview on 17 April Oberst SHMIDT stated that these men should remain in the camp. He also wrote a letter dated 16 April on this subject (Appendix 'C').
Oberst HARRIES informed me, when I asked him, that very few troops under his command wished to return to the battle, they would rather become P.O.W. I did my best to encourage this attitude, promising them transport to the cage after laying down their arms in an official manner.
As a result of this I was informed later by Hauptmann ENDSTHALER, who was the senior officer wishing to return to the Reich, that besides himself only 2 officers and 16 O.Rs wished transport back to their own lines. HARRIES later informed me that this figure had been amended to read 17 Officers and 37 O.Rs.
At 1900 hours (approximately) I received a direct order from the Army Commander that ALL Wehrmacht personnel would be returned to the German lines irrespective of their wishes. This was a counter-order to the one from 8 Corps timed and dated 172359A stating "should German Troops garrisoning BELSEN camp prefer to become P.W. rather than return to the REICH they will be accorded this privilege."
I therefore ordered all Wehrmacht personnel to parade the following morning at 0900 hours. This they did and were obviously disappointed when they were informed that they had to return to their own lines. Unfortunately the transport did not arrive until 2000 hours the same day, so the parade was dismissed, and ordered to re-assemble at 0730 hours the following morning.
On April 20th at 0830 hours the convoy moved off escorted by 172 L.A.A. Bty, a certificate having been signed by Oberst Harries and one witness and myself and Major Barnett to the effect that the agreement had been carried out to the best of the ability of both sides.
BELSEN Concentration Camp
To: 11 Armd Div. 15 (S) Div. 6 Airborne Div. 6 Guards Armd Bde. 1 Cdo Bde. 8 AGRA.
From: 8 Corps
13 Apr 45
1. In the general area of BELSEN 4867 there is a Concentration Camp containing approximately 60,000 prisoners. These prisoners are partly political and partly criminal. They are accommodated in two camps:-
Camp ONE at 477658 is enclosed with barbed wire.
Camp TWO at 483675 is an ordinary unfenced hutted camp.
There is a supply depot for these at 482691 and hospitals (one of which is, however, at present a normal military hospital) at 459676, 473678 and 484682.
2. The guard at the camp consists of a unit of approx 700 Hungarians (complete with families), a proportion of Wehrmacht tps and certain SS guards. There are also a Wehrmacht Adm HQ at the Commandantur and SS Adm tps (cooks, storekeepers and bookkeepers).
3. Disease has for some time been a considerable problem but the loss of the electricity (which comes from STROMVERSORGUNGSVERBAND OST-HANOVER, CELLE, BAHNHOPSPLATZ 9) and consequently lack of adequate water has led to a serious outbreak. There are at present 9,000 sick:-
Typhus exantematious 1,500
Normal Typhus 900
Gastric Enteritis a very large number
4. It is essential that this area should be kept as free of our tps as possible and that persons at present in the concentration camp should be kept there till adequate arrangements can be made to sort them out - both from the point of view of preventing the spread of disease and preventing criminals breaking out.
5. Accordingly, in the interests of our own tps, the civil population and the Wehrmacht, certain negotiations were made with 1 Para Army. Details of the agreement reached are at Appx "A" and every effort will be made on the British side to carry these out. It is considered that from their own point of view the Germans have every intention of fulfilling their obligations to the best of their ability.
6. Fmns will ensure that all tps likely to go into the area are aware of the position and of the agreement reached. Tps will be instructed to uphold the authority of German and Hungarian guards and, if necessary, to render assistance. These guards will retain their arms and MT (incl 4 ancient and immobile DP tanks) and their orders and duties will be respected. It is thought that a serious risk of disturbance and attempts to break out will arise with the approach of British tps.
7. As soon as operations permit the whole of the area concerned will be placed OUT OF BOUNDS to all British tps except on essential duty.
8. The necessary plans for taking over the administration and care of this camp and for the sorting of the prisoners are being made by this HQ and the sole responsibility of fmns is, so far as is humanly possible, to respect the agreement given at Appx "A" and to see that prisoners do NOT escape.
9. The name of the Military Commandant of BERGEN is Oberst HARRIES and of his assistant Oberst SCHMIDT. On arrival of our tps they will be at the Commandantur ready to hand over their authority but to continue to carry out their task.
10. The supply situation is as follows:-
(a) The Hungarian tps (and families) have 4 weeks food.
(b) The German guard will be able to feed themselves.
(c) The prisoners have food for about 4 days but there is NO bread.
Medical stores are very short, in particular the following are required:-
(b) Disinfectants and Delousers.
(c) Washing and Laundry arrangements (incl soap).
(d) Digitalis, Tanalbin, heart stimulants.
(e) Vitamin tablets.
(sgd) V. FITZGEORGE-BALFOUR
B.G.S., 8 Corps.
AGREEMENT with regard to BELSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP made by Chief of Staff, 1 Para Army, Military Commandant BERGEN and BGS 8 Corps.
1. On instructions from the Reichsfuhrer SS, the military commander at BERGEN approached the Allied forces, 12 April, with regard to the concentration camp at BELSEN.
2. The following area will be regarded as neutral:- 475635 - 450640 - 448690 - 460705 - 490705 - 495675.
3. Both British and German tps will make every effort to avoid a battle in this area, and, as far as operations make it humanly possible, no Arty or other fire (incl bombing and strafing) will be directed into this area. Equally, neither side will use this area for the deployment of tps or weapons. This paragraph is subject to overriding military necessity.
4. The German military authorities will erect notices and white flags at all the road entrances to this area as far as possible. These notices will bear, in English and German, on one side "Danger - Typhus" on the other "End of Typhus Area." A disarmed post will be mounted by the Germans at each notice board.
5. Hungarian and German tps at present employed on guard duties will remain armed and at their posts. All such tps will wear a white arm-band on their left sleeve.
6. The Hungarians will remain indefinitely and will be placed at the disposal of the British forces for such duties as may be required. The German wehrmacht personnel will be released within not more than 6 days and conveyed back to the German lines with their arms and equipment and vehicles at the end of the period.
7. SS Guard personnel will be removed by 1200 hrs 13 April, any remaining will be treated as PW. SS Adm personnel will (if the Wehrmacht can prevent them running away) remain at their posts and carry on with their duties (cooking, supplies, etc.) and will hand over records. When their services can be dispensed with, their disposal is left by the Wehrmacht to the British authorities.
8. The Wehrmacht will continue to man the telephone exchange until it can be relieved. Wires leading out of the Camp will require disconnecting.
The Commander of the Camp of Bergen
To the Commander of the allied troops Bergen
Bergen, april, 16th, 1945
The commander of the camp of Bergen has given to you lists about the soldiers who are in the camp.
A great part of these soldiers is not able to take the difficulties of war and to fight at front. Some of them have their home here or their families living in this area as fugitives.
Therefore we ask to give your permission that these soldiers leave the German army because they only are a burden to the allied troops on marching to the German lines.
To the transport to the German lines there would only be the soldiers as agreed who are to use for war.
(sgd) ? ? ?
Appx 'J', Folio 2.
146 (A & SH) BATTERY, 63 ANTI-TANK REGIMENT. R.A.
[Note: The following dates are April 1945]
Date. Summary of Events and Information.
1. Tac moved to GREVEN 9188, L and M Troops joined later. J Troop 8485, K Troop 9088, B Echelon 866887.
2. Crossed DORTMUND EMS Canal, L and M Troops leading and reached high ground area LANGERICH 0898. J and K Troops came up and harboured 0898. Tac HQ 0798, B Ech LABBERGEN 9998.
3. Troops moved off at 0800, L and M Troop destroying many snipers in close support work and finished 4 miles WEST of OSNABRUCK. K Troop out to right flank and finished area WISSENGEN 3108. J Troop 1403, Tac HQ 132018, B Ech LANGERICH 0898.
4. Moved forward, K and J Troops leading. K Troop destroyed 1 S.P. and 1 probable. Under comd Gdr Gds under 6th Airborne Div. K Troop finished area 5924, J Troop area 5814. L and M Troops remained WEST of OSNABRUCK. Tac HQ BLASHEIM 5612, B Echelon WISSENGEN 3108.
5. Moved to following areas - J Troop 7721, K Troop SUD HEMMERN 7114, L and M Troops FRIEDEWALDE 7618. J Troop shot their way into ELDAGSEN 8221 but reformed as above, Tac HQ and B Echelon MESSLINGEN 7921.
6. Remained as above and maintained. 4th Troop disbanded, and 3 reformed.
7. Crossed start line at 0800 hrs, J and L Tps with Gdr Gds. Both troops using plenty of A.P. and .50 amn, and doing great execution of personnel. Finished area J Troop 1731, L Troop 1831 BORDENAU. K Troop reserve. Tac HQ ALTENHAGEN 0928, B Echelon BERGKERCHIN 0326.
8. J Troop area NEUSTADT 1635, K Troop 1626, L Troop area BORDENAU 1831, Tac HQ and B Ech joined at STEINHUDE 1029.
9. J Troop moved to 1632, remainder rested and maintained in same locations.
10. J and K Troops with 1 and 2 Sqns of Gdr Gds to cover flank of 11 Armd Div, and to mop up area. J Troop HENLINGEN, K Troop BISSENDORF, Tac HQ, B Ech and L Troop as before.
11. Moved under command 8 Corps, as reserve. Troops deployed as Corps defence in area NEGENBORN - ABBENSEN 2841. B Ech and Tac HQ ABBENSEN 2743.
12. Remained as above.
13. Moved under same command to WEST of CELLE area 5546. Troops local defence in this area. B Ech 5448.
14. Moved as above to HABIGHORST 6859. Tac HQ 6870, B Ech 6862.
15. Remained as above.
16. Moved to HOSSERINGEN with complete Battery.
20. Moved to LUNEBURG with 2 Troops, J and L. K Troop under command 4 Gdrs operating with 5 Div moved to LEMHKE.
23. K Troop returned under command Bty.
20/28. Remained LUNEBURG maintaining and changing tracks.
29. J Troop crossed River ELBE with 15 (S) Div.
30. Remainder of Bty crossed ELBE under command 6 Gds Tk Bde.
251 (OXF YEO) BATTERY, 63 ANTI-TANK REGIMENT. R.A.
Date. Summary of Events and Information.
1. Billeted in civilian houses during afternoon. Received late orders to stand by for move. Orders received ten minutes after midnight. Travelling for rest of night.
2. Arrived at Farm billet outside GLEDERN at 0720 hrs. Under command 11 Armd Div. Many prisoners brought in and place flooded with 'slave workers' trying to get home.
3. Moved to positions outside SAEBECK (NORTH of MUNSTER). H and I Troops deployed.
4. Travelling all day. Arrived at WERSEN (NW of OSNABRUCK) in late evening. First British tps in village. All guns deployed. H Tp fired HE in clearing woods. Battery convoy came under enemy fire but no casualties.
5. Left WERSEN in morning for village of OSTERKAPELLEN. A few guns deployed defending bridge.
6. Moved to KELLEN, Nr MINDEN. Billetted in farmhouse.
8. Battery RV at PETERSHAGEN. Remained overnight.
10/15. Battery employed in defence of 63 FMC.
16. Came under comd 6 Airborne Div. Moved to BOKEL. All guns deployed. Several prisoners taken.
17. All Tps and Tac HQ and 'B' Ech moving forward slowly. 'B' Ech moved to village of HAMBORG.
18. Gun Tps again moved forward. I Tp positions bombed at night, Bdr BRAZIER and Gnr LUCAS wounded.
22. 'B' Ech at BORLLENSEN. Remained in positions for several days. H Tp bombed on night of 19 Apr. Lt. M.A. ROBINSON received slight injuries to face. Ceased to be under comd 6 Airborne Div.
23/29. Moved to DEUTCH-EVERN, Near LUNEBERG. No guns deployed. Maintenance carried out on all vehicles and guns.
29. Battery, less H and I Tps, moved to Artillery Barracks at LUNEBERG. G Tp and BHQ on duties of providing Guards and Transport for Mil Govt (D.P.)
30. H and I Tps crossed the River ELBE and employed to organise parties of DP's to cross the river and to prevent any Germans from crossing. H Tp heavily shelled. L/Bdr SMITH, N. wounded by burns to face and neck. BHQ and G Tp continue duty at Artillery Barracks.
144 (A & SH) BATTERY, 63 ANTI-TANK REGIMENT. R.A.
Date. Summary of Events and Information.
1. BHQ and 2 Troops with Coldstream Guards, 2 troops with Scots Guards. Moved at 1700 hrs and attempted to cross River AA and capture high ground WEST of MUNSTER. Attempt unsuccessful owing to bridges being blown and banks too soft for Churchill bridge. Infantry only managed to get across.
2. Concentrated just SOUTH of NIENBURGER. At 1600 hrs Guards, with our M10 troops, advanced into MUNSTER. BHQ M10 shot up a troublesome German SP. Sgt McLean of "F" Troop wounded.
3. Bty concentrated in MUNSTER. Very good billets.
4. Bty moved to BISSENDORF by night and left command of 6 Guards Tank Bde.
5. Arrived at 0900 hrs. Left at 1000 hrs to advance with Corps HQ column. Arrived at HILLE and took up defensive positions around Corps HQ. "F" Troop remained with Rear Corps.
6/7. Static. Defending Corps HQ.
8. Left HILLE. Crossed River WESER and arrived at WOLPINGHAUSEN. Still in defence of Corps HQ.
10. Guns under command 15 (S) Div in support 6 Gds Tk Bde. BC and "D" and "E" Troops to Scots. Capt G and "F" and "V" Troops to Coldstreams.
11. Left early morning to join Guards. Advanced at 0800 hrs with Right - 46 Bde (Coldstream) Left - 227 Bde (Scots). Reached outskirts of CELLE by evening. Slight opposition and blown bridge held up advance.
12. Entered CELLE quite easily. Crossed River ALLER at 2130 hrs.
13. Left CELLE 0900 hrs. Roads badly cratered. Reached ESCHEDE by evening. Advanced by night towards UELZEN.
14. Arrived at outskirts of UELZEN at dawn. "D" Tp Comd's M.10 knocked out by BAZOOKA. Lt MHL MATHER MC and Bdr LONG killed. L/Bdr AMOS wounded. Advance held up.
15. Another "D" Tp M10 knocked out, this time by an '88' while attempting to 'snipe' an SP. Sgt SERGINSON and Gnr KILLORAN killed.
16. German counter-attack put in at STADENSEN in early morning. German force consisted of about 12 SPs, 15 half-tracks and 200 men. Two M10's of "V" Troop destroyed 10 SPs, 8 half-tracks and killed many men. "V" Troop undoubtedly saved the situation. Sgt BAXTER, the troop commander, and all concerned put up a very fine show. Only one casualty - Sgt AINSWORTH slightly wounded.
17. Attack by 46 Bde. UELZEN taken. Fighting overnight.
18. 46 Bde cleared UELZEN.
19. Advanced to River ELBE with little opposition. Spent night at CHARNEBECK.
20. Moved to BREITLINGEN.
21. Guards and 144 Bty withdrawn. Bty concentrated in village of GOLLERN.
22/28. Rest, maintenance and re-organization.
29. Left GOLLERN at 1400 hrs and moved to BUTLINGEN. "D" Tp day for ELBE crossing. Bty on river defence to shoot up mines, E boats or swimmers. "D" Tp opposite LUNEBURG. "E" & "V" Tps at TESPE.
30. "E" Tp also deployed at TESPE. No incidents.