- Contributed by
- CSV Action Desk
- People in story:
- Arthur Lesley Robbins
- Location of story:
- Belsen - Germany
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 16 July 2005
This story was submitted to The Peoples War website by Lawrence Robbins in memory of my grandfather Arthur Lesley Robbins, quite possibly the kindest man I ever knew. Even though he is no longer with us, I feel his story must be told. What follows is based on research, evidence, and family history.
To some he was known as a good father and husband, but to me he will always be known as grampy. He never mentioned his experiences during the war, but like all those who survived it, I was sure he had a tail to tell.
At some point between the years of 1944 and 1945 LAC Gunner Arthur Lesley Robbins served in the European theatre, in the countries of France and Germany, where he received the Air Defence Medal for his actions.
Belsen was a concentration camp located between the villages of Bergen and Belsen near Hanover in Northwest Germany, housing French and Belgium prisoners of war. The camp was split into eight sections, a detention camp, two women’s camps, a special camp, neutrals camps, "star" camp mainly Dutch prisoners who wore a Star of David on their clothing instead of the camp uniform), Hungarian camp and a tent camp.
While Belsen contained no, gas chambers, more than 35,000 people died of starvation, overwork, disease, brutality and sadistic medical experiments.
By April 1945 more than 60,000 prisoners were incarcerated in Belsen in two camps located 1.5 miles apart. However the exact figure will never be determined.
On April 15th 1945 members of the British Royal Artillery 63rd Anti-Tank Regiment liberated Belsen and the subsequent relief operation which followed was directed by Brigadier H. L. Glyn-Hughes, Deputy Director of Medical Services of the Second Army.
I have know idea how Gramps or his regiment came to be there, all I can determine is that they were part of what became known as “the clean up operation”. He took pictures of the guard towers and furnaces where unimaginable horrors took place. And also of rows of men digging mass graves to bury the dead, to try and halt the onset of Typhus and dysentery.
Judging by the pictures he took I get the feeling he had to help out with this operation, and years on it deeply affected him. Even when I was growing up I noticed he was a quiet and reflectful man, surrounded deep in his own thoughts, until now I never knew why.
Today all that remains of the camp are burial mounds and a memorial plaque, but until this day no trees are said to grow there. And like my grandfather and other people who he served with. The only question I find myself asking is why.
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