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15 October 2014
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Chapter 11: The bombing started

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Ron Redman
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A9035075
Contributed on: 
01 February 2006

'Queen Mary', IG Farben, Auschwitz

And then, unfortunately, as we got more settled in there, the bombing started. And we had this… we called it when the balloon goes up. The balloon was a red and yellow basket being hoisted up onto the highest chimney on the ‘Queen Mary’ — the biggest building — when the bombers came over the Alps from Italy.

Sue: Why was it called the Queen Mary, Ron?

Ron: Because it looked like it. It was a huge arc type metal building with 3 chimneys and we used to call it the Queen Mary, because it was the focal point.

During an air raid, the Germans had their own air-raid shelter underneath this enormous building, deep down in the bunker. The story went, this happened quite frequently they went down the bunker and we had to fend for ourselves in the open air, to take pot luck. The Germans had heard one of them was a good chess champion and he heard that one of our British prisoners was also a chess player, a good chess player. And he organised it so that in the next air raid he would play this man in the bunker with all the surrounding officers, engineers, watching. And apparently that did actually happen. During an air raid one of my colleagues played chess with this high-ranking German. I don’t know how they got on. But that was just an aside story.

During the first air raid, we discovered that you could get out because, it had never happened before, this air raid, they were bombing all round the open countryside. Farben Industry was in the country. The SS were allowing Poles, French, Ukrainians out and they didn’t know what to do with the British and for the first time we actually got out. We were told, we had an address from a German in a cloak, a dramatic… he stood on a box and said if anyone escapes during an air raid, through an air raid, we will kill 10 of your colleagues. And with that in mind, it wasn’t the thing to get out. We actually got out and mingled with the Poles and so on in the woods, or the country, while the air raid was going on and the thought of escape, well, it didn’t happen because of the punishment. Then they started, oh no, we’re not allowing these Britishers out — the Jews were also kept in the confines of the factory. And in the end, it was us and the Jews were kept in during a bombing raid with nowhere to go. The Jews thought we would know where the bombs would land — ridiculous! — and would crowd round us if they spotted us, clawing at us. They had some silly idea that we knew where to go — we didn’t, we knew no more where to go than…

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