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15 October 2014
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Chapter 12: Killed by our own bombs

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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

Graves of 39 British soldiers killed in an allied bombing raid on Auschwitz.

One Sunday when we didn’t have to go to work, we arranged a football match — England vs Scotland if I remember rightly — and we were looking forward to that. It was in a field just outside the perimeter. Normally on a day off, you’d wash your clothes. And it was a nice sunny day and we thought they may not come, it was a Sunday, but they came over. The balloon went up and we were immediately told to go to our shelters which we’d dug in a slight incline away from the camp, well, inside the camp but away from the huts, which were actually trenches with concrete blocks on top. They were our air raid shelters, bunkers as we called them.

It was a lovely day and the Germans were so keen on us going down, they were shouting and pushing us ‘Raus! Raus!’ to get down in these bunkers. I’d noticed in a practice that just inside the entrance, the concrete ramp into the trench, it was a huge puddle of water inside. If you’d sat there, because they had forms to sit on, if you’d sat there you would have had water up to your knees. I had seen this and I’d thought that the next time I go in there, I’m going to go further in away from this water, which I did. I was lucky because a lot of them didn’t go in. They stood on the ramp, despite the Germans shouting and pushing, they decided it was so nice in the sunlight that they would stay on the ramp and talk about the football that was going to take place.

I was inside and I can remember being tossed upside down as the bomb exploded. When I eventually came out, in one piece, the ramp coming down to the thing was full of bodies. We lost nearly 40 and one German guard, and 40 of our men some of them were going to play football that day. Anyway, to cut a story short, we had to pick them up and put them in the washplace area. And, eventually, they had a funeral when they got some of us to clean up and dress up a bit more and go down with the Germans to a mass grave in Auschwitz. I think there were 39 actually, 39 British killed — killed by our own bombs!

From then onwards, the bombing became quite regular, from the Americans. And, quite honestly, we hated the idea — even Christmas Day came and we thought they won’t bomb Christmas Day, but they did. You were in a state of nerves all the time, listening, hoping.

Then the Russians commenced their night bombing. We learned the Russians were attacking not far away, they were pressing forward. And in the distance, one night, we could see these flares, and that’s where they were bombing. Where these green parachute flares were hovering, it was obvious that that’s where they were bombing. That seemed to be a few miles away. And then one night somebody came rushing in the hut and said the flares are above our camp parachute flares, green lights hanging up. They didn’t bomb like the Americans, bombs from a great height, they swooped in and dropped these phosphor bombs. By that time, we’d gone down to the trenches and in the morning we realised that the whole camp was destroyed. It was still burning.

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