Finders Keepers

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Finders Keepers

Gerben van der Els
Gerben van der Els

February 21st, 2005, 10:29 am #1

Hello

My question is ;We're Allied and especially Commenwealth troops allowed to use things they found on the battlefield and in houses, like pots and pans or food items etc.
Was there a restriction in items from civilians?

Greetings Gerben
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Ed Storey
Ed Storey

February 21st, 2005, 10:57 am #2

There was a fine line drawn between scrounging (liberating) and looting from civilian sources. Generally, things that were 'found' and used to improve the day-to-day life of the unit or sub-unit, such as pots, pans, bits of furniture, food or wayward farm animals were generally considered scrounged or liberated.

Items taken from civilians for their monitary value, mostly valuables of a personal nature were considered looted.

Of course this depended on the person and the unit involved as the scale fluctuated quite a bit.

Items taken from enemy combatants were generally considered as fair game, although there are rules as to what can be confiscated from the enemy.

Again, in very broad terms, if we look at NW Europe, the French, Belgians and Dutch were being freed from one oppressive regime and were considered Allies, so the the idea was not to scrounge from those who had very little to begin with. Apparently as far as the Germans were conserned, they were treated much more harshly and at times little quarter was given to 'liberating' from them whatever was deemed necessary.

Again, this is all subjective and varried from unit to unit.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 21st, 2005, 4:47 pm #3

I have read a few personal accounts that indicate that Canadians were especially fond of wrist watches taken from German prisoners. Frank Holm, who wrote A BACKWARDS GLANCE about his time as an infantry signaller in the Calgary Highlanders, mentioned that taking watches was officially considered looting, and that he did it once and then felt so guilty about it he didn't do it again. Other histories mention the taking of watches also - the feeling being, I suppose that the German soldier who owned the watch was probably lucky to be alive, and where he was going (a nice safe prison camp in Canada or the US) he probably wouldn't want to be aware of the passing of time in any event...
Michael Dorosh
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canadiansoldiers.com
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gerben
gerben

February 21st, 2005, 5:26 pm #4

Thank you for your information

Am interested in how the allies thought of taking for instance food stcked in cellars of abandoned houses for their own use. And for the use of items to make life more comfortable in the field f.i. pots and pans. If you look at the film "a bridge too far" in the opening part you see the crew in a bren-carrier of XXXcorps wearing top hats. What would the Sergeant-Major say of this??

Greetings Gerben
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 21st, 2005, 6:28 pm #5

Given the starvation diet of most people living in the Netherlands by 1944, I seriously doubt there was much debate about what to do about overstocked cellars full of food...

I'd recommend reading some personal accounts by soldiers who were there to get a feeling for some of the issues at stake. As Ed says, things varied a lot from unit to unit and place to place, so a generalization would be just that.
Michael Dorosh
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canadiansoldiers.com
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David Gordon
David Gordon

February 21st, 2005, 8:45 pm #6

During the Normandy invasion period, orders were given to the troops that they should not accept food from the French. The reason being that the French were happy to be free again and were giving away the very things they needed to survive in an effort to show their thanks. Troops were also forbidden from taking apples and potatoes from the fields, as well as from poaching livestock.

This information was passed on to at least the men of the 6th Airborne via the weekly newsletter that was printed in the field.

First person accounts of soldiers on the scene reflect these orders but there are also accounts of getting around them. One example was hearding a sheep into a mined area with a rope tied to its neck. Once it died in the mine field, it was not considered poaching to pull in and cook the freshly killed animal.

As for collecting rings and watches, I've not encountered very much of this from British and Commonwealth accounts. US Airborne was quite different though. I'm sure it wasn't sanctioned but many of the men went out of their way to take everything of value off captured and dead enemy soldiers.
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Jason Graveline
Jason Graveline

February 22nd, 2005, 12:43 am #7

Hello

My question is ;We're Allied and especially Commenwealth troops allowed to use things they found on the battlefield and in houses, like pots and pans or food items etc.
Was there a restriction in items from civilians?

Greetings Gerben
I just finished reading "With the Jocks" by Lt (later Capt) Peter White. It's a very honest and graphic story of the British advance during WWII, written directly from his diary entries while serving as a platoon commander with 4 KOSB.

Among other things, White writes candidly about he and his troops taking advantage of the local hospitality during thier advance through Belgium, the Netherlands and eventually Germany. He mentions how he and the troops would be willingly boarded and fed in Belgium and Holland, though given these civilians had next to nothing themselves, they were very careful to stick to their own rations/supplies. Germany, on the other hand, was a very different story.

White notes that both he and the troops would routinely enter a German village and give the residents a brief period to clear out of rooms or an area so they could rest, eat, set up HQ, etc. They would often occupy part of a farm or house with the occupants, encouraging the inhabitants to cook and share what they had. He mentions that his troops would frequently scrounge for food and slaughter livestock whenever the need arose. Wine cellars were a common target as well. He recollects that several of his chaps liberated various items from both enemy troops and civilians (waatches, jewellry, etc) and while he didn't encourage it, I recall he acquired a few souvenirs for himself too.

While perhaps not permitted in offical UK policy, White's story makes it clear that nearly anything and everything occurred, especially during the frenzy of April and May 1945.

Get the book! Excellent read.
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Rich in Vancouver
Rich in Vancouver

February 22nd, 2005, 5:59 am #8

My Father-in-law was with the Seaforths in Sicily. He tells one story of Requisitioning a donkey to carry their heavy equipment, giving the farmer a chit signed "Field Marshal Montgomery"...Signed by one of the lads of course.
When asked if he had participated in the famous Ortona Christmas Dinner, he related how he was with the Argylls at the time and was in a slit trench behind the town with nothing to eat but a sack of corn meal and some wine liberated from an abandoned farm house.

Rich

BTW: Shortly after it was acquired the donkey was spooked by shell fire and went over a cliff along with their gear.
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Rob van Meel
Rob van Meel

February 22nd, 2005, 8:02 am #9

An elderly German that I spoke to some years back, referred to the US Army as the watch collectors Armee (Uhren Sammlers Armee), based on his experience that no watches were safe from US soldiers. It would not have been very different in the front sectors of the Canadians or British, I guess.
After the liberation by the British and Canadians rape and other crimes shot up in the Netherlands, compared to the level during the German occupation. At least that is a wide spread story, but I have not looked into getting historical proof for this statements.
On liberating items, I have read somewhere about a 'Platte Buis', a sort of kitchen stove, that got aken into the dug out to keep the Scottish soldiers warm (they belonged to 15 div).
On the other hand two years ago I missed out on a complete and working Wireless Station no. 22. The grand children of a local man who had just passed away were clearing the house and a friend of mine, who only (up to then) collected US radio equipment, was given this with the story that in the winter of 1944, whilst some troops were put up in his house and barn, on noticing that the Germans took his radio, they simply gave theirs! Can't comment if it was any use to these civilians.

Rob
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Von Richter.
Von Richter.

February 22nd, 2005, 8:26 am #10

During the Normandy invasion period, orders were given to the troops that they should not accept food from the French. The reason being that the French were happy to be free again and were giving away the very things they needed to survive in an effort to show their thanks. Troops were also forbidden from taking apples and potatoes from the fields, as well as from poaching livestock.

This information was passed on to at least the men of the 6th Airborne via the weekly newsletter that was printed in the field.

First person accounts of soldiers on the scene reflect these orders but there are also accounts of getting around them. One example was hearding a sheep into a mined area with a rope tied to its neck. Once it died in the mine field, it was not considered poaching to pull in and cook the freshly killed animal.

As for collecting rings and watches, I've not encountered very much of this from British and Commonwealth accounts. US Airborne was quite different though. I'm sure it wasn't sanctioned but many of the men went out of their way to take everything of value off captured and dead enemy soldiers.
Has a graphic description of looting going wrong in the Reichswald Forest. A group of Jerry's surrender and the avaricious Black Watch soldiers shoulder their rifles so as to loot the prisoners better. One of the Huns, hidden at the back, lets fly with a Schmeiser and downs the lot of them, the Jerry's make it to cover before the survivors can react.
Looting could be a dangerous game.
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