Jack Bell - Russian liberation and freedom

Running time
3 min 13 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


The day of the 22nd of April the German's told our men in confidence that they would be evacuated from the camp that night, the 22nd, and we could hear the gunfire, the shell bursts in the distance. Obviously the Russians were advancing and they moved out that night but the Russians got most of them and killed them immediately and the Russians rode into our camp.

The colonel arrived on a little pony, riding with his troops behind him. Some were riding bicycles. Some were marching. Some had little motorbikes, little DKWs and they just rode into the camp and said 'We will look after you. You will remain here and we will release you, send you back to Britain.'

Well the Russian prisoners were told 'You will treat the Germans exactly as they have treated you' and there was no transport 'You will walk your way back to Moscow.' Now we could tell that we had been recaptured because we were so restricted and our food ration was cut down.

Now the food parcels in the big hut, that it was kept in, but they wouldn't issue them. They issued one parcel and that was it. We walked around and we grabbed out of a sack, what you got in your hand, that was your food for the day. Well five of us realised that this wasn't going to work, we're off. So we decided that we would leave the camp.

We were marched to a little town called Riesa as a place of holding and five of us just walked out and the funny thing is the actual troops, the Russian front line troops were just like us and they got on a truck and they'd drive to wherever they were going and we'd hop off.

As long as we kept heading west we knew we would hit the Elbe. The Elbe moved around the country. And we came to the river up near Halle there was a big American master sergeant with ribbons all over him and he said 'Come. Come' and we walked across this plank because the bridge was bombed out, about that wide, and the five of us got in there and the first thing they did, which was wrong, they gave us American rations for a day.

Well, we were as sick as dogs. It went straight through us but they flew us, the next day, they flew us to Brussels and the first piece of, I'll never forget this, the Red Cross met us at Brussels, at the airport and they offered us fresh white bread and it was fantastic. It was just like cake. I hadn't had white bread for five years, four years, five years, I forget exactly. And so they offered us butter and we said 'No. Just the bread.' And we ate the bread.

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