Thursday, 22 March 2012

True Stories for Posterity 2: The Children of Bocholt

This is another story that I wish to be ‘recorded for posterity’ in case no record now exists and all those involved have died. It was told to me in the 1980s by a witness I shall call John. I have no reason to disbelieve John, but some details are a little uncertain or incomplete because of shortcomings in John’s memory of the events and my memory of what John told me. 

During the Second World War John was a soldier in the British Army. Right at the end of the war he was in Bocholt in Germany. One day he and his comrades came across two groups of soldiers from opposing sides. John told me that he thought that the soldiers from one group were Canadian and that those from the other group were East European. The latter, who had some children with them, were being threatened by the Allied troops and in an apparent attempt to placate their assailants they pushed the children towards them and made gestures indicating that the children were available for sexual exploitation. Nearby was some kind of military structure for housing a small number of soldiers and equipment (I cannot now remember the name John gave to this).  

John looked on in horror at the next sequel of events. The Allied soldiers pushed the other soldiers and the children into this construction and shut them inside. They had a large gun with them (again I cannot remember what John called this). Having thus entombed the enemy troops and the children, the Allied soldiers then took aim with the gun and fired a shell that blew up the construction and its contents.   

For many years afterwards, the memory of this incident played on John’s mind every single day. ‘Why did I not push the gun over before they could fire it?’ was the question he repeatedly asked himself. 

There is a sad sequel to this story. It is not necessary to record this for posterity and for John’s sake I shall not do so. It may suffice for me to say that John was not a bad man and I am sure that the events that led to my meeting him would never had occurred had he not been witness to this terrible incident.