"It was a lovely sunny day, with snow on the ground, but very cold. We were marched into the camp at one o'clock, having had little work to do that day. I was sitting at a table when I saw these three planes flying over the camp from corner to corner. One chap, who had been watching the planes saw the first bomb drop and shouted 'Look out!'. There was a terrific bang and we were all thrown to the floor. More explosions followed. We ran outside to discover that two of the newer barrack blocks and the little hospital had been hit. These buildings were very flimsy and had collapsed, trapping men beneath the wreckage. When we got there, the chaps were trying to lift the roof off. Half an hour later, we came across the first body. It was John McGeorge, one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet. After a further six hours we managed to get the rest of the bodies out and I must say that we were all shedding bitter tears for our mates.
About forty-eight men were killed, including French and Russian prisoners. The Red Cross made an official complaint to the Americans about the attack. In reply, they said that they were very sorry but the navigators thought it was a German camp. We thought that this was barmy as, with four guard towers and surrounded by barbed wire, it couldn't be anything but a POW camp."
On returning from Spittal, Ian brought news of Pete’s examination, and his certain repatriation through chronic stomach trouble. Poor Pete, we shan’t see him again. A further item of sad news was to the effect that our Stalag at Wolfsberg had received an air-raid, consisting of 34 direct hits out of 36 bombs in a direct attack – obviously a case of mistaken target. Over a hundred men were killed outright and some 300 wounded, whilst only one German guard was slightly wounded. Unhappily a large number of these poor fellows were those who had passed the last repatriation board and were awaiting transport out of the country. The hospital section is reported to have received a direct hit nobody emerging from it alive. Planes (of course) and distant bombing. Usual apprehension!
Click here for the Red Cross report on the bombing.
The following remarkable sequence of photographs were taken immediately after the air raid by S/Sgt William Eastwood. Many thanks to his son, Peter Eastwood for permission to use them. The final photo was sent by Wendy Greenough, grand-daughter of Dick Horan, NZMC.
Click on any picture for a larger image.
The pictures shown below were provided by ex-POW Ken O'Kennedy, Jennifer Rooks, neice of Pte William Beitz, AIF and Michel Siviere, son of Jean Siviere.
|Bomb damage to the British Lazaret||Possibly wreckage of the British Lazaret||French POWs clearing debris|
The following pictures were sent by Michel Siviere. They show the burial of the French POWs killed in the air-raid, in a temporary grave by the Wolfsberg road..
The following list is of the French, Belgian, Dutch, British & Commonwealth POWs killed in the raid.
|Joseph Charles||Hobling||Chaplain||RA Ch. Dep.||1118||36|
|Robert James Finlay||Howe||Capt||RAMC||43713||?|
|Thomas Vernon||McOrmond||Pte||18 Inf. Tng. Bn.||26|
|Albert||Reynolds||Pte||2/11 Inf. Bn.||34|
|A darkly ironic Christmas card 'celebrating' the raid||Map of bomb damage, 18th December 1944||The Stalag in Mourning: a list of the French & Belgian dead|
Bill Miles, an ex-POW has told me of the lucky escape of the prisoners in the
Polish section (see map). This section of Stalag 18A was set up after the Warsaw
Uprising in August - October 1944. According to Bill, the Polish prisoners were
moved out of the camp on the morning of the raid. The Polish section was almost