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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington


Below you will find a list of specialised and uncommon words and phrases used within 'Surviving Belsen'. We have provided the definitions of these words and phrases to help you understand their meaning. If you require any additional help please contact us and we will try to assist you.

Adjutant: an Army officer who does administrative work and is responsible for personnel, rules and punishment.

Allies: the countries that fought together against the Axis Powers in World War 2. The main Allies were the UK and British Commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa; France; China; the Soviet Union; and the United States.

Artillery: the branch of the Army that specialises in using large weapons, such as cannon, howitzers and missile launchers that are operated by teams of soldiers.

Axis Powers: the alliance of Germany, Italy and Japan opposed to the Allies in World War 2.

Battery Sergeant Major: the non-commissioned officer in charge of a battery, or group of men in the artillery. The same as a Company Sergeant Major.

Bengal Famine Diet: in 1943 there was a famine, or severe and widespread shortage of food, in Bengal, India, when the rice crop failed. About two million people died of starvation and malnutrition. A special diet was developed to help those who survived to recover; when you are starving, you cannot immediately resume a normal diet when food becomes available.

C.C.S.: Casualty Clearing Station, where the Royal Army Medical Corps deal with the injured.

Chief of Staff: one of the most senior posts in the Army.

Commandos: special forces who make raids into enemy territory.

Corruption: decay, rot.

Degradation: a progressive reduction in physical condition and moral standards.

Disinfest: get rid of parasites, like lice and fleas.

Fd Amb: Field Ambulance.

First German Parachute Army: like the British Army in the Second World War, German troops were split into different fighting forces. The paratroops were sent in to fight by parachute.

Ghetto: a section of a city where Jews were forced to live.

Howitzer: a short cannon that fires shells at a high angle over a short distance.

Implementation: put into practice.

Internee: a person who is imprisoned without trial, especially in wartime.

Mention in Despatches: an honour for courage, similar to receiving a medal.

Mortality: death rate.

Munitions: weapons and ammunition.

Ostensibly: represented as such, but not the real purpose.

PW: prisoner of war.

Quartermaster: an officer responsible for the food, clothing and equipment of troops.

R.A.M.C.: Royal Army Medical Corps.

R.A.S.C.: Royal Army Service Corps.

Rationale: fundamental principles and ideas.

Reich: the German government. The Third Reich was Adolf Hitler's government, from 1933 - 1945.

R.E.M.E.: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

Repatriate: send back to where you came from, your native land.

Sanatorium: a hospital to care for patients with long-term diseases, or who are recovering from illness.

Second Army: the British Army was divided up into different fighting forces in the Second World War.

Truce: a temporary cease fire, by agreement of both sides.

Typhus: an infectious disease spread by lice and fleas. It causes high fever, severe headaches and a skin rash. As many as 60% of people catching the disease may die, especially if they are already in a poor state, as they were in Belsen.

V2 missiles: invented by the Germans, this was the first long range missile to be used in combat. It was unmanned and had a range of 200 - 225 miles (321 - 362 kilometres). It was first used on 8 September 1944 against Paris, then against London.

Vetting: to thoroughly examine, to check someone out.

Wehrmacht: the professional Army in Germany.

Zloty: Polish money. It was introduced in 1924 to replace the Polish Mark, after the severe inflation and monetary chaos following the First World War.