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

Victory Parade at Belsen, 8 May 1945

Part of an online exhibition from Durham County Record Office commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe on 8 May 1945

Soldiers from B Company, 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in Kangaroo armoured carrier, Germany, late March 1945 (D/DLI Acc: 10050)

On 18 April 1945, after a drive of over 200 miles in 22 hours, much of it through enemy-held territory, the soldiers of the 113th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery arrived at Belsen concentration camp to join the British Army's desperate race to help the living, bury the dead, and prevent the spread of killer diseases.

The 113th LAA Regiment had sprung from the old 5th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and many of its soldiers came from West Hartlepool, Horden and Easington. These men had been on active service with their anti-aircraft guns from the beaches of Normandy in June 1944 to the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. But at Belsen they faced their most daunting task. 

Leaving their guns to one side, they set about clearing the camp's huts, moving the living to temporary hospitals, and burying the dead in mass graves dug by bulldozers. Over 15,000 bodies were buried, whilst five cookhouses provided three meals a day for 50,000 survivors. 

De-loused, re-clothed and well-fed, survivors fit enough to travel were soon able to leave Belsen, and by 19 May the camp was empty. 

The 113th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment’s Victory Parade, Belsen, 8 May 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/28(53))
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On 8 May 1945, VE Day, the 113th Regiment's soldiers, having seen at first hand the horrors of Hitler's Germany, held their own victory parade at their barracks at Hohne, just outside the concentration camp.

 

 

 

The 113th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment's Victory Parade, Belsen, 8 May 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/28(53)).

Belsen (PDF, 108kb)

After the last hut at Belsen had been burnt to the ground on 21 May, the 113th Regiment left for the Baltic coast and a well-earned two weeks' holiday. Few soldiers of this Regiment probably ever forgot the weeks they spent at Belsen.

The 113th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment’s Victory Parade, Belsen, 8 May 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/28(55))
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The two photographs on this page are from an album compiled by Captain Stanley Levitt.

This regiment was armed with thirty-six 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns.

 

 

 

The 113th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment's Victory Parade, Belsen, 8 May 1945 (D/DLI 7/404/28(55)).

For more information about the Liberation of Belsen in May 1945, see Surviving Belsen in the Learning Zone section of our website. 

Back to 'We have come through' - remembering VE Day 1945 exhibition homepage.