The War Years: 1939-1945

Letters Home by Wilfred Lindop

Wilfred Lindop
Thanks to Wilfred's daughter, Sue, for making available the material on this page.

Wilfred Henry Lindop (known as Lindy)
was born on September 20th 1906 in North London.

'Lindy' married Marjorie in 1944, they had 3 children, Susan , David and Peter.

He worked as a sound engineer at Denham, Elstree, Walton and Shepperton film studios - with stars such as Jean Simmonds and Stewart Granger, Helen Cherry and Jack Warner.

From March 1945 to October 1945 he was a sound engineer based with the BBC War Correspondents in Germany. During this time he wrote 45 letters home, excerpts of which are included here. He died on June 3rd 1957 in Richmond. He is remembered for his kindnesses, and his wonderful sense of humour, still evident in the Lindop strain!

12th US Army, Eagle TAC Press Camp

Tuesday 1st May 1945

........We left Wiesbaden 9am Sunday and pulled in here at 6pm - all the way we had snow and sunshine alternating in rapid succession. I was driving a high vehicle and my arms felt twice their length at the end of the trip - It is no slight job punching such heavily laden trucks along the ruins of what once were really marvellous autobahns.

Taken on 1st May 1945
I'm so glad to be away from our previous press camp - I can tell you now that we all had a pretty thin time - I was frightfully ill for about 10 days. The place is such a wreck that the water and other arrangements have became very confused. In any case, the Allies do not believe in cleaning the streets of rubble, except in so far as their own requirements are concerned. You can well imagine therefore, how messy a city will soon become with all its men folk away, and no-one but the women and old men left to make only a half-hearted attempt at putting the place to rights. I "went down" to a pretty severe dose of dysentery - I was not too well pleased either, especially as a typhus warning was "on" at the time - there's quite an amount of this plague about, due to the widespread destruction, and so I'm now hastily being injected with a multitude of all possible serums - I really do hate the all pervading smell of ruination, dust and death which pervades everywhere in this blasted country.

Great news tonight - a message from London to the effect that several commentators are to be withdrawn - it looks much as if V day is indeed close to us - All the press people attached to us are spending their time doing conducted tours of "horror" camps - none of them go after army fighting. Indeed, Gillard was told today to go to Paris to cover SHAEF announcements!! He's furious about it ........

........ (The previous camp) was a pesthole tho' the dashed rats used to frighten me stiff. Also I collected a flea!! Could I find any iodine or Dettol?? not a drop - not even in the 1st aid box!! I stood for minutes under a cold shower trying to drown the little devil but I never did - I seriously think it must have been my sleeping bag, in which case I will wash it in petrol tomorrow if the weather ceases to be less wintry. Eventually I've discovered some iodine in an abandoned German ambulance which we found on our arrival; also there was a deaths head carved pipe which I adopted. I was most keen on it, but they all "went "for me, and finally I had to throw it away - they said perhaps the owner had died in that very ambulance. I was quite "fretted".

Tonight I hear they are planning exactly how the peace-news is to be made public - surely there must be something more substantial than rumour behind it all!! I also heard today that two American correspondents who tricked their way into the Russian lines have been made prisoner, only to be released to the US if they are severely punished for their offences!! I can quite believe it of the Ruskies, they're credited with the very slightest of pro-yank feelings. We've about finished our initial "setting-up" labours and I look forward to some regular hours for a change. We are not in such pretty country as before. To tell you the truth our previous site was pretty enough - a clearing in a pine forest - but it could be quite nerve wracking at night tho'. There were far too many ex-nazi soldiers skulking about, hiding from the American patrols. They are continually being rounded up, but there will always be a few camped out, who may well try and play at were-wolves . Incidentally that particular organization may well prove to be a very nasty affair particularly when some of the German prisoners return...........

12th US Army, Eagle TAC Press Camp, AP0655

Thursday 3rd May 1945

Wilfred Lindop, J. T. Stocking and J. Shallcross.
......I still cannot believe it true - that we are actually in the closing stages of this frightful war - Gillard popt his head into our room the night before last to say Hitler was dead - yesterday came news of the surrender in Italy - also of Mussolinis' shooting. Today further news of more capitulations in northern Germany. It is incredible to my mind - it is almost as if war and frights of things that go 'bump' in the night were all part of the normal life of people - And now, news of more and more frightful torture camps - what bestiality must have reigned in this *** of a country - the devil Hitler and his associates should live long to be enforced witnesses of such terrible - lunatic depravities. It is also the fault of the people and they should be transported to forever live as slaves, preferably to the Russians, in Siberia. Gillard was chatting to me of the utter mutilation which has been practised on the prisoners in these camps... I cannot imagine such fiends can ever be called human beings........

12th US Army, Weimar Press Camp, APO 655

Monday 11th June 1945

........I'm afraid I am in disgrace at the moment; it has been our custom to indulge in the teeniest leetle bit of horseplay from time to time, always to the discomfiture of one of our party. That was the general idea; unfortunately I failed to keep it within our own confines. Our "piece de resistance" has always been to "trip-up" one of our team, to his great confusion, as we were entering the Officers' Mess; as the victim stumbles and falls heavily we all keep moving on, and in so doing we purposely sort of grind him into the carpet. It has been a great joke, up 'til now.

It was my turn yesterday, and I dutifully stuck out my foot. To my horror I saw too late that it was not one of us, but a full Colonel... it seemed ages before he finally hit the parquet-flooring, but hit it he did with a dull and heavy thud. As bad luck would have it I was the only person in sight, my compañeros having seen my mistake before me and made themselves scarce at a couple of nearby tables. I dimly recall assisting a very wrathful Colonel to his feet, muttering the while about carpets being treacherous things, quite forgetting there wasn't such a thing within miles.

I might have "got away" with it, but my low born colleagues were so obviously convulsed with mirth at my mishap that my poor excuse was of no avail. The old boy trumpeted a bit, and then went away to sit and simmer. I was completely deflated thro'out dinner due to my terrible moment, and I was still preoccupied as we left our table, so much so that a fellow from Presswireless cunningly tapped ME on the ankle and I too fell to the floor with a 'orrid clatter!!! Really I could have sunk thro' to the basement, so astounded was I, when I saw my poor warrior totter and helplessly subside. I feel better today because he is leaving quite soon for another camp with a saner atmosphere, I hope.

Last evening I went out to Buchenwald concentration camp; the visit was against my better judgement, I never have believed in being an "ambulance chaser". The place is now known as a Displaced Persons centre, and it is there that such people await their turn to travel back to their own countries; I can only guess whether they will ever find their homes, when they eventually arrive.

The place is in the middle of a large clearing in a wood; around the camp itself are the remains of factories wherein the prisoners used to work. From the equipment which is still lying about, it looks as if they were manufacturing fieldgun limbers, and similar transport. The Germans blew all these buildings to smithereens when they left, so there is of them not a lot to see.

At Buchenwald.
The prison camp is fairly untouched, and there is quite too much to see. For the life of me I just cannot understand how those thousands of people could endure such conditions; they slept not in beds, not in bunks, but on long wooden trays, each prisoner lying right alongside each other with no separation between them of any sort. Then above them again were more and more trays, until literally hundreds of prisoners occupied a normal Army hut which would be normally used to house 25 soldiers and their kit.

There were many of these death-houses; the camp hospital was of exactly the same construction, presided over by prisoner doctors who had to work with the minimum of drugs and medicines. It can only be possible that those incarcerated were not ever intended live, the plan could only have been that they were to die of malnutrition, and of disease born of such close and foul living conditions.

The crematorium consists of two banks of three furnaces, oil-fired and of very modern construction; each furnace was equipped with a long affair not unlike an iron stretcher, it was on this they laid three bodies, gave the contraption a push, and so it rolled on its little wheels into the flames. The ashes and fragments of burnt bones were then swept into small tins and apparently sold for 50 pfennigs to the relatives. How they knew to whom the ashes really belonged, I can't imagine, it seems tho' that this small charge made everything seem just "right" to the Nazi mind, and I don't suppose they bothered for a moment about the authenticity of the burnt offerings. Frankly I am a little sceptical about the hangings and bludgeonings of those on their way to this charnel-house; you see, they wouldn't by the time they got so far, have any strength remaining at all. I certainly don't disbelieve what I was told but should it be true of this camp, and of Dachau, Nordhausen, Belsen, and of those others, particularly in Poland where, I am told, such inhumanities were practised that Buchenwald seems comparatively but a preparatory-school........

........As I see it, these young hooligans called the Hitler "Jugend", or the "Youth Movement", are the people most responsible for these sadistic cruelties. At home they would be the "flashy", "corner-boy" type, pimply and addicted to padded shoulders and swaggering. Over here tho' they've whisked them into uniform, fed them terrific propaganda, and then turned them loose for terrorising the Jews and other oppressed people. The result has been an inhuman race of elderly adolescents who have no thought for anything that is not harshly stern, and brutal in the extreme. You can well imagine how they even terrify their own parents and so they terrified the whole world from way back in the old "missed the bus days"........

Berlin District Command, c/o SHAEF Public Relations Party, APO 755

7th July 1945

........This letter paper is frightful, don't you think? I "knocked it off" from the ruins of Hitler's room in The Chancellery. The place is all ruins - all the Wilhemnstrasse buildings are rubble - all the centre is blown to bits as well as mile upon mile surrounding it. Destruction is complete, everywhere the city stinks of death and hundreds of mines are set off by the unwary daily. The grassways are still thickly sewn with them, even now. Putrid human remains are still being removed, carted away on barrows.

For sheer ruination of a city of such a huge size, excluding the big Rhine manufacturing towns, Berlin is a frightful place to behold. Food is very meagre: the youngsters look pinched, fragile; so do the parents, but they also look grey faced and hopeless. The Russians are hated and feared, and now the U.S. have their sector of the city to govern, and the British theirs also, the people are beginning to hope for better times.
"MCP", Berlin, July 1945
Our convoy, communications, was the very first of allied troops to enter Berlin or the Russian occupied part of Germany. Except for the very small surrender force who flew in way back in May and another recce patrol which preceeded us. We came into Russian territory after crossing a partially prepared autobahn bridge crossing the Elbe river. My first sight was of hundreds of Russian horsemen who galloped along the road verges in time with the convoy. They're a hard, fit looking crowd but by no means charming. By our standards I suppose they are not smart in their uniform: but those same fellows have fought over many a mile in their long journey to Berlin, as it seems to me they are still resting and really enjoying their relaxation. Once they're thoroughly recovered I imagine they'll become rather a headache to those who are apt to despise them.

They keep a tight reign on the Berliners. They do not forget the German invasion of their own country, and of the evils which followed. The people here are in a very low state of health. They look as you would expect them to look, following the interminable air raids and defeats, followed by the advance and capitulation to The Red Terror. They are a pinched looking and nervy populace, those who lived thro' it all. Food is sadly lacking, just when it is needed to build them up and give them strength to face their new trials. It is I know their own treatment in reverse.

We of the garrison are short of our usual food too: all we have to eat is "Compo" rations and tinned stuff, and not very appetising however it is served, no bread only biscuits. If by chance I could come by, say, 6 loaves and 4 or 5 joints of beef, I'm sure I could demand anything of value in this ghost city. Literally anything: jewels, furs, rugs or any other possible thing you can imagine. I only wish I could lay my hands on the necessary provender - I'd barter until I had just what I wanted. The pity is that we're so damnably short ourselves - the other day I grubbed-up from a field some new potatoes. I boiled them in salt and some mint-leaves, "poured them off", carefully dried them tenderly in my towel and then ate them in a state of religious fervour. They were absolutely marvellous - all this mark you, in my dixie, over a petrol fire in a ditch - I do love fresh vegetables and was pining for a change from dehydrated potatoes!!! Hunger still dogs me, you will notice.

We are billeted, following many previous changes and consequent lugging of heavy bed rolls, boxes, kit bags, in a suburb 8 miles from the centre of Berlin. West Zellandorf is the place, not unlike the Hampstead Heath of London - well spaced houses and plenty of trees. It seems to have been a sort of "professional" residential area. All houses practically mansions, I should say, bear bomb marks, varying from a few clipped bricks to fire damage and complete destruction.

But here, as in other places in Germany, also at home, the same story is heard. It was the working class districts which suffered most severely - and many times have I been told by the Berliners of the total lack of sympathy they received from their luckier kith and kin in the country areas. Just as in Oxford, Blackpool, so too were these people unofficially "squeezed" by their warm-hearted "sufferers" living in the safe areas. The difference in physique of the country children as compared to those here is frightfully appalling. But so too in Holland and Belgium and I believe in Czechoslovakia so it is just that the wheel has turned full circle - and I think the Germans should be allowed to suffer for quite a while yet. An empty stomach will do much to lower their pride - but already we are starting to send in relief columns so heaven knows where we'll finish up........

Berlin District Command, Detachment 5 PRS, BLA Berlin

30th August 1945, 9am

A stifling hot and sultry day, followed by a night which was almost steaming in its closeness. I feel quite weary already; my bed is an awful sight, the sheets and blankets are inextricably mixed up in a very tangled skein. I fear we were beset by myriads of 'skeeters which breed in the countless stinking pools of quite the foulest water abounding in the many bomb and shell holes.

Also we have always the most hairbreadth existence in this press camp, our lights failed again last evening. Bill and I pop't down to the cellar to have a look-see; we just as soon pop't up again! We found the mains come in here at 6000V, thro' the floor, and the said floor is fully 6 inches deep in a very scummy looking water! We immediately tore along to inform the Oi/c Presscamp, My goo'ness, if ever that water rose to the level of the main transformer, just try and think of the alarm and dismay which would be caused when a luscious 6000V was found to be on each and every water-tap and radiator thro'out the building. We seem now to have "started something", because instead of the old order prevailing, the gallant Capting is about to apply for some form of pumping equipment.

I know you must be weary of my oft-repeated talk of ruins hereabouts, it is so bad tho', that many of us who came in here in the early days really do find the sight of these blind windows and sagging walls acutely depressing. The appalling odour of decay and death is literally everywhere. At least we, the British, have started energetically to tidy things up, but when I was in the Russian sector the other night I was forcibly struck by the fact that they were obviously doing very little. The area in which I was, is still a vast stretch of rubble, and hundreds of burnt-out tanks and armoured vehicles are strewn all over the place.

You may possibly think it an exaggeration when you hear all this talk of "the smell of death" which is said to be so obvious. One look at the way in which huge buildings have collapsed into their basements would quickly suffice to cause any doubter to speedily realise the reason for this ever present stench, and for the innumerable swarms of flies which hover around ruined cellar entrances. I don't like it and the sooner I am away from here, the better I shall be pleased, I am so sure there will be a terrific outbreak soon. For my part I should prefer to wake one morning to a good old sharp frost, that would at least kill all the flies and other disease spreaders.

Berlin District Command, Detachment 5 PRS, Berlin

2nd September 1945

........I should explain my presence here this even' by letting you know the quandary in which we are temporarily engulfed. One of our drivers, we have two Army fellows, went on leave when Bill and J left. He has not returned; the other was suddenly called back home on compassionate leave two days ago, and hence we are without any form of guard on the vehicles and campsite, etc. Since we are technically not in the British sector, but in the American zone, our own press camp cannot supply any extra men, since we are, in point of fact, sited here outside our proper area. The U.S are not in any way responsible to provide sentries. Therefore it has fallen to our own lot to spend a night at the transmitter and act as custodian, and what have you.

Here am I, then, not too well pleased, surrounded by numerous little ration tins filled with petrol, all humming smokily if not merrily. I've backed the utility up to the rectifier truck and have run two leads to the inspection lamp sockets for my writing lamp. I'm pretty sooty, dusty and cold and also I am hungry, and woe is me, there are no rations upon which I could fall, with terrific zest.

Last evening I went with Macdonald, Bill and Gillard to the Lehrter Bahnhof to see one of the six daily trains leave for Mecklenburg province. It was full of Germans who had originally gone to Poland as colonists and German POWs. They were all being shifted back to their original home districts, the former having been "kicked-out" of Poland, and the latter being selected POWs for transport and agricultural work near their homes.

The train was comprised of cattle trucks and some few coaches, all filthy in the extreme; all travel space was packed to suffocation with old and young alike. Some had placed planks across the buffers and were precariously perched thereon; all the buffer-space was taken in this manner, in between every coach. Others were huddled into those odd guards' cabins which stick up over the top of the trucks, peculiar to Continental goods wagons.

The smell was appalling, and the platforms were packed again with thousands of others who just squatted in their rags with their bundles to wait and wait for their turn for a train. Outside too, among the ruins, were hundreds more; all silently and smellingly waiting, some for four or five days, to entrain. The Lehrter station has no roof, and its various buildings have long since been blown to bits. But rain or shine, this hopeless band of misery, having come from the misery of what was once their triumph crouch in and around this shambles of a terminus to eventually travel in filthy and verminous company to their own towns. It is terribly certain, when they do arrive, that only more misery will meet them; their homes blasted and the streets which they knew just piles of rubble.

The platforms were one long public convenience and the doors of the very train just dribbled with evil smelling things. There are no such things as refreshment rooms, and only an occasional glimmer of an electric platform lamp. They'll be sitting there now, and tomorrow and many more tomorrows, until finally the several hundred thousand are moved to their home areas. I don't know what to think - I know the Germans are fully responsible for all which has happened. I wonder why they don't put Goering and some of his henchmen on that station to act as train marshals. Their end would be certain and just, wouldn't it, and much time too would be saved!!!........

Detachment 5 PRS, BAOR Berlin Area

Tuesday 23rd October 1945

........I can barely wait until we clamber into the truck for our long trip across Europe. We shall travel by way of Herford, which is practically due west of here, a run of about 250 miles, and then make a half-left turn and head for Brussels, a total journey of some 500 miles. Herford is near much bombed Bielefeld, Osnabruck and Minden: the limit of the Russian zone lies about midway between here and Herford. I am stricken again, this time by a frightful chill across the small of my back. I was out in that dashed recording truck the last couple of days, as you may well remember it has no protection whatsoever, and it was a bitterly cold spell of weather. I know full well now why they always advocate a leather coat when driving those vehicles. I am in agony, but since it is "hot water" day, I am planning to groaningly sink myself into a bath of roasting water and hopefully remain immersed for about six or seven hours this afternoon........


Saturday 27th October 1945

........We should have left this morn' but we now have to collect some recording tapes from Spandau for Supt. Eng. Recording - We're all packed for tomorrow after an early breakfast we hit the road at about 8 a.m.

As I have mentioned before, we expect to be two days travelling to Brussels, and there it is possible some few days may be spent awaiting our turn for shipspace.. I expect also that this period of gales which have recently been lashing around our coasts will have piled up quite a number of earlier arrived vehicles in the embarkation points. The weather has been truly phenomenal - it is now blowing a full gale here, and many a wrecked building is swaying dangerously........