Communication from senior British officer (SBO) to Russian authorities



Communication from senior British officer (SBO) to Russian authorities


States the situation of British in camp that the Russian authorities were responsible for the administration and security of he camp. Mentions responsibility for work in camp, the food situation being precarious, overcrowding due to influx of Italian refugees. Notes that an American officer representing Supreme Allied HQ arrived on 5 May but Russians refused to allow him to carry out his orders. Comments that although this situation was result of misunderstanding the Russians were preventing repatriation. Russian stated delay was due to administrative reasons but SBO had offered to conduct required registration. The SBO was responsible for welfare of officers and men and demanded that position be clarified to allow repatriation. As SBO's position as senior allied officer was untenable, he resigned his position and remain responsible only for the British.



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The Senior British Officer is communicating the following in writing to the Russian authorities here today.

Stalag 3A
7 May '45.

In order to avoid misunderstanding, I am putting into writing the principle statements which I made at our conference last night.
The situation of the British at this camp is now as follows. From 22nd April I, at the request of the Russian authorities, have been responsible for the administration and security of this entire camp of 16,0 mixed nationalities. The work of the camp during this time has been carried out mainly by British and American officers and men. It should, however, be appreciated that, owing to the Russian orders re. confinement to camp etc., we have to continue to all intents and purposes as prisoners. That the orders were a military necessity is of course clear, but nevertheless the result has been a lowering of the spirit of all ranks. It is in order to understand and make allowances for the mental attitude of prisoners of war who have been liberated but are still denied their freedom.
The food situation, up to yesterday, was precarious, and the daily ration, even though assisted by American supplies, is still grossly inadequate. It is realised that the Russian authorities overcame great difficulties in providing food at all under harassing circumstances, but it will also be agreed that the supply organisation of this camp performed most of the work. Furthermore, the camp has become even more overcrowded owing to the influx of Italian refugees. The problems of sanitation are considerable, and the general health is threatened.
In spite of all this, the Russian orders were obeyed and control was maintained up to 5th May. On that day, an American Officer, representing Supreme Allied Headquarters, arrived with instructions to evacuate the American and British in that order. His credentials were countersigned by the British authorities. Yesterday the American representative from Supreme Allied Headquarters arrived with a convoy to carry out his orders. Capt. Tchekanov acting as deputy for Capt. Medvedev who was sick, refused to allow him to proceed with his duties. Later when an attempt was made to proceed with the evacuation, armed force was used against American troop to prevent their leaving camp.
No doubt this whole affair is due to a misunderstanding but the situation created is extremely serious. In spite of continuing reassurances that we were to be repatriated with the least possible delay we now see the Russians actively preventing such repatriation. It is impossible for me to explain or justify such action in the eyes of the officers and men. I warned Capt. Medvedev on 4th May that such a situation was likely to arise, and that if it did I could not be responsible for the consequences.
Last night it was inferred that the obstacle to our repatriation was that the registration was not completed. I have repeatedly offered to control the whole of the registration: I could have completed it by now if my offer had been accepted. In any case I cannot believe that the Russians intend that the vital interests should be threateded [sic] for the sake of a mere formality.
As the S.B.O. here I am responsible above all else for the welfare of my officers and men. This welfare is seriously endangered by the present situation. I therefore demand that the position may be clarified without delay and that our repatriation may proceeded with immediately. Failing this I must ask to be enabled to communicate with my Government.
Finally, I must point out that the present situation renders my position as Senior [inserted]Al[/inserted]lied Officer untenable. I therefore resign my position and from now must be regarded as responsible only for the British.



“Communication from senior British officer (SBO) to Russian authorities,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2024,

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