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Introduction

On 15 April 1945, the first British Troops entered Belsen Concentration Camp. The first British unit to enter Belsen was an anti-tank battery of 63 A/Tk Regt, Royal Artillery under the command of Brigadier Glyn Hughes, DDMS, 2nd Army. One of the soldiers in this unit was Thomas William Jordan. This article is concerned with Jordan's experiences in Belsen.

Thomas William Jordan

Thomas William Jordan was born on 14 January 1914, the son of Mr. A.M. & Mrs. K. Jordan, Newtown, Wales. He became a millwright's mate by trade, and enlisted in the Royal Artillery at Taunton, Somerset, on 17 June 1940 with the number 1574179. His Army Pay book describes Jordan as 6 feet 1 inch tall, weight 185 lbs, Chest 41 inches, with blue eyes and fair hair.

Sergeant Jordan

Thomas William Jordan's photo from his Army Paybook (Stephen Stratford).

Following his enlistment, Jordan attended several Army training courses before reaching the rank of Sergeant. He spent all his Army career in the Royal Artillery.

The scenes which greeted the British troops were shocking. The photograph below illustrates the sort of conditions that greeted the soldiers.

Outside of Belsen

Due the spread of thypus, and the number of dead bodies already lying in the camp, the bodies were buried in mass graves. The bodies were carried to the mass graves by the former camp guards, and then bulldozers were used to complete the mass graves. Due to the shear numbers of dead bodies lying around the camp, bulldozers were also used to move the corpses into the deep pits which formed the mass graves.

Disposal of Bodies

Former guards disposing of the bodies.

British Mass Burial

British bulldozer completing one of the mass graves.

The inmates at Belsen were found to encompass all age groups. They were all in a pitiful state of malnutrition and disease. Between 15 April and 11 May 1945, the daily death rate in the camp was estimated to be between 400 and 500 people. Following the arrival of more Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) units, together with other welfare organisations, during the period following 11 May 1945, the death rate fell to around 100 people per day.

Female Guards

The former women guards at Belsen.

Male Guards

Some of the former male guards at Belsen

Young Inmate

One of Belsen's younger former inmates.

Some ex-prisoners

Some of Belsen's ex-prisoners.

After Belsen's Liberation

Due to the risk of further outbreaks of disease, Belsen was eventually raised to the ground. All that now remains are the mass graves

For his service during World War Two, Sergeant Jordan was awarded the following campaign medals: 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal and British War Medal..

Thomas William Jordan died in 1990, just after he was invited to attend a 50th anniversary reunion of people involved in the liberation of Belsen Concentration Camp.

The reunion was held on 15 April 1995 at the Imperial War Museum, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Belsen's liberation. The event was jointly organised by the Imperial War Museum, the Yad Vashem Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies, the '45 Aid Society, the Polish Jewish Ex-servicemen's Association and the Holocaust Education Trust. "Belsen Fifty Years On" was attended by some 350 former liberators and survivors of the camp.

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