In various WW2 forums I have been asked questions about the British Free Corps and I thought it may be of interest to readers of Bills-Bunker to share with them some of the Q´s and A´s that I have been asked over the years. If you would like to have some of your own questions, then feel free to contact me and I can post them here.
These questions are the result of an e-mail exchange between "Olag" and myself from about two years ago. He gave me permission to use his questions in such an artical about the BFC, but I have only now got around to doing so.
Oleg: You wrote that the only one Englishman in Berlin was Wilhelm "Bob" Rossler. Adrian Weale says the same on p. 180, first edition of his book (1994). Unfortunately, I don't have the second edition of his "Renegades", maybe there he someway edited this info. Ok, Rossler - 1 man for now.
Bill: Sonderführer Wilhelm Rössler was a German translater with the unit, he only had one eye and was known to the BFC as "Bob". This is stated also in Weale´s second edition.
Oleg: Next: you say that Reginald Leslie Cornford is a fake. I don't know if he knocked out a tank (Landwehr source says so); from one source (Agte P. "Englander in der Waffen-SS - das "Britische Freikorps"//Der Freiwillige. 2\1995, p. 31) I know that he actually died in the battle with soviet tanks on 27th of April. So, if there was one or not? And if there was no Cornford and he's just a myth - can you please give me your source for this info?
Bill: That Cornford was a myth is my own personal view. Weale does not mention him in his lists of members, infact we do not hear anymore about him since 1995 (exception: Landwehr´s publications). It is my firm view that "Cornford" may have been based on Wilhelm Rössler, but I have no proof of this.
Oleg: Next one (same source - Agte): he names uscha. SS Turner and says that he was heavily wounded at the same (27th) day. Richard Landwehr in his "Britishes Freikorps: British Volunteers of the Waffen-SS, 1943-1945", p. 110, writes about him (there is a list of BFC members, from some anounimous source: "Robert Turner. SS-Rottenfuhrer in the BFC and medic with 11.SS-Pz.Gr.Div. "Nordland". Destroyed a soviet tank with a "Panzerschrek" hand-held anti-tank weapon. Wounded. Fate unknown".
Bill: I believe that the Munin Verlag book "Europäische Freiwillige" may have taken some of their information from Richard Landwehr, the bit about Cornford for example. Agte´s article in the "Freiwillige" seems to have come from both these sources.
Oleg: So -Was there a man "Turner" in Berlin? Was he wounded? His name is "Robert" of something else? He's uscha. or rottenfuhrer? He destroyed a tank in Berlin or somewhere else?
Bill: He is not on any of the BFC lists that I have in recent years.
Oleg: There is also one more character: "SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer "D", the German commander of the BFC. He destroyed a tank with a Panzerfaust during the battle of Berlin. Ultimate fate unknown". - and the same questions I have to you, Bill, about this person. Post-war fake?
Bill: "D" would have been a German officer or official called Dolezalek, also known as Dornfeld. He had something to do with the unit towards the end of the war.
Oleg: I do not know much about Dolezalek, I corresponded with some one in 1998 about it, he seemed to think that he was an official at the Foreign Office or Propaganda Ministry and worked with the BFC in this role.
Bill: In "Hitler´s Renegades", Christopher Ailsby writes that SS-Obersturmführer Dr. Walter Kühlich was replaced by SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Alexander Dolezalek in the last weeks of the war. (no exact date is given for the exchange of commanders).
Oleg: One more: "E. Durin. SS-Mann (Private). Civilian BFC volunteer from the Channel Islands. Fought againts the Soviets during the last battle in Berlin. Escaped capture but ultimate fate is unknown". - same question to this fella too. "E. Durin" (or Duran) was the alias used by Eric Pleasants, he was a volunteer in the Channel Islands although he was not originally from there.
Oleg: And the last one is Eric Pleasants, who killed two soviet soldiers in Berlin-45 in hand-to-hand combat. Ah, I didn't read his memoirs - but did he kill them? If that means that he actually fought in the hell of Berlin-45?
Bill: Not everything Pleasants wrote can be believed, did he fight in Berlin? He was on the run from the authorities in Berlin and found himselve captured by the Russians. He served 7 years in a Soviet Gulag after the war before returning to the UK.
On a Spanish Forum I discovered the following list of British Free Corps members who served on the Oder Front at the end of the war. It was a long while ago and I cannot recall which forum it was.......
Miembros del BFC presentes en el Oder en 1945.
Douglas Mardon (aka Hodge), SS - Unterscharfuhrer (Sudafricano) Wilhelm “Bob" Rossler, Sonderfuhrer (Alemán)
Frank Axon (aka Atkins), SS - Schutze (Inglés) Harry Batchelor (aka Cameron/Young), SS - Schutze (Inglés) Kenneth Berry (aka Edward Jordan), SS - Schutze (Inglés) Frederick Croft (aka Nixon), SS - Schutze (Inglés) George Croft, SS - Schutze (Inglés) Alexander MacKinnon, SS - Schutze (Escocés) Ernest Nicholls, SS - Schutze (Inglés) John Sommerville, SS - Schutze (Escocés) Albert Stokes (aka Flash Gordon), SS - Schutze (Australiano)
One question often asked is "Why were there so few recruits in the BFC?"
Bill: A lot of the reasons can be found in the mulititude of books on the subject covering the BFC, but one point is always overlooked, that of timing. The serious drive to recruit for the BFC did not start until June 1944, at the time of the D-Day landings on mainland Europe, when the writing was already on the wall as to a German defeat. A glance at the recruitment levels of the other foreign volunteer formations, even the well established units, tell the same story, from about D-Day the numbers of recruits fell. In this the BFC was no different to any other foreign unit in German service late in the war. If however the BFC had been formed just after Dunkirk in 1940, then it would have been a different story. It is clear that four years after Dunkirk was far too late to obtain the numbers needed.
I recently discovered the following BFC recruitment poster online. However as it has only recently been discovered, I am wondering if it is infact a recent modern post-war design? Having said that, I do like it.