Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Letters by Muriel Knox Doherty, August-October 1945
MLMSS 442/Box 11/Folder 2

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(Belsen No 2)

Community Letter 6
6 Belsen Camp
N.W. Germany


My dear Friends,
You will have received my last letter giving you details of the early history of Belsen – This will give you some idea of the conditions prevailing before & up to my arrival & I hope future letters will then give you a picture of present day conditions & progress. The early days of phase 2 were those of intense and exhausting work for the staff, and of miraculous change for the patients, Doctors, nurses, and all other personnel at the Camp were toiling from morn till night in the "wards" of the "Hospital blocks", the "Round House" & later the "Glyn Hughes" Hospital – Mr Winston Churchill’s famous tribute to the R.A.F. in the Battle of Britain might well apply to these courageous people – "Never before have so many, owed so much to so few".

I have met & talked with many of the original liberators and have been impressed by the modest way in which they narrate their experiences.

Feeding the victims of starvation & disease was in itself a colossal & & heartbreaking undertaking

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The moment food appeared, those who could, oblivious of their stark nakedness, staggered forward, gaunt spectres with arms outstretched, crying "Essen, essen". In fact, that cry was incessant in the early days.

When organised feeding became possible in Camp 1, the liberators were sometimes criticised by these people for the small quantities served. Many felt that they were better off under the Germans, when they had their watery soup, potatoes &

chunk of dry bread. They were not in a fit mental condition to appreciate the fact that it was highly nutritional.

I am not in a position, at present, owing to the many changes in Medical & Nursing Staff since the day of liberation, to discuss the scientific feeding of these starving victims or+ the nutritional disorders associated with this condition. Intravenous feedings were given and casein hydrolysate used for large numbers suffering from starvation.

Col. V.P. Sydenstricker, Head of the Nutrition Section, Health Division, UNRRA, and Dr. C.N. Leach of the

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Rockefeller Foundation, visited the camp shortly after liberation. It was a result of this meeting that Dr. Meiklejohn was sent out to advise on nutritional problems.

Dr. W.R.F. Collis, Prof. of Pediatrics, Dublin University, who was in charge of the children’s Hospital here, has written two papers on the subject of nutrition here at Belsen, which he is sending me. He recently accompanied the last group of original camp 1 children to Sweden and was unable to discuss the matter before leaving.

Strangely enough there appears to have been little evidence of vitamin deficiency as judged by the appearance of scurvy, beri beri or rickets. Mouth, gastro-intestinal & skin infections, pulmonary tuberculosis, famine oedema and pressure sores were, however, prevalent. Louse borne typhus was raging – The death rate was high – A board on the outside of the each "block" indicated the number of deaths during the day. The bodies were placed in the cellars and collected in wagons at 6 p.m.

Nursing conditions were primative, and the "wards"

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grossly overcrowded. The odour was terrible. There were few, if any bedpans; dysentery & diarrhoea were rampant. The patients were dehydrated & exhausted. Improvisation was carried out to the nth degree. The stronger, still haunted by the fear of starvation, hoarded what they could among their bedding – some still continue to do this. It took a considerable time for the inmates to regain confidence & appreciate the fact that when they had eaten the food provided, another meal was forthcoming in a few hours. The cries of "essen, essen" were still heard, though food was plentiful & patients dying from over-eating.

By May 21st 1945, 13,000 hapless victims of Nazi brutality had died from starvation, overeating, typhus, pulmonary tuberculosis, dysentery & other diseases. Thousan since liberation. Thousands of others had been brought back to health by the devoted & untiring care of those privileged to look after them.
The return to health, both mental & physical, was miraculous & rapid for many, particularly those who had but recently entered the camp.

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The organisation of the camp was amazing – Accommodation had to be found for those not admitted to Hospital & for patients discharged from Hospital – Nationalities and relatives were as far as possible housed together.

Information offices were inaugurated to assist D.P.s to trace relatives & friends – Remember, all records were destroyed by the Nazi S.S. Guards before the Camp was handed over – and during the truce.

Food ration cards had to be issued, registration carried out – A steady stream of transport was kept moving. Army ration & ordinance stores, laundry, cookhouses, food distribution centres, dispensaries, First Aid rooms were set up. Sanitary squads had much to do. Ambulance services never ceased. Grave diggers were constantly at work. Kindergartens & schools were opened. Polliasses, clothing & footwear began to appear, being commandeered from the German population.

Typhus "blocks" were surrounded with barbed wire.

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Liaison officers of many nations began to arrive. Welfare officers worked unceasingly – Few of the personnel in such close contact with the victims of typhus developed the disease. Some 27,000 souls began to assume some degree of normality.

The first work was to relieve starvation, restore to convalescence those who were fortunate enough to recover and to bring such comfort as was possible to those to be destined to lead a life of invalidism or whose days were numbered.

These peoples of the concentration camps were free & few restrictions were placed upon them. They were not normal in mind or body and were ready to resent any control as being reminiscent of Nazi Kultur.

They were fed & clothed & housed. They came & went as they liked, their registration cards being the only thing necessary to enable them to pass the guards at the gates. They had lost all moral sense – Pillaging was rife. They raided

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farms, houses, shops, villages & were frequently joined by large numbers of D.P.’s who had been used as slave labour and who, on liberation, downed tools & either joined the marauding bands or set up more or less organised colonies throughout the land or wandered into D.P. camps in order to be repatriated. They stole the sheets, quilts, blankets in fact anything they could, for in their opinion they were perfectly justified in doing so. After all the Germans brought them into the country & must take the consequences. There were shootings but these are now under control owing to a strict order regarding possession of firearms.

These people whose very existence had for so many years depended on astuteness, quick witedness & physical strength, could hardly be expected to return to normal community life in a normal manner.

There were Jews & Christians, Czechs, Romanians, Poles, French, Dutch, Belgians, Russians, Germans

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Gipsies, Austrians, Italians, Danes, Norwegians, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Hungarians – One only has to walk round the cemetries to see the nations represented.

Thousands were repatriated as soon as possible if fit to travel, in a 1,000 bomber shuttle service – Thousands remained, either because their countries would not have them or because they did not wish to return to the land of their birth. Numbers left the camp independently.

And that brings me to the time when I arrived at Belsen Camp on July 11th 1945.

I must close now, for my tasks are many & my work arduous – UNRRA’s work now is to transform an acute emergency & improvised Hospital into a well organised, hygienic institution and I am in my element.

Best wishes to all
M.K. Doherty

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Belsen Camp
N.W. Germany

My dear Budd,

Sunday again & what a week! I was thrilled to have your letter of 29.6.45 & 10.7.45. I think I answered the former and also posted Belsen No 1 letter to you – Have a few minutes now & must send a line – am experiencing the most collossal muddle you ever knew and trying to sort it out. Fortunately have two doctors (one Aust. woman) who share my anxiety and we three are struggling to keep things going under most difficult conditions particularly from our immediate superior who is quite hopeless – why do I always have to straighten out messes under such difficult conditions? The weeks are just flying – no mail since last Sunday & can’t remember whether I answered your 10.7.45 or not. After having been humbugged with allotment of quarters and expecting my staff any day, I finally managed to get a roof over their heads last night – Since coming I’ve been trying to get decision re quarters. Have been promised in turn, The Round House, former palatial officers’ club German Panzer unit, on liberation housing hundreds & hundreds acute advance T.B. + typhus + dysentery etc. Refused this. Then Hungarian soldiers "block" would have been passable with plenty of soap & water when aired & whitewashed – The occupants "made a hell of a fuss" and so UNRRA could not move in & mark you these men are virtual P.O.W. Then selected "The House in the Woods". Lovely trees all round – occupant German wife of Commandant of Panzer Barracks, now in gaol – couldn’t turn her out!! She’s since gone to make room for Br. officers!! Then the Children’s Hosp: recently vacated when last 80 children went to Sweden – nearly all had had T.B. in various stages – many had died – Terribly dirty. Refused to go in until fumigated, scrubbed, whitewashed & aired – suggested tents nearby in meantime – That after a week, fell through – I was getting madder & madder – Then offered first one & then another block of flats – (late officers’ married quarters – German). Finally was on Monday last told that the R.U.S.C. would be out on Wed. pm. Cleaners on Thursday & we in on Friday. I was taking over the large Hosp. incl. Maternity on the Monday! Wed: came R.U.S.C. still in Thursday the same Friday top flats vacated 10.30 am Saturday bottom flats still occupied till 11am & staff arriving 1 pm. The place was left in complete dirt & chaos – I had to find officials responsible for engaging & allotting staff to clean – Got 9 Hungarian soldiers and a German woman for top flats on Friday & 12 H soldiers & 6 German women Saturday 10.30 am – The men are a lazy, dirty lot. The women good. I did nothing but patrol & drive them on all the time, after collecting buckets, brooms, soap (v. scarce) & scrubbing brushes – I gave these out & by lunch time all the soap had been "pinched" & scrubbing brushes vanished – I never ceased patrolling

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"driving" & shouting – the only thing that makes the Hungarians move. A Br. Tommy helped me – Of the 4 electric stoves, only three one worked. Had to get German electricians, door handles broken, German engineers - Installed Mischa M, Hungarian cook & his two assistants went back to that kitchen with him to find that 6 bottles wine & various other drinks & stores given us by R.U.S.C. vanished and eight Hungarian soldiers in kitchen all with 2 "thick slices, b & b. 1" and marmalade.

I drove them out like cattle – and retd to put in order for rations – My German is "green" but its marvellous what you can do – Staff arrived – had arranged to feed them at this farm where I live – Five more than expected arr: but we fed them – Drew china, cutlery etc. from store & they sat down to dinner last night 7 pm – Being Sunday the next day we drew double rations – All were stolen by Hungarian gypsies 7 am today – we failed to arrest any because they had hidden the large amount of goods before caught. All this & much more because my messing staff was not sent to me as I finally beseeched, in time to handle the messing arrangements.

Am attacking another block of flats tomorrow & taking over Hosp. on 8th. All this with no transport, because he won’t order any – Finally Sir R.C. & Mrs C. up today – cleared much up but still much more – will be "driving" again tomorrow.

Do send some coffee & dried milk if you can – Do hope some more letters come soon – No papers or anything else yet – wish I could write more - & don’t forget all I want is the cottage & peace etc but do wish you could have seen me yesterday, it was funny, if exhausting & exasperating.

Much love

[Envelope addressed to:]
Miss H. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

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Belsen Camp
N.W. Germany

My dear Mother

This will not be a very interesting letter, because I am so very busy, preparing my mess for 40 people and arranging to take over the Hospital on 8/8/45. Two most interesting letters from you but no mail now for one week & I do look forward so much to it. Fancy Sydney getting so excited about my appointment – you seem to have had a busy time with the Press. Aunt Kit wrote & told me the news. Am looking forward to the newspaper cuttings too – no papers have yet arrived for Aust. for me. I wrote Budd of details of getting our mess in order. The second block of flats which was to be cleaned & furniture sorted today – was broken into last night & a good deal of furniture taken. You can’t turn your back for one single minute here without losing something. Had the Garrison Engineer up today – German – He & I walked round and I made him understand in my bad German that various windows, basins, door handles, electric lights etc. etc required mending – "Kaput" seems a good word for "No good" or "broken" – Belsen Camp is changing rapidly – thousands coming & going all the time – Terribly interesting.

Have posted Letter No 1 describing the beginning of Belsen after liberation, to Budd – rather gruesome for you perhaps – will try & write it as it was when I came & is now, but that will take time. V. difficult to finalise anything & after weeks of battling to get some sort of transport to take me round the long distances, found that "a driver had been looking for me all the morning" – He was without a car!! So what earthly use he is. I know not.

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Haven’t had a letter from Norah yet in reply to my note telling her where I am. Tell Kathleen I expect her to see the Community letter, as I can’t manage to write individual ones yet.

Lovely weather here – The D.P’s take advantage of helping themselves to much of the potatoes & vegetables in the German fields – They also enjoy stripping the apple trees which line the roads!! After all the Germans brought them here!!

Another interruption to take receipt to china, cutlery etc – Must stop am very well & enjoying getting out of the muddle!!

Give my love to all & much for you – Hope plans for Avalon progress – Am looking forward to a holiday there when I return.

Take care of yourself,

Lots of love

Envelope addressed to:

Mrs R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Rd
New South Wales

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Belsen Camp Hospital
N.W. Germany

My dear Mother

This week’s letter was in danger of not being written – life is hectic. It is now 9.30 pm and having concluded an interview of four Hungarian D.P.’s, prospective domestics, I settle down to send a brief note. Day before yesterday heard that war with Japan is over – Then some doubt and now hear terms submitted. When we told our Hungarian cook (male) he nearly threw his arms round my neck!! And neither of us speak English – we are very cut off with mails & papers – all conveyed by air and Brussels & nearby airfields under water for four days. I know there must be dozens of letter for me somewhere – if only I knew where. Well, having gotten the mess in order, a terrific undertaking, I have been receiving my staff in dribs & drabs and taking over the Hosp. from the British Army.

So far I have one Scottish, one Danish, two English, four Canadian, three Belgian, one Polish (US) one U.S. nurses – all very nice – A Czech cook supervisor, Mrs Buryova Sandor Duraly, Katoma Lajos, Erdelyi Bela, Hungarian cook & his assistants. We have one French, one Dutch, one Irish, two English, two Australian doctors. [indescipherable] Dr Bidstrup SA. & Dr Tewsley, Victoria, both women & very nice.

At last after most exhausting negotiations, pleadings, naggings & whatnot, I have a car & driver for myself. The distances are so great and it has been very embarrassing to be dependent on the good will of other people here & also a waste of time. UNRRA certainly knows how to muddle things and it is only the most tenacious who can continue without being completely exasperated at the obstructions put in our way.

My housekeeper who has not yet appeared nor been selected nor even known, is a myth. I have everything to do & arrange in addition to taking over the most amazing hospital in the world some 500-700 beds now as we are evacuating rapidly to Sweden & their own countries.

Arranging meal hours, transport to & from Hosp. recreation, ingoing & outgoing mails, allotment & cleaning of rooms, German & Hungarian labour for our Mess, disposal of garbage, & damaged furniture etc free cigarette & matches ration, special passes for my staff for the camp, installation of phone, repair of keys, locks, electric lights, plumbing, electric stoves, broken window panes, and masses of flies is a small part of the day’s work. The "Flying Squad" with DDT arrived today & did out both flats – we watch the death struggles of the victims with glee.

Can’t ever get to sleep before 11 pm. as the curfew siren is just outside my window (old German air raid signal) and a wild wail shrieks forth at 10.50 pm & at 11 pm each evening.

Did rounds in German Nurses Quarters recently – they work in the Hosp. & are p.o.w. 135 in an attic, two enamel wash basins & only

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water from Fire hydrant – hardly any light & very little air. All that has to be attended to before long! I also have 20 Latvian nurses, whose quarters need much attention.

Another welcome letter from you last week. When the parcels arrive we will have a party. We do not want sugar now. Coffee would be welcome & some dried milk. Long letter from Olive King today & one from Norah H. She may be able to get down to see me – She’s out of Bremen. I was going to Hanover day before yesterday but car out of order so couldn’t.

We have found a source of fresh vegs. so hope for variety – carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber – Food is not short here now, but extras are – tinned "spam" & sausages become monotonous but we are getting fresh meat too and potatoes unlimited – Our cooks turn out lovely rock cakes & tarts.

Washing soap unprocurable & water hard. When I have a moment will write another longer & newsier letter. Hope the press has stopped pestering you!!

Take care of yourself,


Envelope addressed to:
Mrs R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

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Belsen Camp Hospital
N.W. Germany.

My dear Budd,

Sunday has passed and I was only able to find time to write to Mother. Now it is 8.30 pm and I have just put the saucepan of water on to heat for my ablutions. A lovely mail today after a long silence – yours dated 30.5.45, 2. A.G. letter No 1. and one 25.7.45 – one from Mother also and a number of others – Alas, I cannot write to individuals, may later, but hope many see the community letter.

I now have thirteen nurses on my staff to take over a 555 bed Hospital – UNRRA Nurses I mean – 135 German, 20 Latvian. Things are bad in the Hosp. and there is much cleaning up and organization before use. Fortunately, my staff is good & enthusiastic and many being Public Health Nurses, realize the need for something better. I actually "took over" today & don’t know whether I’ll open a domestic agency when I return, a school of languages or go out as a general scavenger. Having no housekeeper or messing officer to date, I’m also chief cherang of the mess and we have 33 persons to feed & house already!

Having no welfare officer in the Hosp: I’ve taken over that dept. as far as comforts are concerned and my assistant spent the afternoon helping me get order out of chaos there to see what stocks we have! Stocks are low as far as comforts are concerned – The morning was spent scouring the camp to get in touch with various elusive persons, to find out what the cigarette position was – one Army Wefare off. left 2pm. without leaving any stocks. All pts. get 3 cigs for males and one for females daily & 8 sweets – Cigs are the only known currency for D.P.s. & there’d be a revolution if they failed particularly on the day UNRRA officially took over. After an exhausting search, I got 3,000 which will only really cover a day or so as the D.P.’s who assist with distribution get 10 each – That will be reduced to 5 tomorrow as one cigarette = 1 francmark = 6d.

Then, assisted by Freda a Hungarian gipsy aged about 4 yrs, I labelled (or "scriben das schluchel") the keys of every cupboard I could find!! I’m becoming quite smart at understanding the language now but could never spell or write it I’m sure.

While I think of it – a knob of blue & small pkt starch would be useful – water bad colour and collars soft & don’t last long – Don’t want much or often, but hope to engage a D.P. laundress & maid to look after me & my clothes when I find an honest dependable one. Plenty of sugar in our army rations, but would enjoy acidy boiled sweets or some salted nuts.

Miss Kirkaldie must have had a lovely farewell. I’m glad I didn’t accept the offer to take on her job – no one could ever replace her. Very int. in Report going to all Hosp: quite good if the Matron’s comments carry any weight, Interested in Miss K’s memorial – A prize for NRB

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would mean competitive exam & much more careful marking, which I don’t think you’ll get.

The amalgamation of Mental Nurses seems quite good. We may be able to raise the question of re-organisation of the training. The £2 you paid for my shoes which you say I gave you to Bank, wasn’t the £2 I borrowed from Miss Throsby was it and asked you if you would mind giving her?

Had the Hygiene squad to DDT all the walls in our four flats yesterday – Flies terrible & just the month for epidemics – Have four cases enteric now – the Germans call it typhus – but the louse borne typhus is called by them "typhus flickis" or something. Eva Wind is my interpreter – A pretty Austrian D.P. educated in Vienna & says she’s a nurse – don’t know what kind yet!

Don’t worry too much about me – we do hear shots at times and D.P’s have attacked & killed various Germans – we are very careful & never go out without an armed escort at night if we go anywhere – but there’s nowhere to go but the Officers’ Club & you know how I enjoy night life! – D.Ps are pretty lawless & looting of German property rife.

Long letter from O. King yesterday. Longing to see book.

I hope they put the Service Matrons (Principal) on the UNRRA selection Comm as they know so many nurses & investigate them – Is Miss Throsby P/M yet?

Many, many thanks for all you have done for me. Mother doesn’t know what she’d do without you. The parcels sound marvellous – will enjoy them when they come. No need to tell you to do them up strongly – I saw some the other day, just bursting to bits after all the handling in transit.

Posting receipt for statement of service under separate cover – direct to Miss Lang. Sorry Miss Throsby not well. Do wish they’d find out what the trouble is.

Nice letter from Mr. Lewis & John McCosker today. The RNNS party sounds awful – glad to have had letters since to know you are safe. Met McArthur – late PHH today – now in QUIMNSR] just leaving this Hosp. with the Unit which I took over from.
Much love & messages to all

Envelope addressed to:
Miss H. B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

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Belsen No3.

Community Letter 7
Belsen Camp Hospital
N.W. Germany

My dear Friends,

Writing letters is becoming increasingly difficult because there is much constructive work to do here. The last joint letters I wrote gave you some idea of the Camp at liberation and up to the time of my arrival on July 11th 1945. The camp at that time contained some 20,000 displaced persons, D.P.’s as they are known in this part of the world. Many nationalities were represented, some had been many years in concentration camps, others had been used as slave labour by the Germans while yet others may originally have come to Germany of their own accord, but had been forced to work and were prevented from returning to their own countries for one reason or another. Whatever their reason for being here, they had nearly all felt the force of Nazi terrorism, and many bore marks of brutality. Those who had been in the terrible Auschwitz Concentration Camp where they were gassed & incinerated in thousands, bear a brand on the lateral aspect of their right left forearm – a number. It makes me sick to see tiny children branded in this way – which up to the time of liberation meant that sooner or later they would be taken out

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to die. As one girl said "even the little children got it and they cried so much because it ached." Those who entered Auschwitz did not leave (until the Br: came). When I arrived the following hospitals were in use:-
The "Squares", blocks of two storeyed barracks surrounding a square, previously occupied by German Panzer trainees. There were some thousands of patients here.
The Round House , the palatial officers’ club, with enormous ballroom, solarium, anterooms etc. Several thousand advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis were here just packed into every available space including the cloak rooms. Beds were side by side & end to end in endless rows. There were few facilities for nursing such cases. No sterilizers, no sputum mugs, a few pots, basins & tins all without lids. Disinfectants were scarce, I walked round this ward and saw the gaunt emaciated, pallid skeletons, some too ill to observe, others giving a passing faint smile or glimmer of recognition. Some were brighter. Death was all round, but no one took any notice – that meant nothing when they had lived, eaten & slept amongst the dead for so long. There was of course no privacy, but that was an unknown thing for most.

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The Glyn Hughes Hospital . One modern 250 bedded Military Hospital which was occupied by German wounded when the British entered, but which was soon evacuated and used for these hapless victims. The hospital held some thousands, beds in every alcove and packed into the wards – most of which should contain anything from one to 14 patients. The fittings were modern, corridors wide, annexes plentiful & convenient. There are seven blocks or wings all built around a central lawn and surrounded with lovely trees.

The Childrens Hospital with its large marquees to house the overflow – There were some hundreds of children, the majority of whom were suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, and many of whom have since died - I don’t think I have ever seen so many terribly ill or such frightfully emaciated children. There were a number who improved rapidly with proper treatment, of course.

The Maternity Hospital : also grossly overcrowded, in charge of a D.P. woman doctor, a Roumanian, who told me she was forced to

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strangle 5,000 babies born in Auschwitz where she was interned – S.S. Guards’ babies. She was forced to do the same at Belsen before liberation. Those who refused to do so were shot.

The 81st British General Hospital staff was in charge, assisted by some BR C.S. nurses, 20 French nuns of the Vatican Mission to Belsen, 20 Latvian Nurses, about 150 German nurses, and a number of D.P. nurses. British, German & D.P. doctors staffed the Hospitals assisted by a number of Belgian Medical students.

My first work apart from surveying the Hospitals and estimating my requirements of nursing staff, was to make contact with those responsible for the welfare of the D.P.’s and the administration of the camp. I also was anxious to gain an insight into the background and present position, not only of the inmates of the Hospitals, but of the DP’s in general.

An army of flies had taken possession, they were everywhere in millions, thriving on the food hoarded by the patients. They occupied the wards, swarmed over everything. There

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were no nets – the weak were unable to protect their faces, and I knew that would be our first campaign. There were pretty shrubs round the buildings – teeming with flies. I itched to get a D.D.T. team and get going. Why there had not been an epidemic of gastro-intestinal infection I know not, but there were a considerable number of people suffering from "Belsen tummy", who never reached the Hospital stage but who probably had the flies to blame.

Evacuation of patients was carried out at a rapid pace – Hospital train, after train left for Sweden, packed with mostly lying patients many accompanied by relatives, for the policy is to keep families together as much as possible. I went to see a train depart & the O.C. took me right through, 320 patients. Many were thin & unhappy looking, others brighter & more cheerful. They were having their tea; it was 6pm. Rye bread & butter & a tin of peculiar looking fish & more peculiar looking liquid, which they appeared to relish.

These people, tasting real freedom, would

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be conveyed in that train as far a Lubeck, where the Swedish Red Cross took them over – medically examined, ie deloused, reclothed & then handed on to the UNRRA Swedish Mission who escorted them the remainder of the journey – Sweden has undertaken to look after some thousands of these people.

The last group of children left a couple of weeks ago, also for Sweden – mostly orphans, but some accompanied by parents – The gipsy children were sweet & so precotious with marked personality. ‘Eva’ was particularly fascinating – about 4 yrs old but undersized danced beautifully & had picked up quite a lot of English & was quite coquettish.

Franz Berlin was a mite picked up in Berlin, when his parents had been killed by a bomb. A Czeck driver brought him to Belsen, I believe. Some of the children were artists and the walls of the wards bore excellent caricatures of ‘Adolf’ as well as dainty fairy pictures & national flags. A Dutch nurse who drew murals rather like Pixie O’Hara had added her contribution to the grubby plaster.

I visited "Harrods" the clothing store

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managed by the B.R.C.S. I believe at first when the British commandeered clothing & footwear from the surrounding district s of Hanover things were of good quality and fairly presentable. Later, when a levy was imposed & the Burgomaster was responsible for the collection, the quality rapidly deteriorated and the footwear was terrible. The source of supply is drying up now, and it is very gratifying to know that the people of Australia are making such a splendid effort in their collection of clothes for Europe.

You should see some of great grandmother’s underclothes, which I saw on their shelves – voluminous combinations, of the heavy German type, chemises and a varied collection of garments no-one would wear! But the DP’s are adept with scissors & needles – I was interested to see so many well cut blue & white gingham dresses when I first arrived, but soon awakened to the fact that instead of being the product of some dorcas society, they were the mattress covers & quilts of the Hospital.

The grey costumes, & greatcoats, so well

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tailored are our precious blankets and the sheets make very attractive tennis frocks. These DP’s are mostly young, few of the older ones & the interlectuals are did not survived their incarceration. They are clever with their fingers and it is really a good thing that they are taking a personal interest in their appearance for it is an indication of their return to some sort of normality – Fortunately, there were no inventories or "linen counts" or the Sister’s hair would surely have turned grey.

The system of clothing all DP’s on leaving Hospital is to give them a chit and which they take to the store – There they are fitted out – Those well DPs who have received one issue & require more are visited in their blocks by a BRCS worker who, with the "Block" leader, tours each building and enquires what they want – She well knows that on the day of her coming all surplus clothes have probably been removed to another block, & the oldest & shabbiest are being worn – The bunks, so tidily covered with a blanket or cover, conceal many a garment or collection of food & it is a study to see the expressions

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on their faces when she turns a corner up or approaches a cupboard! But these people who have struggled so long for existence, still must gather all they can when leaving "Harrods", the workers run their hands over each one and frequently make a haul of several dresses, stockings or other garments, surreptitiously concealed in axillae or inside coats & under the legitimate bundle of clothing carried over their arm. They even fake the "chits" issued by the worker after her tour of their "apartments".

I enjoyed this trip round their "homes" – some are very neat & tidy, having acquired many articles of furniture from the surrounding district – Pillaging is rife – They simply take what they want – the Germans are mostly terrified to do anything. I have seen some beautiful rain coats & costumes which I’m sure did not come out of "Harrods". But do you blame them? The Germans brought them here, so must take the consequences. This is a crazy place – we now protect the Germans from the DP’s!! Some of the DP’s are extremely lawless too, and present a major problem here.

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Any control exercised brings the retort that they were better off under the Germans, so that our efforts to give the freedom are fraught with problems.

The Kindergarten here conducted by the BRCS and with the help of D:P: teachers is fascinating. The first day I visited it, the room was full of little "Tito’s" – girls – the boys were out walking as there were insufficient desks for both at a time. Their work was beautiful, they are artistic neat & painstaking although the Czech children are supposed to be even better. They have a large room, originally the canteen of one of the barracks squares, gay pictures & their own original drawings & crayon pictures on the walls – Punch & Judy show, books, sand pit – in fact a well set up Kindergarten.

There’s a Kinderheim here also for the smaller children, and a School for the older children. "Woolworths" is also an attractive – set up in a large stable as "Harrods" is – one of the many, for this was at one time a Cavalry training school it houses hardware, linen & blankets, and cleaning materials – all of which are exceedingly short now. The linen position is acute – for so much is just "organised" by the D.P.’s

[Page 27]
10,000 sheets lost last week when a kind of inventory was taken. I am endeavouring to gather all available linen under my wing, but as 5,000 Russian wounded & sick & 500 Italians the same, are arriving from the Ruhr today to be housed in the squares, there’s not much left for us in the Glyn Hughes!!

The "Squares" are interesting, where the DP’s live. There are 18,000 at present & will be at least 20,000 for the winter. Nearby at a D.P. camp at Falingbostel there are to be 30,000 Poles shortly. They of course are free to arrange their rooms as they like & with whatever they can find, in addition to their own issue of blankets & clothing. Some take a great interest and have pretty window curtains, table mats & covers and keep them very clean. I even saw china cabinets, floor rugs, cushions antimacassars & plush throw overs on beds etc. Many women lying in their two tiered bunks looked ill post typhus with oedema etc.

Others are not so careful and one finds masses of hard stale rye bread, jugs of queer looking liquid and basins of curd and other national delicacies!!

The food ration which is a very liberal one and which I will enclose for the interest of my dietitian friends, is cooked in the large kitchens attached to the canteens. It is served

[Page 28]
there but a large number bring basin’s, jugs & plates & carry it away to concoct into a more attractive dish over fires lit near their residences – wooden slats from the wire bedsteads make good kindling, in fact they burn anything they can.

The gipsies decorate their rooms with greenery and any coloured bits they can find and are themselves most picturesque if not perfumed!

There are several large recreation rooms and a large library, which unfortunately has insufficient books and few dictionaries. Language classes are conducted by D.P.’s, some of whom are qualified teachers. German English & English German needed badly.

I have been to several excellent concerts which are held either in the large, tented cinema or the ordinary cinema both of which are fitted with a stage & curtains.

The tented building is exceedingly well constructed with supports resembling a meccano, and some kind of air conditioning plant attached.

On July 18th a concert was given by three

[Page 29]
D.P.’s Eva Steiner, Soprano, of Buda Pesth Opera House, Gerardo Gandioso, Baritone of S. Carlo Napoli and Guiseppe Selmi, Radio Rome, with Violoncello. Pietro Maggioli was at the piano – Items were from Handel, Chopin, Puccini, Verdi, Liszt and Tosti. The audience was huge, all D.P.’s except the official parties and most appreciative.

On 27.7.45 Yehudi Menuhin visited the camp accompanied by Benjamin Britton, Composer. They were the guests at the same officers’ mess as my Senior Medical Officer & I were staying & had dinner with us before the concert. They played for 1 ½ hours without interval, & I do not know which was the more accomplished of the two – both were flawless. They wore bush shirts & slacks and blended well with the audience.

July 14th France’s National Day was celebrated here with Mass & a ceremony held at the present camp cemetery, conducted by the Abbé of the Vatican Mission. I was invited to attend. There are thousands buried there who died since the liberation of camp 1 and representing all nationalities almost.

[Page 30]
Long graves hold from 200-300 each, side by side. Boards stating the nationality and such particulars as were known mark the head – some of course only with a query & perhaps nationality, as you remember I told you, all records were destroyed by S.S. men during the truce. & in the early acute days no records were possible.

Franciscan & St Vincent de Paul nuns who were working in the Hospital placed a bunch of yellow & white wild flowers on each, the Vatican colours – and small white crosses with the French tricolour replaced the original name boards at the head of the French graves. La Marseillaise was played on a gramophone in the broadcasting truck, which tours the camp & makes announcements through amplifiers, to the people.

Another interesting concert was given by the Hungarians in the camp. It was held in the tented cinema and about 700-800 DP’s were present. The performers were all DPs and some items were very good. Piano solos, songs, dances in costume, a Chinese play and other items, although all in Hungarian were quite good.

[Page 31]
It was compered by the Hungarian Camp leader and between items topical remarks etc translated into English by another Hungarian.

The next day when visiting the "Blocks" I saw various items of costume which had looked so attractive from the stage. Magnificent headdress was made of some stiff material decorated with beads, wild flowers, chocolate paper and the metal strips dropped by the RAF to upset the German Radio sets, and still seen decorating many fir trees round the camp, very reminiscent of Xmas. As a matter of fact I have been told that the metal was a failure as far as the RAF were concerned but they continued to use it so that the Germans would think that a similar thing they (the Germans) used was doing likewise to the RAF installations or that they, the Germans would think the RAF thought it was successful. However, it has given much pleasure to the DP’s in various ways & the gipsies love it.

Spent an hour in the Yugoslav children’s clothing store or rather the c. store one day

[Page 32]
When the "Titos" were receiving an outfit prior to returning to their country. Boys 7-13 yrs very quiet & well behaved. Those who received one of the 20 remaining brand new suits beamed with pride & pleasure as they fitted them on. These particular children & their parents had not been in concentration camps, but were used as slave labour when the border changed and the Russians drove them into Germany. Most of the clothing was second hand but all clean.

Was a guest at a DP wedding also. A Polish girl from Camp 1 who had been very ill with typhus had met an ambulance driver of BRCS who had worked at the evacuation of the camp. She was Toni Sucheka and he Pitrucchi, British of Italian parentage. Full bridal attire, she really looked quite attractive – Ceremony held in R.C. "church" in one of the blocks, which was decorated with Roman berries, lupins, & white flowers. A red carpet decorated with bunches of oak leaves lying on either side was appropriate. Potted shrubs from the Round House added to the decorations. The service was short and a Polish D.P. sang Ave Maria to the accompaniment

[Page 33]
of a croaky harmonium. The bride’s veil had little pieces sprigs of green leaves attached in places with a coronet of the same round the back of her head. I do not know whether this is a national custom or not. She carried a bouquet of white flowers which are plentiful here at present. A cross between white lilac & hydrangea.

The civil ceremony was combined with the signing of the register. A Polish reception was held first among her friends, then the BRCS gave one in their tented mess. Hungarian & Polish cakes & biscuits, sandwiches and two wedding cakes – The Red Cross in Brussels sent a bottle of champagne and Dr Collis made a speech. There was a box full of presents which I did not see. Gauze & streamers decorated the car in bridal fashion. They went away for their honeymoon – Copenhagen, I think. You will probably have seen photos of the wedding which figured in all the papers.

The Mothers’ Home here is interesting & is has in charge a BRCS sister. Hungarians, Poles Gipsies, German Jews etc – Some good mothers others bad – Some bedrooms neat

[Page 34]
and tidy, others not so. Families together sometimes. Mothers come here with their babies when discharged from the Maternity Hosp. & frequently bring along their husbands & friends with them. They care for their own babies and mix up dreadful looking "pap". Some keep their babies beautifully & it is interesting to see the way they dress them. Some bound to a pillow with end which turns up & ties round waist as a cover, others almost bind them up as bambinos – Dummies, teats & bottles lying about & flies feasting. Some feed at breast all day long, no 4 hrly feeds!! Many are fine babies, others puny marasmic & premature. We are taking over the maternity & probably this home later so we may even yet have a King George V!!

There is so much in which I know you are interested that I could go on indefinitely but want to get this away. So many people are writing to me, it is thrilling, but at the

[Page 35]
moment quite impossible to attempt to answer them. Life s more than hectic but I want you all to keep writing – letters mean much just now.

With kind regards & best wishes to all. I wonder how Sydney & Melb. Celebrated the cessation of hostilities with Japan – and what the Son of Heaven will do now? – Wish I could have been there to celebrate – although we did have a special dinner here of international dishes & heard the Kings Speech at the Officers’ Club.

Yours sincerely,
Muriel K Doherty

Excuse smudges

Belsen Camp Hospital

My dear Budd,

How the weeks fly. I so often wish you were here to enjoy the funny side and help with the serious. Had a lovely mail this week and your two of 4/6 & 11/6. I had kept the later ones so that when those missing came I could read the whole lot. Our mail arrives at midday but as I am usually bombarded with domestic questions on arrival at the Mess, I can do no more than tear them open & hastily glance through and then hope to have a few moments to myself later. Although we heard that the war is over, very little was made of it here & everyone seems too preoccupied with other things to celebrate. Anyway we’d had no papers for a week owing to airfields being under water and no wireless in our mess, so only heard the King’s Speech by chance as we all went to the Officers’ Club to introduce our new sisters. Now the papers speak of fighting still, so what day is V.J. Day, I do not know.

Did I say thank you for the broadcast copy – I suppose the public enjoy that sort of thing but to me it’s unnecessary – anyway I am glad you did it and that it was such a success. My only criticism is that I was four years on P.A. staff before going abroad not one. Am looking forward to your parcels & papers so much & do hope they arrive intact – Olive King sent me a copy of P.N.P. yesterday –arrived with only the string and a few shreds of paper round, fortunately she had written my name & address on the book. Will you thank her for it and for her letter and explain that I am so busy & hope she enjoys the community letter. Interested in the position vacant at the Children’s. Am glad I did not accept their offer. You ask about my rain coat & overcoat. Former good and latter very warm & no room for lining, although your sheepskin suggestion sounds good.

Enjoyed all your news in all the letters. Letters recd. to date, 29/5, 30/5, 4/6, 6/6, 11/6, 29/6, 10/7, 17/7, 25/7. There only seem to be one or two missing between 11 and 29/6. They may come soon. My staff is growing and we have now completely occupied the Hosp: & the reorganisation is forging ahead from bedrock – will write of that in my next community letter.

Do you think the various people working for UNRRA & me could possibly send felt, leather, chamois, coloured thread, raffia, cotton, needles, and other articles for my patients’ occupational therapy for the winter. So many will never leave and love pretty things. One D.P. who now works at Social Service work in the Hosp: where she was so long a patient, made me a doll dressed as an original concentration camp D.P. from an actual piece of the material their horrible garb was made from. I am later going to ask them to make me a doll representing each nationality who was in the camp.

Will you put a few bits of coloured scraps in from your collection & any you may get from our friends; it would mean so much to them and they are so clever with their fingers. You have had difficulty in getting sugar – Please do not send any more just yet when your present supply is used, as we have sufficient in our rations. We hear the rations are to be reduced shortly, but what you have sent should help – soap is always welcome and boiled sweets, milk, ovaltine etc. Could you get any coffee – none here.

I have a v. good staff. Nearly all a sensible age & most co-operative – not v. impressed with the two from my own country. I have 4 Canadians, 2 U.S. 1 Danish, 2 Belgian, 1 English, 2 Aust., 1 Scottish – with more to follow. Great fun with Mess domestic staff, had 3 Hungarians & 1 Roumanian – Latter didn’t turn up after 2 days and none arrived today! Trying a male Polish waiter & 3 Hungarian girls tomorrow & may be able to have a German civilian girl who speaks English & who was the O.A. Nation’s maid, transferred to me for my own use tomorrow. I hope so as she could do everything for me & save me washing & cleaning shoes etc.

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5,000 Russian P.O.W. from Ruhr arrived during last 3 days. Nearly all T.B. Passing "blocks" today saw huge pictures of Stalin, Lenin, & Zucov with writing and flags outside & over each door. Red stars everywhere – alongside 4,000 Poles!!! The Italians have yet to come, 500. G. nurses there & nothing to do with us.

Had a riot in the wards yesterday – the vegs. were put in the stew instead of being served separately – Plates flying & pts. Out of bed milling round – wouldn’t eat that – same as G’s gave them in Camp No 1 etc!!! They are just like children, but could lead to much trouble. We got them all back to bed in the end. The problems of running a Hosp: in Aust. are nothing compared to this!!

The Tb’s go out all night or bring their friends home to bed, things disappear like magic – we took some lovely but dirty printed curtains down yesterday & almost under Sisters’ nose they went – make lovely dresses!!

Will you write for me to P/M army & ask if statement of army service ready yet. They’ll probably forget.

Also can you get a couple of sets of red-on-khaki chevrons for me – I hear we are allowed to wear them – Miss Th: may be able to or they may not issue them that way – 5 chevrons is my service.

The night is not young & the siren has wailed the curfew. Have just completed my first long report & have another to prepare on the condition etc in which I found the Hosp: on taking over – That will fill many pages & make interesting reading.

Much love, take care of yourself. Don’t join UNRRA, various words!!! Muriel.

Envelope addressed to:

Miss H.B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

[Page 38]
Belsen Camp Hospital

My dear Mother

Life is one whirl – was so glad to have your letter July 29. These air letters are great, as they really only take about 10 days to London & the delay is after that, but 18-20 days from Aust. To Belsen here wasn’t too bad – You will be overjoyed at the cessation of hostilities. How did you celebrate? Things were quiet here. For the great day for this part of the world was V.E. Day May 8th. I don’t yet know what V.J. Day date is – I was at the Officers’ Club when the King spoke and we all listened. My first appearance there. I wonder what all your committees will do now and whether they will disband. You had better put your energies into planning our cottage by the sea, and we can retire there when I return & concentrate on a garden – and sell No 7 – what about it?

No parcels have arrived yet but what a party I’ll have when they do – You could leave the toilet paper for a parcel or two, for if the others arrive there will be plenty. I asked Budd if there were any Eng: Dictionaries available in Sydney – I meant English-German & German-English.

I hope by this you have received some of my letters, which I think you will find interesting. I hardly ever finish before 11pm. so that letter writing is difficult, but when we get the Hosp: organised, things should be better.

Two letters from Aunt Kit, and she says she’s sent a parcel – Don’t encourage anyone to send camp pie or bully beef – we have the latter & a concoction called spam – too salt to eat. Had apple strudel one day, delicious and a lovely mince & rice mixture wrapped in a cabbage leaf called ?

The new potatoes are flavoured with caraway seeds & so are many other dishes, but faint and palatable. Mischka is a good cook & Milly Buryova (Czech) also. My interpreter clerk is Irma Schlomer, a Hungarian – such a nice girl, still looks ill. Speaks German, French, English fluently.

We can’t get machine needles for the Singer machines here & so can’t get the hosp: linen mended. Mice everywhere – only rat traps, but am hopeful.

Letter from Fanna says she’s to be demobilized & will return to Aust. So hope you see her in a few months’ time.

Much rain here but lovely days in between. We have located some lettuce, carrots & cucumber in a local farm, which we buy out of Mess funds – so my vitamin tabs will not be required yet.

[Page 39]
Norah hopes to get down to Belsen to see me soon – I hope she can. She is remaining on in the army at present.

It is just beginning to get a bit nippy in the evenings now and I am very glad of my grey wool sleeping sox you made me and my rug. They say it is terribly cold here in the winter – and fuel is to be short I hear. The clothes collected in Aust. for the UNRRA drive will be welcome for the D.P.’s.

Must catch the mail, I commenced this yesterday & was interrupted.

Take care of yourself,
Much love

Envelope addressed to:
Mrs R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

[Page 40]
Belsen No 3A
Community Letter 8
Belsen Camp Hospital
N.W. Germany

My dear Friends,

Last letter gave you some idea of the activities of the Camp as it was when I arrived, this will give you an account of the Hospital, our Mess, and things in general -

Until August 4th I was living as the guest of the C.O. Mil: Gov: HQ at a farm some 15 mins car drive from the camp. The surrounding country was pretty as the harvest was ripe & almost ready for reaping. Every inch of the country from roadside to horizon was intensely cultivated and each farm had its geese, ducks, chickens, pigs, cows & horses.

The farmhouse in which I lived was large & well furnished and the outside was decorated with texts carved in the wooden beams and agricultural scenes depicted the same way. An attractive weatherwane surmounted the red brick & black half timbered building. The large barn opened out of a v. large kitchen, which had several sinks, combined fuel & electric stove and black & white tiled floor.

The barn held 15 bales, each with its name board above – Hans reigned supreme over his harem of Laura, Anni, Toni, Dolli, Lena, Guete, Olga, Edith, Hilde, Rosa, Ilse, Dea, Isabella and Lore. All snored loudly at night! The rooms were rather

[Page 41]
inconvenient as three bedrooms opened one from the other, with the only bathroom at the end. There was an electric bath heater and steam radiators throughout the ground floor rooms. Little windows opened from these bedrooms into the barn, where I expect the herd spent the winter. The flies were awful, cooked and alive, and army cooks are not v. observant – Plenty of fresh milk on the table, but the flies always had priority, which most members appeared to overlook.

The china & glassware was quite attractive and although the house was dated 1925, the downstairs’ furniture was modern. The house Frau, whose husband was a P.O.W. had been turned out & was living with her mother next door, but they must have been prosperous farmers under the Nazi regime.

The house Frau was told to bring me tea at 7am & hot water. We always greeted each other cheerfully in German. The German girls who did the housework did my washing & shoes – and I was moderately comfortable in a proper bed.

The Officers then found another mess, but as there were by this time 3 UNRRA doctors & myself, it was

[Page 42]
decided to remain on at the invitation of the C.O. The Frau’s husband returned from the war, and the Br: Army officials no longer were living there. A stiffening of the pleasant manner was noticed, we found the "best" china locked up, the house Frau just ceased to bring my tea, & the standard of work decreased. It was really quite interesting to see the change.

I was alone one night until 1.30 am when the others were on an important mission and I did not enjoy that, as there was no means of communication whatever with the camp, no transport, and the cowherd began exploring the upstairs’ rooms!! – I was unarmed, but went up to enquire, made him shut the intercommunicating door & told him to go. I was relieved when the party returned and was glad when we left the farm. There were so many German Wehrmacht being released under the "Barley Corn" plan to bring the harvest in, and a number of attacks by D.P.’s on the Germans, that it is nice to feel safe in our own Mess just outside the main North Gate of Belsen Camp. One old couple were killed near the farm a week or so ago.

[Page 43]
Having observed the Hospitals and decided what staff I required and what reorganisation was needed, I made my recommendations & then set out to find accommodation for them. UNRRA had provided no cars for us and as the Camp is some 5 miles across and the Glyn Hughes Hospital one end and the maternity the other and the various Heads of Depts scattered about between, the problem of transport was great. No one, however, who had not seen the camp appreciated the fact that my early days were fraught with difficulties. The C.O. Mil: Gov: or one of his officers always drove the SMO & myself in & out to the farm – except those occasions when I was stranded at the Hospital & was unable to arrive at the H.Q. meeting place & therefore missed my lunch! Every other organisation working at this place was provided with transport and UNRRA was much criticized for this neglect. It was a matter of hitch hike or beg a lift from any passing vehicle which was not only embarrassing to me but often I am sure inconvenient to those generously offering assistance.

[Page 44]
Repeat appeals brought no result until I had been here five weeks, when after lengthy & confused negotiations a car & an army driver was allotted to me – This, however, was not as good as it sounds, for the car had hardly any of its original parts left, was always breaking down, caught on fire once, after a German mechanic had "repaired" it & left two live wired touching somewhere, and was always being used by someone else!! In spite of these difficulties I managed to contact the heads of the Red X St J Amb., Girl Guides & Boy Scouts etc, etc, and having had much experience in the last six years of my life, I finally got almost what I wanted – without the support and oftimes without the knowledge of my S.M.O. who has seen better days - !! and is more of a liability than an asset. So much for transport, I now have a bus service organised, which is sometimes punctual and othertimes not – but is better than nothing.

My next effort was to find accommodation which no one would give until we could say the date on which the staff was expected – and

[Page 45]
As we had no idea when this was, nor did any one else I think, the answer just couldn’t be given – we had some idea when the Army Unit which was in the Hosp: wished to leave, but that was all. Time was getting on, so I said I expected my staff "any day now" – First I was offered the "Round House" where many thousands of advanced cased of pulmonary tb. Had been nursed under most primitive and unhygienic conditions, without any sputum mugs V. bowls, sterilizers or other ordinary utensils provided in all hospitals and with gross overcrowding – It was a most inconvenient place anyway, only huge ballrooms & anterooms & cloak rooms, no baths and pervaded with the nauseating odour of D.P. which is something none of us can describe, but which is common to these Belsen patients. Even if airing & scrubbing would scientifically be said to make it safe for habitation psychologically it was bad as death had also stalked there & carried away thousands – They thought I was an extraordinary person to turn down the offer of such a palatial abode, but I was adamant.

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Next the Children’s Hosp: was suggested, and again rejected for the reason that it was very dirty & had also housed many acute pulmonary tb cases until they died – A block of flats occupied by some of the Hungarian soldiers was next inspected also exceedingly dirty, but with soap & water, fresh air & whitewash would have been passable: Half an hour after we had inspected it, a deputation of Hungarians objected to Mil: Gov: at having to move, so UNRRA again went househunting!

Next, a block of flats occupied by R.A.S.C. men was to fall vacant on Wed: 1st Aug:, to be cleaned on 2nd and handed over on 3rd. My staff (advance party) was expected on 3rd or 4th so that would be better than nothing. But nothing ever goes as it should here, we don’t expect it to, so although anxious I was not surprised to hear that their leaving had been postponed 24 hrs.

In the meantime I was arranging details with the accommodation officer, engaging D.P. cooks, cleaners, furniture & cutlery not forgetting the rations. Planning meal hours, bus timetable, allotment of rooms, scrounging some cleaning materials, which are not on issue here for the mess and having an occasional cup of tea with the O.C. RASC Unit, to entice him to clean at least the top flats to enable me to get on with the job, which they finally did on 3/8/45!

[Page 47]
Alas! They did no cleaning and having been well installed since Belsen’s early days, things were in a mess & v. dirty. Rubbish cluttered every room and junk was everywhere – I sent an S.O.S. to the accommodation officer for 12 Hungarian soldiers & to the Sgt in charge of labour for six German women – In the meantime I personally went to "D.A.D.O.S" to beg some scrubbing brushes, buckets, brooms & rags. I also got one precious bar of soap. And then the fun began.

I turned out masses of useless, broken down furniture and spent the day patrolling & driving these lazy creatures, who either sat down or lay on the couches the minute my back was turned. I set the women cleaning windows, wardrobes, drawers, bathrooms etc – and if ever there was an example of passive resistance it was seen that day – One or two worked well, but the others worked very slowly. It was exhausting, but at least the outer layer of grime was removed and the furniture clean & rearranged. That night we sat up till 12 mn. waiting for Sir R.C. & Miss Creelman, who did not arrive. The morn brought forth 6 other G. women & a party of Hungarians, but the RASC were still in the lower flats until 11am. And what a mess they left – some rooms had been offices & what a mess. Chaotic. Just walked out & left it.

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RASC left us about 1 doz: bottles wine, tea, sugar etc & between their leaving at 11am & my walking downstairs a few minutes after, all had completely vanished and I found the Hungarians in the kitchen, each with enormous chunks of bread, butter or margarine inches think and marmalade in mountains on top!! I literally drove them out – they only move when one shouts & bangs something or stamps one’s foot.

I did not cease walking all day – Three out of 4 electric stoves wouldn’t work, door handles were broken, keys missing, doors which would not open, electric fittings & no globes or out of order, chains which would not pull, baths & basins without plugs, panes of glass in windows & balcony doors missing or smashed, in fact "allas kaput", a term which expresses much & is understood by all. In the middle of all this Sir Rs & party arrived & would have been more welcome a week or so later! Soap & scrubbing brushes vanished in my absence – we fed the advance party at the farm but our marvellous Hungarian D.P. cook Mischa and his two assistants Lajos & Ferenc gave us a hot dinner at 7 pm, and the staff slept in the upstairs flats that night!! The Garrison Engineer sent a plumber, electrician, locksmith, glazier & carpenter up – all Germans – The language difficulty was soon overcome for everything was "Kaput", "Allus Kaput", with a vast wave of one’s hands. Day after day they worked, new basins to replace those with the bottom out, lamps fitted, keys repaired – what a life!! It really was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed

[Page 49]
it but how my feet ached that night. The second block of flats had yet to be attacked – and still no housekeeper had appeared on the scene – These flats were up the Hoppenstedt Strasse from here and had been occupied by D.P.s who had volunteered to work in the laundry. They had been very comfortable indeed, for when the Germans were required to leave or vanished before the Br: came, they had left everything behind, so that the D.Ps would not do likewise when other quarters were found for them, they received no warning, but a truck came to the door and they left with only their clothes. That was some week or two before, so one can imagine what a state things were in when I got the keys & entered. There were masses of heavy German furniture, quite good; pianos, stale food, mice, old mattresses, blankets & much dirt. The kitchens were awful – It just looked hopeless.

This time I had 5 nurses to help me, one US, one Canadian, 1 Scottish, 2 Belgian all most willing helpers – Since my visit the day before the place had been broken into & bedside lights, bedsteads, china etc taken. We forged ahead driving our team of workers and after a few days had the place in fairly good order, even if not a "home from home"!! The morning after we occupied the other flat gypsies came at 7am & stole the whole of the double weekend ration almost under our noses.

Milly Burgova our Czech Supervisor, UNRRA, chased one who had the spoils in a large

[Page 50]
bag or bags which previously contained bandages & dressings, hastily discarded when more interesting spoil was available. She caught him, but whilst awaiting a soldier she had called to assist her, a colleague gathered the "takings" & vanished!

We are now well established in our Mess, have our Mess Committee which I formed as soon as possible and are quite comfortable, with "chip" heaters and enormous radiators ( & no oval) in most of the rooms & double windows indicative of very cold winters!! The housekeeper arrived last Monday Aug. 27th, 4 weeks too late!!

We now, in addition to our cooks, have a Polish D.P. waiter who was once in a Polish Officers’ Mess in Poland, and various D.P. girls who do the housework, assisted by two Hungarian soldiers – not D.P.s Pirie my own girl is a pretty little Roumanian Jewess thing, very clean, irons beautifully and is very neat & tidy. Her friend my clerk & interpreter is Irina Schlomer a Hungarian whose father was a Dr & owner of a large sanatorium in Berlin. Her mother died in Belsen, she doesn’t know where her father is so is alone. She speaks French, German & English

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fluently, is an efficient typiste and I am now teaching her our (RAAF. N.S.) filing system – She is still dazed from her experiences but very happy to be working again & wants to join UNRRA.

We have 33 persons in our Mess now, English, Scottish, French, Dutch, Belgian, Czech, Aust, Canadian, U.S. Polish & Irish. It is very interesting and fortunately they all speak some English.

My nursing staff is inadequate for the work we are expected to do & is to be reduced to 12 I believe, including myself. From 8 to 10,000 patients which were here when I arrived we are now reduced to 500 – Evacuations have taken place at the rate of 350 a day to Czechoslavakia, Yugoslavia, & Sweden lately. All the children have gone & a number have died, so that their Hospital is closed – The "Round House" is also closed & the "Squares" have been "invaded" by some 5000 of the Red Army – nearly all Pulm: tb. Men from the Ruhr. These are nursed by German nurses & have nothing to do with us or we with them – UNRRA is responsible for the Glyn Hughes Hospital, in which we

[Page 52]
have 500 beds. The patients are nearly all Poles, & a few Italians, Czechs, Lithuanians & Yugo-Slavs. Many will never leave.

We have half a dozen babies with gastro-enteritis and a new typhus case otherwise they are mainly surgical, post typhus & a large number of pulmonary Tb. We have had typhoid fevers, scarlet & diphtherias, but fortunately no epidemics to date.

When I took over the modern "Glyn Hughes" hospital my job was to reorganise an emergency & improvised Hospital into a normal institution – and what a collossal undertaking with a handful of UNRRA nurses. Eight of my staff are Public Health Nurses with no experience in & little desire for Hospital nursing. They were very surprised & disappointed when they found they were for Belsen Hosp. & not Field jobs – However, they have been a marvellous help whilst awaiting exchange – It does not make things easy to have constant change especially when the staff is inexperienced in the type of work required & the lay staff totally inadequate – Welfare work in the Hospital is needed badly, but the

[Page 53]
welfare worker was appointed Registrar, and except for three D.P. girls working under a welfare worker from the Vatican Mission, we have no one to take that burden from the our shoulders. The patients lack occupation & handicraft supplies, needles, cotton & materials. There are few books for them to read. A number of Polish ones did arrive but when censored were found to be mostly propaganda & were banned.

The patients are very clever with their fingers & have made a few little things from scraps & threads drawn from odd bits of material. We all hope some supplies will be forthcoming soon.

The Hospital itself is well built & has nine wards & the operating theatres. We are still overcrowded but cannot reduce our beds & will have the old Children’s Hosp: & Maternity Hosp: as emergency wards for epidemics.

We are very short of linen which vanishes in an amazing fashion. When we took over things were pretty chaotic – no system, no inventory, no way of requisitioning – you just went as often as you liked to the store and

[Page 54]
got as much as you could; consequently there was an enormous leakage & shortage of things. I have now organised the linen room, have a tailor, sewing machine, no thread & one needle!! When the Army handed over to me the board said 135 German Nurses 20 Latvian – The day after a racket began, all applying for 2 days leave in Hamburg: I set out to account for every body – It took my assistant & me two weeks to complete. No list the G. Matron gave me tallied with any other – we finally, with swimming heads, found we had 131 including the Matron & have card indexed each one. The Hamburg tour was quickly quelled & a system of leave instituted. I gave them one day off per week, 3 hrs per day. One day I happened to return to the Hosp: before 2pm. I found two large white Red X buses & a trailer disgorging nurses – 60 odd – I sent for the Matron & found that the Dept. of Public Health Hamburg had sent them & were taking a similar number back!! I found the GMO, & we decided that would not be allowed. After an interview the German M.O. who had also travelled with them, would take them

[Page 55]
all back & write in the usual way requesting exchange. As a matter of fact, I had already begun to work out an exchange system before they came.

We have 20 Latvian Nurses on the staff also – they are really D.Ps. who were forced by the Germans when they occupied Latina to move to Germany & work in military Hospitals. The Matron comes to me every morning at 10 am, doesn’t speak a word of English, & you all know what my Latvian is like!! She brings one of her staff who speaks some English & we get along, with that and smiles & gestures!! We have six German doctors & a number of German orderlies.

The Latvian nurses are not very good, but only five are trained, the others "Nurse Helps", as they call them. The German nurses can work well but at present passive resistance, the most difficult of all to deal with, is apparent. Their bedside nursing is poor, with a few exceptions, but as we organise ward duties we may improve that. I have 112 trained and 19 Nurse helps – nine of the trained nurses are Red Cross, Wehrmacht (Army) nurses.

Uniforms are terrible – I believe they lost a large number when they first came, then the countryside was scoured & a motley collection secured. Aprons of all varieties, ancient & modern. Caps not so bad as the pattern of the majority is similar & quite smart.

[Page 56]
However, the hair is worn at all lengths and angles which does not enhance this smartness and some caps are worn like onion bags to enclose the hair hanging down the back. I have now arranged for uniforms to be laundered, (they have been washing their own) and hope for better things!

Then there was the question of soap – that priceless commodity – There was no issue for the G. Nurses & so the wards never had enough! Now we have given authority for them to purchase locally (they get about £ 2 per month salary)

Shoes were another problem – all soles are wooden in Germany now & some of the nurses shoes were dreadful – How they walked on them I know not. We got a supply for them which they paid for & things are better.

Sheets are yet another problem – 10,000 missing in one month – some smart slacks seen on the street today, tell a tale. We lost 1,000 handtowels this week, but have traced the leakage. Have the linen room under my control now, with a Russian girl and Hungarian officer in charge. Things are improving & we have sorted out the mending anyway & control the issue – on a requisition form. There are so many of the ordinary things which we take for granted in our well established hospitals, to be done. It is terribly interesting if only we had time & sufficient capable supervisory staff to assist.

There was no regular system of admissions previous & pts admitted & discharged themselves & still do! We had numbers who returned several times from the camp – A nice comfortable home, wireless, good food and freedom which enabled them to sleep in the fields all night or bring their friends home to bed as they desired. We instituted visiting hours but they still go out. Acute tbs wandering in their pyjamas in the wet – they like it – they have been so used to it for so long. Talking of pyjamas, they are the same material as those worn in the Horror Camp & they hate them – I am trying to have them dyed even if they turn out navy blue, they’d be pleased, instead of the broad blue & white stripe that reminds them of so much.

They don’t seem to feel the cold, their bodies must have readjusted themselves in those awful years – they like the blankets, however, just as much and only today a visitor walked off with one tucked under arm, we have since been told by another patient – The ensemble suits with beret to match in pale grey look very smart & are much more interesting then blankets!!

I had a lovely surprise today – A number of cases containing American layettes were found by our Q.M. Mr Oronowski (Pole) and earmarked for Belsen. We opened one just before going off duty. Turkish towelling, flannelette, 2 singlets, shawl, 2 bottles (teats which are almost unprocurable here) tape, safety pins, cotton needles, a blanket & one or two other necessities – I have taken the whole consignment under my wing and will have a lovely time tomorrow cutting out & getting the Vatican Mission girls to distribute them among the pts who can sew & are not Tb. My maternity problems are fading – You should see King George V for Mothers & Babies – Two little UNRRAS already – I have been asked to be godmother & I have accepted if being a Protestant fits in with the Catholic ceremony. They are very much broader on the Continent than in Australia about religion I think.

It is now 3/9/45 so you will see how long it has taken me to complete this very untidy scrawl – Hope it interests you.

Do write – mail is scarce & very much missed.

Love to all,
Muriel K. Doherty

PS The envelope is a bit thin so will put my address on back of this in case it does not carry

[Page 59]
From M.K. Doherty,
"Glyn Hughes Belsen Camp Hospital
N.W. Germany.

[Page 60]
Belsen Camp

My dear Budd

My literary capacity has dried up and I am sure this will be a dull letter. Have hopefully looked for mail for two weeks now & nothing comes, while Dr Tewsley gets air letters from Melb: regularly in 10 days. They are probably all waiting in London until some of the useless people there send them on to me.

Life is rather hectic & trying – Today was the peak. Among a thousand other things this happened:- Was standing at D/SMO’s window, waiting for him to return to his office – A harrassed "Tommy" from the Guard Room at the Hosp: gate (we have six gates & 28 holes in the fence & a guard at one!) came up and asked if there was a responsible UNRRA officer about – I said, "Could I help" – "Well", said he, "there are 2 or 300 Italians at the gate demanding to come in" – "Are they pts" said I, "oh no," said he, they are milling round & waving flags & things" – I told him to keep them out until I enquired – went into Dr Layton’s office to get D/SMO & found two French nuns, Italian, liaison officers, interpreters etc etc – all looking very serious & anxious. Found then they had come to hold Mass on a patient who died yesterday & that Dr L. had taken them to the mortuary with his usual pomp, to get the body & it had vanished!! The 300 Italians were coming to the funeral!!

I withdrew & set some of the staff looking for the body, which was finally traced to the mortuary in the Cap Cemetery!! I saw the nuns, provided a table & clean sheet, went over to see they had everything & returned to find that the "old man" had ordered dozens of beds in the Hosp: to be moved from one place to another, numbers of gastritis pts admitted to Maternity, then put down to go to German Nurses’ Qtrs (an old ward) my 6 gastro babies sent to another block (having contaminated three rooms since admission because of this) and that a young officious Aust. woman Dr. had arranged to move all the beds & wards in the 500 bed hosp: to suit her classification of pts. A huge & similar move had only been completed 10 days ago & we hoped we’d never have another. Then the N. staff said they couldn’t cope with any more & I agreed so I asked D/SMO to come & talk to the & explain things. They talked pretty straight to him too – U.S. & Canadians don’t beat about the bush & are all for short hours & little real work as compared with what we do – right or wrong as that may be.

Then heard 150 adm: were coming, Czechs, and a security officer called to interview the Latvian Matron as to how when where & why they first came to Belsen – The whole aft. was taken up with the German Matron discussing each one of her staff of 130 nurses & deciding who should go or leave to Hamburg, & who should be exchanged & how many we wanted in each ward, wen the reorganisation we managed to defer today, takes place – Then found a case of Flick fever (typhus) had been admitted, had to find some DDT & gun – which strange as it may seem is rare & scarce in this place.

Finally found there was no food for the gastro babies & no tea for the gallbladders – They give extra-ordinary things here & I don’t like the German doctors.

I am now going to have a wash & go to bed and hope tomorrow will be a better day!

Have you seen all the criticism of this organisation in the papers? I think it is all deserved – it’s pretty awful.

Much love & excuse awful scrawl.


Miss H.R. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

[Page 62]
Belsen Camp

Meine liebe Mutter,

Ich schlapen zair gut gestern!! Wie geht es ehinen? Haben sie schon einen Brief von mir bekommen!!! Well anyway, how are you? Terribly busy here & no mail for 2 weeks. Try to write every Sunday to you but it is Wednesday & I’ve not put pen to paper, as they say. Perfect weather the last two days. The girl who was to look after me didn’t last long, wasn’t any good. I am having a D.P. commencing tomorrow. Her friend is my clerk interpreter & I think she will be good.

I’ve seen so many cuttings about UNRRA the last few weeks that I won’t be surprised to hear that the whole thing is a washout. The bungling & inefficiency is horrible & we are working under the most awful difficulties because that wrong people are in charge. It makes the work which we nurses are doing doubly difficult. I am terribly interested to know how we are dealing with the Japs & what is happening to our P.O.W. We don’t often see the papers, they seem to vanish elsewhere.

I have been sending my community letters which I hope you & everyone else enjoy. No 2 Belsen one was posted on 18/8/45, so hope it arrives soon – Ten days is marvellous for airmail. I think I omitted to fill in the name of a dish (Czech) we had last week because I meant to ask Milly Buryova & just did not.

We are having German lessons from one of our U.S. Sisters and the first was held last night. It’s a terribly clumsy language.

We are opening our Maternity wing tomorrow and transferring the patients from the original & very dirty hospital in the Camp. King George V won’t be in it & what I don’t know about opening wings & laying foundation stones, even Bertie could not tell you!!

We have typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet, six Czech & Polish babies with gastro-enteritis, 80% of our patients have Pulmonary TB. and a doubtful flick fever (German for typhus) was admitted from another damp today.

My staff is insufficient for the supervisory work necessary & they will not give me more – in fact they talk of reducing it. That is the disadvantage of having Public Health people at the Head who do not appreciate the problems of Hosp. administration & the one from Qld. is of that ilk & not helpful.

When I can find a large enough envelope or a bit of

[Page 63]
brown paper, I have a photo of myself to send you. It was take on the top of the UNRRA building London, before I left & is the least worst of any recent ones.

There is absolutely nothing to buy here but a few sweets from N.A.A.F.I. & an occasional cake of soap from the same source – but money means little on this side of the continent, while cigarettes have very definite monetary value.

Did I tell you I had a letter from Norah. She hopes to call one day.

We have some 5,000 Russians here Tb. from the Ruhr – some 500 Italians as well as our usual camp people. We are expecting 150 admissions to Hosp: tonight. The RPAH was never like this & no empty beds!!

Must stop now. Give my love to all enquirers and with much to yourself, hoping some letters turn up soon.

Envelope addressed to:
Mrs R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

[Page 64]
Belsen Camp
Sunday 2/9/45

My dear Budd

My first day off for 2 months. It was lovely to have the first sleep in for over 3 months, since I left Australia. It’s a dull warmish day & I’m on the little balcony which opens from my upstairs room. Forest trees all round, fruit trees – bare of any fruit – in the garden and the Union Jack on a nearby flagpole. But for the constant flow of traffic past our flats & further away, through the camp, it would be very peaceful indeed. The Rowan berries & rose hips are scarlet, some say indicative of a sharp winter! There are very few birds round here – one or two twirping away in the trees. A lovely long letter from you two days ago after a gap of nearly 3 weeks. From some of your remarks, I feel there is one missing – as the former one was 25/7/45 & this one 16/8/45 telling me of how P.A. celebrated the Peace – I wonder if peace really has come – one hears so much on this side of the world of the unsettled conditions in so many countries, that one wonders if they will ever live in harmony with their neighbours! You must have had a difficult time getting over to No 7 that day, but Mother would enjoy having you.

The collections for UNRRA sound good, but I do wish that organisation would send something into the field to go on with. Half my 500 pts sit all day long with idle hands – and are capable & anxious to do any sort of work. No needles or thread to even mend the Hosp: linen & no handicrafts being organised at all, through lack of equipment. The pts have made me one or two beautiful little things out of threads drawn from blankets, dresses or any old bit they come across. Will bring them home because they may be lost in the post.

Miss Heaney, Chief Nursing Officer, Allied Control Commission which will eventually rule Germany, called on me the other day & brought with her Frau Oberin Von Oetzen, Matron in Chief, German Red Cross Nursing Sisterhood & Frau Oberin Pollman her assistant. Both quite charming women to meet. The RX was steeped in the Nazi cult, but we (the Allies) are now picking out those who were, as far as it is possible to know, not tainted. Of course, no one in Germany ever had anything to do with the Nazis according to themselves!

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However, we are trying to reconstruct the G. Nursing Service by guiding them to do it themselves. They want new text books because the only one permitted was written by a G. Dr at H.Q. Berlin. I told them we had written one & they were v. interested & said they’d like a copy & couldn’t it be translated etc. I wrote to Olive King & Sirl to see what the position was should an official request for same be made. Funny how I get mixed up in things, isn’t it?

You might get me some dress lengths with some of my coupons before Nov: if you can – I will have none in England for civilian clothes and none when I return I suppose, except the usual civilian ones. It would be a pity to waste those. Think I’ll go into browns, greens, russet etc for a change.

Must try & write some of the many letters I owe everyone now.

Hope my long community letters arrive, haven’t heard whether the first long one written in London of the trip over has reached you & Mother yet.

Much love

Envelope addressed to:
Miss H.B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

[Page 66]
Belsen Camp
Sunday 2/9/45

My dear Mother

My first day off for two months – I stayed in bed till 3.30pm & then got up, had aft. Tea & wrote letters in the sun. No mail from you again this week – nothing since 16/8/45 I think, which seems an awfully long time ago. Beautiful weather now, nippy in the evenings – we are repatriating patients rapidly now, those left are mostly Poles – we have 500 beds in the Glyn Hughes Hospital, the other buildings being empty now – That’s reduction has been in about 2 months from some 8 – 10,000 sick in Belsen to 500 – Many have died, but the majority have either gone home or to Sweden. They say the Poles are on the move also, but nothing official yet.

A patient made such a pretty basket of heather, from heather, for me today – They are very clever with their fingers, but unfortunately UNRRA has no supplies of anything for them to work at in Belsen yet. They would be much happier if they had some occupation. One made me a picture of heather under glass the other day too – will bring it home. Am posting you a photograph of myself taken in London with Miss Creelman – You can cut her off & have mine framed if you want to.

We are very busy, short staffed & endeavouring to do the impossible. My clerk interpreter, a pretty Hungarian D.P. is a great help & speaks 4 languages including English. The Roumanian girl Pirie who looks after me & my room is also very pretty and irons beautifully. I hope they stay, but of course will be glad for them to be repatriated.

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Have found a post card of the North Gate of the camp – It shows some of the blocks of barracks which house the D.P.s & originally housed the typhus cases – there are rows & rows which do not show in the picture of course but it gives you some idea. Am trying to get one of Glyn Hughes. Will send the p.c. with my photo.

Am thrilled to pieces to know that Budd has found a builder who advises her to commence now – I am all for it & have told her to use my Bonds if nec: & that the No 7. can be used as security. What fun to come back to those plans.

I am very well, very busy with this interesting job.

Do take care of yourself. I hope the weather is warmer. Tell Thelma L. that Clifford send his love by Miss Wilkinson a S.A. nurse just arrived on my staff.

Much love,

Envelope addressed to:
Mrs R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Rd
New South Wales

[Page 68]
Belsen, Sunday 9/9/45

My dear Mother,

Was just indulging in a day off & lazing in the sun on my little balcony at 1 pm when a large packet of nine letters arrived from somewhere – Two from you, two from Budd – all August ones, and one from a baggage Co. Lep. Transport saying they had received notice from Morris Middleton & Co. Sydney to say "my case was on vessel now due", so that sounds hopeful. Can’t do anything until key arrives, & expect it will be on the same ship.

Your letters were 12 & 18 Aug: & most welcome and as usual newsy. Sydney certainly surpassed itself with wild celebrations, why they loot & damage I cannot understand. Glad you have received my two community letters, thought you would enjoy them. Could write much more if time permitted. I hope they all went by air but it sounds as if they had taken much longer than that. All the parcels people are sending sounds lovely – haven’t received any so far, but will look forward to them soon – especially the birthday cake.

Some of the brown paper parcels I see arriving here are in shreds & I received one paper from Sth. Africa with shreds of paper with address tied on with a bit of string!!

We have plenty of food for ourselves, butter sometimes, no eggs, dried or fresh, no fresh milk, but plenty of potatoes & quite a variety in the diet – Vitamin tablets served daily, so all is well. You know I’m not keen on fancy biscuits – Well, we don’t get any here & strangely I long for a dry one occasionally!!

Life here is full of interest & exceedingly busy. My German progresses slowly, my French conversation with the girl from Vatican Mission is grand as long as I remain silent & my Italian conversation with my godson is voluble! Little Amerigo Koppa progresses & is a pretty little thing.

Went to an interesting concert given by the Jewish people here at their New Year celebrations. Strangely, they chose nearly all the items & scenes from Concentration Camps, but were very good and not too gruelling. Friday evening we attended a concert organised by RAF Welfare in Celle – a town about ¾ hr. drive from here. It was well attended by servicemen and was held in the ancient & private theatre of the Ducal Schloss - (House of Hanover) a lovely place – Three tiers of circular galleries, all white & gold with crimson velvet curtains & upholstery with carpet to match. A huge crystal candelabra completed the picture. Our party was enclosed in one of the ducal boxes and on the dress circle level. The artists were all German & very good. The pianist simply roared out our National anthem on the piano – wonder what he felt like inside –

[Page 69]
Budd has told me that the builder says the house will be expensive but I have told her to proceed – I want it badly & we can sell No 7 while the boom is on & recover the money invested in the new one. We may have to reduce the size of the two biggest rooms – Aunt Laura’s sitting room is 17’ x 14’ I think.

We are rapidly sending the D.P.s home but the Poles who are in the majority will be with us for sometime I fear – We don’t know what the future holds for this Camp really, although we expect 20,000 for the winter. How they will exist cooped up in the intense cold with coal shortage I know not. Warm clothes very short here now & consequently we are looking at our blankets. Two pts? Diphtheria went out for a walk with a crowd of their girl friends yesterday & were away several hours before being located!!

Hope you hear from Ian soon & that Flo is still able to stay at that home. Your tree planting at Avalon sounds good. What a picnic we’ll have when I return.

Was interested in the local news – Mrs P. has two daughters on her hands now hasn’t she? I forgot to say I recd. Your Aug. 26 airletter on 7.9.45. Good wasn’t it. You will miss "buttons", fancy 4 years 11 mth. You will miss chevrons for your coat. Papers very irregular & no wireless in our mess so we are not uptodate with the news. Believe some arrests in Ruhr – "our I. friends".

Much love

Envelope addressed to:
Mrs E.M. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

[Page 70]
Belsen. Sunday 9/9/45

My dear Budd,

Was having a quiet day off & wishing some mail would turn up, when someone produced 9 letters unexpectedly! Two from you, airletter 1/8 & air mail 7/8/45 both most welcome & filling in gaps. I still wonder where Barbara is or rather what job she is doing in Bathurst. The planting at Avalon sound thrilling – I smiled at the enclosed letter from Avalon Asn. The Melb: episode sounds as if it were organised to give A.F.N.A. Federal Arbitration for the Guild is only a Union like the NSW one. Do hope that doesn’t happen, for I can see trouble ahead if it does – will anxiously await further news. It would be awful to have H. Employees in & why should we – what a business with S. Mathews case. Do hope you do not have too much worry over it. Sorry you had a gastric attack – you are tired out probably. Am glad you now have your shares in your name & hope all is satisfactory.

Sydney seems to have gone a bit mad over V.P. Day – I don’t like you walking from St. Peters at midnight.

Well, you’ll wonder what I am doing. I have written 4 community letters, 2 before leaving London V2 from here first – two of which you have recd. The other two 3.7.45 & 23.7.45 (in 2 envelopes) were sent by air, but as No 1 & 2 took so long, it seems as if they went by ship. Then I have sent Nos. 1, 2 & 3 Belsen community letters 29.7.45, 18/8 & 2/9/45 – Thank you for having them typed & circulated. The bunch I got today came to a new address & took longer to deliver than those previously. We hear there are 40,000 letters in Frankfurt (U.S.A. area) which are awaiting some decision or other, on delivery!!

My godson Amerigo Koppa progresses satisfactorily!! His father died 7 months ago & I think they were freed by U.S.A. people hence the name!! Our housekeeper, who arrived so late, hasn’t done anything since she came & is leaving tomorrow!! I have asked all the nurses to move into these flats, so that we are practically all nurses & can manage their own affairs. It was being taken for granted that I was in charge of the mess but I have been quite firm in asserting that the Matron has nothing to do with a "mixed" mess & certainly I’m much too busy to be conducting a residential restaurant for every odd driver who comes along!!

Miss C. just called – as usual unsatisfactory visit – too busy to stay long & taking another of my nurses without replacement. That will be 13 including myself! It’s almost impossible to get the place organised without more staff. My stars are wrong. I’m quite well & would enjoy life if things in the organisation were better. We may lose the "old man" on the age count – 63. That would

[Page 71]
help a lot. Have managed to get my Latvian Nurses (who are D.P.s really having been forced to work for G. in Latvia & then in Germany) some clothes for the winter – not much but better than nothing.

Had a nice letter from Miss Sirl – has applied for UNRRA & hope she doesn’t leave the RAAF before she is certain what is her job in the latter.

You should see the muschrooms the D.P.s eat here – terrible looking "toadstools" with bright yellow spots!!

Mogo sounds attractive, but the cottage at Avalon interests me more. Cut down where you think fit but preserve essentials – and do not quibble over a hundred or so. Use my bank money. You can (3 lines crossed out and [indecipherable]).

Have just had 40 cots made for my K.G.V ward. They say there are over 500 "getting ready" for admission. My G. staff could do better work – Passive resistance is v. useful at times.

We have several Aust. Dr. Bidstrup & Sister Wilkinson S.A. Dr Tewsley Vic. Miss Delaney N.S.W. (2 lines crossed out and [indecipherable]). Both Drs are females. Haven’t heard where Miss Butler is, was ages doing nothing at Granville tr. Centre, I hear. H. Mitchell in Austria or should be, had one letter about month ago.

Ink is difficult to get, but will try London.

Give my love to all enquirers & don’t do too much & look after your eyes. We’ll never write a book if you don’t. Much love

Envelope addressed to:

Miss H.B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Rd
New South Wales

[Page 72]
Community Letter No 4

Belsen 13.9.45

My dear Friends,

Once again I shall endeavour to give you some news of interest from this camp which is teeming with life, activity, movement and problems which after two months are almost taken for granted. It is such a place of contradictions, that sometimes I wonder just who is on which side and will the world ever be sane again?

The more we set right in the Hospital the more there appears to be to do, it is just endless and sometimes hopeless to achieve anything.

Take the question of linen – when we came there was a large store, "Woolworths" where all the linen for the camp Hospitals & other Depts. was received from the laundry and distributed to those requiring it.

One just went as often as one liked & asked for what you wanted. "First come first serve and no questions asked" – well that was

[Page 73]
alright as long as the supply lasted, but as I have told you, when one has been without clothes for 5-6 yrs what does a sheet or two (and German ones at that) matter? And so the supply dwindled & the source dried up. When we took over the Hospital I found there was practically nothing in the linen room & not much more on the beds. The linen room was in charge of a Sgt. And there was a constant stream of G. nurses (& others) supposedly exchanging article for article – but no record was kept. In one month 10,000 sheets were missing!! And that was when we took over & so the cupboard was bare. I put a Sister in Charge who took over from the Sgt. And we removed two of the three Hungarian soldiers who lounged there & engaged a Russian girl, who has lived in Germany many years.

[Page 74]
We drew up linen requisition slips which come in every morning. We barricade the door & keep records. Our shelves are not so bare although there are leakages &, we can’t be there all the time. We managed to get a supply of new sheets and have marked them in the centre. We’ve had all mending sorted, engaged a tailor (Pole) who absconded the next day with an electric iron belonging to our Q.M! Then we found four machines, a new sewing woman (German) one machine needle & a reel of thread. She broke the needle & hasn’t been seen since!!

Our third attempt is now being made -!! I have just received dozens of cotton long underpants, which at a pinch would do as pyjamas and some nice yellow flannelette bed jackets for the maternity ward.

Then the blankets – a source of much tailoring industry, as well as smart berets, shopping bags and pantaloons! Not forgetting the forage capes.

[Page 75]
Winter is coming and we know coal will be short so we are trying to hoard a few blankets. Our Q.M. found a few on his "shopping" expeditions last week, so we have a nice room full now and soon will see that each patient has three on his bed. We are going to write the number of sheets & blankets on each bed board (black) which is at the head of the bed & see if that works. Then the Continentals do not tuck the upper bedclothes in – I am going to experiment with encouraging them to do so – it would be warmer & less easy to slip away with a blanket at visiting times.

On doing rounds the other day one of my male patients was gaily sitting on his bed with scissors & thread & a small pair of half made pantaloons in dark grey blanket! So, friends, beware – I rather fancy pale green myself and prefer linen to cotton sheeting for summer dresses.

[Page 76]
We were given 25 cases of U.S. layettes a couple of weeks ago. I was in my element. We had them conveyed into an empty room and got the Hungarians up to open six only. We removed the contents from two & did not open the packing of the others. I personally locked the door & window. Next day all six cases had been opened and eight lovely U.S. blankets missing. They were at the bottom & who knew they were there I know not!

Don’t think all the D.P.s are dishonest but it is just the reaction after so much regimentation & concentration camp life – The problem is that they may spend their lives in & out of jail when they return to their own countries. They are all clothed here – but of course, it is summer – They have insufficient winter clothes & "Klipsi Klipsi" is a disease with them. I often wish I could spend more time in the wards talking to the patients – They

[Page 77]
are very interesting and most of them are very grateful for all that is being done for them. As the days go on we hear more & more tales of their horrible experiences – I have some crayon drawings one man did for me, depicting various scenes in the concentration camps he was in Auschwitz, Lublin, Belsen, etc. They are very good, if tragic – I also have a plan of Camp No 1, reconstructed as it was before the burning. They will interest you all when I return. That man had all his fingers of left & some of rt hand off at second joints – frost bite.

Well, I was godmother to an Italian baby born on Sept. 2nd 1945 (by request). Little Amerigo Koppa was a fine wee lad and the ceremony went off well. The priest from the Vatican Mission officiated and Amerigo behaved nicely when the water was poured over his head. The ceremony was interesting, the first R.C. one I’d been to and the godfather held the feet while I held the head – He was an Italian D.P. also. t he baby’s father died 7 months before he was born. The trouble was to find a suitable gift – An American nurse on my

[Page 78]
staff produced at the eleventh hour a religious medal, which I placed on cotton wool in a match box covered with white paper & enclosing a monetary gift!! The mother, resplendent in a canary flannelette gown, which had just arrived with a consignment of new clothing, sat up in bed & surveyed the ceremony. Both have now gone home & I wonder if I shall ever see him again!! Perhaps in a fruit shop at Kings Cross in my old age!!

The Hospital is quite interesting at present, besides the large number of pulmonary tb. cases we have on an average 25 operations per week, from gall bladders to trephines – Our surgeon is a German whom I do not like & we always have an anxious time on operating days. He used to just arrive at the theatre & say he would operate – we now have an op: list which must be in by 4.30pm the previous day – It has been quite interesting preparing new requisition

[Page 79]
slips for linen, medical & surgical supplies, hardware & cleaning materials stationery, etc. Before I did this there was a constant & daily stream to each store & as I said before "no questions asked". With the soap & cleaning materials I have worked out an average for each ward & issue that once weekly only – We (I) have taken over the surgical supply stores as we found all & sundry in constantly picking & choosing – and we are terribly short of everything. The 3,000 odd Russians who are patients in the camp at present & the 500 odd Italians here also used to have priority for some unknown reason & pretty well cleared out our stock, before we took control – Now, Miss Bartsch, my Canadian assistant, is the big chief & holds the key. Thermometers are almost extinct – Two to 100 tb. patients – I only have 8 left now & no further supplies available as far as we can see.

[Page 80]
There was no recording of dangerous drugs or treatments when we took over. Now I have smart printed Treatment Sheets – drawn up in best Aust: style!! I commenced to tell you how interesting it is – we have typhus, typhoid, meningitis, diphtheria, gastro-enteritis (babies) – d & v. as they call it in England. Quite a number of cases with osteomyelitis and of course countless numbers in all stages of pulmonary tb.

I am setting up a children’s & babies’ ward now – Had some patchwork quilts & knitted coverlets given me from England and they brighten the cots up – I am looking for some wall pictures & have a few odd toys. Am having bed socks, jackets, blankets & mittens made by some D.P. welfare workers and my layette sets have lovely cream blankets for the maternity ward – We have 38 beds there and the same number of cots, so expect a busy time!

Went to a Jewish concert on ?6 7/9 in connection with New Year festivities.

[Page 81]
It was very good – various scenes from concentration camp life & experiences; although tragic, were very well done. The whole concert was in that strain. They must express these things – in an endeavour to forget them perhaps. There certainly is a great awakening to their own rights developing, but they continually harp on the wrongs.

One night we went into Celle a quaint town some ¾ hours drive from here and our nearest P.O. for purchasing stamps & air letters. Kramer of the Horror camp and a number of his male & female creatures were imprisoned there until removed recently elsewhere for the grand trial. The House of Hanover is situated on the side of a lake there & we were invited to a concert by the R.A.F. The private theatre in the Schloss is lovely – all white & gold with crimson curtains, carpets & upholstering. The performers were Germans and very good.

[Page 82]
We wondered how the pianist felt when playing our National Anthem – It sounded grand in that German theatre!

We have "Hitler" in our Hospital grounds doing a little mild gardening. He is his imagine in faded uniform and moustache complete. Hearing the real thing had been seen in Hamburg, I took a close look at him the other morn and held a brief conversation, but could not bring myself to greet him as Adolf in order to see his reactions.

We still have an S.S. man in a nasty piece of work – under double guard day & night. Has about 6 murders to his credit I believe & has endeavoured to convince the UNRRA sisters that he is such an innocent cherub that he would like to join our unit when he is demobilised. We have doubled our vigilance! I believe they all have

[Page 83]
the S.S. emblem ZZ tatooed in the axilla – but I’ve not seen it.

I have been here two months now and it seems years – None of us know how long we will remain, but we hear the Poles will be with us for the winter, or at any rate those who cannot or will not return to Poland.

Took the day off & went to Hamburg last Tuesday – The R.A.F. did their work well. Tense atmosphere, hostile glances & pasty faced, skinny inhabitants. Nothing in the shops worth buying but it was interesting – We had tea at the officers’ club, a large hotel and crossed the Elbe several times in our journeyings – Whole areas of the city in ruins and no cleaning up done yet – They say Berlin is even worse – I wonder if I give you the news you want. Let me know if I don’t & don’t forget to write.

Love & best wishes to all


[Page 84]
Belsen, 13/9/45

My dear Budd,

This is a mid week screed to ask you to do one more thing for me. A finance officer called yesterday to interview each one of us & advised me to get a monthly statement from you as to my bank payments – Can you put your hand on an UNRRA paper which I left behind, showing statement of rate of salary, income tax deductions, group insurance (or something) deductions etc. I did not bring it with me being told there would be a copy in London, and can’t remember exact amounts. I do not want the paper but just a list of amounts etc.

Then if you add amounts paid into Bank up to date & any deductions made by UNRRA, I will know my affairs should it be necessary in the future. Spent last evening filling in Customs duty details of exact contents of case, dates of purchase, value etc etc – It was awful. Fortunately, you had listed the articles & I guessed the prices & covered all with a statement that "it was packed after my departure, but to the best of my ability etc" – The key hasn’t arrived yet so Lep: Transport Ltd cannot do anything when the case arrives. Have written to them & explained.

Dr. L. has been recalled to London & leaves on Monday so things may be a little better. It’s been just awful – but very serious for our organisation whose name is precarious anyway – Just had my cup read. My wish will come true sooner than I expect and there is a change of duty & an important letter coming from London! S.M. Herald, two D. Mirror & one N.Times arr: from Aust. yesterday – begrimed with red dust & label almost off SMH. July 4th – Although old enjoyed reading the news and the paper comes in useful. Took the day off day before yesterday as transport was going to Hamburg. We took sandwiches & tea & enjoyed a glorious ride – the city is almost flat in large areas – one of the worst bombed in Germany I believe – Atmosphere tense & people openly hostile compared with the country people round here – Had aft: tea at an officers’ club once a lovely Hotel facing a large lake. Crossed the Elbe by more or less damaged bridges several times – Nothing to buy in the shops. Got one or two bookmarkers & a postcard or two – nothing interesting.

[Page 85]
The electric light & water goes off several times during the day & is off now & light failing also.

Spoke too soon about leaving one contribution out of my parcels – better include again for a while. Believe there has been a fire & mail lost en route – some letters were partly burnt – but nothing for me – so perhaps mine were destroyed.

Looking forward to jumper – we are just feeling the "nip in the air" mornings & evenings and the fences to prevent snow drifting across the roads are being piled up in readiness – you probably saw the same thing in Canada.

Lost another two nurses without replacement – now reduced to 13 including myself – almost impossible to get anywhere.

Much love to all

Envelope addressed to:
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

[Page 86]

My dear Mother,

Your letters are coming through quite well now. I thought perhaps this week’s might miss out as many came for the others very badly damaged by fire – Of course I don’t know if any of mine were lost or not. Your last is dated 1/9/45 – but nothing from Budd, so far.

Took the day off last Tuesday and went to Hamburg with some of the others. Quite a pretty drive through forest & agricultural country but the RAF did their work well in the city. Hostile atmosphere & looks from thin, pasty looking individuals. Practically nothing in the shops, so different to London. Whole areas were completely flattened and none of the rubble taken away yet. We had a nice afternoon tea at the Officers’ Club, facing a lake – formerly the Atlantic Hotel. Tea, sandwiches, buttered (or margarine) toast & two cakes – one mark (6) served by an obsequious – is that the word – German waiter!

Fancy those two ‘ladies’ going off to Singapore – they would. It is great to know that some of the nurses are safe – wonder if they will ever find any trace of the 60 who were lost there.

Very glad to hear that your nose is good & that you are paying periodic visits to Dr. Dawson. The "farm" sounds most attractive & is frequently in my thoughts. The lemon tree will need an orange & mandarin to keep it company, with a peach & nectarine & apricot to complete the picture!

Dr. Layton is leaving tomorrow & we are having a party this evening for him – much too old for the job. It will be a relief to us all really. Had a letter from Miss Lang who said she was going to N.S.W. on a tour of inspection early in Sept. I wonder if you will see her. She said our "Flying Nurses" are doing a lot of evacuations and would be going to Tokio & Singapore later.

Clocks back to English summer time today – It has been double summer time till now. That meant an extra hour in bed!! Miss Lang said she was sending me some wool for the patients to knit. It will be most acceptable & hope it arrives safely. No parcels yet & only two S.M.H. & a few Nursing Mirrors – shipping space must be short.

We are fixing up a new children’s & babies’ wards at present. Got a few knitted woollen & patchwork quilts from England for them & looking for some wall pictures now.

I hear the Russians (wounded ex P.O.W.) are leaving us shortly and the Italians also. Some of the Poles are also moving & a train of Yugoslavs & some Hungarians (at their own risk) went this week.

[Page 87]
My godson has left Hospital and I am wondering if he will settle in the King’s Cross or Crows Nest region in the vegetable business, a little later!!

Had a letter from Fanna this week, she is still awaiting her discharge.

No sign of Norah so far – was hoping we might go to Bremen en route for Hamburg, but it’s quite out of the way. Had word to say that my suit case was expected to arrive any time now – but don’t think the key is in London yet.

It’s getting a bit chilly in the a.m. & p.m. now & so will be glad of the dressing gown soon.

We are expecting Miss Udell to call on us soon when she comes to Germany.

And so life goes on. I wonder what you will do instead of "buttons" & whether they’ll give you service chevrons!!

My love to all & take care of yourself – I write every Sunday, so hope you receive them all,

Envelope addressed to:

[Page 88]
Belsen. Sunday.

My dear Budd,

How the time does fly. Sunday afternoon and after a refreshing morning in bed am trying to write a few letters. We are giving Dr. Layton a farewell party this evening, about 50 expected. I think he’s pretty disappointed at going but it is the only thing if the unit & Hosp. is to survive.

I think my last letter went without a stamp. Hope you don’t have too much to pay on my mail. The community letters I send "Air Mail" & wonder if they really arrive that way as they seem to take some time.

Our patients (or many of them) are celebrating the Jewish Special fast of attonement this evening till tomorrow, when they have a large meal at 7 pm, I believe. We have a very good Messing Officer and a Dutch Cook Supervisor, so are lucky. No letter from you this week, but still have hopes.

The trees seem to be growing well at Avalon – I am really looking forward to seeing it all and that won’t be so very long really. Am feeling concerned about the possible change at P.A. & anxiously waiting further news. Who got the RAHC. job – if it was duration & 6/10 after it wouldn’t be worth much. Girl said some of the ex childrens nurses at Concord said they were sorry I wasn’t there to apply, but I had first refusal really!! No, this is the last Hosp: job I could tackle – it needs younger women who don’t worry!! No word from the Palace yet, nor of Dr. O’Brien’s travelling scholarship. Dr. Tensley (Vic) told me UNRRA (Aust.) had written asking her to write for the papers – I think she will do that for the Vic. ones.

I have had a letter from Mr Remington which I will answer this week asking me to try & trace some people. Haven’t had any success so far. All the records were burnt by the S.S. when we entered the camp. Will write to him.

[Page 89]
You will be preparing for another N.R.B. but will not be correcting papers I hope. Fancy Darling back again – wonder how she’ll shape at teaching. Have they announced the "Centaur" scholarship holder yet? Let UNRRA see the community letters on Belsen will you? & any others if they are interested.

The German maid who does my office brought me some lovely asters the other day - & we still have plenty of heather on the moors which we pick – There’s really not very much news – Just a very busy daily round like yours, with problems to be straightened out & many odd jobs – no not enough time to do everything. Another nurse taken yesterday - & replaced by a Canadian with the most awful manner I’ve seen for a long time – she may improve, but was annoyed at being sent here – wanted the "field" –

Much love, take care of yourself & keep prodding Mr. Ward – It won’t be long now.



[Page 90]
Belsen. 19.9.45.

My dear Budd,

Although only Wednesday I must send you a letter to tell you that your lovely birthday cake & the lease lend teapot and tea arrived yesterday. The calico cover & every stitch was intact in spite of the fact that it had been readdressed from London to a unit I’ve never heard of. The tin was battered & burst, but the delicious cake unharmed & enjoyed by eight of us for supper – or rather a small taste was. It carried beautifully and ever so many thanks. The teapot was dented on the rim which can be adjusted and is most welcome.

The day before I had a grand mail of eleven letters which had toured the world almost – It may interest you to know their itinerary and I expect they are some of the 40,000 we heard were languishing in Frankfurt awaiting delivery – as no one knew where the owners were. That is our marvellous organisation!! 2 from you to, one 26/6/45 went to A.P.O. 757 New York City, and the other 18/6 recd. London 4/9, posted 5/9 from there & arrived here 17/9!!! Most of them had arrived in London about 14/8 and had taken over a month to get here! Mothers 7/8 Air letter arrived London 14/8 (very good) & here 17/9. Her other 27/6 Air Letter to APO 757 was censored & took a trip to N.Y. also. You can imagine, I’ve read them all over & over but when they’ll be answered, I know not. Yesterday came your 4/7 which although air mail only had 6d stamp & did not arrive in London till 4/9. Many thanks for the birthday wishes. That picture of me was certainly terrible in the Aust. Hosp! The negative should be destroyed. Would you ask Miss Frazer & tell her I’ll sue the Commission if she doesn’t!!! Also give her my kind regards.

The tree planting at Avalon sounds marvellous, what a day you had and how lovely it will all be to return to. Sorry someone is interested in our firewood but until we get a fence I suppose that will happen.

[Page 91]
Our Dutch cook supervisor who has been to Aust. sent me the paper with the story of the Aust. nurses from Singapore & Borneo – Every Jap should be exterminated, it’s terrible – Kramer’s trial is on today and our S.S. man, post typhus, who has been under double guard in Hosp: has gone up – He’s a brute, six murders alone to his credit – Our curfew is 10.30 pm now and all guards have been told to "shoot to kill" any persons who are found committing any crimes or tries to evade arrest. We must have special pass each time we are out after 10.30 pm, but don’t think that will be necessary somehow. Daylight is fading early & there are so many "shootings" about – we always have one or two in Hosp. under guard – Don’t worry about me I’m not taking any risks.

Once more many many thanks for lovely cake which is the first parcel to arrive.

Take care of yourself.

Yours sincere (absent mind) Much love
Don’t use address on back – Use London one

Envelope addressed to:
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

Miss M.K. Doherty
UNRRA Personnel
618 Detachment
Mil. Gov:

[Page 92]
Belsen – Sunday

My dear mother,

Three letters unanswered from you dated June 27 Aug 6 & Sept 10 – The June one was addressed to the APO 757 and had been to New York City, and opened by Censor, but apparently met with his approval. Tonight is our first cold night and I am wondering how I’ll write when winter is really here. The electricity & water are off each day at midday, and every evening 7-8 or longer. I have one candle by which I am now writing but wonder how we’ll manage in the winter –

You must be overjoyed to have that cable from Ian, I wonder who Fuller is? Miss Lang said RAAF nurses were doing a lot of evacuation & would go to Tokyo & Singapore so expect they will bring prisoners back as they had been given special instructions for feeding them in the air.

Poor old Flo – sounds as if she’d had a stroke or two. Do hope they can keep her in the Hospital or home rather.

Four letters from Kit since I left and one lovely parcel yesterday – soap, powder & barley sugar – one jar smashed to atoms, so had to throw it out – ground glass not too attractive. Mail seems to be coming through now much better. The plantings at Avalon sound fine – It won’t be long before I see them, I expect. It’s 4 months since I left now and there are sorts of vague rumours about UNRRA’S future, which seems to be almost in the melting pot at present.

Was interested in the latest engagement at Canberra; quite a good idea, methinks – The packet I asked you to hold only contains papers I didn’t want in London, I think. You can open it, but I don’t remember anything of interest in it.

The third community letter was posted the day before I left London I think – Since then I have sent No.4 (in two envelopes by air 23.7.45) and Belsen No 1 (addressed to Budd you may not want to read it 29.7.45) Belsen No 2 to you 18. Aug, No 3 Sept 2nd No 4 16.9.45 – all by air, so you should have some good reading.

[Page 93]
I hope they do go by air. Long letter from Fam recently – and full of news – also many others write to say they enjoy the copies of the Community letters. Don’t use address on outside of this it is only official – new order out – B.A.O.R stands for British Army of the Rhine instead of previous B.L.A. B. Liberation A.

The Italians went home last week & the Russian soldiers commence next week I believe. We are mostly left with Poles, with a smattering of other nationalities who cannot or do not want to return to their own country.

I have just lit the bath heater, wood & a few crumbs of coal, but makes quite a good bath, if the fuel lasts. Coal very short, but of course, plenty of forests in Germany, so wood should be alright – but unfortunately only electric stoves and steam heating in Hospital & our Mess. Our international mess had a Brazilian (UNRRA) tonight for tea.

Take care of yourself – Your letters are most interesting

Much love

Envelope addressed to:
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

M.K. Doherty
618 Det:
Mil: Gov:

[Page 94]


I had one letter last week posted 13th Sept. arr: & reposted London 19: Sept: & arr: here 21st Marvellous isn’t it.

Having day in bed today – day off & Sunday – have written a number of letters I owe. Then Miss [indecipherable] burst in – visits never very satisfactory, always in terrible hurry & doesn’t want to hear any thing you might want to say & if you do get a chance, she always flatly contradicts you – Things must be pretty bad I think – Never gives whole story, but recent plans re UNRRA changed, agreement to be signed with Army next week – Hinted that we may have greater responsibilities with German population (bombed out & displaced) & leave D.P.’s to be nursed in German Hosp:

I mentioned that was not what we’d come to do, she said that was what we’d probably have to do – I didn’t argue for we can’t be forced – we were not appointed for that! Aunt Kit had said Miss Butler "may be returning shortly" – I asked Miss C. She said she was dissatisfied asked to leave the team in Berlin & is now at Weisbaden – requesting transfer from U.S. Zone to British – but she won’t have her – I reminded her she was not app: for a team – The whole thing is chaotic – I’m just biding my time & see what eventuates. You might ask Dr. O’Brien what he has heard from Rockefeller – just casually. I don’t want to criticize UNRRA yet. Miss B. will do that if she returns!!!

More staff to be withdrawn tomorrow – no notice – They’re in such a muddle that when they want a nurse anywhere they say "Oh Belsen has

[Page 95]
plenty we’ll take one! (12 incl: self: now.) It’s ridiculous – they have no idea what supervision means or is needed. I know you won’t and can’t advise me so far away, but do let me know what your reaction is & what you think I should do.

Beautiful autumn weather here – am always dreaming of ‘our garden’ & the jacarandas etc. Can see it all – a form of homesickness I expect and want all it means very much. Mother said you were probably taking the builder down soon – we must have the home even if half the size, still retaining essential plans.

Am longing to hear from you in reply to my letter asking you to withdraw your name from UNRRA. I mean it more than ever now & am really worried.

Had a letter from "Brooke" Moore the other day – nice of her to write.

Will write to your mother soon and thank her for teapot – Several people have said they enjoyed No 1 Community letter. Although sent by air, they seem to take a long time – I wonder if they go by sea because I hadn’t blue air labels for all?

Take care of yourself – pen not good. This letter is for you only – rather critical.

With my love to all
Address on outside only a new order – don’t use.

[Page 96]
Community 10
Belsen No 5

Hohne (Belsen)
N.W. Germany

My dear Friends,

How the time flies – I think I must be a muddler as I never seem to have time to do all I want to – My writing efforts are curtailed by the fact that coal is very short indeed and therefore electricity has to be restricted and as we depend on the latter for our water supply being pumped up we are without water or electricity at certain hours during the day. & candles are almost unprocurable, and although we have 90 lanterns only ten can be used because the other eighty do not burn kerosene and the special carbine or something is unprocurable at present.

I found a baby lantern in the "Keller" which I reserve for my own very restricted use and wonder each time how much longer the oil will last!!

[Page 97]
Unfortunately, the hours they choose to economise include 7 – 8pm or later – the only time it is possible to write.

Yesterday without any warning we found ourselves without water or electricity from 7.30am to 8.30pm. with no opportunity to fill available receptacles – Imagine a 500 bed hospital caught like that. We were irate when they came one at 8.20pm as that was the time of a special cabaret at the Officers’ Club for which they had procured many coloured lights etc. They told us that the transformer at Brunswick was at fault but coincidences are strange! And it would have been a pity to waste the lights!!

Anyway, being prepared with candles in gin bottles for light at dinner tonight, we were amazed to find the light only off for ½ hour. Great plans were therefore made for hot baths – we have large cumbersome bath heaters, which are really meant for the steam of the radiator system, but which can be heated with wood, of

[Page 98]
which there is no shortage. We had a lovely blaze going half an hour ago & suddenly off went the light – and water – I am now waiting for the thing to blow up!!

Enough of our ablution problems – we had a dance in Hospital today – (and an orchestra) – held in one of our spacious corridors which fan out leading to two other offspring wards –

The old piano squawked bravely above the drums and ambulatory TB’s danced with anyone who came along. Everyone loved it – girls with legs in plaster, discarded crutches & pirouetted around; young men in the dreadful striped concentration camp pyjamas (which I am having dyed) swirled round with gypsy women in colourful long full skirts, around.

I even saw one or two of the German cleaning women taking part surreptitiously. The noise was awful & everyone enjoyed themselves immensely & the visitors joined in!

Hospital administrators – wake up – your wards are much too dull, why not let the medical & surgical cases mix more - pink shirts would be much more becoming on the dance floor than blue striped pyjamas –

Interval here when the light unexpectedly flashed on – Dashed to retrieve what was

[Page 99]
left of the fire in the bathheater which didn’t burst & when it was just nicely blazing again, out popped the light!

Talking of baths – the other day Pirie my Hungarian girl who looks after my room complained of not feeling well – I arranged with Dr Tewsley for her to be examined at 1pm and to make quite sure, rang the mess and asked Milly Buryova (our Czech cook supervisor), to tell Frau Kramer (in charge of D.P’s working in our mess & herself a Hungarian D.P. from Auschwitz) to see that Pirie was ready for the doctor at 1pm. She said she understood quite well – At 1pm Dr Tewsley entered the portals to find that Frau Kramer bowed her in, took her by the arm and led her to the bathroom, proudly announcing a lovely hot bath – Bewildered, she explained it was Pirie she wanted, not a bath! – However, undaunted the Frau indulged in the bath herself! These language problems!

Quite a stir in Hospital last week – About 5pm a convoy of trucks, armoured cars & other vehicles, all heavily armed and bristling with "red caps", service police with their guns "at the ready" without warning drove round our circular drive & out again.

[Page 100]
Word flew round that it was Kramer & his beastly men & women – but we now hear it was the witnesses who had been brought to visit the Horror Camp & who probably were being shown the Glyn Hughes Hosp:, so near & in such contrast –

Am going to the trial in Luneburg on Monday – It has been on two weeks now & should be very interesting. Will tell you all about it in a later letter.

I’ve decided a great deal of unnecessary expence is incurred & time lost in our Aust. Hospitals, by admitting women & keeping them in Hosp: for curettes!! A Russian Doctor from the camp borrowed our theatre one morning this week and brought with him the patient - no anaesthetic, nor pre-medication nor preparation of any kind. She walked out of the theatre after & left for Russia the next day!!

Dr Schlink & Prof. Mayes might be interested – Unfortunately follow up notes will not be possible!!

On Tuesday I went to Camp 1 to the unveiling of a Jewish Memorial to the

[Page 101]
thousands of Jews who are buried there. Thousands of survivors & others (& there are about 9,000 Jews at present in this camp) marched from the present camp, carrying banners blue & white with various mottoes. The memorial is erected near one of the immense graves holding thousands of nameless people who were either dead or died after liberation, before the British were able to evacuate them.

We drove there and standing on an elevated piece of ground we were able to watch the seemingly endless procession as it approached – so many had been in the Horror Camp & many had lost all their people there, while others had come to pay tribute to their unfortunate fellows who knew no earthly liberation.

While we were waiting for the ceremony to commence I was introduced to Brigadier Glyn Hughes who did such famous work there – I asked him to point out the perimeter of the actual area in which the victims of Nazi brutality had been confined – 400 x 600 yards only, in which more than 50,000 living unburied & dead had been concentrated.

A hut equivalent in size to a standard Nissen hut had housed

[Page 102]
600 – living & dead.

The ceremony was in Yiddish and the Rabbi was evidently very melodramatic for he moved the multitude so that the sobbing came as the soft twittering of many birds in distant trees at dusk. It was terrible – I stood on the bonnet of our car & was able to look down on the crowd, mostly young men & women.

You could pick out many of those who had been in the camp & ill – Their hair has grown fine & sparse, due to illness & starvation I suppose. One officer told me that when the prisoners broke through, & the S.S. guards had either been killed or fled, the Hungarian soldiers had "target practice" from the 15 elevated observation posts surrounding the area. They are the creatures who now strut about here & do as much or as little work as they can. We hear they may be returning to Hungary soon & no one will miss them.

The other day Wille Lubbe German Jew a D.P. interpreter at the Hosp: burst into my office waving a bundle of papers – all his credentials, identity cards etc which he had hidden in France 2½ years ago from the Gestapo. He was

[Page 103]
overjoyed – "Worth more than a millions of francs to me" he said – He fought in the International Brigade in the Spanish War also and now entering Hospital with tb. "I am now a man of honour" he explained & could return to France where he had worked in the underground, but preferred to stay "until the last S.S. man was killed," as he put it.

Took a day off & went to Lubeck last week – the ambulance in which I travelled (front seat) was bound for various places with D.P’s who were looking for relatives etc. We drove round Hamburg looking for the Swedish Kirk & in so doing passed through a different part of the city to that which I had previously seen – the warehouse region on the canals – completely devastated, whole blocks of buildings drunkenly disgorging their interiors into the canal, and enormous piles of rubble not yet cleared away.

Then we drove through the outer suburbs with leafy gardens and attractive houses – we drove through a pretty little village called Oldsloe & onto the autobahn to Lubeck. On the up traffic side of the autobahn for 12 miles

[Page 104]
we passed a British car & vehicle park, all wired off – The trucks & vans were packed side by side all the way – I’ve never seen so many, probably being collected from all over the British area & mostly in very good condition and no longer required by the Army – Another section of the autobahn was similarly turned into an enormous petrol dump.

Lubeck was considerably damaged, but some attractive old buildings still stand. We saw huge food queues, and the shops we practically empty.

Be left Belsen at 9.30am and arrived back at 7.30p.m. & the weather was clear sunny & crisp.

Two of my German Nurses were arrested the day before yesterday by our Security officers – a number of patients were dissatisfied with the nursing they received from them and signed statements to the effect that they had made anti British remarks & that one had stated the "she had been a Nazi, was a Nazi & always would be a Nazi" – the German matron nearly had a stroke when I told her

[Page 105]
they were to pack up & be ready for the guard at 5pm. Off they marched & are now in jail – and will shortly be transferred to Hamburg. I hope it will have a salutary effect on the rest of the staff!!

Today is Sunday and I made an uninterrupted round of every patient. Progress was slow, so many requested shoes, clothes, tooth brushes & tooth paste, a routine these days. They love to talk & tell you "Kine Klide", "Kine schuhe" "Kine Zahnpaste" and show you little bits of treasures. They are working very hard for an Exhibition of their hand-crafts next week – It is wonderful what they can improvise – embroidery done with coloured threads drawn from old towels and rings made from the thick mica windows of planes.

We have had a good deal of trouble with the recent cut in rations. Although the calories are adequate, the diet lacks variety and the bulk they so dearly love – many a time have we had to tactfully quell an argument or protest lodged by half

[Page 106]
the ward, out of bed and chattering in the excitable Continental way.

We have with great difficulty managed to obtain 1 pint of raw milk for each of our tb patients daily – Since this milk was available, much cheese making has taken place – each bed, or water tap in the ward has its muslin bag suspended and filled with the precious milk which they keep until sour & then leave so that the buttermilk will ooze through and drip either onto the floor or into a jar conveniently placed according to the standards of the individual –They love it – the more sourer the better, they call it "Quark". Now what would you do?
1. Have the cheese made in the kitchen & deprive them of much joy & interest but at the same time produce a healthier casein & a cleaner ward.
2. See what you could do to persuade them to drink the nice sweet raw milk & probably die of frustration & a broken heart in the process.
3. Smile encouragingly, overlook the drips, ignore the quantities of jars full of souring milk placed on every available chair or table

[Page 107]
and admire the juicy bags of cream cheese & die happy. I am doing the latter!

This letter is untidy and meandering but the best I can do under present circumstances so please excuse –

Best wishes to all, I read tonight in one of the few up to date papers we see, that the Japs are not as subdued as we would like & that we are landing troops in Java etc.

Don’t you believe that the Germans are beaten either – and who ever told you that the only German you can trust is a dead one is probably correct –

Yours sincerely
Muriel K Doherty

[Page 108]
Belsen. 2.10.45

My dear Budd,

I’m two days late with my letter this week – was on duty on Sunday & v. busy & yesterday went to the Luneberg trials – Most interesting & will write full details as soon as possible. Days drawing in and electric light off 7-8 or later, practically no candles or kerosene for lamps which restricts letter writing – Yesterday your welcome parcel of 2 prs stockings, borax, soap, milk etc arrived in good condition & beautifully stitched – Ever so many thanks – I think you & mother shared, didn’t you? No letters from you for ages – except the odd ones which were written early in June or July, which I mentioned receiving in a recent letter. I hopefully look for one daily but so far in vain – Although your parcel was addressed to Miss Udell, I am sure it never arrived there but was incorrectly addressed from the UNRRH Gen: office to a team number I’ve never seen nor heard of – Goodness knows how many other letters have been addressed to the same place – Am hoping the reg: packet with keys doesn’t go the same way. Do not feel too easy about the Japanese affair – see by yesterdays paper (seldom seen in this mess!) that we have landed troops in Java & warships off Tokyo.

Had such a nice box of Farmer’s sweets from RNNRNS Concord – I am writing to thank them, but do not like to say they were all musty – Could you advise Miss Throsby that it would be better if all untinned foodstuffs were packed in tins – it seems such a pity – and Farmers should have known better. Hope my Community letters are coming through alright, as it is the only way I can keep everyone up in touch with the news. Had letter from Publicity Officer, UNRRH Sydney Mr McKenna asking me to write interesting letters etc & giving list of seven headings of what they wanted included. I will reply suitably, but if you only have a minute to ring would you explain difficulties & offer any information from my community letters they care to have.

I am going to wish you many happy return of Nov: 10 now as I feel letters are somewhat delayed from this end – I have nothing to send but my love as the shops are empty & we just can’t find anything to spend our money on!! The borax will be grand for my hair which is suffering from hard water & looks awful at present. Getting cold now, but am not adding extra warm clothes until I have to in case my case doesn’t arrive & I’ll not have enough – I don’t think I’m going to feel it terribly, though – We walk to the Hosp: on these clear, sunny, crisp autumn mornings – about ½ hour – maple leaves brilliant crimson & birch & others turning yellow – wish you could join in – Still having difficulties with patients as result of cut in rations, particularly bread & potatoes.

My news seems uninteresting tonight as I haven’t a letter from you to answer – wondering how Cell: N progressing, also M Guild & Court case re Hosp: Employees etc. No word re Buck: Palace yet – hope they fix it up, because I’m coming home in the spring – May 1946 – if not sooner – The teapot is a boon & will be taken great care of – dent removed from lid which now fits perfectly

[Page 109]
It seems awful to waste this page but really cannot find anything interesting to put on it unless I commence on a long detailed account of the trial & I’ve not sorted out the notes I took yet.

My staff is 13 at present – ridiculous for adequate supervision as the Germans certainly need.

Am anxiously awaiting revised edition of P.N.P. although not requiring it for use at present. Two papers from you yesterday which have been to New York!

SMH. June 6 & 13 – will read with interest later – Many thanks also Hosp: Mag: (Miss Frazer) which Mother forwarded.

Well, it’s difficult writing by the light of a baby kerosene lamp, so must stop –

Much love

Envelope addressed to:
Miss H. B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

[Page 110]
Belsen – 5.10.45

Belsen No6
(Community Letter)

My dear Friends,

This is to give you a description of the day I spent in Luneberg, at the trial of the War Criminals associated with Belsen and other concentration camps – The trials have been going on for several weeks now and will probably continue for some time as progress is slow owing to the necessity for translating the whole procedure into so many languages.

Three of us set out from Belsen at 7.30 a.m. in the UNRRA station wagon each provided with a thermos of tea and sandwiches each. It was rather dull when we left, but soon the day turned to one of autumn crispness and warm sunshine – The countryside was lovely – the trees turning crimson and yellow and for long distances meeting in an archway overhead. We arrived in Luneberg at 9 a.m. parked the wagon & walked across to the Court house which was

[Page 111]
barricaded off and guarded by armed sentries in their red caps. Having official passes which appeared to satisfy them we were allowed to pass on to the Main entrance, where we again produced the open sesame. We were shown into very good seats behind the witness box and had time to survey the court before the day’s session opened.

This rough diagram will give you some idea of the positions – on 1.10.45


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Seated in three tiered rows with the most notorious (apparently) in the front, they were guarded by Military Police – men & women – There were 45 prisoners 20 men and 25 women as there was a No: 48 present there must have been some missing – They were dressed in old S.S. Uniforms without badges or in Civilian Clothes and were the most degenerate lot of human beings I’ve ever seen together – Obviously below mental standard they filed in smirking & grinning, and took their seats. Large black numbers on white background were sewn of their backs and on cardboard hung round their necks in front. Kramer was a heavy creature with he overhanging & low brow & dark hair – He showed no emotion during the trial, & scribbled notes from time to time. Dr. Klein sat next Kramer

[Page 113]
and was more of a wiry type with a head that had been squashed up on both sides and surmounted with tufted greying hair – Ilma Greise was rather a pert thing with very little chin and a straight small hard, cruel mouth – about 25 years I should say. She was amused at the proceedings – The "woman who had the dog" which she let loose on the prisoners was a wicked looking individual of about 35-40 years old, small, thin & fanatical. I think all these people must be mentally deranged in some way & they say they were chosen from the "bullys" at school –

The men looked like some of the worst characters from Madame Tussauds or Long Bay Gaol – many of the women had small square chins & little hard mouth – It was an experience and will be interesting to see the result of the trial. I believe Kramer was in the box yesterday 9/10/45 and his wife & Dr. Klein today. The defence those innocents put up is amazing - but Dr Klein let Kramer down today – so there is apparently no honour among theives when their necks are in the noose –

I took notes at the trial but couldn’t get their names correctly

[Page 114]
At 9.10 am an announcement was in made in Eng: & German that all were to be seated within next 10 minutes & the prisoners filed in. At 9.20 am all persons were to be seated and were instructed to keep their hats on until the "Court" entered. Punctually "the Court" entered (we stood) & the Major Gen: curtly instructed all to be reseated:

The first witness was a Roumanan doctor who gave his evidence in French and who was excellent & could not be shaken. He looked a worn and broken man and had come from Paris for the trial. His name was Sigismund Charles Bendel who was arrested because he was not wearing the compulsory Jewish star. The interpreting was excellent. The prosecutor Col: Backhouse put the questions in English they were translated into French, the Dr. replied in French, that was in turn translated to English for the Court and German & Polish for the accused. This is the story he told:-

On 10.12.43 Dr. Bendel was sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland and first forced to work as a stonemason & later as doctor to a gipsy camp of 11,000, where he saw injections causing instantaneous death given

[Page 115]
as experiments to men, women & children. By July 1944, 4,300 of these gipsies had gone to the crematorium, and except for a working party of 1500 all others had died.

In June 1944 he stated that an S.S. doctor had "given him the honour" by attaching him to the crematorium. He was asked if he worked in the crematorium & stated that he and 900 other deported persons call the "special commando" were forced to work there.

There were also S.S. Senior Commandos who were given special privileges and who lived completely separated from the other S.S. Guards. There were about 15 of these special S.S. men, three for each crematorium.

The D.P. Special Commandos were locked in special "blocks" when not working and not allowed to leave – The German S.S. guards were relieved by other S.S. Men.

The witness lived first as a D.P. in camp & then at the crematorium itself. In Aug: 1944 on his first day 150 Political prisoners Russians, & Poles were shot, but no one was cremated – They were led out one by one –

Two days later he saw the crematorium working – He was on day duty (there was a night shift also). In the Ghetto were 80,000 people – at 7 am the white smoke was still rising from the last of those who had been burned the day before during the night.

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This method was much too slow for the numbers to be cremated, so three trenches 400 x 600? Were dug where they were finished off with wood and petrol. This also was too slow, so canals were built in the centre of the trenches into which the human fat dropped & burning was hastened.

Dr. Bendel said the capacity of the trenches was almost fantastic – Where No 4 crematorium had been able to burn 1000 persons daily, the trenches were able to cope with this number in one hour. He was asked by the Prosecutor to describe a day’s work:- At 11 am the Chief of the Political Dept. arrives on a motor bike to announce a new transport arriving. The trenches had to be prepared, cleaned out & burning wood & petrol put in. 12 m.d. the new transport arrives, 800 – 1000, who were undressed in the courtyard, & a bath promised followed by hot coffee – They were ordered to put their things on one side and valuables on the other. They entered a big hall where they had to wait until the gas arrived. In winter they undressed in this hall.

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Five to ten minutes later the gas arrived and as he said "the strongest insult to a doctor & the Red Cross, in a Red Cross Ambulance."

The doors of the two gas chambers were opened and the people sent in – terribly crowded. One had the impression that the roof was falling on their heads the ceiling was so low. Forced in by blows from different kinds of sticks, they were not allowed to retreat – When they realized it was death which they were facing they tried to return to the hall – The S.S. Guards finally succeeded in locking the doors. There were cries, shouts, fighting, kicking on the walls for 2 minutes, then complete silence – nothing more – (This moment in court was tense, the doctor spoke so quietly but with such dignity & conviction that we were all aghast at what we knew was the stark & awful truth).

Five minutes later, continued the Dr., the doors were opened, but it was impossible to go near the gas chamber. Twenty minutes after, the special commando starts to work. Doors were opened, bodies fell out, quite contracted – it was impossible to separate one from the other

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He said one gained the impression that they had fought terribly against death. Anyone who had seen a gas chamber filled with corpses will never forget. At this moment the Special Commandos stop – They then take out the bodies still warm, covered with blood & excrement. Before being thrown into the ditches they passed into the hands of the barber and dentist. (The hair was used to make material, the teeth contained much precious metal & also do not burn easily).

"Now proper hell is started," he said. "The Commandos are told to work as fast as possible – They try to drag the corpses by the wrists in furious haste – "they work like devils" – a barrister from Salonika, an electrical engineer from Buda Pesth – Three to six S.S. men give blows from rubber truncheons and continued to shoot people in front of the trenches, people who could not be put into the gas chambers as they were so overcrowded. After 1 ½ hours the work was done" – The new transport was dealt with in crematorium No 4.

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Commandant Kramer was in charge at this Camp and was seen at the crematorium several times and was present at the Killings. (I have been since told that he used to gloat over this) On e one occasion one men who worked at the crematorium tried to escape, and was brought back & killed. S.S. Doctors were seen at the Crematoria and one Dr. Klein (in court) was seen on the ambulance which brought the gas, sitting next the driver.

On Oct. 7th 1944 300 Sp: D.P. Commandos were told they were to work elsewhere, but they knew they were going to their death – That day 500 people 400 in Crem: No 3 & 100 in Crem: No 1) were killed – The D.P.s Commandos were killed in No 3 – they were called one by one, undressed naked, shot in the neck with a gun – (they were put in rows of five and an S.S. man passed by & shot them in the neck.)

At this particular camp at Auschwitz there were five crematoria and 3 gas chambers – As a doctor, witness had to attend to any of the special commandos if they had an accident, such as burning human fat on their feet.

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In Dec: 1944 at Auschwitz 4 women were hanged in the women’s compound for passing dynamite to a doctor for the purpose of exploding the camp – The girls worked in a munitions factory and were publicly hanged without trial – Hessler (in Court) ordered the hanging – he (Witness) was asked to identify anyone & he picked out Kramer and Dr. Klein. He had never seen Hessler, who was also present.

The senior doctor at Auschwitz (a Dr. Menglez spelling doubtful) carried out human experiments, but no D.P.s took part in any of these – H.P. Feuhrer Moll gave the orders & Moll was responsible to Kramer who received his instructions from the Political Dept: (Himmler was Chief.)

On Oct. 7th 1944 the crematorium No 3 was set on fire by the D.P.s there – 500 people took part in the revolt but owing to some confusion & misunderstanding they could not reach their firearms but No 3 crematorium was set on fire.

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The court adjourned at 11.40 am for 10 mins: At 12 noon the second witness was sworn in. A Jew (man) from Lodz, Roma Son Polenski by name (not sure of spelling) He was arrested in 1939 because he was a Jew, and was in a number of camps including Auschwitz in Autumn 1942. When the Russians were advancing in the east he was removed to Belsen – He was asked to identify any of the accused, who were floodlit for the purpose. He identified Kramer, Hessler, Schlamonitz and a Pole named Ambon Polanski ("my good friend" as he put it) and a wo man whose name he did not know but who was in the stores at Belsen.

Asked what Kramer had done, he stated that 3 days before the liberation of Belsen witness went to the Cookhouse & there were rotten potatoes lying on the ground. He started picking these up (they had been starving you will remember) when Kramer shot his two friends dead & wounded him in the hand. He passed round the court & exhibited wound.

[Page 122]
Asked about the "man in the stores" & he said he had led the men who had dragged the corpses to the graves & beat people with rifle butts & shot them when too exhausted to work. He also hit & kicked them. He hid himself and shot the starving prisoners as they tried to find food. They were all killed as he was only 2-3 metres away.

Hessler, he said, was Commandant of No 1 crematorium at Auschwitz. In 1943 on arrival at the railway station, Hessler approached & formed them in fives. He tried to stay with his two brothers but Hessler sent them to the crematorium. He worked there himself later, employed in cleaning the gas chambers & loading dead bodies into lorries.

Court adjourned 1.15 p.m. & resumed 2.30 pm. During this interval we sat in the station wagon & eat our lunch.

The previous witness again entered the box for a brief period & then the

[Page 123]
third witness appeared. Anita Loske a German Jewess of Breslan, imprisoned in Auschwitz Dec. 1943 as a political prisoner.

She actually saw selections made by Hessler & Dr. Kline of hospital patients destined for the gas chamber. People were lined up at these selections & marched by – those who were to live were put on one side, those destined for the gas chamber on the other. This girl was a member of the band which played at these selections & at public hangings in the camp. She was later transferred to Belsen. Some days before the British arrived Red Cross arm bands were issued to the workers by Dr. Klein and they were told to be kind etc. The approach of the British also affected the S.S. women who pretended to be interested in the prisoners’ welfare – They were told to be "very strong" because they were to be liberated soon. Previously these women, including Irma Greise carried whips and treated them very badly.

[Page 124]
Three days before the arrival of the British all prisoners were assembled by Kramer & told to start digging graves into which they had to drag the bodies.

She identified Kramer, Dr. Klein, Hessler, Greise and others and when she had finished stood for fully three minutes just looking at them in silence – what a moment of triumph! She said later that the existence of the gas chambers was well known.

The Hungarians came to Auschwitz Camp in May 1944 –

There was a queue waiting day & night for cremation as there were so many people. She was taken to Belsen in Nov: 1944 when there were very few people there and no huts, they lived in tents – Conditions were bad, it was winter, they were sick & had to wash outside in the cold & rain – The S.S. beat the inmates to keep order. Kramer arr: Belsen about Dec: 1944 & conditions became worse – beatings etc. were introduced.

[Page 125]
There was no orchestra at Belsen – She was beaten in both camps, in Belsen for being late. They used wooden sticks. The 4th witness came in at 4 pm but before this all numbers were removed from the prisoners and No 22 was allowed to change his place to wherever he liked. She was a girl of 21 a Polish Jew from Warsaw, arrested on April 1943 & sent to Auschwitz for 16 or 17 months & to Belsen in July or Aug 1944. In Auschwitz her mother was with her but was taken to the bathroom, beaten by S.S. women with a stick, & issued with prison clothes & she knew she was destined for the gas chamber. She was asked to identify the women.
No 6 she said "every-one was frightened of her". She kept a dog.
No 7 was Camp Commander at Belsen & very cruel.
No 8 was second in charge at Belsen also very cruel
No 9 Irma Greise – She carried & used a whip & also shot people
No 10 Witness said "she did not know how she managed to sit among criminals"

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No 11 Collaborator with S.S. in Camp
No 40 Illtreating hungry people, beating them kneeling down etc in winter.
No 48 Notorious collaborator with S.S., everyone was frightened of her.
And so on – no emotion was seen on these women’s faces during this identification.

No 5 witness a Polish Jew entered the box at 4.30 pm. Arrested in 1941

He recognised No 19 as being in charge of the transport which brought him from Dora Camp to Belsen – He had also been in Buchenwald.

They had no food or water on the journey & when witness asked for latter he was told he would "get it with his pistol"

The journey took 7 days – More than 50% died, bodies were left in wagon on arrival at Belsen.

No 19 was walking along the train & was asked for water which he refused. His attention was drawn to the bodies taking up space.

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It was suggested that they be thrown away, but No 19 said that the others were going to die anyway so what was the difference.

On arrival at Belsen they lay in the open and were beaten with iron bars – witness’ friend was in bed 3 days as a result of these beatings – The only reason for this treatment was that they were Jews – His friend died – The accused was grinning during this evidence, and did not appear to attach any seriousness to it.

Well, my friends, this has been written in ten sessions & is rather disjointed & very untidy – Paper greasy also. I have given you this picture to give you some idea of what Nazi-ism did for the world. The court adjourned at 5 pm and we had a comfortable drive back – That these men are given British justice is too fantastic & I’m sure they do not appreciate the privilege – I don’t know how the twelve men for the defence can possibly do it, but of course they must if selected – as they are all army officials.


[Page 128]
Belsen. 8.10.45

My dear Mother,

How the time flies, but expect you are so busy either preparing for or celebrating Ian’s return that you haven’t noticed – No letter again from you, nothing since 21/9/45 – and some before that, missing also I think – A number of Budd’s missing also, but one last week saying foundation stones at Avalon probably going down this week – I can hardly believe it, I am so excited about it.

The autumn tints are lovely here – crimson & yellow maple & birches and red squirrels among the red leaves in the woods. Today is cold & bleak, lantern on 4.30 pm to write by. Had an exhibition of patients work this week, some lovely things made out of nothing – I’ve ordered some for you, but will not post them I think – If only UNRRA would sent materials etc for them to make up it would be something, but we’ve not received a thing since we took over.

The BBC called this week with cable from Aust. requesting that I make a 13 min: broadcast on the Pacific service. Have written to London to ask permission – you’ll probably hear when it is to be, later – if they consent.

Life goes on much the same – cheesemaking in the wards flourishing, with the precious extra pint of fresh milk we get for the "tbs"! – The smell was so bad yesterday that we had to stop it & now those who want cheese will have it made in the kitchen – "quirk" [quark] they call it; cream cheese.

I went to the Luneberg trials one day – Kramer of Belsen "fame" & his henchmen & women – Am writing a separate community letter describing that – too much for air letter – but very interesting –

[Page 129]
Budd said her father was very ill in Hosp: hope he is better by this.

Made a nice cup of tea today in the Moss Vale lease lend teapot & Aust. tea & milk – Am wearing your mittens at present also! Lovely & warm.

We have 21,000 DP’s in this camp at present & 27,000 in a nearby one – nearly all Poles too – The Russians are driving the Germans out of Poland, Czecho: & Eastern states at ½ hrs notice & thousands dying on way & in trucks arriving in Berlin.

The whole world is still in an upheaval – I wonder how things are going on in the Far East. I’m sure they’ll have trouble with the Japs.

My hands are so cold, I can hardly write – I left this and it is now 8.30 pm & the lights are on again.

Good bye, take care of yourself

Much love,

Envelope addressed to:
Mrs R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

M.K. Doherty
618 Det: Mil: Gov:

[Page 130]
Belsen. 12.10.45

My dear Budd,

A very hasty letter this time – it’s Thursday but I’ve just heard that my investiture is to be on Tuesday 16/10/45 and I’m flying over on Saturday morning – Leave Belsen tonight for Spenge, UNRRA HQ. near Herford & Bad Oeynhausen and "take off" from there – Am quaking at the knees and trying to organise myself in a hurry. Two lovely letters from you today 9/9 – with the plan and 18/9 Airletter. Also lovely parcel, jellies, brown sugar, barley sugar. It’s just like Xmas undoing them – oh yes, cake of soap also – My investiture just six years to the day since I was called up 1939. Will try & buy chevrons in London & new bit of ribbon – wrote to Farma & Finlow asking them to accompany me if I can have visitors – it’s all been done by phone as haven’t seen invitation – Have all new things shirt, collar, tie, gloves, stockings, shoes & skirt which I’ve been keeping. Tunic quite new & will have pressed if poss. In London. Beret at present trying to clean the band without much success but no coupons for new one, so it will have to do – How I do wish you were here – The plan is thrilling and as long as the windows are low enough I’ll be perfectly happy in my old age.

Letter from Mother today also – She’ll be very excited now – hope its not too much for her – Sorry your Father had a fall – your last letter said pneumonia, what you were hoping to avoid – You are much too busy – do take care of yourself – I can’t believe the house is to be finished before I return – what fun & what a holiday we’ll have. I am very glad you decided on the plunge" and very relieved that you have withdrawn from "China Mission" –we’ve more than we can cope with already – My thanks to all for the dictionaries which will be very helpful – we had an exhibition of pts work last week good but very limited owing to lack of any materials from UNRRA. Believe it’s going to be shown in London next week.

Glad you enjoy the letters. Let me know which community letters you’ve received and I’ll know which are missing – to date have written Nos: 1,2,3,4 (in 2 envelopes) + Belsen 1,2,3,4,5,6 latter posted yesterday & is a description of Luneburg trials which I attended.

Must attend a Mess Meeting now as I’m President – will send cable from London if I can – will be very rushed visit I’m afraid – Will now go & peruse the plan again after meeting.

Much love

[Page 131]
Envelope addressed to:
Miss H. B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

From M.K. Doherty
618 Det Mil Gov

[Page 132]
London. 15.10.45
8.55 am in P.O.
Sent cable to you because thought Mother might be out when delivered & they don’t leave it. M.

My dear Budd,

I have just sent you a cable re investiture. All done at short notice to me. Flew over, arriving Croydon 1 p.m. Saturday 13th May good trip 2 ½ hours – Arrived our H.Q. no one there of course at 2 p.m. No message, no accommodation arranged etc. I reported to the office just in case & the very obliging porter told me there was an UNRRA hostel just round the corner in Devonshire Close – he rang & they had a spare bed in a three bedded room – so I was lucky – impossible to get accommodation in London and food shortage going to be serious – any way, bed & breakfast is better than nothing & queue up for other meals – Rang Farma & found she was at Ambleside – rang her hoping she would come down a day earlier, but she’s not returning till Wed: - so that’s that. Finlow (Almoner St George’s) trying to get off & come with me but very busy – Don’t know time yet but will add to this letter: Feeling shaky & quaky & wishing you were here to see me through. Spent yesterday a.m. with Finlow & for lunch but don’t like having meals with people here as rations so small. However, I took some German apples, pears & some chocolate I’d saved & she was very pleased. Am going to make enquiries re my future position here, whilst in London – as am not satisfied. Believe Miss Haynes from Concord is in the office at present with Miss Udell – But as the office doesn’t seem to have any say in what goes on on Continent, I just wonder what she finds to do.

17.10.45. Well, it’s all over & I’m the proud possessor of the medal & the Kings handshake. After commencing this I reported to Miss U. Monday a.m. to find UNRRA had booked for me but left the message at another office (to which I had no reason to go). Talked in office during a.m. whole position v. unsatisf: They have 3 senior adm: officers including myself & no jobs for them. Very vague suggested there might be nec: to suggest to us we go to other spheres!! Also UNRRA may be committed to looking after the Germans also – I said nothing – will wait & see Nov: 1st is date on which they are supposed to sign final contract. Would not consider Far East at all & hope something develops re Coll: Nursing. You’ll be dying to hear of my visit to the Palace – Well, I had arranged with RAAF to contact Miss U. to save time. She sent signal which hadn’t arr. when I left Belsen – But she was in phone contact with Miss C. & mentioned it. One receives a "summons" – Well on Monday last, day before investiture summons hadn’t arrived – and no one had done anything about it, although Miss Haines had hers for Oct. 30th which was strange to me & letters do not go astray in London. I rang RAAF H.Q. they contacted Palace, and at 4 pm I collected a second summons & two invitations & rushed back to sew chevrons (which I’d bought) on my suit & new RRC ribbons. At 9.15 am we set out (Miss Udell & Finlow as my guests) by taxi for the Palace where the crowd had commenced to gather. We were driven right up through the inner courtyard to the entrance & red carpet & here we parted. I went inside, met by two officials in scarlet swallow tails & was passed from one flunkey to another (still in their

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Khaki home guard uniform) to the ladies cloakroom – Having sampled the Palace soap & dried on fine crested linen, I powdered my nose and descended the steps & up to the other side, past the audience chamber to a huge reception room. It was now 10 am & about 200 recipients gradually gathered there (the VC’s etc were separate) & finally received instructions – 3 other nurses with me. Finally all in queue & moved slowly – until we entered the hall where all spectators were seated & the King was standing. Finally I was announced, stepped forward, turned left to face him, curtseyed, stepped forward, had medal pinned on my chest (hook previously placed there) The King asked me how long I’d been with UNRRA – shook hands stepped back, curtseyed again turned right & walked down ramp to another "station" where the medal & hook was removed, former placed in lovelys leather case, inscribed in gold on outside "RRC. 1st Class" handed to me & I was passed on. Perfect organisation. We all then stood behind guests & saw the rest of the procedure. I received mine at 11.50 am. They commenced about & I was about halfway – Papers say over 300, one of largest – Lovely soft music all the time from orchestra & a wonderful experience. But did wish you were in the audience – will write full description in community letter. Took them to lunch Gorringes, long interview with "Information" & a Press interview arranged (re Belsen news) for Thursday 3pm. & probably a broadcast on London stations – It’s awful – I loathe this publicity as you know.

Collected letter from you & Bank statement for which many thanks. Didn’t know your Father was in G.H. missing letters probably told me – Collected suitcase after much swearing that I wasn’t going to use any of the things on England or eat the goods.

Went to musical play "Sweet Yesterday" last night with my two guests – My party, wore my new brown shoes you sent. Interested in Pubic suggestions re Nat. Coll. Nursing. Six years yesterday day of investiture since I was "called up". Now quite ready to retire to Avalon – You should have cheque from Dymocks quite soon – No sign of book yet. Forgive haste am very busy rushing from one Dept. to another & want to do a bit of shopping for Belsen – I return on 20th. Much love – Muriel.

Envelope addressed to:
Miss H. B. Hetherington
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Missenden Road
New South Wales

From M.K. Doherty
11 Portland Place. W1.

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London. 17.10.45.

My dear Mother,

You will have received news that my investiture took place yesterday & will be looking forward to news of the event. I told Budd of the difficulties regarding arrangements & how I finally received a new "Summons" to attend at 9.45 am 16/10/45. The evening before, as you can imagine was taken up pressing, shoe polishing, manicuring & general rejuvenation – Having carefully dressed in the a.m. with care and joined by my guests Miss Udell & Babs Finlow, I called a taxi & off we set for the Palace – The crowds had begun to assemble as we drove in the main gates, through the archway to the inner courtyard where the queue of guests was already forming – I was passed on through the portals & directed by a scarlet coated official to the ladies cloak room up a flight of lovely stairs & through a large anteroom where a maid assisted me further. Having sampled the Palace soap & dried my hands on fine crested damask, I was told I did not wear my gloves but could carry them or leave them there. I chose the former for companionship & sallied forth down the broad staircase again, this time to mount another flight opposite en route to the assemble room. Lovely Greek goddesses and crimson carpet helped me on my way as did the flunkeys still in the uniform of the Home Guards (Khaki). Passing through halls lined with cases of glorious old Spode, Doulton & the like I arrived in what I would call the "Victoria" room – lined with enormous oils of every phase in the lady’s life – Here the recipients began to assemble, Navy, Army, Air Force, Canada, N.Z. Aust. S. Africa, Bermuda & of course G. Britain – These men who had led armadas & armies into battle, showed signs of nervousness from time to time and all wore ribbons of many decorations & campaigns.

That was about 10 am and we stood (or sat) there until 11.30 a.m. during which time we were instructed in procedure by a court official of unknown origin. The men first & then we four women received a special word of advice - Two QA’s (one N.Z.) and one nurse from Malta in uniform of St. J. Amb: The elderly QA Matron, Miss Graham, let the way, followed by myself & the other 150-200 recipients in the room. The 3 Indian V.C. one G. Cross & Knights etc must have assembled in another room, for they of course went before us. It was a pity we couldn’t see that part. Then we left ‘Victoria’ behind and slowly moved towards the audience room (not sure of its correct title) where all the guests were seated & the King stood accompanied by his various army officials – He was in uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, looked thin & is greying but nevertheless was "Our King" – Each recipient’s name was announced loudly & we moved up one at a time. My turn came, when I reached the King, I turned left, faced him curtsied, moved forward, had the medal pinned on my left chest (hook previously adjusted). He asked me when I joined UNRRA, shook hands, I moved back curtsied, turned right & on my way down the red carpeted ramp where the medal was removed, placed in a black leather

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blue lined velvet case with RRC. 1st class in gold on outside.

I then joined the other recipients behind the guests where we had a very good view of the rest of the procedure. I shook hands at 11.50 am & the final procedure concluded about 12.45 I think. There were over 300 there one of the largest investitures held. They said I behaved nicely, but I don’t actually remember what I did do – All the time the Court orchestra was playing soft music – and it was a lovely ceremony. The King stood with his back to a door or doors which opened onto a circular room in crimson, cream & gold.

The three Indian V.C.’s were so proud & pleased & I crept forward when one was showing his cross & had a peep. When it was over we again joined up & departed the way we came to find crowds pressed against the railings outside – my usual position for such occasions!

Will bring the "summons" and the medal home, & think it will be safe with me in Belsen – They all want to see it & I can’t disappoint them. I took Miss U. to lunch (Finlow had to return to Hosp: & we all went to the theatre in the evening "Sweet Yesterday" – very bright & colourful musical play at the Atheneum. We had a light tea at Finlows after – Food is so short I don’t like going to peoples places, but she insisted as she had just brought some new laid eggs from home – I have to interview the Press tomorrow – awful - & hope to see Farma who returns to London –

That’s all this time – Take care of yourself.
Much love,

Envelope addressed to:
MRS R.K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales

M.K. Doherty
UNRRA. 11 Portland Place
London W1

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Belsen. Oct. 17.

My dear Mother,

A hectic week since returning from my London trip and very disappointing because no mail since your letter of Oct 7 which I collected in L.

Such a change of scenery on return – Quite warm in London and cold, windy and bleak here – The lovely autumn blowing I left here has nearly all turned to dead brown leaves, with a thick carpet of russet & squirrels the exact colour, and soon the "fall" will be over and many trees will be quite bare until the snow drapes them with white. It was quite a relief to return for "a rest" after the hectic rush of London!! Returned to find two of my oberschwesters & one nurse recalled to Hamburg by our authorities as they had been active members of the Nazi party and were to be prohibited from ever nursing again, I believe – Two others were in jail for being in possession of more food than their rations when travelling on leave to Hamburg!!

Then the Air Security people arrived one day to check up all Germans on Hosp: staff and my German Matron nearly had a stroke when I sent for her again – she probably thought we were arresting her this time!!

Had a lovely Hungarian (D.P.) Orchestral concert today in our main hall – the only entertainment place in the Hospital – Also three days ago a party of 30 Danish nurses & doctors from Denmark, going to UNRRA H.Q. (South) to join up. The International Red X, two teams, arrived yesterday also to xray the chests of all people in the camp – So life is never dull, especially as they frequently arrive without previous warning & we have to find accommodation and often blankets – for them – The building we put the Danes in had no lighting & they arrived after dark – Night light candles were all we could find, but fortunately many of them had torches.

Your last three letters were full of your various disappointments at not having definite news of Ian’s arrival – I wonder what has eventuated now.

The cottage has actually commenced and I’m anxiously awaiting news of the weekly progress when Budd’s missing letters arrive. It will be lovely to have a rest there when I return –

Wonder if you have heard my broadcast from the BBC. yet? Richard Dimbledy (Dimbleby) & I did a question & answer, but I think I will probably sound rather stilted as I was a bit nervous talking into the "mike" – Some awful photos were taken at H.Q. and I was landed with a nerve wracking press interview of about ½ doz people including "Truth". If I had only known at the beginning that I was to figure in that rag I’d have pretended I was deaf & dumb. However, their representative was rather "dumb" himself so maybe he won’t send much –

Had to bring the RRC out here to show them & will not risk

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posting it to you – but will bring it home next year – which is nearly with us already. Two lovely parcels from Miss Lang but no others so far, lately. A large batch of S.M.H. from Budd were here on my return, so I went to bed last night and read all the Sydney & Worlds news from May to August – Letter from Kit recently fancy her being 75 & working still. I wonder what they’ll do with Flo if she becomes more difficult.

Fancy Mr Sandeman being such a naughty old patient – the modern nurses will probably tell him how to behave – Was Dr Hetherington there too – In one letter Budd says he was in Moss Vale Hosp: in another that he walked down to listen to the Redfern Boys Band – missing letter probably said he’d been transferred. Believe the BB.C. news today said that "someone or other was anxious about where UNRRA would get more money & may have to close down if not – Didn’t hear it myself but am not surprised and could tell them where to save money!!

Take care of yourself,
With much love

Envelope addressed to:
Mrs R. K. Doherty
7 Rocklands Road
New South Wales Australia.

M.K. Doherty
618 Del. Mil. Gov.

[Page 138]
Belsen. 28.10.45.

Belsen No 7 (Community)

My dear Friends,

So many messages and letters and so little time to answer individual ones, that I must send you all another Community one as I’m sure those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of entering the portals of Buckingham Palace will be interested to hear how I enjoyed it. The news that RAAF. H.Q. London had arranged for me to have my investiture in London was the first surprise & thrill, not unmixed with some fear and trepidation I assure you. It was arranged that my Chief Nursing Advisor in London would be notified when the ‘Summons’ arrived and that U.N.R.R.A would permit me to return by the most speedy route possible. Then I forgot all about it until a trunk line from our local H.Q. informed me that a signal had been sent to me from London, but they had been in telephone conversation with London about some other matter when my affair was mentioned! Fortunately, as the

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Signal has not yet arrived, as signals have a way of doing – That’s the first bit of good luck. I travelled from Belsen to Buckebury (a new airfield being constructed by Germans under RAF. Supervision) which took about 4 hours by station wagon – Two of my Sisters who were off duty that day came with me to the airport. That was on Oct 13th. After a welcome cup of tea and sandwich & various formalities I boarded the Dakota with RAAF. Crew and 16 passengers and had a perfect 2 ½ hours’ trip to Croydon – In a way it was disappointing as there was heavy cloud above which we flew most of the way. We did see something of Walcheren Island as we passed over – practically under water with only housetops showing – the Germans you remember cut the dykes & flooded the Is:

I noticed an armed guard in the place sitting next a good looking man in civilian clothes & wondered why he did not put his rifle down – but didn’t take much notice.

The procedure at Croydon was fairly easy and I saw the good looking man

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walk into the office ahead of me and heard him interrogated by a soldier as he passed the door. He evidently did not understand & so was asked to stand aside – Then the soldier (guard) vaguely appeared and said "oh, he’s my prisoner" - & I head later that he was a Nazi and no longer thought him good looking!

A bus journey deposited all passengers outside the Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria, so I took a taxi to Miss Udell’s office knowing that at 2.15 pm on Sat. they would not be there but hoping some arrangements had been made for my accommodation, which is practically unprocurable in London. Two porters but no message, but one very obliging gent arranged for me to go to an UNRRA Hostel, Devonshire Close, nearby, for which I was truly thankful. The next day I spent with a friend & visited Madame Tussands nearby in the afternoon.

9 am. on Monday 15th I reported to find that no summons had arrived, although Miss Haines (ex AANS) had received here for the 30th. As mine was the next day, I did think

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someone might have rung RAAF H.Q. knowing they were arranging everything and having already corresponded with them. I’m afraid I was not very pleased & rang G/C. Barnaby immediately – realizing the Palace would be awaiting my acknowledgment in order to issue tickets for my two guests – RAAF got things moving immediately and arranged with the Secretary at the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood at St James’ Palace to send a duplicate summons without which I could not enter the palace portals – I’ve not yet received the original which I was instructed to return – I collected the precious missive at 4 pm from Kodak House RAAFH, had a hasty word with G/C Borland and dashed away to buy a new piece of ribbon for my chest & some chevrons, which I recently learned I was entitled to wear in UNRRA uniform.

The evening was spent scrubbing & polishing and preparing for the morn.

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16.10.45 Exactly 6 yrs since I was called up for AANS. Was a lovely warm day and at 9.30 my two guests, Miss Udell, Chief Nursing Advisor European Regional Office UNRRA and another friend arrived and we set out to find a taxi. I forgot to tell you the previous aft. I had been to Cooks & from there to the Port of London Authority to collect my case from Australia – Having convinced the officer that I was not using the contents in England nor eating the food therein contained in that country I was allowed to leave with my belongings – Being tempted I decided to wear (but not sell) a new foundation garment – alas pride always has a fall and my wartime synthetic suspenders just decided to come undone at frequent intervals during the journey to the Palace. Imagine, on my way to meet the King, too!!

However, I remembered another person who had had trouble with his suspenders and wanted to laugh. A couple of safety pins adjusted in the confines of the cab prevented any further embarrassment!

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At 9.45 am I drove through the Palace gates & under the archway leading to the inner courtyard. There was already a considerable queue of guests and I later learned that seats are not allotted but first comers have the front rows. I was firmly but politely separated from my guests & directed up the main steps and through the imposing entrance. The officials there wore scarlet, for and with the exception of two "beefeaters" who stood near the King, the others were still in their Home Guard Khaki.

Thus began a serious of tactical moves onwards all the time. First I mounted a broad carpeted staircase on the right to the cloak room – This I found to be a plain & solidly furnished reception room with as far as I can remember a billiard table and a bright fire burning at one end. A homely and rather shabbily dressed middle aged maid assisted me – I sampled the

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Palace soap & dried my hands on fine crested linen – not because my hands needed it but because I wanted to see all I could. A last final touch before a mirror and a word from the maid as I put my gloves on again, that "gloves are not worn but you can carry them or leave them here" – I decided that they would be good company & retained them.

Descending the staircase, I crossed the entrance & ascended the opposite flight and shortly afterwards found myself in a huge room which had massive oil paintings of important phases in Queen Victoria’s life – There were one or two servicemen in the room, but soon many others began to arrive, Navy, Army Air Force, Canadian, Aust. S. African, N.Z. Bermudas & , one or two civilians – Four women only. Miss Graham an elderly Q.N. Matron, RRC. A N.Z. Sister & one from Malta A.R.R.C. –The investiture was one of the largest for some time as the King had been on leave for 3 months I believe.

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I introduced myself to one or two of the Australians F/O Curling & F/O ? whose father is head of the AC.F in London.

This large room opened onto a terrace with lovely Grecian ladies looking on, and had a row of solid, leather chairs round the perimeter – By the time we were all assembled, there must have been over 200 there and I heard later the three Indian V.Cs, one civilian George Cross, and the highest honours, Knighthoods etc were assembled in another room.

A lord high chamberlain or someone of that ilk finally came and gave instructions as to procedure – to the men first & then we four women. It was so simple & definite, which after the conflicting instructions which were given in Aust. when the Duke & Duchess of Gloucester came gave one confidence & stiffened the wavering knees.

Finally about 11.30 am we were put into our places – Miss Graham leading, followed by myself and then the Admirals, Major Generals and

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Air Vice Marshals etc – Actually they were not all so high ranking, but the thought flashed through my mind how strange that these men who had led armadas into battle should fidget & show signs of nervousness. From the rows of ribbons they had seen many campaigns and received previous decorations – I forgot to mention that as we entered the room our "summons" was checked and a hook placed on our left lapel in preparation.

This paper is awful – seems greasy, but is all I have – Finally, the doors opened and we slowly moved forward through a long narrow hall lined with glass cubes cases of the most lovely dinner & dessert sets of Doulton, Worcester Crown Derby etc. Finally Slowly we reached the audience room where all the guests were seated – on crimson cream & gold chairs – It too was a long narrowish room with various marble ladies looking down upon the scene – Those recipients

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who were before us were there and the moment was drawing near – I don’t think I felt anything very much except to think that I was meeting the King and to hold my head up!! My guests were in the front row & I smiled as I saw them.

Following is a detailed drawing of the whole reception room.

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Then as Miss Graham made her final curtsy, my name was announced & "P/M RAAFNS" and the spring of the clockwork began to unwind & I moved forward – alone – with the instructions buzzing in my head. "Move forward towards the King, then turn left facing him, curtsy, move towards him close enough to prevent his arm becoming tired by having to stretch out. He will then pin the cross on you & shake hands – You then move back a few steps, curtsy again, turn right & walk away". Well, they say I did it nicely and after he’d pinned it on, the King said "When did you join UNRRA?" I swallowed and said "In May this year" and something about "being in the RAAF before that" – I then saw his left hand move surreptitiously towards the velvet lined tray held & kept supplied by the Army Official and knew that was my cue to move on – During all this the Court Orchestra was playing the most lovely soft melodious

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Music - many After walking down the ramp I was again guided to a table which contained the boxes or rather cases – all satin & velvet lined – a kind gentleman unhooked my cross (which I hadn’t even been able to look down upon on account of the head) & removed the hook, placed the Cross in its box and handed it to me –

I then joined the crowd below who had in their turn each passed through my own experience – I took up a "grandstand" position, below but in front of H.M. and watched the rest of the investiture – As we were less than halfway, it was quite interesting – what we did miss were the citations of the V.C’s and the G.C. which were of course records of amazing valour. The civil defence officer who was awarded the G.C. had hung upside down for six hours (against public opinion) in an endeavour to rescue a clergyman from bomb damage – He prevailed and the rescued man accompanied him to the Palace.

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I saw several interested people inspecting one of the Indian V.C.’s cross, so crept up & had a peep also – He looked so proud and stately – After the last recipient had passed we all stood to attention whilst the National Anthem was played and then joined by our friends just melted away. Alas! The crowds were gathered round the Palace railings – and perky photographers – It might have been better if I had faced them, for the one which was finally taken later and founds its way into the front page of the Evening Star was terrible. I stood by a Cockney woman on Oxford Circus corner later whilst she handed out the latest editions – thousands of them – and shuddered –

Miss Udell & I lunched at Gorringes not far from the Palace & I managed to later book front dress circle seats at the Adelphi for "Sweet Yesterday" for that evening. I was very lucky as one usually has to book 4-6 weeks ahead – Must have been "returns" –

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Anyway, the cheque which my RAAF sisters in N.S.W. gave me brought great pleasure to me and my friend – who had not enjoyed such entertainment since before the war. We had coffee & sandwiches during the interval, served in our seats, and the best seats in the theatre – the only sad thing to me was that none of them (RAAFNS) were with me to enjoy it & that is why I have tried to give you some idea of what it was like.

The King wore the uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet, is rather thin & slightly greying, but otherwise just as we see him in his pictures.

The next day the fun commenced, press conferences, photographers (results all awful) broadcast over B.B.C. etc. etc. UNRRA certainly was out for publicity and that really spoilt it all – If I could only have been left alone to browse & ponder it would have been alright – but between Belsen and

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The Palace, I didn’t have a moment’s peace!!

The B.B.C. was nerve wracking, but interesting from the fact of actually taking place in one of the rooms from which our "BBC news" and Big Ben came to us during the war years.

It was situated 30 feet or more below street level and had never had a hit – The news was always given from there and Big Ben was the genuine article every time. You know that silly little "pip",pip" which we hear over the air – the time signal. It never seemed to have any sense to me, but actually is the last five seconds of the hour, by which you should set your clocks –

My interview was first with an Aust: a Mrs. Davy from Victoria who had been 8 years in England. She then handed me on to Richard Dimbledy a very nice person & we composed the conversation. Then we descended into the bowels of the earth for the recording – just as one would see it on the movies – He wanted me to do it from memory but I preferred to use

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the script, but fear it would sound stilted. We then had dinner in the B.B.C. canteen and enjoyed it very much thankyou.

It took from 4 pm to 6.30 pm without the dinner and never again!!

That jaunt to London town to see the King was exceedingly strenuous and I was relieved to return to Belsen for a rest!!

In todays mail Miss Fraser (Hosp:Mag:) sent me a cutting about Gay Belsen – of course, you people will never think I’ve done any work in such a holiday town, but believe me, it was pretty grim when I arrived.

The light has been out once since I commenced writing this and its very cold, so think I’ll curl up in bed – Fortunately I have plenty of warm clothes & so far have been able to fill a hot water bottle.

Au revoir, for the present

Yours sincerely,
Muriel K Doherty

Notes at end of document:

UNRRA: United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, set up during WWII to manage the transition from war to peace. It provided aid and relief, helped refugees and prisoners to return to their own countries, or resettle. It was a temporary organisation and lasted 5 years. It predated United Nations organisation by 2 years.

BRCS: British Red Cross Service

NAAFI: Navy, Army, Air Force institutes

DP: Displaced person

Oberschwester: senior nursing officer; matron

Frederick Richard Dimbleby CBE (25 May 1913 – 22 December 1965) was an English journalist and broadcaster, who became the BBC’s first war correspondent, and then its leading TV news commentator.

ACF: Army Cadet Force

[Transcribed by Allanah Jarman, Jean Martin, Lynne Frizell for the State Library of New South Wales]