A plaque commemorates the massacre that took place in Brummen on September 23, 1944.

War crime: six British prisoners of war shot dead

in General information/September 23

While there was still heavy fighting in Oosterbeek, a war crime took place on September 23, 1944 that receives little attention in reporting on the Battle of Arnhem. Six British prisoners of war were shot dead in Brummen by a crazed SS non-commissioned officer.

After the Battle of Arnhem, the prevailing image on both the British and German sides was that both sides had fought “hard but chivalrous”. The murder of six British prisoners of war in Brummen has escaped the attention of most historians, partly because the Germans did everything they could to cover up the war crime.

What exactly happened on that fateful September 23 only became fully clear decades after the war.
For an accurate representation of events, let’s take a step back to Wednesday, September 20, 1944 and follow British Major Tony Hibbert.

Rhine Bridge
Major Hibbert headed the headquarters of the 1st Parachute Brigade. Together with John Frost’s battalion, Hibbert reached the Rhine Bridge on Sunday evening, September 17. The British fought a fierce battle at the bridge for three days, but on Wednesday evening, September 20, the British defenders had to give up the battle.

Hibbert: “At eight o’clock in the evening I realized that our fight was over. We ran out of ammunition and the Germans drove up to our window with tanks without us being able to do anything about it. There comes a time when you can’t continue fighting.”

The 120 remaining British soldiers at the bridge decided to break through the German lines in five different groups and try to reach the rest of the division in Oosterbeek.

Hibbert led the last group of British to leave the Rhine Bridge area. Hibbert’s group did not get far. The group managed to reach the Eusebius Church via the Markt, but there they were discovered by German soldiers and taken prisoner of war.

Prisoner of war
With the message “For you, Tommy, the war is over”, Hibbert’s group is taken to Velp, where the Germans have created a temporary prisoner of war camp. It turns out that almost all the British who fought at the bridge were taken prisoner. Only a handful of British people manage to escape captivity and reach the British perimeter in Oosterbeek.

After a few days in the camp in Velp, Major Hibbert is loaded into an open truck together with 25 British people. The group, mainly British officers, are transported to a prisoner of war camp near Munich.

The mood among the British soldiers is cheerful. Along the way, the truck is waved at by Dutch people, which the British answer enthusiastically by waving back and making the V sign.

On the running board of the truck stands a young German Unterscharführer of the SS, the lowest non-commissioned officer rank within the SS. The German SS man tries to make it clear to the British that making the V sign is forbidden, but the British see no reason to stop it, to the visible frustration of the German SS man.

The truck has to slow down sharply in the center of Brummen. The streets are busy and it is at this moment that Tony Hibbert gives a big wink to Major Dennis Mumford. At the same time, Hibbert and Mumford jump off the truck. They both run in different directions.

The German SS man immediately opens fire with his machine gun, but Hibbert and Mumford are not hit. The SS man then fires at the soldiers in the truck. Four British soldiers are fatally wounded: Captain Horrace Platt, Lieutenant Kenneth Mills and soldiers Sydney Allen and George McCracken. In addition, four British soldiers are injured.

A German soldier also dies in the shooting death of the crazed German non-commissioned officer. The young SS man accuses the British of killing the German and orders them to lie on the ground with the intention of shooting them dead.

At that moment, Brummen general practitioner Korteweg steps forward. “Ruhe, ruhe. I am Arzt.” Korteweg tries to calm the SS man down. However, he has gone completely crazy and fully intends to shoot the British prisoners of war on the spot.

A larger massacre is prevented because a staff car carrying the German lieutenant Gustav Etter passes by from the direction of Arnhem. The German lieutenant orders the SS man to stop what he is doing.

The British POWs are loaded back into the truck and the journey continues without incident. As a result of their injuries, two more British wounded later died in a hospital in Enschede: Major Antony Cotterell and Lieutenant Trevor McNabb. This brings the total number of prisoners of war killed to six.

Major Tony Hibbert knows nothing about the drama that took place behind his back in Brummen. With the help of the resistance, he managed to reach the Allied lines again after three weeks. Major Dennis Mumford is captured again shortly after his escape.

After the war, the British tried to track down the young German SS man to try him, but he was never found. The SS man was probably not part of the SS armored divisions that fought near Arnhem. It is suspected that he attended the non-commissioned officer training course for young soldiers, which was located in the Sachsen Weimar barracks in Arnhem.

A plaque at the old post office in Brummen commemorates the tragedy that took place here on September 23, 1944. Major Tony Hibbert was present at the annual commemoration of the massacre in Brummen until his death.
Tony Hibbert died on October 12, 2014 at the age of 96.


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