Rugby player relative of Belsen writer reveals untold story of Nazi concentration camp liberation

In many ways, his sign outside the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp symbolized the crushing defeat of Nazi Germany. Featured in newspapers around the world, it represented another nail in the coffin of Adolf Hitler’s bloody and barbaric war campaign across Europe in the 1940s.

Reginald Price, a machine gunner with the 113th Durham Light Infantry (Light Anti Aircraft), produced the panel after surviving an exhaustive ten-month trek. This trek had begun with his death-defying arrival in northern France, three days after the start of the Normandy landings in June 1944.

April 15, 2022 marks the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Allied forces. But only now is the full story told of the sign that so famously pointed to the impending collapse of Nazi Germany.

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And it’s all thanks to Rugby-based Nick Price. He always knew his Birmingham-born grandfather put the landmark in Belsen. But it wasn’t until his daughter brought home a photo from a school project on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2020 that Nick delved deeper.

His forensic research, much of which has been qualified by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHM) and other records, matched his grandfather’s often mind-boggling accounts that he reluctantly revealed later in his life. life.

Nick has not only studied Reginald’s arduous and epic military journey, but also what he encountered, aged 29, when he arrived at the camp in northern Germany two days after his release.

What he discovered debunks so many of the “myths” associated with murderer Belsen, which at the time of the war was still better known as Auschwitz. “A lot of people walked past Belsen, but didn’t get in,” Nick says. “What my grandfather told me has nothing to do with what has been reported over the years.



Gunner Reginald Price of the 113th Durham Light Infantry can be seen in the middle putting the finishing touches to a panel on the Draghunt Bridge during World War II

“British troops are said to have liberated the camp. But my grandfather said there were a lot of Canadians there and most of the help he received came from a unit in the American hospital and 95 volunteer medical students from the Kingdom. -United.

“He said it was hard to find a single British serviceman. His main job on the way to camp was as a gunner. But when he arrived he had to paint signs on the bridges which had been demolished.

“Typhus was rife at the time. It was likened to the plague and was so deadly that the senior ranks of the German army thought it could disrupt all of Europe.

“My grandfather’s regiment was one of the few in which all its members had been vaccinated. That was one of the main reasons he was allowed into the camp. If you weren’t vaccinated, you would not be allowed to enter.



Reginald Price pictured with two stripes before D-Day in June 1944. He received a third strip for VE Day in 1945.
Reginald Price pictured with two stripes before D-Day in June 1944. He received a third strip for VE Day in 1945.

“Even presidents and prime ministers would not be admitted if they had not been vaccinated.

It is widely believed that the SS guards, the fighting arm of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel organization, offered little resistance and laid down their arms when British troops arrived. Still, Mr Price says it was a ten-day ceasefire that allowed a limited number of British forces into the camp.

“A truce allowed the British army to pass through the area,” he said. “When they arrived, there were about 75,000 people there, in an area of ​​about 55 hectares.

“There were something like 800 German soldiers. Many of them were ordinary soldiers and were willing to help in some way because they hated the SS, the elite soldiers who committed the worst atrocities.

“Some prisoners were evacuated, others taken to a nearby hospital and barracks. There was no hand-to-hand fighting, but Reg said there were a number of attacks against the camp by German planes.



Reginald Price, first from left with his sergeant's stripes (looking slightly away from the camera), in Bergen-Belsen on VE Day - 8 May 1945
Reginald Price, first from left with his sergeant’s stripes (looking slightly away from the camera), in Bergen-Belsen on VE Day – 8 May 1945

“Reg had spent ten months trying to shoot down German planes. He said he survived that last raid due to a quirk of fate. He was carrying a corpse alongside a German soldier when a German plane went down.

“He firmly believed that was the reason the pilot hadn’t shot him.” And what about the famous sign compiled by Mr Price? The materials for the panel itself were taken from demolished huts inside the camp before being burned.

“I don’t know how he painted that sign with such a steady hand after everything he’s been through,” Nick says. “You’ll notice the word ‘culture’ is misspelled. Reg said he did it on purpose because an American reporter was harassing him and telling him to speed up.

“We still have the paint he used. The USHMM asked if we could donate it. This sign was in every newspaper in the UK.



The paints used by Reginald Price for the famous sign of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  Reginald's grandson Nick Price still has the paintings at his home in Rugby
The paints used by Reginald Price for the famous sign of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Reginald’s grandson Nick Price still has the paintings at his home in Rugby

“Everyone in Britain and the Commonwealth knew Belsen and he was heavily involved in the first war crimes trials after the war.” Reg and his regiment helped destroy the huts which had suffered untold horrors during the camp’s two years of operation.

Nick, a father-of-two who grew up in Nuneaton before moving to rugby, says a Last Hut Burning Ceremony took place on May 21, 1945. “It was the first time the Union Jack was hoisted in the air,” Nick, 49, adds. “It was only then that the allied forces wanted an association with the camp.” Reg is said to have left Belsen on May 24, 1945, but did not return home until a year later.

Such was the fear in Britain that returning troops would spread typhus, Reginald and his regiment were not allowed to return for a period. “They were in charge of guarding the stations and various different locations,” Nick adds. “We believe Reg did not return to the UK until May 1946.

“It was the first time he met his first son, my father, because he was born in September 1944.” Reg had married Sybil Barker in Birmingham in July 1940. They had a daughter in 1942 and four children in total.



Reginald Price on the day he married Sybil Barker in Birmingham in July 1940
Reginald Price on the day he married Sybil Barker in Birmingham in July 1940

A commercial sign writer, Reg has worked on many of the commercial vehicles that could be seen in the Midlands. It was only in the months before Reg’s death in July 1990 that he spoke openly about the war. “He would tell me everything,” adds Nick.

“Most of it all sounded totally unbelievable. I thought it couldn’t be true, but surprisingly it is. Every word he said was true from what I found through my research. .”

Nick, who works in marketing for the company, hopes that by telling his grandfather’s story it will highlight the incredible courage and bravery of those who helped liberate the camp. “There is no memorial for the soldiers who were there,” he said.

“Not even a message or mention of them. I would like to raise awareness of what the military did there and possibly have something erected for the 80th anniversary (of the liberation). Hopefully that will put the wheels in motion.”

To see the archives Nick created in memory of his grandfather, visit www.belsen.co.uk

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