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British Volunteers of the Waffen-SS, 1943-1945
- by Richard Landwehr
- New, revised and expanded edition of the 1992 publication
- Merriam Press Siegrunen Monograph Series
- Third Edition 2012
- 96 6x9-inch pages
- 38 photos and illustrations
- ISBN 9781475059243
The story of the British volunteers of the Waffen-SS has long been treated with scorn and derision by the “establishment” media. After all there weren’t many of them and their small unit, the British Free Corps, was somewhat comic-opera in nature. This publication at least will try and change that perception. The hard core nucleus of the BFC consisted of serious, committed individuals who deeply believed in what they were doing and stayed on until the end. Therefore they deserve to be treated with respect; they were a part, however minuscule, of the vast Pan-European Army that was the Waffen-SS and no one can take that away from them. In future generations that fact will be treated as a true badge of honor.
The BFC was an effort to navigate “uncharted waters”; no one in the Waffen-SS was quite sure if it was possible or even “legal” to recruit POWs from an active belligerent to use as soldiers of the German Armed Forces, albeit even though their service was to be directed against the Soviet Bolsheviks. That meant that the whole undertaking to recruit British and other Allied soldiers was a tentative one and was never developed as fully as it possibly could have been. The post-war British socialist government made it clear that the Free Corpsmen were to be treated as traitors by executing the founder of the BFC and bringing the rest to trial. They were, in modern day vernacular, “political criminals” or “prisoners of conscience”.
The story of the British volunteers of the Waffen-SS was however a unique and honorable one—if it can be divorced from the travesty of British domestic politics—and it deserves telling in a fair minded manner, which I indeed hope this work can accomplish!
ReviewsConcise survey of a WW2 conundrum
- Chapter 1: The Legion of St. George
- Chapter 2: The Britisches Freikorps
- Chapter 3: The BFC in Training
- Chapter 4: Preparing for Combat
- Chapter 5: Into Action
- Chapter 6: Final Days of the BFC
- Chapter 7: Early Germanic Volunteers of the Waffen-SS
- Chapter 8: The Fates of the British Waffen-SS Volunteers
- Appendix: Roster of the British Free Corps of the Waffen-SS
- Notes on Sources
It's useful to have an outline of the Britisches Freikorps in this slim volume, though in truth there is nothing here that isn't explored in much greater detail elsewhere as mentioned by other reviewers. However, Mr Landwehr Jr. does clarify the mixed motives which led a handful of British POWs to don the SS uniform. The sheer boredom of imprisonment and the chance for excitement were likely more important than fascist ideology in the majority of recruits. Apart from limited action on the eastern front in the closing stages of the war, the recruits saw no real fighting. Himmler's attempt through John Amery to form SS divisions of non-Germans was successful for a time in several conquered countries as well as in the Muslim Balkans. As the book makes clear, most British POWs just laughed at Amery's juvenile speeches, especially as it became clear the axis powers were losing the war. But Amery at least died well. Hangman Albert Pierrepoint said Amery was the bravest man he ever executed. —John Barry KenyonForgotten history
I'm impressed by the details of an unknown story of the history of world war 2. There are more shades between black and white. Richard Landwehr did an excellent job. I hope he will going on in this kind of history. —Peter S.
This is a book of very narrow substance, however, very interesting. The book would have felt better by reading through one more time before publishing so that repetitions etc. could have been avoided. It also feels a little uncomfortable to the author fairly clearly sympathetic to Nazism. But as already said, it is worth reading it. —Mickael Lundgren