Kent

WWII: German camera captures Nazi troops at rest

German soldiers in occupied Holland Image copyright Clare Hunt
Image caption German soldiers standing in front of a bunker on the Dutch island of Walcheren

Photographs taken on a German World War Two soldier's camera - which was found by a British war hero - have been put on permanent display close to where they were found in the Netherlands.

Royal Marine Arthur Thompson, from Herne Bay in Kent, came across the camera on 1 November 1944 during the Allied operation to liberate the Dutch, after it had been left by some hastily departing Germans in a large concrete bunker on the island of Walcheren.

The roll of film reveals not just German soldiers relaxing and laughing together, but pictures Mr Thompson himself took of British Commandos.

Mr Thompson died in 2013, aged 89, and it was his last wish that the photographs, along with the camera, went back to the Netherlands.

The bunker was part of the Atlantic Wall - Hitler's defensive system against an expected Allied attack, which stretched all the way from the Spanish border to Scandinavia.

Mr Thompson was 21, and part of a 47 Royal Marine Commando sortie to the Dutch island in a mission to free up the port of Antwerp and help liberate the Netherlands.

Image copyright Clare Hunt
Image caption German soldiers smiling during the occupation of the Netherlands in 1944
Image copyright Clare Hunt
Image caption German soldiers relaxing in the sunshine with several more sitting on the grass bank

Before he died, he recalled: "We went through the bunkers and I picked this camera up. It had got film in it - the Germans had taken so many and there was a few left, so I took a few myself.

"When I got back home I had it developed, and out came the Germans and me."

Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Mr Thompson's last wish was that the photographs, along with the camera, went back to the Netherlands
Image copyright Clare Hunt
Image caption A German officer plays with a dachshund on a beach

The 47 Royal Marine Commando was formed in August 1943 and was also involved in the Normandy Landings.

Mr Thompson's first taste of action was storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Image copyright Clare Hunt
Image caption Mr Thompson (centre) used the camera to capture a moment with two of his friends following the operation to liberate the Netherlands

Clare Hunt, Mr Thompson's daughter, said the Voigtlander Bessa camera had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember, and her father had always used it to take photographs.

Image copyright Clare Hunt
Image caption The camera was found in perfect condition enabling Mr Thompson to finish up the roll of film - this picture is of one of his colleagues in 47 Royal Marine Commando

Exactly 70 years after Mr Thompson found the camera, his daughter presented it to the Polderhauis Museum, in Westkapelle, in the Netherlands, where it is on permanent display along with all the photographs on that first roll of film.

The owners of the museum had met Mr Thompson before he died, and said they felt very honoured and delighted to have been given the camera.

Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Arthur Thompson continued to use the camera throughout his lifetime