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1st Bn Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment

(Berkshire and Wiltshire)

'The Farmers boys' Guard Rudolph HESS


The bear of  Berlin

In 1947 seven prisoners were  locked up in Spandau Prison, Berlin. By the time the Regiment arrived in Berlin there was only one remaining prisoner, Rudolph HESS. A Military guard was provided by the four occupying  powers, The U.S.A., Britain, France and the soviet union. The Military guards were supplemented by eighteen warders. The Military guard was provided by a platoon strength who manned the six watch towers. The Battalion provided guards on two occasions, the first in 1972, and again in 1973. Strict orders were given to the guards regarding fraternization with HESS, and all sentries were searched prior to taking up their post to prohibit the use of cigarettes. Most of those who carried out this duty remember a very old man walking around the garden on a path he had trodden himself.



Spandau Prison from the Air

Spandau Prison was built as a 19th Century penitentiary. The buildings are of a pseudo-medieval, red-brick fortress. It was built in 1876 to hold 500 prisoners as a military detention center. after World War 2 it held the seven Nazi leaders sentenced from Nuremberg. But, since 1966, its only prisoner was Rudolph Hess (1894 - 1987) until his death on 17 August 1987. Just after his death the British Forces decided to completely destroy it to prevent it from becoming a shrine. Photographs were strictly forbidden, so this is a rare photo from the air. Each of the four powers then in Berlin, British, American, French, and Soviets rotated the service on guard duty and support at the prison for a month at a time . 
'The Inmate' Rudolph HESS

Rudolf Heß nach einem Gemälde von C. Horn

HESS on the left as depicted in propaganda pictures, but on the right as many 'Farmersboys' would have remembered him whilst being marched to their duty in the watchtowers and carrying out 'Goaler' duties at Spandau prison. 



I was a section Commander at the time in 'B' Company and we were detailed to provide a guard for HESS in the prison that was very near Brooke Barracks. As with all guard duties we considered this to be a total pain in the neck, but 'Orders is Orders' Once we took over even the thickest of us could feel that this was a duty apart, and something we were never likely to repeat, we were effectively living history. As a section commander it was my responsibility to post the sentries in the watch towers. Because of the problems with the Russians all of our procedures had to mirror what the other powers did when responsible for the prison. Because the Russians locked their men into the watchtowers (To prevent desertion, so we were told) then we had to lock our own people in as well, (That did give a certain amount of pleasure I must say). Before we posted the lads we had to read the orders over, 'No smoking' 'No talking to HESS' etc etc. Before they were marched out they were searched to ensure no cigarettes or cameras found their way in. I remember unlocking the massive side gates that opened to a creaking noise that would have done justice to a horror film. I clearly remember HESS in his garden, hands behind his back, as if he was inspecting the troops as we marched by en-route to the watch towers. One of the watch towers was out of view from its neighbours and the legend was that a French squaddie had thrown himself of the tower and killed himself with his rifle sling. Whether it was true or not I was never sure, but many of the lads were a bit iffy about going in that tower. I must say it was one of the more interesting places that we 'Stagged on'


B Coy Spandau Prison

B Coy, close up of Watchtower

A photograph of one of the Watchtowers on Spandau Prison, Berlin 1972, whilst occupied by 'B' Coy, 1st DERR. The Building to the right is the governors office A close up from the same image, a soldier (Who) of 'B' Coy


Pte Stephen Suchocka 1st Bn D.E.R.R. interviewed in 1973 by the Newbury Weekly News stated........
"No 3 post is right opposite his quarters and he comes out every morning and afternoon for about one to two hours. He walks round and round, wearing paths in the grass, but not sticking to the same route. He will be walking around and then suddenly will break into a high goose-step. Sometimes he just stands below the guard post and stares up at the guard. It drives you mad. We try to ignore him but it is hard. He looks up as if he is wondering what we are doing there. HESS is remarkably fit for his age 79, and upright. His deep-set eyes make his stare seem particularly penetrating."


Private Brian Vasey 1st Bn D.E.R.R. who was also interviewed at the same time stated.....
"sometimes he pulls a handkerchief containing bread from his pocket and feeds the birds. we have been warned not to have contact with HESS or give him cigarettes, because in the past he has immediately gone to the warder and reported them for breach of rules, I think I will always remember the days I guarded HESS. Its not something you are likely to forget"



To take cigarettes and Cameras into the sentry posts in Spandau Prison whilst on duty was strictly  illegal, but as you would expect the 'Farmersboys' worked their way around the regulations. These photographs have lain dormant for 30 years until the appeal on this site. Some still think they can be locked up for taking these photos despite the 'Wall' coming down and Spandau Prison having been demolished and deposited in the North Sea. Pte C CLARKE of 'B' Company, 1st Bn D.E.R.R. took the following photographs. They give a clear view of the dereliction of the site

A shot looking from the Sentry post into the prison compound A shot from the Sentry post showing 'No mans land' between the sentry post and the wall of the prison. The fence is electrified

Another photo showing a different angle of the prison yard. A distant shot of the prison whilst occupied by the Russians. This view on the opposite side of Brooke Barracks will be familiar to those who served in Berlin.


View from Sentry post showing inside of Prison

A clear view from one of the sentry posts clearly showing the wall and the electrified fence on the left. The building to the left was the prison headquarters.

Another view from the same sentry box, showing another post along the wall and a clear view of the deriliction of the buildings to the left inside the wall.

View of HESS from a Sentry post

A excellent shot from an 'illegal' camera smuggled in by a DERR soldier from a sentry post, in the middle distance Rudolph HESS strides out only his lonely walk around his garden


We are very short of photographs relating to our time in occupation of Spandau Prison. So if any 'Farmersboys' out there who evaded the inadequate search referred to by our Section commander above has any images we would welcome sight of them. Remember they can't lock you up after all these years.
The Web team would like to thank Ex Private C CLARKE of B Company and David CHILTON for supplying the above photos.
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                            Revised: 28 June 2003.