- 6 June 1944 - 25 July 1944
- 26 July-26 September
- 27 September 1944—14 January 1945
- 15 January 1945 - 8 May 1945
- 6 June 1944 - 25 July 1944
- 26 July-26 September
- 27 September 1944—14 January 1945
- 15 January 1945 - 8 May 1945
The Directorate of Claims and Hirings was responsible for the disposal of all claims other than those arising out of contract or war damage and for the requisitioning and or hiring of land and buildings within 21 Army Group area. During June and July a total of 1,185 claims were received and 728 disposed of. In the same period 1,291 requisitions of real estate were recorded.
The first Claims and Hirings District Office was opened at BAYEUX on 16 June with sub offices at ARROMANCHES, COURSEULLES, PORT EN BESSIN, LUC-SUR-MER and CREPON.
Subsequently it was found that the existence of the sub offices involved complications, particularly in the matter of records and finance, and from the middle of July onwards these offices were gradually closed and the personnel absorbed by the district offices as the bridgehead was expanded.
The Claims and Hirings detachment for Second Army reported to Rear HQ at RANVILLE on 2 July and officers were attached to Adm HQ First Canadian Army from 22 July. Elements were also attached to the various corps HQ. The presence of these officers with army and corps HQ proved to be of considerable assistance in regard to quartering, and their presence in the forward areas enabled them to dispose of certain claims which, had they remained outstanding, might have caused some ill-feeling between the inhabitants and the operational troops.
Intelligence summaries were also prepared from reconnaissance made of recently captured towns and villages with. a view to ascertaining the proportion of loss attributable to GERMAN or civilian looting or to war damage. These reports proved of considerable assistance when claims were subsequently made under more static conditions.
In this phase the technical policy regarding both Claims and Hirings remained as it had been developed in ENGLAND and laid down in the Claims and Hirings manuals issued to all the officers of the Directorate.
It was based on the assumption that FRENCH local administration would be found to be considerably disrupted, but this was not the case and it was decided that it would be able to function with reasonable efficiency within a short time.
Discussions were begun with representatives of the FRENCH Intendence with a view to the Directorate confirming itself to the service of requisition demands on the local authorities leaving the FRENCH Government to carry out all subsequent regularisation including the assessment and payment of compensation for the occupations in accordance with the normal Intendence practice. These discussions were satisfactorily concluded in August.
Executive control over claims and hirings on the Continent was vested jointly in Deputy Directors at HQ L of C and HQ 21 Army Group working under the supervision of Director and Hirings until he assumed full responsibility on his arrival with HQ :21 Army Group.
As operations progressed a satisfactory Claims and Hirings organisation was evolved, consisting on the one hand of static district offices and on the other representation at army and corps HQ.
District offices were established at CAEN, FLERS, BRIONNE, ROUEN, DIEPPE, AMIENS, LILLE, BRUSSELS, BRUGES and ANTWERP during this period.
The Director found it necessary to appoint an Assistant Director Claims and Hirings both for FRANCE and for BELGIUM, each of whom was responsible to the Deputy Director at HQ L of C.
The Deputy Director at HQ 21 Army Group controlled the Claims and Hirings detachments at Second British and First Canadian Armies, while the Director was responsible for the overall policy and supervision in the army and L of C areas.
The principal question of policy to be decided at this stage was the degree of financial and administrative assistance to be given by the FRENCH authorities in the matter of hirings, requisitions and claims. Care was taken to ensure that the UNITED STATES authorities were kept fully informed, both the different political agreements which GREAT BRITAIN and the UNITED STATES had concluded with FRANCE necessitated independent negotiations by the representatives of the respective countries.
During August agreement was reached whereby demands for accommodation were made on the FRENCH local authorities and the FRENCH Government assumed financial responsibility towards its own citizens for the payment of accommodation requisitioned at BRITISH request.
In accordance with the terms of the agreement, all hirings records held by the Directorate were handed over to the FRENCH on 30 September. Inherent to these negotiations was the definition of an operational area.
Clearly it would be wrong to pay “rent for the trenches”, but on the other hand the rapid movement of modern warfare and the extensive use of aircraft made it impracticable to consider that an operational area could be bounded by a static line such as an army or corps rear boundary.
After much discussion, it was agreed by all parties that an operational area should be defined as all that area occupied by troops under the command of corps and engaged on active operations. It was agreed that in such an area and for the period of active operations the occupation of land and buildings would take place without any formalities either before or after entry.
Discussions were also initiated with the FRENCH in regard to a claims agreement under which it was sought to attach to the FRENCH certain financial obligations arising out of claims by virtue of a Mutual Aid agreement, but these negotiations did not mature until a much later date.
The BELGIAN authorities were not sure what conditions they were likely to meet in their own country and so a tentative agreement had been concluded with them whereby the Claims and Hirings Directorate would make hiring agreements and pay claims on lines similar to those arranged with the FRENCH prior to D-day. Shortly after the liberation of BRUSSELS, however, it became apparent that the BELGIAN Government was functioning much better than had been expected and discussions were begun with a view to effecting a retroactive agreement similar to the new one with FRANCE.
Again the closest liaison was necessary with UNITED STATES authorities.
The speed of the advance and the large number of troops located in BELGIUM caused an acute shortage of accommodation and Claims and Hirings officers in static offices in BELGIUM rendered assistance to the “Q” staff in finding accommodation for the troops.
A satisfactory agreement was made whereby accommodation previously occupied by the GERMANS was frozen for BRITISH use.
A right of appeal in case of hardship was given to the BELGIAN owners and although it was exercised on many occasions the vast majority of such requisitions went unchallenged.
During the months of August and September 6,721 requisitions of real estate were recorded and 3,422 claims were disposed of out of a total of 5,875.
With the majority of the work in its area completed the district office situated in BRIONNE was closed and the area put under the control of the district office at CAEN. An additional district office was opened at EINDHOVEN with sub-offices at NIJMEGEN and TERNEUZEN.
It was arranged that AD Claims and Hirings, Second Army should assume temporary responsibility locally for the work of the Directorate in the small area of HOLLAND under BRITISH control.
An agreement relating to the acquisition of land and buildings was concluded with the BELGIAN authorities in terms very similar to those arranged with the FRENCH. This involved the BELGIAN Government accepting, under Mutual Aid, the financial responsibility for housing BRITISH troops, and as a result a new billeting procedure was evolved which avoided payment for billets by units out of Imprest.
When BRUSSELS became a leave centre a number of hostels and clubs were opened and billeting was undertaken on a large scale. It was unusual, but in the circumstances unavoidable, to employ the billeting procedure when frequent changes of occupants were involved.
The arrangements, however, proved most successful due as much to the generosity of the local population as to the almost universally exemplary behaviour of the troops occupying such billets. In order to save BRITISH man power the BELGIAN system of repair and maintenance, and also of the cleaning of buildings by contract through the municipal authorities, was applied, subject to security, to a number of requisitioned properties and these services were supplied under Mutual Aid.
Prior to entry into HOLLAND it had been agreed that the normal procedure for Hirings should be followed, but it soon became apparent that arrangements could be made with the NETHERLANDS authorities similar to those operating in FRANCE and BELGIUM.
Negotiations were somewhat protracted owing to the initial hesitation of the NETHERLANDS authorities to arrange to pay compensation for requisitioned property to the possible detriment of those who had suffered war damage. It was pointed out that the act of requisitioning was deliberate whereas war damage was fortuitous, and a procedure was eventually adopted very similar to that already operating in other liberated countries. DUTCH Commissions were to be set up under the direct control of the Paymaster General to the NETHERLANDS forces to consider the assessment of compensation for the use of requisitioned property.
Similar arrangements to those in BELGIUM were made for billeting. Owing to unsatisfactory communications it was found that in spite of the above arrangements burgomasters in the more remote areas had not received their instructions, and a precise of these was prepared and printed in DUTCH and ENGLISH setting out the burgomasters’ responsibilities regarding the provision of accommodation. This was prepared and distributed by the Directorate in conjunction with the DUTCH authorities.
In the area surrounding NIJMEGEN, but excluding the town itself, almost the entire civilian population had been evacuated and the district had suffered extensively from war damage. Looting by GERMANS, by allied troops, and to some extent by DUTCH civilians, had occured and it was impossible finally to determine how the damage and losses had been caused or satisfactorily to establish liability.
In conjunction with the US Claims Service it was decided to endeavour to agree with the NETHERLANDS authorities a figure which would reasonably represent the losses which might be said to have arisen at the hands of allied troops and to apportion the amount between the BRITISH and US according to an agreed percentage of liability.
Payment would be made to the NETHERLANDS Government thus enabling them to settle war damage and other claims in the defined area simultaneously. The negotiations were lengthy and did not reach conclusion until much later, and then only after War Office and Treasury approval, since a settlement of claims in bulk would never normally be allowed. It was however the only practical solution to the very difficult problem.
As a result of negotiations with the FRENCH authorities in PARIS it was found possible to bring the arrangements for billeting in FRANCE into line with those in BELGIUM and HOLLAND and GRO No. 932/45 was issued. 21 Army Group Form 83 (Billeting Order) was eventually printed in ENGLISH, FRENCH and DUTCH.
Negotiations which had commenced during Phase II regarding the conclusion of a Claims agreement with the FRENCH whereby they would assume financial responsibility under Mutual Aid for certain types of claims were continued during the whole of this phase but did not reach finality.
For claims in GERMANY instructions were received from the War Office that no payment for claims of any kind would be made to GERMAN nationals but that certain categories of claims would be recorded. Claims made by friendly nationals of allied or neutral countries would be investigated, assessed, and paid or repudiated as the case might be. For ease of administration it was decided to requisition and record all real estate required in GERMANY, irrespective of whether it was in public or private ownership.
During the months of October, November and December, 19,646 requisitions and 3,943 de-requisitions were recorded. Of a total of 14,128 claims received during the same period 9,341 were disposed of.
During the final phase additional district offices were opened in liberated territory at BREDA (subsequently moved to THE HAGUE), ROOSENDAAL (subsequently moved to BREDA), UTRECHT, APELDOORN and GRONINGEN.
It was also found necessary to open a separate office in BAYEUX quite distinct from the district office covering the whole of that area, especially to deal with arrears of claims in NORMANDY. District offices were closed at DIEPPE, AMIENS and CAEN.
With the advance into GERMANY all matters affecting Claims and Hirings in liberated territory were placed under DD Claims and Hirings, HQ L of C, and the DD Claims and Hirings, then at HQ21 Army Group was made responsible for matters arising within occupied territory.
As DD Claims and Hirings (GERMANY) he set up a temporary HQ at NIJMEGEN. The first District Claims Office (GERMANY) was formed at BOXMEER but rapidly transferred to OSNABRUCK. District offices were opened at HAMBURG and subsequently NIENBURG to serve 8 Corps and 30 Corps respectively, and the office at OSNABRUCK was moved to ISERLOHN on the redeployment of 1 Corps. The DD Claims and Hirings (GERMANY) then moved to HERFORD before the arrival of HQ 21 Army Groupin order to be close to that HQ when it was established in GERMANY.
For the general handing over of administrative control in FRANCE from HQ 21 Army Group to the Channel Base Section of the US forces, agreement was reached where by the outgoing military administrative authority issued de-requisition notices in respect of all the properties it held, to take effect one month ahead.
This enabled the incoming force to form its accommodation plan, to re-requisition under its own arrangements such property as it was necessary to retain. The surplus was then relinquished in accordance with the de requisition notice already served without any further action being necessary. This system was subsequently adopted wherever similar circumstances arose in other countries.
In February the negotiations providing for the assumption of financial responsibility by the FRENCH Government under Mutual Aid for certain types of claims not involving moral turpitude were brought to a successful conclusion. This led to another agreement being concluded on the procedure where by claims should be transmitted to the FRENCH authorities.
In BELGIUM the arrangements relating to the acquisition of land and buildings proceeded quite smoothly, but complaints were received that the payment of compensation for premises requisitioned on behalf of BRITISH troops was not being promptly made. The matter was investigated in conjunction with the SHAEF Mission to BELGIUM and it was found that the difficulty was partly due to the fact that while complete instructions had been prepared by the Service des Requisitions, operating as a part of the Office of Mutual Aid, these instructions had not all reached the burgomasters in the more remote areas owing to bad communications.
Special steps were taken to rectify this and a system of progress reports was prepared by the OMA which was submitted to Claims and Hirings, HQ 21 Army Group, indicating the progress of payments made week by week.
Wherever possible properties held under requisition were released, although the existence of the advance base at ANTWERP and the continuation of the BRUSSELS leave scheme made any early and substantial reduction in the number of requisitioned properties difficult to achieve.
Although normally the US Claims Service would have processed claims against BRITISH personnel in the US area before passing them to the Claims and Hirings Directorate for final examination and payment the large number of claims arising as a result of BRITISH divisions assisting the US to repel the GERMAN ARDENNES offensive made it desirable to send a mobile BRITISH claims team to assist the US Claims Service in that area.
Efforts were made to conclude an agreement with the BELGIAN Government regarding the disposal of claims under Mutual Aid in the same manner as with the FRENCH Government.
After long negotiations agreement was reached on all points but owing to the disturbed political situation in the country the legal measures necessary to put the agreement into force could not be concluded and its implementation had to be deferred.
In HOLLAND the measures taken in the previous phase to ensure that burgomasters were fully acquainted with the procedure for the acquisition of land and buildings, proved successful and the procedure worked smoothly.
The NETHERLANDS authorities were themselves anxious that property owners should obtain early recompense for the properties that had been requisitioned from them, and burgomasters were given wide powers to enable them to make payments on account prior to the final assessment of compensation.
Negotiations were successfully concluded in LONDON with the NETHERLANDS authorities for the implementation of a claims agreement on substantially the same lines as that agreed with the FRENCH Government.
Owing to the shortage of manpower it was decided that it would be uneconomic to have other than one central recording office for both liberated and occupied territory, that the existing Records Section at Claims and Hirings, HQ L of C, should operate for the whole of 21 Army Group area and that the records and returns in respect of GERMANY should be collated there.
The rapid advance of our forces into GERMANY, coupled with the complete breakdown of the GERMAN administrative services made it practically impossible to define the nationality or even the actual class of the perpetrators of the whole sale looting which was being carried out by freed slave labour, displaced persons, GERMAN civilians and also by allied troops.
It was agreed that the President of the Claims Commission should direct a minute to the Secretary of State for War, describing the situation and suggesting that no attempt should be made to investigate, record or assess, in the manner laid down by the War Office directive, any looting claims in GERMANY which arose out of incidents occurring before some future date to be fixed.
With the consequent temporary cessation of normal claims work in GERMANY certain of the Claims and Hirings officers were diverted to assist in the disposal of claims in liberated territory, while the remainder concentrated their efforts upon the regularisation of requisitions of real estate.
Claims and Hirings officers therefore, spent a considerable amount of time, both instructing Town Majors as to the way in which requisitioning procedure should be carried out and also in many cases physically undertaking this work themselves. At the same time, they were assisting both corps and divisions in the acquisition of the necessary accommodation necessitated by the redeployment of these formations in the BRITISH zone.
One hundred and forty-seven Town Majors were contacted apart from those where the Claims and Hirings officer was actually working with the Town Major and very material assistance was givenin this connection. The final recording of these requisitions is the responsibility of the Claims and Hirings Directorate in GERMANY and during the whole period these records were being collated and indexed. .
With the arrival of BRITISH troops in DENMARK it was evident that it would be necessary to set up a small Claims and Hirings office in COPENHAGEN. This was actually opened on 24 May 45.
During the months of January to May inclusive 21,396 requisitions and 15,876 de-requisitions were recorded; 22,703 out of 23,367 claims received were disposed of during this period.
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