Bill Essex, British Soldier, Royal Engineers, Bergen-Belsen

Craig McGowan who lives in the States has asked if we can help him.

Update as at 16 April 2009:

Craig McGowan says, “I am sad to report that I received news from the Imperial War Museum yesterday that Bill Essex has recently passed away. I also learned he has a daughter Jill Jeremiah who is very interested in meeting Magda”.

“Bill Essex in his quote said ‘we did find one woman alive’ which leads me to believe he was not alone when Magda was found.  I was wondering if you might post for anyone who was in Bergen-Belsen at that time with the Royal Engineers”.

“Steve Craddock, who recently replied to the post, told me that his Quartermaster while he was stationed in Hohne was someone named possibly ‘Best’ and that he was also a bull-dozer operator at Bergen-Belsen and was 18 at that time”.

If anyone can help with my search, please contact me without delay

Very Best Regards, Craig

On 12 March 2009 Craig McGowan says:

A matter has come to my attention that I am hoping that someone there might be able to assist. A few days ago I met a survivor of the Holocaust, Magda (Mozes) Herzberger. Magda was speaking to a group of 6th grade children at my son’s elementary school in Phoenix, Az , USA . I was very interested in attending so I went and brought a book with me that I had recently rented from the public library, “Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust”, by Lyn Smith. The book contains quotes culled from the audio files at the Imperial War Museum , London , UK .

During the course of her talk with the kids, Magda related how she had been interned at Auschwitz-Birkenau after selection by Mengele. She also talked about the death march from Auschwitz to Bremen and finally to Bergen Belsen. She talked of collapsing into the pile of corpses at Bergen-Belsen and not having the strength remaining to extract herself and finally of being pulled from the pile by a British soldier at liberation 15 April 1945.

After Magda was done talking about her experiences, there was a question and answer period whereby a child asked Magda if she knew the name of the soldier of rescued her from the pile of corpses. Magda replied that she did not know nor had ever known.  I sat stunned. In my hands was the book that named this individual along with his quote Bill Essex, British Soldier, Royal Engineers, Bergen-Belsen

“We did find one woman alive. She was in about four-feet of bodies. How she remained alive or how we came to find her, I don’t know. It was only that we had shut the tractor down for something when we heard a murmur; but we couldn’t make out where it was coming from, we listened and then got her out. She was about dead, but we managed to save her… “

Bill Essex was apparently the tractor operator in charge of moving the pile of corpses into a communal pit as many of the bodies were too badly decomposed for manual lifting and carrying. I made my way to the front of the conference room and approached Magda to ask if I could approach and show her something.  I showed Magda the passage in the book and it was too emotional for words. Since that day last week, I have been trying to find Bill Essex for Magda. I also purchased a copy of the Book, Remembering:Voices of the Holocaust” for her and am now attempting to locate Lyn Smith through the Imperial War Museum to possibly have it signed for her as well as an attempt to locate Bill Essex.

I am also writing to you in an attempt to find assistance in locating Bill Essex. Magda is the author of “Survivor” and other inspirational poems and books. Magda is currently 83 years old.

Please help
Thank you

Craig McGowan

If you can help Craig with any information on Bill Essex, you are asked to contact him by email or telephone:


Tel: +1 (623) 271 – 1185