World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Marie-Anne Bebrunner Kalcher

After The War.

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Marie-Anne Debrunner-Kalcher
Location of story: Eastern Styria, Austria
Background to story: Civilian

Major JHS Read - 1941 and Lt Gen Sir John Read KCB OBE - 1972

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Marieanne Debrunner-Kalcher, and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Below, I shall report truthfully both a striking and unforgotten situation which we, meaning myself, my parents and my sister, who was then 22 years of age, and the other occupants of our block of flats experienced at Gleisdorf, Eastern Styria, located about 20 km from Graz, the capital of the province of Styria:

At the end of the war, on 8 May 1945, the first Red Army troops, consisting mainly of Mongolians, arrived with tanks and infantry. There was occasional fighting in our town. However, we knew from radio communications that we were part of the British zone, but the Russians, allegedly, were unaware of these agreements among the allied powers. They stayed in our area from May 1945 until August 1945 stealing and dismantling whatever they could. In the electrical company, ELIN at Weiz which had been spared luckily from the bombings, the Russians removed all the machinery and transported them to the Soviet Union in cattle waggons.

Many women and girls aged 5 to 76 were being raped brutally time and again. Anyone opposing resistance, whether man or woman, was shot.

My sister and I spent three weeks in a hiding place beneath the mattresses of our parents' bed. Thus we were among the very few that were spared the ordeal. Since we had been stripped of everything and we did not have anything to eat, except the things we grew in our garden - which was not much -my parents and a few other occupants resorted to a risky trick: from Hungary - the border being about 50 km from where we lived - the Russians had brought herds and flocks for their own food. Whenever they needed meat, they would simply slaughter an animal in front of our building. They would take the best parts and we had to bury the remainders. At night my parents and the other occupants would dig up the remaining meat and bones in order to cook them and feed us for a while. It was extremely risky as anyone being caught was shot on the spot.

Moreover, May 1945 was very hot which lead to diseases among the people, including typhoid. Unfortunately, the physicians did not have any medicine. Thus many people died, including a 16 year old classmate of mine.

After three months of Russian occupation the regular British occupation forces arrived in our town at last. The news of their arrival spread like wildfire and many people left their hiding places and came into the streets, as the shouts, "The British are coming" resounded. We experienced a great feeling of relief and felt like we were in heaven. The officers in charge did everything in their power to provide food and medical care for us. They also established order and saw to it that the infrastructure was somewhat restored.

A few months later the first British troops of the "Yorkshire Regiment" were relieved by the "Royal Engineers". That regiment bearing "The Oak" emblem returned to their homeland where they were disbanded.
Many British, Canadian and Australian soldiers who had been prisoners of war of the Germans at the Gleisdorf camp were released. They had been hiding from the Russians with the Austrian peasantry for whom they had had to work during their captivity. I was working as a kitchen help at the officers' mess of the Royal Engineers at Gleisdorf. There I was asked by Lance Corporal Tom Jenns, who was working for Major J. A. Read whether I would be willing to work as a child minder for the Read family, which was coming to Graz with two children, Johnny, 5 years old, and Susan, 6 months old. Beaming with joy I accepted. This would enable me to learn English.

Besides several other languages, Mrs. Read spoke German and she tutored me, and after about threemonths I could speak English quite well.

Mrs. Read was a wonderful woman. I owe her all the many things I could learn through her for my later life. She entrusted me with the care of her children. When they returned to England in 1947, due to Major Read's being replaced, I was asked whether I would come to England with them. They made sure that I obtained my papers, passport, etc. in Vienna. They lived in Bishop Monkton near Harrogate.

In January 1948 I was able to move to England to be the Read family's child-minder. Major J. A. Read was a regular soldier; later he and his wife, Monica, were raised to the peerage by Queen Elizabeth II. Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Read have both passed away since. Their older son, John Alien Read is married, has a son, and lives at Beaconsfield, Bucks. Mrs, Susan Walsh-Read is a physician and lives in Killara, N. S. W., Australia.

Mrs. Monica Read had another son in 1948, Charles Read, who I do not know as I moved to Mrs. Read's sister in South Nutfield, Surrey, before he was born.

I am still in contact with John and Susan and we write to each other at Christmas.
The Read family always called me "Mary" and this is the name by which all acquaintances in England know me.

Lance Corporal Jenns has passed away unfortunately, but I am still in mail and phone contact with his daughter, Ann Weston-Jenns who lives in Birmingham.

In January 1949 I returned to Austria with my friend Maria Kober who worked for Mrs. Read's sister in London.

Below are the contents of Marianne's Certificate Of Registration, issued under the Aliens' Order, 1920.

You must produce this certificate if required to do so by any Police Officer, Immigration Officer or member of His Majesty’s forces acting in the course of his duty.


1. Before you effect a permanent change of residence (from the last address shown in this certificate), you must give the Police of the district in which you reside, your new address and the date on which you intend to move.

2. If your new residence is in a new police district, you must within 48 hours of your arrival there, report to the Police of the new district.

3. A temporary absence of less than 14 days from your permanent residence, need not be reported, but if such absence exceeds 14 day, you must report your temporary address and all subsequent changes of address (including your return home) to the Police of the district where you are registered. This may be done by letter.

4. If you stay at an hotel, lodging house, boarding house or other place where lodging is provided for payment, you must, on arrival, write your name, nationality, the number of this certificate and the address from which you have come, and before leaving, must write the address to which you intend to go on the form provided for this purpose.

5.You must report to the Police of the district where you are registered, within 48 hours, any change in any of the particulars given within (including professional or occupation), also marriage, divorce or death of husband or wife.

6. Your children, if not British, must have separate Certificates when they reach the age of 16.

Failure to comply with any of the above requirements, making any false statement, with regard to registration or with regard to this certificate, altering this certificate or any entry upon it, refusing to produce this certificate when legally required to do so, or having in possession or using it without lawful authority any forged, altered or irregular certificate, passport or other document concerned with registration, will render the offender liable to be detained in custody, and to a fine of £100 or six months imprisonment.

Registration Certificate No. A 041589
Issued at Harrogate W.R. on 27.1.48
Name (Surname first in Roman Capitals) KALCHER. Marianne

Left thumb Print (if unable to sign name in English Characters).

Signature of Holder... M Kalcher
Born on 13.5.29 in Ziegenberg, Austria
Previous Nationality (if any)
Profession or Occupation. Nursemaid (Resident)

Single or Married....Single
Address of residence....Claremont, Bishop Monkton, Harrogate
Arrival in United Kingdom...........19.1.48
Address of last Residence outside UK....Gleisdorf, Mublgasses 21.
Government Service. Civilian employee with British Army in Austria as Batwoman 1/1/46 to23/10/47.
Passport or other papers as to national Identity....Austrian passport 4Pa 778059/47 issued Vienna 15/12/47
M/L Permit 34234
N.R.I.C. KRV 2947774

Endorsements And Remarks

Permitted to land on condition that the holder registers at once with the Police, does not take employment other than that specified in Ministry of labour Permit no. 34234 without the consent of the Ministry of Labour and National Service and does not remain in the U.K. longer than 12 months.
(I.O. Dover. 19.1.48)


Mrs Read, Johnnie, Susan and Mary.
T Jenns and family
T, Jenns - Austria 1945 or 1946
Officers' Mess, Royal Engineers at Gleisdorf. The left arrow is 'me', and the other one is 'Corp Tom Jenns'