The Cup and Anne Frank

For Anne Frank, the British 11th Armoured “Black Bull” Division arrived too late. She and her sister died a few weeks before the camp’s liberation.

AnneFrank in 1940
Anne Frank 1940

I would not know that tidbit of history were not for the cup. I had studied many battles and World War II, but somehow Germany’s Bergen Belsen concentration camp got past me.

“The cup” is how I’ve always referred to my pewter and glass drinking utensil. Actually, it’s more like a trophy tankard or a beer mug. Years ago, an estate sale company hawked the property of F.B.B. Noble.

The advertisement listed it along with two others of a similar design. I liked what I saw and ordered two, one for me and one for my buddy, Dave, who lives a continent away. I knew he’d like it. He, too, loves history.

The cost for both was $12.50, $6.25 each. The shipping fee was more than the price of the cups. Where the other one went I’ll never know. I wish I’d bought it too.

The Cup
The cup.

Inscribed on the curve of the face is “Peshawar District, Point to Point, 1937, Dismounted Team Race.”

I had no idea what a point to point race was.

After a quick check on the internet, I found that it was either some kind of computer connection or a cross-country horserace. The latter seemed more logical given the time frame.

It appears to be a steeplechase, a long-distance horse race. That I knew. Out west where I was born and raised cross-country racing was common.

My family has a lineage of horsemen. Horseshoes and hoof tracks replace the commas and parenthetic marks in the story of my family’s history. I was apparently out of school when the talent was handed out to my cousins. But I am from the culture and remember what our people do.

And Peshawar? Another Google check found that the British occupied the Peshawar District from the eighteenth century until 1947. It was a section of India back at the time recorded on the cup. It’s Pakistan today; Peshawar is in the wild, dangerous, northwest.

It’s a place near the Afghanistan border about seventy miles east of Jalalabad. Bin Laden, members of Al Qaida, and the Taliban used to hang out there when things were hot across the border. I guess the Taliban still does.

One-hundred miles down the road to the east is Abbottabad, where Seal Team 6 and Rob O’Neil caught up with Osama and punched his clock — three times in the head. Peshawar has always been a lousy place for westerners to visit. They don’t like us.

The horsemen of 1937 were members of the 2nd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, who were riding through that dangerous territory, hell-bent for victory. They were not liked either. I can understand.

The riders’ names were Lt. Col. H.P.M. Berney Ficklin, Lt. R. Bramwell Davis, and Lt. F.B.B. Noble. Seems the British and their military officers prefer multiple and hyphenated names. When the war started the men were all promoted.

The Lieutenant Colonel’s team won again the next year but with a substitute for Bramwell Davis. Eventually, all three men became Generals. Noble was made a Brigadier, and the other two became Major Generals.

When the British invaded Sicily, Major General Berney Ficklin commanded the 5th Infantry Division. After D-day and Normandy, the American-made Sherman tanks of the British 11th crossed the Rhine River and rolled into Anne Frank’s concentration camp. It was April 15, 1945. Lt. Col. Bramwell Davis, Major Freddie Noble, and the Highland Light Infantry were a few miles away.

Berney Ficklin was back in England warming a desk chair, a casualty of Field Marshal Montgomery’s constantly rotating cast of commanders. The Field Marshal believed all of his commanders should walk on water — just as he did.

Berney Ficklin 5th infantry div couresy Truman Library cp
Major General Berney Ficklin, center with pipe, and officers of the British 5th Infantry Division at Sicily. Photo courtesy Truman Library

The connection between Anne Frank, the cup, and the three horsemen is through the story of that concentration camp where she died. It hinged on Berney Ficklin’s role dispensing justice that followed the war.

He was assigned a job as President of the Military Tribunal for the Nazi war crimes at Bergen Belsen. The trial started in November 1945. Under his management, the tribunal found twenty-two of the Nazis guilty.

Eleven, including the camp commandant, Josef Kramer, were sentenced to death and eleven more went to prison. Ten others were acquitted. Kramer and his henchmen were hanged one after the other on the same a cold-ass winter day a few weeks later.

At Bergen Belsen, Kramer and his Nazis were responsible for the deaths of 36,000 people, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, POWs, homosexuals, and political prisoners. When the Allied forces arrived, over 13,000 corpses lay strewn about the compound, left to rot by the officers and guards who threw their arms up in surrender.

I would not have known that important historical snippet without the cup – about its connection to the death of Anne Frank and the atrocities at Bergen Belsen.

A monument to Margot and Anne Frank at Bergen Belsen. Wikipedia

Today the silver-buff pewter tankard sits on my desk as a reminder of the Greatest Generation and their fight against the German fascist, Adolph Hitler, and his National German Socialist Worker’s Party.

The mentally-twisted cult is often naively known, on-the-street, only as “The Nazi Party.” People do not connect it to socialism nor to the destruction and death the system can and usually does, deal.

Oh, the fourth horseman noted on my buddy’s cup from 1938? That was Lt. John Fraser Brand who was later promoted to Captain.

Ironically he died September 3, 1939, the day Great Britain declared war on Germany. He was fighting Nazi Arab allies in Israel.

He is buried in the British War Cemetery in Ramla. He was twenty-nine years old.

When I drink from my cup, I always toast the Highland Light Infantry and the men who rode to win. Full or empty, it holds an amazing history.

I have one hell of a cup.

– JD Byous


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