M. R. CISTER
M.V. “ELEONORA MAERSK”
6TH FEBRUARY 1944
Additonal information provided by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission:
Merchant Navy, M.V. “Eleonora Maersk” (Colombo)
On 16 January 1944, a bitterly cold and sunny Sunday in Klagenfurt – exactly 80 years ago today – a group of prisoners of war assigned to work camp 10.029/GW in Waidmannsdorf were ordered to clear the frozen Lend Canal of snow, so the citizens of Klagenfurt could go ice skating. One of the prisoners of war assigned to shovelling snow that day was the South African Michael Cister.
The prisoners of war working on the Lend Canal were not overly concerned when the air-raid sirens suddenly went off at 11:25. Enemy bombers had often been seen flying over Klagenfurt, but they had always dropped their bombs elsewhere. But this day was different, since the Allies had decided to target Klagenfurt main station and a nearby aircraft factory.
A total of 90 U.S. B-17 bombers, famously known as “Flying Fortresses”, dropped their bombs over Klagenfurt that day. Many of the bombs missed their intended targets and landed instead near the end of the Lend Canal in the centre of town – known as Lend Harbour – where the prisoners of war were working under the watchful eyes of their guard.
Michael Cister was so badly wounded by the pieces of shrapnel flying around that he died of his wounds in a Klagenfurt military hospital three weeks later, on 6 February 1944.
He was buried at Klagenfurt’s Annabichl Main Cemetry and after the war his remains were transferred to Klagenfurt Commonwealth War Cemetery.
Read the full story by local historian Paul Angerer here.
Updated 16 January 2024