2722808 Thomas BRANNAN, 1 Irish Guards

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    Guardsman THOMAS BRANNAN 2722808, 1st Bn., Irish Guards who died age 23 on 07 August 1944
    Son of Patrick and Margaret Brannan, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.
    Remembered with honour BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY
    Grave/Memorial Reference: 11. B. 19.
    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    Quis Separabit

    Photo courtesy of Tom/Smudger Jnr

    Attached Files:

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    From War Crimes Commission file courtesy of Brian/ADM199:

    [Page 1]
    17 April 1945
    CHARGE No. UK - G/B 147

    Name of accused, his rank: Obergefreiter HERRMANN FISCHBACH

    Date and place of commission of alleged crime: 7th August, 1944, Near NIENBURG, Germany

    Number and description of crime in war crimes list: No. 1 Murder of No. 2722808 Guardsman T. BRANNAN, Prisoner of War No. 278609

    References to relevant provisions of national law: Breach of the Laws and Customs of War. Murder.

    BRANNAN was employed at the Werk Jessarbruch deer O.M.Z. in NIENBURG but owing to allegations of sabotage, it was decided that he should do no further work and be moved to Stalag XI A.

    The accused was detailed to take BRANNAN to ALTENGRABOW on the 7th August, 1944 and the two men set off in the early morning. After covering some distance it is alleged that BRANNAN turned suddenly and rushed at the accused, who thereupon shot him. BRANNAN died immediately.

    [Page 2]
    BRANNAN was employed at the WERK JESARBRUCH deer O.M.Z. in NIENBURG and it was alleged by the employers that on two occasions in July, 1944, he spread cement on the working parts of a motor in order to sabotage the machine: a statement made by BRANNAN on the 2nd August 1944 admits that he had in fact shaken cement into the body of the machine, his reason being that he wished to prove to his British comrades that he was not a Nazi.

    The German Authorities proposed to lay a charge of sabotage against him and directed that pending transport to Stalag XI A, he should be kept in the Kommando camp and do no further work. On the 7th August 1944, BRANNAN was woken at 2.40 a.m. by the accused who was detailed to take him to ALTENGRABOW, but was not ready to leave at the appointed departure time of 3.15 a.m. After the two men finally left, BRANNAN was not seen alive again and what occurred is the unsubstantiated story of the accused. BRANNAN is said to have proceeded very slowly in spite of being urged to hurry and the accused, in view of the darkness and the "dangerous" nature of BRANNAN, finally lengthened the distance between them for his own self-protection; after covering some distance BRANNAN is alleged to have turned suddenly and to have rushed violently at the accused with the apparent intention of attacking him whereupon he shot him. BRANNAN died immediately.

    [Page 3]
    The only evidence at present available is contained in the attached report from J. BIGGS, Prisoner of War No. 139521.

    It is clear however that an investigation was held by the German authorities and reference to the proceedings should throw more light on the case.

    [Page 4]
    (Under this heading should be included the view taken as to (a) the degree of responsibility of the accused in view of his official position, e.g., was offence committed on the offender's own initiative, or in obedience to orders, or in carrying out a system approved by authority or a legal provision; (b) the probably defence; (c ) whether the case appears to be reasonably complete.)

    The action of the accused in shooting BRANNAN was taken on his own initiative and responsibility.

    The defence will undoubtedly be self-defence and that the accused had to make use of his arms to protect himself; no one will be able to disprove such an assertion but it should not have been necessary to shoot to kill.

    It will also probably be alleged that BRANNAN was a dangerous prisoner and in this connection it should be noted that a statement, which his in the possession of the German authorities, has apparently been made by 3 other British prisoners to the effect that BRANNAN had been abnormal both in mind and conduct.

    The case shows a reasonable prima facie case of murder or, at the least, manslaughter, but further facts may emerge when the full papers in the case can be examined.

    Attached papers and reports:

    3rd February, 1945.

    (K.W. 2/48)

    Dear Prisoners of War Department,

    Our despatch 8493 of 19th December 1944 concerning the shooting of Gdsm. T. BRANNAN.

    We enclose herewith a copy of a statement concerning this incident from J. BRIGGS, P.O.W. No. 139521, which we have received from the Swiss. It has not passed through the hands of the German censor.

    Yours ever,

    Prisoners of War Department,
    Foreign Office,
    London, S.W.

    Affadavit sworn by T/92483 Driver JOHN BIGGS, R.A.S.C.





    I, T/92483 Driver JOHN BIGGS of the ROYAL ARMY SERVICE CORPS at present on discharge leave with permanent home address at The Cottage, Springfield Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea in the County of Sussex make oath and say as follow:-

    1. On 23rd January 1942 whilst serving with 1 ARMOURED DIVISIONAL TROOPS COMPANY I was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans at AGEDARIA, LIBYA. I was transported to SICILY and after spending a short time in a transit camp I was taken to Camp P.G. 65 GRAVDIA, ITALY. In July 1943 I was transferred to Prisoner of War Camp P.G. 53 MASERATA where I was detained two months. In September 1943 I was transferred to Stalag VIIA MOOSBURG, GERMANY and in November 1943 I was transferred to Stalag XIA ALTENGRABOW, GERMANY.

    2. At Stalag XIA I was employed in the main stalag as interpreter. The Man of Confidence in August 1944 was B.S.M. G.L. LAUGHLIN, R.A. As interpreter part of my duties was to examine documents relating to deaths of prisoners of war at the Gerichtsabteilung which was the legal department of the German stalag staff. The officer in charge was Hauptman MÜLDER who was a lawyer and may have come from BERLIN. This officer never offered any difficulties in the way of examining documents. His investigations on occurrences at Working Kommandos were normally carried out by correspondence and as far as I know he did not visit the Kommando where the incidents occurred.

    3. On or about 15th August 1944 I heard of the death of 2722808 Guardsman THOMAS BRANNAN at Working Kommando 608/1 NIENBURG on 7th August 1944. This Kommando was employed at the "Werk Josarbruch".

    4. On 18th August 1944 I visited the Gerichtsabteilung to examine the documents and statements which had been made with regard to this death. The following documents were made available by Hauptmann MÜLDER which I perused:-

    (a) A statement made and signed by Guardsman BRANNAN dated 2nd August 1944.

    (b) A statement made by Obergefreiter HERMMAN FISCHBACH a German guard.

    ( c) A statement signed by three British prisoners of war whose names I cannot remember dated 7th August 1944.

    5. At the time I perused these statements I made a note of the evidence they contained which I embodied in a report and forwarded to the Man of Confidence on 19th August 1944. The report now produced and shown to me marked "J.B.1" is a true copy of this report.

    SWORN by the above-named JOHN BIGGS at 6 Spring Gardens in the County of London this 22nd day of August 1945
    (Sgd) JOHN BIGGS

    Before me,
    (Sgd) Rathoreedan, Captain Legal Staff, Judge Advocate General's Office, London

    Report by T/92483 Driver JOHN BIGGS, R.A.S.C.

    This is the Report marked "J.B.1" referred to in the affidavit of Driver JOHN BIGGS sworn this 22nd day of August 1945
    Before me
    (Sgd) Rathoreedan, Captain Legal Staff, Judge Advocate General's Office, London

    P.O.W. No. 278609 Gdsm. BRANNAN (Army No. 2722808). died at Arb. Kdo. No. 608/1, NIENBURG, on 7th August 44 buried 10 Aug. 44.

    My perusal of the documents concerning the death of this British P.O.W. made on 18.8.44, at the Gerichtsabteilung, Stalag XI A, reveals the following: -

    BRANNAN was employed at the "WERK JESARBRUCH" der O.M.Z. in NIENBURG, and it is alleged by the employers that on the 20.7.44 and 28.7.44 he spread cement on the working parts of a motor in order to sabotage the machine.

    A statement made and signed by BRANNAN is dated 2.8.44 in which BRANNAN admitted that he had shaken cement into the body of the machine 2 or 3 days in the preceding 14 days. He stated that he had done this because he had had an argument with his British comrades as to who was the best British soldier amongst them and as to the merits of respective British regiments. He stated that they had accused him of being a Nazi, and in order to prove that he was not, he attempted to block the action of the machine concerned. The German authorities state that as a result of this action, a charge of sabotage would be laid against BRANNAN, that pending transport to Stalag XI A he would be kept in the Kommando camp and would do no further work. The opinion expressed is that the mind of BRANNAN was somewhat abnormal. This view is confirmed by a statement signed by 3 other British prisoners at the same Kommando who state that BRANNAN had been abnormal in mind and spirit. This statement was made on 7th August 1944.

    A statement by Obergefreiter HERRMANN FISCHBACH, German guard who was detailed to bring BRANNAN to ALTENGRABOW on the morning of 7th August, maintains that BRANNAN was woken at 2.40 a.m. but in spite of repeated warnings was not ready at the appointed departure time of 3.15 a.m. When BRANNAN did finally leave the billets, he is said to have proceeded very slowly, in spite of persistent urging by FISCHBACH to hurry, in reply to which he went even more slowly. FISCHBACH states that, in view of the darkness, and knowing the "Dangerous" nature of the prisoner, he finally lengthened the distance between himself and BRANNAN, in order to ensure self-protection. After covering some distance from the billets, BRANNAN is alleged to have turned suddenly, to have rushed him violently. FISCHBACH states that therefore he shot BRANNAN in self-defence. BRANNAN died immediately.

    The German authorities support entirely the action of the guard who will not be subjected to any further form of investigation, because the opinion is given that he had to make use of his arms, having by any other means a poor prospect of self-defence. The German authorities have endeavoured to ascertain with which Brit. prisoners BRANNAN had had the difference of opinion referred to above but so far without result.

    (Signed) J. BIGGS, Brit. P.O.W. 139521

    19th August. 1944

    Affidavit sworn by 4542995 Gunner RONALD BULLOCK, R.A.


    British National Office Charge No.:- UK - G/B 147
    United Nations War Crimes Commission Reference:- 781/UK/G/148


    I, RONALD BULLOCK, make oath and say as follows:-

    1. My number is 4542995 and I am a Gunner in the Royal Artillery, a present of 227 R.A. TRAINING REGIMENT (Dvr), stationed at Cubitt Lines, Kimmel Park Camp, RHYL.

    2. I was captured on 4 February 1944 at ANZIO and was in several prisoner of war camps in ITALY and GERMANY before being sent to Kommando 60/2, NIENBURG-on-SAALE, on 31 March 1944. This Kommando was attached to Stalag XIA, ALTENGRABOW.

    3. Among the prisoners of war who went with me to Kommando 608/2 was Guardsman THOMAS BRANNAN, IRISH GUARDS. His name on the cross on his grave was originally spelt BRANNEN, but this was altered later to BRANNAN as his friend Guardsman RONALD COULLSON, IRISH GUARDS, stated that the first spelling was incorrect.

    4. About five weeks after D Day we noticed that BRANNAN was, while working, repeatedly checked for not doing so to the best of his ability. After this had happened for two consecutive days he was sent back to the camp under escort as being uncontrollable. That nigh when we got back to camp from work i was standing in a passage in the building where we were billeted when a prisoner told me that BRANNAN was having one of his queer fits again. I immediately went into the room where he slept and saw at least six prisoners pinning him against the wall. Lance-Corporal SULLIVAN, LONDON IRISH RIFLES, told me that he had just been struck by BRANNAN and knocked down. After this incident the other prisoners sleeping in the same room were frightened to go on doing so and the Camp Commandant was asked by the Man of Confidence, Corporal DEVLIN, SCOTS GUARDS, if BRANNAN could be sent to hospital or back to the Stalag. Corporal DEVLIN told us that the Commandant had stated that the matter would have to be referred to Company Headquarters at CALBE and in the meantime, if the other prisoners agreed, he would confine BRANNAN in a cellar. We decided this would make his condition worse and so would not agree to this. Instead it was decided that a watch would be kept throughout the night by some of the prisoners in his room.

    5. For the next two days he did not behave normally, for example he wanted to give away food and cigarettes to other prisoners. He did not go to work during those two days and a watch was kept in his room each night. He said he could not stand being confined in his room and talked about escaping.

    6. In the evening of about the fifth day after we had first noticed that he was not behaving normally DEVLIN told us that the Camp Commandant had told him that he (the Commandant) had arranged for BRANNAN to be taken away to the Stalag in the morning. DEVLIN also said that the Commandant had ordered that BRANNAN was to be ready to move at 03.30 hours.

    7. When we paraded the following morning the British Camp Interpreter, Guardsman THOMAS STEWART, SCOTS GUARDS, told us that one of the German guards had suggested to him that an accident might have happened to BRANNAN. On the way to work our working party was diverted from its usual route and along the path which we normally followed we saw an object on the ground covered by a blanket. During work I asked one of the guards what had happened to BRANNAN and he said all enquiries must be made through the Camp Commandant. I said I wanted to see the Commandant and was escorted back to camp. While I was waiting to see the Commandant a prisoner told me that BRANNAN was dead. I was taken to the Commandant's office and he told me that I wold be taken somewhere by a sentry.

    8. I, together with Lance-Corporal BROWN, LONDON IRISH RIFLES, Guardsman SMITH, GRENADIER GUARDS, and another prisoner were escorted to the place where I had seen the blanket covering something earlier that morning. I lifted the blanket and BRANNAN's body was underneath.

    9. While we were engaged in lifting BRANNAN's body on to a handcart and arranging his kit at the side of the path I picked up two cartridge cases. One was lying about a yard away from the body and the other about four feet away. I think these cartridges were of French manufacture. I threw them away after keeping them for some time. The guards at the camp were armed with French rifles.

    10. The four of us then took the body to the mortuary and stripped it. I then saw that BRANNAN had been shot twice, once through the heart and once through the shoulder.

    11. Later the same day DEVLIN said that the Camp Commandant had told him that a Court of Inquiry in to BRANNAN's death would be held.

    12. The following day I saw a party of civilians busy with a tape measure at the spot where BRANNAN's body had been lying. This was the last I heard or saw of the matter.

    13. A day or two before we first noticed BRANNAN acting in an abnormal way a cement machine used by our working party and which had previously been in good working order began to need a great deal of attention. From the close watch kept on BRANNAN by the German civilians supervising our work it appeared that they suspected him of interfering with the machine. BRANNAN seemed worried by this attitude and it was considered by many of us that this was the main cause of the start of his strange behaviour.

    14. DEVLIN told the four of us who took BRANNAN's body to the mortuary that the junior of the two Obergefreiters in the camp had escorted BRANNAN out of the camp on the morning he was shot and that this Obergefreiter was BRANNAN's sole escort.

    15. As far as I know no prisoner in the camp heard the shots which killed BRANNAN fired and there was no British witness of the crime.

    16. I would described the Obergefreiter I have mentioned as follows:-
    Age about 28, height about 5' 7", weight more than 11 stone, dark hair, fresh complexion, clean shaven, heavily built.
    His home was in a town near the frontier of GERMANY and LUXEMBOURG.

    17. The Camp Commandant during the time I was at Kommando 608/2 was an Obergefreiter whom I would describe as follows:-
    Age about 32, height about 5' 8", weight not more than 10 1/2 stone, dark hair brushed backwards, high forehead, very thin, pale complexion, clean shaven. He had a hooked nose and gunshot wounds in one of his legs.

    18. The foregoing facts are to my own knowledge true except where the country appears and in such case the facts are true to the best of my information and belief and my means of knowledge are recorded in this my affidavit.

    SWORN at CHESTER in the Court of CHESTER this eleventh day of October 1945

    Before me,
    (Sgd) C. G. MASON, Captain Legal Staff, Military Department, Judge Advocate General's Office.

    Attached Files:

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    Guardsman BRANNAN, THOMAS
    Service Number 2722808
    Died 07/08/1944
    Aged 23
    1st Bn. Irish Guards
    Son of Patrick and Margaret Brannan, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.
    Buried at BERLIN 1939-1945 WAR CEMETERY
    Location: Berlin, Germany
    Cemetery/memorial reference: 11. B. 19.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2019

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