Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, May 14, 2013.
http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2253020/TRACEY,%20JOSEPH POLLINKHOVE CHURCHYARD
He is buried further north towards the coast from where his battalion was fighting on the 27th May. The battalion was in the thick of it at Hollebeke, Ieper, Belgium. The diary is hand written in pencil so it would be a waist of time posting the images on here. Bare with me and I'll type it up for you.
At this stage all I can say is there may have been a Field Hospital or similar RAMC unit at Pollinkhove treating casualties and he was either wounded in an earlier action or on the 27th and evacuated where he died of his wounds. Less likely but not impossible his date of death may be wrong. The Battalion passed through Pollinkhove on the 29th May according to the battalions war diary.
From WO 167/758 2nd Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers War Diary
The night of 26/27th was spent in a state of alertness, everyone expecting an attack when dawn broke, there was a lull until 0800hrs, when the Germans began shelling our positions at 1000hrs. A big German attack was made on the Cameronians who withdrew leaving A Coy in the air. This Coy unable to stand the pressure also withdrew, but who sent forward again by Col. Lefroy they were unable to re-take their positions and sustained some losses. During the course of this action Capt. Cunningham and in fact all the other Coy officers were wounded or taken prisoner. Efforts by the Germans to widen this gap to the north were frustrated by the refusal of B Coy to leave their positions, in this they were ably supported by a Bty of 25 pounders which were able to bring down very accurate fire on German troops hiding behind the Rly embankment. Meanwhile Germans were pouring through the gap in the Cameronian sector, which caused considerable misgivings to B and D Coys as to their flank and rear. C Coy was moved to face more to its right. At about 1300hrs the 17th Bde was seen to be retiring and more determined attacks were made on B Coys front accompanied by heavy fire from their guns. D Coy also came in for some of this shell fire. At about 1300hrs B and D Coys commenced withdrawing in the process of which 2/Lt Coates and several NCO’s and men of B Coy were wounded. The top of the hill behind Hollebeke was reached with difficulty owing to MG and shell fire, but after that the Coys were able to retire along dead ground. In withdrawing through the extensive woods between Hollebeke and the St Eloi Warneton Rd Coys lost touch and there was a good deal of confusion. Many Platoons and Sections went back beyond the St Eloi Rd and were misdirected and never re-joined the Battalion at all. By 1600hrs the Bn less A Coy had been collected and was placed along the St Eloi Rd and then ordered forward towards Hollebeke and resumed its place in the line in touch with the Wilts on the right and 2 R. Scots Fusiliers, 17th Bde of the left. This move was carried out by 1800hrs, the Bn was in position with B on the right C centre and D Coy left. We were in touch on both flanks. The defensive fire ran along the eastern edge of the large woods above mentioned. Bn HQ was sited in one of the large woods near the Wytschaete-Hollebeke Rd. On arrival in this new position a German attack could be seen moving forward against the Wilts. About 1830hrs shell fire opened up on the R. Scots Fus. whose position was a difficult one with a long wood leading right into it, withdrew, this allowing the enemy to move round the left flank of D Coy. Soon the fighting became very confused, posts sited 100 yrds apart could not see one another – German troops filtered in between the posts firing Tommy Guns as they went. The isolated posts of C and D Coys gradually withdrew through the wood on Bn HQ and back across a wide clearing to another wood where a hasty position was taken up with (Seventy ?) men as had found their way there. B Coy which had not been attacked and unaware that the other Coys had withdrawn stayed its ground. At about 1930hrs or 2000hrs a considerable force of enemy suddenly appeared out of the woods and surrounded Bn HQ, which was obliged to surrender to superior enemy numbers. The CO, Lt. Col. Lefroy, 2 ic Major Vening (?), Adj Major Verschoyle (?) and RSM Strawbridge were all captured, also Lt Duncan D Coy. The remnants of the Bn about 150 strong made their way back to Wyschaete under Major B H Butler, OC D Coy in a very organised state.
That night was spent manning road blocks leading towards the enemy.
B Coy with the rest of the Bn took up its position in the woods behind Hollebeke at about 1600hrs. For some unknown reason we were unable to get any information about the other Coys or the Bn on our left, after about 1900hrs we also could not get any information from Bn HQ. We spent a quiet but dismal night dug in underneath a pine wood and the only sounds to be heard were the stealthy movements of men creeping about and patter of the rain on the roofs of our dugouts. Next morning at about 0400hrs patrols were sent out but no trace of any troops could be found, where upon it was decided to withdraw back towards Wyschaete, this we did having to pass through the Germans to reach the village.
Found this page in the Inniskilling Missing Men file. Your man is listed near the bottom and I have no idea what CAT C or CAT D mean:
You'll note that although eleven 2 Skins' men are included in the CWGC database as being killed on 27th May 1940, only one, Fusilier Tracey, is buried in that particular cemetery.
From The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the Second World War by Sir Frank Fox:
On 26th May the Inniskillings were, with the 5th Division, stationed on the Ypres-Comines Canal, at Hollebeke. The 2nd Cameronians were on the right, the 17th Brigade on the left. Battalion dispositions were A Company on the right, B Company in the centre, D Company on the left and C Company in reserve, but so placed it covered the right of the Battalion, and it was dug in. Battalion Headquarters was at the front eastern edge of a very thin strip of wood, overlooking the right and reserve companies’ positions; actually some 500 yards in rear of reserve company. The Mortars, Carriers and Pioneers were farther in the wood close at hand.
There were difficulties of communication due to the lack of modern equipment. The 5th Division fought manfully when a mass attack by the enemy developed on the 27th May. The 13th Brigade only retired when both flank brigades had been forced back.
The enemy attack penetrated through a gap between the Cameronians and A Company of the Inniskillings, and this company suffered heavily, both Captain Cunningham and Lieutenant Knox being wounded and taken prisoners. The other Company Commanders were hopeful of holding, when a verbal message from a Brigade Liaison Officer ordered withdrawal to a position in the rear. Accordingly led by the Brigade Liaison Officer, B Company, with remnants of A company and D Company withdrew to the new position in the rear of Battalion Headquarters. There was no confusion of haste in this move, and it was considered by the Company Commanders about the only time when a orderly withdrawal had been possible.
The withdrawal of these companies was unknown to the Commanding Offcier. But shortly afterwards he was ordered by the Brigade Commander to withdraw the companies to the area of the wood in which Battalion Headquarters were located, thus confirming the action undertaken by the Brigade Liaison Officer. Battalion Headquarters had long been out of touch by telephone with companies, and so the Commanding Officer ordered the Second-in-Command to go to the forward companies and effect a withdrawal. There can be readily understood the surprise evinced by the Commanding Officer when the Second-in-Command reported to him that B Company and D Company were not in their original forward positions. By this withdrawal Battalion Headquarters were left in an isolated position with no companies in front. A little later the Commanding Officer found the companies moving forward, by orders of the Brigade Commander, to a position at the front (east) end of the wood – B Company on the right C Company in the centre and D Company on the left. Battalion Headquarters were established in the wood on the rear.
Later in the day German pressure increased, and C and D Companies were forced to fall back, leaving Battalion Headquarters in a very insecure position, with only B Company forward and to the right. The wood around Battalion Headquarters swarmed with German patrols. Lieutenant Colonel Lefroy made courageous attempts to organise a defensive position with his Second-in-Command (Major Vining), the Adjutant (Major Vershoyle), RSM Strawbridge and a few other ranks. It was a vain attempt; all were captured.
The next morning (28th May) contact was attempted by B Company on their right and left and with Battalion Headquarters, but all to no avail. B Company then withdrew through the wood in single file, and by bounds from cover to cover, Platoons covering Platoons, crossing the last 300 to 400 yards over open country, fired at by Germans from the left and by a British Regiment, which must have been amazed to see British troops coming at them where Germans were supposed to be.
The next stage was the organisation by Major Butler at Wytscahete of what was left of C and D Companies. Later, B Company also came to this rallying point. It had fought its way through surrounding enemy patrols. Good Bren work by Fusiliers McAleese, Lyons and Kelly was notable. The Battalion was now organised into three Companies. It was ordered back to hold crossroads at Oostaverne village. To this point came a valuable reinforcement of sixty men who had scattered in the woods and had been collected under Lieutenant Dane and did gallant service, in which that officer was killed. The defensive stand at Oostaverne was of high value (the carriers were again prominent), as, if the enemy had not been checked there, the whole of II Corps would have been in danger of destruction.
There are 27 battalion deaths recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (see link above) between the 26th May to the 29th May 1940. Looking at the burial locations nearly all of them fit in with the fighting described in the text above. I suspect, because he is in the battalions Missing Men file that his whereabouts was investigated after France was evacuated in June 1940. There are two dates listed against his name one in 1941 and the last in 1942 which would suggest that they had received further information on him and his death. This leads me to think he may have been one of the many men mentioned getting split up from his unit during the withdrawal from Hollebeke in previous posts. Unfortunately I don't know what Cat C and Cat D stand for, they will probably hold a very large piece of the puzzle regarding what happened to him.
The photograph of the cemetery shows two British helmets which were placed there for the photograph so I suspect there may a group, possibly locally that has researched the deaths of the eight men buried in this churchyard. A email to the local mayor, if you can find an address, may be productive or one of the members on here that live locally could help? The fact there are three Inniskillings men buried in the same churchyard may make it easier to find out what happened to them.
Ref Post No. 6 and the death of Lt. Dane click the link below:
Separate names with a comma.