Brothers - in Arms : Siblings & other Relatives in Service

Discussion in 'General' started by dbf, Oct 16, 2008.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I am wondering, given the tragedies of WWI, what was the official line, if any, towards brothers serving together in WW2.

    Namely was there any directive on brothers fighting alongside each other, or would this have been left to individual commanding officers?

    And was there any differences between the attitude of say US and British Armies?

    I remember hearing an account of D-Day in which a US soldier told how he and his brother were separated shortly before the landings. He of course survived, his brother did not. My father served beside 2 brothers in his section.

    Any insights?

    Edit - Tag:
    siblings & relatives who served | WW2Talk
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Albeit it was a film Saving Private Ryan is a good example of this. I don't know how factual the story line within the film is though because I heard it was based upon Canadian brothers.
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Andy,

    That film did spring to mind too, but I don't remember if it was ever being mentioned that any of the other brothers were fighting together .... besides, like you, I know nothing of background, whether or what is based in fact.

  4. thiepval1916

    thiepval1916 Junior Member

    Albeit it was a film Saving Private Ryan is a good example of this. I don't know how factual the story line within the film is though because I heard it was based upon Canadian brothers.

    dont no if this is of interest but there is a canadian cwgc cemetery in beny-sur-mer with nine pairs of brothers buried in it.and also the three westlake brothers two of which were in the queens own rifles of canada and are buried side by side.the other brother was with the nova scotia highlanders.always visit there graves when im in normandy,very nice cemetery with two watch towers in the middle.
  5. Jakob Kjaersgaard

    Jakob Kjaersgaard Senior Member

  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Two friends of mine,brothers served in the same para outfit at Ahrnem - one died in the other's arms - he hasn't been quite the same since then..
  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks for telling me about them. So, 2 of the 3 brothers were in same Canadian regiment.

    Hi Kjaersgaard, thanks for sorting out that particular query.

    Tom, so sad especially when you know the individuals involved. My husband has relatives - RA in WWI - brothers who served with different batteries in same area near Ypres. One DOW miles away from the other who was KIA 3 days later, 3rd brother survived Gallipoli.

    Going by these men, there seems to have been a policy of sorts in US Navy. Certainly it resulted in one being instigated in US.

    The Sullivan brothers were five siblings who all died during the same incident in WWII, the sinking of the light cruiser USS Juneau, the vessel on which they all served.
    The Sullivans were natives of Waterloo, Iowa. They were:
    George Thomas Sullivan, 27 (born 14 December 1914), Gunner's Mate Second Class (George had been previously discharged in May 1941 as Gunner's Mate Third Class.)
    Francis "Frank" Henry Sullivan, 26 (born 18 February 1916), Coxswain (Frank had been previously discharged in May 1941 as Seaman First Class.)
    Joseph "Joe" Eugene Sullivan, 24 (born 28 August 1918), Seaman Second Class
    Madison "Matt" Abel Sullivan, 23 (born 8 November 1919), Seaman Second Class
    Albert "Al" Leo Sullivan, 20 (born 8 July 1922), Seaman Second Class

    "The Sullivans enlisted on 3 January 1942 with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before, but their brothers had not.
    The Juneau fought in a number of naval engagements during the months-long Battle of Guadalcanal. On November 13, 1942, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was struck by a torpedo and had to withdraw. Later that day, as it was leaving the Solomon Islands' area, the Juneau was struck again, this time from a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-26. The ship quickly sank and rescue efforts were not forthcoming due to communication and coordination problems. Eight days later ten survivors were retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days.

    Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of the USS Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried.

    The brothers' parents were notified of their deaths on January 12, 1943. The brothers left a sister, Genevieve. Albert was survived by a wife and son. The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” were national heroes. President Franklin Roosevelt sent a letter of condolence to Tom and Alleta. Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers.
    Thomas and Alleta Sullivan made speaking appearances at war plants and shipyards in behalf of the war effort. Later, Alleta participated in the launching of a destroyer The Sullivans, named after her sons.

    As a direct result of the Sullivans' deaths, the U.S. War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy."
    “The Sole Survivor Policy describes a set of regulations in the US military that are designed to protect members of a family from the draft or combat duty if they have already lost family members in military service. This does not protect children without siblings—only those who have already had an immediate family member killed in the line of duty. It furthermore does not apply strictly to the sole surviving son, but to all surviving sons. The need for regulations first caught public attention after the five Sullivan brothers were all killed when the USS Juneau (CL-52) was sunk during World War II. Since then, each branch of the military has made its own policies with regard to separating immediate family members. A notable instance of the Sole Survivor Policy is the case of the Niland Brothers, where it was believed that all but one of them were killed in action. It was later discovered that the eldest brother, Edward Niland, an Air Force Lieutenant, had been held in a POW camp in Burma.”
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Anybody know of a similar policy being put forward on the British side?
  9. soren1941

    soren1941 Living in Ypres

    I understand that twin brothers fought at Arnhem and died within 45 minutes of each other
  10. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    There was a case where brothers? died and the mother donated a spitfire in their memory. getting together to buy a Spitfire was done on several occasions.
    The name of that family I cannot bring to mind.
  11. soren1941

    soren1941 Living in Ypres

  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    IIRC, Art Bridge ,one of our Veteran's, was originally in the SD & G Highlanders until his older brother claimed him for the A & SH of Canada.
    Hope I got that right , Art.
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I'm sure the current policy in the Army is you can apply for a posting to be with a brother or sister if you share the same cap badge.

    Someone I was with in Iraq told me he was doing it with his brother who was in basic at the time. He felt he wanted to keep an eye on him :)
    dbf likes this.
  14. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Sapper -
    That was The Lady Mc Roberts and she bought three Lancasters to commemorate the loss of her three sons - they were called "McRobert's revenge"
  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks for that info and link Soren.
    Here are their cwgc details

    Private THOMAS GRONERT 5511523, 2nd Bn., Parachute Regiment, A.A.C.
    who died age 21 on 17 September 1944
    Son of Robert and Lylie Gronert, of Carn Brea Cornwall. His twin brother, Claude died in the same incident and is buried next to him.
    Remembered with honour ARNHEM OOSTERBEEK WAR CEMETERY
    Grave/Memorial Reference: 18. A. 17.

    Private CLAUDE GRONERT 5511524, 2nd Bn., Parachute Regiment, A.A.C.
    who died age 21 on 17 September 1944
    Son of Robert and Lylie Gronert, of Carn Brea, Cornwall. His twin brother, Thomas died in the same incident and is buried next to him.
    Remembered with honour ARNHEM OOSTERBEEK WAR CEMETERY
    Grave/Memorial Reference: 18. A. 18.
  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Sapper and Tom,
    Thank you both - great recall.
    Found this in respect of the MacRobert’s brothers.
    Sir Alexander had 3 sons. Alasdair died in a plane crash at Luton Aerodrome in 1938,
    Roderick died while attacking an aerodrome in Iraq (Mosul?), in 1940 and youngest brother Ian was missing in action 1 month later while on patrol over the North Sea.
    Lady MacRobert donated the funds for 4 fighters, 1 for each son and another for the Soviet Union. She also donated the Bomber which was named "MacRobert's Reply."'s_Reply
    MacRobert's Reply was the name given to a famous WWII RAF aircraft, a Short Stirling bomber, serial N6086 operated by No. 15 Squadron. The aircraft was paid for by a generous £25,000 donation from Lady Rachel Workman MacRobert, and was named 'MacRobert's Reply' in commemoration of her three sons, all of whom were killed whilst serving with the RAF. The eldest son Alasdair died in a flying accident in 1938, whilst Roderic and Iain were both killed in action during 1941. A second Short Stirling, serial W7531, was also named 'MacRobert's Reply' after the first aircraft N6086 was written off in an accident

    Super site here with photos of the family concerned and the planes.
    " The best of good luck boys, always, and whenever and wherever you go. I know you will strike hard, sharp, and straight to the mark. That is the only language the enemy understands. My thoughts and thousands of other mothers are with you, and we are truly grateful to all concerned. Also thanks to those of you who have the care of my 'Reply' and prepare her for her flights. May the blows you strike bring us nearer victory. God bless you all".

    Flight Lieutenant Sir RODERICK ALAN MacROBERT 40731, 94 Sqdn., Royal Air Force who died age 26 on 21 May 1941
    3rd Bt. Son of Sir Alexander MacRobert, K.B.E., LL.D., V.D., 1st Bt., and of Lady MacRobert, B.Sc., J.P., F.G.S. (nee Workman), of Tarland, Aberdeenshire.
    Remembered with honour MOSUL WAR CEMETERY

    Pilot Officer Sir IAIN WORKMAN MacROBERT 87425, 608 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died age 24 on 30 June 1941
    Son of Sir Alexander MacRobert, Bt., and Lady MacRobert, of Tarland, Aberdeenshire. B.A. (Cantab.).
    Remembered with honour RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL
  17. markeagle

    markeagle Junior Member

    hi i posted this on the world war II forum and was asked to post here ,some of you might find it interesting,
    hi new to the forum so hello[​IMG],i wonder if someone could answer a question for me,i was in the loft the other day and found a laminated newspaper clipping that my mum had kept ,on reading it it tells me that my grandad and his seven other brothers were all serving in the forces at the same time in the second world war ,and also had 2 sons and a daughter on war work,they were james 39 a sergeant in the somerset light infantry and formerly served in the queens regiment,arthur 38 who was a sergeant in the queens and was a prisoner of war,bill 36 my grandad who was a gunner in the royal artillery,alf 35 was a private in the royal marines,edward 33 who was a able seaman in the royal navy,joe 21 and sidney 19 were both able seamon in the royal navy ,ernest 27 was a sapper in the royal engineers in the middle east.
    would some on be able to tell me if having eight brothers all serving in the forces at the same time is a record,thanks in advance mark.
    here is a scan of the article i found,
    grandads pic.jpg
  18. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Welcome and enjoy !!! Do not know if it's a record, but you can bet that if I said yes, someone would immediately be along and prove it wrong. Must be close to a record though, surely.
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hi and Welcome to the forum.

    Did they all survive ww2? That may make it a bit more unique :)

  20. markeagle

    markeagle Junior Member

    hi thanks for the welcome,to answer the question did they all survive i dont know lol,i will ring my auntie up tuesday and ask here some questions about them all ,and hopefully will have some more answers to post tuesday night,cheers mark

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