Gheel the Last battle/ Help wanted

Discussion in 'Durham Light Infantry' started by Verrieres, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Peter

    Firstly welcome to the forum.

    I would suggest you obtain a copy of his service records https://www.gov.uk/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records#how-to-apply-for-service-personnel-records this will tell you his 'official' military history,

    I would also suggest contacting other members on here who provide a service of copying War Diaries at The National Archives, they are (in no particular order) PsyWar.org (website is http://www.arcre.com/) and Drew5233.

    If you need some genealogical hunting done for relations then perhaps I can help you.

    TD
     
  2. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    For what little comfort it may bring, I knew the WO1 who was in charge of post War exhumations and reburials in Gheel and the surrounding areas.

    It was all done meticulously and made a lasting impact on him, to the extent that he returned every year to meet with the people he stayed with while carrying out his task, and the many friends he made there. The Hockley RBL Pipe Band (as it then was) made frequent visits to perform at Gheel Cemetery and at Arnhem etc so please take some comfort that these men were accorded every possible dignity in their reburial.

    As a band member, I can also personally vouch for the respect and care that is still provided for the graves and that their sacrifice is still honoured by the townsfolk of Gheel. They made us very welcome and we always had a strong turnout in support at the commemorations.
     
  3. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Peter,

    Your Great Uncle's service number is from the Durham Light Infantry's block of numbers, so he was a County Durham lad serving in his local regiment. The 8th Bn Durham Light Infantry was brigaded with the 6th and 9th Bns Durham Light Infantry, 151st Infantry Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division; the most experienced and battle hardened British Infantry Division of WWII.

    From his service number I glean that it is likely that he enlisted post Dunkirk, i.e. post June 1940, but probably the second half of 1940. If he had been a pre-war territorial [the 50 Div was a pre-war territorial division), it is likely he would have served with the 9th Bn, as this was the Gateshead battalion - known as the 'Gateshead Gurkhas'.

    If I am right about his date of enlistment and assuming he served with the 8th Bn Durham Light Infantry throughout his service, he would have seen action in the Western Desert, including the 'Gazala Gallop', the 2nd Battle of El Alamein (including Operation Supercharge which finally broke the Axis defences), Battle of Mareth (aka Wadi Zigzaou or 'Wadi Zigzag'); as an assault Division and brigade in Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily) and throughout the campaign; as an assault Division and second wave brigade on Gold Beach-D-Day, the fighting in Normandy and thereafter.

    The 8th Bn Durham Light Infantry led the 151st Brigade assault crossing over the Albert Canal at Steelen on 8 September 1944, with the purpose of capturing the town of Gheel and it would appear that your Great Uncle was killed or died of wounds received in the early part of this operation. The battalion history - '8th Battalion The Duham Light Infantry 1939-1945' (Majors' Lewis and English - The Naval & Military Press) has no specific mention of his death, albeit he is mentioned in the Roll Of Honour. It does have an account of the battle.

    What is odd is that he is buried at Brussels Town Cemetary, which is very curious given that of the 75 to 80 men of the 6th, 8th & 9th Bns Durham Light Infantry killed during this battle only two are buried here; the other is Major CL Beattie, MC. Major Beattie was badly wounded in the early part of securing the bridgehead on 8 September 1944, with a few of his men being killed or wounded. He was evacuated to hospital, where he died the following day. I suggest that, given the place of his burial, the same fate may have befallen your Great Uncle.

    As suggested by TD, I recommend that you obtain his service records as these will give you his service history; but not the circumstances of his death. If you rquire any asistance with interpreting his service records post them on this thread and someone will be along to assist you.

    All the best,

    Steve.
     
    Tricky Dicky likes this.

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