Help researching Cpl William Coates, Royal Signals

Discussion in 'Royal Signals' started by Shiny, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. Shiny

    Shiny Well-Known Member

    Hi All,

    I'm trying to find out about what happened to Cpl William Coates before he died in Cassino in 1944.

    I know he was with the 4th Indian Division Signals, is there a war diary or something similar I can look at?

    I have researched a lot of WW1 relatives but not really any WW2, is there much on line I can find out or is it all down to buying service records?

    I'm also fairly sure that one of his brothers or sisters served with the RASC but don't know how to find out which one.

    Can anyone help point me in the right direction please?

    Thanks a lot,

  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles


    This is the main one:
    Central Mediterranean Forces: Divisions; 4 Indian Division: Signals | The National Archives

    Alas, I don't have a copy. On what date was he killed?
  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Many of the signallers and linesmen would also be out with the brigades, which at Cassino gives you 5th, 7th and 11th Indian Infantry Brigades--if you can figure out where he was, you'll most likely get closer to the facts surrounding his death.

    Edit: there were Signals Sections for each of those brigades. I have the names of some from th 5th, but Cpl Coates does not feature.
  4. Shiny

    Shiny Well-Known Member

    Thanks Charley,

    The main thing I'm working from is his record on the CWGC website, it says he died on the 17th of Feb 1944.

    Unfortunately it doesn't describe him at brigade level, just that he was royal signals and with 4th Indian div sigs.

    Thanks for the link, at least I have a place to start now.

  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    There was a very real possibility of getting killed anywhere in the vicinity of Cassino during the period, but it might perhaps be noteworthy that on Feb 17th there was a lot going on on the actual massif above the town--particularly involving 7th and 11th Indian Brigades--and the Division suffered considerable casualties.
  6. Shiny

    Shiny Well-Known Member

    Thanks a lot, if it helps any there is a grave concentration form in his documents which say he was originally buried in Presenzano.

    Does that place mean anything to you? Unfortunately I know pretty much nothing about this area.

  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

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  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    There is a family tree on Ancestry but no further info I'm afraid

    William Coates
    BIRTH 1912
    DEATH 17 FEBRUARY 1944 • Italy

    UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: William Coates
    Given Initials: W
    Rank: Corporal
    Death Date: 17 Feb 1944
    Number: 3604274
    Birth Place: Northumberland
    Residence: Northumberland
    Branch at Enlistment: Royal Corps of Signals
    Theatre of War: Italy
    Regiment at Death: Royal Corps of Signals
    Branch at Death: Royal Corps of Signals


    Cpl William Coates ( - 1944) - Find A Grave Memorial

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  9. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    Presenzano was a large Field Hospital location so if he was initially buried there then it is highly likely that he was injured elsewhere and evacuated back to that location.

    He would have been injured sometime between the arrival of HQ 4 Ind Div at Cassino on 4 Feb 44 and his recorded death on 17 Feb 44.

    I suspect that he was injured whilst laying line - it was a hazardous job for R SIGNALS troops.

    Are you a relative?

    I would be happy to lay a poppy on his grave when I am next out there on 24-27 Aug 17 guiding a group.


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  10. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Rank: Corporal
    Service No: 3604274
    Date of Death: 17/02/1944
    Age: 32
    Regiment/Service: Royal Corps of Signals, 4th Indian Div. Sigs.
    Grave Reference: I. C. 6.
    Additional Information: Son of Thomas and Isabella Scott Coates, of Seahouses, Northumberland.

    That's a Border Regiment service number. As he's from Seahouses, either, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers or Border Regiment would be a natural berth for soldiers. Looks like he transferred a few times, so likely worthwhile getting his service records.


  11. Shiny

    Shiny Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much for the help Charley, the information on the links you posted is really interesting and give a great insight into where he was and what he was doing.

    Frank I'm not a relative, a relative of mine has his medals together with another two posted to his father and being a local(ish) lad I wanted to find out more about him / them.

    I'm so grateful for all this help, combined with the information I've found out about his background I feel quite close to him. If you are in the area I'd love you to put a poppy on his grave for me, William and his family won't be forgotten.

    I have found a bit about his background but not much about him. This is what I know.

    His dad, Thomas, joined the RAF 1 month before the end of WW1 and served until 1919, he died in 1938. One of the boxes of medals was addressed to his dad but contained a 1939 - 1945 star and an Italy star so I'm assuming they must belong to a brother or sister who served in the RASC (going off the return address on the box), possibly Mary, George or Thomas as they were all younger than him.

    William's medals were posted to his mother Isabella, she sadly died about a year after him in quite a nasty way. According to the newspaper archives she was poking the coal fire whilst leaning against the mantelpiece, her wrist gave way and she fell head first into the fire. She was found by her daughter but died from her injuries a few hours later.

    I've also found Williams name in a list in a Berwick newspaper listing him as Pte W Coates BW and saying wounded Middle East 1942. Going off what Steve has just said about his service number maybe that means he was in the Black Watch before the Royal Signals?

    I find all of this really interesting and important that these men aren't forgotten so any more help you can all give me finding out about William and maybe even putting a name to the other medals would be great.

  12. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    Will do. He is very easy to find.

    I know from previous visits that R SIGNALS units have placed a poppy on his grave before.


  13. Shiny

    Shiny Well-Known Member

    Thank you very much Frank, that's really good of you.

    It's nice to know he hasn't been forgotten by those who have followed on in his trade.

    I've just come back from a week finding some WW1 relative's graves and some of their names at Tynecot and the Menin gate so I know how much difference a good guide makes.

    Enjoy your trip.

  14. Craig coates

    Craig coates Member

    Hi my dad was called Thomas Neville Coates
    From seahouses I'm sure William was his older brother
    Dad's sister Mary, Margaret, and brother are still alive
    Uncal Edward still lives in the village
  15. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    You should get Cpl Coates's Service Record from the MoD.

    It will tell us a lot.


  16. Craig coates

    Craig coates Member

    How do you go about doing that????
    Got ma cousin to ask his mam (auntie Mary)
    To find out more about him
  17. Craig coates

    Craig coates Member

    The Royal Corps of Signals (often simply known as the Royal Signals - abbreviated to R SIGNALS) is one of the combat support arms of the British Army. Signals units are among the first into action, providing the battlefield communications and information systems essential to all operations. Royal Signals units provide the full telecommunications infrastructure for the Army wherever they operate in the world. The Corps has its own engineers, logistics experts and systems operators to run radio and area networks in the field.[1] It is responsible for installing, maintaining and operating all types of telecommunications equipment and information systems, providing command support to commanders and their headquarters, and conducting electronic warfare against enemy communications

    Attached Files:

  18. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery


    Link on how to apply Get a copy of military service records
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  19. Shiny

    Shiny Well-Known Member

    Hi Craig,

    Good to hear from you but I'm not sure William is the man you think he is. I think he probably is a relative given your surname and the connection to Seahouses but William's mam was called Isabell and she died in an accident at home in 1945.

    I have a family tree for his immediate family and he does have a younger brother called Thomas and a sister called Mary but she would be 113 years old if it is the same person?

    I'd be interested to hear what you find out.

  20. Craig coates

    Craig coates Member

    I would love to see this family tree
    Just been looking at dad's birth certificate
    His mam was Margaret June coates (Laidler)
    His dad was Thomas Coates

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