Major W. Breckenridge & Major W. Breckenridge, both 130 Assault Fd Regt, Burma - Related?

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by PackRat, Oct 19, 2018.

  1. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Could anyone who knows a bit about genealogy research kindly have a quick look at these names?

    Major William Breckenridge, OC 494 Battery, was killed in a friendly fire incident (along with most of the rest of the men at his forward OP in the Mayu Hills) during the regiment's first combat operation in the Arakan on 5th January 1943. His CWGC record:

    Service Number 87729
    Died 05/01/1943
    Aged 33
    130 Field Regt.Royal Artillery
    Son of Matthew Wright Breckenridge and Winifred Agnes Breckenridge; husband of Rae Isobel Breckenridge, of Troon, Ayrshire. Chartered Accountant.

    Another man with the same rank and first initial - Major W.J. Breckenridge - continues to be mentioned in the regimental war diary for the rest of the war, however (not sure of his role within the regiment).

    Were these two men related, or is it a coincidence?
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: William Breckenridge
    Given Initials: W
    Rank: Major
    Death Date: 5 Jan 1943
    Number: 87729
    Birth Place: Ayrshire
    Residence: Ayrshire
    Regiment at Enlistment: Royal Artillery
    Branch at Enlistment: Royal Artillery
    Theatre of War: Burma
    Regiment at Death: Royal Artillery
    Branch at Death: Royal Artillery

    Major William Breckenridge
    Birth: May 4 1910 (4 May 1910)
    Death: 5 Jan 1943 - Burma (Myanmar)
    F: Captain Matthew Wright Breckenridge
    M: Winifred Agnes Reid

    Hmm - not sure this is right but anyway
    UK, British Army Lists, 1882-1962
    Name: W . J . Breckenridge
    Military Year: 1945
    Regiment: Royal Artillery-Territorial Army
    Rank: 2 Lt

    Could really do with a little more detail on the second man - from the family tree there Major William Breckenrigde (died 1943) doesn't appear to have any relatives of the same name or age or rank

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  3. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    Two Mentioned in Despatches 1943 and 1946 for William John Breckenridge

    First name(s)
    William John
    Last name Breckenridge
    Service number 87730
    Rank Lieutenant (T/Captain) (A/Major)
    Regiment 130 Field Regiment RA
    Service Royal Artillery
    Event year 1943
    Gazette date 16 Dec 1943
    Award Mentioned in Dispatches
    Recommended by Burma 2 Despatch
    Theatre Burma
    Country Great Britain
    File number 68/Gen/7607
    Medal type Royal Artillery Honours & Awards, 1886-2013
    Dataset Royal Artillery Honours & Awards
    Record set Britain, Campaign, Gallantry & Long Service Medals & Awards
    Category Military, armed forces & conflict
    Subcategory Medal Rolls and Honours
    Collections from Great Britain, UK None

    First name(s) William John
    Last name Breckenridge
    Service number 87730
    Rank Lieutenant (T/Captain) (A/Major)
    Service Royal Artillery
    Event year 1946
    Gazette date 09 May 1946
    Award Mentioned in Dispatches
    Recommended by Burma 8 Despatch
    Theatre Burma
    Country Great Britain
    File number 68/Gen/8213
    Medal type Royal Artillery Honours & Awards, 1886-2013
    Dataset Royal Artillery Honours & Awards
    Record set Britain, Campaign, Gallantry & Long Service Medals & Awards
    Category Military, armed forces & conflict
    Subcategory Medal Rolls and Honours
    Collections from Great Britain, UK None
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  4. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Many thanks TD & Guy

    Not got a great deal more on the second chap. Both were with the regiment when it went into Burma for the first time, and had been with the unit since the outbreak of war. The 130th was a second-line TA regiment. Field returns throughout 1942, while the unit was in India, show the ranks of the two men as:

    (1st man, KIA 1943) Capt - T/Major - Breckenridge W - Joined regiment 24/8/39
    (2nd Man) Lieut [full, rather than 2/Lt] - T/Capt - Breckenridge W J - Joined regiment 1/9/39

    Field returns and diary keeping broke down for a while during the retreat from the Arakan (April/May 43), but a nominal roll taken before embarkation from Chittagong for Calcutta in early June 43 shows Breckenridge W J as Major.

    Guy's post shows that he was temporary captain and acting major in both 43 and 46, although still 'officially' a Lieutenant. I'm guessing he was granted the acting rank at some point during the retreat due to the numerous officer losses the regiment sustained.

    Image00001.jpg Image00002.jpg
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  5. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    The father of Major William Breckenridge was :

    Lt.Col. Matthew Wright BRECKENRIDGE 1886 Irvine - 3rd August 1942 Irvine Age 56
    He married Winifred Agnes Reid at Troon Ayrshire in 1909
    He died in a fall from his balcony at home in Irvine on 3rd August 1942
    Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 15.21.02.png
    Nottingham Evening Post 4th August 1942

    Although also born in Irvine, William John BRECKRIDGE mother's maiden name was MACCALLUM

    William John BRECKENRIDGE
    1914 Irvine - 1974 Irvine age 60

    His parents :
    William BRECKENRIDGE married Olive Mary V. MACCALLUM at Ayr in 1913
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
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  6. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Incredible find, Guy, thank you.

    Just had a look through the regiment's field returns, at least those retained with the diary. At the start of August Major Breckenridge was with the unit. At the start of September he appears to have been away from the unit in a rest camp. I wonder if this was on compassionate grounds: all other officers absent from the regiment over these months are listed as in hospital, on a course or on attachment.

    The returns show that he was back with the unit by 19th September, so it would seem that he wasn't granted (or didn't request - not sure how it worked) compassionate leave to return to the UK following his father's sudden death. The regiment was on notice for the upcoming Arakan campaign at this point, so perhaps that had a bearing. A few months later he was accidentally killed during his battery's first shoot 'in anger' when a shell dropped short of the target and, tragically, directly onto the battery's forward OP.

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  7. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    This Obituary for Major William Breckenridge confirms that he was the only son of Matthew and Winifred Breckenridge
    I assume they must have been cousins?
    They were both commisioned at the same time, 87729 & 87730

    In Lt. Col. Breckenridge obituary he is described as senior partner in the firm Matthew Wright & Nephew.

    Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 18.57.03.png
    Dundee Courier 4th August 1942
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
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  8. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Fantastic finds, thanks again Guy.

    Cousins does seem a strong possibility, those concurrent service numbers suggesting they may have joined up together.

    I've mixed the two men up in my post above. It was the junior Breckenridge (W.J.) who was at a rest camp and was away from the unit until mid-September 42. Both Breckenridges were with the unit for the returns on 1st August 42, but unfortunately the rest of the month's returns are missing, the next being for 5th September. I do wonder if W.J. was the nephew in 'Matthew Wright & Nephew'.

    Major William seems to have remained in post as OC 494 Battery throughout. 494 was selected to be the first element of the regiment to join 14th Indian Division's push into the Arakan, the other two batteries not moving forward for more than a month.

    Finding out that the father died accidentally just five months before his only son was killed accidentally adds another sad dimension to the tragedy that befell 494 Battery at Conical Hill on 5th January 1943. I hesitate to say that the error was 'covered up', but the regiment's war diary says only that the men were Killed in Action - it's only other tangential sources that have revealed that the casualties at the OP were due to the battery's own gunfire. If W.J. was a cousin, knowing the true circumstances of William's death must have put him in a painful position with regards to his aunt, Winifred Breckenridge.
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  9. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    Looking at the 1891 census, the Breckenridge's resided at :
    Riverslea, Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland.
    Matthew and William were brothers.
    Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 14.37.49.png

    Wiilliam and William John Breckenridge were cousins.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
  10. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    I think that solves the mystery. Thanks again for some amazing detective work Guy!
  11. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Confirmation that you were absolutely spot-on here, Guy: a lucky find I've just made from the personal account of a man in 494 Battery explicitly says that the two Breckenridges were indeed cousins (although the author spells the name 'Breckinbridge' throughout). Here he's describing 130 Field Regiment's action during the retreat from Indin 5th/6th April 1943, after 6 Brigade HQ had been overrun and Brigadier Cavendish killed:

    Last edited: Oct 31, 2018
  12. Hi PackRat
    Where did you manage to find the above information?

    I seen from one of your previous post of the Causalities that you mention a James Wakelam?

    Since i share the same surname and having served with the Royal Artillery for 10 years i would love to find out more information.

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  13. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Hi Robert, welcome to the forum.

    That book page comes from the Regimental history, which I was luckily able to find and photograph at the SOAS archive:

    Donald McLeod, History of the 130th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and its Burma Campaigns, Billingham: Old Mill Press, 1996

    James was from Yorkshire - does that line up with any family connections? Here's his info, as recorded by his commanding officer, Ronnie Nicholson:

    821355 Gnr Wakelam J.
    F Troop, 494 Battery, 130 (Lowland) Field Regiment
    Next of Kin: Mrs Wakelam (wife), 3 Grove Street, Kirkgate, Wakefield, Yorks.

    He was the layer on F Troop's No. 1 gun (a 25-pounder field gun). He was killed when the gun suffered a direct hit from a Japanese 75mm shell while the battery was in action in the Arakan on 13th April 1943. The Regiment's own war diary doesn't cover this as diary keeping fell apart while the brigade group was in retreat, but this file at the National Archives fills in some of the blanks:

    Account of operations of 130th (Lowland) Field Regiment in the Arakan campaign 1942 Nov - 1943 May, by Colonel R. A. G. Nicholson [CAB 106/23]

    Here is James' casualty card (thanks to Guy Hudson):

    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
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  14. Thanks for the welcome.

    Thank you so much for the extensive information. I was just browsing through some other articles when i came across a mention of James Wakelam and i thought i would do some investigation in to him.

    Not sure if i related to him or not, I may do more investigating in to it. I would be quite nice to think i was, having shared Surnames and having worn the same cap badge.

    Thank you once again for your reply.

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