Regimental Casualty Lists, Do they exist?

Discussion in '1940' started by kiwi craig, Sep 10, 2013.

  1. kiwi craig

    kiwi craig Member

    I’m trying to establish how many of my Father’s Regiment, the 57th Field Regiment, RA, made it back to England in 1940. So far I have found 1 Officer and 5 OR’s listed as dead.
    Was there ever any list by Regiment showing Dead, MIA, or POW, ever compiled? I could see that with the confusion of the evacuation, and the time for the Red Cross to get organised on the ground it could take several months to supply names back to England.
    I would be grateful if someone could point me in the right direction.
    Thanks, Craig
  2. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Craig - there are more experienced researchers on the forum who will perhaps be along in a bit, but I'm happy to relate my experiences in general. I don't know where you've been looking, but the WO361 series at the National Archives is the 'other half' of the War Office Casualty Branch records of casualties and missing persons from 1939-45. All wartime casualties - from the army at least - were reported through this branch, based at the Bluecoat School in Liverpool. Each unit records office compiled casualty lists, muster lists after actions and nominal rolls and the Casualty Branch went to great - indeed extraordinary lengths to complete such lists.

    And there's the rub - they aren't complete - nothing like it in fact - and there's over 2,500 of them covering every theatre of war. Given the chaos of wartime, of combat in particular, and the fact that were millions of men and women scattered to the four winds of the world-wide military machine - all being chased up by a few hundred clerks with telegrams and letters and the odd telephone call. I've been researching the same period of 1940 - it was chaotic and it's complicated by the overall atmosphere of disbelief at the evacuation and defeat of Dunkirk and the hope that many thousands of missing men would be able to escape to neutral countries or hide out in France. In reality, maybe a few hundred did this. For a good general impression, read Sean Longden's book, "Dunkirk - the men they left behind" or Peter Stanley's, 'Commando to Colditz' about Micky Burns and the St.Nazaire raid/aftermath - both very good on the proces of recording the missing. There are also some good posts on here if you search - I've found the forum members so knowledgeable, helpful and useful.

    But you might find a needle in a haystack - there may be a file for your dad's regiment - there may be rolls and lists, they will almost certainly be incomplete. I saw stuff written on menu cards from ships, on postcards, scraps of paper, salt-stained and dirty in some cases. You might find names you recognise. In my own experience, Trooper Joe Small of the 10th Hussars was listed by the CWGC as dying two days earlier than he almost certainly did, on the 10th June. He was buried by local French villagers and reburied in the churchyard on 8th August 1940. His wife and mother didn't get confirmation of his death until October 1941 - probably through the International Red Cross, via the unit and casualty branch. The army may have a fetish for book keeping and lists, (and certainly abbreviations!) but it simply couldn't keep track of everyone. I found two mentions of Trooper Small, both extremely marginal -but I was overjoyed to find them. I've spent ten years building up a picture of the events surrounding his death and I'm amazed by what you can find. In fact, he'd joined the regiment on 8th May and their own records office still had him listed as at his Training Regiment in Bovington. Some of the files I read were heart breaking, some were even funny, but the search for individual missing men was pursued relentlessly in some cases.

    There are also after action reports, compiled after the war I believe - I have recently been very pleasantly surprised to receive some files from the very wonderful Michel Sabarly, a contriibutor on this forum, with mentions of my own father's actions on D-Day, but I'm not familiar with those - the national archive is indeed a hidden treasure trove - but start with WO361 in the catalogue and your dad's regiment and see where you get to? Good luck.

    Ken P likes this.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Craig,

    I was fortunate to find 'missing' nominal rolls within the 13th Kings Liverpool War diary for 1943. This gave the last known sighting of each man from all the Chindit Columns made up of British troops.

    I'm sure you have already used the CWGC website to search for 57th Field Regiment casualties. Brian's tip is a very good one. There is a file within the WO361's that might throw something your way, but then again it might not.


    Good luck.


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