Sergeant Alexander Westwater formerly 7 Commando and SAS

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by vitellino, May 16, 2019.

  1. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Sgt. Westwater died on the 15th April 1944 aged 25 and is buried in Sangro War Cemetery, Italy.
    His concentration form shows that his body was recovered from the village of Torino di Sangro.

    On his tombstone is the following inscription:

    SERVED AT DUNKIRK, CRETE AND N. AFRICA.
    A PARATROOPER, WHO DIED A PRISONER OF WAR IN ITALY

    However, 'Royal Artillery Deaths 1939-1946, Form RH, stamped RA Record Office Field Branch' gives another version:

    'Sergeant Alexander Westwater DCM, formerly 7 Commando and SAS, was killed in Italy after an explosion in what is described as a battle accident whilst serving with the Royal Artillery (AFHQ).'

    I have read on the Commandos website that:

    "Captured at Tmimi on the 23rd November 1941. Sent via Benghazi, Taranto, Bari, Udine, Servigliano, and Imperia, to Camp 53 (Macerata). While at Bari he escaped through the wire but after 3 days liberty he was recaptured and taken back to camp where he was "beaten up" and kept without food for 3 days as a punishment. His second escape was by tunnelling at Servigliano; he was recaptured after 18 days and given 35 days solitary confinement. A third attempt was made in Feb. '43 from Macerata, when he escaped wearing Italian uniform with faked insignia. He was recaptured the next day and given 30 days solitary confinement.

    After the Armistice, Westwater escaped from Camp 53 on the 13 Sept. but was recaptured on the Gran Sasso and taken to Aquila. From there a fifth escape was made but he was retaken at Castropignano by the Germans and sent to Sulmona. The next day he slipped through the wire thus making his sixth escape and hid in a tree while the enemy peppered the surrounding woods with M.G. fire. He lay up until nightfall then made his way up to our lines, finally meeting allied troops at Trigno on the 27th Oct. '43.

    So, if he reached Allied lines on 27 October 1943 how was it that his tombstone says he died whilst a prisoner of war?

    After having rejoined Allied lines in October '43, and presumably having then gone into action once more, was he then taken prisoner yet again only to be killed under the Commando order?

    Hoping someone can sort this out for me.

    Vitellino
     
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  3. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    HI,

    I’ve sent the forum Special Forces expert a PM to alert him to this topic.

    Hopefully he may be able to offer an informed opinion.

    Steve
     
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  4. CL1

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

  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Sergeant Alexander Westwater, an original member of L Detachment, SAS Brigade, is buried here amongst former comrades: Having been captured in Libya during Operation Squatter, the SAS’ first raid of November 1941, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for no less than six escapes from camps in Italy. On his return to Allied lines in early November 1943 he rejoined the SAS, which at the time had been restructured as the Special Raiding Squadron, but was soon recruited by A Force, the cover name for MI9. This organisation facilitated the extraction of POWs from behind enemy lines, Westwater being killed aboard one of their pick-up vessels in an explosion whilst taking on petrol off Termiti Island

    He wasn't a POW when he died, but was engaged in Ops to help other POWs

    TD
     
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  6. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Thanks Richard.

    You beat me to the “source”:)

    Vitellino - TD contacted the same source as me and we were both given the same information as he has posted. Lots of contradictions in the various contemporary sources you quote but the information that TD has posted is the authoritative version of events from a reliable Special Forces expert who has had access to contemporaneous material that is still not in the public domain.

    Steve

    Slight edit - the island is spelled Tremiti - situated in the Adriatic off Termoli.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
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  7. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Hi Vitellino,

    I’ve been asked to post this additional information on behalf of the forum SAS expert so the full story is available on the internet for all to see. Clearly the family weren’t in full possession of the facts when composing their inscription for Sgt Westwater’s headstone.


    “I have Westwater's service record and despite what it says on the grave registration forms, Westwater wasn't SAS at the time of his death. He escaped, returned to Allied lines, and was taken back on strength to The Special Raiding Squadron as a corporal on the 2nd of November 1943. However, the Regimental War Diary states that he then opted to go back to 26th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, a few days later. He was promoted to serjeant the following January and killed on the 15th of April 1944. The CWGC state that this was whilst serving with 7 Commando, RA. His gravestone, which states that he died a prisoner of war, obviously implies that he had been captured for a second time.

    However, newsletters put together by ‘A’ Force tell the real story. A January 1944 newsletter reported that: ‘Cpls Deadman (a clerk) and Westwater have arrived from Algiers. The latter is a signals expert, besides being an ex P/W who took a prominent part in many escapes from Italian camps.’Then, on the day that he was killed, another reported:

    It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Sgt A Westwater, who was killed in an explosion aboard the Xaravastar. She was lying at anchor at the Termiti Island, and taking on a cargo of petrol, when a fire occurred resulting in Sgt Westwater’s death. He was the only casualty, and in fact is the first member of ‘A’ Force to be killed during the whole period we have operated in Italy. Full enquiries into the cause of the explosion are now being conducted. Sgt Westwater, an ex P/W who much preferred to remain in Italy on active service than to return to the UK, represents a great loss. During the time he has worked for us he proved himself not only efficient in his duties, but to possess more than the normal amount of courage, and was at all times a most popular and likeable lad. Men with his qualities are not so easily found.”

    Steve
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  8. ozzy16

    ozzy16 Patron Patron

    Found this earlier, hope it helps.
    Graham.
    aw1.jpg
     
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  9. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you all very much indeed. I am interested in Sgt. Westwater as I am currently going through all the CWGC records to look for POWs who were killed/died in Italy and also Special Services personnel who died behind enemy lines.

    I am now intrigued as to why the Xaravastar was taking on petrol at 'Termiti' island. I have been to the Tremiti islands twice and can't imagine that there was a petrol dump there...One of the islands was used by the fascists to intern political prisoners... A bit more detective work to do.

    Vitellino

    Edited: Just a thought - was the fire at the port of Termoli? Also, I can't find any reference to the ship.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
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  10. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Hi,

    In light of what I quoted above - She was lying at anchor at the Termiti Island, and taking on a cargo of petrol, when a fire occurred resulting in Sgt Westwater’s death - it was likely refuelling directly from another ship? Perhaps transferring oil drums?


    Steve
     
  11. AndyBaldEagle

    AndyBaldEagle Very Senior Member

    Transcription of his DCM Citation is here -
    Corporal 876932 Alexander WESTWATER Royal Artillery – 1st Special Air Service LG 29/06/1944


    Captured at Timini on 23rd November 1941. Sent via Benghazo, Taranto, Bari, Udine, Servigliano and Imperia to Camp 53 (Macerata). While at Bari he escaped through the wire but after three days liberty he was recaptured and taken back to camp where he was 'beaten up' and kept without food for three days as a punishment. His second escape was by tunnelling at Servigliano, he was recaptured after 18 days and given 35 days solitary confinement. A third attempt was made in February 1943 from Macerata, when he escaped wearing Italian uniform with faked insignia. He was recaptured the next day and given 30 days solitary confinement. After the Armistice, Westwater escaped from Camp 53 on 13th September but was recaptured on the Gran Sasso and take to Aquila. From here a fifth escape was made, but he was retaken at Castropignano by the Germans and sent to Sulmona. The next day he slipped through the wire, thus making his sixth escape, and hid in a tree while the enemy peppered the surrounding woods with Machine Gun fire. He lay up until nightfall then made his way to our lines, finally meeting Allied troops at Trigno on 27th October 1943. Other successful escapers from camps where Westwater was imprisoned have reported that he was conspicuous for his high morale and continued determination to escape. He set a fine example to all ranks.
     
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  12. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    There's a death Service Return on the website scotlandspeople.gov.uk for a 25 year old of that name in 1944.

    CWGC have two of this name in 1944, one a gunner but later that year and age 32.

    There's also two birth entries for 1919 on in Weymss and one in Kirkcaldy. I suspect one entry is the birth recorded in the district of birth and the other records the birth in the parents residential district.

    If there's no record of his death in the GRO, Alexander may have hailed from Fife.
     
  13. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you to all contributors. I have found this on the net which explains why Sgt. Westwater was killed on board a vessel near the TREMITI islands. He was part of I.S.9 boating section. The island referred to is the largest one, not the only one, of the Tremiti group:

    I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9) 1 November 1943 to 31 May 1945 Memorandum to the Deputy Director of Military Intelligence (DDMI). I.S.9 Boating Section. ( no doc. ref. given, unfortunately)

    In order to overcome the problem of the huge distance, the main base was established at MANFREDONIA with a forward staging base in the one cove on the barren TREMITI Island. TREMITI Island lies some 30-miles off the Italian mainland and abreast of TERMOLI. Stores of food and petrol were shipped over to this forward base in our own schooners and manhandled up the precipitous cliffs of TREMITI, to a safe storage.

    At this stage our fleet was in good order and consisted of the following MFV’s [motor fishing vessels]:- “KARAVASTA”, “BUDRINDO”, “FEDEL FRANCO”, “SATURNIA” and the “LUCRETIA”. We were still able to call on three Italian MS boats and other Royal Naval coastal craft.

    Whilst lying off the TREMITI anchorage, Sgt. WESTWATER, master of the “BUDRINDO”, noticed the collision in mid-air of two B.24 aircraft......

    Edited : I have added a photo. The cove referred to is the one shown at the base of the cliff.
     
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Vitellino - :omg: no photo

    also does it conclude that the mid air collision caused the casualties on the ground ?

    TD
     
  15. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    No - the collison took place in February, I think. I will check.

    The death took place during refuelling - see above post from Tullybrone :

    It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Sgt A Westwater, who was killed in an explosion aboard the Xaravastar. She was lying at anchor at the Termiti Island, and taking on a cargo of petrol, when a fire occurred resulting in Sgt Westwater’s death.

    The photo is part of the article on the islands but here it is again.


    250px-Tremiti_01.jpg

    Vitellino
     
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  16. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Ah OK thanks for that - I had an idea that the air collision somehow resulted in ground casualties - silly me :rolleyes::unsure:

    TD
     
  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    We all make 'em....:blush:
     
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  18. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    Royal Artillery Attestations 1937:
    Westwater_ra.jpg

    British Army Casualty Lists 1939-1945:
    Westwater_01.jpg

    Westwater_02.jpg

    Westwater_04.jpg

    Westwater_05.jpg

     
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  19. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    Family home:

    1939 Register
    26 Bideford Avenue, Ealing M.B., (Perivale), Middlesex
    Name - DOB - Occupation - Marital status
    Alec Westwater - 25 Feb 1890 - Paint Sprayer - Married
    Kate Westwater - 01 May 1891 - Unpaid Domestic Duties - Married
    Thomas Westwater - 20 Apr 1922 - Paper Tube Cutter - Single
    Angus Westwater - 04 Nov 1911 - Electric Fitter - Married
     
  20. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you for all this information.

    Vitellino
     

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