Signalman buried in Cassino cemetery;

Discussion in 'Italy' started by Alewife, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Alewife

    Alewife Junior Member

    I very recently found out from my Mother that my Great Uncle was a Signalman who died in the WW2, she believed, in Italy. A search of the CGWC site has revealed that he died on 18th Feb, 1944, aged 21, and is buried in Cassino Cemetary, so I can at least pass that information to her.

    I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the Battle of Cassino Abbey, but I assume from the date of his death that he would have died during phase 2 of the fighting there (from wikipedia).

    My great Uncle was William ('Bill') Thomas Sparkes, from Dagenham, Essex.

    I would like to know a little more about his war record, and what his role would have been, the battle itself and anything about others who were there at the time.

    I apologise that my questions are both somewhat vague and also rather broad. I hope I have at least selected a suitable area of the forum to post in.

    If any of you have any useful comments to make on any aspect of the above, I would be interested to read them.

    (Ironically, in 2010 we visited some of the WW1 battlefields, memorials and cemeteries in Normandy as part of a grand tour of Europe, a very moving and interesting experience. Later in the holiday we visited Pompeii and would have driven very close to the Cassino cemetery- I wish I had known then about my Great Uncle)
  2. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    CWGC Details


    Rank: Signalman
    Service No: 6215837
    Date of Death:18/02/1944
    Regiment/Service:Royal Corps of Signals
    42nd Div. Sigs.
    Grave Reference I. C. 2.

    Additional Information:

    Son of Percy John and Florence Margaret Sparkes, of Dagenham, Essex
  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Signalman Sparkes was killed on 18th Feb - the assault of 4th Indian Div on the massif had commenced but it would be impossible to speculate on the circumstances of your father's death. The Liri Valley and its surrounding heights was not known to be a very hospitable place during the winter/spring of 1944.

    Service records can be gained (but with a considerable wait) from the UK MOD - which would at least show the key dates of William's joining up / postings etc

    click on the menu on the left for "Apply for Service personnel service records"

    There are books a plenty..over views or detailed histories, regimental ones, and then the war diaries..

    Depends what level of detail you might want to get into, and of course, there won''t be any specific reference to your great uncle.

    Of course, others here might know more about a signalman's lot.

  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    it would help you no end to get hold of the book by John Ellis - " Cassino - The Hollow Victory ' while you wait for his records to come through as this will give you some idea what was going on at that time and what you great uncle was doing - THEN come bak with the questions
  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Shame that the unit listed on CWGC isnt one that was there.

    42nd Div. Sigs.
  7. Alewife

    Alewife Junior Member

    Thank you both kindly for your responses bexley4, and 4 jonboy(sp). You have confirmed information that I have found so far. If anyone has anything to add I would be interested.
  8. Alewife

    Alewife Junior Member

    Shame that the unit listed on CWGC isnt one that was there.

    42nd Div. Sigs.

    Tell me more please. Are you suggesting this is an error?
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    42nd Div served in France in 1940 but never went overseas again .
    They stayed in the UK until being disbanded in 1943.
    He wouldnt have been with 42 Div Signals in Italy.
    If you sent off for his service records , in about a year you'll know for sure who he was with.
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    42 Infantry Division only went overseas when it went to France in 1940. After it came back to the UK it was eventually converted to 42 Armoured Division (with tanks) but this was disbanded in 1943. The Royal Signals' history implies that the unit was disbanded, with individuals going wherever they were needed, not sent elsewhere as a formed unit.

    Your great uncle may have started with 42 Div Signals, but must have been posted to a different unit that ended up in Italy. Hopefully his service records will have more detail than CWGC. Are there any other memories or documents in the family that might shed some light on him in the meantime.

    Also, 42 Div was a Territorial Army (part-time) division formed in Lancashire. Is there a family connection with Lancashire?
  11. Alewife

    Alewife Junior Member

    No connection with Lancashire, and probably no other documents or useful memories sadly but I will ask around the remainder of the family. This just came from a rather random comment that my Mother made recently about her uncle being killed very young and being a signalman.
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Have you got any photos of him at all ?

    If you need a photo of his headstone.
    We know a chap nearby who maybe able to get you a pic.
  13. Alewife

    Alewife Junior Member

    I have a pic of headstone which I have found on-line today. No pics of the man himself as far as I know until I ask the family.
  14. Damiano

    Damiano In the shadow of Monte Cassino

    Hi to everyone,
    dear Alewife, I just took some photographs of your great uncle's grave, from the CWM of Cassino:



    All the best from the Liri Valley. ;)

    Owen likes this.
  15. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    good stuff.. looks a bit brrrr.
  16. Damiano

    Damiano In the shadow of Monte Cassino

    it's raining cats and dogs in the Liri Valley! The weather is horrible! ;-)

    Best. D.
    4jonboy likes this.
  17. Alewife

    Alewife Junior Member

    Oh my goodness, Damiano, that is just so very kind. Thank you so much. It is nice to see the gravestone in the context of the place it is in, and with the hills and monastery behind. Yes it does look rather chilly, and a reminder of weather conditions at this time of year in 1944.

  18. Damiano

    Damiano In the shadow of Monte Cassino

    Dear Alewife,
    thank you too for sharing the sad story of your great uncle and his sacrifice.
    If you need something do not esitate to ask me. I'll be really happy to help you.

    Best wishes.

  19. graeme

    graeme Senior Member


    Hate to ask this as you have already put yourself out, but, if you visit the cemetery regularly, I have a few men I am researching from Walsall who are buried there.

    Any possibility of pictures if you visit again,


  20. Damiano

    Damiano In the shadow of Monte Cassino

    you're welcome. You can start a new thread or write the names here, or send me a message. I'll take the photographs as soon as possible.
    All the best.

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