"Town Major"

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by littleorme, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. littleorme

    littleorme Junior Member

    My step-father was posted to No 74 Town Major in Italy, in July 1944. following 4th Battle at Monte Cassino,
    Does anyone know where that unit might have been? Or description of the unit's responsibilities?
    Thanks in anticipation,
  2. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    Can I suggest that you obtain a copy of their War Diary - for the period that you mention this would be WO 170/3671.

    Both Andy at Drew 5233 and Lee at PsyWar.org will copy files at the National Archives
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  3. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    My grandfather served with 2 FORESTERS and then became Town Major of Positano on the Sorrento Peninsula. After the Allies moved north, he was then moved to Siena.

    I never had a chance to ask him what on earth a Town Major did so if you find out anything, please do share it on this site.

    What was your step father's role at the Fourth Battle of Cassino?


  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks Jonathan - Hi Clive, I've retired until the new year so if you can't wait until then Lee may be able to help you out.

    I've often wondered what a Town Major was. I suspect they were like the mayor until an approved one could be appointed?

  5. littleorme

    littleorme Junior Member

    Thanks for the replies. My step-father, John, joined The Welch Regiment in 1942 when he was 18 yrs old. He was transferred to 2 Royal Fusiliers in late 1943 shortly after arrival in North Africa. Later, as a fusilier in the 4th Battle of Cassino he was hospitalized, suffering from "exhaustion". In July 1944 he was posted as Chief Clerk to No 74 Town Major.
    I have a copy of his Service Record but it is not specific about where he was actually stationed. John would never say very much about his experiences, and as he died last year I can't ask him any more. For many years he made the pilgrimage to Cassino to honour the fallen, so I know it meant a lot to him.
    The War Diaries referred to, are they those of 2 Royal Fusiliers or Town Majors?
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  7. littleorme

    littleorme Junior Member

    Hi Owen and Andy,
    Thanks for the info. I've checked John's Service Record. He was on the staff of No 74 Town Major, from July 1944 until late 1945 or possibly 1946, before heading to the UK.
    I'll sleep on it and then contact Andy/Lee.
    Many thanks.
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  9. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    Town Majors was the term given to the Military Officer given the responsibility for looking after the civilian population of a town or village.

    They were also the representative of the military power that was running their county after the axis powers left.

    It wasn't necessarily a job for Major's either. I have read documents that suggest that a Lt. looked after the Greek Island of Salamis as Town Major after the Germans left.

    I have read they were part peacekeeper, part magistrate, part Councillor, part Mayor. A real jack of all trades.

    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  10. littleorme

    littleorme Junior Member

    Thanks Gus,
    Another close look at John's Service Record showed a testimonial signed by Major H E Fason. This referred to the "place" as Naples.
    Bit more info!
  11. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    That sounds about right. My grandfather got a job as a District Officer in Northern Rhodesia with the Colonial Office after the war and I suspect that his experience as a Town Major helped him get the job.


  12. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    I am not surprised that your step father suffered from exhaustion after the Fourth Battle of Cassino - they had a really rough time of it. They crossed the Amazon bridge on the morning of 13 May 44 and pushed north west as part of a left hook to cut Route 6 and the railway line so as to trap the German forces in Cassino town.

    In pushing north west with the 16 Sherman tanks of A Squadron 2 Lothian & Border Horse in support, they ran into German machine fire coming from a fortified position on their right. This diverted them away from their objective because the fortified position had to be assaulted and taken. The tanks carried on without them all the way to the Pignataro-Cassino road.

    By evening, 2 R FUSILIERS had caught up and then dug in covering the road whilst the armour withdrew for the night. The battalion spent the night being shelled and mortared.

    And that was just their first day!

    If you ever think of going out to Cassino and seeing what 2 R FUSILIERS got up to then get in touch. I have an event going on 8-11 Jun 17.


  13. Quis Separabit

    Quis Separabit Junior Member Patron

    This would make sense as my Dad was Town Major of somewhere near Bremen at the end of the war.

    He rose to rank of CQMS with the Royal Engineers before going to officer training and transferring to 2 Royal Ulster Rifles in 1943 as Lieutenant.

    Prior to DDay he was attached to 9th British Infantry Brigade Headquarters as Camp Commandant and was essentially responsible for supplies, transport, stores, weapons, ammunition etc (including smuggling turkeys from a rifleman's family farm in Eire to Scotland for Christmas 1943 celebrations!) plus he acted as HQ Defence Platoon commander.

    He landed with 9th Brigade HQ alongside the other infantry units around midday on DDay as part of the third wave and was with them all the way through to the end of the war.

    At some point near/after the end of the war he became a Town Major near Bremen, presumably because of his administrative/logistical skills etc

    The only story I know from then is that a German woman came to him and pleaded for help in burying her husband who was lying dead in the street. He organised a burial party and, possibly because he was Catholic, he was invited to the service/wake at a nearby church which he felt he couldn't refuse.

    At the end of proceedings a senior German officer suddenly emerged from the roof space and surrendered to him (confident that he wasn't Russian) and presented him with his ceremonial sword (which he brought home).

    At that time his (war substantive) rank was Captain but he had Major's crown pips in his belongings suggesting that perhaps Town Majors wore the rank of Major even though they may actually have been a lower rank?

    Once the War ended and 9th Brigade Headquarters would have effectively become "redundant" and was presumably disbanded so I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the officers within it were allocated to similar roles....

    If any details of Town Majors ever become digitised I would be very interested to receiving details to try and track down where he ended up.

    Quis Separabit

    9th Infantry Brigade Headquarters - Lengerich - May 1945
    Brigadier WFH Kempster OBE (Commander 9th Infantry Brigade) and other Brigade Headquarters officers who, based on return of officers and cap badges, pips, seniority and age are believed to be:

    Back Row (Left to Right)
    1. T/Captain TG Badham Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers/Royal Ulster Rifles - age 35
    2. Lieutenant MP Scanlon - Royal Irish Fusiliers/Royal Ulster Rifles - age 27
    3. Unknown Chaplain - Royal Army Chaplains Department
    4. Lieutenant EG Barker - Royal Ulster Rifles - age 34
    5. Lieutenant MJ Wheelock - Kings Shropshire Light Infantry - age 21
    6. Unknown Chaplain - Royal Army Chaplains Department
    7. Unknown Captain/Chaplain

    Front Row (Left to Right)
    1. T/Captain FL Usher - Royal Engineers - age 40
    2. T/Captain MC Quarmby - Dorset Regiment - age 25
    3. T/Major D Montgomery - Royal East Kent Regiment/Buffs - age 26
    4. A/Brigadier WFS Kempster - Kings Shropshire Light Infantry - age 36
    5. A/Major JE Driver - Duke of Wellington (West Riding) Regiment - age 33
    6. T/Captain E Quinn - The Kings Regiment - age 25
    7. Unknown Captain/Chaplain

    The Unidentified Chaplains with the Brigade at the time were:
    1. Chaplain DW Jones (attached to 2 Lincolns) - age 34
    2. Chaplain WIG Wilson (attached to 1 KOSB) - age 32
    3. Chaplain JP O’Brien (attached to 2 RUR) - age 26

    The Unidentified Captains with the Brigade at the time were:
    1. T/Captain HS Nettleton (RASC) - age 36
    2. T/Captain DCW Milton (KOSB) - age 28
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  14. Browno

    Browno Fake news challenger

    An index of personal diary in the IWM shows an ex-51st Highland Div. officer captured in 1940, moving through various oflags and stalags and then being a Town Major in Bavaria April-May 1945 after liberation by the US Army. I'll need to find out more. It was Mooseburg which was near Stalag VII-A. Sounds improbable to me but who knows.

    Private Papers of Colonel A A Roth OBE TD


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