176859 John David Nicholson GRAVES, MiD, 1 Royal Welsh Fusiliers: 18/03/1943

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by dbf, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Personal Number: 176859
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Name: John David Nicholson GRAVES. MiD
    Unit: 1 Royal Welch Fusiliers

    London Gazette : 28 March 1941
    The undermentioned Cadets, from 161st & 163rd O.C.T.U's, to be 2nd Lts., except as otherwise stated.
    8th Mar.1941:—
    R.W. Fus.
    John David Nicholson GRAVES (176859)

    London Gazette : 16 December 1943
    The KING has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition ot gallant and distinguished services in Burma and on the Eastern Frontier of India:—
    R.W. Fus.
    Lt. J. D. N. Graves (176859).
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Casualty Details | CWGC
    Service Number: 176859
    Regiment & Unit: Royal Welch Fusiliers, 1st Bn.
    Date of Death: Died 18 March 1943
    Age 23 years old
    Buried or commemorated at RANGOON MEMORIAL
    Memorial Reference: Face 9.
    Location: Myanmar
    Awards: Mentioned in Despatches
    Additional Info: Son of Capt. Robert Graves, formerly of The Royal Welch Fusiliers, of Deya, Majorca, Spain. M.A. (Cantab.); Jesus College.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From http://www.robertgraves.org/issues/47/4968_article_6.pdf
    David Graves’s Last Days: A Fellow Fusilier Remembers
    Lucia Graves

    Captain John C. Bennett served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers...

    J.B.: The bunker we attacked was about seventy-five yards long and thirty yards wide. It was covered with a roof made of bits of logs, branches, bits of brick, wood and mud. We were given orders to take the bunker, which was quite impossible. On either end of the bunker there were ports, holes big enough for them to shoot out from but not big enough for us to throw a grenade in. When the attack took place, they shot at us from the two holes and our men had to dodge the bullets that crossed in front of them as they ran forward. The Japanese also hid in trees behind the bunker and shot us from there, or dropped grenades when the attack took place. It was practically impossible to get through.

    The bunker stood on the other side of a small river. The beach was on the right, about 200 yards from where we were, and when the tide came in the river swelled so you’d have to wade through it, about two feet high, to get across. When the tide was out, then you could cross more easily: the ground, though muddy, became quite firm. All around the bunker there was a trench, and the top of the bunker was about eight feet from the ground, so it wasn’t easy to get out of the trench onto the bunker, especially with all that fire coming at you. There were a few places where you could get a footing and heave yourself up. From inside the bunker the Japanese used periscopes to see what was going on. I shot at a few! They also hid behind shovels they had used to build the bunker. These had small holes in the metal and were covered in mud for camouflaging, and the Japanese hid their faces behind them. All in all, it was impossible to get at them, and the attack should never have been ordered.

    When the whistle blew for the attack to take place, there were three regiments there, so about three hundred men went in the first time. The tallest men, with the longest legs, were chosen for the first attack – in the Welsh regiments there were a lot of shorter men, who were kept back for the second attack, myself included. David was tall so he went with the first attack. Of course, there never was a second attack, it was cancelled because it became obvious that we wouldn’t achieve anything and just lose men unnecessarily.

    L.G.: You say that you saw David fall into the trench and then get out of it –

    J.B.: I saw him get out of the trench and then he went up the side of the bunker and then – disappeared from there. He was one of the first to get there. And it was not only he; there must have been about fifty people who did exactly the same. When the attack went in, it went in as an ordinary attack with bayonets fixed and within four minutes there was mayhem; people bewildered, shot, wounded, disorientated, and disillusioned. And as I’ve written, my feelings are – and a lot of other people’s as well – that the attack should never have been done, or should never have been ordered to be taken by the bayonet.

    I’m pretty sure David must have died within the first few minutes because he was strong and full of beans and would have got away if he’d been able to. It was tragic, so many died. It still keeps me awake at night to remember it.

    After the attack, when the second one was cancelled, we were told there was nothing we could do until the morning. But I was ordered to send off flares with parachutes over the bunker, at irregular times, so the Japs wouldn’t be able to work out when the next one would come. There were some rocks on the left hand side, about 150 yards from where the bunker was. I had to cross the little river first, on some planks, then I stood on a rocky ledge and fired the flares from there. I had to keep watching which way the wind was blowing, to make sure it lit up over the bunker. All night these flares flew high above bunker – it looked as lit up as a street in London. I could see the bunker, and the men, dead or wounded, lying there. Some were moving – well, writhing mostly, but you couldn’t make them out individually, it was too far away.

    During the next few days I tried to build a tunnel from the river bed to the bunker. I thought if I could get far in enough we could blow the bunker up. But I couldn’t make it long enough.

    From then onwards we watched the bodies blow up in the heat of the sun – flies, which were a pest, the inability to eat anything: we’d open a tin of bully beef and there were flies on it and you knew where the flies came from . . .

    L.G.: And of course you couldn’t go and collect the bodies?

    J.B.: No, the bodies were out in front of us, about thirty yards away and the Japanese were still in their bunkers. We stayed there – I stayed there with my men for at least ten days, within grenade distance of the Japanese positions. We did patrols; we did patrols along paths where the telephone wires were, so that we knew they weren’t being cut during the night. They were very, very tired men who did patrols every two or three hours, and we got to the stage where, as the moon moved around in the sky and it was dark in the undergrowth and among the trees, you could swear that the trees were on the move or there were bodies that were moving around there. As the moon was moving, with the clouds and the rest . . .
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
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  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

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  6. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Having first read Goodbye To All That as a schoolboy and having reread it several times since, and therefore having some understanding of the effect that his Great War experiences had on Robert Graves; the death of his son in the second Great War must have been especially hard to bear. I wasn't aware of it until you posted this thread. Thank you for posting.
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