Burying the dead

Discussion in 'General' started by RosyRedd, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Jules

    Many thanks for a most informative posting.

    Ron
     
  2. CL1

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

    Jules
    thank you for posting
     
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I'm very pleased it has been of interest.


    Many thanks indeed. CWGC have a book about cemeteries that I have seen in the Kew bookshop. I've only flicked through it and it seems to be on the same lines as the docs you posted. I think the main piece is on the Bayeaux Cemetery.
     
  4. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    In August 1945 the family received a letter which informed them that he was to be moved from an isolated grave to Cassino Military Cemetery. The second photo is, I think, the type of wooden cross described in the above leaflet.



    Interesting stuff as always, Rosy - does this mean that all headstones were photographed? makes you wonder where the negatives are?
     
  5. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Excellent post Rosy and thank you very much - it's rare to see those type of CWGC documents outside their own archive, which is inaccessible at the moment and often doesn't contain any more than you find on the online register.

    I looked up the UK Veterans website:

    Remembrance - Repatriation / Funerals

    "Until the late 1960’s, when repatriation of bodies to allow a privately funded funeral in the UK was introduced, the policy of Her Majesty's Government was that Service personnel who died overseas should be buried close to where they fell. Up to that date, funeral arrangements for a deceased Serviceman overseas would have been a matter for the formation concerned and burial would have taken place locally with no relatives present. Now, if a Serviceman or Servicewoman dies overseas, the remains may be repatriated and buried in a cemetery chosen by the family at military expense. However, the next of kin are still (in non operational theatres) given the choice of local burial or repatriation, and if they choose local burial, they may be transported to attend the funeral at public expense.

    Repatriation of the remains of British service personnel is carried out from many countries, not just operational theatres, by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC). If the serviceman or woman is of non UK origin, the body will, at the family’s request, be transported to the country of birth. Most repatriations are carried out in a dignified manner at civil or military airfields with no ceremony, but the repatriation of those who die on operations does now usually involve a ceremony. It is an integral component of the ethos of the British Armed Forces, that the relevant arm of Service, regiment, or corps has the opportunity to honour a fallen member of its own 'family'. The provision of bearers from the appropriate Service to remove the coffin from the aircraft with ceremony and place it in the hearse fulfils this requirement. Whilst the repatriation is a military event, relatives of the deceased are invited to witness the ceremony ."

    I recently went to France to find out what had happened to the bodies of the men from 10th Hussars who died in St.Pierre du Vauvray in June 1940. To cut a long story short, they were buried 'en place' - where they lay, by local villagers, in direct contravention of German orders, who were more concerned with the fighting but who, nevertheless demanded that German dead be buried first, in the village cemetery. The German dead were repatriated to a concentration cemetery after the war. The British and French civilian dead were re-interred in the village cemetery by the local people after they had returned in August. In the case of the men I have been researching, their families didn't know definitely that they were dead or where they were buried until about a year later. I think this was a reasonably typical course of events unless their unit or comrades were able to contact the families concerned.

    The occupying German army in France were generally observant of the Geneva Convention and allowed the local population to bury and mark the graves of British soldiers. They did not accord this privilege to the black French soldiers they killed in the campaign of May-June 1940, many of them out of hand and in cold blood.

    Article 17 of the First Geneva Convention is concerned specifically with the burial of the battlefield dead. “The bodies are to be examined, preferably by a person with medical skills, so as to confirm death. Burial is to be, where possible, in individual graves.”

    In Airaines, on the Somme, the local townspeople had to beg the Germans to let them bury the dead Tirailleurs of the 53rd RICMS.[1] They did so in a hurry and collected the decomposing bodies from various places, including 104 bodies in and around the town, 21 bodies from the gardens of a castle and 83 other bodies which had been thrown in a natural ditch known as the ‘Saut du Loup’.[2] These and other bodies have been concentrated in the cemetery at Condé Folie - there are 3,279 burials, but nearly a third of those are in a communal ossuary and un-named.

    [1] Regiment d’Infanterie Colonial Mixte Senegalais

    [2] Association des Anciens du 53e RICMS - Bulletin de Liaison n°36 of 1954
     
  6. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    does this mean that all headstones were photographed? makes you wonder where the negatives are?

    From the information received, it gives the impression that all the headstones were photographed doesn't it? The photo of the cross has this stamp on the back.

    [​IMG]

    A later photograph of the CWGC headstone has an Italian photographer's name and address on the back - presumably they kept those negatives.

    I wasn't going to post these following pages from the "British Legion, Overseas Wreath Laying and Photographic Service" leaflet as it was sent in 1956 and is more to do with remembrance. However, it seems to be the final documentation they received regarding the grave.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    "Owing to the quantities involved, however, there may be some delay before this can be done."
    Grim stuff.

    Cheers for sharing this stuff, RR. Very interesting.
     
  8. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    I spent the day yesterday looking through files and War Diaries of the Graves Registration and Enquiries Directorate to attempt to find information about Antony Coulthard. Nothing there but I found the files a fascinating read about the hard job that organisation had in 45 and 46.

    In the field were two separate units, the Graves Registration Units and the Graves Concentration Units. The former were meant to find and register the missing graves of the fallen and the latter, to exhume and move (concentration) to dedicated GWGC cemeterys.

    I think they generally got a bad press, but I didn't realise that officers and soldiers were drafted in after they had, in some cases, fought right through the war. The boss, Lt Col Stott, seemed to work tirelessly to do the job right and spent most of his time fending off politicians and Senior Officers; also to get recognition for his men who on the whole, just wanted to be demobbed. As well as being good at staff work, he had clearly been a fighting soldier who was awarded an MC. He was promoted to full Colonel and awarded an OBE in the job. They commenced their work on D Day plus 1 and not only sought graves of the fallen from the ongoing fighting, tried to do the same for the BEF as the front line moved East. They had about 20 of each type of Unit in the field at the height of the work and were deployed in France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy and North Africa. Of interest, the Russians were very difficult about letting the Units enter their Zone to find casualties from the Long March and POW camps.

    Below are some sample letters which highlight the enormity of the task and the dreadful conditions the men, especially the Concentration Units had to work under.

    I think the document written in June 46, over a year after cessation of hostilities, sums it all up:

    Numbers to be located: 154000
    Numbers to be concentrated: 88000 (exhumed and reburied)
    Numbers of Unknowns to be exhumed and ID attempted: 34000
    Enquiries: 300 per day
    Every grave to be photographed

    1409069WO_171_3926_IMG_0003.jpg

    2506538WO_171_3926_IMG_0001.jpg

    3336759WO_171_3926_IMG_0004.jpg

    View attachment 79407

    6087291WO_171_3926_IMG_0007.jpg

    GravesCocnDiary2.jpg

    GravesConcDiary3.jpg

    GravesRegDiary1.jpg

    GravesRegDiary2.jpg

    Steve
     
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  9. Rosey

    Rosey Member

    Thanks Steve for publishing those reports.
    As my husband's father has no known grave, that explains what might have happened. Answers to questions I have never liked to ask. Very informative and helpful and I would imagine interesting to all relatives of soldiers with unmarked graves.
    Cheers
    Rosey
     
  10. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    All the POWs who died in captivity on Formosa, were lifted after the war and now rest in the Sai Wan Cemetery on Hong Kong. My relative was on Formosa.

    However, those who died in camps in Japan, are still there at the Yokohama Cemetery.
    This has always appeared to be a strange decision to me. I cant imagine what the relatives of those in Japan must have felt, to know their loved ones forever remain in the land where they died from starvation and brutality.
    To die in battle and to be buried in a foreign field is different to die in captivity and be buried where you were murdered.
     
  11. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Steve, fascinating insight into a gruesome but necessary duty. Thanks for posting that, it answers many questions.
     
  12. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Steve, fascinating insight into a gruesome but necessary duty...it answers many questions.

    Yes it does answer questions that I also had - particularly the process of identification. Thanks very much.
     
  13. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    I recently looked at the war diary of 39 Graves Concentration Unit. They were based at Bayeux in December 1944. During the month they buried nearly 693 men after carrying out war office enquiries. This was held up by flooding early in the month.

    Considering this was a number of months after the fighting had stopped in the area, I can't even imagine (or would even want to) how gruesome this important task must have been like.
     
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  14. Rotherfield

    Rotherfield Senior Member

    Hi
    Re Burials of those K.I.A. I am at the moment trying to find the skeleton of a british soldier which was found complete with rifle buried on the outskirts of San Clemente Italy, unfortunately the construction company that found him covered him over and carried on building the info only came about and relayed to me because some of the construction gang spoke to people living in San Clemente who contacted me.
    On another note, while I was erving in the Army we took part in a major NATO exercise in Libya we were stationed at Tarhouna and whle on an exeercise somewhere outside Tarhouna we came across 2 wooden crosses with the New Zealand crest on them and the names of those unfortunates who were buried there, this was in 1959 and I still wonder if those 2 men are still there or were they moved to the CWWG at Sfax?
    rotherfield
     
  15. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    For those interested in reading about the GRE Directorate, the files at the NA are: WO 171/3926 and WO 171/8653. They are for 1945 and 1946 and one follows the other.

    There are many War Diary files for the individual Graves Registration and Graves Concentration units, too numerous to write here. They all seemed to have one thing in common, the content covered the admin and manning level returns of the various units; none had any details of the individuals they registered or re-buried.

    Presumably the Units must have had to render returns to their HQ regarding the identification of those they recovered, does anyone know where those return files may be held please?

    BarbaraWT and I are very close to finding where her Uncle, L/Cpl J A R Coulthard was/is buried, but the detail from the Concentration Unit that moved him to a CWGC cemetery would probably crack the case.

    Steve
     
  16. 379/101 HAA

    379/101 HAA Ubique

    For those interested in reading about the GRE Directorate, the files at the NA are: WO 171/3926 and WO 171/8653. They are for 1945 and 1946 and one follows the other.

    There are many War Diary files for the individual Graves Registration and Graves Concentration units, too numerous to write here. They all seemed to have one thing in common, the content covered the admin and manning level returns of the various units; none had any details of the individuals they registered or re-buried.

    Presumably the Units must have had to render returns to their HQ regarding the identification of those they recovered, does anyone know where those return files may be held please?

    BarbaraWT and I are very close to finding where her Uncle, L/Cpl J A R Coulthard was/is buried, but the detail from the Concentration Unit that moved him to a CWGC cemetery would probably crack the case.

    Steve

    Well Steve, when I wrote to the CWGC they way it was explained to me was that when they took over the job of registering the dead and their graves that all the details were provided by the Imperial War Graves Commission and the Army and therefore you would assume that many of these were details were derived from information provided by the Grave Concentration units.

    They told me something about my Grandfather which totally suprised me insofar as, the first location that he was buried was previously unknown to the family. I asked them if they would send me a copy of this information, but they wouldn`t. They made various excuses and I couldn`t even get them to scan the section of the record showing his details.

    Aslo, what happened to all the W.3114 forms? It seems from this link that a process of destruction took place, but does anyone know if any still survive. Certainly a lot were given to Germany according to the link. (Scroll to item 7).

    Prisoners of war in British hands: further research | The National Archives
    Regards,

    John
     
  17. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Thanks John,

    The person Barbara and I are dealing with at the CWGC is very polite but seems to be following groundrules that we are not allowed to see what documentation they have. We have been drip fed various pieces of information as we pester them by phone and letter. I am sure they must have inherited the W3114 forms on the individuals, but our contact pointed out at length that they did not have a full picture when they took the batton from the DGRE and their predecessor organisation the IWGC.

    I have submitted a full dossier including records from Antony's colleagues on the Long March which indicate which village cemetery he was buried in. The CWGC have records that two unidentified British soldiers were exhumed from that cemetery but they have now placed the burden of proof on us to prove that one was Antony. They have stated that exhumation is out of the question. Inspection of local church/Burgermeister records seems to be the only way forward.

    We depart for Germany in a couple of weeks.
     
  18. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    The person Barbara and I are dealing with at the CWGC is very polite but seems to be following groundrules that we are not allowed to see what documentation they have. We have been drip fed various pieces of information as we pester them by phone and letter. I am sure they must have inherited the W3114 forms on the individuals, but our contact pointed out at length that they did not have a full picture when they took the batton from the DGRE and their predecessor organisation the IWGC.


    This is exactly what I have been finding with the CWGC - my mother in law is the oldest surviving relative of Trooper Small and yet we cannot obtain any more information other than what is held on the digital register. I have been to the place where he was killed and read the ledger which describes his burial and reburial - all I wanted to know was what communication they had with his mother. I get, 'we have no further information available' but my first enquiry told me they had further information. I am indebted to Rosy for giving me a good idea of the kinds of communication that might have taken place. I don't know why the CWGC adopt this position?
     
  19. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi John and Steve,
    I guess when the years pass, eventually the secrecy will be reduced and any interested family members might be able to unlock any final riddles. I am not too fussed with their behavior. I think they are really saying he is almost certainly in Becklingen, they just can't/won't write it on the Gravestone due to "Policy/red tape/ fear" or whatever.
    B
     
  20. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Hi John and Steve,
    I guess when the years pass, eventually the secrecy will be reduced and any interested family members might be able to unlock any final riddles. I am not too fussed with their behavior. I think they are really saying he is almost certainly in Becklingen, they just can't/won't write it on the Gravestone due to "Policy/red tape/ fear" or whatever.
    B

    Barbara, I don't know the details of your investigations, but I wonder why 'secrecy' might be the reason? It's your family after all. Is it not just that the CWGC don't want to/aren't equipped to open the floodgates? They always were very selective about who they let in to their archives, but then again, so may archives seem to resent the intrusion and others are fantastically helpful.
     

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