Discussion in 'REME/RAOC' started by Hubbar49, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. Hubbar49

    Hubbar49 Member


    I am calling from Belgium.
    In our genealogy group, a friend came with the picture of James Finnigan (?).
    He would like to know which position this british soldier (Private) was.
    He married my friend's aunt in Antwerp, but died some monthes later when in Germany

    I think myself he was a REME engineer, but the "Division Bagde" looks like he was with the British HQ?
    Anybody could give a guess?

    Hubert Barnich Finnigan James.jpg
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Definitely REME. Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

  4. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    A Private although in the REME they are called Craftsman.

  5. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    In trying to date the photo, Antwerp was liberated on 4th Sept 1944, but the photo is later than that as Craftsmen ranks in the REME did not wear ties until 1945 or later.
  6. Hubbar49

    Hubbar49 Member

    Thanks a lot to all of you!
    I asked my friend to try to know what that fellow was doeing in Antwerp;
    which Unit he can have been a member..
  7. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    The British 2nd Army were the army that captured Antwerp, and for the remainder of the war continued fighting in Belguim, the Netherlands & advancing into Germany. On 2nd May 1945 they were at Lubeck on the Baltic Sea. REME units would have served attached throughout 2nd Army.
    Second Army (United Kingdom) - Wikipedia

    Antwerp was a major base for the allies due to its port facilites in their advance into Germany, and may also have had repair & maintainence facilities & workshops for vehicles & tanks etc, where a REME soldier could have served.
  8. Hubbar49

    Hubbar49 Member

    Thanks a lot!
    Could you believe that the person who asked that question thougth at first that the soldier was a belgian who had joined the New belgian Army (formed at the Liberation with members of the Resistance. As they were sent to Northern Ireland for training -hence, their name in the Belgian Army -Les Brigades d'Irlande"- that is maybe why the Irish thing was invoked?. )

    And in Belgium, now, it's illegal to search for mariages after .... 1945! (Births=1920, Deaths=1970), she must wait at least another 2 years!

    On the other hand, is it possible to find in the British archives the whereabout of this James Finnigan? (here, a belgian serviceman had -and still has!- to ask permission to his Regiment CO to marry someone... SO, maybe his service record has a mention of this marriage?)
  9. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Sorry you can't search Belgian marriage records for 1945 onwards, is this just online, or can you manualy search at the relevant registry office/town hall ?

    An index to overseas marriages of British subjects that were advised to the British consulate is on ancestry and I could not locate it there.

    Its probable his service record will mention the marriage, but for for post 1920 they are not online anywhere & are held by the UK Ministry of Defence. To obtain the record follow the advice in this link:
    Request records of deceased service personnel
    The minimum that is needed is the soldiers name, date of birth, and either death certificate or his entry at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Payment of £ 30 is the old fashioned way by cheque, money order or bankers draft payable in the UK, which I know can cause issues when applying from Europe. Before the covid crisis applications were taking 3-6 months.

    The CWGC should record deaths of serving soldiers who died in Germany up to 31st December 1947, but I could not see his name on their website under the spelling you give, or a similar name under REME soldiers comemerated in Germany. I am aware that there could be many variations of the surname such as Finegan Finigan etc, and also the forename could be Jim, Jimmy, Jamie etc. or be just one of his forenames.
    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission | CWGC

    Your friend advises James Finnigan died in Germany some months after the marriage, which from his uniform would seem to date the death to late 1945/1946/47/48 and him serving the army of occupation. As the British army continued in Germany after that time & only closed their last base there in Feb 2020 this does not exclude a later death. He could also have transfered to a different Corps/Regiment before his death.

    Do they know wether his wife was with him at the time or was she still in Belguim ?

    Re asking your Commanding Officer's permission to marry it would have been the same for the British army in Europe post war.

    Although this may not apply in the case of a Belgian bride, if the bride was from Germany/Austria there would also have been extra permissions required from the Allied Occupation authorities in those countries to bring the bride back to the UK, & maybe for the marriage its self. I am not sure if extra permissions were needed for Belgian brides, or to take a Belgian bride to live in married quarters in Germany, I hope not as they were our allies.

    As the query comes from a genealogy group I assume you have checked the online trees on sites such as ancestry. There does not seem to be much on there from Belguim.

    You are right to think of an Irish link somewhere down the line, as Finnigan is Irish in origin, and gives the possibility that James was a Roman Catholic, less of a barrier to marriage in a Catholic country such as Belguim. If he wasn't from Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, then there were large Irish comunities all over the UK esp in places like Liverpool, Glasgow etc.

    I should add that REME was not formed until 1st October 1942, so James Finnigan's unit prior to this could have been one of the Corps whose technical units & tradesmen transfered from Royal Engineers, Royal Signals etc
    Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers - Wikipedia

    Last edited: Aug 13, 2020
  10. Hubbar49

    Hubbar49 Member


    Now, we know more the truth about James: He died in 1988 in Lier!
    "James Finnigan est né le 01/02/1910 à Buchlyvie (Ecosse) et dcd à Lier 27/11/1988."
    "James Finnigan was born February the 2d 1910 in Buchlyvie (Scotland) and died in Lier November the 27th 1988"

    Do you believe the Army archived a trace of their mariage in Belgium?

    Here is the picture of James (and his wife) ' tomb found in the Lier cemetary! (Lier is East of Antwerp)

    Attached Files:

  11. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    His full service record should contain some reference to his marriage if only a listing of his wife as next of kin. It may also contain the permission to marry or leave granted for that purpose. At the time he may have had to show a marriage cert for his wife to benefit if anything happened to him, å the date recorded, but the actual cert may not be in his file.

    I see that in Belguim when reporting a death you have to provide the persons marriage certificate, is there any benefit in checking the registration paperwork at Lier Town Hall for James or Magdalena as you known exactly when they died & don't have to search for dates.

    Can you guess which church they married in, maybe the parish still hold registers ?
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  12. Hubbar49

    Hubbar49 Member

    The problem in Belgium is our "Law to protect everyone's private life"!
    If you are not a direct descendant, you have no right to look for, or obtain, a mariage certificate of less than 75 years.
    And it's only 50 years for death certificate (100 for birth!)
    Sometimes, due to historic or patriotic reasons, the registrar does an exception
    Who knows? Maybe if that is asked from Britain, the clerck could do a look as they are both dead

    their email is: info@lier.be

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