Suicide during the Second World War

Discussion in 'General' started by von Poop, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora


    Don't leave out Herr Globocnik (courtesy of Wikipedia)

    According to some accounts, Globocnik was tracked down and captured by British troops at the Möslacher Alm, overlooking the Weissensee Lake on May 31 1945, and may have committed suicide the same day in Paternion by biting on his capsule of cyanide. To corroborate this, there are at least two contemporary photographs showing Globocnik's body shortly after his death. Furthermore, there are several reliable reports, including the Regimental Diary and Field Reports of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, detailing the circumstances of his capture and suicide.

    Well added Ron! Wasnt sure if he faced Justice or escaped it.
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Actually he was a bit of a nasty/mystery character all round and there are even different versions of his suicide around (see Wikipedia) but I'm pleased to report that my regiment gets a mention in both :)

    Dead he is, that's for sure :) :) :)

  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I can provide two instances told to me by two seperate members of the Legion.

    Sydney, my RN veteran friend told me of the sinking of HMS Eagle.
    He was below when the 3rd Torpedo struck and he received injuries but managed to get up to the deck before she sank.

    Although injured himself he helped other injured on to the deck. One of the severely wounded was a young sailor of about 18/19 years of age who was missing an arm and had other serious wounds.
    The young sailor said that he could not live looking like he did.
    His rescuers told him not to think that way and placed him safely near a station and proceeded to help other injured sailors.
    A couple of minutes later the sailor was not there. He had apparently thrown himself overboard.
    Sydney was really upset by this episode and he still remembers it vividly to this day.

    Another friends father was a Leading seaman on HMS Warspite and and he had a 19 year old cousin serving on board.
    The ship was badly damaged by bombers off Crete and the young cousin was trapped aft below decks for 24 hours with water very high in the compartment.
    My Friends father was speaking to the trapped men to keep their spirits up knowing full well that if there was any more damage taken the men would not stand a chance.

    The men were rescued after 24 hours and this incident must have really badly effected the young sailor as at the end of the war he visited family friends in Glasgow and committed suicide using the gas oven in the house.

    Now it would be classed as Post traumatic stress I believe.

    I think Suicide was more widespread than reported.

  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Good stuff chaps.
    Nice to see this grim little thread 'resurrected' after all that time. For some reason the subject's always fascinated me.

    I'd quite like to know more about Felix Powell's death - from writing 'Pack up your troubles' to "Suicide in the uniform of the Peacehaven Home Guard" seems quite a journey.
    This article briefly cites that WW2 somehow "destroyed his illusions":
    The Rotarian - Google Books


    Seems that April and May 1945 were not good months if you happened to have served as a Gauleiter in the Third Reich. Suicided appears to have been quite the fashion at the time
    Surprise surprise...
    Shame a few more of them didn't consider it sometime in the 30's. :mellow:

  5. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    I wonder what official attitudes to suicide were? Obviously it would be something that they would want to censor, news of suicides would not have made positive reading in wartime. There must be some references in official documents, probably at Kew - morale was something that the authorities discussed a lot during the war. Their might also be something in the Mass Observation Archives.
  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From The Times, Saturday, December 2, 1939:


    A verdict that he committed suicide by shooting himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed was recorded at the inquest at Aldershot yesterday on the body of Second Lieutenant Charles Fairfax Coryndon Luxmoore, aged 31. He was found shot in his room at the staff college, Minley, near Aldershot, on Thursday. A fellow officer said that early on Thursday Luxmoore said that he had slept badly, but he seemed cheerful and perfectly normal. Lieutenant-Colonel E.J. Luxmoore (retired), an uncle, said that Lieutenant Luxmoore had no worries and was happy about joining the Army.

    From The Times, September 18, 1939:


    A verdict of suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed was returned at the inquest at Birmingham on Saturday on the body of James Leonard Stott, aged 17, of Birmingham, a laboratory assistant at the Birmingham General Hospital. He was found poisoned with postassium cyanide near his home on Thursday.

    The father, Mr. A.L. Stott, said that last Whitsuntide there was an explosion in the boy's garden shed laboratory, as the result of which he appeared in court and was bound over. He had also been fined for having a revolver which he had brought back from Germany. He had twice visited Germany and was in correspondence with a girl there. He did not get Nazi tendencies, but his nerves were bad. The witness put it down to the girl, and said that his son lost control of himself. The boy thought Hitler a great man who had done well for his country.

    It was stated that a swastika armlet and a copy of "Mein Kampf" were found near the body.

    The Times, March 10, 1942:


    A verdict of "Suicide while the balance of the mind was disturbed" was returned at an inquest at Woking yesterday on the body of Major-General Sir Alan John Hunter, who was found shot in the office of the National Rifle Association at Bisley Camp on Thursday. He was secretary of the association and was aged 60.

    Lady Hunter said here husband had been to see a doctor on March 2, having had bronchitis. She described how he returned home about 2 p.m. looking rather disturbed and strange, and went out again without taking his lunch. She went to his office and found him crouched on the floor with a wound in his head. On his table she found a letter in his writing addressed to her.

    He was in the last war for 4 1/2 years, she said, fighting all the time without a break except for six months. He went straight on to a job in the War Office and had had big appointments ever since and never gave in. He worked at high pressure and along with that had the worry of his sons, who were fighting. One was in Libya and one in Burma.

    The Coroner. - This seems to indicate more or less a nervous breakdown? - Yes.

    From The Times, September 1, 1942:
    At an inquest at Westminster on Saturday on Ronuld Seweryn Kurasz, a second lieutenant in the Polish Army, and Mrs. Gladys Maud Wilson, of Margravine Gardens, Barons Court, W., who were found shot in Hyde Park on August 26, the jury returned a verdict that the woman was murdered by the officer and that he committed suicide while of unsound mind.

    From The Times, Jun 9, 1943:
    A verdict of suicide while the balance of the mind was disturbed was recorded at an inquest at Hammersmith yesterday on the body of Dr. Szmul Zygielbojm, 48, a member of the Polish National Council, who died in St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, shortly after being found unconscious at his flat in Porchester Square, Bayswater. Leon Oler, a lance-corporal of the Polish Army said the doctor was worried about the treatment of Polish Jews by the Germans and about his wife and two children in Poland.

    From The Times, September 10, 1945:

    The story of a German parachute spy, who was found shot in a Cambridge air raid shelter in April, 1941, is now disclosed. The man, Jan Willen Ter Braak, had a pistol by his side and a bullet wound in the head. Later, police found that he had a complete portable radio transmitter fitted into a suitcase. An inquest was held in camera and the verdict was one of suicide.
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Wasn't suicide illegal in the UK until 1961 ?
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    If memory serves me well it isn't illegal to attempt it but it is illegal to succeed :lol:

    I'm probably wrong but we used to joke about that particular piece of legislation....Normally when someone was on the highest bridge over the M1 waiting for a lorry to come along.
  9. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    I remember reading in Middlebrook's Arnhem book that an officer on the second lift suffered horrific burns on the drop zone, and begged his troops to shoot him. Apparently someone cocked his pistol and put it in his hand before they left him. He was later found with a gsw to the head, but no-one could confirm exactly how he died for sure. I think Middlebrook witheld the guy's name.
  10. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Read about quite a few cases of attempted suicides being charged, while looking at Times archives. Don't know about dates in change of legislation, but Owen seems to be right about it being a crime ...
  11. Steve G

    Steve G Senior Member

    Owen; More than just illegal ~ as it that would trouble someone about to eat cyanide ~ the law stated that all ones estate, upon suicide, be snaffled up by the government.

    This is why the Coroner was so often careful to add the " While the balance of their mind was disturbed " bit. Made it other than premeditated a deliberate act of which they were aware of the fullest consequences. Saved the family having the Bailiff's round next.
  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Wasn't suicide illegal in the UK until 1961 ?

    Don't know whether attempted suicide was or was not illegal but what I do know is the reason that coroners were loth to come to the official conclusion that a person took his or her own life.

    This was originally because various religious faiths would not allow someone who had taken their own life to be buried in what were described as "consecrated grounds".

    In some case cemeteries had ground set aside outside the consecrated area specifically for such cases.
  13. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora


    Don't know whether attempted suicide was or was not illegal but what I do know is the reason that coroners were loth to come to the official conclusion that a person took his or her own life.

    This was originally because various religious faiths would not allow someone who had taken their own life to be buried in what were described as "consecrated grounds".

    In some case cemeteries had ground set aside outside the consecrated area specifically for such cases.
    This was certainly true of Catholicism in Ireland. This was also the place where babies who died before being baptised were buried.
  14. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    I hadn't thought of the unconsecrated ground issue. I've come across one of two WW2 servicemen from Portsmouth who were buried in unconsecrated ground, it shows on the CWGC register where it has what section of the cemetery the grave is. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean that they committed suicide.
  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Just read this.
    About a post-war suicide which must have been influenced by his time in the war as a PoW

    hello ...
    ....also his brother willaim joseph elliott was in the royal berks we dont know too much about him except he was captured by the germans and made to work in a concrete plant this affected him badly and in 1962 he took his own life age 39.
  16. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Didn't know this:

    From the always interesting Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov Blog/Tumblr
  17. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  18. Hesmond

    Hesmond Well-Known Member

    I have in my collection a medal pair with casualty slip to a Pilot Officer , includes 1939 1945 Star and War Medal , in box , on further research the lad in question only 21 had taken his own life on VE Day 1945 ,this he did by laying in the bath room and turning on the gas .
    Early in the war he had served in the merchant navy and been torpedoed , incidentally by the same U Boat that sunk the ship his father had been on and had been killed , the young lad joined the RAF and on his 1st mission as a co pilot had been shot down over Belgium and smuggled to Spain then back to UK .
    Then he was moved to flying Mitchell's ,on a flight his plane hit a tree and he suffered serious head injury which curtailed his flying .
    Sadly on VE Day 1945 whilst still serving and at home he took his own life .
    His medals have been issued with a casualty slip ,incidentally he is mentioned in a couple of the evaders books .
    I found his medals at a antiques fair back in 1996 in his home town of Bristol .
    dbf likes this.
  19. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  20. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I have a set of WW2 medals to a Burma veteran who survived the campaign as a POW. Sadly, after his return home he could not settle back into civilian life and took his own life at the age of just 28.

    Another aspect of this question, which is sometimes overlooked, was the amount of 'accidental' deaths of service personnel, who had recently received the ubiquitous 'Dear John' letter from their girlfriend, fiancé or even wife. I am aware of at least two such incidents in the circles of Chindit 1.

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