Unknown Soldier - help in identification

Discussion in '1940' started by skimmod, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    Morning all,
    I have a bit of a delicate request for help.

    Below is the description taken during a temporary burial exhumation (by the locals) from Hill 60 in March 1941.
    This is where A coy - the Royal Scots Fusiliers were thoroughly pounded by artillery before trying to retreat at 13:30 on the 27th May 1940.

    The casualties were all buried in the slit trenches they dug on the 26th and later moved to the CWGC at Bedford House.

    However the man below was never identified. The red numbers 546 is of note, but none of the missing or killed Fusiliers have this as their last 3.

    Any thoughts as to what this number might be?

    Thank you

    Unknown English soldier
    Died: May 1940
    Buried: Bedford House, grave 55E
    1,61 cm high, hair blond
    Mouth upperside: left middle molar and 2 middle front teeth missing – right 1st jawtooth missing – in front – very irregular state of heavy/strong teeth. Incisor left and 1st of the 4 front teeth left grown in a shape of a ´V´ (see card for drawing – M), corners sticking forward of the front tooth and the last molar – right 2 first jawteeth and the last molar missing – Everywhere space between the teeth in the upper jaw – irregular teeth.
    Heavily built man – khaki shirt with two pockets in front and epaulettes marked with small red numerals: n: 546
    Heavy/warm underwear – long heavy/warm greyish sportsocks.
    Buried on the ground of Joseph Seynaeve – had 32 (Belgian) francs on him
    It seems there were papers found on his body at the first burial, which were passed on to the community doctor/physician, representative of the Red Cross – they also say that this soldier wore a golden ring, but this one could no longer be found, even though we had checked the fingers thoroughly before we lifted the body up – even though everyone in the neighbourhood knew of this possession, it has disappeared.
    21st March 1941
  2. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Well, I'm not familiar with men having their Service Number on their epaulettes, especially in red, but that's what the report states and with very little else to go on, these 3 men have "xxx546" endings to their Service Number, and were killed about that time.
    The first seems old enough to have the dental issues noted, but has a known grave, as does the second man, who seems too young to have had the amount of dental damage unless caused by mortal wounds/burial/exhumation

    GILL, FREDERICK. Rank: Private. Service No: 4344546. Date of Death: 27/05/1940. Age: 33.
    Regiment/Service: East Yorkshire Regiment. 4th Bn.
    Grave Reference: 4. A. 28. Cemetery: YPRES TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
    Additional Information: Son of William Burton Gill and Florence Gill, of Hull; husband of Rose Gill, of Hull.

    NEALE, JOHN ARTHUR (JACK). Rank: Sapper. Service No: 2181546. Date of Death: 27/05/1940. Age: 19.
    Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers. 1 Boring Sec.
    Grave Reference: Row B. Grave 48. Cemetery: LES MOERES COMMUNAL CEMETERY
    Additional Information: Son of John and Grace Neale, of Windsor.

    WITHNELL, WILLIAM THOMAS. Rank: Private. Service No: 3055546. Date of Death: 21/05/1940. Age: 27.
    Regiment/Service: King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster). 6th Bn.
    Panel Reference: Column 39. Memorial: DUNKIRK MEMORIAL
    Additional Information: Son of Alexander and Eliza Withnell; husband of Mary Ann Withnell. of Bathgate, West Lothian.

    SLATER, ANTHONY. Rank: Private. Service No: 4455546. Date of Death: 20/05/1940. Age: 23.
    Regiment/Service: Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). 1st Bn. The Tyneside Scottish
    Panel Reference: Column 91. Memorial: DUNKIRK MEMORIAL
    (this chap has an earlier date of death)

    So none totally satisfactory, based solely on using a supposed Service Number.
    I have no idea what else it could be though, a unit designation?

    Does anyone recognised Bedford House Row 55E as an Unknown now?
    It seems to have Plot 6 V A to C and no "E"...

    It might need a question to CWGC as to any subsequent exhumation from 55E in Bedford House.
    Alternatively, can any be ruled OUT as physically not being anywhere near the area, such as Gill in Ypres.....?

    Sorry, can't say it's much help!
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Is it at all possible that the body was identified subsequent to this report ?

    CWGC specify 3 Unknowns at Bedford House. it might be worthwhile finding out if there is any additional information on headstones, unit/date/rank, which may offer further clues.

    Some time ago forum member Verrieres/Jim contacted CWGC on foot of similar information found in a Graves Unit file in public domain. He did not get a very helpful response, to say the least; it was mostly 'expressing concern' that such info was available in the first place. (I can't find the thread, but maybe someone will remember that one.)

    Good luck.
  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    As far as I'm aware, British collarless flannel shirts had neither epaulettes nor pockets. Would they have called a battledress blouse a shirt ? The presence of numbers there is also most odd - certainly not a laundry mark. I can't think of any purely numeric British insignia. Could he have been French ? (I assume that the locals would have recognised Belgian equipment).

    Was the original report compiled in Flemish or French ? It would be interesting to know the exact word used.

    I'm not aware either that the British were issued with Belgian francs prior to moving up into Belgium (which doesn't mean that he couldn't have got hold of any, of course).

    The dental health of British troops has often been commented on but I don't suppose that any other nationality was much better. It was certainly normal to have evidence of extractions. When my Dad joined up, the army dentist removed a number of teeth chipped in a childhood incident with a stone, to avoid the risk of problems in service. Army dentists were all officers so a 'suggestion' was an order. He's still a little bitter about it...
  5. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    thanks for the replies all....
    here is the original grave card, perhaps your translation skills might be better than mine :)


    sorry for the delayed response. It's campaigning season!

    I have discovered that there were two French Soliders killed in the area, I'm wondering if they were attached to the RSF and this was one of their casualties?
  6. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    It's quite a struggle for me to read the handwriting and I'm also not familiar with early 20th Century Flemish but it looks to me to say "Kakihemd met 2 lussen" which I'd translate as "Khaki Shirt with 2 loops" I can't picture any British equipment matching this description, nor can I tie in epaulettes with red numbers.
  7. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    neither can I Rich!
    My translation from the locals reading Heavily built man – khaki shirt with two pockets in front and epaulettes marked with small red numerals: n: 546
    Can anyone perhaps match this to French uniforms?

    the two French killed in the same area were:

    Private Alfred Bocquillon and Lt. Louis Geiger
  8. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Is it Flemish? I thought it was Dutch??

  9. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    Dutch Flemish rather than French Flemish spoken by the posh people in the area! (In 1940!)
  10. jonheyworth

    jonheyworth Senior Member

    I visited Bedford House last Thursday, there are 3 unknown 1940 graves, all merely bear the designation " A soldier of the 1939-1945 war MAY 1940 ". There are no other details on the headstones.

    one is buried between BEATON and DAVIDSON of the Seaforth Highlanders

    one is buried between BOYD and BARNES of the Royal Scots Fusiliers

    one is buried between COWAN of the RSF and MORRISON of the Seaforth Highlanders

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