Varsity - German civilians listing British casualties

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by alberk, Dec 5, 2020.

  1. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Yesterday I finally received a list I requested from the Hamminkeln Municipal Archives. This list was drawn up in 1945. In June of that year the British Military Government ordered the local civilian administration to establish which British war dead were buried in the area of „Amt Ringenberg“ (the local administrative council). This area is largely congruent with the area where British 6th AB Div landed and fought between March 24th and March 26th, 1945.

    Thus, after receiving their orders the Germans sent out elderly civilians, auxiliary policemen and schoolchildren to search the area for graves. Most were not difficult to find - for example the ones by Hamminkeln station or near to dressing stations. But there were also many isolated graves - and in this example I want to point you to a 6th Airborne casualty who today is listed as „unknown“.
    I am talking about the last man on this list.

    In 1945 a girl or woman named Maria Witting reported these four British isolated graves just north west of DZ A (3rd Para Bde). Our unknown casualty at grid point 172485 was listed by her as „Bamford“ - and so was the assumption by the GRU when they exhumed him to move his body to the Reichswald cemetery.
    Bildschirmfoto 2020-12-05 um 08.09.22.png

    Maria Witting's other reported casualties are largely correct: Waine, Burell (it should be Birell), Burford and Rharkins (which should be Harkins). She obviously knew no or only little English. Anyhow, she seemed to take it seriously and wrote it down in her best handwriting - I find that quite touching, suggests to me that she was perhaps still a teenager… She must have read "Bamford" somewhere, otherwise she would not have written it up. But there is no Bamford or Barnford according to the CWGC... so he ended up as "unknown".

    These are the positions of the graves:
    Graves marked.jpg

    There was a Captain Bamford in 2 F.O.U. RA - his unit landed with 3rd Bde on March 24th. But he survived the war and went to the Pacific after VE Day - at least according to the source:
    David King
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  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    For information - verification from other sources required

    Searching this database - UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945 for B**Ford - the only ones shown that sort of match for the 24th March 1945 are:

    Harold H Byford Private Essex 24 Mar 1945 Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45

    William W H Burford Private Bradford 24 Mar 1945 Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45

    Ernest E H Bradford Gunner Warwickshire 24 Mar 1945 Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45

    James J Beresford Corporal London N 24 Mar 1945 Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45

    The only one of those who is shown as Airborne is
    Name: William Burford
    Given Initials: W H
    Rank: Private
    Death Date: 24/03/1945 (24 Mar 1945)
    Number: 14834960
    Birth Place: Bradford
    Residence: Lincolnshire
    Branch at Enlistment: Army Air Corps
    Theatre of War: Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
    Regiment at Death: Parachute Regiment (not otherwise specified)
    Branch at Death: Army Air Corps

    Although the initials dont fit and I havent checked any further into where else he might be buried

    and the only RA man of those is
    Name: Ernest Bradford
    Given Initials: E H
    Rank: Gunner
    Death Date: 24/03/1945 (24 Mar 1945)
    Number: 1154845
    Birth Place: Warwickshire
    Residence: Birmingham
    Branch at Enlistment: Royal Artillery
    Theatre of War: Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
    Regiment at Death: Royal Artillery
    Branch at Death: Royal Artillery

    Need to go reset my eyeballs
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  3. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello TD,

    thanks for doing the research. Actually, Burford was buried not far from "Bamford"/Unknown. For some reason the GRU put the name Bamford on the cross and later corrected themselves at the reburial.

    One question to the forum: Is there a final list of "missing in action" that should contain the names of 6 AB Div members who are unaccounted for? These would then be among the "unknown" - surely every unit knew which men went into action on March 24th, 1945... the "no known grave" in the Pegasus Archive Roll of Honour is not exact - I found most of them to be buried in Venray or Groesbek when I checked with the CWGC database.
  4. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    These "Hamminkeln lists" are a bit chaotic. The German "researchers" back then apparently copied - with little or no knowledge of English - whatever information the GRU had attached the the crosses. I would like to take a closer look at an odd case: Pte A. Creswell - he was with 2 Ox & Bucks. On the 1945 German list he is second from the top.


    CWGC has him listed as KIA on 24 March 1945.
    Creswell 2.jpg
    He was buried at Vissel - half way between Bislich and the Diersfordt Wood. And very far from the LZ for the Ox and Bucks gliders at Hamminkeln station.
    Vissel map.png

    I wonder what might have happened? He ended in a lone grave far away from his unit. Which would not surprise me had he jumped into action by parachute. But he was supposed to be gilder-borne. So - did his glider crash or was it shot down before they reached their targeted LZ? Was he the only one who died and the others on board were taken prisoner?

    Vissel (a group of farms) was also along the evacuation route to and Advanced Dressing Station at Bislich (194 FA RAMC) and to the Rhine crossing points at Bislich. The war diary of 194 Field Ambulance notes on March 24th at 1800hrs: "Large numbers of casualties from 6th Airborne Division arriving."

    The farms at Vissel later housed a Forward Dressing Station - but 193 FA started operating their ADS at 1045 hrs on March 26th.

    Any ideas or information what might have happened to Pte Cresswell?

    Thank you!
  5. BrianHall1963

    BrianHall1963 Well-Known Member

    Could he have been taken prisoner but wounded treat near the place of his grave? This happened to one of the men on the action that my uncle was killed on, the body was buried 30 miles away behind a chateau that the Germans where using as a field hospital just a thought
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  6. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks, BrianHall1963. That is a possible explanation - however, it would have been difficult for the Germans to take a British prisoner from Hamminkeln to the west (i.e. to Bislich) after 6th Ab Division had landed between the Rhine and Hamminkeln. But I wouldn't rule it out...
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    For Information

    UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: Arthur Cresswell
    Given Initials: A
    Rank: Private
    Death Date: 24/03/1945 (24 Mar 1945)
    Number: 5259565
    Birth Place: Staffordshire
    Residence: Staffordshire
    Branch at Enlistment: Infantry
    Theatre of War: Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
    Regiment at Death: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
    Branch at Death: Infantry

    Germany, Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current
    Name: Arthur Cresswell
    Death Date: 24 Mar 1945
    Cemetery: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
    Burial or Cremation Place: Kleve, Kreis Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
    Arthur Cresswell (Unknown-1945) - Find A Grave...

  8. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    The point on the Map with the graves is Objective “Fortnum” (the road and rail crossing) which was held by Lt Patterson of A Company, 7 Para until relieved by armour of the KOSB. That route was also taken by 44 RTR as they headed North towards the Issel Bridge. Maybe the guys buried there weren’t Airborne? Perhaps they were RTR as they were engaged along that route, they did take casualties. Just a thought.
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  9. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Good morning Alex,
    according to the CWGC database they were all airborne soldiers killed on March 24th. Birrell was 9 Para, Waine was AAC/9 Para, Burford was 8 Para, Harkins was listed as Parachute Regiment. The isolated unknown soldier is listed as RA, killed on March 24th. Incidentally, in the early 80s I did some metal detecting in the area and - on a track across a little hill, just where the unknown soldier was buried in 1945 - I found brass fittings of 37pattern webbing and lead plates which must have been part of a battery. Don't know what to make of it - a bit eerie, isn't it?

    The action you mention took place on the 25th, didn't it?

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  10. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Yes that’s why I thought it was within the time frame of the grave searching. Was just a thought of a possibility. As far as I know Lt Patterson and his platoon had no casualties during their 24 hours at that location. The Para battalions got immediate replacements after Varsity, 7 Para received men from the West Yorkshire regiment from the 25th/26th onwards. Another option could be they were in gliders (although Para regt badged) this did happen as each battalion had 2 or 3 gliders allocated for them with mortar ammo etc etc. I seem to remember a glider landed in the little square opening just behind the “fortnum” area, casualties from a glider maybe?

  11. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Sorry posted on the wrong thread.
  12. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    How can I find out more about a soldier called C.R. (Jock) Jarvis who apparently served with 2 F.O.U. RA?

    He is not in the CWGC database. Yet he was supposedly killed on March 24th 1945 - at least according to Capt. R.C. Hamilton, former Commander of No.5 section, who wrote the following on this site:

    "Sgt. Jim Webster (6 Section) was with Capt. Charlie Gagnon, R.C.A., a former Canadian Champion Weightlifter, at the front of the glider. Before exiting, Charlie was shot dead by the Germans. On March 25, when 1CPB (3 Brigade) was heavily attacked, Capt. Ken Boss, R.A., M.C., called for fire. To improve his view of the target, he stood on top of his slit trench. According to 1CPB, his fire spared them from a dangerous counter-attack. Ken was seriously wounded and died later. Boss received the M.C. Capt. Don McMillan, R.C.A., immediately replaced Boss as FOO with 1CPB.

    Others killed in action were: Britisher C.R. (Jock) Jarvis, March 24, 1945 Canadian B.M. Robinson, March 26, 1945

    Canadian Douglas Kerr, April 6, 1945 Britisher L/Bdr. Sunter, April 1945. Many others were wounded."

    Why am I asking this? Because I am making a connection to an unknown Royal Artillery soldier KIA on March 24th - he was initially mistaken for "Bamford" (last name on the list):

    He was buried in a location which I marked on a map a bit further up in this thread. There I also mention that in the immediate vicinity I found some brass fittings of 1937pattern webbing and lead plated mesh parts which seemed to part of a battery. This was over 35 years ago and I never gave it much thought. But with today's research facilities one can make useful connections - the connection I am making here is based on what Capt. Hamilton also wrote in the above mentioned account:
    "Most No. 2 FOURA (Airborne) paratroopers had a kit bag with a wireless set or other equipment strapped to one leg. While airborne, the kit bag could be lowered to the full extent of 20 feet of rope. Paratroopers often had to land in the midst of enemy fire and then proceed to their rendezvous."

    So my question is: Could the "unknown soldier" be C.R. (Jock) Jarvis?
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  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    For others following this thread in case you are busy looking/searching

    C R (Jock) Jarvis
    Cyril R Jarvie | ParaData

    He saw action in the Ardennes before going on Operation Varsity where he was shot whilst jumping onto the drop zone on 24 March 1945, aged 21 years old.

    Alberk already knows this via a conversation

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  14. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks to forum member Tricky Dicky I found out more about the man I asked about. His name was actually C.R. (Jock) Jarvie - not Jarvis.
    Cyril R Jarvie | ParaData
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  15. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks Tricky Dicky - we posted our comments in sync...
  16. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  17. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    This could mean that we might have a grave - and that the unknown soldier buried in the Reichswald Cemetery in the plot below would be Jarvie. What do you think? And how to proceed? BAmford_Unknown_grave.jpg
    BrianHall1963 likes this.
  18. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I think you need perhaps to contact member CL1 who has had more experience than me in this field


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