Welch fusiliers, casualty buried at Arromanches, what could have caused his death?

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by HarryClarke, May 16, 2020.

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  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Click/tap on a member's user name a box appears about them.
    See "Start a Conversation".
    Hit that . It's what used to be called a private message.
     
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  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Before and during the very beginning of the Second World War there was a link between a soldier's geographic origin and the unit he served in. If someone joined the Territorial Army they would join a local unit with a regional identify. If they joined the regular army they might choose a regiment with a regional identify - but recruitment for all units was skewed towards those part of the country where there was high unemployment and a tradition for joining up.

    During the Second World War, after the law made everybody liable for service the Army moved people where it wanted them. There was also a policy to avoid creating "Pals" style units where the fortunes of war might lead to catastrophic losses for one locality. So a regiment of Hertfordshire artillery received a bunch of scousers in early 1943. Territorial battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers might have started with a lot of Welshmen, but it might have been heavily diluted by 1944.

    Not sure if this helps.
     
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  3. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    ......................................................................

    It certainly does help, thank you.
    To find a 'missing' person, or at least to solve a mystery where a person isn't strictly missing but history hasn't brought down the necessary facts to those who wish to know them, you have to be flexible in your thinking.

    I have been concentrating hard on this case over the last couple of weeks, and have discovered that just because some army record is carved on a memorial, that doesn't mean it's correct. (That might be difficult for some folk to accept, but it's true.)

    So I'm trying to expand the possibilities and bend the information I have, so that it ultimately provides an adequate match for something in the 'official' records.

    Please can you advise me on the idea of 'allegiance' to a particular fighting group. Supposing a man fought in WW1 and then volunteered (or was obliged) to take part in WW2 for a year or two as an older man. Could he belong to 2 different army units (or more?) - a different one for each separate war? If he did, where did his heart & soul lie? How would he identify himself, if asked?

    Harry
     
  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Soldiers were transferred from one organisation to another. Tens of thousands of infantrymen became artillerymen when the army needed more Anti Aircraft, Antitank or medium artillery. Tens of thousands were transferred back towards the end of the war when there was less of an air threat and more infantry were needed. In fact thousands of men serving in the RAF and Royal Marines found themselves in the infantry in 1944-45. Nijmegen Company of the Grenadier Guards commemorates the capture of Nijmegen, an achievement largely by soldiers who until weeks earlier had been in the RAF Regiment or Royal Artillery.

    Thousands of men volunteered to join specialist organsiations such as the commandos, paratroops or one of a host of special forces. Some of these were recognised by the authorities. So a man who transferred to the paratroops would be buried as a member of that corps. Others were not. Army Commandos were attached from their parent corps, so Pat Porteus an officer in No 4 Commando was awarded the VC as a Royal Artillery Officer. His comrades who fell are buried as Gunners, but it will usually mention No 4 Commando as the secondary regiment. The sailors and soldiers who served in the Forward Observation Bombardment units that spotted fire from warships were not always identified by the Grave Registration Units or the CWGC and their burial details often give no clue to the unit they were serving in when they died.

    There was an extensive bureaucracy dedicated to keeping track of the movements of individual soldiers, who had personal records. (Why don't you or your clients have access to this? Or war they trying to track someone that "dad" used to refer to by a nickname?)

    A person can identify himself however he chooses with a varying degrees of accuracy or creativity over their past. It is common for ex servicemen to pass over aspects of their military career they would not wish to reveal, creatively re write their military record or even start to believe that other people's exploits happened to them.

    It was not unknown for people to join under an assumed name, maybe on the run from the police, creditors or a family. The armed forces sometimes deals with the same person twice. Kenneally was mentioned earlier. As far as the army was concerned Leslie Jackson HAC still existed as a deserter, but that would have been reconciled once John Kenneally became a hero.

    Family narratives can be misleading. I have spent some time checking the family version of the story of various battlefield pilgrims against the records. My own family story is a case in point. When I was a boy I was told that my grandfather's younger brother was missing in action, last seen after Mons. His mother refused to believe he was dead and kept the door unlocked for the day her boy came home. It wasn't until the CWGC records were published online that I found his grave with the inscription "Believed to be buried near this spot " in Vendresse cemetery, on a battlefield fought over 1914-1918. Grain of truth and spawns a family myth.

    What if your candidate did not die, but deserted? It wasn't easy to desert from Normandy, but not too difficult in the UK or once the allies had liberated most of France. Perhaps the family did not want any stigma? Or maybe someone hid him and lied to everyone else? According to my grandmother, one of her neighbours hid her son for years, much to my grandmother's disgust.

    I hope this helps
     
  5. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    Sheldrake, thank you for teaching me this.
    I love your own family story.

    Since yesterday I've read every syllable of 500+ pages of casualty reports and it's clear to me that fighting men were deployed and re-deployed, and units were broken up and reformed, or attached to something else for a day or two, or destroyed and built again from scratch and so on - and it seems to me that the only thing an army man possessed which was solid, was his number. So, whatever unit a person believed he 'belonged to', might well not be what was recorded alongside him, when he was gone.

    To help you understand: I don't have a client. I'm not working from family stories, or myths. I'm not working 'for' anyone. There's no 'family' I can go back to and ask them such-and-such. I am unpaid.

    To give you confidence in what I write, I'm aged 62 with a PhD and 30 years of research under my belt and a lot of success in solving 'missing' cases (sometimes after years of digging). That doesn't mean I'm always right in what I write (and I am not a Forces expert) but I take great care to check and weigh up the validity or otherwise of the material I'm handling.
    In this particular case, I can say I'm completely sure the man in question was not a deserter, he didn't return to the UK, nor did he live past June or July '44. [It's also not possible to put every single detail up here, since our words can be instantly read by the whole world, and some small degree of privacy is required.]

    What I lack (but am quickly gaining, thanks to people like yourself) is a better understanding of e.g. how the army deals with its dead; also, a clear knowledge of how reporting is carried out and records made [and corrected, sometimes continuously], during a prolonged period of battle, in this case summer 1944.

    I'm still focusing strongly on Arromanches and I still want a clearer idea of why army men would be brought there to a temporary cemetery in the early weeks of the campaign. I've just been told there was a bad storm in the middle of June '44 which wrecked the Mulberry harbour. Are there any records available which might indicate army casualty figures and reasons for deaths, for these couple of very difficult days? Presumably there would potentially be bodies washed ashore by the movement of the waves - what would still be 'down there' from the Gold beach operations at the beginning of June?

    Grateful thanks, Harry
     
  6. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    ...........................................

    Now expanding the search area to Sword beach and exploring this, looking at casualties evacuated from here after problems encountered with the storm in late June 44, and particularly events of 24.6.1944.
    Harry
     
  7. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Evening Harry,

    I`m not sure I understand all the reasons for the cloak of secrecy (I am joking :) ) and I really do not intend to push you further on the whys or why nots . You have asked for help just as I did when my Grandfather enrolled us here I do not know a lot but what I have learnt is thanks to members here past and present and if I can I will offer you any help I can think of. Some possibly totally irrelevant :)

    Okay moving please bear with me, on your initial enquiry was Welsh ? Fusilier? Arromanches ? That`s all I was really focusing on . Your last post widens the parameters with a date of 24 June 1944 ?

    Reading through your posts again you asked the question :-

    "Please can you advise me on the idea of 'allegiance' to a particular fighting group. Supposing a man fought in WW1 and then volunteered (or was obliged) to take part in WW2 for a year or two as an older man. Could he belong to 2 different army units (or more?) - a different one for each separate war? If he did, where did his heart & soul lie? How would he identify himself, if asked? "

    Which had me thinking, I questioned something similar a few years ago when a book claimed the Durham Light Infantry were at the liberation of Belsen,..they were not . The unit that was there was a RA Unit which Pre war had converted from the DLI to RA however retained affiliation but was no longer a true Durham Light Infantry Unit . In 1938 the old 5th Battalion DLI changed its role to Searchlights and then in 1940 to Anti-Aircraft. This 113th (DLI) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment went to Normandy in June 1944 and joined the advance into Germany in early 1945. In April the Regiment took part in the relief of Belsen concentration camp and remained there until the last hut was burnt in late May 1945.

    Read again your question ..I think the above fits all the criteria ,some men still retained those `DLI` links and loyalties.

    Now totally forget that I mentioned the DLI ,that was an example used to answer your question . We move back to your original questions Welsh ? Fusilier? Arromanches ? 24 June 1944.

    Using the example I gave (and I am no expert here) on a Similar line the 12th Royal Welch Fusiliers also converted to RA in 1940 they became 116 (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Light Anti Aircraft Regiment . Fusiliers became Gunners but with old allegiances ? They were part of 53rd (Welsh) Division and the first elements landed in Normandy on the 23rd June 1944 at Arromanches.

    Could this be relevant to your research ?


    Kyle
     
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  8. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    Morning Kyle
    Thanks a lot for sticking with me.
    Your point about the DLI is great, it confirms what I've been finding - which is that these army units get renamed and reshuffled, sometimes many times. Fusiliers become gunners. I like that. Thank you.

    Yes let's move back to my original Q. You've sensibly homed in on the key bits, so let's do a recap now. I need a result which is a pretty good match in as many areas as possible.

    1. Man's surname.
    2. His army "job" at that point.
    3. Locality/place.
    4. Date.
    5. Army unit he was attached to (or had an allegiance to).

    There doesn't seem to be an exact match for what I have. This is normal. So it's time to relax the "facts" bit by bit.

    1. Name. This often needs adjusting. So we keep the basic SOUND of it while fiddling with the spelling.
    2. Army job. Sticking 100% with mortar crew, don't see any need to ditch this yet.
    3. Place. Stick with Arromanches for the moment, maybe radius of a few miles.
    4. Date. I originally said between 11 June - 2 July I think. The 24 June in my last post is a narrowing down of this, not a new suggestion. Homing in on the later part of June. (Remembering those bad storms.)
    5. UNIT. From what you've kindly said, I think we have to remove RWF as the exact unit at time of death. [When we get there, it may well be that he did have ties to the RWF, it may be in his service records. But for June '44 let's assume he was deployed in another role.]

    So now we have:
    *RICHARD/S or something which sounds very like it. +
    **Mortar crew, which can be gunner, trooper etc +
    ***Arromanches general area +
    **** June 21 - 27 +
    *****something which shows he could be Welsh or lived/enlisted very close by (e.g. Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, borders).
    + PLUS he's not in the lists of men who have named graves. (He's missing, on a memorial, as you've shown me.)

    Here's the revised search:

    "A man whose name sounds very like Richards, mortar crew (gunner, trooper) who died fairly close to Arromanches in the latter part of June '44, with a unit which we've broadened out, see above. A body washed up from the sea?.. a boat which was hit/mined?... a soldier who was on a boat with heavy stuff [guns, mortars, armoured machinery]. Not with the first wave of men, but coming in towards the end of June 44.

    The army doesn't lose its men, you're right! So his name WILL be there somewhere. Stick with me. We'll get there.

    New Q: What was going on, in those storms or just after? There are lots of reports of wreckage and damage Jun 21 - 24, Gold beach, Juno beach, that little stretch of coast.

    Harry
     
  9. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    .....................
    PS. Kyle, you say you're no expert (neither am I) but you're a first-rate thinker, mate, and that's what we need. Please see my revised search terms, in the bigger post.
    Harry
     
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    This thread does seem to be bordering on the most colossal 'what if' that the forum has ever permitted.

    The significance of Arromanches perhaps is that prior to the construction of the harbour, the shallow beach was still being used by landing craft etc. for unloading new arrivals and would have been involved in the repatriation of wounded sometimes in a serious condition.

    My father disembarked there later in June. He drove a 15cwt. truck down the ramp, into the water and off the beach. He recalls that the ramp on the next LST was just short of a shell hole and the first truck off dropped straight in and disappeared. There was no looking back to see what happened to the crew. At that time the navy was still firing over the beaches and the only task was to get off the beach and through the gap in the sand dunes. The assault was long over, but it was still a hazardous place.
     
  11. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    ..........................
    RichPayne
    Your personal story is a valuable one, thank you.
    I imagine that in June '44, all of the beaches (and the coastal waters) were still hellishly hazardous places with unseen dangers - quite apart from the challenges of the storm which must have made matters far worse.
    The significance of Arromanches is as a burial place, and research I've done into this cemetery and also other nearby temporary graveyards which are very close to the water [e.g. Graye] is that they take largely RN casualties and other Forces personnel (including soldiers) picked up from the water. (Obviously there are exceptions, but I have to generalise at the moment.) You get little bunches of guys buried from a ship that went down. Or a single burial from a previous wreck some weeks before, and the body can have drifted away from the initial site of the loss.

    I do hope the Powers That Be are not going to stop or block this thread, we are making vast progress, believe me. I'm genuine and determined and I'm delighted at the support I'm getting on here, it's making a colossal difference.

    I want to extend the search for this man a little way away from Arromanches and I'm pushing towards the east, Juno. What was going on there, late end of June 44?
    Harry
     
  12. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything


    So now we have:
    *RICHARD/S or something which sounds very like it. +
    **Mortar crew, which can be gunner, trooper etc +
    ***Arromanches general area +
    **** June 21 - 27 +
    *****something which shows he could be Welsh or lived/enlisted very close by (e.g. Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, borders).
    + PLUS he's not in the lists of men who have named graves. (He's missing, on a memorial, as you've shown me.)


    Dear Harry,

    With reference to the above(in bold) quoted from your post #68.

    And please note my response below is not, repeat not, to pour scorn on your efforts, and those of the good folks from this forum who have contributed to this thread. My response is to try and make you aware of what your search entails given the uncertainty you have (please see below, your asterisks, my numbering).


    *1. You don’t have a name of the casualty.

    **2. You don’t have a branch or arm of service or regiment (within the army)

    ***3. You don’t have a specific location.

    ****4. You don’t have a date.

    *****5. You don’t have anything to determine his nationality or where he lived or where he enlisted.

    And “+PLUS”, from the above you’ve determined that the casualty has no known grave.

    Now, whilst my words above may seem a little negative, here’s the positivity that you Harry can take forward in your efforts.

    Search all war memorials that list names of the missing who have no known grave, within your parameters.

    Hopefully then you will fall upon a name that you, and only you, can be certain is the casualty you seek, at which time you can post upon this thread “folks, I’ve found the casualty”.

    It is a Herculean task you’ve set yourself Harry, and you have my admiration for pursuing it. I just truly hope that within your information you have one solid fact to work on that may let you find your needle in a haystack.

    Good luck with all.

    Kind regards, always,

    Jim.

    P.S. And, like you, I hope the MODS of this forum do not close the thread, but please don’t be surprised if they alter the name of the thread to a title more accurate on the basis of the information you've provided.
     
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  13. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    Dear Jim,
    I would dearly love to change the wording of this thread but, being a newbie, I have no idea how to do so and I didn't know you could. Please alter it freely, according to what you think it should be.

    I'm being advised by folks on a number of different sites.
    Your members here have given me the strongest help.
    I've consulted every name on the Bayeux memorial. I've read through 3 books of casualty lists, searched genealogical records, army archives and more, and YES!!! I have a match. Couldn't have done it without the input from your members.

    Herculean task maybe, but so is every search I've done.
    Fortune favours the brave?

    Every good wish
    Harry :)
     
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  14. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    WICHARD.
    Bayeux Memorial.
    Trooper. Mortar crew.
    On a boat blown in half 24.6.1944., sent to Juno beach because of the storm.
    Recce group, Glosters.

    That darned 'R' sure caused some struggles!
    Got there.

    THANK YOU

    Harry
     

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  15. jonheyworth

    jonheyworth Senior Member

    To be frank I’m surprised this has run this far. If I was looking for someone called jones who died on or near the Normandy landings I could have a damn good stab at finding him simply by tapping Jones into cwgc or Geoff’s engine then limiting it to France or United Kingdom then when I had a list of jones’ from June 5th to July 5th work out what units were actually sent to France in that period and I’d get within 5-10 men.
    Quite frankly looking for “ someone who died somewhere who may or may not have actually existed is an exercise in futility.

    You need a name . He will have details if he’s reality . The people missed off the cwgc records are so minute a factor as to be incalculable . Especially if someone was in a British army infantry regiment . You didn’t just rock up at the barrier , stroll past the guardhouse , kit yourself up when the storekeepers were at lunch , find an empty bed and tag along introducing yourself to the colonel as “ Taff” at the next morning’s parade .
     
  16. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    Hi JonHeyworth, you make a good point.
    Maybe you've missed the post where I've shown that the search was successful.
    This particular search has highlighted the limitations of online indexes, and it's been necessary for me to go deep into the records/archives to take a much closer look.
    Also, if the first letter of the name is incorrect (as turned out to be the case), and the actual surname is extremely unusual (as it also turned out), no search engine is going to bring up the unusual name as a viable alternative, trust me.
    So it needed a human element (my pretty good brain) + suggestions from knowledgeable people, to allow me to work outside what a computer can offer. Technology is great when it works, but it definitely has its limitations.
    Harry
     
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  17. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    Just a final comment (I won't be writing again).
    This whole search has taken several years from start to finish. Identifying and locating the missing is a tricky but rewarding task.
    My heartfelt thanks to all members here who have given their time and thoughts - I needed you, you made it possible, we made it.
    But please: no more smart-alec quips from anyone who thinks they could have done it in 5 minutes. They're not welcome nor kind nor necessary.
    Signing off, Harry
    ..........................................................................................................................................
     
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  18. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Harry,

    How do you know he was "Mortar crew"?

    Regards

    Tom
     
  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Just for anyone else who is unsure of exact name, there is a work-around. In this case for example
    A search for *ichard + France + WW2 brought up Results
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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  20. HarryClarke

    HarryClarke Active Member

    Valuable hint. xx
    But if you're dead certain it began with R (as I was, which demonstrates Stupid Human Syndrome), then you won't remove the first letter when you search. Big lesson for me. Harry
     
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