It tends to be assumed that the the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede (often simply known as Runnymede) commemorates only missing aircrew, those who flew on operations and never returned, their fate being unknown. However, it does in fact memorialise all RAF personnel who have no known grave. See: RAF Upwood Ground Crew Remembered at Runnymede
Prompted by an email enquiring about a death in an RAF plane crash in December 1949, I have set up a new page which gives details of exactly which people were included in the burial and commemorative programme run by the British. The page also explains why the date for inclusion ran up to 31 December 1947, two and half years after the war had ended in Europe. Inclusion in the National Commemorative Programme
Details of all those included in the national commemorative programme can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s superb website. https://www.cwgc.org/find
The Peter Chapman page has been amended to give a fuller history of this quiet hero who worked with the Italian Resistance against the German occupiers and their Fascist helpers. For almost eighteen months he worked with the Resistance until betrayed and killed close to the end of the war. Peter Chapman, King’s Royal Rifle Corps
When looking into details of the loss, in Italy on 25 April 1945, of Pilot Officer Beard and Flight Sergeant Maddock (Buried in Italy, Mosquito Crew, 256 Squadron) we came across the Graves Concentration Report for the crew which also listed Peter Chapman, a soldier murdered by the Fascists in January 1945. Lorenzo Saggioro has now sent us a photograph of the memorial to Peter, see: Peter Chapman, King’s Royal Rifle Corps
At very end of the war, on 25 April 1945, a Mosquito crew of 256 Squadron, Fighter Command, was lost in Italy. The two men are buried at Padua. They were Pilot Officer Roy James George Beard (pilot) and Flight Sergeant D Maddock (navigator). Lorenzo Saggioro is looking for information about them. See Buried in Italy, Mosquito Crew, 256 Squadron
This beautiful display marks the spot in Brummen, not far from Arnhem, where British PoWs who were being transported to Germany were shot by SS soldiers on 23 September 1944 after the battle for Arnhem was over. A memorial tablet affixed to the wall gives the names of the victims.
If Allied aircrew, soldiers or sailors had belonged to the British forces when they were killed, their graves and memorials were attended to by the British authorities and the Imperial War Graves Commission, who followed a policy of non-repatriation. However, if the dead had belonged to their own national forces, they could be repatriated after the war.
In the case of the Jespersen crew who were shot down on D-Day, the British and Canadian members of the crew lie in France. Our current information is that the only Norwegian crew member ever found was John Ernst Herlof Evensen, whose body was repatriated and is now buried at Vestre Gravlund Cemetery at Oslo.
The Norwegians are remembered on various memorials in Norway, including at the Akershus Fortress in Oslo. Jespersen Crew Memorials.
Following on yesterday’s post on the war graves at Bergen is the page O Valiant Hearts which I have just added to my own site, PER ARDUA: The Air War and Beyond. A quotation from this romantic and poignant hymn was used for the epitaph for Arthur North, who is buried at Bergen, and it reminded me of another RAF grave, that of Ernest Deverill. See this page: O Valiant Hearts
Here is another war graves photograph, slightly similar to that of David O’Connell in that the two graves in this photograph are also buried under a mountain of flowers. The graves are those of two young men of only twenty-two years of age. For more details follow this link: Pilot Officer Richards and Sergeant Arthur North of 105 Squadron.
When researching the grave of David O’Connell, I looked up his record on the CWGC site for information about his burial site. There was something very eye-catching on the Graves Registration Form, above David’s name – four members of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, all killed at the same time on 20 January 1945.
What led me to David O’Connell was acquiring the beautiful battered old photograph of his grave, taken soon after his burial in January 1945. Despite the deep snow and the immense disruption caused by war, people had found a huge number of flowers to decorate his grave. He must have been very highly thought of, either personally or in a symbolic capacity as a member of the liberating British forces.
These graves for a 35 Squadron Pathfinder crew at Kuinre in Holland are amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen. This is a particularly lovely setting and at the moment the only one I can think of which rivals it is Durnbach in Bavaria, but Kuinre is far smaller and more intimate.
I will be posting more details of the 35 Squadron crew on the RAF Pathfinders Archive website next week. The skipper’s name was Squadron Leader Wilfred Surtees, and he survived the crash to become a prisoner of war.
A further installment in Geoffrey Cotterell’s letters about the search for his missing brother, Anthony. The picture on this post is of the memorial plaque affixed to the former Post Office at Brummen, outside which, on 23 September 1944, the SS shot into a truckload of British prisoners. Several were wounded, two dying at the scene. The exact nature of Anthony’s wounds were a subject of intense speculation because his family were hoping that he had been able to survive them.
This latest extract from the letters shows Geoffrey going for the first time to Brummen, to the scene of the shooting, which had occurred just over one year earlier.
Anthony Cotterell’s disappearance after the battle of Arnhem, when he was shot and seriously injured by the SS whilst an unarmed prisoner of war, became the focus of extensive war crime investigations. Researching what happened to Anthony was my first real foray into what happened with missing British servicemen. It is a uniquely well-documented case not only because the war crime files still exist, but also because Anthony’s brother, Geoffrey, who was a writer like his brother, wrote a long sequence of letters to his parents about the search.
I am serialising extracts from these letters on this website because they give such a unique view of the conditions in Europe just after the war, conditions which formed the backdrop to the Army Graves work and the research carried out for the missing, both Army and RAF.
The image above shows Geoffrey (left) at Brummen, at the house of the Tjeenk-Willinks, in 1946. This was within walking distance of the place where his brother had been shot in September 1944.
Below are the links for the pages about the two brothers and the first installment of the letters, which open just as Geoffrey has left England in October 1945.
There is, therefore, a complete official service designed to secure for you and to tell you all discoverable news about your relative. This official service is also a very human service, which well understands the anxiety of relatives and will spare no effort to relieve it.
This new page shows the wartime leaflet which was given to relatives anxiously awaiting news of their loved one who was missing.
The aim of the British Graves Service was as far as possible to treat enemy combatants equally. However, this did not mean that they were buried with the Allied dead. German plots were created, which used the same style of temporary cross and lettering as in the Allied plots, as in this image of an unknown German cemetery, probably in France judging by the dates on some of the graves.
Colonel Stott, the Commanding Officer of the Army Graves Service in Western Europe was in many ways the most influential figure of all in how the Second World War British military dead were identified, buried and honoured. Besides the work for soldiers, he was of key significance in the work on behalf of missing RAF aircrew.
Stott was a self-effacing man and so far we have not traced any official photographs of him performing his duties. However, there are two photographs in the Gelders Archief in Holland which are 99% certain to include Stott. The first, being posted today, shows him at the commemorations for the Arnhem dead, which took place on 25 September 1945. Stott’s attendance at the commemorations is mentioned in his war diary.
The liberated countries provided the most immense amount of help in finding, identifying, and honouring dead British soldiers, sailors, and airmen. This new article gives a number of examples of their invaluable contribution: The Liberated Countries and the War Dead
There were countless official documents regulating and recording the work which was done on behalf of the missing and dead.
This page contains a small selection, to which more will be added in time. The four included are: an official permit issued by the Belgian government to allow the British units to carry out their work; one of the cemetery plans which was used when creating the burial grounds; and two pages of an identification details form used by the RAF when trying to name missing airmen.