In Western Europe, the primary Army organisation involved in the work for the dead and missing was 21 Army Group, later the BAOR. This was the force which had come ashore on D-Day, and which was involved in the liberation of Europe and the subsequent occupation of Germany. It had its own Graves Service, headed by Lieutenant Colonel (later Colonel) Stott, who was the key man in the work for the British dead in these territories.
By the time of Arthur Owen Stott’s appointment to 21 Army Group’s Graves Service in December 1943, six months in advance of D-Day, he was fifty-two years old.
His official title was Deputy Assistant Director, Graves Registration and Enquiries (DADGRE), but on 1 April 1944, two months before D-Day, his role was upgraded to that of Assistant Director (ADGRE), ‘the importance of the work having been realized’.*
He was further promoted, with a step up in rank from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel, in the second half of 1945 following the expansion of what was by then called the Western Europe Graves Service Directorate.
STOTT’S SERVICE IN FIRST WORLD WAR
During the war and in the immediate post-war world, many of the men who worked for the Graves Service had non-combatant status, being past the age of military service. Most of them had served with distinction in the First World War, including Stott.
Stott had been in his early twenties when the First World War began. It was while serving in France as a Temporary Second Lieutenant that he won the Military Cross. The medal citation given in the Supplement to the Edinburgh Gazette on 18 September 1918 says that the award was:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During a raid, he caught sight of an enemy post, wheeled his platoon and rushed it. By his prompt decision he obtained a prisoner and identification, and enabled the raid to be completed without loss.
It is probably during this raid that he was badly wounded in the right thigh. He had already been wounded several times during the war, including receiving a bayonet wound in the face in Italy in May 1918.
The last recorded wound, received in August 1918 in France, was a gunshot wound to the thigh which appears to have been serious enough to lead to his transfer to hospital in England in October. One month later, he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Military Valour.
* TNA, WO 165/36, War Office, A.G.13 (The Army Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries), War Diary, January-December 1944, entry for 1 April 1944.