In Western Europe, the British organisation first involved in field work on behalf of the dead and missing was 21 Army Group, later the BAOR (British Army of the Rhine). 21 Army Group, which came ashore on D-Day, 6 June 1944, had its own dedicated Graves Service, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Owen Stott.
At the time of 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’.*
Stott is the British Army Officer on the left, see: The Creation of Arnhem-Oosterbeek Cemetery
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.
Above: Arnhem Commemorations, 1945. Stott is the figure underlined in orange.
Image courtesy of the Gelders Archief, ref: 1560-2475
For more details of the above photograph, see: Arnhem Commemorations, 1945
STOTT’S SERVICE IN FIRST WORLD WAR & BEFORE JOINING 21 ARMY GROUP
During the Second World 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.
For Stott’s service early in the Second World War, see: Stott and the Evacuation from France, June 1940
* 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.