OVERVIEW

At a Glance

This website ranges over a number of subjects to do with the care and remembrance of the military dead of the Second World War.

It looks at individual graves and memorials, in many countries and of many nationalities, and at ceremonies of burial and remembrance.

It also focuses on a little-known subject, which is how the Second World War British graves, cemeteries and memorials, now under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, came to be where they are, and how the identity of the people in those graves was either established or confirmed. The main focus here is on Western Europe, where the vast majority of casualties in the RAF occurred and where Missing Research was a huge undertaking. That particular story begins after D-Day, 6 June 1944, when the British Army and the RAF began an immense operation on behalf of the dead or missing of all nationalities who had served with the British forces.

The three main aims of the operation were:

  • to discover what had happened to the missing
  • to honorably bury the dead
  • to commemorate those who could not be found

The work included enemy soldiers, who as far as possible were treated as equals.

 

Research for the Website

I carried out the main research for this website between 2012-2016, for a PhD at the University of Exeter, entitled:

‘NOTHING CAN EXCUSE US IF WE FAIL’: The British and their Dead Servicemen, North-West Europe, 1944-1951

My PhD was taken under the supervision of Professor Richard Overy, the renowned historian of the Second World War. The examining board members were Professor Richard Toye and Professor Jeremy Crang, and the doctorate was awarded in July 2016.

The inspiration for the PhD thesis came from my research into the disappearance of Anthony Cotterell, a British Army major, and his devoted brother Geoffrey’s attempts to discover what had happened to him. See The Cotterell Brothers  My two books on Anthony Cotterell are Major Cotterell and Arnhem: A War Crime and a Mystery and This is War, a collection of his diaries and journalism, both published by Spellmount.

The picture at the head of this page is of me with Geoffrey Cotterell, Anthony’s brother, in 2009, in the cemetery at Enschede, Holland, where Anthony is possibly buried.

I run the RAF Pathfinders Archive website and am Chairperson of this registered charity.

For a general profile of my work, see my PER ARDUA website.

Jennie Mack Gray