After D-Day, 6 June 1944, the British began an immense operation in Western Europe – on behalf of all the many nationalities serving with the British forces – to find out what had happened to the missing, and to honorably bury or commemorate the dead.
This care also extended to enemy soldiers, who as far as possible were treated as equals.
The work was carried out by the British Army and the RAF before the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the CWGC) became involved.
OTHER COUNTRIES INVOLVED
- The Americans were running a similar programme over much the same territory, and there was a large degree of overlap.
- The liberated countries provided an immense amount of help, an extension of the care with which they had looked after the graves and relics during the war.
- The Soviet Union, had reciprocal arrangements with the British, but increasingly the beginning of the Cold War made work extremely difficult in the eastern parts of Europe.
- Evidence of war crimes was sometimes discovered during the course of the Army and RAF’s exhumation and identification work.
- By late 1945, the various war crimes units which had operated with 21 Army Group, by then known as the BAOR, the British Army of the Rhine, had been merged to form the War Crimes Group (NWE), which was located at Bad Oeynhausen in Germany, the headquarters of the BAOR.
- All evidence of war crimes discovered by the RAF’s Missing Research and Enquiry Service (the MRES) or the Army Graves Service was reported to these authorities.