Archive for the 'Family' Category

27
Jul
17

Military Service Records.

Almost three weeks ago I stopped procrastinating and started the process of applying for the military service records of Horace and Albert, my cousins killed in WWII.

I’ve written about them on a few occasions, when I’ve new information about them, or most recently, on the anniversaries of their deaths.

Each application costs 30 pounds sterling, and I had to order bank drafts in sterling from my bank. That itself was an ongoing experience, taking more than a week for the bank to work out some kind of internal glitch that prevented the cheques from being validated. However the problem turned into a blessing when the bank refunded their fees because of the inconvenience.

I posted the forms and cheques, and this morning I received emails to confirm the applications had been received by the appropriate people and they were being processed.
Sadly a lot of information won’t be accessible to me, because I’m not the next of kin, and I don’t have the approval of the next of kin. I don’t know who the legal “next of kin” would be. As far as I’m aware, neither of the two married or had children, so the role of “next of kin” would probably have gone through one of their surviving siblings then from generation to generation over the years since the war.
Both time and distance makes identification of that person impossible.

I can only hope that the information I DO get will be worth the wait and the expense. I’d like to be able to write some kind of “detailed” tribute of the two brothers in time for next year’s 75th anniversary of their deaths.

A year or two ago I applied for the Australian service records of Gloria’s dad who served in the RAAF in Borneo towards the end of WWII.
That was much easier. Even though I wasn’t a blood relation, I was able to submit the request myself. I was able to pay by credit card on line – no need for difficult bank transactions, or to mail a physical application form.
It took a few months to come through, but Gloria received a sizable collection of documents, all copied in a way to resemble the originals. I later found that my application also released the file to be accessible on line through the National Archives website.

Australian military records are far easier to access than the British equivalent. I’ve copied several WWI records from the National Archives site for people of interest.
We tried to get the same kind of information related to Gloria’s grandfather who served in the British Army during WWI (Royal West Kent) but apparently a large percentage of British WWI records were destroyed during the blitz. His records seem to have been among those lost.

Depending on the quality of the records I get of Horace and Albert’s service, I’ll consider getting records for my own Grandfather who was a Sergeant in the Royal artillery, stationed at various places on the south coast of England during WWII.

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09
Jul
17

In Memory of Another Cousin (Who I Never Got to Know)

On 9th July 1943, aged 21, Horace Smith became a casualty during Operation Ladbroke, a glider mission intended to start the Allied invasion of Sicily. It was almost exactly two months after his brother’s death in North Africa.

Horace was aboard Glider no. 70, one of almost 150 gliders being towed to Sicily.

Like so many others, glider 70 didn’t make it, being released too far from land it crashed into the sea and Horace was one of six from the glider listed as missing.

Details of his final moments can be found here:
http://www.operation-ladbroke.com/waco-glider-70-disaster-border-medics-operation-ladbroke-sicily/

After being in the sea for about half an hour, we heard three people crying for help. Two of the voices were recognised as Pte. Smith’s and Pte. Kennedy’s. We shouted and flashed a torch but they were unable to reach us owing to the roughness of the sea. They continued to cry for help, but then we heard a choking noise, and the cries ceased.

Having no known grave, Horace’s name is listed on the Cassino Memorial at the Cassino War Cemetery in Italy.

___________________________________

Previous post about Horace

This is part of my militaria collection related to Horace. His photo. A beret of the type he is wearing in he photo, complete with RAMC cap badge. Five service medals (I assume) he would have been awarded. (1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star*, Defence medal, War Medal 1939-45)

A photo of the type of glider that took him to his death. A small map of the glider route. RAMC collar badge. A small copy of the Commonwealth War Graves document at the top of this post. I also have a plastic model of the glider waiting to be assembled.

The medals on the right and the small badge leaning against the glider photo aren’t related to Horace.

*I included the Italy Star among Horace’s medals, but it’s possible he wouldn’t have been awarded this one considering he lost his life on the way to the Sicily campaign and never made it to Italian territory. It’s something I can only confirm by obtaining his military service record.

I have now found that Horace arrived in Africa a month too late to have been eligible for the Africa Star. I’ve now moved the medal (seen in the photo) to another part of the cabinet with a few items related to Albert, Horace’s younger brother.

Albert Smith
Albert’s Grave

12
May
17

Albert’s Grave

In the cemetery photo included in my previous post, Albert’s headstone is visible: the third row back, third stone from the left.

Lareunion

Here is an enlargement with Albert’s memorial indicated with a red +

Lareunion edit

11
May
17

In Memory of a Cousin (who I never got to know)

On 11th May 1943, Albert Smith, aged 19, “died of wounds” at Oued Athmenia in Algeria, he was buried there and later reinterred in La Reunion War Cemetery.

His regiment was serving around Bou Arada in Tunisia. It is most likely that his wounds were received there requiring his evacuation to the 31 British General Hospital in Oued Athmenia.

From the war diary of Albert’s regiment, the following entry for 9th May possibly refers to the cause of Albert’s fatal wounds:

1 O.R. (other ranks) wounded by landmine.

I’m intending to apply for a copy of Albert’s service record which will hopefully confirm (or otherwise) whether that diary entry is referring to Albert.
Initially I was a little doubtful considering the distance between the mine incident and the place Albert died, but I later found that medical evacuations in that area were quite efficient around that time.

10
Nov
16

Glider 70

Thanks to Ian Murray and his website (http://www.operation-ladbroke.com/) I have more information about my cousin Horace and his fate during the glider operation that led the invasion of Sicily during WWII.

Ian has posted an article that identifies which Glider Horace flew in, and even provides a few details of his last moments.

Reading Ian’s article gave me a goose-bump moment equalled only by the time I finally found Horace and Albert after a year of searching for the “Maurice” and “Alfred” my dad had spoken of.

 

location of airfield where Horace's Glider 70 started it's journey.

Location of El Djem (El Jem) airfield, Tunisia,  where Horace’s Glider 70 started it’s journey,

Horace was a passenger in Glider 70, one of the American  WACOs brought in to supplement the larger British Horsa that couldn’t be supplied in large enough numbers. The glider was towed from the El Djem airfield in Tunisia, destined for Sicily as part of Operation Ladbroke.

On approaching the destination, landing zone 2,  (LZ2), trying to avoid enemy flak,  the tow-plane turned away from the designated release zone and the glider was set loose too far from land and came down a few miles off shore.

lz2a

lz2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though the glider floated, after exiting, some of the men couldn’t regain contact with it due to rough waters. Horace was one of those and he was heard calling for help before finally falling silent.

I suspect that Horace would not have been a strong swimmer. The only swimming pool in his local area would have been the same one I visited as a child 20 or so years later. Visits to the pool were rare and no one in my immediate family became proficient swimmers and I Imagine that in those earlier decades, Horace would have had fewer opportunities for learning to swim than I had.

In all one of Glider 70’s pilots and five others lost their lives, along with more than 250 from other gliders  who also drowned.

 

 

 

 

 

25
Oct
16

War Diary

title-page-edit

My research related to two cousins killed during WWII slowed down for a week or two. I ordered some books related to the campaigns in which their regiments were fighting leading up to their deaths, but haven’t had the chance to read them yet. However those books can only give a general background of what was going on where they were serving.

With Horace details are a little easier to find. He served with 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance and I’ve found several sources of information about them and the tragic events that led to his death on the first day of the attempted invasion of Sicily.

Albert’s story hasn’t been so easy to follow up. He served with 140 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery in North Africa, where he died of wounds received just prior to the surrender of the Axis powers in May 1943. Details of that particular regiment seem scarce.

This morning I received copies of his regiment’s war diary covering the period from January through to the time of Albert’s death. On the day he died the entry starts: “At 10.30 a.m. we fired our last rds in anger…”

For Albert it was so near and yet so far.

Heartbreaking!

I now need to take a closer look at the diary to get an idea of where Albert was serving leading up to his death.
Maybe the next step in my research will be to obtain the personal military records for both Albert and Horace. Unfortunately that won’t be as easy as getting the war diary. It is also not cheap.

28
Sep
16

Albert’s Grave

As recent posts indicate, I’ve been spending time researching my dad’s cousins who were killed in WWII. It’s a fascinating exercise and it surprises me how many small details I’ve found from unexpected sources.

Yesterday I found a reference to where Albert died (Oued Athmenia in Algeria), and that he’d originally been buried in that town before a year later being re-interred in the La Reunion War Cemetery in Bejaia. Previously I’d only known he’d died in North Africa and was buried in La Reunion.

Then this morning I was looking at a photo of the cemetery and realised his headstone was visible. Not close enough to read, but close enough to identify by comparing with a plan I’d found of the cemetery.

I’ve marked the position of Albert’s grave with a small red mark in the top right corner of the headstone: third row back, third grave from the left.
lareunion-alberts-grave

Here are the locations of Oued Athmenia (red indicator) and La Reunion War Cemetery.

oued-athmania-map




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