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Reported dead by Germans: August 1914


Guest mgorman

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My great uncle, Pte John Gorman, 9320 2 Batt Manchester Regiment, was reported dead by the German Authorities, via the American Embassy, in April 1915. He had died of wounds, as a POW, and was presumed to have died at Le Cateau on 26 August 1914.

Questions: Would the Germans have buried him? If so, where?

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According to CWGC records your uncle has no known grave and is commemorated at La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial Seine-et-Marne, France.

Hope this helps

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Yes, thanks for that Second Lieutenant. I visited the monument at Ferte-sous-Jarre some ten years ago, which commemorates the many men, with no known grave, who fell in the first weeks of the war.

I am trying to locate my great uncle's grave. I know, from his service record, that he died of wounds in German hands, presumably in the retreat from the Mons canal to Le Cateau in August 1914. What would the Germans have done with his remains?

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To know where the Germans could have buried, one must first find out where exactly he died (in a hospital behind the front, in a regimental aid post, ...). Then you can start looking for the former German cemeteries nearby and have a look in the original registers (if these still exist). The Germans buried the allied dead together with their own under the motto 'Im Leben ein Feind im Tode vereint' (Enemies alive, joined in death). It was only from 1919 till the early 20s that the allied dead were reburied, although there are still several joined German-French cemeteries and mass graves. I have experience with German cemeteries in Flanders but I am not so familiar with the German cemeteries in France.

Jan

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Sorry if my reply was a little naïve. We all try to be helpful here and we have absolutely no idea of what people know and what they don't know, especially on their first couple of posts.

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Hedley, good point. This is my first post and I am a little unsure about how to proceed. I have been trying to locate my great uncle's remains for some time and only really had a breakthrough when the 'G' section of the Burnt Papers were finally released last year. Thankfully his service record was intact and I was able to extract much valuable information including the fact that, when he rejoined the Manchesters on the Curragh in August 1914 (he had been a regular in S Africa & India) his wife was five months pregnant. He was never to see his child.

Jan. thanks for your information. How would I get access to such registers to check if my g uncle had been buried by the Germans. And how many German cemetaries are there on the route of the retreat of the 2 Manchesters from the Mons canal?

Also, if the Germans reported his death to the American Embassy in 1915 would a record of this exist?

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Ralph J. Whitehead

While it is a long shot there might be some records left regarding the German report. It would probably be in the National Archives in Washington. Perhaps the best place to start would be an inquiry to the embassy to ask where and who you should write to for this information.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to find a sympathetic and helpful person who will point you in the right direction. Good luck.

Ralph

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Another thing that could be interesting if we want to find the cemetery: where and when exactly was he taken prisoner?

Jan

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Ralph, thanks for the suggestion. I will write to the American Embassy to see if they can help me. Also, I wonder if the Germans would have a copy of their own report, presumably they have some sort of Military Archive too? I also understand that the International Red Cross in Geneva keep some data on Prisoners of War (although he was probably a POW only for a matter of hours).

Jan, I am going to look at his service record again, which is very long given the length of time he served with the colours, and see if I can extract more information which might give a clue to the location of his death. I know that the British authorities PRESUMED he died of wounds at Le Cataeu on 26 August 1914 but this was based on the German report, he could have died earlier in the retreat from Mons.

I have always had a strong feeling, in the fifteen or so years I have been looking, that my g uncle has a grave. My family would dearly like to find it.

Mike

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Well, it certainly pays to read (and re-read) documents carefully!

In his Service Record it states:

"14.9.14 Missing. Le Cateau 26.8.14" (Presumably he was taken prisoner here.)

"4.6.15 Reported dead by American Embassy 9.4.15 WO28 QG C/4 8/1

Reported 'Dead, place of burial unknown'. WO E/71445/1

Authority being German list received through American Embassy 17817.

Date of Death to be recorded is 'on or since 26.8.1914"

"Died of Wounds. Reported by German Government 17817 (0103) 4993"

(and this is the section I missed...)

"Died of Wounds, Germany.

Casualties E/71455/1 df Died of wounds in GERMANY.

Date of death on or since 26.8.1914."

So, presumably he was wounded and captured at Le Cateau and then moved to a POW camp in Germany, where he died.

Would the Germans have kept records? Where would the camp have been?

and he would not have been alone.

Extract for Battalion Diary: 2 Manchesters, 26 August 1914

"Retirement ordered at 4am to REAUMONT. About 6am order cancelled & 2 Suffolks with 2 Batteries of RFA ordered to hold entrenchment. Some 750 yards S of MONTAY the Battn was ordered to support them and dig in. Half Coy under Capt Foord and Lt Reade were sent to occupy spur on right & Lt Harper with 2 machine guns. About 10am Germans advanced attacking Suffolks & Batteries vigorously with shell fire and machine guns. The Battn was ordered to support them. A Coy under Capt Trueman went to right and B Coy under Capt Knox to left wih Capt Adjt Nisbet. Reamainder of reserve viz. half C Coy under Capt Theobold and quarter D Coy under 2/Lt Smith and Colonel James went up finally to reinforce them. Major Weston with three quarters D Coy under Capt Wymer having been sent to reinforce spur on right by Brig Gen Rolt. 2 Coys of A & S Highlanders (93rd) was also sent to cover R rear of spur under Maj Maclean to whom Maj Weston handed over the men on the spur and went to collect men retreating down the valley, occupying A Coys original trench where all sound men rallied under Colonel James and 2/Lt Smith and held on until 4 guns were rescued from their forward positions, owing mainly to stubborn resistance offered by Lt Harper with his machine guns and Lt Reade & Capt Foord with half C Coy. The casualties in the centre were very heavy. Capt Nisbet being shot trough the head and 13 other officers wounded. Capts Innerman, Fowke, Theobold, Knox, Wymer, Morley & Lieuts Thomas, Albrecht, Burrows, Miller, Butler, Broadheath & Mansegh, and some 400 men. Exact numbers are not computable owing to retreat of some miles to MARETZY being ordred where men were sorted out in a sort of wet field forming a rest camp. Only 8 officers and 240 men being collected, others subsequently rejoined."

Extracts from14 Brigade Diary: 26 August 1914

"Units were ordered to Stand to Arms at 3.30am.

Orders for retirement were received. 15th Brigade RFA advanced to take up positions to cover withdrawal of Brigade if attacked.

About 5.30am General Rolt rode over to 2 Manchesters/2 Suffolks/1 E Lancs and selected positions for them in case of attack before the retirement ... Units entrenched in their positions.

6.00am ADC 5 Division informed Brig Gen Rolt that retirement was cancelled and Div would fight it out in its position.

7.00am Germans commenced shelling the Artillery and continued for many hours causing very heavy casualties amongst the infantry, firing line, supports and reserves.

10am 2 Manchesters advanced in support of 2 Suffolks who were being attacked by infantry and machine guns.

During the afternoon the retirement commenced but the Suffolks, in the advanced trenches, were being so heavily attacked by German infantry and machine guns that they failed to extricate themselves.

Late in the afternnon the Brigade, in accordance with orders from 5 Division, was withdrawn into column of route on the MAUROIS-ESTREES road, and marched to ESTREES where a halt was made for 4 hours for rest and food and battalions reformed. Weather fine.

Casualties at Le Cateau:

2 Suffolks. Officers, 1 killed, 23 missing. Other ranks, 6 wounded 686 missing

1 E Lancs. (1and half Coys) Officers, 2 wounded. Other ranks, 3 killed 43 wounded 50 missing.

1 DCLI Officers, 5 wounded 2 missing. Other ranks, 2 killed, 21 wounded 41 missing

2 Manchesters, Officers, 1 killed 5 wounded 8 missing. Other ranks, 12 killed 147 wounded 180 missing."

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There are several cemeteries in Germany where dead British POWs are buried. I guess Terry Denham could tell you more. He knows perhaps where others from the battalion are buried?

Jan

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There were/are about sixty cemeteries in Germany - though many are now cleared. Most have/had PoWs in them. I can send you a list off forum if you wish.

There are certainly several Manchesters in Berlin South-Western but these were concentrated here from elsewhere.

An interesting one (just to give you a red herring) was Weingarten PoW Grave. This was a mass grave near the town's actual cemetery. It contained 126 PoWs but only one was identified.

They are still there I believe but are now commemorated by Special Memorials elsewhere.

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Terry. t hanks for that. I would be grateful for the list. Also, would the International Red Cross have been involved at this time - the first week of the War (and perhaps have a record of my uncle)? Were the Germans bound by any conventions concerning the treatment of Allied POWs? Finally, concerning the stand of 5 Division at Le Cateau and the retreat from Mons, presumably many allied soldiers would have been taken prisoner - would they have been sent to one camp or dispersed?

Again, many thanks.

Mike

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