Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Murder victim's identity


stephen_irwin
 Share

Recommended Posts

A collection of letters from British POWs has come to light at the Museum where I work. These were letters sent by soldiers interned in the Netherlands and Switzerland. One is of particular interest.

The letter was postmarked Scheveningen and was addressed thus:

2102 Cpl. Charles Hoole, Loyal N Lancs

Group 10 Backman Straat

Den Haag

Holland

23rd June 1918

This is what he had to say (the spelling and punctuation are his):

"Dear Friends

I am very pleased to say that I have been of some use here to my comrades for there has been one of them killed by Germans civilians and I have just finished my duty as detective for them I caught them last night there are four of them they was after another of my friends but now as they are caught it may make the others that are interned timid and keep away from the english interned prisoners of war, he was killed on the 15th of May and I was coming from the seabeach by tramcar when I overheard these men speaking of having killed one Englishman and was looking for the other and at the time I had not got any special permission for late absence from my quarters and so I had to leave the tram and go and inform my officer and get a special pass.

The trial is tomorrow the 24th June so I will let you know the verdict in my next letter.

I am in the best of health and spirit and hope all Blackburn friends are the same I remain your obedient and truly servant

Cpl Charles Hoole"

Sadly, we don't have Corporal Hoole's next letter.

I would like to identify the murdered Englishman and find out the outcome of the trial; can you help?

I have searched Soldiers Died in the Great War and crossed checked with the CWGC records. No soldier who died on 15th May 1918 is buried in the Netherlands. Of course he might have been a sailor or airman or Australian, Canadian etc.

Has anyone any ideas? Do Dutch Police or Trial records from this period survive? If they do are they accessible? Assuming the victim was buried in the Netherlands does anyone know which cemeteries in Den Haag were used to bury internees who died.

This is a fascinating and tantalising story I would like to pursue further and any help would be much appreciated.

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An interesting tale. Given that there would be significant numbers of both German and British POWs interned in the Netherlands and relatively free to move arround one is surprised there weren't more cases of homicide, but perhaps there were and they are just not known about. One wonders what, if any, special policing arrangements were in place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your response to my enquiry. What is Geoff's search engine (forgive me but I am new to this forum)?

Regards

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you type in "Geoff's Search Engine" in Google you will find a website that enables you to put in almost any combination of information and GSE will trawl the Commonwealth War Grave Commission's data base and hopefully come back with your answer. The CWGC website is great if you have the dead persons name but GSE can search, for instance, if you need to know who died from a particular town or village. With yours, a search by date of death and country should produce names and then all you need do is thin out to the one that seems right. Just tried again and can get the 1939-47 version but not the WW1 one. Perhaps he is tinkering with it to improve it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Centurion,

Again, thank you for your response. Like you, I found this a fascinating insight and all the more interesting because it was so unexpected. We do have letters from other men interned in the Netherlands, though none are as dramatic as Cpl. Hoole's. Sergeant Groves (who was an older man and comes across as quite wise) wrote that they saw plenty of Germans about but that they avoided them as otherwise fights would be bound to break out. The implication is that they were quite free to roam (as is implied in Hoole's letter). Groves also commented in one of his letters that the German soldiers did not salute their officers although the officers plainly still expected it. Perhaps interned soldiers were expected, to some extent, to be 'self-policing'.

I think that there must have been some concern in Blackburn for Hoole's safety as another soldier, Private Huntley, writes that he has recently seen Cpl. Hoole and he is quite well.

Unfortunately, I cannot read, write or speak Dutch which will make enquiries in the Netherlands difficult. Has anyone come across anything written on the experiences of internees during WWI?

Regards

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The implication is that they were quite free to roam (as is implied in Hoole's letter).

Internees were generally free to roam - indeed they could take up civilian employment if they could find any (probably only those with special and scarce skills would be able to take advantage). Those who could afford it (usually officers) were given permission to rent accommodation outside of the camps. There must have been a number of bars, cafés etc that became British or German haunts and making a mistake by wandering into the wrong establishment might have been quite dangerous.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Medal Card on Ancestry.com confirms him as LNLancs, disembarked for the BEF 20 September 1914, and "Prisoner of War"

No immediate sign of surviving pension/service papers from that source.

LST_164

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stephen.

Fascinating. It would great to find out more. I'm a little confused about who the letter was sent to - is that the address on the front of the letter or the address of the sender? Presumably he didn't send the letter to himself. If the latter, then who did he send the letter to?

The way he says "my duty as detective" makes me think that perhaps he was a police officer before the war. Perhaps, once you have more information on this man, you might want to consider a search of police records, if they are available.

Geoff's search engine (for CWGC records) still seems to be down, unfortunately. Once available, you will need to enter the date in the format 15/05/1918. When he says "Comrades", I wonder if the person murdered was also in The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment or whether he was using the term generally.

How's your French? The National Archives has a research guide on "British Prisoners of War, c1760-1919". In particular, note Section 5:

"Deaths of PoWs and internees occurring in military and non-military hospitals and in enemy and occupied territory were notified to British authorities by foreign embassies, legations, registration authorities and American authorities in charge of British internees. The record series RG 35/45 to RG 35/69 contains an incomplete collection of these certificates. It should be noted, however, that the majority of this information is in French."

Let us know how you get on.

regards,

Martin

p.s. For what it's worth, the CWGC has a William Hoole, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, d. 20/09/1917, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial (Belgium). Could be a relation.. or not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Medal Card on Ancestry.com confirms him as LNLancs, disembarked for the BEF 20 September 1914, and "Prisoner of War"

No immediate sign of surviving pension/service papers from that source.

LST_164

Dear LST 164

Thanks for looking up Corporal Hoole for me. If he arrived in France in 1914 that places him in the 1st Battalion although Brigadier James states the Battalion landed, at La Havre, on 13/08/14. It is interesting that he claimed no pension as in another of his letters he states that he had been bayonetted by a Guard whilst a POW so clearly he had been wounded.

Regards

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear LST 164

If he arrived in France in 1914 that places him in the 1st Battalion although Brigadier James states the Battalion landed, at La Havre, on 13/08/14. It is interesting that he claimed no pension as in another of his letters he states that he had been bayonetted by a Guard whilst a POW so clearly he had been wounded.

Regards

Stephen

Looks like he landed as part of a reinforcement draft - he was probably a reservist.

He may have claimed a Pension - the records are incomplete. However, if he was bayonetted then the wound was not debilitating because he was never awarded the Silver War Badge.

Andy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stephen.

Fascinating. It would great to find out more. I'm a little confused about who the letter was sent to - is that the address on the front of the letter or the address of the sender? Presumably he didn't send the letter to himself. If the latter, then who did he send the letter to?

The way he says "my duty as detective" makes me think that perhaps he was a police officer before the war. Perhaps, once you have more information on this man, you might want to consider a search of police records, if they are available.

Geoff's search engine (for CWGC records) still seems to be down, unfortunately. Once available, you will need to enter the date in the format 15/05/1918. When he says "Comrades", I wonder if the person murdered was also in The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment or whether he was using the term generally.

How's your French? The National Archives has a research guide on "British Prisoners of War, c1760-1919". In particular, note Section 5:

"Deaths of PoWs and internees occurring in military and non-military hospitals and in enemy and occupied territory were notified to British authorities by foreign embassies, legations, registration authorities and American authorities in charge of British internees. The record series RG 35/45 to RG 35/69 contains an incomplete collection of these certificates. It should be noted, however, that the majority of this information is in French."

Let us know how you get on.

regards,

Martin

p.s. For what it's worth, the CWGC has a William Hoole, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, d. 20/09/1917, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial (Belgium). Could be a relation.. or not.

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your post; as you say it is a fascinating letter and a window on what I suspect is a little researched topic. I apologise for the confusion over the address. All of these letters in our possession were sent to the 'Blackburn Prisoners of War Relief Fund'. We have correspondence from c.130 men but only about 8-10 were writing from the Netherlands or Switzerland (+1 writing from Denmark describing his escape from POW camp!).

The idea of checking the Police records is a good one, thanks, I'm sure they will still exist. I will also check in the Town Directories for Charles Hoole although he had only just turned 24 when he wrote the letter and so may well not have lived independantly of his parents before the war.

Thanks for the lead on the death of POWs files at the PRO; I may well be down their in February although my French is almost non-existant.

Regards

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have had a quick looked at the CWGC commission site for the The Hague cemetery for deaths on 15 May 1918, this man is nearest:

MEREDITH, FRED

Initials: F

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Lance Corporal

Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

Unit Text: 1st Bn.

Age: 29

Date of Death: 16/05/1918

Service No: 1300

Additional information: Son of William and Myra Meredith, of 39, Melbourne St., Clayton, Manchester.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: 3.

Cemetery: THE HAGUE GENERAL CEMETERY

Regards

Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fred Merediths service record states he fell into a hot water tank and is recorded as an accidental death. It's a bit hard to read as some bits of the page are missing.

Neil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Neil and Steve for your work tracking down Fred Meredith, sadly it doesn't look like he was the man mentioned by Corporal Hoole.

If the murdered man was killed in or around the Hague you would have expected him to have been buried there. I guess that I will have to check all the WWI burials in the Netherlands during WWI and look at the records of POW deaths in the National Archives.

Although no one has mentioned it yet, I also think we always have to be open to the possibility that Corporal Hoole was a fantasist.

Regards

Stephen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...