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British War Dead but buried by Germans - are there records?


sw63
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Can anyone tell me if the CWGC made a thorough survey of all British War Dead who were buried by the Germans? Did they reinter all in Commonwealth cemeteries, or did they leave them be?

Did the Germans keep any records of British dead & did they hand these over to the Red Cross?

I'm particularly interested in the Arras sector.

Simon

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Simon

I don't know about WW1, but so far as WW2 is concerned, many RAF flyers buried initially in Germany were concentrated in the CWGC cemetery Reichswald Forest cemetery. As their website says:

<quote>

Reichswald Forest War Cemetery was created after the Second World War when burials were brought in from all over western Germany....

</quote>

Lovely place.

Martin

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Hi Simon,

My two penneth worth.

The CWGC took over from the Imperial War Graves Commission who I believe took over for the army Grave Recovery Units. (Other Forum Members will set me straight if I have it a bit twisted).

The Germans were at times, very meticulous in recording what they did, take the Mass Grave at Fromelles as an example. They removed the identy discs, wrote down the names and counted the bodies that were being buried. They even recorded where the Mass Grave was located. The identity discs were to have been handed to the Red Cross for return to the British authorities. However, there is no doubt that this did not happen all the time and I would not try to guess a percentage.

As I understand it, all the verifiable burials were collected and consolidated from the battlefields but there came a time when it was agreed that those hard to find ones would be left where they lay and that no "archeological type " searches were going to be conducted. There are still a lot of our brave boys out there and some of them are not all that hard to find, but we can now use computers to cross-check records in minutes where all they had was a paper system and that did not always work as good as one would hope. Besides a lot of records were lost during the bombing of London in WW2.

Now, the CWGC inherited what was around at the time they were created and find that they have many, many holes in the records they were given. Quite regularly, the response is, "we really just don't know" the reason for this or why they did that when the cemetries were being created. As a result, us guys and gals on the Forum put out all sorts of theories and thoughts, and some of them really know their stuff.

Simon, where exactly in the Arras Sector are you seeking?

Ok, now I will sign off and await those more knowledgeable persons to take it from here.

Good luck, Peter

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Can anyone tell me if the CWGC made a thorough survey of all British War Dead who were buried by the Germans? Did they reinter all in Commonwealth cemeteries, or did they leave them be?

Did the Germans keep any records of British dead & did they hand these over to the Red Cross?

I'm particularly interested in the Arras sector.

Simon

All enemy soldiers who died in captivity or found dead were required to have known details registered. All known dead are interred in CWGC cemeteries or sections in Municipal cemeteries or the French and German equivalents, so were obviously re-interred at some time. You may enjoy a browse through the Cemeteries and memorials sub forum. I would also recommend a look at the CWGC site.

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Thanks for the replies,

My reason for asking is to explore the the remote possibility that a relative may have been buried by the Germans.

49551 Pte Wilkinson JJ, 20th King's was listed as KIA 21/3/17. Btn War Dairy entry for this day states that a 10 man patrol was sent to reconoitre Neuville Vitasse trench, having been informed that it was free of enemy. The patrol was ambushed by a group of about 40 Germans. 4 patrol members returned to British lines, but the rest were killed or captured.

CWGC state that JJ Wilkinson was KIA - no known grave, however, his official death certificate and local paper both state that he was accidentally killed (no further details). I don't know why there is this discrepancy but, more to the point, I imagine there was a chance he could have been wounded, taken prisoner and subsequently died whilst in German hands.

Like I said, a remote possibility, but one I feel I should explore.

Simon

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If he died as a prisoner, his details would have been passed on to the Red Cross. The only grey area with regard to prisoners is the allegation that some were kept in danger areas to perform work which they were not supposed to do. These men, it is alleged, would not have been registered until they eventually were sent back to the rear areas. ' Accidentally killed ' generally means killed by his own side in some way not attributable to enemy action. His grave may have been lost later as were many thousands of others.

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' Accidentally killed ' generally means killed by his own side in some way not attributable to enemy action. His grave may have been lost later as were many thousands of others.

That's the thing... I don't think he was accidently killed by his own side. I'm fairly sure he died in the ambush or shortly after. The Btn War diary makes no mention of any accidental deaths that day (or the days before or after) and my family have always said his body was never recovered. The four survivors reported that five other ranks of the patrol were captured. The Germans were withdrawing from the area and the site of the ambush was in British hands within a few days...

Another possibility is that the Germans shot their prisoners because they were retreating, but I've no evidence at all for this.

Simon

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Simon, the Grave Registration Unit did attempt to locate all burials but as the Pheasant Wood mass graves clearly show, these searches weren't always successful.

The Germans were at times, very meticulous in recording what they did, take the Mass Grave at Fromelles as an example. They removed the identy discs, wrote down the names and counted the bodies that were being buried. They even recorded where the Mass Grave was located. The identity discs were to have been handed to the Red Cross for return to the British authorities. However, there is no doubt that this did not happen all the time and I would not try to guess a percentage.

Peter,

Fromelles, indeed showed the Germans (Bavarian) at their meticulous best.

For example, of the 32nd (Australian) Battalion involved in the Battle of Fromelles, the Germans buried 54 men in total; these include 8 POWs that died as a result of wounds and 46 that were cleared from the battlefield (the Pheasant Wood ‘Missing’).

After the war, of the 8 POWs that died, 5 remained in their original plot:-

3 - Douai Communal Cemetery

2 - Lille Southern Cemetery

And 3 were re-interred:-

2 - from Haubourdin Communal Cemetery to Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery

1 - from Hammelburg, Germany to Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Germany

The Germans documented the return of all bar one of the identification discs (disc not mentioned but his other effects were returned) to the British authorities via the Red Cross, as well as numerous other personal effects. Of these discs all bar two (records don't state either way) are known to have been returned to the NoK.

Dan

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