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Accuracy of dates of death on CWGC site


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Perth Digger

I've been trawling through the dates of death for o/rs killed in the 21st KRRC's first major battle on 15/9/1916, using, of course, Geoff's search engine. I was surprised to find that about 80% of the deaths are given as occurring on 17th September. I've done a similar exercise with several battalions of the 41st Division for the same period, and the vast majority of deaths are given as having occurred on the 15th. I know that the 21st had great difficulty getting their wounded away to CCSs, but I was wondering whether the difference here is administrative rather than real. I haven't seen the 21st's war diary, so can't check that.

What are people's views about the accuracy of dates of death in general?

Mike

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Given that 15th Sept was the start of the Flers Courcelette action, i would think that a large number of casualties would be recorded for that day.

However, in the subsequent days and to maintain the momentum of the offensive, fresh units would be added, so it is entirely possible for the 21 KRRC to sustain the bulk of their casualties a couple of days later, if they were reserves and reinforcements to the initial assault.

I think an Expert Pal who can clarify better is needed. I'm sure one will hove into view shortly!!

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clive_hughes

I think the dates the CWGC go by are those given to it by the War Office, Admiralty etc. unless there is pretty convincing evidence to the contrary.

They in turn had consulted the mens' service files and other documents, many of which contain reports of casualties from units in the field, hospitals and so forth. The units tend to give the date when the report of a casualty was made but this isn't necessarily the date the casualty happened. Just when the information was received/determined by them.

For instance, a man shot late one evening in the trenches wouldn't be officially reported until the next morning's roll had been called, so it's the next day's date which is shown.

In some circumstances the fighting was so chaotic that no-one made coherent casualty reports until some days later - so for example, you find that the famous "vanished battalion" of 1/5th Norfolks at Suvla have a wide scatter of death dates in the Soldiers Died in the Great War list reflecting what is on their individual files; news that men had been killed or missing came in to their headquarters in dribs and drabs over a period of time, even though most happened on one given day.

This gap between actual & reported death date is often ironed out by the time a stone is engraved: the famous Welsh war poet Ellis H.Evans ("Hedd Wyn") appears in SDGW as being killed on 4 August 1917 (date report was made), when he actually died on 31 July of wounds received earlier that day. It's the 31 July date that appears on his stone.

With missing men, eventually some sort of decision was made about a date (or inclusive dates) when they probably died.

Don't know if this helps, but there isn't a quick answer. It may well be that your men became casualties on one day but were only officially reported two days later, and this may or may not have been corrected by the authorities later in time for the CWGC register.

LST_164

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UreFamilyhistorian
I've been trawling through the dates of death for o/rs killed in the 21st KRRC's first major battle on 15/9/1916, using, of course, Geoff's search engine. I was surprised to find that about 80% of the deaths are given as occurring on 17th September. I've done a similar exercise with several battalions of the 41st Division for the same period, and the vast majority of deaths are given as having occurred on the 15th. I know that the 21st had great difficulty getting their wounded away to CCSs, but I was wondering whether the difference here is administrative rather than real. I haven't seen the 21st's war diary, so can't check that.

What are people's views about the accuracy of dates of death in general?

Mike

Hi

I have examined the war diary for the 21st KRRC for the period concerned. The only figures given are for the 15th. 4 officers and 54 OR killed, 70 OR missing.

I agree with the discrepancy of dates issue. My relative died on 7th October 1916 in the attack on Bayonet trench with the 32nd Royal Fusiliers. CWCG have him recorded as dying between 4th and 10th October. His service record contains the telegram to his sister that clearly says he died on the 7th October and we have a letter from his Major stating the same precise date.

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Mike,

Gerald Gliddon's "When The Barrage Lifts" has this small snippet concerning the 21st K.R.R.C after the attack on Flers.

"On the 16th a roll call took place when many able men were found to be missing, killed or wounded."

It's always supposition when trying to guess the reasons for these type of discrepencies unless hard facts come to light but the roll call tied in with the battalion diariy's number of missing may lead to some clues why.

Stuart

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Perth Digger

May I thank all for their comments. I'm doing a bit more digging and will get back on this, as it looks as if up to 70 21/KRRC men have the wrong dates of death on the Thiepval monument.

Does anyone have access to the 21/KRRC war diary for Seeptember 1916?

Thanks

Mike

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Mike,

Sorry been away!

The only Casualty Report is on the 15 Sep 1916:

post-20192-1275003262.jpg

There are no casualties recorded for the 16th and 17th.

Cheers,

Mark

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Michael Johnson

I ran into a similar situation in Dury Mill Cemetery. I have shots of three unknowns, but identified as to CEF Battalion. In all three cases the date is September 6, but the War Diaries record no casualties that date. There was heavy fighting September 2 and 3.

If they were died of wounds, you'd think they would be identified.

I think September 6 is the date they were recovered and buried.

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  • 5 months later...
Liz in Eastbourne

I've been trawling through the dates of death for o/rs killed in the 21st KRRC's first major battle on 15/9/1916, using, of course, Geoff's search engine. I was surprised to find that about 80% of the deaths are given as occurring on 17th September. I've done a similar exercise with several battalions of the 41st Division for the same period, and the vast majority of deaths are given as having occurred on the 15th. I know that the 21st had great difficulty getting their wounded away to CCSs, but I was wondering whether the difference here is administrative rather than real. I haven't seen the 21st's war diary, so can't check that.

Mike

Since this discussion (as you are aware!) there has been a lot more on 21st Bn KRRC - the original Yeomen relating specifically to the 21st Bn KRRC.

I don't know much about the situation elsewhere, but now that I have looked at a great many records of 21/KRRC casualties in 1916, I think most of the Flers deaths have ' K in A 15/17.9.1916' on their casualty forms and then very often as you say the CWGC record picks up the second number. SDGW sometimes picks up the first one so there's an apparent discrepancy. We know that they were not in action on 16th or 17th and '16th' is given, I think, only about four times out of the men whose deaths I have listed from CWGC via Geoff's Search Engine (haven't checked those yet but will.)

For example, I've just checked the record of Arthur King, C/12308, aged 20, from Leeds, whose record states he was K in A on 15/17 Sept. SDGW says 15 Sept, CWGC says 17.

The same happens with their other big 1916 battle, Gird Ridge on 7 October, when there were also massive casualties, on this occasion some before the main action, on the approach.

For example, I've just checked the record of Charles Kirbyson, C/ 12427, aged 29, from Easingwold. His record says he was K in A 5/10 Oct. In this case both CWGC and SDGW state 10 Oct. But we don't know which day he died on, really.

From this I don't deduce that these later dates necessarily mean 'died of wounds' as the record doesn't say that and the date range instead of one date is such a standard occurrence on these records. It seems to be a reflection of their heavy casualties and administrative difficulties, as you suggest.. As we now know the war diary shows this confusion (although I have yet to obtain the Appendices for October).

i know you've looked at a lot more records too now - would you agree?

Liz

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