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Mangoman

Repatriating those KIA

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4thGordons
On 8/26/2016 at 21:49, Ralph J. Whitehead said:

U.S. families had the option of bringing back the fallen. This was more as a result of expenses than anything else. Families had the right to be sent over to visit the grave of a fallen family member at Government cost. It was far cheaper to send a coffin back than a family overseas. My wife's great uncle Otto Ernst was brought home in this manner and rests in the National Cemetery in Queens, New York. 

Ralph I have a couple of questions about this because it doesn't entirely square with what I thought I knew.

 

Certainly families of US war dead could request repatriation - and large numbers did. And as Old Tom points out this now often means that they are hard to trace (unless they got an official military marker which some did).  My question is regarding the statement that "Families had the right to be sent over to visit the grave." There indeed were several "Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages" to France  but while the option was offered to many mothers/wives I do not believe it extended to fathers and other "family". It was also fairly controversial at the time in particular do to with cost (coinciding with the depression). There were also some very unpleasant discussions regarding race and whether the pilgrimages should be open to the mothers of African-American casualties. There were also disputes over wives who might have remarried etc. These pilgrimages did not take place until the early 1930s and if I recall about 6,500 women were identified as being eligible. So I suppose I am suggesting I did not think the "right to visit" was as absolute as you seem to be suggesting, whereas the right to have the body repatriated was, and was taken up by a large number. I have seen varying figures but @70% seems to pop up with some frequency although I don't know the source/veracity of that. Do you have any source for that "right to visit" (law/act of Congress etc?) that you could point me to so I can follow up - this is something I have been interested in for a while

 

Although it is somewhat morbid the idea of thousands of bodies being repatriated and then distributed around the country fascinates me. I have, on two occasions, followed up on a story as a result of research and writing.  I was unaware of the fire described in the articles and this really brings home the scale of the operation.

 

Chris

 

Just to add: I found a note based on a 2010 Wall Street Journal Article which says:

 

"When World War I ended, the families of 43,909 dead troops asked for their remains to be brought back to the U.S. by boat, while roughly 20,000 chose to have the bodies remain in Europe."  (These figures would seem to suggest a total figure of over 63,000)

Edited by 4thGordons
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Medaler
On 05/06/2016 at 17:56, johnboy said:

Men could have been buried within hours of being killed. There would have been to no time to notify nok. I doubt there would have been refrigeration units to keep the bodies.

If a man were critically ill in hospital it was possible for nok to visit and maybe a decision about burial could have been reached.

I have come across records of men for instance, wounded abroad , sent to a UK hospital and nok having them buried in their home town. The cost to nok would have been the train fare for freight?

 

 In the research I have been doing into the lads on my local memorial I have discovered that these men were sent home for burial in the vast majority of cases. Only one, who died in an isolation hospital at Aldershot, was not returned. Off the top of my head I can't remember what killed him, but it seems to have been viewed as so dangerous that he was buried in Aldershot.

 

I also have a few medals in the collection to lads who died in the UK, and who were returned to their home towns for burial. Research into one of them revealed an article in the Derbyshire Times describing how his body was brought home by rail and sent to lodge in his parents house the night before the funeral. I must admit that I found that an intensely moving story. The house still exists, opposite where the old Chesterfield FC football ground used to be at Saltergate. I suspect the current owners know nothing about the story.

 

To me this is a forgotten side of the war, the railway companies must have been kept very busy transporting these grim cargoes up and down the length and breadth of the country. It would be interesting to see if any evidence of this traffic survives in their company archives.

 

Regarding the cost involved, I believe the Army paid.

 

Regards,

Mike

Edited by Medaler
extra added

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John_Hartley
6 minutes ago, Medaler said:

 

 In the research I have been doing into the lads on my local memorial I have discovered that these men were sent home for burial in the vast majority of cases.

 

Mike

 

I assume you must live in a fairly wealthy area. Whilst the army would pay for a burial in the UK  close to the point of death, it would have been for the families to pay for a body to be returned to the home town for burial. It was an fairly expensive business, often outside the means of working class families to pay. I've not done any research into Stockport's home deaths but my sense is that most of those buried in the borough died there with the remainder being buried near wherever they had died.

 

John

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Medaler
7 minutes ago, John_Hartley said:

Mike

 

I assume you must live in a fairly wealthy area. Whilst the army would pay for a burial in the UK  close to the point of death, it would have been for the families to pay for a body to be returned to the home town for burial. It was an fairly expensive business, often outside the means of working class families to pay. I've not done any research into Stockport's home deaths but my sense is that most of those buried in the borough died there with the remainder being buried near wherever they had died.

 

John

 

Hi John,

 

Just the opposite. Of the 9 men on the memorial who died in the UK only 1 (mentioned above) was buried elsewhere. Some of them of course did literally die "at home".

 

As for wealthy, certainly not. None of them were officers, and mostly the lads themselves had been either colliers, iron workers or railwaymen who had been following in their fathers footsteps. The lad mentioned in the Derbyshire Times had been a Painter and Decorator before the war.

 

Regards,

Mike

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4thGordons
32 minutes ago, Medaler said:

To me this is a forgotten side of the war, the railway companies must have been kept very busy transporting these grim cargoes up and down the length and breadth of the country. It would be interesting to see if any evidence of this traffic survives in their company archives.

 

Regards,

Mike

 

Mike,

This is very interesting to me also in the context of the US where I now reside. As I indicated above the scale in the US (both distances and numbers) between 1919-1924 is mind boggling. When I get a moment I intend to investigate this.

 

I did read some related research some years ago (I think it was a PhD thesis) on the use of railways in Britain to transport bodies to universities for medical research and that was documented although where I do not recall.

Chris

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Medaler
On 08/09/2016 at 22:58, 4thGordons said:

 

Mike,

This is very interesting to me also in the context of the US where I now reside. As I indicated above the scale in the US (both distances and numbers) between 1919-1924 is mind boggling. When I get a moment I intend to investigate this.

 

I did read some related research some years ago (I think it was a PhD thesis) on the use of railways in Britain to transport bodies to universities for medical research and that was documented although where I do not recall.

Chris

 

Another related aspect that I find truly fascinating is the traffic that went the other way. I remember coming across a statistic that in 1923 a staggering 4,000 GWGC headstones were being sent to Europe every week. A quick exercise with a calculator informs me that, even at that rate, it would have taken over 2 years to send all that were required.

 

It may all sound terribly macabre, but the logistical exercise involved must have been immense. A bit "off topic" for this thread, but still (hopefully) interesting.

 

Regards,

Mike

 

Edited by Medaler
corrected my poor maths

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kenf48
45 minutes ago, John_Hartley said:

Mike

 

I assume you must live in a fairly wealthy area. Whilst the army would pay for a burial in the UK  close to the point of death, it would have been for the families to pay for a body to be returned to the home town for burial. It was an fairly expensive business, often outside the means of working class families to pay. I've not done any research into Stockport's home deaths but my sense is that most of those buried in the borough died there with the remainder being buried near wherever they had died.

 

John

 

Not strictly correct, initially the cost of transporting soldiers who died of wounds (or any other cause) usually by rail within the UK fell to the family. In January 1915 it was  recognised the cost was far beyond the means of most families and it was announced the expense of such removals will be a charge on public funds.

 

I wonder if those burials are 1915 or later.  Incidentally these men were alive when repatriated and died in the UK.  Their (military) funerals were often major local events.

 

As early as 1914 it was ordered that all soldiers dying in London hospitals shall be accorded a military funeral. In London  Territorial units were to provide firing and bearer parties, other arrangements were made outsid the capital. Most of these men were, of course, regular soldiers and their families probably did not 'claim' them other than officers.

 

ACI 1079/1918 was reported as ‘Where the GOC is satisfied that death resulted from a disability due to or aggravated by service in the war a military funeral will be provided when the total cost to the public can be limited to £5.  A refusal will be given to all other applications for military funerals, and applicants will be referred to the local War Pensions Committee if financial assistance is desired towards the expense of a civil funeral.  The responsibility of the Army authorities is thus limited to a military funeral.  

 

I doubt it it was an infectious disease that meant the soldier was not taken home, either it was before the cost fell to public funds or the family were content for him to be interred where he died.

 

Ken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Medaler
21 minutes ago, kenf48 said:

 

Not strictly correct, initially the cost of transporting soldiers who died of wounds (or any other cause) usually by rail within the UK fell to the family. In January 1915 it was  recognised the cost was far beyond the means of most families and it was announced the expense of such removals will be a charge on public funds

 

 

Thanks Ken, that explains it. My man buried in Aldershot died on 25th January 1915 - and all the others were later. His death was put down to Scarlet Fever, and I note that 41 others were buried a Aldershot between 1st December 1914 and 31st January 1915.

 

Regards,

Mike

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brummell

2Lt Alfred Bailey, 19, was killed on 3 September 1916 on the northern slopes of the Ancre valley whilst serving with D Coy, 17/KRRC.  The circumstances of his death and movement of his body rearwards are a bit murky but the upshot was that he was buried at Hamel Military Cemetery, a mile or so away.

 

His parents were notified of his death on 10 Sep.  His uncle enquired at the War Office about eventual repatriation and was assured that if the body was coffined, then it would be 'quite easy to bring him home after the War was over.' The parents then wrote to the Second in Command, Major Methuen (who was fond of Alfred) and asked if he would arrange for the eventual repatriation of the body after the war. Methuen provisionally arranged for the exhumation of the body, procured a lined coffin and planned to inter the coffin in a vault at Doullens cemetery until after the war.  He wrote to Captain Huguet of the French Military Mission attached to V Corps and, 'in accordance with regulations', asked him to secure the permission of the French commander-in-chief for all this to be carried out - as had recently been done for a Major Knott of the West Yorkshire Regiment.  A search of CWGC suggests this man was Major James Leadbitter Knott DSO, 10/West Yorks, killed 1 July 1916.  How this example occurred to Major Methuen is unknown (to me, at least).

 

Permission was not granted.  Methuen wrote to the parents, 'I have done everything in my power to get this permission and thought everything would be granted as I had been led to believe, but today I got information that it is not permitted and the rule is absolute.  I am most awfully sorry about it but I don't think anything further can be done.'

 

Alfred's uncle wrote to his MP and informed him of all this.  He wrote, 'We are quite content for him to lie where he is until the War is over.  If, as it seems possible, the War lasts another year it is quite certain that unless he is coffined it will be quite impossible to ever dream of getting his body, as there would be nothing left, and I cannot believe that this is what is contemplated.  He gave his life freely and proudly for his country, going straight from school into the Army, but his sorrowing parents surely have some claim on the country's consideration, inasmuch as they too have given their all.  His mother is heartbroken and her one agonized longing is that his body shall be coffined.'

 

Alfred is still buried in Hamel.  Interestingly, Major Knott is buried in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, alongside his brother.  It seems whatever was arranged for him was not enough to get him home, either.

 

Edit:  Major Knott was killed near Fricourt.  His brother, H. B. Knott, who was in the same division but a different battalion, was killed in the Salient in September 1915.  Perhaps the family, having been prevented from bringing the body home, at least managed to have it moved north and reburied next to that of his brother?

 

Alfred John Bailey 2.jpg

Edited by brummell
Further thoughts on Major Knott DSO.

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Phil Evans

This extract from the service record of 2/Lt H G Donaldson implies that expenses to transport bodies back to home were not met by the authorities as a matter of course. The letter is dated 3rd August 1918. Donaldson's father had originally written in May asking for assistance. Was it different for officers?

 

 

 

Donaldson crop.jpg

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John_Hartley
16 hours ago, kenf48 said:

 

Not strictly correct, initially the cost of transporting soldiers who died of wounds (or any other cause) usually by rail within the UK fell to the family. In January 1915 it was  recognised the cost was far beyond the means of most families and it was announced the expense of such removals will be a charge on public funds.

 

Thanks for that, Ken. It comes as one of those "you learn something every day" things. I had always understood the situation to be as I had posted. It leaves me gobsmacked that the rules changed as early as the beginning of 1915. Means there must have been quite a lot of families, throughout the war, who took the view that "Nah, even though you're paying, we can't be bothered with all the fuss of having him brought up here for burial" - or similar.

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keithmroberts

thanks indeed Ken

 

it explains much. I had been surprised that some men I researched who died in the UK had been buried close to their family home, when the remainder of my research into those families suggested that they would have struggled to find the cost of transport. I had assumed very considerable financial sacrifices were involved in addition to the loss of a loved one. 

 

 

Keith

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johnboy
1 hour ago, John_Hartley said:

Thanks for that, Ken. It comes as one of those "you learn something every day" things. I had always understood the situation to be as I had posted. It leaves me gobsmacked that the rules changed as early as the beginning of 1915. Means there must have been quite a lot of families, throughout the war, who took the view that "Nah, even though you're paying, we can't be bothered with all the fuss of having him brought up here for burial" - or similar.

 

Maybe not a case of  "Nah, even though you're paying, we can't be bothered with all the fuss of having him brought up here for burial" - or similar.

 

Even with the cost of the transport paid, the cost of the funeral itself would still have to be borne by the family. I don't know what coffins and services and grave costs were then. Maybe someone does? 

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Phil Evans

Johnboy,

 

According to the father of the man I mentioned above, the funeral costs came to £28-13-0. He was buried in a pre-existing family grave in the local cemetery.

 

Phil

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johnboy
12 minutes ago, Phil Evans said:

Johnboy,

 

According to the father of the man I mentioned above, the funeral costs came to £28-13-0. He was buried in a pre-existing family grave in the local cemetery.

 

Phil

 

 

Thanks Phil. 

If a grave had to be purchased it would have been a lot more? Anyway, £28 was a lot of money.

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kenf48

For clarification and in light of the interest the full text of the War Office announcement (published in the week January 8 1915 in most local newspapers)

 was:-

" Cases have occurred in which relatives of soldiers dying in the United Kingdom have expressed the desire that the soldier should be buried near his home.  As the cost of this would, in many cases, be prohibitive to the relatives, it has been arranged that, in the case of a soldier whose death is attributable to active service, and whose relatives especially desire the funeral to take place at his home, the cost of conveyance of the body may be met from public funds.

It will be understood that any further expenses involved, apart from the railway charges and the cash allowance for burial expenses, will be defrayed by the relatives."

 

In addition it is worth noting that many workplaces and communities,in the broadest sense, set up 'relief funds'.  For example the Annual Report of the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co Ltd Workmen's War Relief Fund, published September 1915 noted under financial assistance, 'the cost of two soldiers funerals and the part cost of one has been defrayed".  There were also contributions available from charities and the community, nevertheless the cost could cause great hardship which is probably why many were interred close to the hospitals where they died.  A few of these may also be those men whose deaths were deemed not to be 'attributable to active service'.

 

One particular circumstance, which was not resolved until much later was the grant of an allowance was for discharged soldiers' funerals, they were effectively civilians and with no other means of support often received a 'pauper's funeral', even if their death was attributable to their war service.

 

It is also interesting that after the war the IWGC approached local authorities to grant 'rights of burials in perpetuity'.  Many authorities did so, but right up until the end of WW2 others resisted this request, for many reasons, and demanded payment from the IWGC before granting this concession.

 

Ken

 

 

Edited by kenf48

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Phil Evans

Thanks Ken for posting that.

 

I wonder how the costs compared against providing a military funeral in a local common grave and travel warrants for, what I believe, was two members of immediate family?

 

Somewhere, I have some research I did on the local Screen Wall, in which I compiled the residence and place of death of each of the men. My Lewisham Military Hospital Roll of Honour should also include the same information and overlap with that.

 

Phil

 

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alanh

had two relatives buried at home, both with names on screen wall in Ladywell cemetery Pte G98134 WA Humphries  29th London Regiment Formerly Royal Fusiliers Died of Pneumonia at Colchester Military Hospital 12/11/18 and Able seaman Alfred Bernard Tappenden 223171 H. M.S.'UNDAUNTED' Died 23rd January 1917. Age 29

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Mangoman

Riichmond Herbert Hopes was born in Pucklechurch in 1894 to Herbert James and Chistiana Hopes (nee Gardener) and lived in No. 1, Rose Villa, Shortwood, nr. Mangotsfield from 1910–1911. By 1911 Richmond was employed as a journeyman book binder. His parents later lived in Croydon House, Cossham Street, Mangotsfield.

Richmond served as Private 2288 served in the 2/3 (North Midlands) Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps and died on 13th April 1915 at the Northampton War Hospital on Tuesday 13 April 1915 (aged 21 years) caused by Pneumococcal pericarditis (a form of meningitis) and Septicaemenia (blood poisoning); his mother Christiana was present at his death.

The hospital, on the outskirts of Duston village had previously been the Northampton County Asylum. His body was returned home and was buried on the south-east side of St. Jame's Churchyard, Mangotsfield, Gloucestershire on 18th April 1915.

Edited by Mangoman

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Guest

Probably apocryphal but worth mentioning here:

 

"In 1966 upon being told that President Charles DeGaulle had taken France out of NATO and that all U.S. troops must be evacuated off of French soil President Lyndon Johnson mentioned to Secretary of State Dean Rusk that he should ask DeGaulle about the Americans buried in France. Dean implied in his answer that that DeGaulle should not really be asked that in the meeting at which point President Johnson then told Secretary of State Dean Rusk:"Ask him about the cemeteries Dean!"

That made it into a Presidential Order so he had to ask President DeGaulle. So at end of the meeting Dean did ask DeGaulle if his order to remove all U.S. troops from French soil also included the 60,000+ soldiers buried in France from World War I and World War II.

DeGaulle, embarrassed, got up and left and never answered."

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Old Scalyback

There are 27 WW1 CWGC Headstones in the cemetery at Clacton on sea, the bulk of them in a dedicated plot containing men who died of wounds in Hospital in Clacton and men killed serving in the local garrison. there are 8 Men from Clacton among the 27, a few in family graves around the cemetery  some of these graves include kerb sets and other family embellishments. All 8 local men died in service in the UK and a similar number  died in service locally and have not been repatriated elsewhere.  this seems to be typical of the pattern of burials in the UK.

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