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Missing soldiers later found to be alive

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Liz in Eastbourne
Posted (edited)

That's very sad, Michelle.

And he had a grave - just shows the power of denial.  With the missing, it's obviously understandable. 'We know not where they have laid him' was the biblical text used by one young officer's parents in their death announcement  a year after Loos. 

 

What I don't understand, as I keep saying, is how the authorities went from 'missing' to 'died' (not 'presumed killed in action' or similar) in this man Robinson's case without more information being given. Has anyone seen that before?  I thought 'died' was reserved for non-battle-related deaths, usually from illness. But  it could just be a mistake, likewise the local memorial.  Several years ago I found a man commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle memorial who had in fact died of illness at home, but there were newspaper death announcements to support that and Chris Harley found the grave and got CWGC to change his record.

 

 

Liz

Edited by Liz in Eastbourne
Insert link to Neuve Chapelle thread

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Perth Digger

Michelle

That is a remarkable headstone and very poignant. Thanks for sharing it.

 

Liz: 'Died', from what I've seen, is not confined to non-battle deaths, although that is its main use. But I've not been able to discern a pattern in its use on MICs and in the Effects records. It may just be a function of ignorance of the exact type of death among Base and WO clerks. I've never seen it used in War Diaries (I only look at the officer casualties so I might have missed it with ORs). It could, of course, be a shorthand for DOW in some cases. It's a real pest when trying to classify fatal casualties in large numbers. 

 

Mike

 

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seaforths

I’ve been reading and watching this thread develop with interest. My own thoughts, for what they’re worth cover a number of points already raised. When the ICRC records were released, they were only 80% completed with 20% still to be completed at a later date. I contacted the ICRC some time ago to enquire when the rest of the records might be completed. I was told that there were too many current conflicts ongoing that needed funds and they could not justify spending funds on finishing the POW records. I notice that Hedley Malloch’s book on the Iron Twelve is due to be published next month; a reminder that there were men trapped between the lines being sheltered by the French & Belgians, some of those trapped men did survive. Into that mix, there were very large numbers of men who were captured and unregistered POWs and as such, listed as missing/killed that turned up after the war in camps on French & Belgian soil and hospitals there too.

 

I have read files were the media came in for a lot of criticism by some in high office, for the things they published which, falsely, raised the hopes of relatives. This was both in the early days of the war and later, after the armistice. Following the armistice, there were so many men still missing that the media and public believed that men were still being held in secret camps by the Germans. In order to address these allegations, teams were sent out and a search was conducted in France, Belgium and Germany. Unfortunately, the Germans didn’t help themselves by continuing to force some POWs to continue working after the armistice - some spent Christmas of 1918 working in German mines.

 

The emotion behind the headstone from Michelle just reminded me of some of the harrowing letters in the FO files from relatives, who believed their loved ones were still alive.

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Perth Digger

Seaforths

Thanks for the information.

I'd be interested to know the source of the evidence that British POWs were still working in mines at Christmas 1918 and that there were unregistered POWs in large numbers. If true and confirmed, there would have been a War Office cover-up that has not been noticed before.

 

With regard to Liz's query about the category "died", I'll post some data in about a week, but I'll start a new thread, "Died as a Category", as it is not part of the original question.

 

Mike

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seaforths
Posted (edited)

There have been discussions on this forum in what used to be the old POW area of the forum regarding unregistered prisoners, camps behind the lines etc. The camps behind the lines largely involved unregistered men or, men that were registered with camps in Germany that never actually went to Germany. There wasn’t a cover-up as far as our War Office was concerned. Information was being passed from the War Office to the Foreign Office. The information didn’t filter through until later in the war and it came via a number of different sources; statements given by POWs that had been repatriated or escaped, from trenches being taken and hundreds of cards being found in the trenches for men that were never forwarded to the Red Cross. I have a diary transcript of a SNCO who was an unregistered prisoner. He consistently put pressure on his captors to register him and his men. Each time, they went through the process of completing cards but the cards were never processed. The only record for him on ICRC, is a card with a repatriation number. If you find a card with only that information, it is probably because they were unregistered. The issue of men being kept working in mines was taken up by the FO and the files are in that series.

 

Edit: Mike, If you do a search for FO 383 on the forum, it should show a link for a contents list to these files. 

Edited by seaforths
Extra information.

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Perth Digger

Thanks Seaforths.

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Liz in Eastbourne
On 17/05/2019 at 11:37, Perth Digger said:

Michelle

That is a remarkable headstone and very poignant. Thanks for sharing it.

 

Liz: 'Died', from what I've seen, is not confined to non-battle deaths, although that is its main use. But I've not been able to discern a pattern in its use on MICs and in the Effects records. It may just be a function of ignorance of the exact type of death among Base and WO clerks. I've never seen it used in War Diaries (I only look at the officer casualties so I might have missed it with ORs). It could, of course, be a shorthand for DOW in some cases. It's a real pest when trying to classify fatal casualties in large numbers. 

 

Mike

 

 

On 19/05/2019 at 12:19, Perth Digger said:

...

With regard to Liz's query about the category "died", I'll post some data in about a week, but I'll start a new thread, "Died as a Category", as it is not part of the original question.

 

Mike

 

Thanks very much, Mike, I'll be interested to see that.

 

It's true it's not part of the original question as phrased - I thought it might help find the answer, though, to the underlying question, 'Why is there a discrepancy between the presence of this man's name on both the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing and the local list of survivors?'  But if anything in the data throws light on this case, it can always be brought back here.

 

Liz

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seaforths
On 03/05/2019 at 13:10, TEW said:

Following up on Liz's link in post #7 and checking 17th Lancer's diary. They arrived Marseille 8/11/1914. 17/11/1914 all assembled in Orleans. 6/12/1914 lefts Orleans for Lillers.

 

Numerous other 17th Lancers were in fact already attached to 2nd Life Guards. Their diary places them at Hoogled-Staden-Roulers cross roads for 19/10/1914 where they came under 'hot fire'. A few officer casualties mentioned but otherwise no casualty etc info given for Oct. Quite a good narrative of events though and can see why someone could go missing. WO95/1155/2. Ancestry 'Household Cavalry & Cavalry of the Line - 3rd Cavalry Division - Piece 1155' then follow to page 163/683.

 

Nov. diary for 2/Life Guards is in a different style and gives running wounded/killed totals. 6/11/1914 they attacked the village of Zwarteten with fixed bayonets, 38 R&F killed, wounded and missing that day.

 

Period 10th-16th Nov 1914 all lumped together under one heading; were in mobile reserve----nothing of great importance happened.

 

Can't be 100% certain that Robinson had been attached to 2/Life Guards.

TEW

 

I think he was attached 2 Life Guards. There is a Cpl FRED Robinson 6311, in their wounded & missing lists and states he was attached from 17 Lancers. States M. After engagement at Moorslade, Oct 19 1914. Muddy waters with an ICRC card under Life Guards https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/3014594/3/2/ 

 

The card is for FRANK Robinson and the PA refs which have been scored through then seem to mix up with another of the same name from a Yorkshire Regiment but one PA ref (521) shows a trooper 2 Life Guards went to Gustrow. All very strange but indicative of the confusion during the early part of the war, between the two sides, over recording and listing men.

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Liz in Eastbourne

I say, well spotted, Seaforths!  That's brilliant. Surely, with those details and the same number, Fred is Frank.  So it is clear he was indeed one of the men attached to 2/Life Guards, even if there is still confusion re exactly what happened to him. If he was a prisoner that might explain the fact that they settled on 16 November as his death date even though he disappeared on 19 October.  Some information must have come in about his whereabouts?

 

Liz.

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seaforths
2 hours ago, Liz in Eastbourne said:

I say, well spotted, Seaforths!  That's brilliant. Surely, with those details and the same number, Fred is Frank.  So it is clear he was indeed one of the men attached to 2/Life Guards, even if there is still confusion re exactly what happened to him. If he was a prisoner that might explain the fact that they settled on 16 November as his death date even though he disappeared on 19 October.  Some information must have come in about his whereabouts?

 

Liz.

 

I had looked for him under Lancers in the list for May 18th 1915 which is the earliest I’ve got. I then looked for him in the list July 17th 1915 and again, couldn’t find him under Lancers. Then, I remembered the reference to Life Guards and found him there but, I’ve now gone back to the May list again and looked under Life Guards and he’s in that list too but as:

Robinson, Cpl F.K. 6311, M. After engagement at Moorslade Oct 13 (so a difference with initials being given and a few days difference in the date).

 

He then appears as FRED in the July list (as my previous). However that has a line scored through it. As these lists are facsimile reprints from N&MP I can only guess they are copied from IWMs original holdings and the source of the scoring out throughout the book is unverified. However, it could be said that he was scored out because his outcome was known. I’ve now managed to verify that is actually the case as I’ve found him under the cancellations section. ‘Cancellations from July 10th 1915 - Robinson, Cpl, Fred, 6311 (Att. From 17th Lancers)’ so it seems that as of July 10th, they had accounted for him, presumably referenced as being at Gustrow.

 

So it seems we have Frank/Fred Robinson of 17th Lancers attd 2 Lifeguards who seems to have been registered on or about 30th October 1914 going to Gustrow.

 

Cpl Frank Robinson of the Yorkshire Light Infantry has his own card and references (some duplicated from the Life Guards card) indicate he was wounded in August at Le Cateau and went to Erfurt/Cassel so not a chance of them becoming mixed up at Gustrow.

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Liz in Eastbourne

As I said, that's brilliant.  The fact that you had the persistence to look him up again under the 2/Lifeguards, after TEW had earlier had the persistence to post the bit about the 17th Lancers and the 2/Life Guards from the website to which I only posted a link, has really paid off.  And your experience in looking up POWs of course.

 

In view of the definite date of death given on the records, I guess that if we had his military record there would be on it a statement from the German Red Cross that he died in the camp at Gustrow or a related hospital -  would you agree? I am recalling the record of my great-aunt's fiance who died in a German hospital 'of sickness' in August 1917, three weeks after being in the Battle of the Dunes, but in his case before reaching any camp.  As noted further up, the money he was owed by the army was paid to his father in 1916.

 

So it looks certain that the local memorial roll which occasioned the original query was in error in listing him as a survivor, as we surmised.  And in this case, 'Died' ( as opposed to Killed in action' or Died of wounds') is explained.

 

Liz

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seaforths

Liz, I would have to agree it is looking pretty bleak for him surviving. Some further digging reveals the problems they had with records at the time. 

 

I noticed on the previous page (PA 520) There is another 2 Life Guard by the name of Ripley captured about the same time as our man but if you trace him back to his card, he is listed on the card as 6 DLI. Tracing him through medal rolls shows he was in fact 6th Dragoons attached to 2nd Life Guards. He is not shown in the enquiry lists but may have been on previous lists that don’t survive.

 

So, back to Robinson. In the ICRC cards under Life Guards is a card just before our man but his is for a Charles J. Robinson also captured around the same time which gives, yes, you guessed it, PA 521 - same as our Robinson. The references culminate in a repatriation record indicating he was repatriated as a LANCER. However, tracing this man back through the medal rolls shows he was indeed 5th Lancers and there is no suggestion he was attached to the Life Guards but...Charles J Robinson also has another card under Lancers which has a different repatriation record as being a LIFE GUARD. So, in short, a card as a Life Guard, another as a Lancer with no indication he was ever with the Life Guards and a repat records as both!

 

The only other thing of notable interest is that, all through the references through the card for our Robinson, there is never a mention of a service number and if you go to the details that seem to be mixed for the same chap under Yorkshire Light Infantry, again, there is no service number. It is possible that they had a man whose identity was unclear and he was unable to give clarification due to insanity. It is largely overlooked that there were quite a number of POWs who were insane, not through barbed wire disease but from trauma. I have not, as yet, done a search through the Yorkshire regiments to see if there is a Frank or Fred Robinson.

 

My brain aches 

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seaforths
Posted (edited)

Okay following on from the brain ache, I had another go at unravelling the three man mix up on ICRC and feel I have managed to make some progress. I’ll start with Frank Robinson (Yorks). I found another card for him so he has three cards in total under different sub-sets of Robinson. His service number is 8927. Numerous cards indicate he was wounded Le Cateau 26 August 1914.

Under Generic Robinsons - PA410 puts him at Feld Laz Le Cateau - wounded

Under Yorkshire Regt - PA151 at Cassel POW, PA322 at Laz Cassel, PA1262 & PA1731 at Erfurt POW

Under KOYLI - PA 3864 at Erfurt POW, PA6149 at Langensalza POW, PA16642 at Soltau POW, R51108 repat Holland, R51876 repat England

The PA numbers in bold also appear on the ICRC card for Frank (Fred), 2nd Life Guards. However, it shows a clear trail for Frank Robinson KOYLI all the way from 1914 to his repat.

 

Next up, I’ve found more information on Charles John Robinson - his service number is 1593. He has cards under Lancers and Life Guards and to recap his medal roll indicated medals issued to him as a Lancer. However, I have now found information that challenges that and shows he was with 2nd Life Guards. First ICRC

under Life Guards PA521 sheet shows a Frank Robinson went to Gustrow and was captured Ypres 30th October 1914. PA21471 puts Charles at Parchim from Gustrow, states he was captured unwounded at Ypres 31st October 1914, PA21702 moved to Aachen for Holland as 2nd Lifeguards.

Under Lancers - PA51240 shows Charles in Holland under Life Guards.

 

Charles John Robinson has a service record on FMP. He originally enlisted 18th January 1909 as 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He was transferred to the reserve 7th March 1914. On the 4th of August he was mobilised from the reserve and on 29th August 1914, posted to 2nd Life Guards. His service record also shows he was reported missing on 29th October 1914 and his record annotated as follows: ‘Prisoner of War in Germany, Prison Camp Gustrow. List of PoW communicated the Foreign Office 15.12.14.’ Therefore the PA reference (PA521) also shows on the card for Frank (Fred) Robinson does seem to be for Charles Robinson.

 

Now for Fred...to recap on the BRC lists he is in lists for May (says missing since 13th Oct) and June (says missing since 19th October) (although details lined through in the latter list). There are 20 men in the list for 2nd Life Guards in the May list and 30 of the 2nd Life Guards in the list for June. He is the only one of these that mentions being missing ‘after engagement at Moorslade’ other casualties have various different annotations. He also has a record on FMP but it is only a single sheet which appears to be a casualty reporting list which states that Bn Cdr reporting him missing 19th October. 

 

Under the generic list of Robinsons on ICRC is a card for a man with two PA refs: PA3603 and PA2507 and respective sheets dated October 1915 and June 1915. Both sheets are Lazarett Listen and show a man by the name of Robinson was admitted wounded to 123/1 Feld Lazarett Roeselare (Roulers). Unfortunately, there are no further details for this man, that I can see, other than his surname. CWGC states that Roeselare was occupied by the Germans 19th October 1914 and there are eight unidentified graves there plus a memorial to two men whose graves were destroyed. Roeselare is slightly north east of Moorslede so in the right area. There is a transcript of the War Diary putting them in that area (https://secondlifeguards.wordpress.com/wo951155-2nd-life-guards/)

 

”19 October 1914

1 squadron out early at 5 am to cover concentration of the Brigade. We did the A G and I used this squadron (Ashton’s). We marched towards HOOGLEDE. A G Squadron took a wrong turn, so I sent out Belper’s and re-called Ashton’s. On arrival at HOOGLEDE – STADEN – ROULERS X-roads...” 

 

Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any information that would indicate that this man subsequently died of his wounds at Roeselare (Roulers) Lazarett and Robinson is not an uncommon name. On a trawl through some of the other 2nd Life Guards during 1914, I have found 2 that died of wounds at German Feld Lazaretts at other locations in Belgium prior to them moving into the Ypres area.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by seaforths

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Liz in Eastbourne

Hi Seaforths.

Sorry for my delayed reaction. My brain aches even more from your last post!  As you say Robinson is not an uncommon name, unfortunately, but those are very interesting details about Roeselare.

I cling to the fact that a definite date of death, 16 November 1914, is given by the records (CWGC and SDGW) and it seems fair enough to opt for the solution that he died about a month after being taken POW after the 2nd Life Guards' engagement at Moorslede. 

 

Liz

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Cavalryman24
Posted (edited)

Hi All,

 

To add to this conversation I am researching all 17th Lancers reservists attached to the 2nd Life Guards a total of 191. The guards museum do not have a definitive list. In respect of Cpl Robinson, he has cropped up in a query I have whilst researching another 17th Lancers L/6216 Pte Charles Arthur Bickers. I found what I thought was a link to his service record on 'Find my past', this produced a document from the Wo 363 - First World War Service Records 'Burnt Documents' linked to  WO 363. 7959 Thomas James Donaghey, Army Ordnance Corps. This one page is a list of casualties from the 2nd life Guards and Cpl Robinson is included. The page has no links or indication as to its origin , apart from the fact it is a published page and must come from some from of official record. To add to the confusion the dates of the reported casualties are confusing to say the least appearing to report injuries deaths and men missing before the events are reported.by IRC and CWGC, Soldiers Effects etc.

 

Has anyone seen a similar document before and or could answer the date queries. I note Seaforths  has already mentioned this list in his earlier reply

image.png.abf0482fdbc73b8bb2f3746641140c2c.png

Edited by Cavalryman24

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Perth Digger

This is purely a guess, Cavalryman, but this may be linked to a typed official list of officers who were still missing by the end of December 1914. This, by chance, happens to be in a Foreign Office file used in the Dame Adelaide Livingstone Mission to Belgium and France in 1919. I wonder if the War Office was trying to establish a complete list, ORs and officers, for her? Part of her brief was to seek information about the 1914 missing.

 

Mike

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jay dubaya
On 22/06/2019 at 08:46, Cavalryman24 said:

Hi All,

 

To add to this conversation I am researching all 17th Lancers reservists attached to the 2nd Life Guards a total of 191. The guards museum do not have a definitive list. In respect of Cpl Robinson, he has cropped up in a query I have whilst researching another 17th Lancers L/6216 Pte Charles Arthur Bickers. I found what I thought was a link to his service record on 'Find my past', this produced a document from the Wo 363 - First World War Service Records 'Burnt Documents' linked to  WO 363. 7959 Thomas James Donaghey, Army Ordnance Corps. This one page is a list of casualties from the 2nd life Guards and Cpl Robinson is included. The page has no links or indication as to its origin , apart from the fact it is a published page and must come from some from of official record. To add to the confusion the dates of the reported casualties are confusing to say the least appearing to report injuries deaths and men missing before the events are reported.by IRC and CWGC, Soldiers Effects etc.

 

Has anyone seen a similar document before and or could answer the date queries. I note Seaforths  has already mentioned this list in his earlier reply

image.png.abf0482fdbc73b8bb2f3746641140c2c.png

 

Oh....that list.... it came across my radar whilst searching the actions at Moorslede, my search proved fruitless in any further pages from this casualty list, the thread with a little further information can be found here. My interest was with the 2nd Life Guards and in turn I found a number of 17th Lancers attached, I suspect you have their names but you may wish to check them against the 191 you have.

 

Jon

 

 

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Cavalryman24

Thanks Jon, a lot of useful info there.

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