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laughton

ICRC versus CWGC Records: What we don't know.

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laughton

This thought has come to light as a result of my investigation into Serjeant Wood who could be identified because he was buried by the Germans, a fact that was revealed through the ICRC records but not the CWGC. Once it was known that the Unidentified British Soldier had been buried by the Germans, with a known date of death and a probable name, a quick check of the ICRC records revealed his name.

 

When that happens, you end up with an ICRC PA file which often has details about the man, whether he was a POW, a POW that died, or someone that the Germans recovered and buried. With a little help from Google Translate, you can find your way through the German text to see what happened. If I get it wrong, Luc usually corrects me! @LDT006

 

 

I am beginning to think that all the ICRC records of men that have a red box drawn around them may be men that were known to have died. Someone may have gone through all these records at some time looking for clues as to their whereabouts. Here is the page for Serjeant Wood, with a red box drawn around his name, as well as similar boxes for Wilkinson and Wright. You get this document from the PA link https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/166499/700/34005/. You can manipulate the form there but not here with the single image. You can also for forward and backwards in the list, as this is a file and this is just one of the images.

 

We know the story of Serjeant Wood but does the same apply to Wilkinson and Wright? The ICRC form gives us a date of death and the location at the Field Hospital (Feldlaz = Feldlazarett = Field Hospital). For the moment I am assuming that the field hospital is a Longavesnes 62c.E.25. Wilkinson had a "chest wound" (brustschuss = breast shot) and Wright had a "bullet wound" (lung ndurchschuss = bullet through). Both are named on the CWGC for the Pozieres Memorial (Wilkinson & Wright). There is nothing there to tell you that these men were in the hands of the Germans at some point in time, thus are not men just lost in the mud on the battlefield. That is important information!

 

I suspect somewhere there is a list for a cemetery in the area of Longavesnes that has men recovered from a German or Communal cemetery (see CWGC list). The area is logical, the March 1918 retreat and rearguard action near Epehy and Villers-Faucon. To me this means there is an enhanced opportunity to find these men!

 

E/04/01/C_G1_E_04_01_0171/C_G1_E_04_01_0171_0007.JPG

 

 

In some cases the men that are recorded with the red square were identified and recovered. Here we have Hodgson Whittaker, who the CWGC tells us is buried in the Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension. His COG-BR 2043207 tells us that he was exhumed and reburied in this cemetery from the original grave in Block 2 Row A Grave 14. He was identified by his RFA Cap Badge and a list found in the office files for the 23 British men. Apparently he also died at a Field Hospital, in this case at Roisel from a head wound (kopfschuss = headshot).

 

The next one on the list is W. T. Williams, who followed the same process of exhumation and reburial in the Roisel cemetery. He was identified by his numerals and a cross. Like Wilkinson, he died of a chest wound.

 

Some take a bit more work to find, such as Norman Whittaker lower on the list. In his case there is no COG-BR and it appears he was buried in the Montcornet Cemetery and later incorporated into the CWGC system. He had been in GRAVE 316 but we do not know if he was moved. Where is the burial list?

 

The next one on the list does not have the RED BOX, but he is deceased, so that may blow that theory. C Warrell has a COG-BR 2458385 but it suggests that he was recovered from the battlefield at 57d.23.a. Others may be identifiable as there is a numeric list. He was not a battlefield casualty as he died in the Field Hospital at Contalmaison from a head wound and was buried in GRAVE 8. There is no mention of that grave number on the COG-BR document.

E/04/01/C_G1_E_04_01_0171/C_G1_E_04_01_0171_0008.JPG

 

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AOK4

In principle, the IWGC should have been able to use all German burials lists after the war. I don't know whether the CWGC archives still hold copies of these lists or extracts for British burials on German cemeteries.

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PRC

When the ICRC lists first became available and having no working knowledge of formal German, I prepared myself a little crib sheet of commonly occuring words and used Google Translate to find their meaning in English.

 

"Totenlisten" it translated for me as "Death Lists".

Just tried Google Translate again and got the same result.

 

Every time I research a name from a local war memorial who is commemorated by the CWGC on a memorial like Thiepval \ Pozieres \ Cambrai \ Arras, or if they are buried in a Front Line Cemetery, (so may well have changed hands during the war), I automatically check the ICRC records. Mainly all I will find is an enquiry received from a family member but occassionally you get confirmation that "Erkenmungemarken" (Google Translate - "Dog Tags") have been received by the Central Office from a Sanitary Unit, no further details available.

 

Hope that helps,

Peter

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charlie2

The red box indicates that an enquiry was made to the RC by someone (eg NoK), as regards to the soldier‘s whereabouts/fate.

Charlie

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
11 hours ago, laughton said:

….  who could be identified because he was buried by the Germans, a fact that was revealed through the ICRC records but not the CWGC.

 

An interesting case. An assumption that the IWGC (and hence the CWGC) would pay attention to German burial records might seem to be a logical conclusion, but is it correct ? There is another ID situation which has been bubbling away for a considerable time which would seem to indicate that this was (is) not the case. This latter example may come to the fore fairly shortly.

…  An assumption that the IWGC (and hence the CWGC) would pay attention to German burial records … uhm

Tom

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AOK4

The IWGC had access to the German cemetery registers after the war and went looking for British graves on german cemeteries in Belgium using these in the 1920s (see f.i. also Dame Livingstone).

 

Jan

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laughton

I agree with all these points but the fact is they did not use them to their full advantage. They did not have the technology nor the resources to compare one set of data to several others (burial lists versus casualty reports versus concentration returns. That can now be computerized and so what took 12 months in 1921 could be done in seconds today.

 

Read Richard Van Emden's new book "Missing - The Need for Closure after the Great War". I started it yesterday and am halfway through and will finish today.

 

As Tom can attest, not all of these records are clear and follow the expected sequence. For example, I have not been able to resolve (yet) why Goldthorpe #14/864, Parker #9985 and Tupper #4836 are on the German list 7146 Series for Fremicourt 18.11.1916 but Haxton #649 is not? On that same list we find Clarkson #14/20 who is later struck off the list by the CWGC because they found him on another list for Achiet-le-Grand. Yes, he is on another German List 6284 Series as well. How did they determine which list was correct?

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AOK4

There were German cemetery registers as well, which were used and which were undoubtedly more correct. However, these are not publicly accessible.

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charlie2
6 hours ago, laughton said:

For example, I have not been able to resolve (yet) why Goldthorpe #14/864, Parker #9985 and Tupper #4836 are on the German list 7146 Series for Fremicourt 18.11.1916 but Haxton #649 is not?

This is nothing unusual as the list only lists the names of deceased soldiers whose personal effects are being held by the German authorities. If no effects were forwarded on, the soldiers name doesn‘t appear on a „Nachlassliste“. 

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
16 hours ago, AOK4 said:

The IWGC had access to the German cemetery registers after the war and went looking for British graves on german cemeteries in Belgium using these in the 1920s (see f.i. also Dame Livingstone).

 

And the evidence for that is … ?

Tom

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
10 hours ago, laughton said:

IAs Tom can attest, not all of these records are clear and follow the expected sequence. For example, I have not been able to resolve (yet) why Goldthorpe #14/864, Parker #9985 and Tupper #4836 are on the German list 7146 Series for Fremicourt 18.11.1916 but Haxton #649 is not? On that same list we find Clarkson #14/20 who is later struck off the list by the CWGC because they found him on another list for Achiet-le-Grand. Yes, he is on another German List 6284 Series as well. How did they determine which list was correct?

 

A shortish pause here might be tedious, - but worthwhile. New information is working it's way through the pipeline.

Tom

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
3 hours ago, charlie2 said:

This is nothing unusual as the list only lists the names of deceased soldiers whose personal effects are being held by the German authorities. If no effects were forwarded on, the soldiers name doesn‘t appear on a „Nachlassliste“. 

 

Again, evidence as to the veracity of that statement is invited.

Tom

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charlie2
22 minutes ago, Tom Tulloch-Marshall said:

 

Again, evidence as to the veracity of that statement is invited.

Tom

Tom, I think a list headed „Nachlassliste“ is self explanatory as to what it contains. I‘m not sure what evidence can be provided apart from a translation.

Charlie

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LDT006
10 hours ago, Tom Tulloch-Marshall said:

 

And the evidence for that is … ?

Tom

 

The multitude of Burial Return sheets with "GB list" in the means of identification column.

Luc.

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
On ‎22‎/‎03‎/‎2020 at 21:59, charlie2 said:

... a list headed „Nachlassliste“ is self explanatory as to what it contains.

 

15 hours ago, LDT006 said:

 

The multitude of Burial Return sheets with "GB list" in the means of identification column.

 

I am well aware that the IWGC sometimes accessed information compiled by German Gräberverwaltungsoffiziere during the war, however there is a danger here that the reader will take messages above to mean that information from those sources was used universally to identify the burials of British and Dominion soldiers buried in German cemeteries. The CWGC would no doubt be pleased if such an idea were to gain credence, however it isn't true.

Tom

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AOK4
5 hours ago, Tom Tulloch-Marshall said:

 

 

I am well aware that the IWGC sometimes accessed information compiled by German Gräberverwaltungsoffiziere during the war, however there is a danger here that the reader will take messages above to mean that information from those sources was used universally to identify the burials of British and Dominion soldiers buried in German cemeteries. The CWGC would no doubt be pleased if such an idea were to gain credence, however it isn't true.

Tom

 

Tom,

 

The IWGC DID use those registers extensively (the Germans had to give copies of all registers to France and other countries, and France f.i. returned them to the VDK when the German cemeteries were given to their care in the 1960s-70s).

 

If you don't want to believe it, well that's up to you then.

 

Jan

Edited by AOK4

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charlie2
8 hours ago, Tom Tulloch-Marshall said:

 

 

I am well aware that the IWGC sometimes accessed information compiled by German Gräberverwaltungsoffiziere during the war, however there is a danger here that the reader will take messages above to mean that information from those sources was used universally to identify the burials of British and Dominion soldiers buried in German cemeteries. The CWGC would no doubt be pleased if such an idea were to gain credence, however it isn't true.

Tom

 

On 22/03/2020 at 19:03, charlie2 said:
On 22/03/2020 at 12:18, laughton said:

For example, I have not been able to resolve (yet) why Goldthorpe #14/864, Parker #9985 and Tupper #4836 are on the German list 7146 Series for Fremicourt 18.11.1916 but Haxton #649 is not?

This is nothing unusual as the list only lists the names of deceased soldiers whose personal effects are being held by the German authorities. If no effects were forwarded on, the soldiers name doesn‘t appear on a „Nachlassliste“. 


Tom,

my post is simply a plausible explanation as to why Goldthorpe, Parker and Tupper appear on a list of soldiers whose effects were being held by the German authorities and Haxton does not. How you have managed to understand that my post might mislead a reader into mistakenly believing that the information would have been used universally by the IWGC to identify a burial is quite beyond me.
 

Charlie

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laughton

This one appeared today on a separate project, with a reference to a G.B. List 1274 Sched 1, Rainecourt. Is there a place to find that list?

doc2011346.JPG

 

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
15 hours ago, AOK4 said:

The IWGC DID use those registers extensively (the Germans had to give copies of all registers to France and other countries, and France f.i. returned them to the VDK when the German cemeteries were given to their care in the 1960s-70s).

 

Thanks Jan. Google tells me that "France f'i'" is the Institute Francais de Finlande so I'm none the wiser there. The advice that this France f.i.  gave the German records to the VdK in the 1960's-70's is of some interest to me though as it doesn't quite fit with advice that I had from the VdK in Kassel during 2019. A clear explanation as to where these  lists are held and how they are accessed could be useful.

 

12 hours ago, charlie2 said:

      On ‎22‎/‎03‎/‎2020 at 18:03, charlie2 said:

On ‎22‎/‎03‎/‎2020 at 11:18, laughton said:

For example, I have not been able to resolve (yet) why Goldthorpe #14/864, Parker #9985 and Tupper #4836 are on the German list 7146 Series for Fremicourt 18.11.1916 but Haxton #649 is not?

This is nothing unusual as the list only lists the names of deceased soldiers whose personal effects are being held by the German authorities. If no effects were forwarded on, the soldiers name doesn‘t appear on a „Nachlassliste“. 

 

Charlie - In post #11 I said that "A shortish pause here might be tedious, - but worthwhile. New information is working it's way through the pipeline." The current medical crisis might impact on the speed with which that information appears (I'm not in a position to know whether there will be an impact) but at least some of that information may be of interest to Richard and yourself.

 

With regards to the bigger picture, I am still "unconvinced" as to the extent of German information which might have been given to the IWGC post WW1.

Tom

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AOK4
6 hours ago, Tom Tulloch-Marshall said:

 

Thanks Jan. Google tells me that "France f'i'" is the Institute Francais de Finlande so I'm none the wiser there. The advice that this France f.i.  gave the German records to the VdK in the 1960's-70's is of some interest to me though as it doesn't quite fit with advice that I had from the VdK in Kassel during 2019. A clear explanation as to where these  lists are held and how they are accessed could be useful.

 

 

 

 

No France f.i. means France for instance. There are other countries as well but I don't know what they did exactly with the lists.

 

I say and know that at least the old German burial lists for Northern France are in Kassel. However, the VDK may very well deny that as they consider these lists as highly secret and don't allow access to them.

 

Jan

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charlie962
8 hours ago, AOK4 said:

they consider these lists as highly secret

Why ?

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AOK4
19 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

Why ?

 

No idea, but it's almost impossible to see those files and if you are allowed to see them, you have to sign a document with very strict rules. While they could make money from those by making them accessible via ancestry f.i.

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charlie962

Thanks

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LDT006

The VDK has a lot of these burial lists, I am trying to get copies for some cemeteries since 2016 without luck. They never said that they don't have them but found excuses for not supplying copies.

In one instance they have supplied details for 2 graves through email but no copy of the register.

I have contacted a lot of local researchers and some of these kindly provided copies of these lists that they took decades ago at the VDK. One of these researchers confirmed that those lists were still accessible then but that these would be closed very fast for public access.

VDK is a private organisation and doesn't have the funds and manpower to supply scans to everybody. They do (did?) it for relatives who are requesting details of their ancestors (I have helped some of these in their research and received copies from them of a single page from the cemetery register for translation and interpretation).

 

@Tom Tulloch-Marshall I agree that the army or IWGC didn't (couldn't ?) use all available German information. Ex: there are very detailed original German sketches at the Royal Army Museum at Brussels with the burial location for airmen which apparently were not used. CWGC confirmed to me that there were no remains recovered from those locations. I can only assume that these airmen are still there, except for one Australian pilot that was found (by accident) at the exact location of the German sketch.

There is proof enough that a lot of German information was used but the British made severe errors by exhuming remains from German cemeteries when those lists were not yet handed over. This resulted in a lot of errors and several British soldiers who had 2 registered graves in different cemeteries for several years..

 

@laughton The above mentioned German registers were made by local German units who maintained and organised these cemeteries. ICRC only received fragments of these burials and the lists at ICRC cannot be considered as complete "burial lists". These have very useful details but are incomplete because there were conflicts between the two sides and reporting reporting stopped several times during the war because one side accused the other of not complying to the established rules.

ICRC was only one channel of information for families, embassies and other organisations were used to obtain information.

 

I am relatively sure that the British only used the official German information which was handed over after the war. There is no proof that the information from other sources was used (including ICRC) even if the NOK obtained it and pressed the army/IWGC to look into it.

Several cases that I have researched show (from British service files and US burial files) that families were able to get more details through these secondary channels, even contacting German pilots who were reported to have shot down their son, none of these cases resulted in a positive identification.

 

Is there any proof that ICRC forwarded information to the British instances?

 

Luc.

 

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Tom Tulloch-Marshall
18 hours ago, AOK4 said:

 

No France f.i. means France for instance. There are other countries as well but I don't know what they did exactly with the lists.

I say and know that at least the old German burial lists for Northern France are in Kassel. However, the VDK may very well deny that as they consider these lists as highly secret and don't allow access to them.

 

"No France f.i. means France for instance"

And you assume that the reader will know / guess that "France f.i." means "France for instance" - rather than being bothered to type "France for instance". I'd have to suggest that that isn't the brightest way of conveying information.

 

"However, the VDK may very well deny that as they consider these lists as highly secret .."

Well that is VERY interesting to hear, - is that a known fact, or speculation ? (I have told you that I have previously dealt with the VdK in Kassel).

As I have said before - "New information is working it's way through the pipeline". At this moment in time I cannot expand on that.

Tom

Edited by Tom Tulloch-Marshall
spelling

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