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Soldier listed on a German Nachlassliste at ICRC


Ancre1917
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I'm looking for a Forum Pal who has some knowledge of ICRC records.  

It's been generally assumed in my family that the body of my great aunt's first husband 36608 Pte Harry Waller, who was killed at Oppy Wood on 3 May 1917, was lost and probably destroyed by shell fire, but a recent discovery on the ICRC has given me pause for thought. Does the reference to him in the German Nachlassliste and his ICRC card show that his body was found some time between his death and 20 August when the Nachlassliste was completed?  I'm no German speaker so have had the rely on Google Translate which gives the meaning of Nachlassliste as "estate list".  Vest means "deceased" apparently.  Does the nachlassliste imply that the Germans found his body but that he had no possessions or estate to forward on to the ICRC?  His details (i.e. his number) are spot on, so there must have been something to find.  As far as I can find in other ICRC records, there is no burial place shown, as there is for the two men at the top of the list and no accurate date of death as there is for others.  

Thanks

Richard

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Hello,

I would say that he died of wounds as a POW. Unfortunately no further details are given. I did a quick check and found that some of the men listed are nowadays buried in Tournai...

Jan

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Thanks Jan.  That really is interesting.  I'll check that out.  

A quick look shows that most of his battalion have no known grave and are on the Arras memorial.  

Richard

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  • 5 weeks later...

Thanks for sharing that, Really interesting. I did not know that Germans made documents about that, simply interesting. I imagine if they did that also about Italian front after Caporetto or if Austrians did that.

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Hi, I've just seen this message and had another look at the records as I was interested in this question. The Nachlassliste doesn't seem to be consistent with someone who was taken prisoner and later died of wounds - in that case you would expect to find the more detailed records compiled after capture showing next of kin, home address, date of birth etc. In this case the date of death is left blank (verstorben - - ) and there are only the details from his identity disc (Erkennungsmarke). Also, the Nachlassliste (or list of remains) is followed by a Graeberliste (or list of graves) showing burials of Allied dead.

It seems to me that the Nachlassliste shows the Germans found Harry Waller's body and either noted or retained the identity disc, details of which were passed to the ICRC, but there was no record of him receiving a proper burial.

This is consistent with Richard's initial inquiry, but it shows that his body was at least found and identified before being subsequently lost or destroyed.

John

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Thanks John. I think you’re right on this.  Here’s a photo of him in his hospital uniform taken at my grandparents’ wedding in November 1915 with his hand on his fiancée’s shoulder. He was a pre-War regular in the Bedfordshire regiment  

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7 hours ago, johntaylor said:

Hi, I've just seen this message and had another look at the records as I was interested in this question. The Nachlassliste doesn't seem to be consistent with someone who was taken prisoner and later died of wounds - in that case you would expect to find the more detailed records compiled after capture showing next of kin, home address, date of birth etc. In this case the date of death is left blank (verstorben - - ) and there are only the details from his identity disc (Erkennungsmarke). Also, the Nachlassliste (or list of remains) is followed by a Graeberliste (or list of graves) showing burials of Allied dead.

It seems to me that the Nachlassliste shows the Germans found Harry Waller's body and either noted or retained the identity disc, details of which were passed to the ICRC, but there was no record of him receiving a proper burial.

This is consistent with Richard's initial inquiry, but it shows that his body was at least found and identified before being subsequently lost or destroyed.

John

No John, "verstorben" definitely means "died". If they would have found his dead body, it would have mentioned "tot aufgefunden" or something similar. It may have happened in or very close behind the frontline (at a forward medical post), hence the absence of further information. The area may have been lost very soon thereafter (especially as I see this happened near Oppy Wood, where heavy fighting took place).

Jan

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I agree with Jan.
As Jan correctly says he very probably died under medical supervision shortly after being captured. A Nachlassliste is a list of persons for which personal effects were found not a list of remains. The effects were sent to and held at the Prussian War Ministry.

Charlie

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Thanks everyone for your ideas on what happened to Harry. He had had an interesting army career moving from the Bedfordshire Regiment to the Army Cyclist Corps and finally the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was probably at Stoke War hospital when the photo was taken, but I’m not sure if he’d been wounded or was there with an illness. His widow would have received the 1914 Star and clasp along with the British War and Victory medals. As well as at Arras, he is also commemorated in the Godlington and Bunyan Chapel (Bedford) memorials.

Thanks again for all your contributions to this topic 

Richard

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Hi, thanks to Richard for sharing the very poignant photo of Harry with his fiancée. Regarding the Nachlassliste, I've been looking at other examples which suggest we might both be correct, bearing in mind Charlie's helpful definition of a list of persons for whom personal effects were found.

Firstly I looked at the example of Private Samuel Walker of 12th Bn Rifle Brigade - he went missing during a night patrol in October 1917 and his body was found several days later by the Germans and buried in Marcoing. He appears in the Nachlassliste, but is wrongly described there as HBMGC because the Germans found a tank crewman's badge in his wallet. This became quite a celebrated case which I described in detail in Stand To! No. 109 (The Tank Corpse of Cambrai - A Century-Old Mystery Solved). We know from German accounts that they found his body in no-man's land and doctors estimated (incorrectly) how long he had been dead for, so he certainly didn't receive any medical treatment (note they use the phrase "verst." or died, though he was certainly also "tot aufgefunden"):

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However, I looked at another case from Cambrai involving 2nd Lieut Thomas Howarth of 59th Bn MGC, who died in a German field hospital some days after capture and was buried in Le Cateau. He suffered a severe head wound and appears in the Totenliste or list of dead (though with the wrong first initial):

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However, he also appears in the Nachlassliste with the correct date of death (verst.) and brief burial details:

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So the Nachlassliste seems to cover anyone for whom personal effects were found - in the case of Samuel Walker this was a dead body found on the battlefield, in the case of Thomas Howarth it was a man who died in hospital soon after capture.

Having gone through all that, I still feel the brief details given for Harry Waller in the Nachlassliste (i.e. no date of death, information from ID disc only) suggest that his body was found by the Germans, rather than being someone who died in captivity. But ultimately we will probably never know.

All the best,

John

Edited by johntaylor
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