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My Father-in-Law

by evadeus

Contributed by 
evadeus
People in story: 
Leonard Roland Hutchings
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A3467874
Contributed on: 
02 January 2005

My name is Sue and along with my husband David am trying to build a history of my father-in-laws experiences during WWII and as a POW. We have a small diary that he wrote and managed to maintain during this time but as it was written in pencil a lot of information has been lost.

He joined the 9th Royal Berkshire regiment on 27/4/40, on 1/5/43 he was transfered to the Blackwatch, then 20/5/43 to the Sherwood Foresters, from 24/8/43 he was with the Yorkshire Dragoons, finally ending up with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry from 3/2/44.

My father-in-law served in Africa where he not only met Montgomery but was given cigarettes by him and Italy and was captured near Rome on 14/3/44.

He was held in Stalag 317 -Markt Pongau- until his sucessful escape shortly before the camp was liberated.

During his time as a POW he was taken in work parties to Nordhausen and Glasenbach. He also made two unsucessful escape attempts.

Unfortunatley Leonard died in 1979 having suffered with ill health for many years.

David wishes he had asked his father more about his experiences while he was still alive, but, it is now too late.

I never met Leonard having met David just after his death, but, having heard what little the family know I hope to be able to fill in a few details for them with my own reasearches.

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Message 1 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Sue H.

As you rightly state - some information is lost having been written in pencil...nevertheless - there is confusion - at least on my part with his changing of regiments etc......
so I have to start with his capture "near Rome" as you state - this date co-incides with the third Battle of Montecassino when the New Zealanders went in once more Feb - Mar 1944 accompanied by the 4th Indian Division and the 78 th Brit Inf Div.
The British Inf battalions listed
in the order of battle for 4th Indian :- 1/4 Essex ; 1 Royal Sussex ; 2nd Camerons ; and for the 78th Div :- 11th Brit Brigade was :-
2 Lancs Fus.;1 Surrey ; 5 Northants ;
36th Brit Bde :- 6 West Kents ; 5 Buffs ; 8 Argylls ; 38 Brit Bde was : - 2 London Irish ; 1 Irish Fus ; and 6 Inniskillings :
So in order to be captured at Cassino on that date - he had be with one of those battalions at the time - the 6th Black Watch did not appear at Cassino until the final Battle in May '44

you see my problem ? anyway - that might be a good jump off point for you
let me know if this helps
PS - everybody got cigarettes from Monty - he was glad to get rid of them !!!

 

Message 2 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Hi - Sue H -
once again - research doe pay off - I have just had a look for the Sherwood Foresters, which your Father in Law joined after the Black Watch at Tunis - the Sherwoods were with the 5th Div who were involved in Sicily for a short time before disappearing. They then turned up again at the Volturno north of Naples
where they took a bit of a beating so much that both battalions the 2nd and 5th were amalgamated into the 2/5th for Anzio but by then your Father-in Law had disappeared into the Yorkshire Dragoons - of which I cannot find a home ???
The next Battalion shown was the KOYLI,` again in the 5th Div(1O th Corps) which at that time would have been around the Garigliano River and they stayed there for some time as they couldn't move from the bridgehead...at the same time as the third battle of Cassino was on .... so it might have been on the Garigliano that he was captured - which would not surprise anyone , who was even close !

so we inch forward in your research !
tom canning

 

Message 3 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by allalogie

Hi

Regarding your Father in Law as a POW, there are written reports of conditions in POW camps that were carried out by Red Cross during the war.These reports are held at Kew.

There are also reports on escape and evasion, and also interrogation questionaires/reports that are being released tomorrow(4th Jan).
Stalag 317 was apparently also known as Stalag XVIIIC
There is a reference to "Markt Pongau" which relates to Stalag 18C and the shooting of a British POW. The reference is WO 208/4683.

You can find further details here....

www.catalogue.nationalarchives.gov.ukAbout links

There is a description of Stalag 18C and life within it here....
http://www.pegasus-one.org/pow/harold_padfield.htmAbout links

HTH
Cameron

 

Message 4 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Troopertom canning,

Most grateful thanks for this information, I now have a lot more to look into with more details that seem to tie into the diary entries left by leonard.

Sue

 

Message 5 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Troopertomcanning,

This information is quite exciting as Leonard mentioned being in a field at the time of his capture. We now have another trail we can try to follow.

I am so very grateful for your help.

Sue H

 

Message 6 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Cameron,

Thank you so much for the information. I will take full advantage of the links you have advised.

Many many thanks.

David and I now have a lot more digging we can do.

Sue H

 

Message 7 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Sue

If your father was in the KOYLI then he wasn't at Cassino. The 3rd Battle of Cassino started early on 15 March 1944, the day after your father was captured, with a massive aerial bombardment followed by an artillery bombardment and troops didn't start the attack until the afternoon.

1st Battalion KOYLI were in the 15th Infantry Brigade at Anzio, and were in action there from 22 January to 22 May 1944, during which time your father was taken prisoner.

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 8 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear peter,

I am most grateful for the information. Hopefully this will enable us to make more sense of what we can read of Leonards diary.

Again my grateful thanks

Sue H

 

Message 9 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue & Peter -
we had already established that he wasn't at Cassino but I thought that he might have been at the Garigliano, which was the bridgehead held by 10th Corps(56th Div) for the US 5th Army..however I bow to your facts that the KOYLI were in Anzio at that time, which will clear that up... I don't have a good OB for Anzio apart from the involvement of 1st and 5th Divs and 44th and 46th RTR.
I have already asked for your help in an e-mail ten minutes ago !
cheers
tomcan

 

Message 10 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 03 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Tom

You were right about 1st KOYLI being at the Garigliano. They were in action at the Garigliano Crossing from 17 to 31 January 1944, but that was before Sue's father joined them.

Peter <cheers>

 

Message 11 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 04 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Peter - quite right - he joined them on 3 feb '44 - from the Yorkshire Dragoons ??? - he must have gone straight to Anzio then ??? I thought they were relieved by 56th Div by that time,then the 56th were relieved by 5th Div - 56th went back to Egypt for a month - 1st and 5th stayed to the finish .

 

Message 12 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 04 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Peter and Tom,

Your comments are so very helpful... We have by use of a magnifying glass been able to decipher a little more from the diary and this seems to tie in with your theories.

May I expound one?... The references to his having been transfered to the Blackwatch have been baffelling us as it was such a short period. Is it possible that he was simply at a transit camp along with the Blackwatch and not actually as part of the regiment?

I have sent for his war records as I have realised this may help with some of the dates.

We have also discovered he was registered with Feldpost 31979 which we understand is in Northern Italy but this is of little help at the moment as we have not been able to trace any dates involved.

Sue

 

Message 13 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 04 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Sue

Could you carefully check your father's army record again and post the dates you have here (if they differ in any way from your original post).

As I understand it, he joined the 9th Royal Berkshire Regiment on 27.4.1940 and was with them until 30.4.1943. During that period the 9th Berks were in the UK.

On 1.5.1943 he was transferred to the Blackwatch (here we have the first problem, there were 9 battalions of the Blackwatch serving all over the place in WW2). Most extraordinary is that he was with the Blackwatch for only 19 days, so probably at the regimental depot in the UK.

On 20.5.1943 he is transferred to a battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (the Sherwood Foresters fielded 13 battalions), but he remains with them for only three months.

On 24.8.1943 he is transferred to the Yorkshire Dragoons, and remains with them for about five months before a final transfer to the KOYLI on 3.2.1944. But here we are simply talking about a change of name rather than a transfer, because way before then, on 18.12.1942 the Yorkshire Dragoons became the 9th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (the 9th KOYLI). They were part of 7th Motor Brigade from 22.6.1943 to 4.10.1944. and were at Anzio when your father was captured on 14 March 1944.

I said above that 1st Battalion KOYLI were in the 15th Infantry Brigade at Anzio, and were in action there from 22 January to 22 May 1944. This is indeed true, but I now discount your father being in 1st KOYLI. They say that all roads lead to Rome, but in your father's case all roads lead to Anzio.

Was your father by any chance in the REME? His rapid movement between regiments and ending up in a motorised brigade makes me suspect that he was in a small REME mobile unit attached to various infantry battalions.

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 14 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 04 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Peter,

I have found Leonards discharge book which puts his original join up date as 24 July 1943.

In his diary he states - embarcation orders sailed from England end of March the next bit we cannot read, then he says - reached Angiers.

All the other dates I am trying to confirm with his war records which I have sent for.

At the moment I cannot confirm or dipute the possibility of his having been in a REME unit. However, because of the fact that he was with the Blackwatch for such a short period of time, David and I are wondering if in fact he was simply at a transit camp at the same time as the blackwatch as in the diary he mentions Biga along with the base camp of the Blackwatch.

We have also decipher a small portion of an entry shortly before his capture which does mention Anzio, along with the time line that Tom suggested I try we are begining to see some light.

I am so grateful that you have taken so much of your time to help in my quest.

Sue

 

Message 15 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 04 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Peter & Sue -
as you say Peter - all roads lead to Anzio - however 1st Div. were relieved by 56th Div. at about the same time that Grandpa joined in the February as they had been at Anzio from landing date. the 56th in turn were relieved by 5th Div and both 1st and 5th Divs were in at the finish in May/June on the coast as Clark turned left towards Rome, before Valmontone! I think he was transferred from Sherwoods to KOYLI at the Gari to make up the numbers, when Koyli went in at Anzio with full strength - I would discount the Motor Brigade as many brigades were "motorised" - i.e went as close as possible to the front line in 3 ton Bedfords etc. before dismounting whereas other Infantry units walked all the way.I'm thinking of the Cdn Seaforths who walked out of Pontecorvo for a "rest" walked ten miles south - found they had the wrong map reference - and walked BACK five miles ! that was their rest all shot to hell ! Most armoured Divs had a "Motorised Bde of Infantry" - to keep up ! According to the dates - I think he joined the Black Watch (probably 4/5th Batt /51st Div) at Tunis after Enfidaville- again for a few days - again to make up numbers - then again to make up numbers for the landing at Syracuse to Acrealle, by 5th Div whereas the Black Watch landed earlier with 51st Div prior to heading for the U.K. After Acrealle - the 5th Div appeared to join 10th Corps around Minturno before marching up to the Garigliano, this would be before Christmas '43.Many men were transferred into battalions for a few days ... for ration states usually if they were "floaters"

What does Carlo D'este say regards unit placements ??? - I only have Ellis & Carver on these actions !
best regards
tomcan

 

Message 16 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Sue and Tom

First, Sue, you can easily determine if your father-in-law was in an infantry battalion or a REME section by his title. If he was called Private Hutchings, then he was in the infantry. If in the REME he would be Craftsman Hutchings.

Carlo D'Este has little to say, except in outstanding circumstances, of units at battalion level; he is more concerned with strategy and generalship and in particular the blunders of American generals. On occasion he does go down to platoon level, for example his masterly analysis and detail of the Battle of the Caves at Anzio.

Returning to your father-in-law, I will go over his service record now in greater detail and give my reasons for my conclusions.

You say that "He joined the 9th Royal Berkshire regiment on 27/4/40, on 1/5/43 he was transfered to the Blackwatch." If by that you mean that he was transferred on that date then, since the 9th Royal Berks were in the UK at GHQ Home Forces, he could only be transferred to the 4th, 8th, 10th, or 30th battalion, Black Watch, all of which were in the UK.

The 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th Black Watch were all in North Africa at the time and I will come to them in detail in a moment. In May 1943 it took from 10 to 12 days at sea to get to North Africa, sailing in convoy (the South African route took many weeks, of course) and it would not be possible to transfer from a UK unit to a unit in Tunisia in one day. It was for that reason that I suggested that his 18 days with the Black Watch were in the UK.

If he did join the Black Watch in North Africa, then he must have left 9th Royal Berks in early April 1943, and not on 1 May 1943 for the reasons I have given.

You say "on 1/5/43 he was transferred to the Blackwatch, then 20/5/43 to the Sherwood Foresters". That is nineteen days, and I find it hard to believe that he was issued with his battledress kilt and other Black Watch distinctive wear in those few days. His journey out by sea would have been almost as long as the time he spent with them. I am not convinced that units were cannibalised to such an extent in early 1943. The great attrition came after the Normandy Landings, which drained infantry units from the UK and from Italy. The Black Watch had four splendid battalions in the UK without cannibalising other units.

As for the Black Watch battalions in May 1943, any one of which fits these scant facts: 1st and 7th Battalions Black Watch were with 154 Infantry Brigade in the 51st Highland Division; 5th Battalion Black Watch was with 27th Infantry Brigade, also with the 51st Highland Division; and 6th Black Watch was with the 12th Infantry Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. All these Black Watch units took part in the Battle of Tunis, from 5 to 12 May 1943.

You then say that from 20 May 1943 to 24 August he was with the Sherwood Foresters. Of the 13 battalions of the Sherwood Foresters, the only relevant ones here are 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 14th. If your father-in-law transferred to the Black Watch in the UK (which makes sense to me) then it follows that he would transfer shortly after to 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters also in the UK, with the 222nd Independent Infantry Brigade. From that unit he could have gone to either of two Sherwood Forester units serving in North Africa: 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters with 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division or 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters with 139th Infantry Brigade, 46th Infantry Division (the 14th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, in the 7th Armoured Brigade, was in Syria from 11 May to 28 September 1943, so I would exclude them).

After about three months he is moved again. I covered this last move in Message 13 above, but for the sake of convenience I have pasted it in here, except that I omitted to say that when your father-in-law joined 9th KOYLI (the name had already been changed from Yorkshire Dragoons) they were in North Africa, which nicely fits in with the Sherwood Foresters:

"On 24.8.1943 he is transferred to the Yorkshire Dragoons, and remains with them for about five months before a final transfer to the KOYLI on 3.2.1944. But here we are simply talking about a change of name rather than a transfer, because way before then, on 18.12.1942 the Yorkshire Dragoons became the 9th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (the 9th KOYLI). They were part of 7th Motor Brigade from 22.6.1943 to 4.10.1944. and were at Anzio when your father-in-law was captured on 14 March 1944."

Regards,

Peter

 

Message 17 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Peter & Sue -
all very clean cut and dried Peter ....however ...one point...the 6th Batt Black Watch DID NOT take part in the final battle Medjez - Tunis as they were still on the Franconia with me ( I met a neighbour on the ship - Peter Malone who also had David Bowman , another neighbour who was killed at Cassino ) and my group which was on it's way to join 21st Tank Bde - which DID take part in that final battle as they were incorporated into 4th Inf Div !
We cleaned up after the 4th Div did a moonlight flit to Italy leaving everything behind !
It is still possible that he joined Black Watch at Tunis - then transferred to Sherwoods in time for the landing at Syracuse as the Black Watch KNEW they were on their way to the U.K. for the Normandy Landings and could be made up from the Regimental Depot at Perth... at that time ..it is now based at Warminster. !\tom

 

Message 18 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue & Peter -
on re reading your last posting Sue -
you mention the word "Biga" - could this be Bougie ? As there is a town called that on the coast between Algiers and Bone (Annaba to-day).Most transit camps were closer to Algiers and appeared to be grouped around the villages on Cap Matifou - Maison Carree and Maison Blanc. These transit camps are where it was convenient to stretch the legs after two weeks "throwing up" on the mainly Franconia as she seemed to be on a regular run at that time - Liverpool - Gourock - Algiers ! My article " Tunisia 1943" will give you some idea of what went on during those days.
His joining up date of 1943 is obviously a typo !

 

Message 19 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Thanks Tom

No, not the Medjez Plain Battle from 23 to 30 April, but in the Tunis Battle (the final skirmishes) from 5 to 12 May.

The complete list of battles for the 12th Infantry Brigade, according to Jolsen, are:

Oued Zarga: 7 to 15 April 1943.
Medjez Plain: 23 to 30 April 1943.
Tunis: 5 to 12 May 1943.
Cassino II: 11 to 18 May 1944.
Liri Valley: 18 to 30 May 1944.
Trasimene Line: 20 to 30 June 1944.
Arezzo: 4 to 17 July 1944.
Advance to Florence: 17 July to 10 August 1944.
Rimini Line: 14 to 21 September 1944.

I've made a note regarding Medjez and the 6th BW.

Peter

 

Message 20 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Peter & Sue-
I am talking about the final Battle from Longstop Hill on the Medjez plain where Gerry Chester's squadron climbed Longstop and scared the hell out of the Germans who said no tank could climb Longstop !- to Tunis 5th - 12 May '43 when the 6th batt Black Watch were on the Franconia with my group heading for Algiers - the 12th Inf Bde may very well have been there but - sans 6th Batt BW... the 4th Div certainly were in all the right places according to Jolsen - if I am not mistaken - Ron Goldstein may have been on the same ship ?

 

Message 21 - Longstop Hill

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Tom

Here we digress, but it is a very interesting digression.

Longstop carries with it all sorts of lessons. It was a bit like Monte Cassino dominating for miles, but in spades! As Rick Atkinson puts it "Longstop offered omniscience. From its crest, nothing in the Medjerda valley could move undetected - not a rabbit, not a man, certainly not a tank."

To make matters worse, British intelligence completely misread both the ground, the maps, and the strength of the opposition. It was believed that Longstop was held by a single German company with four to eight machine guns, in fact it was held by an entire battalion with three companies of the 67th Panzer Grenadier Regiment commanded by Colonel Rudolf Lang, a very experienced tough officer, veteran of Eben Emael. The biggest blunder was the misreading of the maps, what was thought to be a single peak, Longstop was in fact two hills: Djebel el Ahmera, the dominating main crest, separated by a ravine from the marginally lower Djebel el Rhar. This second knoll was unseen by British reconnaissance, which was conducted by telescope at a distance of seven miles.

Nonetheless the Coldstream Guards took what they thought was the peak of Longstop at bayonet point. They were then relieved by the Americans, both believing that only a few Germans remained to be mopped up. Then the Americans learnt from prisoners that an entire battalion of Panzer Grenadiers still controlled Longstop with reinforcements pouring in. Then the Germans struck.

This intelligence blunder was to have unfortunate repercussions on Anglo-American relations. The Coldstreams had just finished breakfast firmly believing that they had just handed over a conquered Longstop to the Yanks, when they got a message from them calling for help. As Atkinson puts it "Disbelief yielded to angry disgust. Couldn't the Yanks even hold a hill that had been gift-wrapped for them?" They went back, had to do it all over again - the hill was lost, but finally the second peak was discovered. That was at Christmas, and the Germans renamed reconquered Longstop "Weihnachtshügel" - Christmas Hill.

The double peaks resisted all efforts until the following Easter, when the 8th Battalion of the Argyle and Sutherland Regiment, in a state of berserk fury, after a Wehrmacht prisoner had whipped out a concealed machine pistol and slaughtered several Jocks, stormed and captured the el Ahmera peak. Longstop's second crest fell on Easter Monday (and this is the exploit Tom refers to) when a squadron of British tanks edged and crawled up to the second summit along tracks thought unfit for mules.

They don't make men like that anymore.

Peter

 

Message 22 - Longstop Hill

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Peter -
quite correct in all aspects - the British Tanks were of course - B Squadron North Irish Horse - Gerry's unit and he has pictures !
Another fascinating digression was the Chief of Staff to Kenneth Anderson - GOC 1st Army - McKay, resigned and went as C.O. of the Argylls and it was his death that infurated the Argylls enough to take the hill - and not too many prisoners - they don't make men like that anymore - Right ! - but some of them are still around - ask Gerry Chester !
best regards

 

Message 23 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Tom and Peter,

David and I have -we think- finally got most of the entry in Leonards diary following his arrival in Algiers. It says..........

"Following morning set off for nearest railway station (Maison Carree) 10K away. We knew we were on our first stage to the front. After travelling 3 days in a cattle truck we were pretty dirty and at 11 o'clock we reached Megley El Bab* where we had to march to a transit camp, it poured with rain. We stopped until the next afternoon and were taken back to the station. Another 2 days on the train bought us to Biga where we were taken to the base camp of the Blackwatch,"

* We wonder if this might be Medjez El Bab

The next part of the entry we are still struggling to decipher.

The digression was -for me- more than just interesting. I found it informative. It is so difficult for people like me born after the conflict to appreciate what happened back then, which is one reason I embarked on what I thought was a quick simple task, so far I have achieved only a small part of my quest but learnt a great deal.

Thank you

Sue (and David)

 

Message 24 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by evadeus

Peter,

Many thanks that has cleared that one up. Leonard is refered to as Private Hutchings in his discharge papers so, he was Infantry.

Regards

Sue

 

Message 25 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 05 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue/David and Peter -
Sue - you were dreaming about this being a simple task - it can go on and on - full of interst though for most.
Now it comes to-gether ( I must do my own time line here as I keep forgetting the dates !) Biga in Tunisia I don't know as the place was full of little villages like Algeria.
Maison Carree was another dusty little village which one can see on most Spaghetti Westerns with Eastwood. As we dis embarked at Algiers we noticed a line of 3 tonners which we thought were for us !
OH NO - the Infantry got those to go to Maison Carree 6 miles away, whereas we - all Tank men - had to walk to Cap Matifou some 10 miles away - in 90 degree heat ! On arrival we were informed that dinner (sic) was ready - 90 degree heat - M& V stew - all the flies of Africa - what a welcome - and the stench of Africa - yikes ! Next day it was black rice - at least we thought it was black rice - it was Rice alright but the flies made it look black ! They had first dibs on everything !
and those were just the fun days !!!!

 

Message 26 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 06 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Tom & Peter,

We have received the records from the war office for Leonard today. This does give a bit more detail but does not answer many questions. I will list the relevant dates etc:

24 July 1940 9th Royal Berkshire Regiment (Coastal defence to Dec 1942)
14 April 1943 Embarcation
23 April 1943 Arrived Algiers
1 May 1943 Transfered to 6th Bn Blackwatch
20 May 1943 Transfered to 2nd Bn Sherwood Forresters
24 August 1943 Transfered to 1st Bn Yorks & Lancs
3 February 1944 Comp Transfer to 9th KOYLI
14 March 1944 Captured Anzio

This would put Leonard with the Blackwatch in time for 5-12 May battle of Tunis. But I find it hard to understand the brief time he was with them. However, one theory has reared it's head. David advises me his father was the first to put his hand up when volunteers were required, so possibly this is an explanation.

Sue (& David)

 

Message 27 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 06 January 2005 by evadeus

Tom,

I have been looking on a world atlas and Biga is in Turkey! so we have now discounted this and are having another go at decipgering that entry

Sue

 

Message 28 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 06 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue/David - Peter ;

The short time he was in BW might have been owing to the arrival of the reinforcemnts - obviously not the whole battalion was on the Franconia with me - at the same time that he joined them and moved over to Sherwoods in time for their landing at Syracuse - Acreale, then coming into the forefront around Minturno and the Garigliano fracas and from there to Anzio ?

It might now be time to follow up on his camps of captivity and the reference given earlier will give you chapter and verse on all prison.

good luck going forward. It's been fun and of great interest, one of the main problems to-day both in Algeria and Tunisia is that, after the war and the problems with the French - and who doesn't have those - all the place names in those areas were converted to the Arab language which puts us wartime types at a great disadvantage, Bone is now Annaba etc so Biga (sic) could be Ain Pushova or Wadi Difference !
One of my old and dear friends was the Officer in charge of building a bridge over an immense Wadi near St.Peter's Corner, not far from Longstop... as his men were falling like snowflakes, the Wadi took on the name of St.Peter's crossing... when a very plummy English voice asked why a Tunisian Wadi should carry an English name ... he was answered by an equally Irish brogue saying that if he were to cross that wadi to-day .. he would be sure to meet St.Peter !
Lt.Col Maurice Menage was awarded the M.B.E. for that job ! He got nothing for saving St.Mark's of Venice from sliding into the lagoon in '46 !
As he always claimed that MBE meant My Boys' Efforts ! O.B.E. - Our Boys' Efforts - usually for Brigadiers !

 

Message 29 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 07 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue/David & Peter
I have just re read the whole thread and I must digress or would it be regress to Peter's digression and explanation of the Longstop - Tunis Battle may 5 -12

The order of battle for that episode was a joint force of both 1st and 8th Army under the command of Lt.Gen Brian Horrocks and was composed of the following units :- 1st Army - 4th BritDiv. 6th Brit Armed Div. 21st Tank bde 25th Tank bde
and from 8th Army came 4th INDIAN Div. 1st Armed Div - 201Guards Bde...ONLY
the 51st Hd Div was resting after Enfidaville and so it could only have been 6th Batt. Black Watch with the 4th Brit Div. who saw action in that battle ! Sorry about that !!!
regards Tom Can

 

Message 30 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 09 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

SueH/David & peter -

Me again - I have just stumbled over a posting I read many months ago which brings back David's point of your Father putting his hand up to volunteer - This story concerns a chap who did just that and joined the Sherwoods and landed at Salerno - it's an interesting tale and is entitled "Sherwood Foresters under fire in Italy" by Laurence Hickman, you can find it on the Military Desk
under the number A 1949024 which will be around page five/six (150-175).

Hickman might be a good contact !
cheers
tomcan

 

Message 31 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 09 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

SueH/David & Peter -
one day I'll get all the details in the right order - for the Sherwood tale try page 8/9 of the Military desk - go through "Sherwoods in Italy" by Westcott - aug 8 2004 - this will bring up Ron Goldstein and then on to A1949024.....

 

Message 32 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 10 January 2005 by evadeus

Tom,

Many thanks, this is facinating reading.

David and I are finding many side issues which are not just instructive but, so interesting.

Your timeline suggestion has paid dividends for us. David has used a map in the same way and so much as you say just falls into place.

SueH

 

Message 33 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 10 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue/David -
You will be surprised at the amount of seemingly meaningless bits and pieces get in the way of your direct line but - most have a grain or two within them !
I note that David is enquiring re the 98th and 100 Gen Hosp.
I don't know the details of their movements but inasmuch as the 33rd Gen Hospital moved up the East coast from Catania Sicily to Bari and then on to Ancona.( I do KNOW that as I was in all three units !) I would assume that the 98 did the same on the west Coast or the central route - say Caserta/Minturno/Rome/Trasimeno/Rieti/Terni/Spoleto/Arezzo/ ??? - probably finishing around Florence or even Bologna.One of them made it to Klagenfurt Austria ! As the west coast was primarliy the US area whereas we had a corps(Xth) helping them out all the way through from Salerno with many casualties, the Hospitals tended to follow them closely.
When I finally reached Bari - they found I should be home in Blighty for surgery - so I was loaded onto a Hospital ship with me cheering them all the way ---- to Catania where I was thrown off with a dozen others and our places occupied with Base Wallahs who were sick with jaundice etc. We stopped cheering right there !

 

Message 34 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 27 January 2005 by evadeus

Dear Tom,

We are very grateful for the information. Taking into account the areas Leonard was in this makes a whole lot more sense to us.

We have now constructed a complete timeline and geographical route for Leonards time in N. Africa and Italy, and are confirming diary entries with details we have been able to find using your good self and sites we have been directed to.

We are trying to confirm his travels as a P.O.W. and think we have almost got this completed.

Is there anywhere we can look that would throw light on to one rather puzzelling entry in the diary.

Leonard stated that he was in Stalag 317 and was taken to "Mittenburg" for 2 weeks.

Our research and Davids remembered conversations with Leonard sould suggest this was his link with Nordhausen. This would mean rather a long journey for a 2 week stay?

However by studying the maps we have found a "Mitterberg" which is fairly close to Stalag 317. Which could point to a simple error by Leonard as the spelling is similar. Or then we could be barking up the wrong tree.

Sue

 

Message 35 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 27 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

hello again - Sue/David -

glad to see that you are making good progress in your crusade of following your father's journey, you have done very well.
Now as regards POW camps - I am by no means an expert... in fact I would say that my knowledge is abysmal as I always tried to avoid thinking of POW camps as I had heard that they were not nice places to be.
However if you were to backtrack to message # 3 - you will find a website address which might be of some help... I don't know for sure but one thing usually leads to another - so give it a try !
Good luck and best regards.
tomcan

 

Message 36 - My Father in Law

Posted on: 28 January 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sue/David-
I've tried the Kew records for POWs, but like everyone else these days - they are running a business and they would rather you made an appointment - paid your money to get all the records - and they must be extensive - had lunch at their cafeteria etc, then trot off home - wherever that is, fully equipped with all the knowledge you need !

so again....good luck !

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