7046436 Rifleman George William BELL, 1st Bn Royal Ulster Rifles

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by Williamshaz, Oct 26, 2020.

  1. Williamshaz

    Williamshaz New Member

    Would anyone have any information on
    Rifleman George William Bell 7046436 1st Airborne Royal Ulster Rifles
    From Banbridge Co Down Northern Ireland
    Killed in action 24th March 1945 ( Varsity)
    Buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
    Any info on what happened or where is was killed etc
    Would be greatly appreciated
    It’s for his aunt , both uncles served with the royal ulster Rifles 1 came home 1 didn’t
    alberk likes this.
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Welcome aboard. Others may come along and help. Always apply for his Service Record, even if the turnaround is reported as a year plus now. See: Get a copy of military service records Upload the records here once you've obtained them and then the forum can get to work on them.

    Please do not pay for any site on the internet who promise you his service records they will not have them, and you would have wasted your money.

    Adding what you have already found can help, saves others from duplication. A Date of Birth and a Service Number help, though the experts here can surmount that gap.

    I have noted the 'Other Ranks' rarely feature in Google searches unless they have been awarded gallantry medals or written their memoirs.

    Searching Google will sometimes bring you back here. The site’s search engine is rather simple; two examples 53rd Field will bring back all mentions of 53rd; an Army unit can have after 53rd an additional official name, in one case 53rd (Bolton). You must be agile and keep going.

    War diaries can contain almost anything. At the very least, they give the daily movements and most important actions of every unit. They may also contain information on casualties, message logs, rolls of officers (but not O.R.'s), maps, orders, and much else. They are available at the PRO to everyone. Drew5233 and some others are willing to scan them for the benefit of those who cannot get to the National Archives at Kew.

    It depends of course how much you want to know, just one battle or campaign for an example.

    Please come back and tell us what you found. Scanning threads it is clear some discover the site years after your posts and add their information or request help. Good luck.
  3. Lizdutch

    Lizdutch Member

    I am also looking for information about what happened during Varsity with the RUR. I adopted the grave from Rifleman Michael Thompson who got wounded on the 24th of May and died of his wounds a few days later in my hometown Venray The Netherlands. I wonder If they knew each other.
    alberk likes this.
  4. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Dear Williamshaz and Lizdutch,

    I might have some bits of information for each of those cases. I did extensive research on Operation Varsity and grew up in village on the former battlefield. While I cannot help you with the exact individual fates I can offer informed guesses about the likely circumstances of these fatalities.
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  6. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    That was where I started my considerations... Rifleman bell was buried in large grave site close to the Hamminkeln train station. One of 81 dead who found their resting place in field graves. Here are excerpts from a German list made in 1945:
    Graves station.jpg

    Bell grave.jpg

    The dead in this gravesite are mainly Ox & Bucks Light Infantry and Bell is one of the exceptions.
    below the grave site at the station:
    Station Hamminkeln.jpg

    What could we possibly deduce from this?

    Not much- Perhaps just two things - and these are just informed guesses:
    A) Bell could have been in a glider that landed a bit to the north of the designated LZ "U" for 1 RUR - closer to LZ "O" for 2 Oxf & Bucks. However, this is speculative and would not be much of a surprise given the circumstances of a glider-borne landing under enemy fire.

    B) Bell was probably killed straight away in battle or in a crash landing - had he been severely injured he would have been taken to the main dressing station run by 195 Air Landing Field Ambulance. They had set up their dressing station not far from the train station at Gut Vogelsang - a smallish manor house. Next to this main dressing station the British established a separate large grave site. 30 of the overall 63 dead of 1 RUR were buried at Vogelsang, only 7 at the Hamminkeln station. Nine others were buried where they fell after engagements in various places, 10 in hospitals west of the Rhine after evacuation, seven have no known graves and are commemorated in Groesbeek.

    Vogelsang NEU.jpg
    Gut Vogelsang today.
    Gut Vogelsang in 1945.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
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  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles
    The Rhine Crossing
    The role of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles during Operation Varsity, 24th March 1945, was to land on LZ-U to the south of Hamminkeln, capture a bridge crossing the River Issel, secure the Ringenberg Railway Station, and then take up positions in the surrounding area. Anti-aircraft fire was particularly heavy, and the Royal Ulster Rifles received more than most when their gliders came in to land. "D" Company, landing very close to the bridge in a coup-de-main capacity, rapidly gained their objective, despite numerous casualties and the absence of two of their four platoons. As they were attacking towards the Bridge, the Company was faced with the daunting prospect of five self-propelled guns approaching their position, however once one of these had been knocked out at very close range with a PIAT, the rest dispersed.

    Further on it states:
    "B" and "C" Companies were to secure the surrounding terrain, but fierce resistance in their sector of the landing zone resulted in high casualties. However, once the Ulstermen had located and begun to attack these positions, they found the will of the enemy to fight crumbled remarkably quickly and a considerable number of prisoners were taken. By the afternoon, the Battalion was in complete control of their area, but the day had been extremely costly with two hundred and fifty-nine casualties sustained.

    George was killed or died on 24th March 1945 i.e. the opening day of the Operation, it could be assumed that he was killed whilst approaching the DZ, killed during landing (assuming he was in a glider) or killed within minutes of exiting the glider - from the details above many Airborne have the same date of death, some of them from the Glider Pilot Regiment

    You could contact the museum to see if they have anymore finite details - Royal Ulster Rifles Museum | Royal Irish - Virtual Military Gallery
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
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  8. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello Lizdutch,
    I brought up the Main Dressing Station in Haus Vogelsang in my posts above - it is very likely that Rifleman Thompson was treated there before being evacuated across the Rhine on March 26th. Another soldier of 1 RUR wrote down his recollections of being wounded and his stay in the dressing station in Haus Vogelsang. His name is Patrick Devlin and his account gives you an idea of the situation. It is likely that Michael Thompson lived through something similar - only that he did not survive this ordeal. This is an excerpt from the book "Victory in Europe: The North-West European Campaign 1944-1945" published by Julian Thompson in 1994:
    Patrick Devlin.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2021
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  9. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    The war diary of 195 AL Field Ambulance. It is unclear whether Rifleman Thompson was evacuated on Sunday, March 25th or Monday, 26th. Accodting to my information the evacuations across the Rhine on March 25th were made by DUKW. Evacuations in ambulances across the newly opened pontoon bridge at Bislich started on Monday before noon:
    War Diary 195 Fd Amb.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2021
    Lizdutch likes this.
  10. Lizdutch

    Lizdutch Member

    Thanks alberk, this is some useful information!!! I'm still struggling to find Michaels family but this is very helpful to get an idea what happened to him that day. It would be helpful if I knew in what company he served and maybe find out the exact glider he was in. I would like to apply for his service record but have to wait until the MOD has modernized their payment method. They ask to pay the fee by check but we don't use them anymore in The Netherlands. But I won't give up looking for his family.
    alberk likes this.
  11. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Michael Thompson features on three public trees on the ancestry genealogy website. One has been created by a lady who appears to be his neice or great neice, so I have messaged her using that sites system. If not sucessful I can try the other two trees.

    Last edited: Nov 11, 2021
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  12. Lizdutch

    Lizdutch Member

    Hello travers1940, that would be fantastic. Thank you so much!!!! I visited Michaels grave today and left a poppy wreath, it would be great if I am able to add the names of his family the next time.
  13. Lizdutch

    Lizdutch Member

    I already contacted the museum but the only extra information they could add was that Michael transferred in 1942 from the East Kent Regiment to the RUR. All other information is protected by the DPA.
  14. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello Lizdutch,
    I have a question: Did the 9th British General Hospital use the buildings of the Psychiatric Hospital at Venray in 1945?
    Lizdutch likes this.
  15. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hospitals WW2 - Scarlet Finders
    9 British General Hospital
    Le Mans 15/9/39 to 10/39 then to Le Grand Luce; Le Grand Luce 10/39 to 16/6/40 (detachment at Pacy); Leeds 16/6/40 to 6/8/40 then overseas; Cairo 19/9/40 to 12/43 and then to Knutsford; Knutsford 12/43 to 15/4/44 then to Goodwood; Goodwood 15/4/44 to 6/44 then to Woolwich; Woolwich 6/44 to 7/44 then to BLA; Belsen Camp 5/45 to 16/6/45 then to Hamburg; Hamburg 16/6/45 to 6/46 (no further War Diary).
    My thanks to David Waters for contacting me, and he's been able to add the following missing locations for 9 BGH where his father served as a medical officer
    11th July – 2nd Sept 1944 Bayeux Medical Area, Normandy
    06th Sept – 11th Sept 1944 Rouen
    19th Sept – 30th Nov 1944 Antwerp (first at the Colonial University Antwerp, then at School of sisters of Notre Dame, Berchem)
  16. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Yes, I found that on the web, too. But the stations for 8/44 to 5/45 are missing. And 9 BGH was definitely at Venray. I was just wondering which buildings they used. Because a BGH would definitely need a suitable location.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2021
  17. Lizdutch

    Lizdutch Member

    Hello alberk, I don't think so. Michael and others had their fieldgrave behind our old genral hospital. This building does not exist anymore, a new hospital was build in the sixties next to where the old one was. But I will try to find out if there is some information left in the city hall archieves.
  18. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Lizdutch.

    For "Operation Plunder" Venray became the "hospital area" for Second British Army. Three "British General Hospitals" (B.G.H.) were set up here - apparently making available 1000 beds. The units deployed here were 81st BGH at Oostrum, 84th BGH and 9 BGH at Venray. They were supported by 21st Field Dressing Station which - among other things - organized transport to a "rail head" (R.H.) for the three hospitals at Horst-Sevenum to allow evacuations further to the rear - one train left this station per day for the first four days of "Operation Plunder". Air evacuation was then made possible from Hees near Utrecht. On March 25th a total of 213 cases were evacuated by air, mainly to Brussels, 17 of these to the UK. All in all 2752 casualties were moved by air until March 31st.

    For me it would be of great interest to find out where the hospitals were housed - it is highly improbable that they were established under tent roofs.

    This all comes from a book by F.A. Crew: "The Army Medical Services", an official history published in the 1960s.
    Crew S. 459 Second Army.png
  19. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Hi Liz

    Have had a reply from MIchael Thompson's great niece, who has read this thread with great interest & wishes to be in contact with you. I will send you a private messge.

    alberk likes this.
  20. Lizdutch

    Lizdutch Member

    Good morning, today I made a phone call to our city archive but unfortunately there is no information regarding the BGH. I also asked for photo's but I got the same answer.
    Sorry and good luck looking for more information. Kind regards, Liz
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