Incident at Echt

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by redtop, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    My Father Gunner Burnikell was wounded at Echt in the Netherlands whilst serving with
    G Battery (Mercers Troop) 5 RHA I believe during Operation Blackcock.
    (See excerpt from Journals below)
    He says that the rest of crew were killed but I can find no mention in 5 RHA war Diaries.
    My Father is listed in war Diaries on 5/6 Feb 45..... Gunner Burnikell evacuated sick
    . His Service record says 4.2.45 Admit. Hosp.on X list (ii) 14.2.45 downgraded from A1 to B6.
    He never returned to 5 RHA and finished his service with other units.
    Is it that the incident was not recorded, or was my Father misinformed about the casualties, and never returned to confirm it?
    The War diaries seem to cover a lot of details on equipment even noting the arrival of a new motorcycle etc.
    A blow back in the breach would have been recorded; one in training in 1940 was recorded in Diaries and a malfunction on a gun would surely had an inquiry
    The War Diaries record him as sick but he was seriously burned with scarring to face and hands so I would have thought he was more than just sick.
    Any thoughts on this or other areas I might explore?
    Excerpt from Journals
    And then to Echt a village just taken by our chaps..
    Snipers were still holding out in the village.
    We had been firing on very low charge
    at short range and a lot of cordite charges were around the side of our SP
    Each shell that was brought forward for loading,
    had several bags of propellant with it, charges 1, 2 and 3, these came in
    cloth bags coloured respectively red, white and blue, when firing charge
    1 the white and blue bags were not loaded but put to one side.
    The SP was firing constantly and I was doing the donkeywork
    carrying the shells and propellant up to the gun. In the heat of the
    battle the unwanted bags of propellant were thrown to one side and
    quite a heap had built up in the cabin.
    Just as I arrived back at the gun it had a blowback in the breech,
    this ignited the pile of propellant, which exploded killing all of the
    Crew apart from myself I don't remember much more.
    I awoke and had a mask over my head and shoulders with small slits for
    eyes and mouth, and my hands covered in bandages. I later found I was
    in a hospital in France, Lille. Later sent to Munster. I was downgraded
    waiting for a group discharge
  2. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    Though slightly suprised that nothing at all was recorded in the diary, these type of incidents were not unusual at all.
    Most Arty regts suffered from this kind of thing when in action & the heat of battle. They concidered it unfortunate but not realy a big deal. It Happens! If your numbers up, it's up, it's War!
    I'am not trying to be blase or belittle this incident, but every Arty diary i have, or read contains casualties from incidents such as this.
    My own BSM grandfather's regt suffered it in WW1 & my Bombardier father always told me that in WW2 the 10th Med RA had more casualties from "prematures" than from enemy action.
    There were regimental investigations & WD committees to look at these incidents, but they looked more at the prevention & education side of things.
    As i said It's War, it happens!!

  3. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Hi Rob
    Not so much about the blow back and I appreciate that these things happen.
    I am more interested in why casualties if any were not reported.
    If there were 4 or 5 men killed it would have been recorded.In previous entry's to the Diaries such things as broken down vehicles and damaged sprockets noted,what [I imagine] was the loss of a Gun was worthy of note.
  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

  5. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    I do appreciate what your saying, I've had the same thing myself.
    Have you looked at the diaries of their higher command ie: 7Amd Div for that date?

  6. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    I checked Geoff's search engine/CWGC earlier for 5RHA deaths stradling 3 to 5 February 1945, but none identified. Maybe your Father was the only casualty, but always believed his mates were killed.

    I recall searching for circa six 6th and 7th Bn Green Howards, and 5th Bn East Yorks men of 69th Infantry Brigade, that a forum member's father believed were killed in Sicily and only found one. The men were not mentioned as killed in the War Diaries. My conclusion was that the soldiers in question had probably survived, but invalided out, transferred after recovery, etc. The only way to have been certain was to assume they had died more than 25 years ago and request their service records.

    Do you know your father's mates names?


  7. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Hi stolpi
    Unfortunately I do not have any names.
    I have the RA casualty list but again that is in Alphabetical name order, I may have to work my way through the dates but there are an awful lot of them.
    I was not aware of the 7 Armd. Div diaries I will give that a go.
  8. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Hi Steve Mac
    As posted above I have no names,
    I am beginning to think that as my Father did not wake up until he arrived a Hospital in Lille that he may well have thought them killed when in fact they survived ,this could happen ,in the earlier 5 RHA incident in 1940 the shell exploded whist the breach was open only one man was killed 2 burned and blinded and 2 burned and shocked.
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    According to CWGC there were 37 RA deaths recorded between 3 Feb 1945 and 5 Feb 1945, - link here (See edit below)

    However this was for NWE and I do not know which graveyard (CWGC) the others, if they were killed in this incident would have been buried. But by a process of elimination the list of 37 could be whittled down some.

    Hope it helps


    edited to add

    This list was not just for NWE ( :( :ewink: ) so I suppose those buried in the Eindhoven Cemetery may be those you are looking for.
    Sorry again for the misleading info re NWE

    A better list is here which filters only those buried in Holland
  10. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Hi Tricky Dicky
    That helps,
    I can only find one group of RHA Gunners killed around that time but that was on the eighth a bit late.
    I am assuming all were killed outright but guess it is pushing it a bit to think they all died of wounds 3/4 days later..
    They are all buried at Unden which puts them in the right area.

    Thank you all for your help so far ,I will be off line for next week .
  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Redtop - No need to have the names. You only need to enter the date (or appr. time period) and unit name and a listing of casualtes will 'pop up'.
  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi redtop

    Although the incident may have taken place around the 3rd - 5th - then I would guess in the chaos the record keeping may not have been a top priority, and therefore the recording of the actual date of those who died may not be quite the same as the date of action, plus I guess the time it took for those 'tidying up' after the action etc etc - I am only surmising here.
    Checking again on CWGC for Uden between 3rd & 10th Feb 1945 for RA killed the list becomes - perhaps some did survive the initial incident but were too badly injuried and died of their wounds within a short space of time.

    Hope it helps

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