Researching a family member ... help! 4th Northamptonshire Regiment

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Patch_Cedarcroft, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. Hi Gents,

    Interesting looking forum. I’m hoping for some help, might get lucky!

    A few years ago I found the war graves commission website and discovered that my paternal grandfather had a grave. My Dad was born after his Dad died, so he didn’t really have anything beyond a few medals and a couple of photos. We took a trip to the Uden Cemetry together to pay our respects, it was very moving. I’m curious about trying to find some more information. Someone once pointed me in the direction of a book which contained a reference to my grandfather but I’ve long since lost the email stupidly.

    I recently happened upon the CWGC website again, and noticed some additional documents had been added, included a register and grave registration report. My query partially relates to these documents. On the register, AJS Bell (Lieutenant in 4th Bttn Northamptonshire regiment) appears out of sync with the alphabetic nature of the register, and indeed the text appears to have been “stuck” onto the page. On the graves registration report, the entry has been written above a crossed out “unknown soldier” entry, and the date of death changed from October 44 to 2.3.45. Additionally the headstone schedule appears to have been ordered in 1982, and built in 1983.

    I’m interested in trying to find out as much as I can about my grandfather, and I was wondering if it is possible to explain what the above information means. Does it suggest that his remains were found in 1982? The book I referred to earlier mentioned that a shell landed close to an inflatable boat my grandfather was using to cross the river meuse (maas) and he wasn’t seen after that.

    I’d also really love to know more about what the unit was doing in the period Jan-March 1945. If anyone can shed any light on what was going on around then for me I would be most grateful.

    Kind regards


    P.s. as suggested on other threads, I will try to get hold of the service records if I can.


    dbf : edited title to incl regt.
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hello and welcome,
    just to be sure, is this the link to your grandfather's page or were you talking about this man in relation to your grandfather's records. Once we have a link to the correct cwgc link, we can have a look at the grave reports etc and give our opinions...

    Service No:249248
    Date of Death:02/03/1945
    Regiment/Service:Northamptonshire Regiment 4th Bn.
    Grave Reference: 2. F. 2.
    Additional Information:Husband of Doris K Bell of Northampton.

    edited in documents, seems to be the ones you described...
    bell grave registration doc4206593.JPG
    bell headstone doc4223681.JPG
    bell register doc5759180.JPG
  3. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    With the assumption that you are asking about your grandfather being Lt Alfred Bell, then from the CWGC information it seems as though at some stage they were able to identify a man who had been assumed as a Northants soldier killed in 1944 as actually being that of your grandfather. That presupposes there must have been something to enable a positive identification.

    That's why the original entry has been updated and the details added later.
    I recommend you contact the CWGC to ask if they have further details as usually this extra information only comes to light after exhumation, and it seems unusual for an existing "Unknown" grave to be reopened in the 1980's

    You can also obtain the War Diary for the 4th Northants from The National Archives for the period in question to see what that says compared to your memory of the book. The 4th Battalion only arrived in Europe on 12 February 1945, so it looks as if your grandfather was drowned when they were practising the Rhine crossing using the Maas River for the rehearsal. His body may have been recovered some time later, which is why the confusion with the initial assault over the Maas occurred in October 1944.

    I understand this will be painful, but obtaining his Service records will give you a much better insight into a man you should be proud of. It may take some time to obtain (ensure you request his FULL Service and any other related records) and in the meantime other more expert Pals with knowledge of the Northants may give you better information. At one remove I'd also like to know how he came to be properly identified instead of a "Known Unto God" which the CWGC should be able to clarify. That shows that even 40 years after the event a man can still be given the dignity of his identity.

    I hope this is of some help.
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    There are other diaries for earlier years, but without records to verify which battalion he was serving with & when, there's no point in getting them beforehand. This would cover his date of death, since he was an officer I'd expect there to be a mention of him and possibly the circumstances of his death.

    London Gazette, 17 November 1942:
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2019
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I would also consider the battalions Missing Men file. Whilst they mainly focus on junior ranks and not officers (I wonder where all that paperwork is?) there may be a mention of his death in a witness statement.
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just adding what is available from Ancestry as background info:

    Alfred Bell in the UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: Alfred Bell
    Given Initials: A J S
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Death Date: 2 Mar 1945
    Number: 249248
    Birth Place: Huntingdonshire
    Residence: Northampton
    Regiment at Enlistment: Northamptonshire Regiment
    Branch at Enlistment: Infantry
    Theatre of War: Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
    Regiment at Death: Northamptonshire Regiment
    Branch at Death: Infantry

    Alfred James Stewart Bell
    Birth 1916 in North Witchford, Cambridgeshire/Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire
    Death 02 Mar 1945 in Uden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

    Alfred James Stewart
    [Alfred J S Bell]
    Birth: 1916 - Cambridgeshire
    Death: 02 Mar 1945 (2 Mar 1945) - Uden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands
    Marriage: Mar 1941 - Northampton, Northamptonshire

    Father: (Name Unknown)
    Mother: Martha Elizabeth Bell

    Marriage details:

    Name: Alfred J S Bell
    Spouse Surname: Bull
    Date of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar 1941
    Registration district: Northampton
    Inferred County: Northamptonshire
    Volume Number: 3b
    Page Number: 87

  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Jervois' 'History of the Northamptonshire Regiment' gives some detail relating to the loss of Lieutenant Bell. He died leading a reconnaissance patrol across the River Maas. The publication dates from 1953 and his body had not been identified at that time.

    The first part of the following extract relates to the 2nd Battalion ('The 58th') - The 4th Battalion is dealt with from about half way down.

    Afbeelding (114).jpg

    Afbeelding (115).jpg

    Afbeelding (116).jpg
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
    Owen, stolpi, Drew5233 and 3 others like this.
  8. Gents, to all of you, thank you so much for this information. It was very emotional to read, especially about the patrol, but wonderful at the same time to be able to build a better picture of what happened.

    DBF, those are indeed the correct docs.
    KevinBattle, I have emailed the CWGC to find out how/why the records were updated. As you say, I thought something must have happened to be able to get a positive identification. If I find anything out I will keep the thread updated.
    TrickyDicky, thanks for the information. Very interesting to see "father unkown" entered - would this information have come from a birth certificate. I would have loved to trace the history back a bit further at some stage.
    Rich Payne, thanks - amazing. That wasn't the same thing as I had read before and lost, but closely tallies with what I remember reading. Thank you so much for digging that out.

    Thanks again to everyone!
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Patch

    His birth details are:

    Name: Alfred J S Bell
    Mother's Maiden Surname: Bell
    Date of Registration: Jul-Aug-Sep 1916
    Registration district: North Witchford
    Inferred County: Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire
    Volume Number: 3b
    Page Number: 840

    A copy of his birth certificate will let you know if his father is named or not. The difficulty is that I think the family trees have accepted that her maiden name is also Bell, which is a possibility although rare, as that is the name she has used on the birth certificate (unless the actual certificate has something else as well). I have tried looking for a marriage for a Mr Bell and a spouse whose first names are either Martha or Martha Elizabeth, but the results are not promising. I also cannot find a relevant marriage cert for a Bell to Bell.
    I am also unsure as to which registrars office you would need to apply for a copy of his birth cert, perhaps Huntingdon, or Ely as they are the closest major towns to North Witchford.

    Be interesting to know if you do eventually find any further info

  10. Thanks again TD, I will try to order a birth certificate, and will let everyone know if the CWGC comes up trumps.
  11. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Glad that we have helped, that's why we do this, to try and flesh out the lives (and regrettably deaths) so that at least the knowledge is there to understand.
    I'm also glad that there are those expert Pals who can help me to ensure that my guesses get straightened out with the facts!
    As regards tracing your Family Tree back, you may find things which some may find unpalatable, but the truth is, that's life and get on with it, don't get hung up on what happened almost 100 years ago. Face facts, it did and whether you like it or not, it's YOUR family.

    Take mine as an example.... Grandmother married in 1910 and had their first child in 1911 that died...nothing further on the baby front apparently until my Dad arrives in 1918, but his Birth Cert is his mothers MAIDEN name.... OK, so presumably the marriage broke down (we know granpa was in prison in 1911 Census for stealing a blind girls satchel with 10 shillings and a photo (blind girl with a photo?) but further children come along up until 1931 with the married name!
    They were all brn in the Liverpool workhouse though...
    So was my Dad someone elses child that granpa refused to accept? No idea, too long ago, in the middle of WW1, and it doesn't change who I am or how I feel about my father. He was human, and all the more special because of it.

    You don't HAVE to do anything if you don't want to about finding out from CWGC or his Service records, do what you are happiest with.

    Like others here, if there is anything more to add, we'd like to know, but it's your call.
  12. Hi All,

    Just a little update, the CWGC got back to me.

    So it would seem that, with no known grave, my grandfather was commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial (with the wrong date). Meanwhile, when his body was found (minus the means to identify beyond his regiment) he was buried in Uden. Later on, someone realised that only 1 unidentified soldier from the 4th Northamptonshire was killed in the area, so in 1982 they ordered a new grave stone.

    I really wish I could find out who made that connection to say a heartfelt thank you, because I cannot begin to tell you how made up my Dad was when he finally got to lay at wreath at his fathers grave.
  13. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    That really is nice to have the details from the CWGC confirming much of our guesswork to date.
    If only the CWGC had included the details as to how they were made aware of Lt Bell being the only 4th Northants casualty unidentified, so the Uden burial had to be him.

Share This Page