Unknown British soldier's body found on Monte Spaduro

Discussion in 'Italy' started by vitellino, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Here you go Sir

    WO 361/844 Italy: Royal Irish Fusiliers; missing personnel

    WO 361/859 Italy: Royal Ulster Rifles: 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles

    WO 361/846 Italy: 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; missing personnel

    WO 361/812 Italy: Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; missing personnel

    WO 361/847 Italy: Lancashire Fusiliers; missing personnel

  2. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    The Carabinieri have decided that they will send for the service records of the three Faughs whose unit crossed the area where the remains were found during the advance 19/20 October 1944, and also of the man from the Rifles.who were to the right of the Faughs.

    They are:

    7023038 Fusilier Charles Lambourne JOHNSTON Son of James & Rose Johnston of Belfast Northern Ireland

    7046696 Fusilier John MULDOON Son of Michael & Bridget Muldoon of Long Lawford, Warwickshire, England

    5682839 Fusilier Ernest WINDER Son of George Richard & Mabel Winder, nephew of Mrs. E. Winder of Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire England

    5052885 Rifleman Richard Wilfred EVANS Husband of Violet Evans of Erdington, Birmingham

    I have now found out from BT Phonebook that the is still a Muldoon family in Long Lawford Warwickshire and there are eight persons by the name of Winder listed in the Barrow in Furness area, but I don't think there's much hope of finding just a few Johnstons in Belfast or Evans in Birmingham. However, if contact could be made with the Muldoon and Winder families and DNA could be obtained there might be a chance of identification.
  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the update

    For those not conversant with the detail of the fighting for the Faughs on 19th/20th October 1944 near Monte Spaduro, John Horsfall's descriptions here might give some idea of what was going on that day

    "The approach to Spaduro was typical of the German choice of hill positions and, at 2am, on the morning of the 19th, we had orders to get in to the place immediately. This took some doing and the first task was to achieve some kind of base from which the operation could start.

    I sent Tony Morris up with C Company to clamp down on Point 416, which jutted out from the junction point of Monte Gesso and Salata – as it were the head of the dinosaur. This, he succeeded in doing unseen before the mist lifted and that move was only the only good thing done tactically that day. It bore enduring fruit.

    We only had twenty odd mules available to back us and, as D was obviously the reserve company after their recent exertions – and battle casualties – they were reduced to carrying up our ammunition and other necessities for the rest of the battalion.

    By this time, we were informed that the 36th Brigade had already captured the Salata ridge, which was now in our right rear and it never occurred to me to question this information until later. In the meantime, we climbed over the shoulder of the thing, mules and all, hidden in the mist and blissfully unaware of the sleepy jagers, who were still in residence.

    Shortly afterwards on Point 416 from the shelter of a rather decrepit farm house, we examined the sprawling mass of Spaduro spreading out in front of us.

    A few hundred yards ahead, squarely at the base of the dinosaur’s neck, was the substantial Casa Spinella, which was quiet enough in that moment but, as the mist lifted, we noticed through our field glasses a fat member of the opposition emerging from nearby and performing his toilet on the top of the next ridge, Point 387, which lay just behind it....

    ....From 8am onwards, the German began heavy shelling of Point 416 both with 105s and mediums, so they already knew of our presence and, after studying the ground with Ian Lawrie and disliking what I saw, I ruled out a daylight attack. Also, at dusk, C Company brought in a prisoner who talked volubly and gave us the German dispositions in the greatest detail, including those of the garrison of Spinella, which he came from.

    From then on, we knew we had a whole German infantry regiment disposed on the features in front of us.

    The warriors had not had any food since the previous night, so I decided that zero hour was dependent on the time by which we could feed them. Also, with only two dozen mules, it had been impossible to get the support weapons up the fifteen hundred feet of Monte Gesso. However, during the afternoon, Norman Bass acquired the services of a further hundred of the animals by means known only to himself and, by 5pm, the whole battalion was up and on to the ridge with everyone fed save C Company, as they were unapproachable on 416 in daylight.

    The briefing for the battle was carried out by stages from my OP during the afternoon. The approaches in each case ruled out any question of committing more than a company in the assaults on the two main features and, in any case, we only had three available as D Company was still occupied in getting our support weapons on to 416 and for holding the place thereafter. Ian Lawrie had his 26 Battery and the rest of the 17th Field at our disposal and his guns would be occupied for the first two hours of the attack in short concentrations on the posts we had located and all other likely ones in the vicinity.

    Our own support weapons could play no part in the night action as it was not possible to get them in to their firing positions until after darkness had fallen.

    Shortly before nightfall, the operation quietened down and food was at last brought up to Tony’s men in their forward positions. The stage was then set up for one of the most tragic and bloody battles that we ever fought and the orders that I had given for it only made sense in the context of a demoralised enemy (of course they weren't).

    At 9pm, we launched our attack, taking a wide sweep round Spinella and attacking up the feet of the dinosaur, A Company against Point 387 and B onto Monte Spaduro, which was over a mile beyond it. Such a plan on a dark night was only possible with company commanders of exceptional experience and the night navigation and control of their companies by Maurice Crehan and Dick Jefferies in the course of this action speaks for itself.

    A Company were on to 387 undetected owing to their flank approach and they swept over the ridges from one end to the other with their tracer bouncing over the crests in to the night sky and their opponents stampeding in front of them. The action on 387 was as short as it was sharp and Maurice reported the place secure shortly after midnight.

    By then, B Company had pushed far beyond on beyond A Company but from them on, they were in continuous trouble. They were fired in to from a fortified building and a protracted fight ensued before the occupants surrendered to Wally Tyler’s (Lieutenant G Tyler, RIrF) platoon, who had surrounded it. Unfortunately, Wally seems to have set the place on fire and as it included an ammunition dump inside it, the fireworks were considerable. By the time they had finished, the entire district was a blaze of light, with parachute flares and tracer criss crossing from one end of the mountain to the other.

    Carrying on unabashed, B Company then found themselves with a cliff faced wadi across their front and a large number of excited Germans lined up on the far side of it. Here, Dick paused for a short while before seeking a way round but, soon after he did so, they ran into an enemy detachment also on the move. Both shot together and the Germans raced off in to the darkness, leaving one of their number on the ground and several of our own. This led to further delay.

    By 0330, B Company were across the wadi at last and Dick signalled back enquiring if he was still to go for the summit as only an hour of darkness remained. This, I asked him to do and, in those last few hundred feet, B ran in to one post after another. They shot down or collared every one of their opponents in the process – that is, those in the path of the attack – and, at 0515, Dick, at last, reported that he had carried his objective. But, by then, the dawn was breaking.

    Dick sent out a fighting patrol with Sergeant Jones scouring all round them but, as in most mountain night attacks, both companies found it impossible to clear up the other German positions in the vicinity in the time available. Nor was there ever a chance of their doing so on so massive a feature.

    At midnight, Colin Gunner was on his way back from A Company with a dozen prisoners but he soon ran in to an enemy detachment, which had stalked across our line of advance and were crawling up towards Maurice’s men. There was a brief fight on the cliff face in the course of which two of the prisoners were killed and, after it subsided, Colin and the escort headed off westwards with the remainder in a long circuit, round and back to us. He did not arrive in until daylight. B Company also had fourteen prisoners including a feldwebel at that stage, but they met the same trouble as Colin did on the way back and ten of them were shot down by their own side.

    Soon after midnight, I sent C Company on to Point 387 with the hope of buttressing both companies, but Tony was never able to reach either of them. His scouts were half way up 387 when one of them, Fusilier Bowden, noticed a number of figures coming down to join them. Assuming they were A Company, he called over to one of them, who promptly swiped at him with a stick grenade. Bowden immediately fired a whole magazine from his tommy gun in to the fellow and this promptly set off a major battle, with the Germans, having the advantage of height, and showering their stick grenades down on to C Company, who were struggling up through the chasm below them.

    By this stage, both A and B were surrounded and, as the light increased, one machine gun after another opened up on them from all quarters. Then, a long line of German infantry lying up on the eastern side of the dinosaur’s back rose to their feet and surged forward on to both companies. Our defensive artillery fire was too little, too late, and too far out when this happened and, a few minutes later, German bombers were on to the tops of the features, raining grenades down on our fusiliers below them.

    Dick tried valiantly to bring the DFs in nearer but, unfortunately, reception became bad at the critical moment and, a few minutes later, the enemy were among them.

    Until the final moment, I was talking to Dick on the radio, while schmeisser bursts and grenade explosions provided the background accompaniment. At 0730, the final assault took place, which Dick quietly reported to me. I said, ‘Wait for the whites of their eyes,’ which Dick acknowledged. Then turning to Wally Tyler his subaltern, he said, ‘I’m damned if I’m going to give in to these buggers.’

    Knowing the grim truth of our circumstances all too well, Ian and I studied the scene through our field glasses. As the light improved, we could see grey clad and other figures moving in the open all over the tops of Spaduro and a good many others lay there sprawled and motionless. We could have saturated the place with our guns with the greatest ease by a few words over the radio – but I looked at Ian and we both stayed silent.

    We watched the German SBs at work and they were busy there for over four hours – until 1pm, when we finally saw the last of them.

    Our men were out there too, Fusilier James Highcock, stretcher bearer of B Company, wrote to me on these matters.

    “You may guess that having to cross many a river and climb mountains, I don’t ever remember leaving a single comrade out on the field…I went out with the padre, Captain Kelleher, with mules, blankets and a white flag in full view of the enemy to recover a few of the lads the prisoners told us about….” Referring to Spaduro. “We had a very rough time, my mate Fusilier Burchet, while carrying a wounded comrade was hit by a shellfire only to die in a few minutes. He was a Salvationist…."

    ….and Fusilier Jack Birch MM, of D Company, I wrote later referring to our men, who were decorated, “A good many of our chaps owe their lives to him. He had been through more battles than any and, of all jobs, I know of none are worse than that. Other chaps can always take cover but when things are at their worst, that is the time when the SBs are busiest.”

    About twenty survivors got out from each of the forward companies. Jerry Pierce came back from B with the feldwebel still with him and Wally Tyler reappeared the following night with nine others and a number of prisoners, after being fired in to by both sides for thirty six hours.

    Others came in in ones and twos, including Corporal Borrett, who was hit in the stomach and crawled two miles home to us. Cheerful and smiling when he reached us, he died a few hours later.
    D Company then moved forward of 416 with some of our machine guns, to secure what we still possessed and the next problem was getting C Company out with the Germans sitting on the 387 rim all round them. This was only achieved by drowning the area in smoke – and that far from effective with the upward air currents off the hill faces and eddying like mad at that.

    But the real battle was only just beginning and, as the day developed, both D Company forward of Tac HQ and our HQ, itself, came under small arms and artillery fire from all sides as the enemy endeavoured to complete their victory. Finally, we found ourselves under heavy fire from the Salata ridge behind us and I knew the crisis was complete. I signalled this news to Pat at 9am and from that time onwards, there were stronger powers behind us.

    D Company suffered heavily with the enemy firing in to their backs, but no one budged and they shot back manfully. So did our own machine gunners. Tac HQ took five direct hits from heavy shells before the day had ended. Posted in the straths below us, one could even see those guns – and so could Ian Lawrie as 17 Field hunted them down, one after another.

    Pedro Pattison (Lieutenant MER Pattison, 1 RIrF) manhandled two of the 6 pounders on to Gesso in the evening light with the setting sun behind him and, before long, was firing HE into our tormenters over open sights. Our cooks joined in the battle beside him and I recorded that Corporal Jerry Strainger and his assistants did more to keep us in the line than any other factor.

    As the light failed, the battlefield quietened and I knew the tide was turning...."

    Source: Fling Our Banner to the Wind.
    GANDALF, JohnH, Wobbler and 2 others like this.
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I just found this in the 1 London Irish Rifles war diary appendices for October 1944 - Does it help? If it does where did he go missing on the map?

    Benedict and bexley84 like this.
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Thanks for this but we're talking about the 2nd Bn London Irish Rifles as part of 38 (Irish) Brigade (78th Div). The 1st Bn were with 56th (London) Div for most of their Italian campaigning..

  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    And that is why I try to only post in the 1940 section :lol:
    Ken P likes this.
  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Great map though and will use it for my other interests...
    Drew5233 likes this.
  8. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Well everyone, thanks to file WO 361/844 it is now possible to narrow the unknown soldier down to two possibilities, assuming that he belonged to the Faughs.

    He is either:

    7046696 Fusilier John MULDOON Son of Michael & Bridget Muldoon of Long Lawford, Warwickshire, England

    5682839 Fusilier Ernest WINDER Son of George Richard & Mabel Winder, nephew of Mrs. E. Winder of Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire England

    (Fus.Johnston does not appear on the list of missing men even though his body must never have been found and he is remembeed on the Cassino Memorial).

    Fus Muldoon 12 Platoon B Coy was shot in the head in a trench he was occupying with Fus. Mitchinson. (Testimony Cpl. Nicholls). There is information about his height (5 '4 3/4") which might help. The skull of the missing man should reveal the presence or absence of bullet wounds.

    Fus. Winder is described as being between 5'10" and 6' tall, and most importantly, as having a long face (Testimony Fusilier Dickenson). The photograph I have of the unknown soldier's skull, which I do not intend to post, shows him to have a long face so perhaps Fus. Winder is the person we are looking for. I shall now suggest the the Carabinieri that they skip asking for the dental records and go for DNA samples from the families (See above for who they are).

    Wobbler, Ken P, bexley84 and 2 others like this.
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Great news and very glad to hear the file has helped.

    Thanks for the update
  10. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Amazing stuff and fascinating to read thank you.
  11. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Hopefully with all the extra information supplied he can be identified

  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I was told yesterday that the Carabinieri now have authorisation to collect a DNA sample form the corpse, and are in contact with the British Embassy in Rome with regards to contacting the families of the two missinig men.

    As soon as I know something more I will post it,

  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Any update on this?
  14. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    They tell me from Imjin Barracks that they are about to do/ are doing DNA tests. As soon as I know something further I'll be in touch,

    Steve Mac likes this.
  15. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    A fascinating thread to read and I do hope that a positive Identification can be obtained.
  16. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I should have added to my last post that in May I visited the site where the soldier was found with the man who found him. The co-ordinates obtained at the site, cross referenced with the Missing Men files, enabled his company to be identified so it would now seem certain that he was either Fus. Winder or Fus. Muldoon.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello all those of you who are interested in this case.

    I have just been informed by the MOD that they are now working on it and that the burial will take place sometime in March.


  18. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Funnily enough, I have been reading Nicholas Mosley's Time at War and am on the bit where Lt Mosley's Company attack Casa Spinella. For his part in the attack, he wins an MC.


    Wobbler and Waddell like this.
  19. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Good news Janet...if not possible at this stage, hopefully a specific named identification might become possible in the future.

    When chatting to Nick Mosley last year, the events of 1944/45 were not surprisingly still vivid and especially the memory of his comrades, who didn't return home... we had a chat about a number of his/my father's mates from E Company buried at Cassino, Orvieto, Santerno River and Argenta Gap CWGC cemeteries. Never to be forgotten.

    Faugh a Ballagh
    Quis Separabit.
    Waddell likes this.
  20. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I think there's a very good chance that he will be named as the MOD are going ahead with the DNA testing.

    bexley84 likes this.

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