Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by somequestions, Apr 17, 2016.
Again - a big thank you. I will certainly try to order it.
Hi I wonder if anyone can help? My great grandad William John Thomas 7908870 of the 2nd Northamptonshire yeomanry was reported missing in action on the 19/07/1944, no body was recovered or returned home. Would he have been buried where he fell? Or put into a mass grave? I have emailed the Northamptonshire yeomanry who passed me onto a man who said the term missing in action means missing never found, surely there would have been some sort of remains of him somewhere, my nan is now 76 and was only 2 when her dad got killed, she would just like to know if he is somewhere as all she has of him is a handful of photos, it is somewhat of a mystery. We are planning a trip to France hopefully later on in the year and my nan would like to lay some flowers, for her Dad somewhere (we think in between Herbert folie and bras from research) if anyone has any information that would be fantastic. We also have some photos of him and others if needed. We have also applied for his service records.
Hello and welcome to the forum
I'm afraid this an all too common situation, and missing does not necessarily mean never found, it can also mean never identified. It's somewhat grim to explain: many remains could either not be identified e.g. in some circumstances ID tags became detached from the body or, enough of them recovered to make any kind of identification possible e.g. a body may well have been destroyed completely or partially during action. The War Office would have made enquiries at the time, requesting information from his unit and his comrades and this would have been taken into consideration before a decision was made to mark his casualty status as Missing. *see note below
Missing however does not mean that he wasn't commemorated. From the CWGC website, your great grandfather's name has been placed with many others on the memorial at Bayeux.
Trooper THOMAS, WILLIAM JOHN
Service Number 7908870
2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry
Royal Armoured Corps
Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Thomas; husband of Sadie Thomas, of Trehafod, Pontypridd, Glamorgan.
Commemorated at BAYEUX MEMORIAL
Location: Calvados, France
Number of casualties: 1803
Memorial reference: Panel 10, Column 2.
Unidentified remains would have been buried properly in a cemetery, with as much information as possible added to the headstone, always with the inscription : Known Unto God. The example below shows no unit or date of death etc but there are others which can give a date or a unit or both. It is quite possible that there would be grave marked in a similar way for your great grandfather's remains, but it was impossible to identify him.
There are no mass graves, however 'collective' graves are sometimes given to e.g. crew members whose remains were recovered from a tank or plane but who could not be identified individually.
CWGC did not repatriate bodies to UK. Some of the missing, battle casualties, are still being discovered but most remains were removed from field graves to proper cemeteries in the years immediately after the war.
Some people have conducted their own research and successfully applied to CWGC to have named headstones given to those previously buried as Unknowns, but the CWGC require a high standard of proof before this can be done. As far as I am aware they will not for example exhume remains to conduct DNA tests. These are only done on remains found recently in battlefield areas.
*There are records at TNA which cover Missing Personnel
This is the link and reference for your great grandfather's unit.
North West Europe: 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps; missing personnel | The National Archives
Reference: WO 361/544
Description: North West Europe: 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps; missing personnel
If you wish, you can either go to Kew to see/copy them for yourself or get a copy of them (ask on here first before using the more expensive TNA services), but there is no way of telling what information they hold until they are consulted. I've seen some files which contain little more than a list of names, while others can have letters from comrades or family or reports by officers.
Depending on the length of his service with 2 Northamptonshire Yeomanry (his service records will confirm dates, etc), these war diaries might be of further interest as they record events for each day of the war. Certainly the last one should give some background to the events prior to his death, (although it is fairly rare for individuals other than officers to be named). As before if interested, do ask here first to see if other members already have a copy, or can copy the diaries for you at a much cheaper rate than TNA would charge.
WO 166/1399 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPS: 2 Northamptonshire Yeomanry. 1940 Jan.- 1941 Dec.
WO 166/6909 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPS: 2 Northamptonshire Yeomanry. 1942 Jan.- Dec.
WO 166/11086 2 Northamptonshire Yeomanry 1943 Jan.-Dec.
WO 171/860 2 Northamptonshire Yeomanry 1944 Jan.- Sept.
I imagine you've already seen the extract from 19/7/44 in Drew's post War diary 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry
Hope this helps, good luck with your research.
From official war office information, via FindmyPast
Theatre of war North West Europe
Archive reference WO 417/79
PIece description Casualty Lists - Other Ranks
List 1521, 10th August 1944
(please note that there were 6 other men also reported missing by his unit on that day; see CWGC list below)
Army Roll of Honour
First name(s) William J
Last name Thomas
Service number 7908870
Regiment Northamptonshire Yeomanry Rac
Birth place Glamorgan
Death year 1944
Death day 19
Death month 7
Theatre of war Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
Record set Army Roll Of Honour 1939-1945
Using Geoff's Search Engine to find others from the same unit killed on the same day,
3 other men also commemorated on Bayeux Memorial
1 man buried at Bayeux War Cemetery
with the rest at other cemeteries.
If you were inclined you could check near to all these burials to see if there are any headstones close to them which are for Unknown burials identified as being from 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry on that date. CWGC unfortunately do not list plot numbers for Unknowns.
001 BAYLISS AE 7886652 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSXII. C. 13. - Buried at BANNEVILLE-LA-CAMPAGNE WAR CEMETERY (140 unidentified burials)
002 BOUCHER RAC 293694 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPS PANEL 10, COLUMN 2. - Commemorated at BAYEUX MEMORIAL
003 CLARKSON R 7906057 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPS IX. F. 29. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY (90 unidentified burials)
004 COOK ME 14288494 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSII. D. 35. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
005 COX EW 7906026 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSPANEL 10, COLUMN 2. - Commemorated at BAYEUX MEMORIAL
006 DAVEY P 14261687 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. E. 8. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
007 EAVES ASP 7945504 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. F. 32. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
008 FRANKLAND EF 14375538 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSVII. J. 4. - Buried at RYES WAR CEMETERY, BAZENVILLE
009 GRAHAM W 4547461 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIV. B. 3. - Buried at BANNEVILLE-LA-CAMPAGNE WAR CEMETERY
010 JEFFERSON ACM 7896774 B SQN 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. A. 8. - Buried at BANNEVILLE-LA-CAMPAGNE WAR CEMETERY
011 MARTIN MM 14428545 'C' SQN, 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSPANEL 10, COLUMN 2. - Commemorated at BAYEUX MEMORIAL
012 MEADOWCROFT E 14290373 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. E. 6. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
013 MORROW RWC 14290098 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSVII. J. 2. - Buried at RYES WAR CEMETERY, BAZENVILLE
014 PECK GF 101062 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. F. 35. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
015 SCOFIELD AH 7892112 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIV. B. 1. - Buried at BANNEVILLE-LA-CAMPAGNE WAR CEMETERY
016 SMITH JL 7888046 A SQN 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. F. 30. - Buried at RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY
017 SPENCE NA 7896270 C SQN 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIV. B. 6. - Buried at BANNEVILLE-LA-CAMPAGNE WAR CEMETERY
018 THOMAS WJ 7908870 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSPANEL 10, COLUMN 2. - Commemorated at BAYEUX MEMORIAL
019 TOOLEY JO 7894593 2ND THE NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSXXIV. A. 11. - Buried at BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY (338 unidentified burials)
020 WHITE SJ 237403 2ND NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY 19/07/1944 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPSIX. A. 12. - Buried at BANNEVILLE-LA-CAMPAGNE WAR CEMETERY
Thanks for your information it is really appriciated, I will post again once we receive his service records and keep you updated
side-by-side 1947 air view-Map
Remonter le temps
Whilst not wanting to add too much detail, I'd suggest that Trooper Thomas was possibly part of a knocked out tank crew.
If a Sherman, for example, they were notorious for "brewing up" and therefore those in the interior would be hard to identify.
Looking at dbf's typed Missing List, he's on his own, so it could be the rest of the crew got out, but not him....
Shermans typically had a crew of 5; on that list there are two groups of 3, possibly those inside the hull, with those in the turret escaping...
Just a possible explanation..
That list is in alphabetical order, so nothing can be gleaned from it at all as regards possible crew composition. The CWGC list might've provided some small hint - had all casualty details contained squadron designations: sadly not the case.
The 4 who remained as Missing from 19th July - i.e. the 4 commemorated on Bayeux Memorial - could just as easily indicate 4 separate crews. It's possible that there'd be a combination of casualty types from one crew during one event though - missing, killed/identified, wounded, survived, pow; to state the obvious crew members were more vulnerable whilst trying to escape from a tank.
See examples of "Fate of Crew" in this survey 8th Armoured Brigade, Tank Casualties, 1945
From Imperial War Museum online search Search Our Collections for ""2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry"" | Imperial War Museums
THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944 (B 7535)
Catalogue number B 7535
Cromwell tanks of 2nd Troop, C Squadron, 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, 11th Armoured Division, assembled for Operation 'Goodwood', 18 July 1944.
THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944 (B 7563)
Catalogue number: B 7563
Cromwell tanks of 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry advance near Escoville during Operation 'Goodwood', 18 July 1944.
Op Goodwood -
Account, 8 CORPS: Operation Goodwood, Lieutenant General RN O'CONNOR, Corps Commander
Battle Study: Operation GOODWOOD
While the IWM caption for the first photo (B7535) is probably correct (the markings - or lack of them - on the tank are consistent with those on other identified 2 N YEO tanks), that for the second (B7563 attributed to Sgt Christie) is definitely wrong. The Cromwell tanks belong to No.2 Squadron, 2 (Armoured Reconnaissance) Battalion Welsh Guards, Guards Armoured Division:
B7563 - Notes
Unfortunately the number (or letter?) inside the Squadron symbol (white square) is not quite readable. It should indicate the Troop (6 to 10 in No.2 Sqn), or might be A or B (or maybe C or D too) if the tanks belong to SHQ. The number '35' is possibly the individual call sign of the vehicle, although I have failed to find a numbering system which would be compatible with the other such numbers seen on other 2 WG vehs (such a failure being the rule rather than the exception with tank numbering 'systems'!).
As for the Sherman V turret number 41 on the left, it probably also belongs to Guards Armd Div (and thus to 2 (Armd) Bn Gren Gds, viz the AoS 51), as would the two Sherman V tanks (turret numbers 18 & 17) photographed at the same location, quite ludicruously stated as being "in front of the factory chimneys at Colombelles steelworks" in the IWM caption of B7524, attributed this time to Sgt Laing, and supposed to show Sherman tanks of 23rd Hussars, 11th Armoured Division:
B7524 - Notes
The building in the background is actually the Église de l'Assomption Notre-Dame in Ranville:
Ranville Church - 925_001
Hi Callum, are you on Facebook?
If so there are several groups dedicated to the Northamptonshire yeomanry and I’m sure they’d gladly accept you into the group as a family member of one of their own.
There are a handful of veterans still alive who may be able to help in your search.
Drew, would it be ok if I copied these and posted in the Northamptonshire yeomanry FB group please, the veterans I know would love to take a look at them?
Graeme, in the book 1st & 2nd Northamptonshire yeomanry. There is a few pages covering the day your gt grandfather was killed. It covers some of the action through the day.
Looking in the missing file for 2 NY (WO361/544), the only mention I could find of Trooper W.J. Thomas was on this page; I couldn't find any questionnaires in this file for any of the 19th July 1944 casualties:
Separate names with a comma.