4460740 Pte John Edward WILSON, 16th DLI

Discussion in 'Durham Light Infantry' started by Andrew Marsh, May 25, 2020.

  1. Andrew Marsh

    Andrew Marsh Member

    Hi all

    Just wondering if any of the experts had any information on my Nanas brother John Edward Wilson who was killed in action at Monte Cassino on the 30th of January 1944. Having looked at the date of death it seems quite a few (13 I think) others in the DLI were killed that day and some from other regiments at the same place.

    I just wondered if there were any records from commanding officers as to his fate or if there was any knowledge about if there was a particular push that day or anything really.

    Also if there are any records of him in his time with the regiment, anything really. It would be nice for my mam

    My nana died a year ago now (she was 94). During the war she worked in an ammunition factory, in Hebburn (South Tyneside) - Reyrolles I think, unfortunately she would never speak of it as it reminded her of John's death and equally she wouldnt speak about him either eas it upset her too much but it's something that I've wanted to look into more for a while now. I think the only information she ever told anyone about what happened to him was that he was blown up. How true this is I dont know.

    My mam would have loved to have taken her to the memorial at Cassino but she wouldnt have made it even in her younger days... so when the world is open again its something I need to do. It's the least I can do.

    Incase you need it - John was from Jarrow in Co. Durham (now South Tyneside).

    Not sure if you need further info from me but I appreciate those who read this and help. I feel more than abit emotional typing this so I'll leave it at that.

    Thanks in advance.

    Best regards

    NB - not sure if I'm supposed to add tags so more people read or how this works etc.
  2. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Hello Andrew,
    John Edward Wilson 4460740 was not killed at Monte Cassino he is only commemorate there, He died during the battalions operations in the Garigiliano River area. The Enemy at Siola were a constant threat to the battalion who had to call on the Artillery to bring down a bombardment to relieve the pressure on them. They were on the front line for six weeks Jan-Feb 1944. Lived Walter Street ,Jarrow.

    Last edited: May 26, 2020
  3. Cpl Hadaway

    Cpl Hadaway Active Member

    There's a listing of the other casualties suffered by the 16th Battalion DLI on 30/1/44 here:

    8/12/43 to 6/2/44 16 DLI Casualties

    and an alphabetical Roll of Honour which features him on this page:

    16 DLI Roll of Honour, Wi - Yo

    Photograph, according to the second reference, in the Shields Gazette for 19/2/44. I will try to put up a screen shot.

    There's a very brief potted history of the events of January-February 1944 for the Battalion here:

    16th DLI Italy Pt 3 Camino

    The Imperial War Museum has a lot of interviews with 16th DLI veterans which can be freely listened to online. There's a good chance one of these interviews will at least describe the broad events of 30/1/44 if not the actual incident. This one might be a good place to start. Bill Virr, who served in B Company:

    Virr, William (Oral history)

    Contents summary of the salient interview part pasted from IWM site:

    Recollection of operation in Garigliano area, 30/1/1944: reports of elderly nature of German POWs; role as reserve platoon; operations during attack on Sioli, 30/1/1944, including story of being trapped in sangar covered by German fixed line machine gun; casualties; isolated situation and withdrawal to rejoin remnants of B Coy; lice problem; treatment of wounded; question of failure of reserve platoon to attack, 30/1/1944; standing patrols...

    Have a look in your wider family for any wartime letters which will give you Pte Wilson's Army address, this will include his company, this will be a big step in focussing his story. If you can place him in B Company, then Bill Virr's account is one to listen to....

    Hope this helps,

    Cpl H.
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  4. Cpl Hadaway

    Cpl Hadaway Active Member

    Further to the above, sorry, I can't find the newspaper photograph in the Shields Gazette, could be a typo for the issue date....
  5. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    I tried to upload the 16 DLI War Diary pages for the period covering 30 Jan 44 but they were too large. I started a conversation instead.


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  6. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    Frank, Andy,

    For the thread...

    PaulE likes this.
  7. Cpl Hadaway

    Cpl Hadaway Active Member

  8. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    I tried to upload those pages but the system said that they were too large. Is there a trick that allows you to do so?


  9. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member


    No real trick, just open it in Paint and resize to 33%. Save it and then it will be small enough for the forum. I always resize a copy though.

  10. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    For interest and context here is the 138 Infantry Brigade WD for the same period.


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  11. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Thanks Gary. That is one to try.


  12. Andrew Marsh

    Andrew Marsh Member

    Thank you so much for the response. I haven't had chance to listen to that veterans oral history but I will. I have asked my mam again about any documents and she seems to.think she has a box with items in it so it might hold information on his company. I'll come back and let you know if I get any more info.

    All of you clearly have alot of passion for this and it's very pleasing to see.

    This may sound a daft question but does anyone know if there are interactive maps or videos anywhere that show movement are the various army groups etc throughout the war to get a feeling of just how much ground was covered by units?

    Thanks again
  13. Cpl Hadaway

    Cpl Hadaway Active Member

    Not sure about interactive maps, but Peter Hart's book The Heat of Battle (Pen and Sword, 1999, later reprinted with the new title The 16th Durham Light Infantry in Italy 1943-45) would be a good book for you get hold of. It's also an excellent introduction to the IWM Sound Archive collection and quotes extensively from their interview collection. Also there's a detailed Roll of Honour and plenty of photographs and maps. Easily to get second hand from the usual sources.

    I should have also mentioned earlier that are at least two 16th DLI gallantry awards that link to the events of 29-30/1/44 and the detailed war diary extracts posted earlier the thread, namely:

    JOBEY, W/S Lt (T/Capt) A/Major) George 172372 DSO

    Major JOBEY has been commanding C Company, 16th Bn The Durham Light Infantry since February 1943. He has at all times proved himself to be a most successful and fearless leader of men. During the period in question, he commanded his Company with his accustomed skill until finally wounded on 30th January 1944 when consolidating his Company position in the face of the enemy. Major Jobey's skill and leadership has been the primary reason for his Company's success in action and the low number of casualties received. Under his command, C Company have never failed to take their objective. I strongly recommend Major JOBEY for the periodic award of a Military Cross.


    MAY, CSM Anthony 5946226 Silver Star

    Award of the Silver Star (US Citation): 'Infantry--British Army'

    'For gallantry in action, on the night of 29-30 January 1944, near S Rocco, Italy. While attacking a strong enemy position, Company Sergeant Major May's company received heavy machine gun fire while crossing a gully. Company Sergeant Major May, showing personal courage under fire, led part of the company across the gully, then returned to secure a wireless set and called for and directed artillery fire on the enemy. He moved among his men on the wooded slopes of the gully, rallied a platoon which had suffered heavy casualties and removed several wounded men to a covered position. His calmness and courage under fire inspired his men, and his actions undoubtedly saved many lives. Entered military service from London, England.'

    The Heat of Battle includes a photograph of Tony May receiving his Silver Star from his Company Commander, Major Alan Hay of 'A' Company, later in 1944. Major Hay was also interviewed at length by the IWM, though I don't think he became A Company CO until after this action:


    Do report back if you can fix Pte Wilson's Company. That box of papers sounds promising. From his Army number, enlisting circa 1940, his path to the 16th Bn DLI could have been prior to the Battalion sailing from Liverpool to Tunisia on Christmas Day 1942--which meant he survived the costly battles of Sedjenane and Sidi Barka.

    (The man with the Army number next to him was taken POW at Sedjenane:

    Wilson, Pte J B, 4460739, 16 DLI. Reported missing believed POW, North Africa, 27/2/43. Stalag 11B, POW No 138965)

    Or he could have joined them in one of the several reinforcement drafts to North Africa from March 1943 prior to Salerno in 9/43. Or he could have joined as a post Salerno reinforcement from 9/43....

    Whatever, it is a story which is well worth exploring.

    A/U/Cpl H.
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  14. Cpl Hadaway

    Cpl Hadaway Active Member

    Map of the Battalion's travels, from the 1946 16 DLI Battalion History by Lawrence Stringer:

    Attached Files:

  15. Andrew Marsh

    Andrew Marsh Member

    I feel like I mightve opened pandoras box here but I wish I'd done it years ago!
  16. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    It is addictive. I have been to Cassino 189 times in 15 years as a result of picking up Fred Majdalany’s ‘Cassino - Portrait of a Battle’ in Waterstones. I was on the ground within two weeks.

    It is awesome.


  17. Andrew Marsh

    Andrew Marsh Member

    Morning all

    I got hold of the pack from mam regarding great uncle John's details and unfortunately there was nothing in there that distinguished which company he was in. seems that one of my aunties had sent a letter to the commonwealth war memorials people a while ago and had got back the war diary entries that you guys had already posted for me on here.

    I am surprised that there isnt any letters in there with the information. My mam seemed to hint that they werent kept due to grief. No medals either, which i assume he wouldve (or they wouldve) been awarded posthumously ?!

  18. Andrew Marsh

    Andrew Marsh Member

    just wondering if these are available for the other DLI battalions over the same time period?
  19. Cpl Hadaway

    Cpl Hadaway Active Member

    Have another closer look at the surviving WW2 paperwork, there will be clues. The key question is whether he was with 16th DLI in the UK in 1942 or did he join them later? And if so, where and with which unit(s) was he serving beforehand. The paperwork might still answer this.

    Any photographs of him in uniform will also be a big clue to his whereabouts in 1940-44. For instance, style of shoulder titles, 'Durham Light Infantry' or 'Durham LI'. The first could indicate UK in 1941-42 and Tunisia in 1943 before the 1/44 action (with 16 DLI throughout, 46 Division, oak leaf shoulder insignia). The latter might suggest 6, 8 or 9 DLI prior to 9/43 (151 Brigade, 50 Division, 'TT' insignia) and participation in the war in the desert in 1942-43 and possibly even Sicily in July 43, prior to Italy and 16 DLI.

    Regarding his medals, he will have an entitlement. Others here will be more qualified to comment on this and on how to check if they were claimed, but he will have qualified for the Italy Star and, if he did get to North Africa, the Africa Star, with either First Army or Eighth Army clasp, plus the War Medal, 1939-45 Star and (I think, given he enlisted in 1940 and thus had three years of service), the Defence Medal.

    If you have a portrait of him in uniform, please post it here: there''s plenty of military Sherlock Holmes on the forum who could deduce a lot from it.

    Regarding the other battalions' travels, David Rissik's 1952 book The DLI at War 1939-45 is my vote for the best place to start. Plenty of maps and very well written, with each battalion war service concisely and expertly summarised, it's a great read. It's been reprinted since so is easily available secondhand from the usual places.

    A/U/Cpl H.
  20. Andrew Marsh

    Andrew Marsh Member

    Anything else I find I'll be sure to post.

    You know how you mention about the 6, 8 or 9 DLI. Was it common that men would move within battalions, i.e. from 6 to 16??

    I have ordered that very book already so i hope to piece together a few bits.

    I thought I had already asked this too but with regards the 16th, they were with the Sherwood Foresters and the Lincs i think, i just wondered if they would be working with them in attacks and defense, as in intermingled? or would they be very separate units? When you said they sailed from Liverpool on Xmas Day would they have been held with the other regiments before this happened?

    One more thing, i know with WW1 there were pals battalions then an avoidance of this in WW2 due to the potential for villages to be decimated of men when the war was over. I just wondered with recruitment for the DLI, was it countrywide or was it a certain boundary say? like Berwick to Hull with the penines as a western boundary?

    Oh and another slight aside, how often were the battalions reinforced with recruits?

    I'll stop asking so many questions now!


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