Tag Archives: war graves

Foreign war graves in Chichester Cemetery

Regular readers will know I have developed something of an interest in war dead and war graves, be it from a particular space dotted around the world, from a particular nation, or in a particular place. Equally, regular readers will know that some six months ago I made the quantum leap from Paulsgrove (if you don’t know, wikipedia it) to Chichester (ditto, and compare).

Anyway, I digress. Yesterday while walking to Lidl to go and do the shopping, I stumbled upon Chichester’s Portfield Cemetery. And a very interesting stumble it was too. Like 99% of municipal cemeteries it has its fair share of war graves. Apart from a few dotted around the cemetery, most of the war graves are collected into three beautifully tended plots – separate plots for WW1 and WW2 protestant graves, and a separate one for Roman Catholic burials. But here’s the interesting bit – there are 13 foreign (ie, non commonwealth) WW2 burials – 7 Czech, 4 Polish and 2 German. The Poles and Germans are RC burials, but the Czechs are split between  protestant and RC.

What I find really interesting, is that every nationality has its own shape and format for CWGC gravestones – UK and commonwealth are rectangular with a shallow curved top; polish have a more pronounced, pointy-curved top; Czech have a very interesting angular design; whilst German have a more straight, perpendicular look to them.

Obviously at the moment I have my hands full with looking into Australians buried in Portsmouth and Portsmouth’s WW1 dead, but at some point in the non-too distant future I am going to start taking a look at the foreign war graves in Chichester. My hunch is that many of them must be airman, with important WW2 air bases nearby at Westhampnett and Tangmere.

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RSM Frederick Frampton and Gunner George Frampton

Given the large number of men who died in the First World War, sadly its not surprising that in some cases fathers and sons were killed in action.

Frederick Frampton, 46 and from North End, was Regimental Sergeant Major of 65th Heavy Group of the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was killed on 24 August 1917, and is buried at Bard Cottage Cemetery in Belgium. Bard Cottage is located in the Ypres Salient, and Frampton was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele. At the time of his death more heavy Artillery was being brought up in order to support the attack. To reach the rank of RSM Frampton was almost certainly a career soldier.

His son, Gunner George Frampton, must have followed his father into the RGA. He was 19 when he died on 29 September 1918, serving with 355th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Siege Batteries were equipped with large, heavy Howitzers in order to take on the enemy’s artillery. Gunner Frampton is buried at Doingt Cemetery, France. Doingt was captured by Australian forces on 5 September 1918, during the 100 Days offensive leading up to the Armistice. The front line had moved on by the time of Frampton’s death. It would seem therefore that he died whilst at either the 20th, 41st or 55th Casualty Clearing Stations, which were near Doingt at the time.

Marion Frampton, of 291 Chichester Road, North End, would have received two War Office Telegrams in just over a year. She may in fact have received more than one, as an S.H. Frampton appears on the Portsmouth War Memorial. There is no trace, however, of anyone with this name on the CWGC database.

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The three Dugan brothers

The First World War exacted a heavy toll on the Dugan family from Portsea.

Private Wesley Dugan was part of the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, a Portsmouth New Army ‘Kitchener’ unit. He was killed on the Somme on 15 September 1916. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. The 15th Battalion suffered incredibly heavy losses on this day the first day of the battle of Flers-Courcelette – an attempt to renew the Somme offensive that had started in July 1916.

His brother Private James Dugan was killed just under a year later. Serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, he died on 21 August 1917 at the age of 43. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He was killed during the battle of Passchendaele, between the battle of Langemarck and the battle of the Menin Road.

The third Dugan brother fell in the spring of 1918. Private Edwin Dugan killed on 19 April 1918 in the Ypres Salient, while serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. He is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial. This was during the Kaiser Offensive, the German’s last -ditch attempt to turn the tide of the war on the Western Front in 1918.

Thus the Dugan family lost three sons in 18 months of bloody fighting. As tragic as this seems, apparently some families in Britain lost as many as 5 sons between 1914 and 1918.

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Portsmouth war dead project: News

I’ve now finished processing the list of Portsmouth’s World War Two Dead from the list on Portsmouth City Council’s website. Each name has been inputted into a database, along with their details from the Commonwealth War Graves online roll of honour. I have also done a lot of research on each person, using websites such as lostbombers, Far East Prisoners of War, RAF Web and Naval History.net.

I’ve managed to find some fascinating stories, which I have written about on my blog over the past few months. Stories of heroic deeds, medals, families, young and old, men and women, rich and poor. Men who have no grave, who are buried in Portsmouth, or who died far away from home. Men who died in famous battles, and men buried in cemeteries long forgotten. Men who served on the sea, on land and in the air. From all corners of Portsmouth.

There are a total of 2,023 names in the list. 1,027 in the Royal Navy, 539 from the Army, 319 from the Royal Air Force, 84 in the Royal Marines, 35 in the Merchant Navy and 11 in the NAAFI.

From Ordinary Seaman to Admiral of the Fleet, Private to Lieutenant Colonel, and Aircraftman 1st Class to Wing Commander. Youngest 16, oldest 73.

82 men died on HMS Hood, 60 on HMS Royal Oak, and 43 on HMS Barham. 12 Died on D-Day.

2 George Crosses, 5 BEM, 2 CBE, 1 Cross of St George (Russia), 1 DCM, 9 DFC, 5 DFM, 4 DSC, 1 DSC and Bar, 2 DSO, 5 MBE, 1 MC, 3 OBE, 35 Mentions in Dispatches and 32 DSM and 2 DSM and Bar.

113 are buried in France, 60 in Germany, 102 in Italy, 128 in the Far East and 100 in North Africa. 632 are remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common. 147 are buried in Milton Cemetery, 96 in Kingston Cemetery, and 35 in Highland Cemetery. To put that in perspective, more are buried in Milton Cemetery alone than are buried in France.

I have found some amazing stories – the Chindit, the 16 year old Para, the two brothers who died on the same plane, the submariners, the Paras, Prisoners of War, the Bomber Crew, Engineers, Sappers, Gunners, Ground Crew… all manner of men and women, of all ages, from all parts of Portsmouth, and from all walks of life. I guess the moral of this story is that war, and death, knows no distinction. Like the gravestones in War Cemeteries – all the same, row upon row.

This list was generated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the Council, in order to compile a list of names for the proposed WW2 memorial in Guildhall Square. It is clearly far from complete, however. There are many names on local war memorials that do not feature in the list and will require some further research. Also, using Geoff’s WW2 search engine has already helped me identify that there are many people who’s location is given as ‘Fratton’, and not ‘Portsmouth’, for example, and hence may have slipped the net.

So, the project is far from completed. The names that are inputted still require a lot of research, and there are potentially hundreds of other names that can be added to the list. I’m already starting to think about what to do with my findings – clearly, such a database does need to be available to the general public. I especially hope that young people may be able to use it for school projects and such like. The statistics should be able to tell us so much. I also have plenty of ideas for a website including pictures of each grave, so families may even be able to find pictures of the last resting place of their loved ones.

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Flt Lt Patrick McCarthy DFC & Plt. Off. Alan Hargrave

A Bomber crew preparing for their next mission

A Bomber crew preparing for their next mission

One thing that my research into Portsmouth’s Second World War dead has shown is the sheer number of young men who were killed on operations whilst serving in the RAF, and in particular in Bomber Command. There were young men who were going into action night after night in the skies over Europe. Bomber Command lost more men killed than any other comparable command in the British armed forces during the war.

We tend to think of Portsmouth as being a naval town, which of course it is – we all know about the devastating loss of life caused by the sinkings of HMS Royal Oak, HMS Hood and HMS Barham. We are also perhaps more conscious of the armies role, especially as Portsmouth was the launchpad for D-Day.

Yet we hear very little about the young men of Portsmouth who were killed serving in the RAF. And they were overwhelmingly members of Bomber Command, killed in the strategic Bomber offensive during 1943 and 1944. They were mostly called-up servicemen, the peacetime RAF had expanded massively. They were also remarkably young – most were in their early to mid twenties. Not only were they going into action every night, but they were performing roles operating a complex aircraft – Pilots, Navigators, Wireless Operators, Flight Engineers, Air Bombers and Air Gunners.

Remarkably, two un-related Portsmouth men were killed on the same aircraft. Flight Lieutenant Patrick McCarthy DFC (21 and from Southsea) and Pilot Officer Alan Hargrave (24 and from Portsmouth) were members of 7 Squadron, which operated Lancasters from Oakington. Crew members of PB148 MG-C ‘C for Charlie’, McCarthy was the Pilot and Hargrave the Navigator. Bomber Crews formed by a process of ‘palling-up’, so either McCarthy and Hargrave teamed up as two Portsmouth lads, or by a huge coincidence they found themselves on the same crew.

On an operation to bomb a target at Sterkrade in the Ruhr, 7 Squadron was in the Pathfinder role. C for Charlie, however, came to grief in the skies over Holland. There is no indication as to how the she was lost, but all of the crew are now buried in Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery in Holland.

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Lance Corporal George Sullivan – the Portsmouth Chindit

A Chindit Mule Train moving through the Jungle

A Chindit Mule Train moving through the Jungle

Lance Corporal George Sullivan, 23 and from Cosham, died in Burma on 1 August 1943. He is buried in Rangoon War Cemetery in what is now known as Myanmar.

A member of the 13th Battalion of the Kings Regiment – a Regiment that normally recruited from the Liverpool area – he served on the first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth.

The Chindit Operations were the brainchild of Brigadier Orde Wingate, who had trialed forms of long range penetration warfare in East Africa. In Burma, he was given the 77th Indian Brigade to train as a force to fight behind Japanese lines. They were trained to be supplied by stores dropped by parachute, and to use a minimum of heavy equipment. The force was structured into a number of columns, instead of the usual Battalions.

Operation Longcloth was originally to have been part of a wider campaign in Burma. Despite the wider offensive being cancelled, Wingate was persuaded to take his men into the jungle anyway. Beginning their march into Burma on 8 February 1943, on 13 February they crossed the Chindwin River. They stayed in the Jungle until late March, when Wingate decided to withdraw. They had been fighting the Japanese continually, and had often had to leave their wounded behind. Much of their time was spent clearing paths through the dense jungle with kukris and machetes.

Of the 3,000 men who set off on the first Chindit expedition, 818 died. Those that returned had covered between 1,000 and 1,500 miles. Of those that returned only 600 were fit for further military service. It took many months for some of the survivors to return to British lines. Despite these huge losses, the principle of deep penetration warfare in the Jungle had been proven, and a much larger expedition was approved for 1944.

It is unclear how Lance Corporal Sullivan died. We know that he was a Prisoner of the Japanese, although POW records give no indication of when or where he was captured. However he met his fate, Lance Corporal Sullivan was part of one of the most legendary British units of the Second World War, and had taken part in a significant feat of arms.

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War Cemeteries and young people

Tyne Cot War Cemetery, Belgium

Tyne Cot War Cemetery, Belgium

I was having a bit of a browse on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Website earlier today, and happened upon their excellent Respect micro-site, aimed at helping school parties gain the most out of their visits to War Cemeteries.

I was, however, shocked and disappointed to read a set of correspondence reproduced from the Bulletin of the Western Front Association. Now, I’m someone who was worked with young people before, and dealt with some bigoted and old-fashioned attitudes. But to read someone inferring a snobbery about visiting War Cemeteries is very sad indeed. I’ve written before about how these ridiculous arguments that ‘years ago everyone was respectful, now young people are yobs, its the end of the world as we know it’ are based on nothing more than prejudice.

I want to share an experience that I had visiting a War Cemetery as a young person. On a school trip to Arnhem in Holland, we were not even due to visit the Cemetery or the Museum. But when I told the teacher in charge that my Granddad had fought at Arnhem, the itinerary was changed. We went to the Museum. Now, initially this didn’t go down too well with most of the other people on the coach – not a bloody Museum! But when we got off the coach, one of the teachers stood everyone around, and explained about the Battle, and about my Granddad, and how important it was that we pay our respects. You could have heard a pin drop. I’ve never seen a group of kids so attentive in a Museum. At the end, some of the younger kids were even buying me things from the shop, and one even talked about how they wanted to join the Parachute Regiment. Then on to the Cemetery, everyone got off, and walked round the Cemetery in little groups, talking about the names, the ages, the fact that one of the graves had a Jewish Star of David on it. It was an incredible experience.

Make no mistake, this was a bunch of kids from what was at the time one of the worst schools in the country. Only months earlier the local bus company had banned Pupils in school uniform from getting on their buses. Yet this group, which included some of the most hardened tough-nuts in the school, behaved impeccably at Arnhem. What amazes me, looking back, is that the young people who were most interested and most respectful, were the ones who would have played up the most in the classroom. The were exactly the kind of young people who might have found themselves jumping out of Dakotas over Ginkel Heath. Yet if the gentleman in the article had his way, they wouldn’t have visited the Cemetery at all.

What does that teach us? Certainly it cautions us against assuming that all young people care not a jot for battlefield heritage. And also, that it is not only the public schoolkids that have respect for national heritage, but it is there in all young people too – it is just a case of finding it. It takes a more informal, young-people focussed aproach to do this. The National Curriculum has resulted in a ‘lost generation’ who have been spoonfeed turgid and mindnumbing versions of history. This is not their fault, yet it is a worrying trend that needs addressing.

As someone who has sat in a fair number of History lessons, I am the first to admit that it is one of the most uninspiring subjects when taught in a classroom, particularly if the teacher is lacking in dynamism. But take that same group of young people out for a walk round the battlefield, and to the Museums and the Cemeteries, and see how different they react.

The snobbery of suggesting that only a ‘genuine kind of pilgrim’ should visit war cemeteries is ludicrous. Like, only the ‘right kind of chap’ should be allowed to join a certain regiment. The many thousands of British and Commonwealth men buried in France and Belgium came from all walks of life, some of them were no doubt ‘genuine kinds of soldiers’ and some were surely rogues too. That is human nature. But they all paid the ultimate sacrifice all the same, a bullet neither knows nor cares whom it is killing. To suggest that some people are more worthy to visit War Cemeteries should be anathema for anyone with an interest in military history. If I found myself thinking like that, I would be ashamed.

It is so very important that we engage meaningfully with young people around wars and conflict. I feel that the real growth area for this is in informal learning projects, such as the Discovering D-Day Project ongoing at the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s recent project on footballers in war. These kinds of projects meet young people on their level, rather than expecting them to subscribe to outdated ideas of learning.

So, instead of bleating on about young people, which is hardly helping matters, why not get involved and do something to help matters? Its no use moaning about something if you’re not prepared to make a difference yourself. I don’t mind people being critical, as long as they are constructive about it too.

It astounds me that there are military history enthusiasts out there who profess to have great respect for our war dead, yet in another breath talk about young people as ‘teenaged morons’.

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