Edward William Deutschmann (1889–1918)

13742 Private Edward William Deutschmann
2/South African Infantry Regiment.
Killed in action 12 April 1918,
Commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Edward William Deutschmann lost his life just under three weeks after the death of his cousin, Herbert William Deutschmann, during the first week of the German Spring Offensive of 1918.  Both men had enlisted in the 2nd South African Infantry Regiment (2/SAIR), which raised some of its soldiers from the Kaffrarian Rifles, a territorial unit.  Both men were grandsons of Wilhelm Friedrich August Deutschmann (1832–1903), who, in 1858, had emigrated from Prussia to the Crown Colony of Kaffraria, with his first wife, Emilie Auguste Fiebige (1831–c.1859) and their two children.

Herbert transferred to 4/SAIR, for reasons we can only speculate, but both regiments were part of the same brigade, the elite First South African Infantry Brigade.  In the month before his death, Edward would have been involved in the defence of a stretch of the front line, and the Brigades desperate attempts to delay the German advance.  After the loss of Marrières Wood to the Germans, after a staunch defence almost to the last man,  Edward would have heard of the devastating losses of Herbert’s regiment and is likely to have learnt that his cousin was classified among the missing.

Edward William Deutschmann was born at Green River in the King William’s Town District in about October 1889, the second of the five children of Eduard (1861–1911) and Emma (1860–1927) Deutschmann.   It is perhaps an indication of the importance of the first names Wilhelm and Eduard to this family because the couple had given both names to their eldest son, Hugo Edward William.  As naming goes, they were perhaps ensuring an heir and a spare.

Edward was named after his father, Eduard, who was the eldest child of Wilhelm Deutschmann and his second wife, Ernstine Wilhelmine  Ninnemann (1842–1908). Eduard had been named Carl Heinrich Eduard after his paternal grandfather Carl Friedrich Deutschmann.  Quite early on, Eduard chose to spell his name in the English way, but here I will spell it in the Germanic way, to avoid confusion between ‘our’ soldier, Edward, and his father Eduard, who, to add to any confusion was also known as Edward Carl.  Heinrich lost out.

Whereas Edward’s paternal grandfather had emigrated as a farming settler, his maternal grandfather had emigrated as a military settler.  Edward’s mother, Emma Esprey (1860–1927), was the daughter of Adolph Esprit (c.1833–1916) one of the group of German Military Settlers of 1856,  who had been offered land in the Crown Colony of Kaffraria.  In Adolph’s case, this land would be at Greytown where men of the 3rd Regiment of the King’s German Legion—a British force—would be settled.

The German Military Settlers
These were soldiers of the King’s German Legion, who had been recruited and trained, to form part of the British Army, in order to fight in The Crimea, but by the time this training had been completed and the battle zone reached, the war was all but over.  The soldiers were given the choice between being discharged from the Army, or of continuing to serve, but as military settlers, in Kaffraria.  They would serve part time for seven years from the date of their arrival there. Those who chose the military settler option, were given uniforms, arms and ammunition, free passage to the Colony, a piece of land on arrival and a building allowance towards their accommodation.  They would be on half pay for seven years, and in exchange would undergo up to 30 days military training per annum for the first four years, and 12 days per annum for the remaining three.  In time of need, during the seven years, they could be called to defend the colony, for which they would receive full pay. What they were told about the environment in which they would be starting their new lives did not match what they found when they arrived, and many of them did not settle in, some deserting, and many of them signing up to quell the Indian Mutiny. (The latter would also arrive in India too late for most of the action.)

Sir George Grey specifically requested married soldiers, and most of the men were single.  There were mass marriage ceremonies in England for the unmarried men who were able to find a willing wife.  (Grey was furious when he found that the majority of the arriving soldiers were unmarried.)  It appears that Adolph Esprit was one of those who found a wife, because there is a military record for his marriage to Sarah Gall, at Colchester—probably at the Old Garrison Church—on 19 October 1856.  Prior to departing for South Africa, the men of the King’s German Legion had been stationed at Browndown Camp, Aldershot and Colchester and it is presumably at Colchester that the couple met.  Emma appears to have been the eldest surviving child of this marriage.

We know that Edward was working as a Storeman/Trader’s Assistant when he volunteered for active service in 1917. I think it is possible he was working alongside his brothers, who all seem to have involved trading.   While there was no conscription in South Africa in either of the two World Wars of the 20th century, as bad news from France reached home, many men felt under pressure to enlist, particularly after actions, such as Delville Wood, in which many South Africans lost their lives.  We know, from his military records, that he was “taken on the strength” of his regiment on 23 March 1917, four months after Herbert had embarked at Cape Town en route to Europe.  Unlike Herbert, Edward may not have been a volunteer in the Kaffrarian Rifles, since the time between his enlistment, and his departure suggests he had to undergo basic military training. It was not until 13 September that Edward embarked, at Cape Town, on the freight ship, Dunvegan Castle, for the voyage north.

The actions involving 2/SAIR between Edward’s arrival in France and the end of March, can be followed in John Buchan’s History of the South African Forces in France.  (This can be read online—see the link under Sources.)  The staunch defence of Marrières Wood has been described as part of Herbert Deutschmann’s story.

A short lull in the fighting, following the action at Marrières Wood, allowed those who had become separated from the rest of the Brigade, during the general confusion along the British Front, to re-join their units. The “remnants” were collected together to constitute a composite battalion, and plans were made to reorganise the Brigade under General Tanner.  According to Buchan, every man who could be found was brought from England. 

On the night of 27 March, the South African remnants (about 500 men) were all withdrawn from the front line, and began a long march to Candas, with the rest of the 9th Division, reaching it on 1 April.

Earlier that year, on 4 February 1918, Edward had been appointed Acting Lance Corporal “without pay,” an appointment set to last until 31 May.  In the aftermath of Marrières Wood, however, Edward “reverted” to the rank of Private.  “Revert” may sound as if it was some demotion, after some kind of failure or lapse, but this is unlikely.  The timing suggests otherwise.  The decision occurred towards the end of a long march, which followed a desperate stand against the full might, well armed, co-ordinated actions of the enemy.  Many whom he had fought alongside for the previous six months, had lost their lives or suffered serious injuries at Marrières Wood.  Perhaps it was simply that Edward, himself, felt too exhausted to continue to carry the additional responsibilities of that temporary promotion.

On 9 April, Ludendorff broke through the line between the Lys and La Bassée in his attempt to capture Béthune and the Messines Ridge.  General Tudor ordered the transfer of the South African Brigade to the 19th Division, which, along with the 9th and 25th Divisions was holding the Messines Ridge.  (Thus ended their association with the 9th (Scottish) division, but not the strong attachment that the Scots held for them, and which is still remembered.)  The brigade was given orders to launch a counter-attack and to retake a section of the ridge.   A map showing the terrain on which the Brigade’s action took place can be found opposite page 198 of Buchan’s History.

“Backs to the Wall!”
On 10 April, the Germans broke through on a 4 mile front and captured Messines.  Of that day, Buchan would record, “the safety of the British front depended on the 55th, 19th and 9th Divisions.” (p.201.)  The South Africans put all their efforts into retaining their positions.

On the following day, 11 April, Haig issued a stern instruction: “Backs to the Wall!”   This became as memorable an order as “defend at all costs”.  On that afternoon, von Arnim attacked with fresh troops, and the situation on their section of the front became grave.  A strong and ferocious attack drove Edward’s regiment back about 600 metres.  Nearby, the famed Hill 63 had to be abandoned, and that, together with the loss of the Messines Ridge provoked a decision to re-arrange the Allied units on that section of the Front.  By dawn on 12 April, the South Africans were established on a new front.  Thus far the Germans had been relying on up to sixteen Divisions, and now they “threw in…[their] reserves at a furious pace.”  These fresh German troops managed to break through and reclaim ground they had lost.  The brigade’s historian, however, notes that nothing happened in the section held by the 9th and 19th Divisions on the 12th. (Buchan, p.204.)

This suggests that Edward probably lost his life on the 11th, not the 12th, in the desperate action when the 2nd Regiment was driven back.  It may not have been until the 12th, that a roll call revealed he was missing.  Edward was not “presumed dead” until 19 December 1918, so it would not have been until after that date that his mother would learn that his death had been confirmed.

Edward is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (at the Menin Gate through which the troops on their way to battle). There a Ceremony of the Last Post has taken place on every evening of every day of the year, since 1927—with the exception being the years of German occupation during the Second World War.

Why, you may wonder if you are following both Deutschmann cousins, when they died within three weeks of each other, in the same part of the Ypres Salient, was one of them commemorated on the Pozières Memorial and the other on the Menin Gate?  Here’s the answer from the CWGC site:  The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.  A bit ‘luck of the draw’ really.

A fellow soldier in 2/SAIR, killed aged 15
Among those from 2/SAIR who died on 11/12 April, and are commemorated with Edward on the Ypres Memorial, is 15 year old Private John Leonard Forsyth-Ingram, 2/SAIR.  John was one of five 15-year olds who died while on Active Service with the South African Forces during WW1.  He  gave his age, boldly and ambitiously, as 19, when enlisting in 1917.  His uncle, of Mooi River, was named as John’s next of kin.

And finally, can you help to flesh out Edward’s story?
I am hoping that some of the descendants of Eduard and Emma will come across this blog post, and contact me.  I’m hoping his family will be able to fill in the blanks in Edward’s life before he went to war, and how his widowed mother and her children coped after the loss of their father in 1911.  Out of interest, where were Edward and his siblings educated?  Were they involved in any of the German churches in the KWT area?  What do they know about Adolf, the military settler?

Adolph and his son-in-law, Eduard, were both masons, a trade they had in common with Eduard’s father, Wilhelm.  Who carried on the skill in the next generation?  It was usual to keep a trade in the family, because tools were expensive but could be passed down.  There would also have been a network with others in the trade.  Eduard’s sons seem to have concentrated on trading as opposed to acquiring a trade.

Eduard’s widow, Emma, lost three sons,  within three years.  Here’s what I know about them:
Hugo Edward William, b. c. December 1887, d. 13 November 1920, leaving two children, Douglas Hugo Edward Willian b. 15 June 1913 and Dulcie Beryl b. 10 July 1917.
Edward William, b. c. October 1889, d. 12 April 1918.
George, b. in the Transvaal in 1891, d. 28 February 1919, King William’s Town.  George died of malaria, heart disease and influenza, yet another of the many young men I have come across, who succumbed in the 1918 influenza pandemic.  He died at the family home, and his brother, Hugo, signed the death notice.
Frederick:  Frederick might be Frederick August Deutschmann, b. 1893, d. 1947, spouse Harriet Emily.
Was there a Robert?  The only trace I have been able to find of Robert, is on Edward William’s Death Notice.  This was signed by their mother Emma on 14 March 1919, exactly two weeks after George’s death, for which Hugo had been the informant. Could George have been George Robert?
Wilhelmina Dorothea, b. 30 April 1899, d. 21 March 1947. Wilhelmina would have to cope with the loss of her husband on Active Service in WW2.  I am deliberately not listing his name or those of their children, only one of whom had reached the age of 21 in 1947. (I am reluctant to release their names withoug their permission, or that of their children.)

Sources
Buchan, J., The History of the South African Forces in France, London, 1920.  There is a map showing the action of the Brigade opposite page 198.  This book is available to buy in various reprints via the specialist bookseller,  Peter Thackeray, of Crask Books, but can also be read online via the Open Library at https://archive.org/details/historyofsouthaf00buchrich/mode/2up, accessed 8/8/2020.
Schnell E.L.G., Germans in Kaffraria: 1858–1958, Pinetown, 1958.

 

Posted in 9th Scottish Division, First South African Infantry Brigade, German Spring Offensive, Kaiserschlacht | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbert William Deutschmann (1892–1918)

 10271 Private Herbert William Deutschmann, serving as H.W. Maconochie,
4/South African Infantry Regiment (“The South African Scottish”)
formerly 5555 2/SAIR.

Killed in Action, 24 March 2018,
during the South Africans’ magnificent stand in the Kaiserschlacht;
Commemorated on the Pozières Memorial.

I first came across Herbert’s name in 2018 at the Scottish National War Memorial, which is situated inside Edinburgh Castle, and where his name was recorded in a volume holding the Roll of Honour for the South African Scottish Regiment, listed as follows:

DEUTSCHMANN, Herbert William, 10271 P[riva]te Missing; died France, 24/3/1918. Served as MACONOCHIE, HW.

Served as MACONOCHIE?  What was a Deutschmann doing in a kilt?

I was curious about the reason for his adoption of an alias. Was Maconochie perhaps his mother’s maiden name and had he wanted to serve in a Scottish Regiment?  Herbert’s entry in the Commonwealth War Graves database notes 4th Regt South African Inf.,  formerly 2nd Regt. indicating that he had first enlisted in the 2nd SAIR [South African Infantry Regiment] and at some point afterwards transferred to the 4th SAIR.  

As I began to put together Herbert’s story, I was still in the dark about the explanation for this change of name, the timing of which seemed to be related to his transfer to the South African Scottish. I even wondered whether his transfer to 4/SAIR (known as the “South African Scottish” Regiment) had induced his change of name and whether he had found that obviously German surname, Deutschmann, had led to targeting from some of the Maritzburg-minded (ultra-Royalist English) in 2/SAIR’s Natal contingent!  

“Nunc animis”—The badge of the Kaffrarian Rifles

The Deutschmann Migration
Herbert William Deutschmann was born at Debe Nek in 1892, and held German nationality, as his father informed the authorities when answering Question 2, on his son’s Death Notice.  (Debe Nek had been the site of the Battle of Amalinda, in 1818.) 

Herbert’s father was born in Gramzow, Brandenburg (Prussia) on 12 June 1858, and christened there four weeks later, on 9 July, as August Friedrich Wilhelm (1858–1920).  Throughout his life he would be known to others as August, but signed documents as Friedrich August. The recurrence of those three first names, sometimes in varying order, in the first born sons of each generation, suggest that these three names go back for many generations, beyond August and his father. Because both Herbert’s father and grandfather were known as August, to avoid confusion over the two men, I shall from this point try to remember to refer to Herbert’s father as August, the name familiar to his many descendants, and to August’s father, Herbert’s grandfather by his ‘official’ first name of Wilhelm. 

August’s father,  (Herbert’s grandfather) Wilhelm Friedrich August Deutschmann (1832–1903), was a native of Prenzlau, a town in the Prussian principality of Brandenburg and is presumably the Stamvader of the South African Deutschmanns.  August’s mother, Emilie Auguste Fiebige (1831–1859), known as Auguste, was born in Gramzow, a town just over 10 miles from Prenzlau.  It may occur to you, if you linger over Emily’s dates that her children, Ottilie (b. 1856) and the infant, August, would have lost their mother when they would have been too young to remember much, if anything, about her.

August’s mother, Emilie, was recorded by her second name, Auguste, in the baptismal records for her children, Ottilie and August. The records of the baptisms of both August and his elder sister, Ottilie, also identify the occupation of their father as a Steinmetz, meister (i.e. a master stone cutter) which fits with the description recorded on the Wilhelmsburg’s passenger list of his being a Steinhauer (a quarryman).  

This is thought to be the WIlhelmsburg, a sailing ship of the Godeffroy Line, the image dating from about 1855.

Four months after August’s christening, on 15 October 1858, Wilhelm and Emilie, with their daughter Ottilie (2) and son, August (4 months), embarked on the Wilhelmsburg (a sailing ship of the Johan Cesar VI Godeffroy Line) sailing out of Hamburg, bound for East London, which the vessel reached, after first calling at Cape Town, on 13 January 1859.  August must have been one of the youngest of the embarking passengers. Both he and his father were recorded on the Wilhelmsburg’s passenger list as August, and Emilie as Auguste.  

The voyage of the emigrants on the Wilhelmsburg
After three months at sea, 128 German families disembarked at East London as part of the British Settlement Plan for Kaffraria.  But the voyage had taken its toll.  A long voyage on a sailing ship was hazardous in the 19th century.   There was more than the harsh weather, tropical storms, rough seas and long  spells in the doldrums to contend with; confinement in cramped quarters, meant that infection spread easily. Lives were lost en route on most of the six ships that took the German ‘farming settlers’ to the Eastern Cape, with the most vulnerable being the children and the elderly widowers or widows travelling as members of a younger family group.  The Wilhelmsburg’s crew included a Ship’s Doctor (Dr Carl Paul, aged 26, from Weimar), but many illnesses which are survivable today, such as scarlet fever, were in those days often fatal. During the 3 month voyage that took the Deutschmann family to East London, 65 passengers died, only ONE of them being an adult.  Fortunately the four members of the Deutschmann family appear to have survived the journey, unless Emilie was the single adult to die on that voyage. 

Also on board the Wilhelmsburg was another family from Gramzow, whose surname stood out when I skimmed the passenger list: Wilhelm Fibiger (29), his wife Johanne (24), with their daughter Paulina, aged 4.  It is possible that Wilhelm Fibiger (29) and Emilie Deutschmann were related, perhaps even brother and sister, since Wilhelm’s entry on the passenger list has his birthplace as Gramzow.  Wilhelm Fibiger was recorded on the passenger as a Schlosser, (a locksmith or metal worker)

The Deutschmanns in Kaffraria
After disembarking at East London, the Deutschmanns settled in the Berlin area, about 35 km inland from East London, as the crow flies, and by road, today, about 50 km.  The Fibigers were among those settled at Breidbach, which is about 15 km east of Berlin and about 5 km west of King William’s Town, which was, at that time, the military centre for British Kaffraria and also the centre for that wave of German settlements.

Wilhelm’s skill in working with stone would prove essential in the building and fortifying of the German immigrants’ homes, businesses and farms on the Cape’s Eastern Frontier.  In his mid-twenties, in a new and challenging environment, experiencing the loss of his wife, and left with two very young children, that first year must have been a desolate time for Wilhelm.  In the 19th century, a widower in a similar situation to Wilhelm, married relatively soon after the death of his wife, and it was not long before one of the young single German women in Berlin, who had emigrated with her parents, became his wife and stepmother to Ottilie and August.

She was Ernstine Wilhelmine Ninnemann (1842–1908) born in Kitzerow in Pomerania, the daughter of Friedrich Daniel Ninnemann and his wife, Dorothee Friedericke Bardeleben. I have found her on the passenger list of La Rochelle,  a 15 year old, listed as Mine, a common nickname for Wilhelmine.  Her parents were recorded on it as Daniel (46) and Dorothee (43) along with Mine’s siblings, Dorothee Louise (20), Wilhelm (17), Friederike (13), August (3) and an infant, Friedrich.   By now you may have begun to notice that hardly any of the Germans we have ‘met’ so far, were known by their ‘official’ first names! 

The La Rochelle had sailed from Hamburg on the last day of May, 1858, arriving in East London three months later, on 28 August.  After disembarking, the Ninnemann family continued inland to Berlin arriving there nearly five months ahead of the Deutschmanns.

Wilhelm and Wilhelmine had seven sons and two daughters, so Ottilie and August were probably called on, as they grew older, to share in the care and entertainment of their nine younger siblings.

In time, young August would, like many others in that first generation of German settlers, find a German bride. In his early twenties, in the Izela German Lutheran Church, he married Helene Wilhelmine Caroline Albrecht (1865–1935), who had been born in the Colony, in King William’s Town to immigrant German parents.  Her father, identified as F. Albrecht on Helene’s Death Notice, was likely to have been Ferdinand Albrecht, one of the Germans settled at Braunschweig. The informant, her eldest son Theodore Albert, did not know the name of his maternal grandmother.

Looking for any information about Helene’s Albrechts, I found that a blacksmith, Ferdinand Albrecht, and his wife, Wilhelmine, with their three year old son, Carl, had been among the settlers on board the Wilhelmsburg on the very same voyage as the Deutschmanns.  And more recently, I was able to access Wilhelmine Albrecht’s Death Notice, which recorded one of her daughters, Helene, as married to Ferdinand August Deutschmann.  I noted that the information on that Death Notice was provided by Helene’s brother, Hermann, who would have known his brother-in-law as August, and perhaps been aware that his initials  were F.A. I have decided, provisionally, to assume that Hermann took a leap on what the F in the initials stood for, perhaps because there was a Ferdinand in his own family.  Information provided on Death Notices is often incomplete or incorrect, and first timers are often unprepared for the questions they are likely to be asked. 

August and Helene had at least ten children.  As you will see below, there is a significant gap, in the early years of their marriage, between the births of Theodore and Emil, and I cannot be sure that only one child, Arthur, was born between those two births.  Helene provided the information that follows about  her children and her daughters’ marriages,  listing them in birth order for her husband’s Death Notice. She was only required to give the dates of birth of minors, i.e. the four youngest children, the eldest of whom, Felix, had died in childhood.  Herbert was the only other child she recorded as ‘died’.  Dates of death, and calculations of dates of birth for the other children were obtained from their Death Notices, where those were available. Spelling varies for some of these names, over the years, usually becoming less German.

Theodor Albert Deutschmann (1884–1958)
Arthur Alfred Deutschmann (c.1887?–?)
Emil Edward Deutschmann (1890–1946)
Herbert William Deutschmann (1892–1918)
Clement Carl Deutschmann (c.1895–1952)
Alfred Herman Deutschmann (c.1896–?)
Walter George Deutschmann (1898–1951)
Felix Friedrich Deutschmann (1899–1911)
Leonard Ludwig Deutschmann (1901–?)
Helene Wilhelmine Dorothy Deutschmann, (1905–1952)
Eitel Eric Deutschmann (1911–?).  

Herbert’s War
Herbert’s enlistment in 2/SAIR suggested that, geographically, and by birth, he fitted into one of the categories from which the regiment would be raised, that of Volunteers from the Kaffrarian Rifles, the equivalent of a British territorial unit. It is possible that as a young man he had been a reservist, as were many of those raised from the King William’s Town area. Other information on his service record, notes that within 2/SAIR Herbert’s service number was 5555, the sort of number one might want to hang on to.  We also learn from his service record that he had been a Trader, by occupation, perhaps working in the area around Idutywa, where his family lived.

Herbert was taken on the strength by the South African Scottish Regiment (4/SAIR) on 17 October 1916, with the note that he could be “rendered dentally fit in 7 days from 18.x.16.”  The discovery, during a recruit’s Medical Examination, of the need for urgent dental work was a common outcome.  Three weeks later, on 6 November, Herbert embarked on the Walmer Castle to join the South African Brigade in France.  Reinforcements were urgently required, following the dreadful losses suffered by the South African Brigade at Delville Wood in July 1916. 

A good idea of the actions involving the  South African Brigade in France can be found in John Buchan’s History of the South African Forces—details are listed under Sources

The action in which Herbert lost his life occurred during the German Spring Offensive of 1918—also known as the Kaiserschlacht.  The events of that week are described in other posts on this blog, so I will confine myself here to a brief glimpse of the Brigade’s plight on 24 March 1918.  Herbert was among the very last men of the Brigade still in action and still fighting to hold Marrières Wood against the German Advance while other Allied forces along that edge of the front had already retreated.  Buchan’s account makes gruelling reading.  At that point they were described as the remnants of the Brigade, following three days of non-stop fighting, shelling between Péronne and Cambrai.  They were hungry, having had neither hot food nor the warmth of a mug of tea for over three days, exhausted from lack of sleep, and shocked by the effective slaughter of most of their comrades during the previous days of fighting.  The evening of the 23rd found them entrenched in Marrières Wood, which lies between Péronne and Bapaume, where they received the order, from a British general, not for the first time since the Brigade’s arrival in France, to hold a wood “at all costs”.  Not for the first time, they did.  At all costs always resonates with me as I heard it every time my father talked about the South Africans’ defence of Delville Wood. 

In his book, Five Days from Defeat, Walter Reid reveals just how perilous the situation during those five days had been for the British, something which was known to British politicians and the senior military men who, Reid reports, had wobbled and panicked and spoke of withdrawing from mainland Europe. He notes: 

But their fears were not communicated to the public at large at the time and subsequent history took pains to conceal just how precarious the situation had been. (p.6.)

By the 23rd, many of the British divisions were in a disorderly retreat, heading for Dunkirk, as they would  again in the retreat of 1940, but in 1918, the numbers were far greater numbers, and there would have been fewer resources for crossing the Channel than the Allies had in 1940.

Buchan describes the situation of the 9th (Scottish) Division on the evening of the 23rd, as desperate, holding a salient of high ground with both flanks hopelessly in the air (with a breach on the left and out of touch with the 21st Division on its right.  That evening, General Tudor had told Brigadier-General Dawson, who was leading the South African Brigade, to keep in close touch with the 21st Division.  (p.179.)

Tudor also ordered Dawson to hold the line at all costs, adding that he presumed, if it was broken, it would be retaken by a counter-attack.  This Buchan described as a counsel of perfection hard to follow, explaining that General Gough had, the previous evening (22nd), ordered the 21st Division to make an indefinite retreat westward.  Of this the South Africans were unaware until the 24th.  

In Flowers of the Forest, Trevor Royle comments on the resolve of the South Africans at Marrières Wood, and adds, “as the divisional historian [Buchan] put it, at the bitter end rescue was now impossible and the South Africans grimly set themselves to sell their lives at the highest price.” (p.259)

Only when the South Africans had exhausted all their ammunition on the 24th, did the Germans venture to “surge down” and capture the pitiful remnants of the Brigade.  It had in fact, as Buchan would report, ceased to be.  There were fewer than 100 uninjured—all the remainder were killed, or crippled, or lost.  Amongst those whose remains were never found, or if found, never identified, was Herbert Deutschmann.     

Buchan summed up by describing the German reaction to the South African stand at Marrières Wood:

Let us take the account of the enemy.  During the German advance, Captain Peirson, the brigade major of the 48th Brigade (within the 16th Division) was taken prisoner.  When he was examined at German Headquarters, an officer asked him if he knew the 9th Division; for, said he, “We consider that the fight put up by that division was one of the best on the whole of your front, especially the last stand of the South African Brigade, which we can only call magnificent.  In the course of his journey to Le Cateau Captain Peirson was spoken to by many German officers, all of whom mentioned the wonderful resistance of the South Africans.  There is a more striking tribute still.  On the road to Le Cateau, a party of British officers was stopped by the Emperor, who asked if any one present belonged to the 9th Division.  “I want to see a man of that division,” he said, “for if all divisions had fought like the 9th, I would not have had any troops left to carry on the attack.” (p.191.)

General Dawson, captured and taken away with the last handful of survivors, tramping eastwards, as a POW, saw  proof of the success of the South African stand in stopping and delaying the German advance for 7 hours, a delay which gave the Allies the time and the space to regroup and return. Buchan wrote,

“The whole road for miles east of Bouchavesnes was blocked by a continuous double line of transport and guns, which proved that the South Africans had, for over seven hours, held up not a mass of German infantry, but all the artillery and transport advancing with it…on the highway.  Indeed, it is not too much to say that on that fevered Sabbath, the stand of the Brigade saved the British front. (p.191.)

Of the soldiers I have researched, who died in the eventful  five days (21–26 March 1918), and who include a number of South Africans, I think Herbert is the only one who died on 24 March, which was, for the South Africans, the fourth and final day of  holding out against the enemy, in a fierce storm of constant shelling and machine-gun fire. 

I have turned to Zwei Lebenden Mauern—With the German Guns—to see how a German soldier might have experienced that period in that part of the front.   This book is the diary of another Herbert, Herbert Sulzbach, a Jew and a German Officer, who won the Iron Cross (First Class) in World War I, and was probably the only German to have been commissioned by the Kaiser in the First World War, but by George VI, in the Second.  Sulzbach describes the swiftness and power of the German thrust on the 21st, with their sappers bridging trenches and canals, and their frontline troops sending back, in just that narrow sector, thousands of Tommies, “too numerous to count” and yet cheerful, perhaps because, for them, the war was over.  On the 24th, he recorded that his unit had replaced the frontline troops but that the pace [had become] pretty slow.  As night fell, foraging in the rubble they “found some splendid British supplies…Plenty of oats for the horses, and tinned food, bacon, cheese and wine for us.”

Sulzbach’s account reinforced Walter Reid’s description of the British retreat, and the power of the German assault. I could not help, yet again, feeling a pang for those men of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, who held out on that fragile salient, as ordered, under such pressure, for 4 days, almost to the last man.

But 4/SAIR would rise again in June 1918.  And today, in the Rainbow Nation that is the New South Africa, there are still military units with a Scottish identity, as there have been, now, for over 130 years.

Herbert is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, as Deutschmann & Moconochie. His name is between X/580 Private Thomas Frederick Lambert de Reuck (4/SAIR, aged 24) and X/602, Private Andrew James Dicks (4/SAIR, aged 23).  All three were killed on 24 March 1918.  The flowers of the forest.

Herbert Deutschmann commemorated on the Pozières Memorial

Well then, why the MACONOCHIE?
I can’t leave Herbert’s story without winding up the Maconochie mystery as best I can.  Maconochie is what started this small research project. I don’t know what caused my eye to pause over Herbert’s entry, perhaps the unexpected sight of a German surname when I was really, as a curious Scot, scanning for Scottish surnames, while wondering what the DE VILLIERS, DE WET, DREYER and DU PREEZ on that random page had been doing there, so soon after the Anglo Boer War, and who now lay far from home in foreign veld. Foeitog. 

Once I had Herbert’s service record before me, I discovered that it lists his next of kin as (Sister) Miss Jemima Maconochie.  An address is given for her, namely Box 227, Randfontein, T[rans]vaal.   How could a Maconochie be his sister when I’d guessed girlfriend at the least?  

Below Jemima’s name, the name W. G. Deutschmann and the address P.O. Cala, Tembuland had been been added, providing an alternative postal address that is recorded on other civil records for members of Herbert’s immediate family who were then living at Nkwenkwesi, near Cala. However, his name and the accompanying address were in the same handwriting as an additional note on the service record, this time written in red, filling in the remaining space at the bottom of the index card, reading “Correct name Deutschmann” and the date 31/10/19.  I think I can assume that both these additions were made, by the same official, on the same day, 31 October 1919. 

I knew that W.G. Deutschmann could only be Walter George Deutschmann, one of Herbert’s younger brothers. It appears that by then, he must have discovered something of his brother’s connection with Jemima Maconochie.  Walter was later to marry Margaret Doreen Huxham (1905–1937). They had three daughters, who could well still be alive, and in their eighties, so I am reluctant to identify them here.  Perhaps their children will one day come across this, realise the connection, and contact me.

It looks as though it took the Army some time to realise that Herbert was not really a Maconochie. At the London end, an entry was made for Herbert in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects as H W Maconochie.  No amendment was subsequently made to that entry, which is dated 12/18 (i.e. December 1918).

The first official form to record Herbert’s death matches the information on the CWGC database.  It was issued at Pretoria under the name Maconochie, and is headed Imperial Service Contingents and dated 8 January 1919, just over 9 months after Herbert’s death. It certifies that his death had been officially recorded, that he “was killed in action or died of wounds” (so no identifiable remains and everyone who might have known how his life ended was also dead).  It adds further on (Previously reported “missing.” Death now “presumed”.)  The next of kin is [his] sister, Jemima Maconochie

Six weeks later, on 14 February 1919, the Union’s normal Death Notice was drawn up, the informant signing as F.A. Deutschmann, so presumably, that was Herbert’s father (Friedrich August).  The clerk has filled in Herbert’s name as Herbert William Deutschmann, (alias) H.W. Maconochie.

Presumably that was the end of the matter and the Deutschmann family received what was due to his next of kin.

As to the relationship, we can only speculate on that.  Where did he meet her?  What was she doing in Randfontein? Did he make her his next kin so that she would inherit a pension when he died?  At first I thought she might have been his “sweetheart” at the time he enlisted. Perhaps she was.   

I managed to find further records of Jemima’s life, after discovering the marriage, in Krugersdorp on 9 June 1917, of a Jemima Maconochie (aged 24, born Southampton)   to a James Seggie (aged 32  born Ayrshire) .  From that information I was able to find her birth registration (2Q 1892 Southampton) and to identify her parents as David Maconochie and Janet Gibb.  I found the birth registration in 1883 in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire for James Seggie, two years earlier than the year matching the ages supplied for the records of his first marriage and of his death.

I also found the birth registration for Jemima, in Southampton in the second quarter of 1893, which enabled me to find the marriage of her parents, David Maconochie and Janet Gibb in Kelvin, Glasgow, in 1887.  The couple also had a son, Andrew Gibb Maconochie, named after his maternal grandfather, who was born in Glasgow in 1890.  Janet, together with Andrew and Jemima, were visiting Janet’s mother’s (Robb) family in Glasgow in 1901.  At this stage, it does not appear that either David or Janet Maconochie emigrated to South Africa and I have not yet had time to ‘kill them off’ in the UK. 

I also found the Death Notice for James Seggie in 1949, which revealed that Jemima had died in 1919—the year after Herbert—leaving two children, possibly twins—Norma Jen(sic)—later the wife of Ian Ross—and Norval James. 

It took me a while to find the notice of her death, because her name had been mis-transcribed as Jemimah Leggie.  This showed that she died in the Randfontein Estates Hospital on 15 October 1919 and that she had been diabetic for the last 10 years of her life.  She had developed acute nephritis during the week after giving birth, and sepsis ten days later.  I have found, from Norval’s ID number, that he was born on 24 September 1919. He will have had no memory of his mother as she died when he was three weeks old. 

Their father married Elizabeth Love in 1924.  She was, like James and Jemima, a Scot, born in Kilwinning, in Ayrshire.  James did not remarry after Elizabeth’s death, and died in 1949, leaving his property to be divided equally between his three children.  The third child, was Margaret Elizabeth Seggie. 

I found Elizabeth’s Death Notice, confirming her death on 2 December 1929, despite the notice being dated 30 December 1935.  Her husband recorded her age in these words: “Would now have been 49.”  This would have been true for Elizabeth since she was indeed born in Kilwinning in 1886.  I suspect that his daughter’s age was also given as her age in 1935, rather than her age at the time of her mother’s death.

I found the marriage of Andrew Gibb Maconochie and Grace Mary Paepke in Johannesburg in 1913.  I noticed the German surname and checked the list William Jervois has compiled of German surnames featured in the book Germans in Kaffraria. Paepke is there, on p.62. (Here in the UK, I do not have ready access to that book.)  A link to Jervois’ index and details of the book is in my Sources list, under Jervois.  I did wonder, then, whether Grace, if also from the Eastern Cape, had perhaps, after her marriage, introduced Herbert to Jemima.

Andrew was a fitter on the gold mines, and had perhaps emigrated to South Africa specifically to work on the mines.  He died in 1947 with the cause of death given as Phthisis. He and Grace had five children, one of whom may still be alive, but there may be grandchildren, bearing the surnames Maconochie, Aspinall or Tait, who might know something of the Maconochie connection with Herbert.

I leave you with what is, for me, yet another niggling question:  Had Herbert’s family had any idea that their son was serving under another name? If not, would he have received any news from home during the 2 years he served in Europe?  Did Jemima correspond with him?

A caveat:  While I could not find another Jemima Maconochie in any accessible South African records, there remains a small possibility that the right Jemima was someone else.  Her surname was spelt Maconochie on every Scottish, English and South African record for the family that I have been able to access.  As it is a less usual variation of the spelling, I applied broad criteria in my surname searches.   But no rival Jemima turned up.

Sources
All genealogical research has been undertaken by Margaret Frood.

Buchan, J., A History of the South African Forces in France, London, 1920.  
This book is still available from antiquarian booksellers, but can also be read online on the Open Library, here: https://archive.org/details/historyofsouthaf00buchrich .  You can find the account of the action on 24 March from p.180 or by clicking the following link which should take you that page: https://archive.org/details/historyofsouthaf00buchrich. 
There are maps of Marrières Wood and some photos.  Besides reading it online, you can also download the book in different formats.

Buchan, U., Beyond the Thirty-nine Steps: a Life of John Buchan, London 2019.

Delville Wood, ‘Marrières Wood’, http://www.delvillewood.com/marrieres2.htm, accessed 28/7/2020.

Geni Projects, ‘Hamburg to Cape Town: The voyage of the Wilhelmsburg, https://www.geni.com/projects/Hamburg-to-Cape-Town-The-voyage-of-the-Wilhelmsburg/39245, accessed 23/7/2020. 
This page includes a list of the passengers on that voyage. The image used here of the Wilhelmsburg is no longer available online, other than on Geni but its source is not clarified there. The image has been used here in accordance with Creative Commons.

German South African Resource Page, ‘The Kaffraria Germans’, https://www.safrika.org/kaffraria_en.html. accessed 24/7/2020.

German South African Resource Page, ‘Passengers on La Rochelle‘, https://safrika.org/Names/schiff_02.html, accessed 25/7/2020.

Jervois, William, ‘Index to surnames in Germans in Kaffraria, https://www.safrika.org/Names/GermansInKaffraria.html, accessed 28/7/2020.

Labyrinth of East London  Lore, ‘German Settlers to the Eastern Cape: Wilhelmsburg’,, http://www.eastlondon-labyrinth.com/germans/ship-wilhelmsburg.jsp, accessed 24/7/2020.  
This site was created by the late historian, Dr Keith Tankard, assisted by his wife, Rosann, and son, Graeme.

Reid, W., Five Days from Defeat, Edinburgh, 2017. 
This book reveals how close the Allies came to defeat in March 1918, a truth that is often overlooked.  The South African stand at Marrières Wood is not mentioned, nor is the role of the rest of the 9 Scottish Division. 

Royle, T., The Flowers of the Forest: Scotland and the First World War, Edinburgh, 2006.

Schwar, J.F. and Pape, P.E., Germans in Kaffraria, 1958.

Wrecksite, ‘SV Wilhelmsburg’, https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?210895, accessed 29/7/2020.
In December 1863, 10 years after it was built, the Wilhelmsburg foundered in the Waddenzee, during a terrible storm, in which 36 Dutch ships were also lost.  This page gives more information about the ship.  Its captain on that voyage was not the captain on the voyage that took German Settlers to East London in 1857.

Zipp, G.L., A History of the German Settlers in the Eastern Cape, 1857–1919, Grahamstown, 2012. 
This dissertation, in fulfilment of a Master’s degree, will certainly be of interest to descendants of the German Settlers in the Eastern Cape.  It can be located online by entering the title into a search engine, though I hesitate to share the URL because of a warning that the site is not secure.  My browser may simply be extra fussy.

Appendices, updates to this blog and snippets of further information
If you read Buchan’s account, you will grasp just how terrible that day was for the remnants of the Brigade.  I have obtained the War Diaries for 4/SAIR, but have not yet been able to bring myself to read them.  When I have done so, I am likely to want to update this post, so, particularly if you are a Deutschmann descendant, do pop by again.  If you follow this blog, you will be notified of any changes to this post.

Appendix 1:
A brief historical background to the German Immigration of 1857
Two waves of German immigrants were reaching the Eastern Cape at about this time. The first group to arrive, a year earlier, had been military settlers, soldiers from The King’s German Legion who had been recruited by the British to fight in the Crimea, though by the time they arrived there, the action had concluded.  It was from their ranks that the German military settlers were selected to settle near the Cape’s Eastern Frontier.  Generally dissatisfied with the arrangements made for them, and with the terms of their settlement, many of the military settlers left the colony as soon as the opportunity arose, which it did, in India.  Some deserted, but a large number of them were recruited to  support the British Army, during the Mutiny, where again they arrived somewhat late for the action, and when that concluded, few were willing to return to their posts in the Eastern Cape.

When Sir George Grey was unable to attract British military pensioners willing to settle in Kaffraria,  it was decided to recruit German families, concentrating on those in the rural areas of Germany, rather than in the towns and cities.  These settlers were recruited mainly from North East Germany, from Prussia, Thüringia, and, slightly further to the east, from among a slavic people, the Wends. One can understand why Germans from the eastern border areas might have been of particular interest to the British for this settlement project, because they already had experience of living close to a troubled frontier. Those on the first six ships of the Godeffroy line ended up in the British Crown Colony of Kaffraria as part of the British Kaffrarian Settlement Plan.  Later settlers (post-1863) had, and took, the opportunity to settle elsewhere in the Cape Colony, many of them in, or near, the Cape of Good Hope.   

Appendix 2:
Where 2/SAIR and 4/SAIR were raised

Both regiments in which Herbert served were part of the respected 1st South African Infantry Brigade. 2/SAIR was raised mostly in Natal and the Orange Free State, but it also included volunteers from the Kaffrarian Rifles.
When first raised 4/SAIR’s composition was as follows:
A company was made up of soldiers from the Cape Town Highlanders and others within that city’s area;
B company was raised with soldiers from 1/Battalion,  Transvaal Scottish Regiment with C company comprised of soldiers from 2/Battalion  of the same regiment (Transvaal Scottish) Regiment;
D company was raised with recruits from Natal and the Orange Free State, who had been  “encouraged” by the two provinces Caledonian Societies.

Appendix 3: 
The children of Wilhelm by his second wife, Ernstine Wilhelmine Ninneman

Listed, as far as possible, in order of birth—corrections or further information will welcomed.  I have focused on Herbert’s line of descent, but in the process have harvested the following information about Wilhelm’s second family.

Edward (Carl Heinrich Eduard) (1861–1911)
Hermann (1867–1933)
Wilhelm (1870–1959)
Theodor (1885–?)
Carl
Auguste Wilhelmine (married name Winkelmann)
Wilhelmine Auguste (married name also Winkelman)
Heinrich Daniel (d. 1948)
Franz Ferdinand

Appendix 4
Why John Buchan wrote The History of the South African Forces in France at his own expense
In the words of Ursula Buchan:
In the spring of 1919 JB [her grandfather, John Buchan] also wrote an account of the South African forces in France.  He had been asked to write the book by Jan Smuts and the South African government as early as 1916, but it was impossible to attempt until the war was over, by which time Smuts and Louis Botha had decided that South Africa could not pay for it.  So it became a ‘labour of love’, probably because JB thought the South African actions at Delville Wood in 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, and Marrières Wood, held by the South Africans as the Allies retreated in March 1918, were two of the bravest and most stirring of the war, worthy of immortality.  The History of the South African Forces in France was published in 1920 and became a school textbook in South Africa.

Beyond the Thirty-nine Steps, p.222.

Appendix 5:
Fiebiger/Fibiger or Siebi[g]er?  Links to resources for the Kurrent Script.
Six trees on Ancestry have Emilie’s surname as Siebier, though correctly providing the date of birth given her on her baptismal record (but supply no further information on her).  The baptismal records for Ottilie and August are in the German Kurrent Script where the capital F strongly resembles a modern looped capital S. 
For help with transcribing unfamiliar German scripts, the resources listed below are useful.  The Kurrent Script is pdf, downloadable free of charge via the Family Search Wiki—you may find yourself charmed, intrigued and eager to use the resources do your own transcriptions.

Family Search Wiki, ‘Germany Handwriting’, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Germany_Handwriting#Handwriting_Examples_and_Tools, accessed 26/7/2020.
Mücke, Margarete, (Translated by ‘hoonsh translations’) A Guide to Writing the Old ‘Kurrent’ German Script, http://www.kurrent-lernen-muecke.de/pdf/Schreiblehrgang%20Kurrentschrift%20%202016-english.pdf, accessed 26/7/2020.
Verdenhalven, F., Die Deutsche Schrift/The German Script, Insingen, 2011.

Posted in 9th Scottish Division, First South African Infantry Brigade, German Spring Offensive, Kaiserschlacht, Roll of Honour, Scottish Regiments | Leave a comment

Sydney Victor Boothroyd (1887–1920)

8581 Private Sydney Victor Boothroyd
1/South African Infantry Regiment.
Died 25 June 1920, Richmond Park, Surrey.
Buried in the South African Section, Richmond, Cemetery, Richmond upon Thames.

On 21 February 1913 a 27-year-old warehouseman from Chorlton upon Medlock set out for Cape Town on board the Dunluce Castle, a ship of the Union Castle Line.  As you read his story, you may begin to understand the circumstances that drew him to the Far South, and away from his Lancashire home.

The Dunluce Castle, serving as a Hospital Ship in WW1

Two years later the Dunluce Castle would become a Hospital Ship and that warehouseman would be returning north, on a different vessel and as a soldier in the South African Infantry Brigade. 

Sydney was born at 50 Thomson Street, Ardwick on 7 October 1887, the ninth of eleven children.   His parents were John Boothroyd (1849–1904), a printer’s warehouseman, and his wife, Martha Jane Taylor (1851–1907). Like all his children, John Boothroyd was a native of Ardwick, the son of parents who hailed from Horwich, his father, George, becoming employed in Manchester as a calico printer.  Sydney’s mother, Martha, was born in Marple, which then was within the county of Derbyshire and grew up in the adjacent parish of Mellor, until her father, William, a joiner, decided to move his family to Manchester, where she was to meet and marry John Boothroyd.  The couple were married in the Parish Church (Manchester Cathedral, no less) on 27 July 1872.  Their firstborn, a son, John, was born the following year, followed by a sister, Louisa, who died in infancy.

Ardwick was relatively close to the centre of Manchester, an area that, by the time of Sydney’s birth, had become quite heavily industrialised.  The 1894 Ordnance Survey Map shows the parish intersected by the Manchester–Crewe railway lines, with a large Goods Depot as well as a Coal and Mineral Depot nearby.  Besides the pollution from the passing trains, to the north were further sources of noxious fumes—Saw Mills, Boiler Works, a Timber Yard, an Iron Foundry, a pair of Chemical Works, a Brick Field and a Pottery.  This may explain why so many of John and Martha’s children died in early adulthood. Of the eldest two, both would die before their parents. Of the remaining nine, four died in early adulthood, two in their 40s, and only two, Sydney’s sisters, Beatrice and Blanche reached their sixties. (If you were counting, Frank is the missing one here—if he is of interest to you, see an explanation at the very end, below the source list.)

The 1901 Census is the last in which we see the Boothroyd parents.  By then ‘our’ Sydney was working as an errand boy, and aged 13. He was already on a path that could enable him to eventually find work as a clerk. At the time Sydney had started school, in 1892, education was compulsory up to the age of 10, and a year later was made compulsory up to the end of the school year in which he attained the age of 11.  (As the upper limit was raised again in 1899, his younger siblings, Leonard and William Septimus would have been able to continue with their education until the age of 13.) 

Things changed dramatically for the Boothroyds in the first decade of the new century.  John Boothroyd died early in 1904, a few months before the marriage of his eldest daughter, Beatrice, to Henry Thomas Barnes, then a clerk, by whom she would have four children.  Three years later, their mother died but the youngest Boothroyds were able to stay together, under the wing of Beatrice and their brother-in-law, Henry.  Listed together in the Barnes household (at 22 Brook’s Road, Stretford in April 1911 were Henry, Beatrice and three children, as well as the three youngest of Beatrice’s siblings, Blanche, Sydney and William Septimus—Leonard having died in 1908.  The census record shows that the house was spacious, having seven rooms and a kitchen.  Blanche’s twin, Maud, was boarding elsewhere in Manchester—she died the following year and was buried in the family plot in Manchester’s Southern Cemetery.  Henry Barnes had by then abandoned his career as a clerk, and described his occupation as “Speculator House Builder”.  All three of the young Boothroyds were all employed, so no doubt contributing to the household’s income and running costs.  Blanche and Sydney were both working as clerks in a Cotton Warehouse, while William was an electrical salesman. 

Like Sydney, a number of the South African soldiers who lost their lives at the South African Military Hospital had been born, not in Southern Africa, but in England, Scotland or Ireland. Some were men who had stayed on in South Africa after the Boer War; some had left these shores to seek their fortune there.  We do not know whether Sydney was hoping to make his mark in the gold mines, but we know that he did make his way north from Cape Town, where he disembarked, and that he ended up in Johannesburg.  When Sydney attested on 20 December 1915, he named as his “next of kin” Ethel Franks, and in the relationship field, he wrote ‘Friend’.  Ethel lived in Eleanor Street, Kensington—in Johannesburg’s Southern Suburbs, the side of town where the gold mines were located.  This could suggest that Sydney had also been living on that side of town, and working either as a warehouseman or as a mine official.

Sydney’s military service card shows that he was serving in 1/South African Infantry Regiment and thus part of the prestigious First South African Infantry Brigade. The South Africans were attached to the 9th Scottish Division until after the Kaiserschlacht in March 1918, when they held up the Germans for seven hours at Marrières Wood, fighting almost to the last man—a feat which had the Kaiser seeking out South African POWs to compliment them on their countrymen’s magnificent stand. 

Sydney had arrived in France with reinforcements posted there following the South Africans’ heroic stand at Delville Wood in 1916. Ordered to capture and hold the wood “at all cost”, they did.  Sydney’s intake may have felt they had something to live up to. We know Sydney had reached France by February 1917, when preparations had begun for the great Spring Attack.  It was during these preparations that Sydney was first admitted to #12 Stationary Hospital, where he was treated for three weeks, suffering from deafness—perhaps as a result of a nearby blast. He returned to his unit in time t0 move with them from Arras to Ostreville where intensive training for the attack to begin.

The attack itself was launched early on Easter Monday (9 April 1917) with all three brigades of the 9th Scottish Division successful in performing all the tasks allocated to them, capturing over 2000 prisoners along with howitzers, field guns and machine guns.  This is likely to have been Sydney’s baptism by fire.  The author, John Buchan, was attached to the 9th Scottish Division and reported that the South African troops ended that day “in the highest spirits” and, according to General Dawson, were “on their toes, and the wounded do not want to leave the fighting line”.   It was a day John Buchan would describe as  “packed with individual exploits”  which had included the Brigade’s gallant attack on, and the capture of, the Potsdam Redoubt.  The opening salvo of the British guns would be “such a fire as had not yet been seen on any battleground on earth.  It was the first hour of The Somme repeated, but tenfold more awful.” (p.117)

Sydney continued free of serious injuries throughout that spring and well into the summer and Third Ypres/Passchendaele until, on 20 September 1917, he received the injury that would keep him out of action for the duration of the war. 

Buchan summed up the day in his history of The South African Forces in France thus:

By the evening of that day, on nearly all the British front of attack, the final objectives had been reached.  The 9th Division had carried theirs in the record time of three hours.

The day’s battle had cracked the kernel of the German defence in the Salient…every inch of the ground won was vital.  Few struggles in the campaign were more desperate or carried out in a more gruesome battlefield.  (p.142)

Sydney had incurred a gunshot wound to his right arm so severe that he was repatriated to England three days later.  There he was admitted to the King George Hospital in Stamford Street, London on 26 September from which he was discharged to the Shepherd’s Bush Military Orthopaedic Hospital on 6 November 1917.  It appears he was then discharged on 17 November, but it is not clear whither he was discharged.  I am inclined to think that an entry on 13 May 1919 relates to the fitting of some surgical appliance, or perhaps an adjustment to a prosthetic, but there is again no indication of where that took place. The next entry on his service card has him at Richmond Hospital,  with the description “Seriously ill” on 20 June 1920. The following day his condition was noted as “Dangerously ill”.  He died four days later. The cause of death was recorded as Phthisis. If he had worked on the mines, perhaps it was something from which he had been suffering throughout his military service.  While ‘phthisis’ on a WW1 medical certificate was often used to describe Tuberculosis, this seems not to have been the case at the SAMH, where tuberculosis was described as such, or as ‘tubercle lung’.  Sydney was the only patient whose death there was identified as phthisis.

The South African Military Hospital in Richmond Park was chiefly a hospital where service personnel who had received life-changing injuries could get back on their feet and acquire training in skills which would enable them to obtain employment on their return to civilian life.  These injuries might be the loss of a limb, sight or hearing, serious disfigurement or a spinal or brain injury.  Those who had lost their sight, for example, were taught basket weaving or trained as telephonists.  On the medical side, the hospital was renowned for the approach devised there for the treatment of burns, with techniques so successful that the procedure was soon adopted by other hospitals. Most of the deaths there were a result of complications during the second wave of the 1918/1919 influenza pandemic and not related to the injuries they had sustained in action.  

Because of the severity of his injury, I think it likely that Sydney spent most of the period between November 1917 and his death on 25 June 1920 either within the SAMH or based in one of the hostels established for the hospital’s out-patients in the big houses near the top of Queens Road.

By 1915, when Sydney enlisted, he was a bachelor and his parents had died.  The Register of Soldiers’ Effects shows that he had named his sister, Blanche (1886–1954) as his sole legatee.  They had worked side by side in the Cotton Warehouse, were close in age, and she was his only unmarried surviving sister.  Blanche never married but went on to a successful business career as a ‘Departmental Manageress’.

We can be fairly sure that Sydney’s friend in Johannesburg did not forget him.  I’m planning to follow her up, and will update the post if I unearth anything else.

Acknowledgements
Warm thanks to the helpful forum members at the Military Images website for providing a link to the image of the Dunluce Castle used for Sydney’s story. See sources, below.
All the genealogy research was undertaken by Margaret Frood.

Sources
Buchan, J., The History of the South African Forces in France, London, 1920.
Military Images, ‘Dunluce Castle’, https://www.militaryimages.net/media/hospital-ship-dunluce-castle.47328/, accessed 25/6/2020.
Ordnance Survey Map, Lancashire CIV.SE,  https://maps.nls.uk/view/101103827, 1894, accessed 25/6/2020.

Frank Boothroyd 
I was able to find Frank’s date of birth (16 February 1884) when I located his baptismal record.  The most recent record I could locate was the 1901 Census, when was working as a Yarn Sampler and living with his parents.  There is no death for him in England and Wales, in the period 1901–1940 and the only Frank Boothroyd born in 1884 to be recorded in the 1939 Register is a Medical Practitioner in the Lancaster County Lunatic Asylum. I have found the same man enumerated as a General Medical Practitioner in the 1911 Census, giving his birthplace as Ashton under Lyne.  In 1901, the same man is living in Ashton under Lyne with his parents, his father having the distinctive first name of Orlando. 

Their brother, Frank, had perhaps endeared himself to his sister, Beatrice, and his brother, Ernest, both of whom named their first-born sons, Frank.   Perhaps Frank emigrated, to one of the colonies, as Sydney had done, and as their nephew, Ernest, was later to do.  

Posted in 9th Scottish Division, First South African Infantry Brigade, First World War, Military Hospitals, South African Military Hospital Richmond | Leave a comment

A reading list for research into No. 2 Wing SAAF 1944

Now that the UK is losing the Data Protection that its citizens and residents have enjoyed while being within a European jurisdiction, Greedy Google has snapped up the opportunity to transfer its users to US jurisdictions. In preparation for exiting Google, as a mark of my dire disapproval of this grab, this morning I revisited the DuckDuckGo search engine, and tested it by repeating some of the searches that I have recently made using Google. I was impressed by the relevance of the search results with the advantage of no promoted results (i.e. adverts) heading the search results. The very first search result took me to a page I had not come across before. For that reason, I recommend that you repeat searches using other search engines.

If you are the relative of one of the aircrew based at Foggia, or a military historian unfamiliar with the South African role in the Relief of Warsaw and the dropping of supplies to Italian partisans, you might find this list a starting point for further information. Remember to check out footnotes, acknowledgements, bibliographies and source lists. Some of those will be useful to you, and cut some corners, though you may well find yourself adding to your research load as you explore them!

Bowman, M[artin] W., Bombers Fly East: WWII RAF Operations in the Middle and Far East, Barnsley, 2016.

Orpen, N., Airlift to Warsaw: The Rising of 1944, Slough, 1984.

South African Air Force Museum, ‘The SAAF] and the Warsaw Flights’, https://saafmuseum.org.za/398/, accessed 21/2/2020.
This web page consists of an article published in 2008 by Anne Lehmkuhl and updated in 2019 by Cameron Kirk Kinnear. It lists all the aircrew involved in the Warsaw flights, listing those who lost their lives and also those who survived.

South African Military History Society, ‘The Warsaw Airlift: a triumph of South African bravery’, Vol.13, No.1, June 2004, http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol131pm.html, accessed 11/2/2020.

Suggestions for further research

1. Finding out ‘what happened’
Research is often difficult if you’re not based in South Africa and unable to make use of SADF research facilities. If you’re become stuck in your research into a particular person, search for other members of the aircrew on the fatal flight. You may find that another researcher, interested in someone else on the plane has put information online about the incident. Remember also that the Liberators usually had a crew of eight, mostly from the South African Air Force, but including one or two crew from other Commonwealth Air Forces. When I began researching KH-152 some years ago, I found that, of the five who died, three were SAAF, one was RAF and one RAFVR. There was an Ipswich man on KH-152, and the Ipswich War Memorial website had information about his fate, enabling me to put together an account of the final flight.

Ipswich War Memorial, ‘Geoffrey Frederick Ellis’, https://www.ipswichwarmemorial.co.uk/geoffrey-frederick-ellis/, accessed 11/2/2020. The Ipswich researchers credit extra information and photographs on Geoffrey Ellis’s page, by courtesy of Dòminik Koscielny, with additional help from John Allan.

If you don’t know who else was on that particular flight, search the CWGC database by date of death and the country concerned i.e. the country over which the aircraft was shot down or crashed.If there’s something that puzzles you, search the online military forums. There is a, for example, a Luftwaffe and Allied Forces Discussion Forum. The link below consists of a thread about the German pilot, who is thought to have been responsible for the loss of KH-152.
Luftwaffe and Allied Forces Discussion Forum, ‘Ofw. Maisch’, http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/archive/index.php?t-3137.html, accessed 30/12/2019.

The website Air Crew Remembered is an example of material that is available online. My new favourite, DuckDuckGo, however, flags the site up as insecure. When I discovered the wreath laid for KH-158, I found the web page set up, and impeccably researched, by Anne Storm, the daughter of F/O Thomas Roberts Millar RAAF.
Storm, A.E., ’31 Squadron SAAF KH158′, http://www.aircrewremembered.com/urry-selwyn.html, accessed 21/2/2020.

2. Diaries, Letters,
The Diary of Lieutenant Charles Searle Stuart Franklin, SAAF has been uploaded to the Facebook Group 34 and 31 Squadrons SAAF through the generosity of his son, Jonathan Franklin.  I wanted to know when, and how, these pilots had reached Italy, and this diary covered their time in training on the Liberators in the Middle East. I wondered about the effects on morale of these long flights, with relentless regularity, and whether and how they were able to cope with the challenges.  It was quite overwhelming, comprehending in even a small way, at a distance of 75 years, the sheer exhaustion, the stress and the mental state of the surviving airmen as crew after crew failed to return. When I first read the diary, I was thinking of the period up to mid October in terms of the fatigue and stress of the crew of KH-152, whom I was then researching. It was only when my curiosity extended to the crew of the second aircraft (EW250/L) lost on 16/17 October, that I realised that Charles Franklin had been its pilot on that flight. The mission of both aircraft was to drop supplies at Radomosko; neither plane returned to Foggia. Be prepared for pangs.

3. Interviews and Oral History Recordings
Check out also for videos, recordings and tributes:
South African Air Force Heritage Site WW2, https://biltongbru.wixsite.com/ww2-saaf-heritage, accessed 21/2/2020.

There was a second Liberator (EW250) that was lost on 16 October, with only one survivor: Sgt Ronald Pither, RAFVR. He made some recordings, omitting the names of the Polish people who helped him, in order to protect the identity of those who had helped him. If you listen to the recordings, please read the message from his family, so you will understand what was omitted and that these were private memories, intended for his family.

Memories Pither, http://www.liberatorew250.com.pl/szkolenia/historia-srzanta-pithera/memories-pitcher.html, accessed 22/2/2020.

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Keith Brennand MacWilliam (1921–1944)

117609V Lieutenant Keith Brennand MacWilliam,
34 Squadron South African Air Force,
Killed in action, 16 October 1944, Poland.
Buried at Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery.

Lieut. Keith MacWilliam
©Anne Bleyenheuft

Keith’s parents, Keith James MacWilliam and Halla Swart were married in Sunnyside, Pretoria at the Church of St Michael’s and All Angels on 11 February 1920. His father was a mining engineer, living in Booysens at the time of his marriage to Halla. If the calculation made by Keith’s widow, Elizabeth, when giving notice of her husband’s death, is correct, he was born in Johannesburg in May 1921, 15 months after his parents’ marriage. Three years later, on 29 June 1924, Keith’s younger brother, Ian Russell MacWilliam, was baptised in Holy Trinity, Turffontein, nine months after his birth on 30 September 1923. The family was based, at that time, in accommodation on the Robinson Deep mine, in Booysens. Ian’s godfathers were his uncles, Russell Farquharson MacWilliam and Philip Herman Swart. I have not yet been able to locate a baptismal record for Keith.

I thought it possible that Keith might have followed his cousin, Robert Hermann MacWilliam (1912–1984) to St John’s College. And thanks to St John’s WW2 War Memorial, there he was: K. B. MacWilliam. His cousin, Robert, also went into the field of engineering, like his uncle Keith James, obtaining a B.Sc. (Engineering) and becoming, in later life, a mining executive.

Keith’s widow, Elizabeth Rissik, gave Keith’s occupation as ‘Student’ when providing formal notice of her husband’s death. As Keith followed the course his cousin had embarked on, he might well have been a “Witsie” when he enlisted in the South African Air Force.

Keith and Elizabeth were married on 6 May 1944, the day after her 21st birthday. The timing could suggest that her parents might have been reluctant to give permission for the marriage, possibly concerned about her marrying an airman about to set off for the war in Europe.

Keith MacWilliam, was one of the many South African Air Force Airmen killed during the extremely risky exercise of dropping supplies during the Relief of Warsaw. It was to be almost a year before Keith was presumed dead by the Officer in Charge of SADF War Records on 11 August 1945, and for an official death certificate to be issued on 17 September 1945.

Keith’s younger brother, Ian Russell MacWilliam, was also in the SAAF, and in Italy at the same time as Keith. There is an entry in Ian’s logbook which records the last time he saw his brother when both were up in the air: “saw Keith today & buzzed him”.

An account of the last flight of KH-152 has been put together by Ipswich War Memorial Researchers whose research into this Liberator began with their interest in an Ipswich member of the crew, Sergeant Ellis. They credit researchers Dòminik Kościelny and John Allen with help in locating information about the fate of members of the crew. The events on the night of 16 October 1944 are recounted on the page for Geoffrey Frederick Ellis—do follow the link to the page, and read the full account.

In his log book, Lieut. Samuel Fourie recorded the circumstances leading up to the loss of the plane as follows: ‘flak and searchlights encountered first, controls shot away; then attacked by 2 fighters, hit and set on fire on port wing, then hit in loft and set on fire‘.

The Ipswich account specifically relates to Keith’s fate, as follows:

Keith MacWilliam managed to jump out of the Burning Liberator. However, due to the low altitude, his parachute failed to open, and he fell on the property of Szymon Dekan of Brzezówka. His body was found the next day, and his documents removed by the Germans. Keith was buried by Wladyslaw Knutelski and Bronislaw Dxiekan at the place of his death.

©Anne Bleyenheuft

A few years after the war, the airmen were reburied side by side in the Rakowicki Military Cemetery in Krakow. Keith is buried between Sgt Ellis RAF and Sgt Myers RAAF. South African visitors to the graves have said how well the Polish have cared for them. At least three times a year, there are commemorations at the graves that honour the men who took unimaginable risks in their desire to help the Polish people in 1944. All Souls’ Day on 2 November—the third day of Allhallowtide—is the commemoration closest to our Remembrance Sunday.

A wee piece on the MacWilliam family history
Keith’s cousin had been named, in the Scottish tradition after their grandfather, Robert MacWilliam (1851–1903). Born in the parish of Keith in Banffshire. Robert described himself as a teacher at the time of his marriage, in 1878, to a fellow teacher, Elizabeth Wattie (1855–1903). He was, in fact, already an English lecturer at the Aberdeen Church of Scotland Training College, where he remained until, in 1880, he took up a post as Principal of Gill College, a College of Higher Education, in the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony. Founded in 1859, it was named after the Scottish District Surgeon, William Gill who left his estate to the establishment of a such a college. Its architecture was inspired by that of the University of Glasgow.

The changes in the way that education was regulated in the Cape Colony resulted, in 1903, in Gill College, a high school rather than a college of higher education. This may have been a great disappointment to Robert, who had spent 23 years, the greater part of his teaching career, as the college’s principal. Robert died on 10 May 1903, in the Wimbledon area, and is buried at the Gap Road Cemetery. It is not clear whether he and Elizabeth had decided to move back to Scotland, or whether he was on a visit to London to make a case to the Colonial Office for the retention of the College as a provider of higher education. Robert’s wife outlived him by only six years, dying in the parish of Crawfordjohn in Lanarkshire on 25 May 1909.

Scottish educators were the backbone of the Cape Colony’s education system during the 19th and early 20th century and its system followed the Scottish model, even in the Cape’s Afrikaner Gymnasiums, than in any other of the colonies and republics that formed the Union of South Africa. Robert and Elizabeth’s sons, Russell Farquharson (1882–1935) and Keith James (1886–1957) were both born in the Cape Colony, probably at Somerset East.

Keith James (1886–1957) and his elder brother Russel Farquharson (1882–1935) grew up in Somerset East, where their father, Robert MacWilliam, was Principal of Gill College of Higher Education. Where the brothers were educated is not clear— they may have been educated in Somerset East, or sent to a boarding schools in the Eastern Cape, perhaps to Grahamstown. Both brothers served in the Somerset East Town Guard during the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), Russell as a Corporal, and Keith as a Private and both are listed on the Medal Roll.

Their eldest son, Russell Farquharson, seems to have been named after his grandmothers, Margaret Russell and Margaret Farquharson. To anyone familiar with the Scottish naming patterns, the incorporation of the maternal lines in the name of the eldest son is a little unusual—he ought, by rights, to have been named after his paternal grandfather, Robert. Russell Farquharson MacWilliam became a barrister, eventually being appointed a King’s Counsel—he had a son called Robert, perhaps called after his paternal grandfather. Russell’s grandson shares his name and his career as he is also a barrister (an ‘advocate’ in South Africa).

Robert and Elizabeth’s second son, Keith James MacWilliam was (perhaps!) named first, after his father’s birthplace, and secondly after one, or both, of his paternal grandfathers, James MacWilliam and James Wattie.

As for the Brennand in Keith’s name, it turns up in his mother, Halla Swart’s, English maternal line. Halla’s father was Daniel Hermanus Swart and her mother was Ellen Frances Hall, daughter of Edwin Brennand Hall (1843–1913), who hailed from Lancashire. Brennand was used several times as a given name by others in the Hall family .

Sources and Further Reading
The photo of Lieutenant Keith MacWilliam was provided by his niece, Anne Bleyenheuft, one of the daughters of Ian Russell MacWilliam, and is used with the family’s permission . My thanks to her and her brother, Keith, for their interest in my research into their uncle, and for their support with this project.

All at Sea, ‘Roll of Honour, St John’s College’, http://allatsea.co.za/blog/roll-of-honour-st-johns/, accessed 14/12/2020. The person behind the website may be D R Walker, but the author of the post on the college War Memorial is ‘JA’ whose provision of the accompanying images of the War Memorial, confirmed to me that my guesswork, on Keith’s schooling, was correct.

Ipswich War Memorial, ‘Geoffrey Frederick Ellis’, https://www.ipswichwarmemorial.co.uk/geoffrey-frederick-ellis/, accessed 11/2/2020. The Ipswich researchers credit extra information and photographs on Geoffrey Ellis’s page, by courtesy of Dòminik Koscielny, with additional help from John Allan.

Luftwaffe and Allied Forces Discussion Forum, ‘Ofw. Maisch’, http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/archive/index.php?t-3137.html, accessed 30/12/2019.

Orpen, N., Airlift to Warsaw: The Rising of 1944, Slough, 1984.

South African Military History Society, ‘The Warsaw Airlift: a triumph of South African bravery’, Vol.13, No.1, June 2004, http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol131pm.html, accessed 11/2/2020.

South Africa Remembers, ‘Keith Brennand MacWilliam and the last flight of KH152’, https://southafricaremembers.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/keith-macwilliam-and-the-last-flight-of-kh152/, accessed 11/2/2020.

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The German Military Cemetery at Futa Pass

When we left the CWGC Cemetery at Castiglione dei Pepoli en route for Caldesi, I felt strongly that we should try to find a German War Cemetery. And barely a hill or two away, we found ourselves passing the Futa Pass Cemetery, where over 30 000 German soldiers are buried. We turned back, to “pay our respects”.

The Germans view their military cemeteries as powerful messages of peace, as educational opportunities, and as warnings against the ultimate outcome of belligerence between nations. That’s not quite how the British seem to regard theirs but I’ll refrain from saying anything further on that.

Deutscher SoldatenFriedhof at Futa Pass © Margaret Frood

We spent some time in this vast cemetery, looking with interest at photos and messages left in a reception room near the parking area. This one particularly touched me. I’m sorry about the reflection marring the photos. Its focus is a father, grandfather and great grandfather whose family will never forget him. Those children will be grandfathers themselves now as they must have been just a few years older than my generation. We have had the luxury of growing up during the longest peaceful stretch in European history, as have our children. I see in that the success of the European Union in cementing peace, and I fear for our grandchildren, growing up in the rancour of a country which is now so bitterly divided. I admit that I’m not too pleased about being stripped of my EU citizenship against my wishes.

“Ein Vater, Großvater und Urgroßvater” nimmer vergessen. © Margaret Frood

And the walk through the different tiers of our second hillside cemetery of the day was moving. Note there are four burials below this stone.

“Someone” has left a peaceful message of reconciliation at the grave of two unknown German Soldiers. (Because “Alle Menschen werden Brüder”.) © Margaret Frood
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Castiglione dei Pepoli

In October 2018, on our way to the hamlet of Caldesi with my sister and her partner, we stayed overnight in Castiglione dei Pepoli, where there is a large CWGC cemetery. I had long wished to visit Robin’s grave on behalf of our family. 

The South African Cemetery at Castiglione dei Pepoli.

The epitaph on the grave of 225969V Sergeant F S van Niekerk (S.A.C.S.) caught my eye.

TO A GOOD MAN
NO EVIL THING CAN HAPPEN.

He was killed on 5 July 1945 aged 44. The war in Europe was over. How cruel the misfortune that had taken him from his parents, his wife, and, if he had them, from his children?

There were so many familiar surnames on the South Africans’ headstones, many triggering memories of families I had known, but the photos I took of headstones were mostly ones which evoked memories of people, aroused my curiosity, or where the family’s message made a deep impression.

Guardsmen from the 24th Guards Brigade account for about 100 burials there, because the Brigade was under the command of the 6th South African Armoured Division.  I chose also to research some of them. 

For example, I researched the life of Walter Henry Geddes because the first headmaster under whom I taught was John Geddes, an inspirational leader.

My Scottish father-in-law was named after his grandfather, Andrew McKie (as were many of his cousins) so I made a note of the details on the grave of Guardsman A A S McKie of the Scots Guards, out of curiosity, and perhaps for future research.

The views of the hills around Castiglione make this an uplifting setting for the cemetery, which is beautifully cared for by the CWGC gardeners. At the time of our visit, one section of the cemetery was being replanted, so if you notice exposed soil in the background, that’s the reason. We visited on a Saturday, and so, unlike on the occasion my daughter visited there about ten years ago, there were no gardeners about. The cemetery is about halfway between Florence and Bologna, but close to the Autostrada connecting the two cities.

The Gardeners’ Shed in Autumn © Margaret Frood

Looking down on the cemetery from the road into Castiglione dei Pepoli. © Margaret Frood

Afterwards, I proposed that we keep an eye out for a German War Cemetery, and a hilltop or two away, we found ourselves passing the Futa Pass Cemetery, a cemetery with 61 times as many burials as Castiglione dei Pepoli. The Germans view their military cemeteries as places of reconciliation, of peace-building, and of education.

I will be posting some photos of the Futa Pass Cemetery in a later blog post.

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Airmen of KH158 remembered in Richmond upon Thames

As I approached the South African War Memorial in Richmond Cemetery, ahead of the Two Minutes’ Silence in November 2019, I saw some distinctive and unusual wreaths—two from the Polish Airmen’s Association and a third, on which the written message, because of heavy rainfall earlier in the week, was only partially legible. I could, however, make out the words LIBERATOR KH158 ITALY which turned to be a Liberator VI from 31 Squadron (SAAF), based at Foggia in Italy.

Tribute in memory of the crew of KH158 ©Margaret Frood

List of the Crew lost on the last flight of KH158

Pilot: Major Selwyn S Urry, SAAF, aged 29
2nd Pilot: Flying Officer George Edward Hudspith, RAF, aged 29
Navigator: Lieut. Geoffrey A Collard, SAAF, aged 19
Observer and Bomb Aimer: Flying Officer Thomas Roberts Millar, RAAF, aged 28
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: 2/Lieut. Peter J Lordan, SAAF, age not recorded
Air Gunner: Warrant Officer Leonard B Bloch, SAAF, aged 21
Air Gunner: Lieut. Norman W Armstrong, SAAF, age not recorded
Air Gunner: Sergeant Reginald Charles Fitzgerald, RAFVR, aged 19.

Initially, I thought the wreath had also been left in memory of the crew of one of the Liberators that had taken part in the Relief of Warsaw, between 4 August and 28 September 1944. However, when I approached the Polish Airmen’s Association, they were not aware of anyone who might have placed that particular wreath. Other words I could make out on the card attached were IN MEMOR[Y], CREW OF, SAAF and ITALY.

I can however confirm that the crew of the Liberator KH158 had indeed played an important role in the Relief of Warsaw, an exercise involving low flights which was regarded as so dangerous in terms of the potential loss of planes and pilots, that it was a risk the RAF and USAAF were not keen to accept, for either their superior planes or their pilots, though 178 Squadron RAF was involved in the Warsaw Relief alongside 31 and 34 Squadrons SAAF. The South African ground forces were working their way northwards in Italy, with squadrons operating out of Italian airfields. It seems that the crews flying sorties out of Foggia almost always had at least one RAF Sergeant on board. Similarly SAAF and airmen from other Allied Air Forces, would fly with RAF crews.

I have learnt from Polish airmen that during the eight or so weeks of the Relief, for every ton of supplies dropped, there was the associated cost of the loss of one plane, and often of the lives of an entire crew. This was, I believe, first asserted by Air Marshal Sir John Slessor. From his daughter’s account of her father’s military activities, we know that Thomas Roberts Millar had taken part in the Relief of Warsaw. In addition, Sortie Reports for August and September 1944 show that Urry, Collard, Millar, Lordan, Bloch and Armstrong had regularly flown together on these sorties to Poland.

KH158 was lost on the night of 12/13 October 1944, two weeks after the last flights in the Relief of Warsaw. The Liberator and its crew had been on a mission to drop supplies to a group of Italian partisans when it simply disappeared. Five of the crew were from the South African Air Force, one from the Royal Air Force, one from the Royal Australian Air Force and one from the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve. The October weather in Northern Italy can be changeable, and on that night it was, in parts, simply atrocious. It is possibly as a consequence of the weather, that KH158 was one of six flights lost that night, with the loss of 48 airmen. In spite of many attempts to locate the wreckage of the plane, to this day the families of the crew of KH158 have been unable to discover what happened to it or even whether it was lost over land or sea. Wreckage from the other five flights has been found, much of it high in the mountains.

In recent years, with the first such event in 2000, the crew of five of the six lost flights have in turn been commemorated near their respective crash sites in Northern Italy. In the case of the sixth, KH158, a memorial was unveiled by Anne Storm, the daughter of Thomas Roberts Millar and by Martin Urry, nephew of Selwyn Urry, the pilot, in the grounds of the wartime headquarters of the local partisans, in the Ligurian mountains above Neirone.

Rootsweb hosts an account of the commemoration written by Anne Storm, the daughter of Bob Millar (Flying Officer Thomas Roberts Millar, RAAF) here. It includes photos taken at the ceremony and images of the memorial as well as of the setting in which these crew members are commemorated.

For those interested in the background of the crew, there is an excellent piece on a website Aircrew Remembered. Much of the research into the fate of this plane has been undertaken by Anne E. Storm, who was only 20 months old when her father was killed. This web page lists the names of the crew of KH158, and has photos of all but one of the men.

How you may be able to help 1: Tracking down a photo of George Hudspith

Flying Officer George Edward Hudspith, RAF, who was 29 at the time of his death, is the crew member for whom those researching this aircraft, and its crew, do not have a photo. I have established that a birth was registered for a George Edward Hudspith, in the 4th Quarter of 1914 in Bournemouth (then part of the Christchurch Registration District) in Hampshire. This registration matches George’s age on 13/10/1944 and there is no other competitor in the Births Index with a matching name in the two years on either side of 1914. George’s parents were George Edward Hudspith (1885–1934) and Margaret Louise Osment (1885–1945).

I believe there was a second son of that marriage, Sidney Hudspith, whose birth, in Bournemouth, Hampshire, was registered in 1927. I have not yet been able to find Sidney in the 1939 Register nor a matching death for him in the Death Indices for England & Wales. I should add that his birth registration in 1927 is not flagged up as a late entry, so it is not a late correction or registration.

I note this here, as I have discovered that George and Margaret had a son, Sidney Osment, born in 1911, three years before their marriage. I have also found no death registration for that earlier Sidney. Newspaper reports from 1912 suggest that Margaret was struggling to support her baby. Could he have been adopted—in which case would he even have known of the existence of two younger brothers?

I think that those most likely to know something about George will be descendants of his Osment or Hudspith cousins. In particular, any descendants of one of two daughters of his paternal aunt, Gertrude Nellie (or Helena) Louisa Hudspith. Marjorie and Margaret Hinton who married Charles Moore and John Tucker, in 1930 and 1940 respectively. Their children would have been born in the 1930s and 1940s and are likely to have been told about the death of their mothers’ cousin in 1944, or subsequently. That means we are probably looking for people whose grandmothers came from the Bournemouth area. If your grandmother’s maiden name was Hinton, I hope you will get in touch, even if you know nothing about George Edward Hudspith.

As for George’s maternal line, I am working my way across from Hudspith cousins to cousins on the Osment side of the family. I have sent messages to five relatives and had one reply, from someone who is not able to confirm a connection. I will update if I discover anything further.

How you may be able to help 2: Who laid the wreath?

Enlargement of the accompanying message © Margaret Frood

If you are familiar with military abbreviations, are there any further clues on the bottom left of the card or elsewhere? What is the word above F/O, for example? I think this may mention a specific Flying Officer. There were two on the final flight, George Edward Hudspith (RAF) and Thomas Roberts Millar (RAAF). Could the letter after the T, which looks like Z or 2, possibly be an R, in which case, could it read Flying Officer T R Millar?

Sources and Recommended Reading

Aircrew Remembered, ’31 Squadron (SAAF) Liberator VI KH158, Mjr Selwyn Urry’, http://www.aircrewremembered.com/urry-selwyn.html , accessed 25/12/2019. This web page produced by Martin Urry, the nephew of the senior pilot, gives you the background to their last flight and to the commemoration of the crew of the missing plane

Orpen, Neil., Airlift to Warsaw: the Rising of 1944, Marlow, 1984. Copies of this book are available second-hand. It’s illuminating for anyone who has relatives involved in the relief of Warsaw.

The Millar Story, ‘Final Sortie Report’, http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~stormrhb/genealogy/millar/italysortie.htm, accessed 26/12/2019.

Rootsweb, ‘The Millar Story: The Commemoration of the Last Mission’, http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~stormrhb/genealogy/millar/commemoration.htm , accessed 25/12/2019. Here Flying Officer Millar’s daughter, Anne E. Storm, describes the commemoration above the village of Neirone in the Ligurian mountains in 2011.

 

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Remembrance Sunday in Richmond, 2019

Remembrance Sunday 2019
John, Steve and Mark: A New Visitor between two Old Faithfuls.

We are ever hopeful that this year South Africans will turn up, and perhaps become Old Faithfuls in years to come…but alas not. No South Africans turned up this year, other than the one behind the camera. There is a BUT…

BUT Steve wandered up and decided to stick around for The Silence. He’d come to Richmond Cemetery, with the specific intention of looking for CWGC graves there. All four of us helped to place the rosemary sprigs at the individual graves, and we had a few over, which we deployed nearby, first at the London Scottish grave, and at other graves in adjacent sections, such as the grave of George Henry Rosser, who was born in the parish of Richmond upon Thames. George served in the 2nd Regiment of the First South African Infantry Brigade, suffering severe wounds in the first weeks of the Battle of the Somme. Repatriated to England for nursing, he died soon after, at the Fulham Military Hospital, on 23 July 1916.

It also turns out that it’s possible the two South Africans (father and son) at last year’s Two Minutes’ Silence, were there because one of The Cyclists had spread the word at a local Parkrun. Mark knew a Parkrun is a good place to find South Africans in significant numbers.

For those of my generation, these First World War graves are the graves of our grandparents’ fellow soldiers, so there is still, for us, someone we knew who was affected by that conflict. For the next generation, it will be memories of their grandparents that will drive their curiosity about the Second World War.

So many South African service personnel have no known grave, that it may seem odd to focus on these particular graves in the South African Section in Richmond, and the others about whom I have written, whose graves or stories I have often only come across by chance.

One of the men whose story is elsewhere on this blog, Ivan Merle McCusker is in one of the South African graves spotted by the military historian, Charles Fair, (@FamilyAtWar) in early November this year. His tweet about the South African plot there includes photos which can be viewed here.

As early as 1916, Jan Smuts and the South African government had asked John Buchan  to write an account of the role of the South African forces in France.  This work would become his History of the South African Forces in France but by the time the war was over, the decision had been made that the country could not afford it. Buchan wrote it anyway in what his granddaughter, Ursula Buchan described as his ‘labour of love’.  

As we approached the memorial ahead of the Two Minutes’ silence, I noticed two wreaths with the distinctive red and white squares of the Polish Air Force. After a rapid calculation, I felt fairly sure they were there because of the 75th anniversary of the Relief of Warsaw, in which the South African Air Force played a major role, with great loss of life. I felt quite emotional when I realised that, so many years later, the Polish Airmen had not forgotten our airmen.

One of two wreaths from the Polish Airmen’s Association © Margaret Frood

I was intrigued also to see a third, smaller wreath, the writing barely legible, except for what looked like the identification number of a Liberator KH158. I am now researching that aircraft and its fate, and will report back in due course. I did contact the Polish Airmen’s Association (UK) and learnt from its chairman, Artur Bildziuk, that they were responsible for two of the wreaths, but that the third wreath, pictured below, was not laid there by them.

Tribute in memory of the crew of KH158 © Margaret Frood

Recently, as a result of my post on KH152 and Keith Brennand Macwilliam in particular, I have been contacted by Dòminik Kościelny, who has been researching the South African Squadrons 31 and 34 for a considerable time, and am now seeing what I can do to locate a picture of Keith for him.

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Malta Stories

Two weeks ago the CWGC published, on its Malta Stories blog, an excellent account of the eight crew of the B24J Liberator EW207 “K” aircraft, which did not return to base on the night of 2/3 March 1945. Six of the eight were South Africans, their average age being 21 years 2 months.

Doesn’t Harland’s photo suggest a happy and mischievous nature?  The Malta Stories blog post will tell you more about how, as a schoolboy, he demonstrated his determination to join the fray.  Harland wasn’t the only former tearaway on that flight.  Don’t skip the story of Derek Knight Austin, 2nd Pilot on this flight, whose prank in an aircraft over his home town of Mafeking  led to a court martial in 1943.  His knocking down the church steeple was probably the least troubling aspect of the episode.

Besides Harland, the other members of the crew were:
Lt Philip Anthony Klapper—who had interrupted his medical training at Wits
Air Sgt Derek Knight Austin;
Lt Joscelyn Albert Tudor Steele;
Fl/Sgt Alfred Matthews from Dagenham;
Sgt Edward Moody Stoves from County Durham;
W/O II Robert James Faull; at 18, the youngest
W/O II Ronald Esme Wicht—his father was then serving in Italy as an eye surgeon in the South African Medical Corps.

The average age of the six crew members was exactly 21 years 2 months.  The fate of their flight is still unknown, despite the efforts their families made in succeeding years to establish what had brought their Liberator down, and where.

Notes
The story is headed Scott Smith, which I assume is the name of the author, and, for want of further info, I’m crediting him with the photo as well.  (And I apologise for using it without formal permission and will be happy to have the attribution corrected.)

I have included the home towns of the two non-South African members of the aircrew to make it easier for their relatives to find their story on this blog.Do read this blog while it is still the ‘home’ story on the blog and if any of the surnames ring a bell, perhaps you’ll be able to help the CWGC track down relatives of the other men, so that their photos can accompany this Malta Story.

 

 

 

 

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