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My relative has two death dates in WWII

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My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby jeanp » Thu Apr 09, 2015 2:28 pm

One of my relatives is listed as having died 29 May 1944 in Italy - 'of wounds received in action', but also died 12 Sep 1944 in France - 'killed in action'. All details (full name, home address, occupation etc) match on the two documents, so it is the same person. I understand he might have been transferred to France from Italy after being wounded but he couldn't die twice! Which is likely to be correct?
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby peter kent » Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:46 pm

Check the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site.

http://www.cwgc.org/
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby jeanp » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:17 pm

Thanks Peter. I checked the website and it confirms the later date of Sep 1944. I still wonder how he came to be listed as dead twice, in two different countries! Perhaps simply an admin error!
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby peter kent » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:10 am

I don't think anyone here can comment without knowing the details.
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby jeanp » Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:01 pm

In case anyone can suggest what may have happened, here are his details:
Frederick Richard Langley, born 4 Oct 1920 Ontario, Canada (1921 he's in Oshawa, Ontario with his parents Frederick & Elsie Langley)
Private 1st battalion Black Watch (Royal Highland Reg)

Thanks.
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby AdrianB38 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 4:34 pm

His personnel records should confirm what happened - but given the cost of them, you may not be that curious! Even then the odds are that the bald facts won't confirm why the double date. Not unless the earlier date is there to record him being wounded as well as the later.

The other option is to get hold of the war diary to find out what was happening to the battalion. But not sure how to get hold of them for WW2.

Where do the two dates come from?

Sent from my GT-I8190N
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby jeanp » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:05 pm

Thanks for your reply Adrian. The two dates - with the info on him dying from wounds received and being killed in action (see my first message) - are both from military documents regarding his death, which is why I was puzzled, as they are both 'official' military documents.
The later Sep date has been used on his gravestone in the Commonwealth war grave cemetery so I am using that as his date of death, but there's still a bit of puzzlement about how he could have been registered as dead twice!
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby AdrianB38 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:38 pm

jeanp wrote:... they are both 'official' military documents ...


That tends to rule out civilian incompetence in reporting. To be quite honest, you need detailed info from his personnel record - especially his medical record that I presume should show admittance to hospitals, etc., - and you probably also need info about what his battalion (not regiment) was doing. The personnel record might show that he did something on the earlier date, from which we might guess that its effect got exaggerated. If it's not obvious from the personnel records, then you need to look at the War Diaries to find out what the units were doing. You'd need to ask, is there a clue to the dates there?

Without any of that, we're all just guessing.

I've only just realised from looking at the CWGC entry that when you said "Black Watch (Royal Highland Reg)", you didn't mean the regiment of that name in the British Army but the "Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada". Which means I have absolutely no idea how to get hold of the personnel records or war diaries.

It's quite difficult to find out the size and shape of the Canadian version but I managed it on http://www.militaryheritage.com/blackwatchofcanada.htm. On that page, the crucial info is "On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the 1st Battalion was mobilized and assigned to the 5th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division. The 1st RHC was heavily committed throughout the campaign in North-West Europe. It lost some 150 officers and more than 2,000 other ranks, giving it tragic distinction of suffering the most casualties of any unit in 21st Army Group. The 2nd RHC, mobilized in March 1942, was broken up to provide reinforcements for battalions in Italy and England."

So there were two battalions and if your chap were in the 2nd battalion earlier on, then he could have been in Italy. Albeit attached to another unit. Or a casualty in Italy might have had a serial number one digit removed from him and a casualty report was misapplied due to the incorrect number. (See? Pure speculation)

Otherwise, the indications are that - if he was in the 1st battalion at this time, then he was nowhere near Italy. And then it becomes even less clear why the earlier date is involved, because May 1944 is before D-Day so 1st Bn shouldn't have been in action at all at that point according to the web-page. But all this is speculation in the absence of the personnel records and war diaries.
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Re: My relative has two death dates in WWII

Postby jeanp » Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:23 pm

Thanks for your help Adrian. I wonder if he later changed to from 1st to 2nd as I see that the 2nd was broken up in 1942 to provide reinforcements for Italy and England.
Thanks again.
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