Monday, March 07, 2011

‘Missing’ Casualties of the World Wars

Headstone of former soldier James McAvoy 
(Died 23 September 1942) 
[St Mary's R.C. Churchyard, Cleator, Cumbria]
Headstone of  Stanislaus Sarapavicius 
(A 'displaced' Lithuanian, died  28 December 1949)
[St Mary's R.C. Churchyard, Cleator, Cumbria]

The above photographs show the headstones of two casualties of WW2 in a village churchyard at Cleator, Cumbria. Yet neither of these people have ever been counted as official casualties of war. They are among the many 'missing' war casualties not officially recorded and rarely, if ever, considered as casualties of war. 
For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

How many casualties were there during the World Wars?

Recently I have been concentrating my research time for the 'Roll of Honour' for Cleator Moor on the WW1 casualties. Although I believe I have all the names of those who died in all the wars between the Boer War to the Korean War there are still a small number from the WW1 years I have to correctly identify.

Some of the casualties may not even be listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. For example, I have found two WW2 service ‘casualties’ from Cleator & Cleator Moor alone who are not listed by the Commission even though both of them died before the war ended. Unfortunately as a lot of the WW2 service records are still restricted, without being able to trace their close family it is going to be difficult to obtain the necessary details to have the situation rectified.

One of these WW2 ‘casualties’ is Rifleman John George Mossop (known as ‘Jackie’) who died on 7 September 1944 aged 25. According to information in the local newspaper (‘The Whitehaven News’) during the war, Jackie had been a repatriated Prisoner of War and released by the Germans through the Red Cross because of his ill health. Because of this, Jackie Mossop was therefore, technically speaking, a civilian at the time of his death. Jackie Mossop is buried in St John’s Churchyard (Church of England). His family headstone also states he was a repatriated POW.

Monday, 07 March, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The second of these WW2 ‘casualties’ was Pte James McAvoy, also from Cleator Moor, who died on 23 September 1942 aged 41. He was laid to rest in St Mary’s Churchyard, Cleator (Roman Catholic Church) and his name is included on the St Mary’s WW2 memorial inside the church. As I understand it, James was discharged from the army on health grounds and died shortly afterwards. Hence he too was, technically speaking, a civilian at the time of his death.

Similarly, there are service ‘casualties’ of the First World War who are not listed by the CWGC. For example, I know of at least 5 service ‘casualties’ from the Cleator & Cleator Moor district who are not listed by the Commission. These individuals were also in the forces during the 1914 – 1918 war, but were discharged because of wounds or ill-health and then died shortly afterwards, although before the end of the war.

The war Information about the WW1 service records is not restricted as much for WW2 service personnel. Hence, I have been able to trace the records for these 5 individuals from the First World War. I have also been able to trace their burial records in local cemeteries or churchyards.

There are official casualties listed by the CWGC for both World Wars who were discharged because of wounds or illness and are listed by the CWGC. It is strange that some casualties are listed and others are not. Yet the evidence shows this is the case, although perhaps only about 2% of the total casualties. It is difficult to identify where this is the case.

It is also difficult to identify additional instances where a ‘casualty’ has not been commemorated by the CWGC.

Many civilian war casualties also not commemorated anywhere, and their number can be even more difficult to determine. For example, one of the photographs above shows the headstone of a pst-WW2 Lithuanian refugee, Stanislaus Sarapavicius, who died at Moota YMCA Hostel, near Cockermouth, Cumbria. Stanislaus is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Cleator, which was the parish of the Catholic Chaplain to Moota Hostel, Father Kevin McCann.

Civilians who were killed in bombing raids during WW2 tend to be commemorated where their names are known. However, while researching the Battle of Normandy for example, there were instances of towns and villages I came across where the exact civilian casualty rate was unknown. Because of the war many families had relatives from other parts of France staying with them having believed Normandy to be a relatively ‘safe’ area far from where a likely Allied invasion would take place.

Coming back to the original question as to just how many ‘casualties’ were there during WW1 and WW2? The true answer is not that straightforward.

‘Official’ figures list those known to have died. Most likely there were a significant number of others, whose fate was “known unto God”. This article is dedicated to these ‘unknown casualties’ of the World Wars.

Tuesday, 08 March, 2011  

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