Catania CWGC cemetery , Sicily

Topics about the Regiment during the Second World War.

Catania CWGC cemetery , Sicily

Postby plbramham » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:29 am

Operation Husky – invasion of Sicily 1943
Many people believe that the Border Regiment “glider badge” was awarded for Arnhem – not so, the motif was granted to the 1st battalion (and to the South Staffordshire Regiment) for their airborne landings during “Operation Husky” the 1943 invasion of Sicily.
This followed the successful conclusion of hostilities in North Africa and was a prelude to in invasion of mainland Italy.
During the initial assault on 10th July 1943, gales caused more than half of the 140 gliders to be blown off course or to crash into the sea drowning those on board, but the remaining airborne troops landed South West of Syracuse, capturing and holding their vital objective, the Ponte Grande bridge over the River Anapo.
Combined with the airborne attack, Montgomery’s 8th Army and Commonwealth troops (notably Canadians) came ashore in the South East of the island e between Pachino and Syracuse, while Patton’s 7th American army landed at Gela, the two armies, totalling 160,000 men, joined up at Messina on August 17th having captured the island in 39 days. ( Messina was the heaviest bombed Italian city during WW” owing to its location on the North East tip of Sicily just approximately six kilometres across the straits from mainland Italy)
There are two CWGC cemeteries on Sicily at Syracuse and Catania ( see photos below)

Catania: 2135 burials ( 3 Border Regiment) Lying under the impressive backdrop of Mount Etna, this cemetery mainly contains burials from the later stages of the campaign ( although the three Border casualties are from the first week), including those killed in the fighting on the Catania plain and in the battle for the Simeto bridgehead. Border casualties according to CWGC:
MAUGHAN, EDWARD
Private 3604761 died 10/07/1943 age 24
MOUNSEY, NIGEL DERRICK WALTER
Lieutenant 237910 18/07/1943 21
MOORE, LESLIE HUGHES
Private 3606349 10/07/1943 21

Canada also has its own CWGC cemetery at Agira (captured by 1st Canadian division on 28th July 1943) containing 490 burials of their countrymen killed throughout the campaign.
I have individual photos of all the Border Regiment headstones. If anyone wants a copy of a specific gave (free of charge), send me your e-mail address and the relevant soldier’s name.
Paul
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Catania 1 CWGC.jpg
Catania CWGC Cemetery with Mount Etna in the background
Mounsey 1 Catania.jpg
Lt. Nigel Derrick Walter Mounsey
Moore & Maughan 1 Catania.jpg
Privates Edward Maughan and Leslie Hughes Moore (left)
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Re: Catania CWGC cemetery , Sicily

Postby kerchi » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:27 pm

As always, great photos Paul. ;-)

Fantastic to see the headstones of these chaps and the cemetery, including Mount Etna in the distance. Catania, in true CWGC fashion, looks beautifully looked after.

I enjoyed looking at the Operation "Husky" photocopies you did for me from the Border Magazine from March 1950. Great stuff!
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: Catania CWGC cemetery , Sicily

Postby plbramham » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:02 pm

I sent a letter to the Westmorland Gazette (see attached) offering copies of the photos to any relatives and have received request from three family branches of RSM Gardner.
I am involved with the Kendal WW1 centenary exhibition, and gave a speech to a public meeting last week – see pasted below
Paul


Good evening.
To get it out of the way, sorry about my voice – I’ve had a slight altercation with a surgeon’s scalpel so I hope you can understand my speech!
To begin with, I don’t hold myself up as being an “expert” - just a local history and military history enthusiast- I’ll be happy to chat with you and answer any questions you think I may be able to answer afterwards. To shorten my speech I’ll keep referring you for details to the sheets I’ve produced which the school have pasted onto the entrance panels
When people think of Kendal history they tend to reckon it’s all “Wool and Wainwright”.
Not so, Kendal has a proud military history. Has anyone visited the Border Regiment chapel in Kendal parish church? (It’s at the bottom left hand corner of the church). There was an area of Fellside known as Sebastopol because of veterans living there, and a long gone pub up there (not “The Hyena” which perhaps just a few of you might remember or may have heard of?) This one was a long gone one which was run by a woman who had been a camp follower during the Crimean War. ( Possibly the "Rule" & Square", "The Black Cock". or "Gardeners Arms" )
Also, I expect most of you will remember The Kendal Bowman pub on Highgate? - that was a reference to the town’s archers at the battle of Crecy in 1346.
Anyway what we are here for tonight to talk about is Kendal in the First World War.
To put it into context, it was only about 12 years after the Kendal volunteers had returned from the Boer War - a much forgotten major conflict which deserves a far higher regard in British history, but has been massively overshadowed by the Great War. Those men, and their wives, then saw their sons going off to fight in a new type of war.
It’s often not recognised that there were four types of armies which fought in the First World War and I’ll try to explain how they related to Kendal:
Firstly, THE REGULARS. Often quoted as being the finest best trained army that Britain has ever produced. It is reported that the Germans mistook their rapid rate of rifle fire (Hey you try saying that with my voice! “Rapid rate of rifle fire!”) as being machine guns in 1914. There were Kendal regulars, but they are hard to locate as they may have joined in say 1912, 1908 etc, so unless they were casualties and gave their address as “Kendal”, it is difficult to find their records. A very high proportion of the regulars, “The Old Contemptibles” so-named after the Kaiser’s remark that the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 were a “Contemptible Little Army”, were mostly casualties by 1915.
The second army were THE TERRITORIALS. Perhaps Kendal territorials got away a little lightly as they didn’t go to the Western Front, they went to Burma and India in order to relieve the regulars there so those regulars could return “home” to fight in France. The Kendal territorials were the 4th battalion of the Border Regiment, based at the drill hall in Queen Katherine Street, who were divided in two parts. The 1st /4th battalion went to Burma in 1914 and by December 1914 were fighting tribesmen in the Kachin Hills who perhaps thought they could take advantage of what they considered to be “second level troops” to stage a revolt (perhaps a bit like the Irish in Dublin in 1916 - they thought we were busy at the Somme?) The 2nd/4th battalion initially went to Blackpool where they were apparently watching out for U boats approaching the Barrow channel (how they thought a sentry with a .303 rifle could sink a submarine I don’t know.) They then went on to serve in India throughout the war, and stayed in the sub-continent in 1919 for the Third Afghan War for which they received the silver India General Service Medal. It made it a pretty long war for them though - 1914 to 1920. Apparently they did almost suffer some major casualties as some went into the jungle and ate poisonous berries, resulting in them having to have their stomachs pumped!
The Third, probably the most emotive army was – the KITCHENER VOLUNTEEERS/PALS BATTALIONS. This had the flawed concept of those who volunteered together served together – yes, but of course they also died together! When a Pals battalion went into action and had heavy casualties it had a massive impact on their home community. There is evidence that the Pals battalions aspect was later “watered down” by introducing replacements from other areas to reduce this effect.
There were two main Kendal pals battalions:
1: A company of The 11th Bn the Border Regiment “The Lonsdales”.This was raised by Lord Lonsdale of Lowther Castle, who seemed to regard it as his own private army and as such wanted to design the uniform for them! He picked the colour field grey, until it was pointed out to him that the Germans had already taken up that option! He did however pay for silver cap badges bearing his family crest of a dragon, to be made for all the initial recruits, by Garrards of London – watch for them they are rare and valuable! - but watch for copies they are n hugely copied a faked - an original can fetch £1000.
The Lonsdales had approximately 500 out of 800 men as casualties on the first day of the Somme.
2: However the main volunteer unit for our town, who have become known as “The Kendal Pals”, were the 8th battalion The Border Regiment. They were in action before, but their first major battle was the Somme. They didn’t go “over the top” on the first day -1st July 1916. They went into action on the third day -3rd July 1916, but didn’t have a roll call until the fifth, so many casualties are listed as 3rd to 5th July because their exact date of death is not recorded. They suffered terribly. Obviously they did serve all throughout 1916-1918 on the Western front, but their second major “hit” was during the 1918 German Spring Offensive. Not many people realise but the year for the greatest number of casualties in WW1 was not 1916 on the Somme, or 1917 at Passchendaele, but actually in 1918 when the Germans threw everything at us in a last ditch attempt before the Americans effectively entered the war.
The fourth army were the CONSCRIPTS. By 1916 the initial enthusiasm for the war and the idea that it would be over by Christmas had passed, and for the first time in British history we introduced conscription for all men of military age. (I think that was initially unmarried men aged 19 to mid twenties, but I’ll stand corrected on that figure, anyway it was later extended). This group is actually the ones where most of the Kendal WW1 survivors come from – obviously because they not at war for so long as the earlier volunteers.
Incidentally I have found evidence of underage “boy soldiers” in “The Kendal Pals”. Notably a Milnthorpe lad who came into Kendal to enlist in 1914. Pre-war Thomas Gibson Wilson was the 16 year old chauffeur for Milnthorpe’s doctor – no driving licenses in those days and I guess they thought if he could drive a horse and cart he could drive a car? He died on the 4th November 1916.
By far the highest number of Kendal men served in the Border Regiment, followed by the Royal Army Medical Corps.In no way do I disrespect those who served in other regiments or services by not mentioning them tonight (Again see the sheets on the boards for some of their details), it’s just a fact that the Border Regt and RAMC were massively in the majority in this town, so limited time for my talk reflects that accordingly.
There were some Kendal aviators, indeed one, Sub Lieutenant John Edgar Ruthvens of the Royal Naval Air Service lived at Ashmeadow – just a few hundred yards away from us now– and survived the war. There were also sailors, including one man, Sam Winn , whose family were from Kendal, who died in 1914 at The Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile.
The two main pre- war Kendal units – the 4th Bn Border Regiment territorials and the Lancashire Field Ambulance shared the Queen Katherine School drill hall as their base (see photo on panels.)
( An aside - did you know that the Bagots of Levens Hall provided St John’s with a horse drawn ambulance to send to South Africa for the Boer War?)
The medical corps brings us onto Kendal’s strong Quaker connection. Of course because of their religious beliefs they were pacifists but did contribute significantly to the war effort. Actually, opposite the Quaker meeting house, Stramongate School was a WW1 hospital – quite logical when you think about it – just down the road from the railway station (I hate that “Americanism” that has crept into our language “train station”) and opposite the St Johns H.Q.
One Kendal man died serving with the Friends Ambulance Unit, Hugo Harrison Jackson (see panel) attached to the French Army. There was also the famous Quaker arts & crafts furniture maker Hubert Simpson who was a Sergeant in the RAMC.
Connected this of course there was the element of conscientious objectors (again see panels). Each town and community had a Military Board, and in Kendal the chairman was the Mayor. I’ve not been able to establish if these tribunals were held in the Mayor’s Parlour, the council chamber, or – as I strongly suspect, the magistrates court. I believe that four men were sent to prison by the Kendal board for refusing to serve.
There were two Kendal Mayors during the First World War (see panels):
1913-15 Tom Gordon-Thompson lived at Airethwaite, and 1915-19 John John Thomas (yes two “Johns”) of Hawthorn Villas.
(Actually, it’s lucky that Gordon-Thompson took his wife’s maiden name “Gordon”to make it double-barrelled, or we would have had a Tom-Thom, followed by a John-John!)
Of course in those days it was not Kendal TOWN council, it was Kendal BOROUGH Council, who were responsible for schools, libraries, gas, electricity, sewerage, police, fire brigade etc., and, Oh Boy, the First World War established even many more committees for them .
There was the “Hostile Aircraft committee” - they actually believed that Kendal may be bombed by Zeppelins and made the library shut early in winter so that light did not show through the glass roof. The “Finance committee” paid for insurance against bomb damage for public buildings. They had a “Food Control committee” who in 1918 revoked some rationing control so a baker could resume selling crumpets. There was also an “Animal committee” because of an outbreak of anthrax in 1918.
More seriously there were the “Education” and “Health” committees, who in 1918 closed schools (see panels) because of the Spanish Flu outbreak. This pandemic in 1918 and 1919 actually caused more deaths worldwide than the war had done. There are veiled references to Kendal deaths with causes of death stated as pneumonia, bronchitis etc., including an army photographer Albert Edward Wilson (see panel) who died in 1919 and is buried in Parkside Road cemetery. (Why is it so many WW1 people I find are called Wilson? – must be prolific breeders!)
That brings us to the end of the war. As well as the main town memorial there are others such as K Shoes, Gilkes, and Post Office etc.
The town also received what were known as “war trophies” (see panels). Perhaps the best known was a tank which was on Miller field beside the river. (There was also one on what is now the roundabout at Ulverston, still known by older locals as “tank square”, and I have read that there was one at Windermere - all went for scrap in WW2 I understand). I don’t know if it ever arrived, but Kendal was granted a heavy howitzer gun. I have heard that it was in the Market Place and later at Abbot Hall park, but I’ve never seen any photos so cannot confirm it. The museum was given a pair of machine guns and ammunition captured by the Border Regiment, and the Mayor was also given a captured machine gun (perhaps to control unruly councillors!). There is no record of what happened to them but I strongly suspect they went to the Home Guard in WW2.
There are many other aspects, such as women at war, which I will not go into as I suspect that QKS students have been working on them and I do not wish to intrude onto their speeches. As you can tell there is masses of information which I am sure the students will use to provide an excellent exhibition.
A thought has occurred to me, that, in all the enthusiasm for the 100th anniversary of the First World War, it should not overshadow the fact that 2014 is also the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War. Kendal men played a massive role in that conflict also, not least in that almost all Kendal territorials of the 4th battalion The Border Regiment were captured or killed on the Dunkirk rearguard in 1940. After WW2, Kendal Borough Council awarded the Freedom of the town to the regiment, a right exercised by their successors, The Duke of Lancs Regiment by a parade through the town in 2011.
I must stress that the exhibition is not a “Celebration” of the centenary of the First World War, it is a “commemoration” of a historical event which changed Britain forever, and a remembrance of the casualties and victims of war.
Someone once said “If you ignore history, it will happen again”, hence:
We will (and must) remember (all of) them.
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Re: Catania CWGC cemetery , Sicily

Postby hussar1000 » Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:38 pm

A most interesting post, thank you.
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Re: Catania CWGC cemetery , Sicily

Postby kerchi » Sat Nov 16, 2013 10:39 pm

hussar1000 wrote:A most interesting post, thank you.

I second that.

Just finished reading it and noticed some familiar history there, especially the Lonsdales and the 4th Borders, but also some interesting facts I did not previously know about, namely the Bagots of Levens Hall etc., the two Mayors and the Quaker connection.....forgive my ignorance :-\ .....and while I do know about some Kendal Pals stories/connections there is plenty more I could learn regarding that subject.

plbramham wrote:I must stress that the exhibition is not a “Celebration” of the centenary of the First World War, it is a “commemoration” of a historical event which changed Britain forever, and a remembrance of the casualties and victims of war.
Someone once said “If you ignore history, it will happen again”, hence:
We will (and must) remember (all of) them.

Well said :-)

An interesting read Paul.
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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