Read the latest on Anniversaries, events, and what is happening to the Website.
This page is to:-
Mark Anniversaries that are special to the Brigade.
We have just marked the 75th Anniversary of the German Invasion of Belgium, France and the Low Countries in May 1940. Only a small number of Brigade Veterans of those dark days survive - almost all of them men who endured five years of captivity in Poland and Germany after seeing their comrades overwhelmed by Panzer forces, closely supported by aircraft . The villagers of FOSSEUX in Northern France made their own arrangements, alongside their commemoration of VE Day, to honour Private William THOMSON of the 11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, who died of his wounds, sustained while seeking cover from an approaching enemy column just outside the village, on 21st May 1940. Private THOMSON, who came from Deptford in Sunderland, is the only casualty buried in the village Cemetery and attempts were made, sadly without result so far, to trace any of his surviving relatives so they could be invited to the ceremonies in the village, the population of which have helped to care for his grave.
It is very pleasing to note that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission featured the dedication of the "Popielow Graves" as its lead news item on 7th August 2014. The 70th Brigade researchers played a significant role in assisting with the identification, especially of Trooper Henry Alexander THOMSON M.M. as the second casualty of the shooting on 21st July 1944, and in supporting the family's research in respect of L/Cpl John Thomas Saunders, who can be found on the manpower list of 1st Tyneside Scottish. The dedication of the two headstones took place on the morning of 21st August 2014, organised by the Ministry of Defence and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, in the presence of both family and Regimental representatives. Local newspapers featured the event and the background stories.
At the end of June, and on 1st July 2015 we mark the 71st Anniversary of the engagements in Normandy in 1944 in which so many men of the Brigade were wounded, and a large number lost their lives.
This period culminated in the key battle for the Defence of RAURAY in which the 70th Infantry Brigade distinguished itself, earning a formal Battle Honour and inflicting heavy casualties on the German armoured forces in what proved to be their last major attempt to halt the Allied advance in that part of Normandy - a struggle documented in detail in Kevin Baverstock's book "Breaking the Panzers", and described in the Brigade and Battalion War Diaries of the period. These can be accessed from the "List of Units" link towards the top of the Main Page.
During the rest of July and August 1944 the Brigade was involved in a series of tough engagements which again resulted in heavy casualties - on both sides, and maintained the considerable pressure on the Axis Forces.
At the end of August 1944 the 70th Infantry Brigade, as the junior Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Division, was one of the units disbanded in order to provide reinforcements for others. Considerable efforts were made to try and ensure that the men were kept in Company Groups and transferred with their own Officers, either to the DLI Battalions of 151 Brigade (the "parent" of 70th Brigade), other Battalions of the Black Watch - in the case of the 1st Tyneside Scottish, or back to parent units - such as the South Wales Borderers, from where men had transferred in as casualty replacements. Details can be found in the Battalion War Diaries.
Report new information as it is received.
With great regret we learned, via Dr Tom Renouf M.M., of the recent death of Captain Brian Thomas Webster STEWART of Broich, Crieff, the last surviving Officer from 1st Tyneside Scottish. Captain Stewart's Memorial Page can be found here. We offer our very sincere condolences to his family and are grateful that we had the opportunity to interview Captain Stewart at his home, and record his experiences. This added considerably to our knowledge of the Battalion in 1943-1944.
Sadly, we also had to report the recent death of one of the Brigade's most stalwart Veterans, Mr Eric Jones, who's Website page can be found here Eric was enthusiastic about the research work and rang up every two or three months for an update on progress. He was one of the many Brigade members captured in May 1940 - serving five years in Thorn PoW Camp - and was willing to describe his experiences in telephone interviews, for which we were most grateful. His cheerful interest will be greatly missed.
As a result of receiving an image from the son of a former member of the Battalion we now have a copy of a photograph of an 11th DLI Group of around 200 men - although the actual date it was taken is uncertain, it would have been between July 1943 and June 1944. If anyone can recognise the location in the picture which can be found here, or knows of any of the men featured, do please let me know by clicking here.
It has been a major boost over recent months to meet and talk to more former members of the Brigade and to include them in the, sadly short, list of surviving Veterans. One or two have already contributed formal interviews to the records held by the Imperial War Museum, and links to those are included on their Website pages. They have been supplied with copies of the relevant Battalion War Diary as an aide memoire. A recent meeting took place at the DLI Museum with a Veteran of 1st Tyneside Scottish and his family, which was a real privilege and pleasure. I also interviewed a local 10th DLI Veteran and was given a detailed account of the training of Young Soldiers at the Infantry Training Centre, Brancepeth, and the School of Infantry at Barnard Castle - the latter being the subject of articles in the Northern Echo in 2012. The list of known surviving Brigade Group Veterans now totals 17, and it is hoped more will be discovered.
Much more information has now been traced, thanks to the excellent members of the Rootsweb Mariners forum, on the death at sea of Captain Arthur William Lamason LAWN. He served briefly in both 10th and 11th Battalions of the DLI, including service in Iceland, and died when the ship (SS Port Hunter) carrying him back to Wellington to rejoin the New Zealand Forces was torpedoed by a GNAT from the German Submarine U-582 west of Madeira, and sank very quickly when her munitions cargo exploded. All but three on board were lost. The New Zealand Military Archives came up trumps by sending me a complete copy of his Service Record, including his earlier career in the TA in the NZ Forces.
The same Web Forum was of material assistance in tracking down, and making copies available of relevant ships' documents, on the tragic death at sea of L/Cpl George JOHNSON, 10th DLI, while en route to Iceland. He is buried at the Fossvogur Cemetery in Reykjavik and a photograph of his headstone - which we took on our research trip to Iceland, is now on his Website Page. The unstinting assistance of the "Mariners' Forum" is gratefully acknowledged.
Keep users up to date on Website changes.
A major update to the lists of men who served in the Brigade, adding several hundred names, was completed a year ago and has already helped family history researchers to track down servicemen they were seeking. Work has just been completed to ensure that the "old" information has been deleted, as many individual "pages" have been replaced with newer versions containing more comprehensive information. If Website users come across the remains of any "old" pages, please let the lead researcher know at email@example.com so that they can be deleted to avoid confusion and duplication. Thanks are due to Effective Internet Ltd for dealing with this anomaly left over from the update process.
The use of the Website is now being regularly monitored, using Google Analytics, and this gives a very useful indication of the scale of access by the public.
Record the work being done to improve and enhance the information held.
Some family photographs have been recently uploaded and annotated - though there are more to process.
Work has been completed on documenting the material on the Brigade's Officers held at the Durham County Record Office, and the help and support of the staff there is gratefully acknowledged. The contents of the McGregor Card Index of DLI Officers has now been reviewed in full and extracts made of information in respect of Officers who served with the Brigade. This includes "family" as well as military information. The collected information has been added to the project databases and amendments made to the individual Website pages for these men, with relevant links being provided where other Websites can add to our knowledge of these Officers. It is hoped to find similar material on the Black Watch Officers who served in 1st Tyneside Scottish, but the relevant reference material is proving elusive! It is hoped that the Black Watch Museum in Perth may be able to help in due course.
The exercise threw up a score or so of names where men had been commissioned from the ranks, and work will now be done, again in the County Archives, to trace their former service and add that detail to their records.
I have now completed adding the information we traced during our two visits to the Royal Logistics Corps Museum at Deepcut Barracks about the Brigade transferees to the Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Pioneer Corps, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the Army Catering Corps to both their individual Website pages and the Project databases. The unstinting help of the Curator, and his predecessor Andy Robertshaw, and Archivist Gareth Mears is very gratefully and sincerely acknowledged. The fact that their set of Royal Pioneer Corps Enlistment Books had been digitised made that task much easier. While we could not trace all the men we sought we were aware that some records had been lost in the past.
During this exercise we discovered that one RPC soldier - Private Hugh GRANT, formerly of the DLI, had died in service on 6th January 1943 and is buried at Gateshead East Cemetery. Until we researched the RPC Books, we were unaware of this casualty. No mention of his death is made in the DLI records, as by then he had left the Regiment, and this is not, of itself, unusual. We try very hard to ensure that all post-70th Brigade casualties are properly recorded and honoured. Many of those men who transferred to other Battalions of the DLI, and the Black Watch, or to other Regiments, when the Brigade was disbanded in late August 1944 lost their lives in the subsequent fighting in Normandy and the Netherlands. In addition some of the hundreds of men who were captured in May 1940 died, or were killed, in enemy custody.
Similar updates to the databases and the Website Pages have been made in respect of the data collected at the Royal Military Police, Royal Corps of Signals and Royal Engineers Museums and, again, the enthusiastic support of Curators and Archivists is most gratefully acknowledged.
A visit to The Keep Military Museum at Winchester to consult the recently discovered Enlistment Books for the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiments closed a significant gap in the records of several hundred men - especially those serving in 11th DLI at the time of disbandment. The assistance of their staff is also gratefully acknowledged.
A sizeable "outstanding" pile of Regimental and personal information is the the course of being processed. The data on 1st Tyneside Scottish Officers has been reviewed and enhanced, using a combination of research on Ancestry.co.uk and The London Gazette, as well as routine searches for the relevant name - this has produced information on several Officers who had notable post-War Careers.
Work has just been completed to process the War Diary of the 187th Field Ambulance and the 507th Field Company, Royal Engineers. I have now moved on to document the 508th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers and will move on to the Artillery units.
Queries and information from users of the Website should continue to be sent to the Lead Researcher - preferably by e-mail - by clicking here.