Date of Death Discrepancy

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by diehard57, Oct 2, 2005.

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  1. I've recently been trawling through the Soldiers Died in the Great War listing for the 1/7th Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment (thanks Blackcat) and see that over a hundred soldiers are listed as killed in action on 16th September 1916. In the regimental history of the battalion it states the battalion fought in the battle of Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September 1916) on the Somme and had over 350 casualties whilst trying to capture Leuze and Bouleaux Woods with the 56th London Division. Those killed were lost on the first day of the battle - the 15th - so why are most listed as KIA on the 16th? Can anybody throw any light on this?
  2. The most likely reason is someone hit the wrong key when typing this in. To find out which one is correct, double check a couple of names against the CWG list at
    Their database is pretty accurate.
  3. Thanks for the tip.

    I checked about 10 names on the CWGC list and they are all listed with their date of death as 16th September 1916 as well - can't really understand why.
  4. I wonder if the dates were just taken from the regiments war diaries and they were taken down with the wrong date, fog of war etc?
  5. This from records of 56 Lon. One supposes that if objective was to push through woods, they will have gained a foothold on 15th but enemy reinforced and battle was harder on 16th. Other possibility was that initial attack was repulsed and, in accord with tactics of that era, someone said "Send in many more troops (to die)"
  6. I might be able to shed a little light on the date discrepancy. About three years ago my wife found out that she had had an uncle who had died in April 1918 of wounds received near Ypres. He was in the Durham Light Infantry. In August we were on holiday in Scotland on decided to stop off in Durham to have a look in the Cathedral as we had heard that there was a memorial to the DLI there. There is, and it is quite remarkable. We found that there is a Book of Remembrance, opened at the page for the day, which lists all the DLI men who had died on that day, in whatever year. On talking to a verger, he kindly opened up the glass case that the Book is in, and turned it to the date of the Old Soldiers death. He was not there. On looking further, we found him entered a couple of days out of place. The verger was not in the least bit surprised, and he told us that very many deaths were incorrectly recorded a day or two out. He added that relatives often found that dates did not match. Given the incredible casualty rates perhaps it is none too surprising. Last year we travelled to France and found the Old Soldiers grave in one of the cemetries. it was a beautiful moment, but tragic to see so many men from the DLI with deaths around the same date. Clearly there must have been one heck of a battle in that area at the time. Given that the cemetry was near the site of a field hospital, about 30 miles behind the front line, all those men must have been those who were considered to have a chance of survival.
  7. It could also be a function of the original reporting. Maybe the returns for 15th Sep weren't completed until the 16th. They may have had other things on their minds.

    There are other errors of this sort. E.g. One of the well known actions in ther 1st Battle of Ypres is the attack by the Germans on 11 Nov at Nonnenbuch, and the counter attack by the Ox & Bucks counter attack which took German prisoners, including an officer who is surprised to find there are no British reserves. The Divisional returns don't show ANY prisoners captured on 11 Nov, but one officer and 30 for 12Nov.
  8. Thanks for the replies guys.

    I fully understand that confirming date of death in the First World War was an immense task however on a trip to the Somme earlier this year in June (Walking the Somme with Leger Holidays - thoroughly recommended) we saw many graves listed as KIA 1st Jul 1916 (the first day of the Somme) and many 15th Sep 1916 for members of London units that assaulted High Wood.

    The 1/1st Londons went over the top at 06.20 and took the first objectives before becoming pinned down. A runner was sent back requesting reinforcements and at 08.20 the 1/7th Middlesex were committed, passing through the Londons they got no further than 10 yards more before enfilade fire decimated the battalion. Later on the 1/8 Middlesex were also thrown into battle although they could not push any further forward. The survivors waited till nightfall before consolidating the line and the wounded were able to be evacuated.

    Surely the battalion nominal role would have been taken following the battle and those not answering their names would be listed as 'Missing'. Later when the body was found (or not) they would have been listed as KIA. Following the first attack on the 15th, the 1/7th Middlesex, now down to less than company strength were replaced by the London Scottish for the second attack on Leuze/Bouleaux Woods on the 18th September and were not subsequently committed. When the Graves Registration Units collected the 1/7th fallen from the battlefield they must have been able to establish they were killed on the first day of the battle and not the second.

    Still a bit of a puzzler, :?
  9. maninblack

    maninblack LE Book Reviewer

    In a situation where a unit is spread over an area with isolated outposts temporarily cut off, no ability to install field telephones and coupled with the high casulaty rates amongst junior officers it is understandable that a unit may take a few hours to work out where sections are, whoo is in charge and who is alive.

    In my own family we had a relative posted as KIA at the Dardanelles in 1916 who survived to die in France in 1917.

    That grave took somefinding, I can assure you; I was looking on the wrong continent and a year out.
  10. OK -but who compiled the report? What date were the returns filed? These were hand written reports from units in combat. It wasn't unknown for Battalion HQ to become casualties or provide officers at short notice for other tasks. Unless someone in the unit kept a personaldiary its unlikely that this puzzle can be unravelled.