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Canadian units involved in liberation of Stalag VI-C

December 15 2016 at 10:13 PM
Simon Veness 

I am researching a biography of Deane Yates, who, I believe, fought with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in 1944/45. He was a British motor-cycle rider with an artillery brigade seconded to the Canadian division from D-Day. I believe his unit was then part of the Polish 1st Armoured Division that liberated the Stalag VI-C prison camp (full of female Polish prisoners from the Warsaw Uprising) on April 12, 1945.

I am urgently trying to find any records or details of Yates and his unit from that period and would be enormously grateful for any help in pointing me in the right direction. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at simonveness@yahoo.co.uk.

 
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AuthorReply
Michael Dorosh

Units

December 16 2016, 10:51 AM 

The details of the unit you provide seem murky, it would be unusual for any British unit to be attached to both the 3rd Canadian Division and the 1st Polish Armoured Division. Both these divisions served as part of II Canadian Corps, and there were British artillery units at the corps level.

"Motorcycle rider" could describe a number of things, such as a Despatch Rider which is what usually comes to mind when hearing of someone on a motorcycle. But all officers in the Commonwealth forces were required to qualify as a motorcyclist, and thus could be a liaison officer.

Have you received a copy of his service file yet? That would be the place to start.

 
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John Sliz

Re: Units

December 16 2016, 3:20 PM 

I agree with Michael, especially when you mentioned the words, `Artillery Brigade' because I've studied the 3rd CID and an artillery brigade was not part of the division in NW Europe. Perhaps you mean regiment maybe?

 
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SimonVeness

Re: Units

December 17 2016, 7:27 AM 

Many thanks, John, Please see my response to Michael and if that helps to clarify. Again, I am working with rather scratchy info here, hence I am rather groping towards any clarification.

 
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Simon

One more clue!

December 17 2016, 10:53 AM 

I've just come across another reference to him as a Forward Observation Officer. I've also found a reference to a D Yates, 2nd lieutenant Royal Artillery, at around the same time. Would that make sense, in terms of being a motor-cycle rider?

 
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SimonVeness

United, follow-up

December 17 2016, 7:25 AM 

Hi Michael - many thanks for your input. Here's the active statement I have from an interview transcript that points in this direction:

"I was called up in August 1941, and was then in the Canadian Army, 1943. That was some years later. My whole regiment, or my whole brigade of artillery, was transferred to the Canadian Army because they were very short of artillery. We were designed for the invasion of Sicily, but they reckoned they could do without us, and quite rightly, thank God. And we waited to invade Normandy."

If he was a motorcycle rider, would he have been an artillery spotter, or something like that?

Here's the other active statement:

"The end of World War II, our last assignment was to liberate a concentration camp of inmates from the Polish Warsaw Rising. Now, the Polish Warsaw Rising was November ’44, and the world peace came in May ’45, so they hadn’t got enough time to starve the life out of them, but they had been living on turnips and that sort of thing, you know. And it was a hell of a … And we were part of the… The Polish Armoured Division was part of the Canadian Army like ourselves. And we were assigned in support of the Polish Armored Division, which spearheaded through to the relief of those concentration camps."

While he says 'concentration camps,' I'm pretty sure it was the Oberlangen complex, VI-C, which was more a prison camp (which may just be bandying semantics) but off the Red Cross radar at that time.

I haven't thought to chase up his service file - is that something anyone can do, and how would you go about it?


 
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Dan Martel

First Canadian Army

December 17 2016, 7:44 AM 

Simon,

I think the issue is that your relative has been saying 'Canadian Army' to refer to the First Canadian Army. From your response I would conclude that he served during the war with the British Army in a formation (what you refer to as a Brigade) that was under command of the First Canadian Army (FCA). It doesn't look like he served in the Canadian Army itself.

Artillery formations were known as AGRA's or Army Group Royal Artillery. There were two Canadian AGRA's each of which contained British Royal Artillery units. There was also at least one British AGRA assigned to the First Canadian Army for the duration of the campaign in NW Europe. Unfortunately I don't have access to a Battle Order for the FCA at the moment so I can't give you the details of the units which served within it.

Your best next move is to search for the FCA battle order, identify the British AGRA serving with it, and go from there. Just a warning however; an AGRA had several thousand soldiers serving within so you'll need to search through each units war diary or Part II Orders to find out where your relative served. These should be available through the Imperial War Museum.

Good Luck.

Cheers,
Dan.

 
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SimonVeness

Re: First Canadian Army

December 17 2016, 8:37 AM 

That's really helpful, Dan, many thanks. I'll start searching for the FCA battle order and see what I can find. happy.gif

 
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Simon

Battle Order

December 17 2016, 9:53 AM 

From what I can see online the First Canadian Army Order of Battle was as follows:

Royal Canadian Artillery
• No. 1 Army Group, R.C.A.(1st Cdn AGRA)
• 11th Army Field Regiment
• 1st Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
• 2nd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
• 5th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
• 56th Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery (from Mar 1945)
• No. 2 Army Group, R.C.A.(2nd Cdn AGRA)
• 19th Army Field Regiment
• 3rd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
• 4th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
• 7th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
• 10th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
• 15th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, (disb Dec 44)
• 1st Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery
• 2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Mobile)
• 1st Rocket Battery
• 1st Radar Battery

From that, it looks like the 2 most likely RA brigades involved were the 10th Medium Regiment and 1st Heavy Regiment. Is that how you would read it??

 
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Dan Martel

Units vs Formations

December 17 2016, 10:52 AM 

Simon,

Good find. What you have is the Order of Battle for the two Canadian AGRA's (there were only two) which shows the units making up each formation. The regiments and batteries are the units. When two or more units are combined under a headquarters you have a formation. The Royal Artillery regiments within each AGRA are units.

Units are designated as such when they are formed and have a Commanding Officer in command. A formation has either a Commander (if a Colonel or Brigadier) or a General Officer Commanding (Major General or above) in command.

AGRA's were commanded by Brigadiers and, when trying to describe them to members of other armed forces, are sometimes referred to as artillery brigades. The term artillery brigade was not one used by the British and Canadian armies.

There was a British Army AGRA under command of the First Canadian Army. That's the formation for which you are looking. Search for Royal Artillery AGRA's in NW Europe.

Cheers,
Dan.











 
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Simon

Re: Units v Formations

December 17 2016, 11:08 AM 

OK, thanks again, Dan. If I'm understanding this correctly, my man (who I've found listed elsewhere in some of his interview documents as a Forward Observation Officer, possibly a 2nd lieutenant) would have thought of himself as being part of the Canadian Army in this instance. But how would he have ended up on the charge to Oberlangen (Stalag VI-c) with the 1st Polish Armoured Division (if that's what happened)??

 
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Dan Martel

Research

December 17 2016, 11:53 AM 

But how would he have ended up on the charge to Oberlangen (Stalag VI-c) with the 1st Polish Armoured Division (if that's what happened)??

Beats me.

You have a lot of research ahead of you, and by research I mean looking through primary documents, not just searching on t'net. Someone has already suggested you obtain his service record, which will probably contain the answers to every question you have. Searching for a British soldier's record I'd start with the archives at Kew (but I don't know the specifics of how you would go about it).

I've always found the fun is in the journey. Researching at our National Archives is my idea of a good time.

Good luck.

Cheers,
Dan.

 
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Simon

Thanks!

December 17 2016, 12:22 PM 

Will do, Dan. Thanks again.

 
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