Canadian units involved in liberation of Stalag VI-CDecember 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
|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.
|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?
|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.
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?
|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?
First Canadian Army
|December 17 2016, 7:44 AM |
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.
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.
|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??
Units vs Formations
|December 17 2016, 10:52 AM |
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.
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)??
|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)??
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.
|December 17 2016, 12:22 PM |
Will do, Dan. Thanks again.
Canadian II Corps/!st Polish Armoured/RA connection
|February 3 2018, 4:51 PM |
Hello again Dan
After a l-o-n-g and painstaking piece of research over the last 12 months I think I am closing in on this conundrum, but I'm still casting around for any direct corroboration of the incident in question. With help from his relatives, I have been able to ascertain that 2nd Lt Yates was with the 109th HAA Regiment of the RA, and his regiment worked in ground support of various elements of Canadian II Corps during 1944/45 (especially '45). The regimental War Diary gives us a good steer in general terms but is completely blank for the period April 17-25, when it seems the incident in question took place. We have been able to rule out Oberlangen/Niederlangen as the concentration/PoW camp he mentions, but we are now focusing on the possibility of it being one of the other Emsland camps just to the north (near Papenburg), which means it could be Neulehe or Aschendorfermoor, or another even smaller camp nearby. The regiment was working in support of 2nd Canadian Div from Jan 2 to Apr 25, hence the link to the 1st Polish Div. Would you happen to know of any other (Canadian) sources that might be able to zero in on this incident with this extra info?
Thanks again, Simon
107 Anti-Aircraft Brigade
|February 4 2018, 1:31 PM |
The only reference I could find to 109 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA, was in Brian Reid's No Holding Back on page 380, which shows it as a unit of 107 Anti-Aircraft Brigade, RA, during the Normandy fighting. I would tend to think it was a part of this brigade all the way through to VE Day.
What I don't know was whether an anti-aircraft brigade was an Army asset (First Canadian Army or British Second Army) or an Army Group asset (21st Army Group).
In all likelihood, your questions will probably receive a better response from a British artillery forum, as you're asking about a British gunner in a British regiment.
But if you have any questions, ask away. Always ready to help.
Re: 107 Anti-Aircraft Brigade
|February 6 2018, 8:51 AM |
Thanks for your continued follow-up. We have found one additional reference to the 109th in Daniel Byers' article on Operation Canada -http://scholars.wlu.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1249&context=cmh
- on P40, which shows the regiment joining 5th Canadian Armoured Division in the assault on Delfzijl. The 109th's own War Diary records the regiment being "under operational control of 5 AGRA" on Jan 1, 1945; "under command 106 AA Bde and 3 AGRA" on Feb 5; and then taking part in Operation Veritable under 30 Corps. On Feb 19, the diary says they were under operational control of 2 Canadian AGRA and then, on Mar 6, under operational control of 43 Division. Six days later they were under command 106 AA Brigade before taking part in Operation Plunder. Then things get confused or, rather, VERY sketchily detailed, for the period from Mar 27 to Apr 25, with things seemingly incredibly fluid and fast-moving. From all this, we surmise that the 109th was very much a Canadian asset, and that they were moved around frequently as and where needed in the Canadian field of operations.
Sadly, the RA's own records and resources are not great (the website is terribly thin for usable info and their main archives are "in transit" to their new base in Salisbury) and we haven't found any other on-point resources, although Terry Copp, Dan Byers and Doug Jacobson have all weighed in with what little they know of the situation in this area.
As you can see, we are continuing to dig, and we are slowly closing in on Aschendorfermoor as the likely PoW/concentration camp in question as it most accurately fits the location and c.Apr 20 date, but we still can't be certain at the moment.
If you know of any other forums, RA or otherwise, that we might get help from, please feel free to say.
|February 6 2018, 9:28 PM |
Worth trying ww2talk.com, probably in Unit History/RA. Some knowledgeable researchers there who might have info or pointers.
|February 9 2018, 8:28 AM |
Will do, Kevin, many thanks. We've also discovered another forum - the Axis History Forum - which may also have some WW2 cognoscenti on as well, so we'll cast our net as wide as possible
|February 6 2018, 5:15 PM |
Thanks for continuing the conversation on this, very interesting reading.