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scottwhyte

A Canadian buried in Flanders

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I am trying to solve a mystery and could use some advice from experienced members. Here is the problem: Cecil Bertram Whyte, a Canadian serving with the Royal Scots was seconded to the RFC in late 1917. He trained as an observer, was posted to 98 squadron RAF. On May 3, 1918 he and his pilot Richard Halliday were shot down. Lt. Whyte is commemorated on the Arras flying services memorial... But I discovered that his name and the serial number of his aircraft are recorded in the records of Jasta 2. The record is specific: he was shot down at 1410 hours, May 3 1918 by Lt Karl Bolle near Frezenberg, Belgium. On this date this location was behind German lines and remained so until September. The detail of the report and the aircraft serial number makes me think the bodies were recovered by german forces. I assume that the bodies would have been buried nearby. Does anyone know how these burials were handled by german forces, how or if they would have been recorded? I assume that there are perhaps three possibilities...burial at the site, burial in an existing civilian cemetary or burial in a designated military cemetary, either german or specifically for other than german servicemen.

Does anyone think that specific german units on the ground might have recorded burials in unit diaries? I have a few ideas of how to proceed but no idea of what might be possible or work. I know that german casualties were consolidated in 3 large cemetaries in the area but I assume that allied burials mixed in would have been sent elsewhere. Any ideas or leads would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Scott Whyte

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Scott,

According to his records on the ICRC database, various enquiries were made up to September 1918, but all were negative.

Phil

Edit: Enquiries into Halliday continued well into 1919, but again, negative.

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Some of the regimental histories that I have will sometimes record particular events involving downed aircraft and the recovery of pilots. For many German units this is all that remains because the war diaries were later destroyed during the second world war. Records for units from, for example, Württemberg and Bavaria did survive the war because they were not maintained in Berlin.

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Hello,

In which files of Jasta 2 was this found? As far as I know, no archives are left from Jasta 2. The problem with german flying units is that Göring had the great idea to write an official history of the air war in WWI and removed all flying units archives from the German Reichsarchiv (and other military archives). The files were lost during the war...

When I check the excellent work by Trevor Henshaw (The Sky Their Battlefield II), the Bolle claim is unconfirmed and uncertain. The air fight was over Menen-Geluwe and the plane was seen crashing down over Geluwe. To make it to Frezenberg is quite some way still...

This makes it a very large area to search for all unknown airmen graves. Menen (Ram Wood) German Cemetery is a possibily. Two unknown British airmen (probably buried around late April 1918) were exhumed there after the war and taken to Harlebeke New British Cemetery.

If the airmen (Whyte and Holiday) were buried by the Germans, they would have normally buried them in a (German) military cemetery in the area. A lot of the nidentified British remains on German cemeteries in this area (Geluwe-Menen) were taken to Harelbeke after the war. However, the Germans had a shortage of manpower to properly bury the dead and gather them in cemeteries behind the front, so quite a few airmen were buried on the spot by the Germans.

Jan

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ID: 5   Posted (edited)

The correct name of the pilot is HOLIDAY, RICHARD ALAN:

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/783876/HOLIDAY,%20RICHARD%20ALAN

There is a website with transcripts of the RAF/RFC casualty details:

http://www.airhistory.org.uk/rfc/people_index.html

Here you will find various information on both men and what happened that day.

This the most relevant description:

"missing [C6101 DH9] Last seen over Gheluwe turning vertically on its side and sideslipping down with smoke emanating then breaking in pieces at 4000ft with observer falling out. Lt RA Holiday missing/Lt CB Whyte missing"

I did find a few airplane crew buried together in the area of Gheluwe and the graves were still in the field after the war. Others were relocated to German cemeteries but this was earlier in the war. This confirms what AOK4 is saying.

The field graves were moved to Dadizele and Duhallow cemeteries, the ones which were buried in German cemeteries are now at Hooge crater or Harlebeke.

Regards,

Luc.

Edited by LDT006

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In which files of Jasta 2 was this found? As far as I know, no archives are left from Jasta 2.

Jan,

there is a lot of information (which also mentions this plane and casualties) here:

http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?p=274947&sid=a28464b504d55ad6b64a166ba6bc1b1f

But I don't know if this comes from the files you are mentioning.

Regards,

Luc.

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Many thanks to all of you...this is helpful. I doubt I will ever find Cecil's grave but I know more now and have some corrections as well. The Jasta 2 information came from a website which Luc mentioned. I have no idea where they got the information or if it is accurate.

I traveled part of the western front by bicycle a decade ago when I knew almost nothing about Cecil other than his name. Since then I have learned a lot. I even had the good fortune to find his wartime diaries in an archive in Canada. It is a facinating read. As a thankyou to all of you, you may enjoy reading this firsthand account of flying training and fighting in WW1, so here is the link : http://www.rafjever.org/98sqnper004.htm

Regards,

Scott

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Thank you Scott,

I have just finished reading Cecil's diary and as you say, it is a fascinating read. It not only shows the tedium of the training etc, but is a great insight into the man himself.

Phil

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I know these posts are two years old but don't write off finding the grave.  My cousin, Robert Smith Bennie, was a Canadian pilot with the RFC killed on June 5, 1917 in this area and a Belgian man,  Decuypere and his wife,  Mieke just identified him after 100 years. in a grave near their home of Geluwe in Belgium.  As stated above, it was common for the Germans to bury any casualty regardless of the side they were on in a German military cemetery and these were moved from the one near Geluwe to one near Langemark in 1956 where they remained unidentified until Dirk's wonderful work. 

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