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Early WW2 casualty - is 17th September 1939 a record?

Discussion in 'Military records' started by Bob Spiers, Feb 14, 2021.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    In this Forum I expect not. However whilst helping a fellow researcher confirm the death date for his ancestor (and incidentally the spouse of one of mine) I came across an actual death date of 17th September 1939. The UK WGC confirms he died whilst serving on HMS Courageous on that date and is remembered on a plaque in the 'Naval Memorials (UK) -Plymouth'. The Memorial named his parents and the district of where they lived in Birmingham, which clinched the fact we had the right person.

    War was declared on 3rd September 1939 so how unfortunate to be a casualty of war 14 days later? We read a lot about those who died within hours, minutes of a war ending (especially WW1) but I think 14 days into the start of one (and I thought it would have taken a week or more to get going) is most unfortunate to say the least.

    Edit: HMS Courageous was a British Aircraft carrier which sank after being torpedoed by U-29 off the SW coast of Ireland on 17th September 1939. 518 men were lost, as were all Fairey Swordish aircraft of 811 & 822 Naval Air Squadrons. (There is also a Wikipedia article on the sinking).
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2021
  2. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    It is an interesting one - the start of World War II was known as the Phoney War - as nothing really seemed to be happening between the attack on Poland in Sep 1939 and April 1940.

    perhaps it was just on land that fighting hadn't started.
     
  3. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Apparently the first British Army fatal casualty of WW2 was Cpl William T.W.Priday who died 9th December 1939 (Kings Shropshire Light Infantry) aged 27. The Report of his death reads:

    "First casualties (1 killed, 4 wounded) of 3rd Infantry Brigade on the SAAR* Front. Caused when a patrol leader lost his way in the dark and walked into one of the booby traps laid by other units. The ambush party unfortunately fired into the ensuing melee".

    (Although others died in the British Expeditionary Force prior to Dec 1939 none had been in action facing the enemy. As such Cpl Pride became the first British Army battle casualty of WW2. He is buried at Luttange Communal Cemetery")

    *French ground invasion of Saarland, Germany during the early stages of WW2.
     
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