A few wet days after a splendid sunny summer has returned me to my desk and to pass the time I have been looking at and scanning a few more negatives from the Putman Archive.
This photograph taken on 23rd October 1947 in Walton cemetery intrigued me. The negative was catalogued under the name Polzelbauer which I discovered was probably an Austrian surname and I can only assume that this was the name of the lady in the photo.
Reading the names on the grave markers it was obvious that these were the resting places of German airmen and sailors killed during WWII.
I immediately turned to Geoff Rayner’s excellent book “Seaside Front Line” which lists all events and incidents at Frinton, Walton, Kirby and Great Holland from 1939 to 1945. Sadly I could not find anything relevant around the dates on the grave markers.
My next move was to send a copy of the photograph to Geoff for his opinion. True to form I soon received a reply which I copy below:
“I see an interesting challenge in that photo! The dates are probably unlikely to tie-up with dates in my book as I imagine these are bodies washed up on the beach or collected by the lifeboat and they could have been in the water for weeks or months. One name that I would have expected to have seen there was Fritz Kessler, the pilot of the Fw190 brought down just off Frinton on 30 May 43. His body was brought to the pier by the lifeboat the same day. Perhaps he was on a different grave marker just out of shot.”
The next day this truly comprehensive follow-up from Geoff landed on my desk:
“All except Seaman R Kurschnet were relocated to the German Military Cemetery at Cannock. Maybe that’s the link with the lady – a visit prior to transferring him back to Germany/Austria? She might be a sister, an aunt or maybe his mother (hard to tell her age) who had re-married.
The remaining three in that left hand grave are in adjacent graves at Cannock: all in plot 5 row 7, nos 147, 148 & 149.
From the right hand grave, Thomaschewski is also in plot 5 row 7, and in grave 145. Maybe the ‘unknown’ person is in 146? Unfortunately Baumann is a common name and no first name is listed on the grave marker. At Cannock there is a Walter Baumann (died 4 Feb 43, aged 22) in plot 5, row 5, grave 120. So, close to the others but not with them. The date might be significant though – see below.
I imagine there might be another grave marker just out of shot to the right containing the Fritz Kessler (30.5.43) I mentioned earlier. I wonder why he wasn’t popped in the same grave as Baumann as that has only three in it but there are four in the other grave.
Hornatschek 29 Oct 40. (Heinrich) An Me109 fighter pilot shot down by RAF fighters in the Thames Estuary on 30 Sep 40 during the Battle of Britain.
Kuhn 30 Oct 40. (Alfred) One of the crew of a Ju88 bomber targeting London and shot down by RAF fighters on 27 Sep 40 during the Battle of Britain. The other three crew members are listed as ‘missing’.
Salomo 31 Oct 40. (Alfred August) One of the crew of a Do17 bomber which failed to return from a raid on 30 Sep 40 during the Battle of Britain. The rest of his crew are reported as ‘missing’.
Kurschnet 16 Mar 42. No information found, but see comments above about possible repatriation.
Thomaschewski 30 Apr 42. (Johann) German Navy. At Cannock date of death is given as 25 Jan 42.
Baumann (4 Mar 43). Possibly ‘Walter’ whose date of death at Cannock is recorded as 4 Feb 43 (age 22). This may tie in to an incident in my book for the evening of 4 Feb where an aircraft was seen to come down in the sea between Frinton and Holland. The following morning the Coastguards reported the same location for an aircraft and a German dinghy was found off Frinton. I think it unlikely that the date on the grave marker would be incorrect, although of course it is possible, so it means he was in the water for some time – maybe trapped in the wreckage then popped free four weeks later. Things should be clearer when/if I identify the aircraft involved in the 4 Feb incident and check the crew names.
Unknown. (18 Mar 43). No information, but maybe from the same aircraft as Baumann.”
I was not even aware that there was a German Cemetery at Cannock Chase, but soon found a lot of details online. This is a photo of the site
I am recording the names of the fallen Germans here as with today’s Internet and the ability to search the Web so easily, maybe one day a relative will discover the photos and find comfort in knowing that the Brits at that time gave the dead men a decent burial.