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Messages posted by: Jack Bakker
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Hi Mark,

Perhaps you already know and have seen it as well, but here is a link to a photograph of the headstone of your great uncle Harold on the Bergen op Zoom war cemetery. I live close by so if you would like me to pay a visit for any occasion, just let me know.

Regards,

Jack

http://www.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/v/Commando+War+Graves+Memorials+and+Plaques/graves/War+graves+Holland/bergen+op+zoom/47rm/plank+hh++47rm.jpg.html
Hi Mark,

I had a good look at the badges the men wear on their berets and quite honestly I don't think they are Marines but more likely men from the Tank Regiment. The badge of the Tank Regiment has the WW1 model tank in the middle of it which shows as some sort of a bar in the badge, if you know what I mean. Besides that, the sergeant on the left is wearing what looks like a coverall which was the type of clothing they used inside a tank as far as I know. When you compare the badge they wear with the badge shown on the caps of the three Marines on the other photo you have posted, then the difference is clear to see I think.

Regards,

Jack
JB,

Reading the text in the second page you downloaded, it says that untill 1944 there was a "mat gouden", which is perhaps best translated as "shaded gold" badge on the caps of officers from the rank of Colonel and above. After 1944 there was a gold embroided lion on a black background. Luitenant-colonels and Majors had a shaded golden lion. It also says that until 1944, officers, Warrant Officers First Class and Sub-luitenants had a bronze lion. Ranks below that of WO1 had a yellow coper lion.

It's hard to say if the lion on the beret you have is yellow copper or shade gold. I don't know the difference between the both. As it is a bit shiny, you could think it might be yellow copper.
Hi JB,

To my knowledge there was no difference between an officers badge and other ranks, but I'll try to find out if I am right or not.

Jack
Hi JB,

With great interest I saw your picture of the green beret from No 2 Dutch Troop. Is there perhaps a name written in the inside of the beret which might link it to the owner? Could be interesting to know for our Dutch Commando museum.

Cheers,

Jack
With the approval of Julia and Nigel I have started a search for the people who are the photo at Joseph's graveside. One of things in that search was contacting local history groups. I am in contact with one of them and they will look into it and let me know if and when they find something. An other thing was contacting a newspaper which is deliverd for free at nearly every house in Bergen op Zoom, where Joseph was killed and buried. The people on the photo might well be the family were he was billeted. So if that newspaper comes to every house, it might well be possible that family of the people on the photo see the photo and start calling. An article with the photo was publised on Wednesday.

I made contact with a regional newspaper. An article, in which is the same photo as well as a photo of the headstone of Joseph, was publiced yesterday in the region around Bergen op Zoom and today in the region around Roosendaal.

Today I received an email from a man in Bergen op Zoom. Not with information on the people on the photo, but with information about the cemetery, which I think might be useful for this site as well. He said that:

The present cemeteries, so both the Canadian and the British, were developed in midst 1945. He gave an example of a crew member of a Lancaster bomber which crashed near the village of Lepelstraat. He was initially buried near Lepelstraat, but was reinterred on the Canadian cemetery on 6th June 1945.

On old photos of the cemetery there were white crosses on the graves, which were later replaced with headstones by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The grave of Joseph has a white cross.

The trees and bushes which are in the background of the photo might very well indicate that the photo was taken on the cemetery of Bergen op Zoom, as there are still trees and bushes there now.

Military casualties were, around the time that Joseph was killed, buried on one of the cemeteries which are there now.

So I think it's fair to say that the photo was made on the present War Cemetery in Bergen op Zoom. The search will continue!
Pete,

As you have already contacted the CWGC before, wouldn't it be an idea that you do so again? It prevents that they get the same question about the graves several times from several different people. Besides that, I guess that you exactly know whom to contact on this matter. But if you are too busy with other things, I am more than willing to contact the CWGC. I just have to know whom to contact.

Regards,

Jack
Bill,

Thanks for your information on the fact that Joseph Ball was not buried at Biervliet. I already thought so as on the photos are no other graves to be seen. It could well be that the soldier on the photo is Dutch. Something to find out.

Thanks for your advice of contacting the CWGC. If they are able to provide information about were the original grave was, than they can perhaps also provide information on the location of the original graves in Holland that are on the photos that were recently posted by Pete.

I have sent an email to a local history group but they didn't know anything about the burial site. They gave me a contact with an other group; perhaps that they know something about it. I will also get in touch with the town archive of Bergen op Zoom to find out if they know something.
Last week I put a small wooden cross sent to me by Bill Harvey on the grave of Joseph Ball. The photos I made of it were sent to Julia, the sister of Nigel. As Nigel had written in a post that he only had a picture of the grave of Joseph with a Dutch family standing by it, I asked for this photo to be send to me as I was thinking that the family could well be the family where Joseph was billeted. My idea, which has been approved by Julia an Nigel, is to send it to the local newspaper in Bergen op Zoom asking them to publish it with the question if there are people who know the family. With any luck this might be succesful and than it will perhaps also be known who the sergeant is. To be honest I am a bit in doubt if he is a Commando as I do not recognize the badges on his sleeve as being commando. But I could be wrong there.

I am also trying to find out where the photo was taken. Presuming that my information is correct the Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery wasn't opened until 1969. Which I think is a bit late but then again it takes some time to arrange and develop a cemetery I suppose. As Bill said in an earlier message, the men killed during the Walcheren operation were initially buried at a place called Biervliet and later re-buried at Bergen op Zoom. So was the photo taken at Biervliet? If so, then were are the other graves? There aren't any. Looking at the photo you will notice a lot of trees and bushes. The cemetery at Bergen op Zoom is surrounded with them, so it could be taken there. Was Joseph perhaps one of the first, if not the first to be buried there? All things to find out! I'll keep you all posted.
Very good to put the interviews on the site! I totally agree with Geoff: brilliant! And it has been very wise to put their stories to tape as they are slowely but surely fading away....

I have listened to the interviews and what struck me was that none of the men I listened to bragged about their experiences. The opposite is true: they are all very humble. When I heard the voice of Vic Ralph I was sure that he must have been a very nice man. With some of them (mainly the Londeners; sorry about that!) I thought it was a pity that there weren't any subtitles.... But that is entirely my shortcoming of course!

All were convinced that they did a job that had to be done and that they did it in the best way they could. All along the line of: let's get on with it and get this thing sorted. Harry Winch even said that he didn't like the Army but that it had to be done.

They were also men who had and kept their own mind and their own opinions, no matter how hard the training and operations were. Independant minds; I like that!

All the interviews make clear that they were all very proud of being in the Commandos. They wouldn't have missed it for the world! When I compare all this with my own unit I can truly and happyly say: nothing has changed! It is good to know that their spirit has not faded but has been kept and is being passed on.
Hi Peter,

I read your discription of the scene and recognized it at once. I hope... Could it be the scene which is in the link? On the film the man on the right puts his fighting knife between his teeth. This photo is on page 122 in the book The Fighting Fourth by Jimmy Dunning. The caption says: TSM Bill Portman, MM (left), supervises the priming of Mills (36) grenades on the open deck of the Maid of Orleans on the evening of D-1.

I hope I am right...

Regards,

Jack

http://www.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/v/units/4/4+Cdo+Bill+PORTMAN.jpg.html
Bill,

I just sent you an pm back with my address. Thanks for sending the cross.

Yesterday I have sent an email to a lady of the Commenwealth War Graves Commission with the question where I can get the crosses overhere. As soon as I do have an answer I will let you all know.
Thanks Bill!
I live perhaps a 10 minutes drive from the Bergen op Zoom cemetery. It will therefore be no problem at all for me to visit Joseph Ball's grave or any other Commando grave or graves for that matter. If any of the relatives of the Commandos buried there would wish me to do so, please let me know.

I am not in the possession of the wooden crosses which are normaly used. Perhaps someone could let me know where I could get these overhere? Otherwise I will ask at the cemetery where I could get them.
I am sorry, but I don't know his name. He was one of the members attending the AGM, so perhaps Geoff or Fred might know his name or anyone else who was there as well.
 
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