View Full Version : French records

16th October 2008, 18:02
My uncle, a Bomber Command wireless operator, was KIA and is buried in a village cemetery in France. A 1948 photo shows the graves of French soldiers killed in the 1940 invasion nearby. These graves have long since gone, presumably the soldiers were from other areas and their remains have now been returned there. No-one local can recall the details. Though only peripheral to the BC event, I'd like to know more of the soldiers who, briefly, shared the graveyard with the bomber crew. Some of the names could be read on the photo.

I asked the French Embassy and National Archives, by email, whether there is anything akin to the CWGC site whereby named armed forces war casualties can be traced centrally. Neither gave a meaningful reply, so I'm wondering if anyone here knows of anything in that line?


alain charpentier
17th October 2008, 04:29
Hello ian,
Did you ask to the local town hall of the village ? In their cemetery register they could have a trace of these french soldiers.
You can consult too the "Archives départementales" where you could find some document about the exhumations of the bodies .
In what village of France is buried your uncle ?

Amicalement, Alain.

17th October 2008, 10:07
Hi Alain

Thanks for the reply. The village is Gannes, Oise. I've been there to attend a graveside ceremony but with no time to do anything else. One of the organisers of the ceremony told me that no local records existed, but I don't know enough of the organisation of such things to be able to say whether this would be at communal, departmental or regional level. As I said, knowing more would be of peripheral interest, but not worth spending time researching the intricacies of an unfamiliar (and distant - I live near Edinburgh) system - hence my wondering if a central, i.e. national, searchable database existed.

I would deduce from your reply that the answer to that is "no".


17th October 2008, 12:17
Hi Ian,

what about La Targette cemetery:


17th October 2008, 16:30
Hi Pavel

Thanks. Again, these seem not to be searchable by name. It makes me wonder though, would a soldier from Toulon, say, killed in northern France and buried locally during the war, afterwards be re-interred at a nearby military war cemetery instead of being taken home to Toulon? Of no importance, really - I'd just like to know whose graves the eight in Gannes were. For example, the one closest to the RAF grave was of Jean Thepot - it would be nice to know who he was and where he is now.

I've emailed the prefecture in Beauvais to see if someone there can shed some light, not being in a position to visit administrative offices at various levels of French local government, or specific cemeteries.


17th October 2008, 17:48
Ian and the names of killed French soldiers are readable or you are looking only for grave whcih was re-located from this village?


17th October 2008, 18:26

For the Oise département, it is likely that the graves of these French soldiers were 'concentrated' in Beauvais-Marissel French Military cemetery. By the way, there's a large british plot in this cemetery, with many WW2 RAF and Commonwealth airmen.

Marcel Mavré published a book, "La Guerre 39-45 dans le ciel de l'Oise", sub-title is "500 planes fallen in the département in combat missions".

Page 235 on the book has an entry about the crew of your uncle, I'm extracting some details which you may be don't have. The Lancaster crashed at the called plane "Tournay", situated immediatly east of the railway station. There's the reference of a Gendarmerie report, GEND60E/40P60.
I presume this is a reference from the "Service Historique de la défense - Gendarmerie Nationale" which has now relocated at the Chateau de Vincennes near Paris. 60 is the number for Oise [I'm researching Nord which is 59 and the Pas-de-Calais which is 62, the files I read there are in the 59E and 62E series). So the full reference is 60E40, and must be page 60 in the book (reports were assembled together to form book of 500 pages, and paginated).
Otherwise, this report should be found in the Archives Départementales de l'Oise, in Beauvais.

There is a picture of the crash site on page 185 of the book, credited to the Mairie of Gannes, via G. Van Vynckt, and a picture of the funerals, same credit.

Page 186 show portraits of three airmen : Australians John A. Traill and John W. Van Cooten, and Scot Peter Duff.

I suggest you contact the Mairie of Gannes, if you haven't done it, explaining your relationship, and asking if they have the name of the French soldiers. That would be the first and easiest step to go.

Good luck


18th October 2008, 17:25
Hi Pavel and Joss

Thanks - this is a portmanteau reply.

I have a copy of Marcel's book, it was presented to me when at Gannes on 15 June this year in the company of George Van Cooten, the brother of the Lancaster's Australian bomb aimer making his first visit. I have for some time been in correspondence with Dominique Lecomte from Erquery, near Gannes, mentioned in the book as a source of information. Indeed, I gave him the photo of my uncle which appears there. So I'm very familiar with details of the crash, and have published a short account of it and its aftermath using material from Gannes, the UK national archives and from the families of the other crew members.

Re. the 8 graves, it was Dominique who told me that no records exist in Gannes about precisely what happened. From the 1948 photo the names are variably legible, only one is completely so. Hence my original question about the existence of a central French site equivalent to the CWGC one, where a name will bring up the date of death and place of final burial. In the absence of such a resource, it's not worth spending much time on something of interest rather then of great relevance. I'll see what the departmental archives at Beauvais say, anyway.