CEREMONY SEES THE REDEDICATION OF WORLD WAR TWO HEROES GRAVES
In glorious sunshine earlier this week a simple but moving service was held in Northern Germany that saw the graves of two World War 2 servicemen rededicated 72 years after their deaths.
The rededication ceremony was of a consequence of Tim Wadeson’s 11 years determined and meticulous research to find information on his father, Major Roy Aylmer Wadeson, Royal Engineers, death and place of burial.
It was in April 1944 that Major Roy Aylmer Wadeson and Lieutenant Hugh Mackenzie, 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders escaped from Oflag VIIIF Prisoner of War Camp, in the Sudetenland, then part of the former Czechoslovakia. In a camp full of officers, many of whom were seasoned escapees, an escape committee was formed to increase the chances the chances of success. To achieve this it was decided to send out a small group of specially selected officers who were particularly experienced escapers with excellent language skills to find friendly addresses and safe routes.They were known as “The First Flight”and Major Wadeson and Lieutenant Mackenzie were two of the officers selected to be part of this group.
Little is known about what happened to the two soldiers after their escape or how they met their deaths other than the German’s explanation, some 6 to 8 weeks later, that they were “shot trying to escape.”The remains of the two soldiers were returned to their colleagues and buried at Garrison Cemetery in Brunswick until May 1947 when 10 graves were moved by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and reburied at Hanover War Cemetery. Eight of these graves were identified, and 2 were recorded as containing urns of an unknown Major and unknown Lieutenant.
Picking up the story Tim explained: “I was able to find a lot of information on my father’s death in the War Crimes section at the National Archives following the release of documents in 2005 but very little on where he was buried. However, with the assistance of the CWGC several important documents were discovered which enabled me to eventually identify the unmarked graves of both my father and Hugh Mackenzie in Hanover War Cemetery and this has led to the rededication of their gravestones.”
Representatives from the Army, the MOD, the British Embassy and the general public attended the ceremony at Hanover War Cemetery, with the service performed by Army Chaplain, The Reverend Heather Rendall who said: “It is a privilege to officiate at the rededication of graves for these two remarkably brave men. Their courage and service to our country is an example that should not be forgotten.”Standard bearers also came from many local branches of the Royal British Legion to pay their respects.
Although an obviously emotional and poignant day for Tim he added: “The rededication of my father’s grave brings closure to a journey of discovery of the circumstances of his death and the location of his final resting place. It is fantastic for the family.
Today has been extremely emotive, very moving and having the rededication with full military honours, the Piper and Bugler was just wonderful. It has all been a little overwhelming but I am sure my dad would have been honoured.”
Whilst unable to attend the ceremony in person Lieutenant Mackenzie’s nephew Shaun Keays-Byrne reflecting on the discovery of his uncle’s final resting place
said: “As children, my brother Hugh and I were often told stories about our ‘Uncle Tubby’(Hugh Mackenzie), the young Seaforth Highlander officer who was killed after escaping from a Prisoner of War Camp in 1944. Tubby’s mother and sister, our mother, never knew for certain what became of his remains and we are so pleased that after more than 70 years in an unmarked grave, he is to be given the full military honours and recognition he deserves. We thank Major Wadeson’s son, Tim for his perseverance.”
For Warrant Officer Class 2 Rob Green, of Germany based 35 Engineer Regiment, one of the soldiers representing the Royal Engineers, it was a very special occasion adding: “Not only is it an opportunity for us to remember fallen comrades it is also a great opportunity to play a part in a ceremony that has given the families some closure with them seeing their relatives names inscribed on the gravestones - it is a great thing. I feel quite honoured to have been involved.”
Photographs of the Ceremony at Hanover War Cemetary can be found HERE
All images from cemetery credited to Dominic King Army Press Office, Germany Photographer.