Chester Chronicle 1st May 1943 – Soldier’s Death In Africa. – Mrs BURKE, 9, King’s Road, Connah’s Quay, has received a telegram that her husband, a driver in the Royal Artillery, has died in North Africa. Pte. BURKE, was 23 and the son of Mr. & Mrs. BURKE, Flint. He joined the Army two years last October and was home for Christmas. Last week his wife received a letter from hi stating he was well. He leaves a wife and two children.
James is in the Royal Artillery Attestation Register for 1940 which shows his number and the date he died but no other information, sadly.
What we do know is that he is named on a Casualty Form as having died of wounds on the 12th April 1943, the only one of the 4 servicemen in the Royal Artillery who is reported having died on that day.
The “Deaths 1939 -46 (Entry Form)” tells us that he was born and resided in Flint, again, no other clue.
The website http://nigelef.tripod.com/regtsumm.htm#fdregt gives some details of the 172 Field Regt. Not very explicit though, but might help build a picture of his war service.
Although James was buried at MEDJEZ-EL-BAB WAR CEMETERY, from the Concentration List on CWGC. – List No. 7 – Sheet 6 of 41. James was one of 10 servicemen who were re-buried on the 27th July 1944 concentrated from BEJA TOWN CEM (Tunisia) – Date of Despatch of preceding List:- 9th September 1944). I wonder if that was where he died.
Beja is a town at the junction of three highways; 96 kilometres from Tunis, 150 kilometres from Souk Ahras and 76 kilometres from Tabarka. Beja War Cemetery lies just outside the northern limits of the town.
In May 1943, the war in North Africa came to an end in Tunisia with the defeat of the Axis powers by a combined Allied force. The campaign began on 8 November 1942, when Commonwealth and American troops made a series of landings in Algeria and Morocco. The Germans responded immediately by sending a force from Sicily to northern Tunisia, which checked the Allied advance east in early December. In the south, the Axis forces defeated at El Alamein withdrew into Tunisia along the coast through Libya, pursued by the Allied Eighth Army. By mid April 1943, the combined Axis force was hemmed into a small corner of north-eastern Tunisia and the Allies were grouped for their final offensive. Medjez-el-Bab was at the limit of the Allied advance in December 1942 and remained on the front line until the decisive Allied advances of April and May 1943
Beja was just behind the limit of the advance that winter. Beja War Cemetery contains 396 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 87 of them unidentified.
Any help on James’s family and earlier life would be much appreciated, so we can tell his story and he won’t be forgotten.