Taranto

Military Monday – Allen Simpson (1923-1943)

Allen Simpson is my 1st cousin 1x removed.  In other words he is my dad’s cousin.  Our common ancestors are James Dawson and Emma Buckley, my great grandparents.

Allen was born sometime in Q3 of 1923 in Keighley, West Yorkshire to parents Alfred Simpson and Annie Dawson.

As far as I can tell from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website Allen served as a Private in The Parachute Regiment, AAC.  He was assigned to the 6th (10th Bn. The Royal Welch Fusiliers) Battalion – see this in Wikipedia.  His service number was 4868547.

Allen would have been involved in the Allied invasion of Italy at the beginning of September 1943.

Allen’s date of death is given as 10 September 1943.  And although I haven’t been able to prove this conclusively I believe he died during Operation Slapstick.  This was the code name for a British landing from the sea at the Italian port of Taranto.

The only casualties in the landing occurred on 10 September when HMS Abdiel, while maneuvering alongside the dock, struck a mine and sank.  There were 58 killed and 154 wounded from Allen’s battalion and 48 from the Abdiel’s crew.

I haven’t been able to find a list of casualties from the Welch Fusiliers but I found this Special Forces Roll of Honour which lists Allen as a casualty of the sinking of HMS Abdiel in Taranto Harbour.

Allen is buried in Bari War Cemetery in Italy – his grave reference is II.B.24.  Incidentally his name is recorded as Allen in the GRO birth records and as Alan on the CWGC website.

The following information is from the CWGC.

The site of Bari War Cemetery was chosen in November 1943.  There was no serious fighting in the vicinity of the town, which was the Army Group headquarters during the early stages of the Italian campaign, but it continued to be an important supply base and hospital centre, with the 98th General Hospital stationed there from October 1943 until the end of the war.  At various times, six other general hospitals were stationed at Trani and Barletta, about 48 km away.

Besides garrison and hospital burials, the cemetery contains graves brought in from a wide area of south-eastern Italy, from the ‘heel’ right up to the ‘spur’.  Here too are buried men who died in two disastrous explosions in the harbour at Bari, when ammunition ships exploded in December 1943 (during a German air raid) and April 1945.

Bari War Cemetery contains 2,128 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 170 of them unidentified.  There are also some non war burials and war graves of other nationalities.

The cemetery also contains 85 First World War burials, brought in from Brindisi Communal Cemetery in 1981.  Most of these burials are of officers and men of the Adriatic drifter fleet which had close associations with Brindisi during the First World War.

Here’s the certificate that you can obtain from the CWGC website.