Tributes paid to a St Albans World War Two sergeant who was executed by the Nazis on an SAS mission
- Credit: Archant
Tributes have been paid to a St Albans special sergeant who was executed by Nazi soldiers during the Second World War.
A former SAS solider and anonymous author, writing under the pseudonym Ex-Lance-Corporal X, invited Frank Guest of Leyland Avenue in St Albans to a memorial for his uncle.
Ex-Lance-Corporal X discovered the brave acts of SAS Sgt Frank Ernest Terry-Hall while researching a book called The SAS and LRDG Roll of Honour.
It is a three-volume text about the role of the SAS in Eastern France, for which the author visited nearly every SAS soldier's grave.
He found out that in 1944, Sgt Terry-Hall and 15 fellow paratroopers landed in Vosges to sabotage the Nazis' road and rail communications as part of Operation Loyton.
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However, a very large contingent of German troops were tipped off the SAS were nearby, and believing it was a larger group than it was, brought in sniffer dogs for the search.
Although the French resistance offered food and shelter, and refused to divulge the hiding places of the SAS group, the British soldiers were eventually rounded up and held prisoner at Maison Barthélémy in Moussey.
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According to The Telegraph, some 140 people living in Moussey were arrested by the Nazis because they sheltered the British soldiers.
On September 20, eight men in Sgt Terry-Hall's paratrooper stick were driven in a lorry into the woods at Les Moitresses, stripped of their uniforms and made to stand in a freshly dug grave.
They were then shot in the back of the head, falling on top of the naked bodies of their comrades.
This execution was against the Geneva Convention, which specified that prisoners of war should be protected from acts of violence.
German soldiers did not abide by this because Führer Adolf Hitler had decreed that special forces were an exception.
The last words of James Black, the final man shot in Sgt Terry-Hall's group, are thought to be: "I am a soldier."
These crimes were revealed after the war ended - the bodies were moved to Durnbach War Cemetery in Germany and all those involved in the atrocity were brought to justice. Details did not come into the public domain until many years later.
Ex-Lance-Corporal X said: "Thirteen years ago I answered a call to lay wreaths on a small group of wartime graves at one of the more inaccessible locations covered by this Roll of Honour.
"The headstones of the casualties concerned revealed that they had lost their lives after the fighting had moved on, although it was soon apparent that no one seemed to know why - their stories had simply been lost over the intervening years, initial research revealing that this was true of the majority of Second World War SAS casualties.
"Although no historian, my interest had been piqued and I set about verifying or establishing facts by interviewing as many veterans as I could."
The author contacted Sgt Terry-Hall's relatives - including his nephew Frank - to visit Sgt Terry-Hall's memorial.
A coach took around 75 relatives to two memorial sites, where there was an address in English and French, a rendition of the Last Post, a performance of the two national anthems and a two minutes silence.
The group then visited various other sites of interest, including the Maison Barthélémy, the paratrooping drop zone, existing monuments, and where Sgt Terry-Hall and two others were captured.
Frank said: "The whole event was very well organised, and it was extremely moving and emotional standing on the same ground that my uncle and his men had stood 75 years ago in the service of their country.
"It showed the bravery of the SAS men, the loyalty of the French and the inhumanity of the German SS troops and their commanders."