John MOONEY 1918/19 – 1945

4457971 Private John Mooney, 1st Battalion the Tyneside Scottish, Black Watch [Royal Highlanders] died 16 April 1945 aged 26.  He is buried at Durnbach War Cemetery, Bavaria, Germany,[1] commemorated on West Auckland War Memorial and the Church Lads Brigade memorial, St. Helen’s Church, St. Helen’s Auckland, Bishop Auckland.

Family Details

John Mooney was born 1918/19, his birth being registered at Auckland. [2] It is highly likely that he was the son of James [3] and Jane [nee Kerr] Mooney who were married in 1918.[4]  There was at least one other son born to this couple, Robert born September 1920.[5]  James Mooney’s death is registered in 1925 when he was aged 27.[6]  His widow Jane remarried.  The marriage of Jane Mooney and Albert E. Gilbey is registered in 1932.[7] In 1939, Jane and Albert Gilbey lived at 130 Front Street, West Auckland where Albert worked as a coal miner [waggonway man] and served in the Special War Reserve Police force.  Jane’s employment was recorded as “unpaid domestic duties” like most other women of the day.  Her son Robert Mooney worked as a general labourer.  John Mooney was not registered as living there.  There were another 3 people living in the household but their records are “officially closed”. [8]  The Auckland Chronicle reported that the Gilbey’s of Front Street were John Mooney’s parents.[9]

Service Details

The service record of Private John Mooney has not been researched.  The DLI Territorial Battalions raised second line battalions numbered 10th, 11th and 12th Battalions and these came under the orders of the 70th Infantry Brigade of the 23rd [Northumbrian] Division.  The 12th Battalion was given the identity of a Tyneside Scottish unit and on 31 January 1940, it was named 1st Battalion, Tyneside Scottish of the Black Watch [Royal Highland Regiment]. [10] It wore the badges of the Black Watch aimed at continuing the tradition of the Tyneside Scottish battalions raised during World War One.  John Mooney’s grandfather John [11] was born in Dundee, Scotland and perhaps this was his connection with the Tyneside Scottish.  It would have been expected for him to join his local territorial force, the 6/DLI or its second line the 10/DLI rather than 8/DLI or 12/DLI.

Between October 1939 and April 1940, training took place at Gateshead and then 24 April 1940, the brigade as part of the British Expeditionary Force [BEF] landed in France.  The battalion was sent to the Arras area.  Many of the soldiers were not fully trained and were involved with building an aerodrome at Beavoir.

17 May 1940:  The Tyneside Scottish was directed eastwards to defend a forward defence line on the Canal Du Nord between Ruyalcourt and Cambrai-Bapaume.

19 May: C Company was at Bertincourt and directed north towards Hendecourt, Saulty and Neuville.

20 May: The leading company was ambushed by German forces at Ficheux about 3 miles south of Arras.  The rear company was trapped in Neuville where Panzer tank units set alight many buildings with tracer and incendiary shells.  There was also an armoured interception at Mercatel which cut into 2 companies of 10/DLI and more Tyneside Scottish.  The area being attacked was on the extreme right flank of the BEF.  The units had no artillery support or communication equipment and were lightly armed with First World War Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles, a few bren guns and anti-tank weapons.  They faced a fast moving armoured force backed up by Stuka dive-bombers – heavily out-gunned.  Nevertheless, they managed to hold up the elite German Panzer units for 5 hours, time which proved invaluable for the defence of Calais and the movement north of British troops.  The brigade suffered badly and was reduced to 233 officers and men, 140 men of the Tyneside Scottish were killed and over 500 were taken prisoner, one of whom was Private J. Mooney.  It is presumed that he was captured near Ficheux.[12]

It is known that 4457971 Private J. Mooney was given the POW number 15946 and was held at Stalag 344, Lambinowice, Poland, [13] otherwise known as Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf.  Approximately 100,000 prisoners from many Allied countries passed through the camp.  In 1943, the Lamsdorf camp was split up and POWs transferred to Stalag VIII-C Sagan and Stalag VIII-D Teschen and the base camp at Lamsdorf was renumbered Stalag 344.  There were more than 700 subsidiary working parties outside the main camp [Arbeitskommandos].

January 1945: as the Soviet armies advanced into Germany, many prisoners were marched westwards in groups of 200-300 on the so called “Death March”.  Some died from the bitter cold, starvation and exhaustion.  Some got far enough west to be liberated by the American army.

17 March 1945: The Soviet Army reached the Lamsdorf camp.  Rather than repatriate the Allied POWs immediately, the Russians held them for several more months until they were released towards the end of 1945. [14]

16 April 1945: Private J. Mooney died but the circumstances of his death remain unknown due to lack of research.  Red Cross records would need to be examined.  Since, he was initially buried in Regensburg, Germany rather than Lambinowice, Poland, it is assumed that he took part in the Death March and succumbed to the hardship of the ordeal.

Burial [15]

Private John Mooney is buried at grave reference 3.A.15, Durnbach War Cemetery having been re-interred from Mariaort Churchyard, Regensburg [16] in September 1947.  The cemetery contains 2934 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, most of them are airmen shot down over Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Austria, Hessen and Thuringia and brought in from their scattered graves sites.  The remainder are men who were killed while escaping from POW camps in the same area or who died towards the end of the war on forced marches from the camps elsewhere.

Church Lads Brigade Memorial, St. Helen’s church


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.409 1919Q1 Auckland

[3] 1901 census, James was with his mother Mary Mooney and his grandparents at the Square, St. Helens & 1911 census, James was with his parents John & Mary Mooney at Oates Yard, St. Helens.

[4] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.228 1918Q4 Hartlepool

[5] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.476 1920Q4 Auckland & 1939 England & Wales Register

[6] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.311 1925Q1 Auckland

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.383 1932 Q1 Auckland

[8] 1939 England & Wales Register



[11] 1911 census

[12] “John Thomas Saunders: A Seventy Year Search for a Bishop Auckland Soldier’s Grave” 2014 Tom Hutchison p.8 & 9

[13] UK British Prisoners of War 1939-1945


[15] CWGC

[16] Regensburg is to the south east of Nuremburg and north east of Munich