In an earlier post I gave a lengthy description, based on a variety of sources, of the accidental death on 16th July 1945 of Keneric (also spelled Kenerick) Wilson, Private number 14802005, B Company, 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters. This was during a 2″ mortar exercise at Balsdean, in the centre of the South Downs Training Area, Block3. The mortar appears to have hit a tree just 12 feet away, killing Wilson and wounding 3 others. The 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters, recently stationed near Canterbury, Kent, was part of the 184 Brigade – part of the 61st Light Division – since June 1945, and were training in preparation for being shipped out to Burma to fight the Japanese. Wilson was 33 years old, had been a smallholder, and had lived at Flixton, Scarborough. He left behind a wife and child.
What surprised me was the lack of detail in the battalion war diary’s record of the event:
One O.R killed and 3 O.Rs wounded in an accident during ‘B’ Coy 2″ mortar field firing exercise in Southdown Trg Area.
171 Field Ambulance was supposed to have supplied an ambulance for the exercise, and I located their war diary at The National Record Office. Unfortunately they did not record the provision of this ambulance, yet alone any information about this incident.
After sorting out some confusion between the 183rd, 184th and 185th Infantry Brigades (see comments below), I also found their June and July 1945 war diaries. They were the brigade in charge of the 1 Foresters from June of that year. They chronicle the setting up of their new HQ near Canterbury, and the reconnaissance of training areas.
13th June Bde Comd [Brigade Commander] visited SOUTH DOWNS training area.
21st June BMs [Brigade Majors] conference on training areas.
On the 8th of July the first of the 4 companies of 1 Bn Sherwood Foresters set out for the the South Downs Training Area, and started the first of their 3 days training on the 9th July. It is interesting to note that the 184 Infantry Brigade recorded:
10th July Bde I.O. [Brigade Inspection Officer] visited SOUTH DOWNS.
11th July Conference of Bde reps on SOUTH DOWNS to revise safety precautions
Was this routine, or was there an issue that needed addressing? The War Diary was silent on the matter.
Five days later Private Wilson was dead. Perhaps I was naive to expect to find any more information. I should by now have realised there was a war on.