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Some corner of a foreign field. A conundrum- Can you help?
In the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Botley, Oxford, there is the grave of single Greek soldier. To the best of my knowledge this is the only Greek soldier buried in the U.K. (There are Greek sailors buried elsewhere in the U.K.)
The headstone bears a name in Greek script as follows:
which is translates as: T. Lagos
gives further details in English are :-
18th October 1944
followed by further Greek script which translates as:-
'The whole Earth is the grave for distinguished men'.
I, and a number of the London based Greek military attaches have, over a number of years, tried to find out more about Private Lagos - but without success to date. We can find no additional information about him amongst the cemetery records, the C.W.G.C. records, or Greek military records. If you have any knowledge, or suggestions, then please use the link on the home page to contact me and help us find out more about this man.
The C.W.G.C. cemetery at Botley is a regional R.A.F. cemetery and contains the mortal remains of many Commonwealth airman as well a number of allied airman who came to serve with the R.A.F.
Perhaps more relevant in respect of Private Lagos is the fact that there are many graves of servicemen there who were not connected with the R.A.F. There are a small number of Italian graves, probably connected to the fact that there was an Italian P.O.W. camp nearby in WW2. There are also German graves and it is thought that these may be of servicemen who failed to survive injuries that were treated in temporary hospitals that had been set up in Oxford during both world wars. My best bet at the moment is that Private Lagos may have had some severe head injury that required treatment at one of the specialist local hospitals. Another suggestion is that he may have been a Greek living abroad, perhaps in the U.S., and who served with a non-Greek force.
As is the case of Allied servicemen's graves in Greece, the grave of Private Lagos is well tended by the C.W.G.C cemetery staff. He is remembered every Remembrance Sunday by his own countrymen and others.
New information 19th November 2010. Some detail at last!
Following my visit to Private Lagos' grave in the C.W.W.G. cemetery at North Hinksey, Oxford last Sunday, I decided to try and get a letter into the Oxford Mail asking for any information that might be out there amongst its readers. I had an email from a lady within hours of publication and that led, today, to contact with the Oxfordshire office of the Registrar of Deaths. Now, having sufficient information to locate his record, I learned that he had died of war wounds (head) in St Hughes College Oxford. A copy of the certificate is on its way to me and should contain a little more information. Meanwhile some research on St Hughes revealed a fascinating wartime history as a specialist hospital for neurological wounds with 300 beds, through which some 13,000 head injury patients passed. Although St Hughes has all the medical records of it's patients some have yet to be catalogued and it looks as though Private Lagos is amongst that tranche. What we have learned about St Hughes, and the care of brain injured soldiers, is that a medical facility, the Mobile Neurological Surgical Unit came into being through Brigadier, Sir Hugh Cairns, KBE,DM,FRCS, then professor of surgery at Oxford. These Units (MNSUs) were located near front lines. No5 MNSU was commissioned in 1942 and joined the 1st Army in Tunisia and was part of the left arm of the pincer movement that drove the Axis out of Africa. Later they went to Italy and in May 1944 treated many head wounds from the Battle of Monte Casino. Having guessed many years ago that Private Lagos may have been interred at North Hinksey because of a fatal head wound, I'm inclined to think that he may have come to the attention of No 5 MNSU as their actions appears to have been closest to Greece. Between the Military Hospital for Head Injuries at St Hughes, and the MNSUs, knowledge of brain injury and its treatment increased dramatically. There had been no such provisions for the First World War but this Second World War work provided solid foundations for the speciality, and the work is still relevant today.
Sources and Acknowledgments. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (The evolution of field neurosurgery in the British Army) Peter H Schurr.
BBC WW2 People's War Article A1145387 11th August 2003 Deborah Quare.
Update 23rd November 2010.
My friend Theodore Kitsos, now back in Greece, has written :-
"If I combine the date (Oct 44) and what you mentioned about Monte Casino casualties, I may guess, that he had been in the 3rd GR Brigade, that fought the Battle of Rimini in Italy, mid Sep 44, under the Canadian Army Corp."
He has also started enquiries related to Private Lagos' service number