The Men



Service No:
Date of Death:

Grave Reference:

Service No:
Date of Death:
Grave Reference:
Text on stone:

Royal Welch Fusiliers 6th Bn.
I. D. 8.
His life a beautiful memory
his absence a silent grief

Additional Information:
Son of Alfred William and Sarah Hunt.

Born  14-10-1922, St. George Hanover square London. His father was a police officer and the family had two sons. James and his brother Richard were educated at Emmanuel School in Wandsworth, where they were members of the school’s Officer Training Corps. James was captain of the school’s cricket and rugby teams. 
In September 1941 James volenteered for service. He went to Brecon for his basic training course.
By 1944, he was a corporal. He declined the opportunity to become a Field Training Instructor so that he could stay with his unit when it moved to the south of England in preparation for the invasion of Europe. James was his platoon’s Bren gunner.
Killed during the battle of the village of Reusel and initially buried there.

World War Two: How the Welsh language saved soldiers’ lives

  • BBC 5 October 2019

It was 75 years ago that a village church became the scene of one of World War Two’s bloodiest fights.

A battle in which the Welsh language played a key role in helping to save lives.

In Reusel, in the Netherlands, 145 British men, 500 Germans and 21 civilians died.

Commemorative events take place this weekend to remember those who lost their lives, with relatives of Welsh soldiers laying wreaths on Saturday.

Newspaper reports from 1944 described Royal Welch soldiers rushing to the church entrance and getting the better of two German platoons in some of the “grimmest fighting of all”.

But withdrawing them was difficult because German machine guns were trained on the streets outside.

“Rather than risk men in attempts to run the gauntlet of the street, the local commander hit upon a novel device to transmit the orders for withdrawal to the men around the church,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

“He called out the order at the top of his voice in Welsh, a language which he rightly assumed none of the neighbouring Germans would be able understand.

“As a result the troops were successfully withdrawn in twos and threes after nightfall.”

Historian Frank-Peter Van de Goor described how Typhoon and artillery attacks had paved the way for their assault by blowing the church tower and steeple off as they laid siege to the German soldiers inside.

It was the height of the war and for the British forces, the village was part of an important route to Germany, while for the Germans it represented an escape route from the main front.

Penry Thomas’ cousin Jim Hunt, from Newtown, Powys, was killed in the fighting on September 25, 1944.

Mr Thomas, 92, said: “His unit was pinned down in a potato field. Someone shouted, ‘Can Corporal Hunt bring the Bren gun?’

“Someone replied, ‘Corporal Hunt is dead.’ He had been killed.

“He was buried almost in the garden of a farmer.”

He was 22 and his body was later moved to Valkenswaard war cemetery.

In the civilian graveyard at Reusel are seven military graves with three of these men from the fourth battalion Welch Regiment.

One is unidentified but thought to belong Lance Corporal Vernon James John and others belong to Corporal Edward John Sheen and Private Donald Eric Bicknell.

The remaining plots belong to four Royal Welch Fusiliers – Samuel Morris Price, Fusilier William Drayner, Corporal Frederick Murdock and Lance Sergeant Herbert Hughes.

Virginia Miller is the niece of Corporal Sheen and was eight when her uncle, from Butetown, Cardiff, was killed aged 28.

Until 1999 he lay in a grave marked “Known unto God” but has since been identified by remains from his dog tag.

Ms Miller, 82, from Cardiff, recalled his commanding officer wrote to her grandmother to tell her of his death before she had received official notification.

“In the letter my grandmother received it said he had gone forward to try and root out a sniper but did not succeed,” she said.

Following the battle, Reusel remained a ghost town from 28 September until 23 October 1944, despite being liberated by the Royal Welch on 3 October.

Much of the infrastructure had to be rebuilt in the badly damaged village.

The 75th anniversary of the battle will be commemorated this weekend with the families of soldiers in Reusel cemetery due to lay wreaths at the graves.

Colonel Nicholas Lock, deputy commander 160th Infantry Brigade will be representing the military.

He said the period was a key passage of the war, with Welsh soldiers helping to lay a platform for an assault into Germany and clear supply routes.

“For the Dutch people, to be liberated after four years of occupation, they were delighted to see the Welsh soldiers,” he added.

“Every year children put flowers on graves and truly value the Welsh contribution to giving freedom.

“They recognise and say ‘freedom isn’t free’.”

Col Lock is visiting Reusel and a number of other Dutch towns where there were significant battles in September 1944.