Monday, February 5, 1945
Died on active service
Roll of Honour:
Marine David Williams drowned during operations at the River Maas.
On February 5th 1945 a raid was planned across the River Maas to snatch a German prisoner from behind the German lines. Bad weather forced the mission to be abandoned but a collapsible canvas boat used was left behind on the far bank.
The boat was ordered to be retrieved and Mne's. David Williams, Kenneth Ratcliff [more....], Charles Brandon [more....], were sent across the river to do so.
On the way back, the boat capsized, and three marines were swept down the cold waters of the Maas – here 650ft wide – by the strong current. Wearing combat boots, battle dress and leather jerkins, the three men struggled – Williams especially as he could not swim – and eventually drowned. The bodies of Mnes Charles Brandon and Kenneth Ratcliff were subsequently washed up downstream and buried, while Williams’ corpse was eventually recovered from the water and laid to rest in a shallow grave by the river.
And there the body of 21-year-old Marine David Williams remained for 65 years, until in 2010, work was conducted on the site and the marine’s remains uncovered, plus his boots, gaiters and a small brown Bakelite Roman Catholic cross. This prompted a 5 year investigation to discover his identity, by tracing his family, so he could finally be interred alongside comrades from the Corps in the village of Waspik, 50 miles south of Amsterdam.*
DNA testing was needed to identify the body – made trickier by the fact that Williams was given up for adoption shortly after birth. Eventually, the marine’s half-sister was located in Colwyn Bay. Now 72 and unaware she had a half-brother – their mother had never spoken of him – she was confirmed as a relative thanks to DNA testing earlier this year and attended his funeral service.
On the 9th June 2016 present-day Royal Marines acted as bearers of Mne Williams’ coffin, a Royal Marines bugler sounded The Last Post and Reveille, and a party from the Dutch marines fired volleys in salute of the fallen green beret.
Copy of a Royal Navy News report 9th June 2016
* Originally commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
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