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April 28, 2005


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It's a Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.

Found by putting the 'tirana' in as a cemetary search at www.cwgc.org.

"Following the end of the war in Europe, an Army Graves Registration Unit entered Albania with the task of concentrating the remains of Commonwealth Servicemen, lost in the struggle to secure Albania freedom, into a site chosen in the capital, Tirana. However, due to the political situation in the country, this task could not be completed, though 52 sets of remains were recovered in the short time available. Eventually, in 1955, after repeated requests to enter the country were refused, the Commission took the decision to commemorate the 38 identified casualties on special memorials erected in Phaleron War Cemetery in Greece. This situation remained thus until 1994, when a change in the political situation in Albania allowed a Commission representative access for the first time. He discovered that the original individual burials had been moved by the Communist authorities to an unmarked collective grave located under a path near the university buildings in Tirana. At the beginning of 1995, the 38 special memorials were removed from Phaleron and re-erected as close as possible to the site of the mass grave, in an area designated the Tirana Park Memorial Cemetery. In 1998, following a study of the Graves Registration unit files, it was possible for the Commission's records staff to confirm the identities of a further seven casualties previously buried in Tirana War Cemetery as unknowns."

Doug Muir


That is fantastic. Thank you.

So my guess was right... headstones from 1955, but the memorial just ten years old.

And the "original individual burials had been moved by the Communist authorities to an unmarked collective grave located under a path near the university buildings".

Bastards. I imagined that they'd moved it up to some secluded spot in the mountains (which Albania has plenty of), or behind the municipal rubbish tip even. But they just dumped them in an unmarked mass grave...

Those were their /allies/. I don't even care to think what they did with the Germans.

...huh. I wonder how the Commission found the unmarked mass grave? Nearly 50 years later, did someone remember? I wonder who.

There must be quite a story, there, somewhere.

Doug M.

Doug Muir

That site also has a photograph of the cemetery. That's exactly how it looks, all right, except that there's a little gate across the front now.

The site also has listings for the dead soldiers. Most of them are very brief -- name, date of birth, regiment, next of kin -- but a few give more detail. For instance:

The following details are given in the London Gazette of 1st March 1946 : "Awarded the George Cross for most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner." Brigadier Nicholls parachuted into Albania in October 1943 as General Staff Officer to the Allied Military Mission which organised resistance activities. The Mission was attacked and broken up by the Germans in December and from then on Brigadier Nicholls lived as a fugitive in the open mountains in freezing weather. He continued leading the remnants of the Mission but was suffering from frostbite so severely that he ordered an inexperienced man to amputate both his legs without anaesthetic. He was pulled over the mountains lying upon his greatcoat by two members of his party. He was determined to reach a British Mission to make his report upon which the course of the war in Albania would depend. He succeeded in this but had gone beyond the limits of endurance and died from gangrene and heart failure.

He was 33.

Lot of Special Ops fellows, which makes sense. A couple of air crews. Several Australians, too. Two NCOs who were just 19 years old.

And one Chaplain 4th class -- the Reverend Gareth Bernard, age 32, son of the Revd. Edgar Banting and Charlotte Emily Banting, of Plumtree Rectory, Nottingham. M.A. (Cantab.).

A Cambridge man, who came a long way from Plumtree Rectory.

Doug M.


The Deutsche Kriegsgrberfürsorge (German War Graves Society) says that the German war site will be officially opened on July 9, 2005. This comes two years after it was originally planned to happen.

There were about 3600 German soldiers killed in Albania, about 1800 are known by name. They are buried in 173 different graveyards all over Albania.

The German War Graves Society could only become active in 1994, when the so-called War Graves Treaty was finalized. Before then... well, you can guess.


That is fantastic. Thank you.

No problem. I know about www.cwgc.org from my mother's interest in genealogy, and it seemed like a good first place to look.

Those were their /allies/. I don't even care to think what they did with the Germans.

Well 2 NZ Division spent VE-Day staring down Tito's troops in Trieste. Your allies are generally your biggest (real or perceived) threat after a war. Easy to treat them as interlopers undeserving of respect.


do you have any idea why the german gravestones were black or dark? i read a belgian website that said the treaty of versailles restricted the germans from having white stones - but cant find that in the treaty text - see link below

Paul W.

I was pleased to find a reference at last to Revd. Gareth Banting. My father-in-law in named after this gentleman, who was a close friend of his father's at Cambridge.
I was looking for any further details of Revd Banting's death. The story told in my father-in-law's family is shocking and hard to credit in it's original form.
The story was that he died in North Africa. He is said to have come across a British sergeant about to drive a party of German prisoners across a minefield. Unable to countermand him, Revd. Banting undertook to accompany the Germans, and was killed.
Such an atrocity would be difficult for any British person to accept, especially in North Africa where the war was generally fought with chivalry - one of the German commanders called his memoirs 'Krieg Ohne Hass' - War Without Hate.
I understand there is one recorded accusation of such an incident, which if I remember correctly is said to have taken place in Norway.
Knowing however that Revd Banting died in Albania, the incident becomes more credible. I couldn't comment on the attitude of British Special Forces (he was attached to 2 Commando)to taking prisoners in general, but in a partisan war - especially this partisan war - the killing of prisoners would be much more common. The partisan war in the Balkans was as I understand fought with brutality and atrocity on all sides, especially against civilians and prisoners. Personally I attribute the destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990's substantially to the grief and hatred the Germans left behind - every bit as bad as in Poland and Russia.

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