Witness Interview with Captain Rankin R.A.M.C. Pathologist:

(Interview conducted in English)


Q. What is your name?
A. Rankin, Robert

Q. And your rank is?
A. Captain RAMC

Q. And the organisation with which you are serving now?
A. 106 British General Hospital

Q. Just for the purpose of the record, Captain Rankin, I know we already have your qualifications as a pathologist, will you repeat them?
A. Qualified MB, CHB Glasgow 1938, Graded Pathologist November 1942 and full time as pathologist since March 1943.

Q. Now, did you, acting on instructions from G-1 SHAEF, examine graves here in the course of the last two days?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Would you tell us first of all, how the graves were indentified to you?
A. I was shown two graves by Lieutenant Barre, one containing the remains of the crew of an airplane which had crashed and caught fire. The other, a larger grave containing an unknown number of bodies. The accounts of the bodies in the graves vary.

Q. Would you mark on Exhibit 'A', which I will show you here, the whereabouts of the two graves?
A. I presume this is the driveway, this the two graves, this is the grave to which I refer, A1.

Q. The grave marked A1 is the grave containing the unidentified bodies?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And the grave marked A2 is the grave containing the bodies of a crashed aircraft?
A. That is correct.

Q. Did you infact open both graves?
A. No, sir, I only opened the larger of the two.

Q. Would you tell us what you found?
A. I found, altogether, the bodies of eighteen men. Nine had been identified by the occupants of the Château as having belonged to two gliders which had crashed in the grounds. A tenth was the unidentified body of another airman or airborne soldier and the remaining eight, I was told were the bodies of men who had been shot by Germans stationed at the Château.

Q. Would you tell the Court, first of all, how the bodies were laying in relation to one another?
A. For purposes of description, one can imagine the grave having been divided into two, by lying parallel to the road. In the half father from the road I found two layers of six bodies each lying on top of each other and an isolated group of three in the right hand corner of that half and in the front half of the large grave I found three of the eighteen bodies.

Q. Was there anything to indicate whether they had all been buried at the same time?
A. I decided that they had all been buried about the same time, because the second layer of bodies stationed above were not separated from the bottom layer by any great depth of soil.

Q. Could you describe to us the state of the various bodies as to clothing to start with, following on usual order?
A. The bodies in the right hand corner of the large grave had been covered over with...

Q. When you speak of the right hand corner Captain Rankin, which corner do you mean?
A. I mean the right hand top corner as seen from the road. These bodies were covered by a radiator blanket. The others were lying in contact with each orther, not enclosed in a blanket or coffin. All the eight men were wearing British battedress. Some were wearing paratroopers jackets and I formed the opinion that all of the men were airborne troops. All except one belonged to a Royal Engineers unit. The one exception showed no formation or regimental patches. He was only wearing a paratroopers jacket and no battledress tunic.

Q. How many of the eighteen bodies have you been able to identify?
A. Seventeen of the eighteen, sir.

Q. Were they in each case identified by papers or identity discs or how?
A. By identity discs, sir.

Q. In all seventeen cases?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Do I understand that there were already records of identification of nine of the bodies?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And did those records tally with the identity discs you found on any of the bodies?
A. Except for details in regimental numbers and ranks they corresponded exactly with the records.

Q. Are the identities of the seventeen established in the pro-formas which you have completed in each case?
A. I have ony completed eight pro-formas. I didn't think that we needed to mention the other ten at all, sir.

Q. So that we have a pro-forma for eight bodies not previously identified?
A. That is correct, sir.

Q. Each one of which mentions that in the same grave there are nine soldiers already identified by the members of the household?
A. That is right, sir.

Q. And do the names of those appear anywhere on the pro-formas?
A. No, sir.

Q. Have you got a list of them?
A. Yes, sir. I officially went down and dug up those bodies and couldn't find any marks on any of them, on my first inspection, and I thought that there must still be eight bodies in this grave and I had better dig pretty deep. There is no question of my having missed another body, sir. We dug it quite thoroughly.

Q. Did the marker on the grave indicate that apart from nine identified bodies, it contained one unidentified?
A. No, sir.

Q. You did infact find the eight further bodies in the gave?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. You did in fact identify nine of the total number of bodies from identification discs being nine marked on the marker to the grave?
A. That is correct, sir.

Q. Do you produce eight pro-formas relating to those eight as exhibits to the Court?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. We wil mark those eight pro-formas Exhibit C1-C8; did you find any indication of a common cause of death in the case of these eight bodies?
A. Well, the manner in which death had been caused was the same in each, by gun shot wounding.

Q. What type of gunshot wound, or did they differ?
A. I thought they were all caused by the same weapon. I decided that the weapon used was of comparatively small calibre.

Q. Could you give an approximate calibre?
A. I would say not as big as a .45 revolver.

Q. Can we then consider it approximately a .38?
A. Yes, sir.

A Luger P08 standard magazine held 8 bullets. A Walther P38 standard magazine held 9 bullets.


Q. Were the wounds all of the same type? Perhaps it would be simpler to take the bodies one by one and give us the cause of death in each case?
A. The part affected differed in most of the cases. The body to which I refer as number one, I found to be that of a man called Branston 1878189, who showed evidence of having been shot through the right side of the neck, probably from behind. Death in this case had been due to haemorrhage, internal into the chest as well as external.

Q. Would you take each in turn as to the cause of death?
A. Body number two, identified as that of 14283438 Thompson. He had been shot in the back of the chest at the level of the 4th rib, left hand side.

Q. In each case of these cases, was it a single shot?
A. Yes , sir , body number three was that of number 1876309 Guard. He had been shot in the left side in the region of the last two ribs. The bullet had passed through the diaphragm and probably also through left kidney and spleen.

Q. Could you give the point of entry in that?
A. Yes sir, the left loin at the level of the 11th rib in the posterior axillary line.

Q. Will that be from the rear?
A. Yes, sir, from behind.

Q. Are all these wounds consistant with the fact that these men were mowed down by bursts of machine guns or sub-machine gun? Are all the wounds at the same level and same height from the ground?
A. no.

Q. Would the wounds cause immediate death in most cases?
A. Do you mean would they be invariably fatal?

Q. Yes, and would they cause immediate death?
A. Death would not be instantaneous.

Q. But death would follow if the wounds were not attended to?
A. Yes within a very short time, I think.

Q. In the three bodies with which you have dealt so far, did you find any other possible cause of death?
A. No, sir.

Q. Would you go on with the remaining five bodies, please?
A. Body number four identified as 15090818 Wright DF, showed that the man had been killed by a bullet wound of the head entering just behind the right ear.
Body number five that of 14422902. Wolfe F., had been shot through the front of the chest. Death would have been instantaneous due to a wound of the heart.
Body number six, was that of 82124 Lance Corporal Fraser. This man had been shot through the right side of the chest from in front at the same level as number five.
Number seven; 14537569, Wheeler, had been shot in the front of the chest again at the same level and roughly the same place as numbers five and six.
Number eight 1944972 Corporal Kelly WA; had been shot in the back of the chest near the bottom of the neck through the second rib, right side.

Q. In the remaining five cases you have spoken of the first three, was there any sign of any other possible cause of death?
A. No, Sir.

Q. Did you find any more than one wound per each body?
A. Yes, sir. In body number four [DF Wright] there was a second wound or injury to the cranium of the skull, but I formed the opinion that this had been sustained after death. In body number seven [DH Wheeler] the lower jaw was fractured. This again I regard as a post mortem injury. This man also had a first field dressing on his head but I detected no damage to the skull.

Q. It is possible that that first field dressing could have been applied to a wound that could have disappeared in the process of decomposition?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Do I take it that such a wound could have been a fatal one?
A. That is correct, sir.

Q. Captain Rankin, were any of those bodies that you examined Officers?
A. In the case of all except one I was able to say definitely that they were not officers. The one exception wore no battledress blouse and had no badges of rank whatsoever or other means of deciding whether he was an officer or other rank.

Q. Which one was that?
A. number five, sir. [F Wolfe]

Q. Of the other bodies that you examined, did you form an opinion as to the cause of death?
A. You refer to the remaining ten, Sir?

Q. Yes?
A. Yes in at least five of them, cause of death had been multiple injuries generally fractures of both legs and in one case a broken arm. All of the them showed some damage to the skull.

Q. Had any of them died as a result of gun shot wounds?
A. No, sir.

Q. In other words, can there be any possible confusion as to these eight bodies which you separated having had death caused by a means entirely different from the cause of death in the case of the others?
A. No, sir.

Q. And do I understand that from the arrangement of the bodies in the grave at the time you opened it, and from information from those present at the time of the original burial, these eight that you have examined are the eight that this court is interested in?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Was there anything that could give you any idea as to the range at which these shots had been fired, were there any burns on clothing or anything of that kind?
A. There was no trace of any singeing or tattooing such as one would have expected with point blank ones, sir.

Q. Can you form any approximate idea of the range?
A. Without knowing the nature of the weapon used it would be difficult, but for the weapon probably used I should say it was approaching the extreme limit of the weapon's range, because in no case was there an exit wound that I could discover.

Q. I take it from what you say, that it is your opinion that the remaining velocity of each bullet was a rather low velocity at time of entry?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. The means of identification that you found, were they removed from the bodies? I am talking about the eight bodies?
A. No, sir.

Q. Did you find anything other than the identity discs?
A. Nothing which I considered worthy of removing for preservation.

Q. Had they been placed in the graves with their identity discs still on them?
A. Yes, sir, I should make one correction. I found a ring on one of the bodies which I have preserved here.

Q. And which body did that come from?
A. Body number seven.[DH Wheeler]  (This ring is listed as Exhibit 'D'). I only preserved it because the pro-forma specifically mentioned rings. I might add one thing, sir, that in all these cases the inscription on the identity tags was semi-obliterated due to the long burial and there may be minor faults in the names and numbers given. But I am satisfied that all the facts given are substantially correct.

Q. Do you produce a list which is that of the names of nine bodies listed on the grave marker and nine other bodies not so listed, but recovered from the same grave?
A. Yes (This will be entered as Exhibit 'E').

Q. Have you personaly checked these names with the list kept by the members of the household responsible for burying the bodies?
A. Yes, sir.

(The witness withdraws)


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