A HARTLEPOOL soldier who may have helped capture Nazi military commander Heinrich Himmler at the end of World War Two is the focus of an appeal for help.
Historian Chris Mannion has discovered five members of 196 Battery of the Royal Artillery’s 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment were responsible for bringing down Hitler’s No.2.
But, although he has identified four of the men, including his grandfather Patrick Mannion, the last remains a mystery - and could be Gunner J Carr, of Commericial Street, Hartlepool.
“I’m writing a book on Himmler’s capture, and would like find out exactly who was with my grandfather at this historic time,” said Chris, a freelance historian for the Imperial War Museum.
“Everyone knows who Himmler was, and his role in the Holocaust. So, to find out that my grandfather and his battery had something to do with his capture was shocking, and elating.
“Gunner Carr was definitely serving with 196 at this time, so it is entirely possible he was at the capture. If any of his family can share his story, I’d be delighted to hear from them.”
Himmler served as commander of the Replacement (Home) Army, General Plenipotentiary of the Third Reich administration and was the mastermind behind the Holocaust of the Jews.
Once Germany lost the war, he fled into hiding - donning an eye patch and carrying false papers. On May 21, 1945, as he tried to cross a checkpoint, he was stopped and detained.
“I always knew my grandfather landed in Normandy on D-Day, on his birthday of all days, and he mentioned to my mother something about a senior Nazi officer,” said Chris.
“One day I decided to have a look at the records of arrests at the Royal Artillery Museum in London. I started reading a report about Himmler’s, and there was my grandfather’s name.
“Despite a great deal of research, however, I still haven’t been able to trace the name of the fifth man who was with my grandfather at that time. I’m desperate to find out who it was.
“There could be a family somewhere in Hartlepool who, like I did, have no idea of this amazing thing their husband, father or grandfather did. I very much want to trace Gunner Carr’s relatives.”
Sadly, little information has yet been unearthed on J. Carr. It is possible, however, that his first name was John, he was born in 1909 and was related to Edward Carr, formerly of Commercial Street.
The Hartlepool lad is likely to have seen action in North Africa in 1942, before taking part in the Normandy landings and battling his way across France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
“Through my research I now know everything from what fields the 196 men camped in, to who was killed in battle. But, so far, I have yet to track down that elusive fifth capture soldier,” said Chris.
“Hopefully, if the Carr family gets in touch, we can work out if Gunner Carr was involved in this historic event. In any case, I’d love to see old photos, and hear any stories from that time.”
Himmler was moved around several camps after his capture, until being taken to the British 31st Civilian Interrogation Camp, near Lunburg - where he finally admitted his real identity.
But, during a medical examination, the Nazi commander bit into a hidden cyanide pill and collapsed to the floor - dying within 15 minutes. He was buried in an unmarked grave near Luneburg.
“I know that some of the soldiers would have killed him, if they knew who he was when he was captured. In the event, though, Himmler only survived for a few more days,” said Chris.
“It is now approaching the 70th anniversary of his capture, and the Imperial War Museum is planning an exhibition. It would be wonderful to put a name to the mystery soldier in time.”
** Do you have any information on Gunner Carr? Chris can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org