Sunday 9 June 2024

Euro 2024 ~ A Prisoner of War buried in the highlands ….

This morning at Lochbroom, which is about 50 miles north of Gairloch where I am currently located, I went to visit the grave of Arthur Ernest Thomas Clune.

It was back in January 2022, I received a request from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), asking if I could help track down any living relatives of Arthur. The only information available from the CWGC archives, was that he served during WWII with the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, he died on May 7th 1945 (the day before V.E. Day, the official end of war in Europe) and was buried at Lochbroom Parish Churchyard. From the same CWGC archive, his parents were recorded as Arthur and Isabella Clune from Scotland.

The CWGC wanted to contact a living relative because it was felt that Arthur’s existing gravestone at Lochbroom, no longer provided an adequate commemoration for him, therefore they wanted to replace his private badly weathered gravestone with one provided by the commission.

Arthur's original gravestone below reads ~

Private 2822666, POW No. 15463

Stalag XX-B, Marienburg

Died on 7th May 1945 aged 25

In loving memory of Arthur Clune, only son of Mr & Mrs Clune, Ardcharnich served with the 4th Seaforth Highlanders 1939. Prisoner of War in Germany, died 7th May 1945 aged 25.

The original grave marker is still in place located just behind the new CWGC gravestone

There are many instances of mainly British WWI and WWII casualties who died and were buried in Britain, who have private family funded gravestones instead of one provided by the CWGC. In recent years many requests have been made by the CWGC to find relatives, when such private gravestones due to natural deterioration, no longer provide the deserved commemoration.

The task to find a living relative of Arthur required some analysis of the information available from the CWGC archives. His date of death and the fact that he was buried in Scotland strongly suggested to me that he probably died of war related injuries, illness or accident, either in Britain or was sent home from a foreign battlefront. Also due to the remote location of his grave, it was likely that he or his parents were local residents of the Lochbroom area. With those reasonable assumptions, I wrote off emails and posted messages on various Lochbroom and area social media and community web-sites.

It was not too long before I was getting some feedback, which indicated to me that there was strong and widespread interest being created in and around the rural Lochbroom Parish. It was obvious that calls were being made between neighbours and questions asked of the older folks in the community.

I received the following message from one local ~

“I believe his parents met when his father came to Lochbroom in WWI as part of the Canadian Army Forestry Unit. They lived in Canada until the father died, then mother and Arthur came to live at Ardcharnich (near Lochbroom), there was also a sister, Effie.”

~ This information was very useful, a Canadian connection and a sister named Effie, who may have later married, settled and had kids in the same area.

Using my available online military records research tools in Canada, I discovered that Arthur’s father was also named Arthur, but with the surname spelling of “Cloon” instead of “Clune”. In civilian he was a cook and on May 4th 1916 enlisted for WWI service at Sudbury, Ontario. He was assigned to the 227th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, with service number 1003108. His records indicate that he was born in Fort Frances, Ontario, on 6th September 1885.

After sailing to England during April 1917, with the 227th Battalion, he was absorbed into the Canadian 8th Reserve Battalion. Later as a Sergeant, Arthur Snr. was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps, No.138 Company, which was employed in the Lael Forest, Braemore, Scotland from July 1918 until March 1919, where he is likely to have met his future wife, Isabella McLean. From parish records kept at Lochbroom, I learned that Isabella McLean aged 25 of Ardcharnich, Lochbroom married Arthur Snr. on March 5th 1919, whose “usual” residence was quoted as Inverlael, Lochbroom.

Further research revealed that after WWI, on 22nd July 1919, the recently married Arthur and Isabella departed from Liverpool on board SS Scotian, bound for Quebec, Canada. Prior to the voyage they had been based at the Canadian Discharge Depot at Buxton, Derbyshire, England. Arthur was finally demobbed in Canada on 6th August 1919.

They had two children who were both born in Canada, Arthur Ernest Thomas in 1920, and Euphemia Rose in 1923. Arthur Snr. died of Hodgkins Disease on 26th July 1924 at Christie Street Hospital in Toronto aged 38, and was buried in Hamilton Cemetery, Ontario, in the soldier’s row No.83.


Now left with two children to raise on her own, Isabella decided to return home to Scotland in 1926, sailing on the Cameronia. The family arrived in Glasgow from New York on 22nd March, with a final destination of Ardcharnich, Lochbroom. Further maritime records indicate that in 1927, they also sailed on the Anchor Line ship “Athenia” from Montreal to Glasgow, arriving 21st August, it is not known why they briefly returned to Canada ~ It is of interest to note, the Athenia was the first British ship to be sunk by a German U-boat during WWII on Sunday  September 3rd 1939, the actual day war was declared.

Arthur Clune is shown in back row fourth from right, he was known to be the tallest at the school

When WWII began young Arthur joined up for military service with his buddy Hector Munro, a native of Lochbroom. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders on the 12th June 1940. Both were later captured by the Germans at St Valery-en-Caux (France) during the time of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) retreat to and later from Dunkirk, and were imprisoned at Stalag XX-B in Poland.

Hector Munro was born on 8th December 1907 at Ardcharnich. His parents Kenneth Munro and Johan (née Fraser) were married on 14th March 1895 at Cedar Villa, Kenneth Street, Inverness. At the time of their marriage, they were both aged 26, Kenneth was a road contractor living at Ardcharnich and Johan worked as a domestic servant, her address being Pulteney Street, Ullapool. Hector had older siblings: Maggie, Alexander, Isabell, Murdo and Kenneth John. The 1911 census states that the family was living at Inverlael Hamlet, Ardcharnich, a house with four rooms. The same document listed Kenneth the father as a crofter and road maker employed by the County Council.

Due to severe ill health, during October 1943 while war was still raging, both Hector and Arthur were repatriated back to Britain via a neutral country (possibly Sweden or Switzerland). Hector now aged 37, died possibly of his existing illness in Derby on August 6th 1945. Arthur died on May 7th 1945 at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness of tuberculosis in the spine, from which he had been suffering for 18 months, with his sister Effie (Euphemia) at his side.

Like Arthur, Hector was also buried at Lochbroom Parish Church. Both their gravestones made reference to them being Prisoners of War in Germany.

Even during hostilities, the Geneva Convention has a provision for the repatriation of all Prisoners of War. It was therefore possible for the British and Germans to reach an agreement in line with this provision, but only for the seriously ill and disabled. For the majority of the 40000 British servicemen like Arthur and Hector who were taken prisoner during 1939 and 1940, the war was to be a very long and dispiriting experience. Negotiations conducted through the Red Cross, over the repatriation of seriously wounded men began in late 1940. They did not progress very far at this time, because there were far fewer Germans in this category than British. It was only after substantial numbers of Germans were taken prisoner in the Desert Campaign of 1942 that talks resumed to a serious level. The actual exchange of prisoners did not start to take place until October 1943.

I found out that Arthur’s sister Euphemia qualified as a Nurse at Gray’s Hospital, Elgin in June 1944. She married Geoffrey James Jennings during 1946 in Inverness. Between 1948 and 1950, she was resident at 5 Heath Cottages, Little Heath, Potters Bar, near London. Then in the 1950s, the couple lived at North Mimms, Hertfordshire. Arthur’s mother Isabella died during the winter of 1976 aged 83, her death was registered in the district of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where her daughter and husband lived.

Eventually, in response to my postings and much research, I eventually made contact with Arthur’s grand-niece Mandy Sullivan Hubbard, whose mother was Euphemia (Arthur’s sister). Through my contact with her,   I was then able to put her in touch with the CWGC.

Over one year later during May 2023, the CWGC installed a commission gravestone on Arthur’s grave in the grounds of Lochbroom Parish Church. In a similar way to all CWGC graves of known casualties, there is space at the foot of the gravestone for a personal inscription from the family. The following are the words from Arthur’s family ~




After the effort put into this task, it was very nice and gratifying to visit Arthur’s grave today to see the CWGC gravestone in place. I have been involved similar tasks before for the CWGC, but today was the very first time I have been able to physically see and touch my results, which made it even more special. 

There are a total of seven casualties in the cemetery at Lochbroom, who are under the care of the CWGC, two from WWI and the remainder from WWII. All of them with now the exception of Arthur Ernest Thomas Clune have a non-CWGC private gravestones.

Within the cemetery is one catastrophic reminder of a wars tremendous loss, Mr. & Mrs. John and Robina Mackenzie, of Letters, Lochbroom, lost three sons to WWII, who are all buried at this location ~


I decided to do some research into the MacKenzie family ....

John Mackenzie (photo below) aged 33, a skilled labourer of Rose Cottage, Letters, Lochbroom, married Robina Mackenzie, 29, a domestic servant also of Letters, on 26th March 1919 at The Free Church, Dingwall.


They had fours son ~

At the back left to right ~ Roderick and Finlay
 Front ~ Ian and Duncan

First to die was Ian ~


Aircraftman 2nd Class 1361427

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

281 Squadron

Died on 8th November 1942 aged 21


No.281 Squadron was formed on 29th March 1942, at RAF Ouston as an air-sea rescue squadron equipped with Boulton Paul Defiants. They served all around the British coast in a large number of detachments. Ian died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Tuberculous Meningitis in Bangour Hospital, Broxburn. West Lothian.


Roderick ~


Able Seaman R238782

HM Tug Samsonia

Died on 21st April 1943 aged 20


H.M. Tug Samsonia

Roderick died at the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, Portsmouth of Status Epilepticus.


Finlay ~


Able Seaman, R238781

H.M. Rescue Tug Director

Died on 16th January 1945 aged 21


H.M. Rescue Tug Director

HM Tug Director was launched on 28th December 1943. On January 16th, 1945, the Director was towing a floating dock from the River Clyde round the north of Scotland to Invergordon. They ran into a storm in the Pentland Firth, during which a hawser snapped striking Finlay on the head, killing him instantly.

Lochbroom Parish Church CWGC documents for all seven casualties ~

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