Joseph Kerr Hislop, a man and a name that I didn't know. However, I read somewhere that there comes a time in your life where you have the desire to discover your roots. For me, that time came in 2009 and this name would be of great significance.
I had a vague idea that my grandfather had been killed in Normandy sometime in 1944 during the early part of the D-Day landings. A grandfather that I never knew, or knew very little about; not even his name. For me, it was a pilgrimage to see the places that I had read about or seen in movies. A pilgrimage to pay my respects to this man who, despite not knowing him, was a part of me.
The week that I spent in Normandy was a mixture of excitement, respect and also wonder. Excited to be in the actual places that I have read about, respect for the people who had lost their lives there and also wonders of what part my grandfather may have played in this incredible period in human history.
One notable memory was during our visit to the beautiful and historic city of Bayeux. After visiting the Bayeux D-Day Museum, my wife suggested that we visit the Bayeux British War Cemetery just across the road. "Perhaps you will find your grandfather?", she speculated. Almost immediately after she said that, the heavens opened and we ran to our car to avoid getting soaked from the heavy rain. The idea of visiting the cemetery was not to be, especially as we did not even know his name.
After returning to England, time passed by but the wonders remained. Wonders that would inspire me to try and find more information about this man who was now a part of my life.
My family tree was very limited as I only knew my immediate mother and father. No uncles, aunties or cousins; not to mention grandparents. A family tree that was more like a tree stump! There were of course family photo's and other assorted letters, so after doing some digging, I managed to find a few names. Names that meant nothing to me, but at least it was a starting point.
After many weeks, days and hours of trawling through the digital archives on Ancestry.co.uk, I made a breakthrough. I had now found the name, birthplace and other pieces of interesting information about my grandfather: Joseph Kerr Hislop. This discovery encouraged me to dig deeper and to my amazement, after finding the date of his death, I discovered that he was buried in the Bayeux British War Cemetery; this fact sent a shiver down my spine. To think that he was buried just across the road from where we had been; what a shock!
Joseph Kerr Hislop: Lieutenant in the British Royal Artillery, 62 Anti-Tank Regiment. Killed during the battle of Caen by machine gun fire whilst out on reconnaissance (09/07/1944). I am led to believe that he was killed by German soldiers from the 12th SS Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) Division who were locked in desperate battles to save Caen from falling into the hands of the allies.
Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I found a site that had a photo of Joseph Kerr Hislop. I want to express my gratitude to Hans Houterman who manages the site unithistories.com, for sending me a large sized photo.
Some months later, we planned to re-visit Normandy to find Joseph Kerr Hislop's grave. The initial excitement after our arrival at the Bayeux British War Cemetery made me overlook the fact that there is a grave register. My wife and children tried to help me find his grave; however, due to the fact that there are around 4000 graves, the task was difficult to say the least. After forty five fruitless minutes of searching, I realised how stupid I had been and managed to find this register.
It transpired that his grave was just inside the main gate, located at II. B. 25. This was an emotional moment for us all. Despite never knowing this man, it was almost closure for me; however, I wanted to know more.
After returning to England, I tried to find out more and more information about him. The discoveries I made this time round were emotional; for the wrong reasons! There is specualtion that he may not have been my mother's real father. What a heart wrenching moment this was when I discovered this potential fact.
To this day, I have not been able to uncover any more about this man, his life or the truth that he may or may not be my bioligical grandfather. I have come to terms with the fact that he may not be my biological grandfather. However, he would have played a small part in my mother's life, albeit very briefly; my mother would have been aged two at the time of his death. For that reason, I would still like to know more about him. If anyone has information that can help me find out more about Joseph Kerr Hislop, please contact me.
So why have I shared my story with the world? There are thousand's of D-Day stories that will never be told or having missing pieces. My story has missing pieces that I hope this page on the Internet will help me find. I want my page and my story to reach out into the cyber wilderness in the hope that someone will give me a piece, or pieces, of my unfinished story.
Owner of Ivy House, Utah Beach Normandy
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