AN author and historian is hoping Barrhead residents can help him trace the family of a World War Two soldier.

Chris Mannion is keen to find anyone who can share photographs or details about Gunner James Murray, who gave his address as 8 Dovecothall Street, Barrhead when he joined the 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment.

James became part of 196 Battery like Chris’ grandfather Lance Sergeant Patrick Mannion, who was one of five soldiers who apprehended Hitler’s right-hand man and head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in May 1945.

After discovering the astonishing tale, the 58-year-old embarked on a mission to chronicle the regiment’s service during the war.

He has devoted years of his life to researching the topic, with people as far afield as Australia getting in touch with information about their relatives who served.

It is hoped the book will be finished next year, but this means Chris faces a race against time to chase up the stories of soldiers he has never been able to find.

“My grandfather sadly died before I was born but mum told me this story that he was involved with a top Nazi and I never really thought about it,” said Chris, who is based in Merseyside. “I just thought it was a good story.

“I went on a cycling holiday in the Netherlands and I went to the museum there, and when I came out, I said to my friend, ‘That’s it, I’m going to find out what my grandfather did.’

“I got a hold of his service record and it told me which regiment he had been in, and then I went to the Royal Artillery Museum, to their archive. 

“That’s when I was told about Himmler’s capture and I became obsessed. With each thing I found out I was like, ‘Well, what else is there to find out?’”

Chris has limited information about James, but does know that due to circumstance, the gunner could not have been involved in the capture of Holocaust architect Himmler.

According to his Royal Artillery tracer card, he enlisted on November 19, 1942 before joining the regiment on December 21, 1943.

After training, he landed on Gold Beach in Normandy in the early hours of June 7, 1944.

Having fought in France, the men went off to battle in Belgium and then into the Netherlands and, in the early hours of December 5, 1944 in the southern part of the country, James was taken prisoner.

He became a POW at Stalag XI-B, in lower Saxony, north-western Germany and was freed on April 25, 1945 before being sent to a field hospital.

“I’ve got the whole story of him being taken prisoner because I’ve interviewed veterans who were there at the time and who remember them,” add Chris. “He was lucky he didn’t get killed actually.

“I just can’t find anything else about him and I would like to know what happened to him.

“I’ve got film footage he could possibly be in which was taken in Normandy, but I’ve got no way of identifying him.

“I’m hoping there is a relative who may have a photograph or who may be able to fill in some details.

“I think it’s important for the history of the town that he gets remembered in some way.”

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