World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

             Margaret Marie Pembleton 

My Uncle’s Story - The tragic story of Lieutenant James Patrick Heenan the victim of American ‘friendly fire’.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: James Patrick Heenan, Sir W.H. Hadow,Maud A. Hazeldene, Captain C.A. Atkinson, L.M. Atkinson, Mr. T.C.R. Harrison
Location of story: St. Malo, France, Stalag XXID, Eichstatt, Moosberg Nr. Munich, Durnbach War Cemetery, Bayern, Germany.
Unit name: Sir W.H. Hadow
Background to story: Army

                     Photograph from Lieutenant James Patrick Heenan, Prisoner-of-War No.1106 (Oflag VIIC, Bataillon 2) Oflag VI – B Germany

                       showing Lieutenant James Patrick Heenan to the right hand side of standing group of prisoners (Photograph by Dr. Jung)


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Margaret Maria Pembleton.

My Uncle’s Story
The tragic story of Lieutenant James Patrick Heenan the victim of American ‘friendly fire’.

Margaret Maria Pembleton (nee Mortimer)

The following testimonial was written under the letterhead of ‘The University Sheffield’ by the Vice-Chancellor, Sir W.H. Hadow and is dated 8th July 1930:


‘I have much pleasure in writing a testimonial for Mr. J.P. Heenan of Sheffield University.

Mr. Heenan entered the University in 1926 with a Sheffield Education Committee scholarship, obtained a First Class Ordinary degree in 1929, and was awarded the George Senior Research Fellowship in the same year. He also won the President’s Premium of the Engineering Society, and was awarded an Industrial bursary by the 1851 Commissioners. In June 1930 he entered for the Honours degree in Electrical Engineering and obtained a second class. He has been a most valuable member of the University O.T.C: he has been awarded University colours for Shooting and Swimming, and has in addition obtained Certification “A.” He has proved himself a very useful citizen of the University and I have much pleasure in recommending him.’


He was an academic and studious man and at the time the only member of our family to go to University.

He joined the Cadet Training Corps at University and remained a member after he left. His Degree in Engineering led him to a career with the Post Office.

The only son of the family and the sole support of his widowed mother and two invalid sisters, he had never married and was an Engineer at the Telephone and Communications department of the Sheffield Post Office.

He volunteered in 1940 and joined the Royal Corps of Signals.

In May of 1940 he was posted to France and my mother, grandmother and Aunt Agnes saw him sail from Liverpool, my grandmother saying that she “...would never see her son again”.

He was taken prisoner by the Germans in St. Malo in France and was a prisoner of war for five years.

A post card from the Red Cross in Geneve dated 17 – VI – 1941 states:

‘According to information received from the Official Bureau for Prisoners of War in Berlin under date of… we beg to advise you that James P. Heenan 87231 has been placed in Stalag XXID Germany Prisoner No. 1106.

For the time being this is the only information that we have available but we will not fail to advise you should further particulars be received. From now on you can send letters to the above mentioned prisoner of war to the address given, adding the following: “Kriegsgefangenenpost” (prisoner of war post) and “Gebuhrenfrei” (free of postal charges).’

On Saturday, April 14, 1945 American fighter aircraft strafed a column of prisoners of war as the men were being marched from Eichstatt to Moosberg Nr. Munich. It was during this attack that they killed Uncle Jimmy.

He was one of twelve men killed in the incident; he had achieved the rank of lieutenant and was 38 years of age. He is buried at Durnbach War Cemetery, Bayern, Germany.
I can remember so much the anger and hatred felt by my grandmother and uncle Jimmy’s four sisters for many years.

The family received the following letters of condolence:

-- Aldred Road
Sheffield 10

April 27 (1945)
Dear Mrs. Heenan

How grieved I am to hear of your dear son’s death. We were all very fond of him, & were looking forward to a re-union of my boys & Pat all together.

Please accept my hart-felt sympathy, all of you, in your sad loss.

Sincerely yours

Maud A. Hazeldene

-- Brentlea Crescent

Dear Mrs. Heenan,

My son Captain Atkinson has been hear on a visit on his return from Germany, where he was P.O.W. along with your son in Oflag 7B.

He told us of the terrible mistake our airmen made in shooting down our own men as they were released from camp, one of which was your dear son & I feel I must write to tell you how deeply grieved we are at your sad loss. It must have been a terrible shock to you & I pray God will comfort & sustain you & give you strength & courage to bear it.

I know a little of what you are suffering as we have lost a dear son-in-law 18 months ago suddenly whilst doing his duty in the fire service. He came home from fighting a big fire & died in his uniform with a burst valve in his heart from over strain, my daughter is home with me now & feels her loss very keenly. We must find comfort in this, that God needed our boys for Higher Service & that in His Great Mercy, will comfort us with his Regard, our loved ones are not far away, & they still watch over us & help us if we only have faith.

My son seemed fairly well after his experience in Germany for 5 years, for which I was very thankful, he & his wife went back to Wakefield today & he was pleased when I told him I should write to you, as the affair had upset him very much.

So God bless & keep you in his care.

Yours sincerely,

L.M. Atkinson

They received the standard communication from Buckingham Palace:

‘The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow.

We pray that your country’s gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may bring you some measure of consolation.

George R. I.’

The following letters are part of the correspondence regarding a Memorial Fund for the widowed mother of Lieutenant James Patrick Heenan:

-- Bradford Road
Wakefield. Yorks.
25th June 1945
Tel: 2940
Dear Mr. Harrison,

Further to our conversation when I was in Sheffield, I am now taking steps to go forward with the idea of a Memorial Fund for Pat.

I should like about fifty copies of the attached letter mimeographed, and would be glad if you will say whether you can arrange for it to be done at the Sheffield office and forwarded to me here.

Yours sincerely
C.A. Atkinson.

P.S. If you could let me have about fifty envelopes for sending the letters out it would help a great deal.

My Dear Harrison

I am pleased to help fix up those letters for C.W. Atkinson (re. Pat Heenan).

Do not hesitate to ask me for anything that is in support of welfare & “Good works”. I think you know my feelings in the matter & that I am anxious to promote the happiness of us all in a very broad & tolerant spirit.

I want everybody to feel happy in their work & to know of my continual interest to that end, especially when they have worries which might be eased if we only know of them.

So, consult me freely, at any time.

With regards
Sincerely yours

(Signature illegible)

-- Bradford Road
Wakefield. Yorks.
30th June 1945
Tel: 2940

Memorial Fund for Pat Heenan

As you know, Pat Heenan was amongst those who were unfortunately killed on that tragic day – April 14th last – when we were attacked in error by American fighter planes on the march from Eichstatt to Moosberg.

Pat was well liked in the camp and did a lot of good work both for education, particularly in helping the younger men in their studies, and also for football. Some friends suggested that a Fund in honour of his memory should be set up, to which anyone could subscribe who wishes to do so.

I have been in touch with his people, and also with the Telephone Manager’s office in Sheffield, to which Pat was attached in civilian life. I find that Pat was the sole support of his widowed mother and two invalid sisters, and their circumstances are such that financial aid would be most welcome.

The subscriptions, when collected together, will therefore be paid over to Mrs. Heenan in the form of a cheque.

It is suggested that subscriptions of the order of one guinea would be suitable, and I shall ask a Mr. Harrison, of the Sheffield Telephone Manager’s staff, who has been looking after Pat’s interests whilst he was away, to act as auditor for the Fund.

Yours sincerely,

C.A. Atkinson
-- Bradford Road
Wakefield. Yorks.
14th July 1945
Dear Mr. Harrison,

The fund for Pat is going quite well but it will be a few more months before I shall be in a position to hand over to you, as some of the addresses are difficult to get.

I could do with about 50 more envelopes if you can manage it together with sticky labels.

If you could also get 50 copies of the enclosed note mimeographed, it would be a help.

Yours sincerely,

C.A. Atkinson

-- Bradford Road

Dear ..................

Pat Heenan Memorial Fund

Your contribution of £ .............. to the above Fund has been received with thanks. The total amount subscribed was £63. 9s. 0d. and this has now been handed to Mrs. Heenan.
Mr. T.C.R. Harrison has handled the contacts with Mrs. Heenan on our behalf and I have appended his letter expressing her thanks, and also telling you more of Pat’s devotion to his family during his lifetime.
Yours sincerely,


I was justly proud to hand your cheque to Mrs. Heenan and she asks me to express her heart felt gratitude to each one of you.

The death of Pat has placed a financial strain on Mrs. Heenan which I and my Post Office colleagues are striving to ease. And your gift is very welcome indeed. Your expressions of appreciation of Pat to our friend Capt. Atkinson were also communicated to Mrs. Heenan who will, I know, treasure them for life.

It was not generally known that Pat was the sole support of this mother and two adult invalid sisters and this was a heavy cross for one to likeable and chearful to carry.

Yours sincerely,
T.C.R. Harrison

Post Office Telephones,
West Street,