Saved from destruction

The Story of Sgt Michael Marshall

16th March 2018

Letters from soldiers are among the most touching and personal documents housed in the Museum’s Collection.

MarshallThe following letters were saved by a stroke of fortune, having been bought by the donor over twenty years ago at a car boot sale. Included in a pile of postcards and pictures, the donor had been originally interested in the stamps featured on them. However, after reading them and realising their importance, the donor saved the letters and in doing so saved the poignant personal story within.

Of the nine Air Mail letters donated, seven were sent by Sgt Michael Marshall, 103382, to his mother and date between 22nd November 1941 and 10th December 1944.  His last letter refers to his promotion to Tank Commander and his “all North Countryman Crew” as probably the “oldest crew in the Battalion”. Sadly, the final two letters are written by his comrades sending their condolences following Sgt Marshall’s death on the 4th January 1945. 

His commanding officer Major C A Windsor writes a moving account of Sgt Marshall death revealing that after securing their objective, Marshall’s tank came under enemy artillery fire. He was struck by shrapnel in the forehead and never regained consciousness, dying while on route to hospital.  He adds “Without prejudice to security I may tell you that he is buried in the British Military Cemetery at Forli…the cemetery is a permanent one” and that “I can assure you that he will rest in peace for all time”.

Sgt Michael McGrath Marshall, 103382, joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on 29th September 1939. He transferred to ’C’ Squadron, 2nd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment on 16th November 1943 before being killed in action aged 32. He is buried in Forli Military Cemetery Plot 3, Row C, Grave 6.

As the donor observed in their correspondence: “ [The letters] deserve to be in an Archive where they will add to the rich, dramatic, but very sad story of sacrifice of our armed forces during the Second World War”.