Unit: 6th Battalion (HQ Company)
Service Number: 4809709
Date of Death: 22 April 1943 – Killed in action
Age: 23 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Massicault War Cemetery – Tunisia
Grave / Panel Ref.: V1. F. 13.
Beresford was born in the December quarter 1920 and was the son of Thomas and Rose Ellen (née Jackson) Headland of Ruskington. They married on 12th July 1902 at St. Barnabus’ Church, Islington, London, when Thomas was working as a ‘Bricklayer‘.
Beresford was the youngest of seven children. He older brothers and sisters were Rose Ellen (1903 – 1929); Cyril Jackson (1908 – 1989); Ursula (1911 – 1933); Donald Victor (1914 – 1984) and Gladys Verdine, who died as a baby in 1918, aged 14 months. [She was buried in Grave C 174, Ruskington Cemetery, Old Plot.]
Both of Beresford’s parents died before he reached his 16th birthday. Rose was 50 when she died on 9th September 1931 and Thomas was 56 when he died on 17th March 1936. They were buried together in Grave E 35, Ruskington Cemetery, New Plot.
N.B. The Headland family has been long established in the village of Ruskington. The earliest record is that of William (born in 1791) and his wife, Lattisha (b. 1801) who are buried in All Saints’ Churchyard. (right)
It is possible that before he left for War, Beresford was living with his brother, Cyril, and Cyril’s wife Kate (née Harsley) at Mafeking Terrace, Ruskington.
On 3rd September 1939 the 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, along with the 4th Battalion, were called up at once when the war was declared. In April 1940 it embarked for France and later managed to return from Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo).
After two years spent on home defence, the 6th Battalion left the United Kingdom in January 1943. The Battalion left by 3 trains from Ascot and Sunningdale, in Berkshire, for Clydebank. Battalion Records show that Beresford was on the 2nd train (No. 517). They were to leave the UK and sail for North Africa on the MS Sobieski.
In May 1943, the war in North Africa (Operation Torch) came to an end in Tunisia with the defeat of the Axis powers by a combined Allied force. The campaign began on 8th November 1942, when Commonwealth and American troops made a series of landings in Algeria and Morocco.
The Germans responded immediately by sending a force from Sicily to northern Tunisia, which checked the Allied advance east in early December. Meanwhile, in the south, the Axis forces defeated at El Alamein were withdrawing into Tunisia along the coast through Libya, pursued by the Allied Eighth Army.
By mid April 1943, the combined Axis force was hemmed into a small corner of north-eastern Tunisia and the Allies were grouped for their final offensive.
The Battle of Ber Rabal was fought on 22nd April. The 128th Brigade (46th Division) were checked near Mehalla and driven back. In a subsidiary action, at Argoub Sellah, 138th Brigade seized the hills and the 26th Armoured Brigade gained a further two miles. It was probably in this action that Beresford lost his life,
N.B. Beresford’s uncle, Corporal 16475 William Henry Headland, served in the Lincolnshire Regiment and the Royal Flying Corps in World War 1.
N.B. Another Ruskington man of the 6th Battalion, Sergeant 4801307 Robert WILCOX, was killed in action later in the year during the landing as Salerno, Italy.
- I am grateful to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ for the photos of Beresford’s Grave and Cemetery.
- “History of the 6th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, 1940-45” – Naval & Military Press reprint (2014 – original pub. 1946). ISBN 9781783311026
- “The Story of the 46th Infantry Brigade, 1939-1945“