Pte George Ernest McCracken was the son of William Stephen and Emiline McCracken and husband of Irene Florence McCracken, of Stoke Newington, London.
He enlisted into The Royal Ulster Rifles and volunteered for airborne forces shortly after the formation of 1st Parachute Brigade. It is believed he qualified as a military parachutist in 1942.
He subsequently served with 2nd Parachute Battalion in Headquarters Company and Support Company on operations in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Arnhem.
George McCracken was one of the soldiers from the 2n Para Bn who was captured after trying to make his way back from Arnhem bridge to the British 1st Airborne Division's defensive perimeter at Oosterbeek.
The following edited testimony from John Hey, based on his review of Case K in War Office file 309 186125 (at the National Archives Kew), sheds further light on the subsequent tragic events:
"On the afternoon of Saturday 23 September about 25 prisoners were sent by lorry from Velp to an interrogation centre at Zutphen, about 30km North of Arnhem. When the lorry wound through the centre of Brummen village, 6km South of Zutphen, Majors Hibbert and Munford jumped off and disappeared between the houses along the main road. The Germans in the lorry were a driver and co-driver, 1 or 2 Luftwaffe guards on the rear and an SS guard with a Schmeisser on the running board.
The SS guard fired at the two escapees [wounding Denis Munford], punctured the right hand back wheel and killed the SS NCO Hatska. Eye witnesses also stated that at least 3 pistol shots were heard. The SS guard fired into the back of the lorry, killing and wounding several prisoners [all unarmed].
A truck full of young SS soldiers arrived at the scene from the opposite direction and, wrongly presumed that the SS had been shot by the prisoners, made the remaining prisoners lie down on the roadside with the intention of shooting them. According to Major Gough this was avoided by a German staff officer, Gustav Etter, who prevented further bloodshed.
In the meantime a local doctor had made an attempt to take care of the wounded but was kicked away by the SS soldiers.
The War Crimes file contains some conflicting information on the names of those killed and wounded, as well as when and where some of them died. From what I have gathered it seems justified to say that Capt Platt was killed outright and possibly Pte Allen, whilst Pte McCracken and Lt Mills died later in the evening at Zutphen.From there the dead and wounded were taken to Enschede, 53km Eastward on the Dutch-German border. The German Ortskommandant informed the Burgermeister of Enschede that five dead were delivered to the local mortuary on 23 September and these were 'shot when attempting to escape on the road from Endschede to Gronau'. We now know this was a pertinent lie.
The five dead were all buried in Eastern General Cemetery of Enschede on 25th September in Plots 196-200.
On 27 September Lt McNabb died of his wounds in the Roman Catholic Hospital (in use as a war hospital) and was buried alongside his comrades in Plot 195."*
The six murdered soldiers were:
Lt TVP McNabb
Pte GE McCracken
L/Cpl S Allen
Capt HA Platt
Lt KS Mills
Maj A Cotterill.
The man (or men) responsible for this War Crime was never brought to justice.
*Based on the account published in Without Tradition 2 PARA 1941-45 by Robert Peatling. Published by Pen and Sword Books.
Profile photograph courtesy of Christina McCrackenRead More