Rosenberg | Percy

  • First names

    Percy Pinchas

  • Age

    20

  • Date of birth

    1924

  • Date of death

    14-10-1944

  • Service number

    14722832

  • Rang

    Private

  • Regiment

    Lincolnshire Regiment, 2nd Bn.

  • Grave number

    I. C. 2.

Percy Rosenberg Colchester barracks March 1944
Percy Rosenberg Colchester barracks March 1944
Grave-Percy-Pinchus-Rosenberg
Grave Percy Pinchus Rosenberg


Biography

Son of Jacob and Clara Rosenberg, second youngest of seven children.

His youngest brother Frank Clifford Rosenberg became a famous neurologist and wrote an autobiography about his life and family also about the period before World War II.

It is called: “By any other name” F. Clifford Rose 

With many thanks to the Rosenberg family we present parts of this book as a biography of Percy. 

By any other name

My parents were orthodox Jews, born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They emigrated to England in 1913 from Falticeni, a small town with a population of 5,000, between Bukovina and Moldova in the north-east of what is now Romania; this village had been founded as a Jewish settlement, originally called Faltishen. My father worked as a “roofer”, making tin roofs for houses. He was tall and handsome with red hair, my mother fell for his good looks when she was only twenty and he was ten years older.

Conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army, he saw the Emperor Franz Josef at a military parade; he was physically very strong and could hold a rifle by its muzzle end with his arm extended, an exercise I attempted and failed.

The reason for my parents’ emigration was that, in spite of having served in the army, my father, being a Jew, was still regarded as a second-class citizen. They chose England because my mother’s brother, Uncle Joe, and his wife, had established a successful fish-and-chip shop in Shoreditch, London. My parents sailed from Bremen in 1913 with two children, Solomon (Solly) and Zigmund (Sid), two older children having died in early childhood.

My mother claimed she was seasick all the way to England but as she was pregnant at the time with my eldest sister Mary, this could have been part of the cause. The family settled in Stepney in the East End of London in a one-roomed flat.

In 1918, after the War, my father started a cycle repair shop, having experience of working with metal; being good with his hands, he used to make all sorts of metal toys for me and I particularly remember a train. Part of his business involved buying and selling second-hand bicycles, one of which he bought at a ridiculously cheap price and was promptly arrested for “receiving stolen property”; he pleaded with the magistrate that he had not known it was stolen but, perhaps partly because he spoke such poor English, or could not afford a lawyer to defend him, he was sent to prison for three months.

From that time, he maintained that his life was ruined and complained of visions, suffered from paranoia, and local children would call after him in the street “Ginger, you’re barmy”, referring both to his hair colour and odd behaviour.

My mother had four more children before me, two sisters, Mary and Mathilda (Tilly) and two brothers, Israel (Izzy) and Pinchus (Percy), making me the youngest of her nine children, of whom only seven survived to adulthood. Our terraced house had only three bedrooms for the family of nine (two parents and seven children) so that five children slept in one bed.

My father also slept at the back of the house during the summer months; there was only one lavatory which was also outside at the back of the house, but no bathroom so bathing meant filling a zinc bath with hot water.
 
On moving to a new home in Cambridge Heath Road, the new cycle shop opened, now called Soll Brothers; Solly and Izzy did the repairs and my mother sold sports clothes. The business prospered, one reason being that medical students at the nearby London Hospital often had bicycles in need of repair, and taxi-drivers needed bicycles to learn the London streets.

The brother closest to me, and only four years my senior, was Percy, and we would enjoy mock fights, competing to see who was “quickest on the draw”.

He was not very bright and my mother encouraged me to teach him “fractions” so he could pass the test to get into the Royal Air Force rather than be drafted into the Army; this proved impossible and he fought with the Royal Lincolnshire Infantry and was killed near Nijmegen, Holland in 1944, during Operation “Market-Garden” – a battle that was enacted in the film “A Bridge Too Far.

There were many British military deaths between October and November 1944 whilst fighting to clear Germans from the region South and West of the River Maas before a final attack on the Rhineland; so fierce was the battle that the British dubbed it “A Second Caen”.

The Divisional Commander concentrated on the village of Overloon, where the Germans had “a heavily reinforced stronghold…” The British eventually occupied the ruins on 12 October 1944 and of the 279 in the Overloon cemetery, where my brother Percy is buried, 261 are from the British Army.

He had been conscripted in 1943 and was very proud of his soldier’s uniform; he had several photographs of himself with his rifle, giving me the assurance that he knew how to look after himself. After preliminary training at Catterick camp, he was enlisted into the Lincolnshire Infantry and was killed in action during the Battle of Overloon.

I twice visited his grave in the Overloon Cemetery where he lies next to four other Lincolnshire infantrymen and their commanding major. On my first visit soon after the War, the Commonwealth Graves Commission arranged and paid for the whole trip.

Percy and his mother Clara

Percy and his mother Clara

Sources and credits

Frank Clifford Rose

Maureen Rebuck, cousin of Percy

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