Wounded in Action (N.W. Europe 1944-45) - 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
Captain Frederick Thomas Coulcher (240285)
(Anti-Tank Platoon Commander)
Freddie Coulcher was born in London in 1914 the son of Frederick George and Winifred B. Coulcher (nee Jones). Freddie married Ivy Winifred Hull in 1936 and in the autumn of 1944 they had a son Christopher.
From letters sent by Freddie Coulcher to his wife and subsequent medical records which came to light, we can now explain the unusual circumstances of his death.
In the late autumn of 1944 Freddie mentioned in his letters home that he was having problems with stomach pains and whilst the battalion was at Brunssum at the beginning of December he went into hospital. X-rays and further investigations followed but were inconclusive and he discharged himself on 11th December. 2 days later the Medical Officer, Captain Duff-Chalmers insisted he return to hospital which he did on 17th December. This time he was taken to a hospital in Brugge which was some distance from the front. Further tests and X-rays followed which again proved inconclusive.
Whilst he was still in hospital at Brugge, on the 30th December 1944 he again complained of stomach pains and it was therefore decided to perform an operation known as a retrograde pyelography for the investigation of renal colic. After the operation Captain Coulcher's condition steadily deteriorated and in spite of constant attention he died the same day, around 5pm. It was found that his death was the result of sodium tellurite and further enquiries revealed that during the operation a powder taken from a bottle labelled "sodium iodide" was administered in solution, but it was later established that this bottle, in fact, contained sodium tellurite. Investigations which followed shown that the label "sodium iodide" was on the bottle concerned before it reached the hospital. At the time the War Office, in a letter to Freddie’s family, on the 23rd June 1945 said that further enquiries were being made into the matter, but there were no further communication with regards these further enquiries.
Captain F. T. Coulcher
Sadly, Freddie was inadvertently poisoned and the family were none the wiser as to what his underlying illness was.
In happier times, Lieut. Peter Wade, who commanded 11 Platoon, ‘B’ Company, recalls an amusing incident just after the battle at Elst: “Being the green-horn subaltern of the Battalion, I was given the task of Duty Officer when the Battalion came out of the line for a few days relaxation (in the location of Mook, Holland, October 1944).
Muggins was sitting quietly at a table at the entrance of Battalion H.Q. at midnight, when two more-or-less upright officers appeared, supporting between them what appeared to be a sack of potatoes. The senior supporting officer looked at me with a glazed stare and said ‘you’re new here aren’t you? Well. Not a word about this to anyone! Alright!’
The senior pillar-of-support was Captain Jock Bannister and the other was Captain Freddie Coulcher, and what I thought was the sack of potatoes was in fact Captain Wally Leadbeater, the Adjutant.”
Captain Freddie Coulcher (Normandy 1944)
1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - Anti-Tank Platoon (April 1944)
The officers in the front row centre are Lieutenant Freddie Coulcher and Captain Noel Watkins