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mjh

Officers shot by their own men

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mjh

I'm currently reading a book about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, "Vimy" by Pierre Berton,

and on page 161 it states

"It did not pass unnoticed that The British Guards officers insisted on being saluted in the trenches - something the easier-going Canadians

dispensed with - and that those Imperial Officers attached to the Corps sometimes ordered extra fatigues or other penalties for soldiers caught

with mud on their greatcoats. Such officers did not last long in the Canadian lines: those who weren't sent back to the British Army were shot

in the back by their own men".

It doesn't list a source for such a story, so I was just wondering whether any other forum members had heard of such a story, whether there is

evidence to back it up, or whether it was just hearsay.

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truthergw

This has been discussed at length on several threads. I don't think there was any consensus as to which troops were more likely to murder their own officers in cold blood. I don't recall Canadians being singled out. There is bound to be a lack of evidence for it except where it led to court martial and that doesn't seem to be plentiful. I believe Bob Lembke has a personal anecdote of it happening in the German army. Hopefully, he will spot this thread and remind us of what happened.

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Perth Digger

If Berton's book on Sir John Franklin is any guide, I'd not rely on anything he says. He is a very anti-British Canadian.

I'm currently reading a book about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, "Vimy" by Pierre Berton,

and on page 161 it states

"It did not pass unnoticed that The British Guards officers insisted on being saluted in the trenches - something the easier-going Canadians

dispensed with - and that those Imperial Officers attached to the Corps sometimes ordered extra fatigues or other penalties for soldiers caught

with mud on their greatcoats. Such officers did not last long in the Canadian lines: those who weren't sent back to the British Army were shot

in the back by their own men".

It doesn't list a source for such a story, so I was just wondering whether any other forum members had heard of such a story, whether there is

evidence to back it up, or whether it was just hearsay.

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IPT

Got to do school run so no time to search for this, from IWM;

AutoID 512972 DeptName Sound IDNO 569 ProductionDate 1975 ObjectType IWM interview IndexPeople Burke, Ulick B xxx

REEL 13 Continues: question of value of experience in trench warfare; German shellfire; story of trying to avoid zone of fire of German machine gun prior to going over top; question of discipline including story of over strict officer shot by his own men during attack, state of morale during retreat, 3/1918, role of training and value of instilling self reliance in other ranks; question of behaviour of German officers; fighting patrols and story of getting caught in German barbed wire; introduction of 106 fuse shell designed to clear barbed wire; consolidation of German trenches. Recollections of operations in Ypres area, 4/1917-7/1917: question of varying conditions on Western Front.

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mjh

I'm certainly picking up on the anti-British officer sentiments in the book Perth Digger, and thanks for the reference IPT

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ianw

Harry Lauder's officer son is rumoured to have been "taken out" by his own troops in such a manner - but, of course, these events would not have been widely publicised.

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truthergw

Might that have been because there was not a scrap of evidence? That was one of the threads to which I was referring. This story has not even a definite source. It was one of those, " I read somewhere", tales.

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PBI

A Veteran who i personaly knew told me that He and some Pals "Got rid of" a much hated Officer during a Trench raid.I have the Name of said Officer,and the Veterans account was also related to an Author who chose to omit the account from His book in case any surviving family members of said Officer were still alive.

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Jesse

No doubt it has always happened, though rarely. My favorite is the case of Black Watch Corp. M'Morran who was summoned to parade ground drill by his officer, Lieut. Dickinson, who had already informed M'Morran that he was going to be flogged and reduced to the ranks. Standing alone at attention before Lieutenant Dickinson, M'Morran smartly brought his rifle up and shot him through the heart. Six days later he was hung and shot for good measure.

I'm currently reading a book about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, "Vimy" by Pierre Berton,

and on page 161 it states

"It did not pass unnoticed that The British Guards officers insisted on being saluted in the trenches - something the easier-going Canadians

dispensed with - and that those Imperial Officers attached to the Corps sometimes ordered extra fatigues or other penalties for soldiers caught

with mud on their greatcoats. Such officers did not last long in the Canadian lines: those who weren't sent back to the British Army were shot

in the back by their own men".

It doesn't list a source for such a story, so I was just wondering whether any other forum members had heard of such a story, whether there is

evidence to back it up, or whether it was just hearsay.

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Jesse

Of course, I might add that this took place in April of 1813, during the Peninsular Campaign.

I'm currently reading a book about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, "Vimy" by Pierre Berton,

and on page 161 it states

"It did not pass unnoticed that The British Guards officers insisted on being saluted in the trenches - something the easier-going Canadians

dispensed with - and that those Imperial Officers attached to the Corps sometimes ordered extra fatigues or other penalties for soldiers caught

with mud on their greatcoats. Such officers did not last long in the Canadian lines: those who weren't sent back to the British Army were shot

in the back by their own men".

It doesn't list a source for such a story, so I was just wondering whether any other forum members had heard of such a story, whether there is

evidence to back it up, or whether it was just hearsay.

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mjh

Going back to my earlier post, I recently watched the movie "Company K" , a WW1 film based on an American serviceman's memoirs

and there was an incident in the film , where an American officer was killed by one of his own troops.

I was also wondering if there were any court martials which dealt with either killing of, or wounding of an officer,

on any of the sides of the Great War. Any info greatly received.

Mike

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Steven Broomfield

Taking PBI's point: did the veteran concerned give any verifiable detail? I merely ask because memories 60 or so years down the line might not be terribly reliable, even about something so presumably memorable. Add to that a degree of embellishment or bravado.

I'm not saying it did or didn't happen; merely wondering if it can be verified.

I have always been struck by how little evidence, how few such claims, ever surface in memoirs of the time. The Yanks in Vietnam seem to have spent a lot of time 'fragging' officers and NCOs to whom they took a dislike, but I think I've never seen an attributable, verifiable, proven case of this happening in the GW.

Therefore, I tend to be wary of claims such as that quoted in the book in question, and the more so when it is from an author who may have an 'agenda'.

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mjh

Haven't read the book by William March, but the film is based on the book, which

was a memoir written by a haunted American WW1 veteran, so could in fact be a true

story of an officer killed by one of his own men. Have any forum members read the book?

It's meant to be a classic.

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truthergw

I could post all sorts of thrilling tales as long as I am allowed to dispense with the niceties of references, sources etc. I could in fact, post many an anecdote which I was privileged to hear from WW1 veterans and which I believe to be almost certainly true. Because they are simply anecdotal, I do not or at least, not without hedging them around with lots of health warnings. Great tales for sharing in the pub but a serious contribution to a discussion they are not.

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IPT

I completely agree that any anecdotes and hearsay evidence should be treated with caution. On the other hand, considering the millions of trained killers involved in the Great War, i'd be more surprised if it had never happened.

The problems are;

1) We would want any such incident completely verified.

2) Any such incident cannot be completely verified. *

* unless there is irrefutable court martial evidence available

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PBI

Taking PBI's point: did the veteran concerned give any verifiable detail?

The Vet was very open about the incident and told me the Mans Name,Rank and Battalion,date of death,all of which check out,as does the Mans Grave grave in Belgium.I checked the Battalion War Diary for the Day/Night in question and indeed this Officers Death was mentioned.I should add that according to the Veterans testimony the Battalion C.O. was not exactly happy with said Officer who was continuously putting Battle hardened old sweats on charges in and out of the line for trivial misdemenours.The final Straw for the Men of the Battalion was when the officer in question cried off 3 times when detailed to lead a Trench raid.The CO insisted that said officer would have to lead a raid or be court martialed.The raid finally went ahead.The Officer did not return.

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truthergw

IPT I agree. In the thread referred to earlier which started about Harry Lauder's son and strayed widely, as it was bound to, it was pointed out that any line officer could be killed more or less with impunity on a raid or in an attack or even in a hot defence. It would be remarkable if it did not happen. It almost certainly did happen by accident but there are few if any recorded instances of men in the front line shooting a superior. For such a serious accusation, murder, I think we are entitled to some very persuasive evidence to be presented in support.

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Jesse

Oh Tom! You wet blanket, you!

IPT I agree. In the thread referred to earlier which started about Harry Lauder's son and strayed widely, as it was bound to, it was pointed out that any line officer could be killed more or less with impunity on a raid or in an attack or even in a hot defence. It would be remarkable if it did not happen. It almost certainly did happen by accident but there are few if any recorded instances of men in the front line shooting a superior. For such a serious accusation, murder, I think we are entitled to some very persuasive evidence to be presented in support.

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truthergw

Sorry about that. Squelches off into the sunset. :ph34r:

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bob lembke
This has been discussed at length on several threads. I don't think there was any consensus as to which troops were more likely to murder their own officers in cold blood. I don't recall Canadians being singled out. There is bound to be a lack of evidence for it except where it led to court martial and that doesn't seem to be plentiful. I believe Bob Lembke has a personal anecdote of it happening in the German army. Hopefully, he will spot this thread and remind us of what happened.

As I sit down to write in response to Tom's suggestion I am hearing the very preliminary news of a shooting on the US Fort Hood army base, in which at least 12 are dead and more wounded.

I have told this story 2-3 times over the last few years. This story is largely based on the oral history of my father, but is slightly supported by an alonomity in the death records of his regiment, which are elaborate, and some indications in documents from his unit. When I was young, probably in the early 1950's, my father told me a lot about his life and especially his experiences in WW I, and also about his father, a staff officer. In 2001 I found a trove of family letters from WW I that my father had collected, not only saving those he received, but collecting his letters to his father and other family members and friends. He also kept quite a few military documents. When I found this I decided to seriously study WW I, but write down the oral history before I read one letter or read one book, and put down 40 pages of material that I have kept without changing one word, a lot of the material making no sense to me at all, as I knew little about the German Army and WW I. I initially regarded this information with considerable scepticism. Over the following nine years I have corroborated many dozens of items from it, and have not found one clear significant falsehood, although certain things are hard or impossible to corroborate. So now I generally consider this body of information reliable.

I have a lot more detail on this incident, and on other related matters about his company, officers involved, etc., but I plan to leave a good deal out, as I am writing a biography of my father and grand-father, and frankly I have found a fair amount of material I have posted on this forum in print, with or without attribution, so I will keep some of this story "close to my chest" until I do something with the material myself. I might add that three senior "Pals" from the Forum have PMed me warning me of this phenomenon.

My father was a EM/OR in the Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer) , the main flame-thrower unit in the German Army. His company was possibly 50 miles away from the next unit of his company, and his unit reported directly to his regiment and that to the Highest Army Command, not even to the Army HQ where they were stationed. The company commander was a thief and a coward, and the Feldwebel (first sergeant or sergeant major) knew it, and also abused the men, the company CO knew of the abuses of the Feldwebel, which were severe. It was an awful and I think very unusual situation. My father hated the command structure in the company.

The company CO never went into combat (It was one company of Flammenwerfer serving perhaps 30 divisions) but one night, quite drunk, he made one large mistake, abused the men again, and ended up being shot by a number of men, of which my father was proudly one. (He was a crack shot, being trained by his father, a gun nut, from about the age of eight on military ranges.) The details of this incident are immensely amusing, like the best of Gilbert and Sullivan.

When the men got back to barracks it was surrounded by infantry for days, and officers came in and out and conducted an elaborate formal investigation. When it was concluded the infantry posts were withdrawn, and then large barrels of beer were delivered to the barracks for the men. Clearly the verdict was that an elite storm unit was worth more than one "rotten apple" officer.

The traces of this incident are largely missing from the elaborate records of the unit, including an elaborate death roll. My belief is that the institution of the regiment, probably thru the regimental court of honor, wrote the miserable officer out of the records; made him a non-person. I probably have his signature on documents, and I will be studying this matter more. (I already have constructed a roster of the regiment representing at least 1200 men and officers, probably including the vast majority of the officers.)

Bob Lembke

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loganshort

"Harry Lauder's officer son is rumoured to have been "taken out" by his own troops in such a manner - but, of course, these events would not have been widely publicised. "

Please let's not hark on again about H Lauder's son's death. this has been done to death! (sorry). Must have been lots of men who would have liked to have shot their officer in a fit of peak but didn't because common sense prevailed. However, the stories circulate again and again about a very small handful of instances. Tom is quite right about evidence and also instances of accidental shootings of which there are many accounts. Also, the shooting of an officer by an invisible sniper whilst peaking over the parapet could lead to rumours along the line about who really did shoot him?

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Perth Digger

When Siegfried Sassoon returned to the front line for the last time in 1917 he went out on a small patrol (against orders) at night to attack a machine gun post with grenades. When he returned to the trench he stood up to look back at the enemy lines and was shot in the head by one of his own platoon. It was accidental; Sassoon had stood up in the line of fire. An ironic end to his career in the army, as he was convinced that his men loved him. I wonder if the great ironic poet recognised the irony?

"Harry Lauder's officer son is rumoured to have been "taken out" by his own troops in such a manner - but, of course, these events would not have been widely publicised. "

Please let's not hark on again about H Lauder's son's death. this has been done to death! (sorry). Must have been lots of men who would have liked to have shot their officer in a fit of peak but didn't because common sense prevailed. However, the stories circulate again and again about a very small handful of instances. Tom is quite right about evidence and also instances of accidental shootings of which there are many accounts. Also, the shooting of an officer by an invisible sniper whilst peaking over the parapet could lead to rumours along the line about who really did shoot him?

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Hannigarla

This story was told to me by my father. He in turn was told it by Tommy Minnis who served in the 36th Ulster Division on the Somme in 1916:

The Ulstermen had an Officer who was English and whom they considered to be treating them badly. So apparently they all vowed that when they went over the top each one would put a bullet in his back. Tommy didn't get his chance to shoot the English man because he was quickly wounded by German fire and sustained a leg injury (he walked with a limp the rest of his life). However the much hated officer was "riddled".

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Steven Broomfield

Which neatly illustrates the problem: third-hand information with no attributable details.

 

Again, not that we don't believe the tale ... just that it's another vague story that can't be proved (or disproved).

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Magnumbellum
On 05/11/2009 at 18:07, Jesse said:

No doubt it has always happened, though rarely. My favorite is the case of Black Watch Corp. M'Morran who was summoned to parade ground drill by his officer, Lieut. Dickinson, who had already informed M'Morran that he was going to be flogged and reduced to the ranks. Standing alone at attention before Lieutenant Dickinson, M'Morran smartly brought his rifle up and shot him through the heart. Six days later he was hung and shot for good measure.

 

 

Any account of a person allegedly being being "hung" rather than hanged is necessarily suspect.

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