Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

British soldiers shot in Ireland following Court Martial


corisande

Recommended Posts

Can anyone give me a reference to any British soldiers shot in Ireland 1914 to 1922, following a British court martial.

I came across a reference to "Pte John W Winsley - Exhumed - shot after court martial" which appears, within its context to be a British soldier, shot by the British and buried in Ireland, then exhumed. But there is a possibility that it might refer to a British soldier being shot following an IRA court martial.

Does anyone know if any British soldiers were shot in Ireland by British court martial

Link to post
Share on other sites

He is not in the names listed forthe memorial service held in Royal Hospital on the 21st of November 1922 and I have not come across his name in any accounts of soldiers KIA in Ireland. I think it would be very unusual for the British Army to say he was court martialled by the IRA, any case I have read of a British soldier being tried by the IRA is referred to as murder by the British Army. What was the date of the article?

Link to post
Share on other sites

There isn't a Winsley listed in Gerard Orman's 'Death Sentences Passed by Military Courts of the British Army 1914-1924'. Had a quick glance through it and couldn't see any soldiers executed in Ireland though it's possible I might have missed.

Aled

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the input

It comes in correspondence that someone sent me with BMH in Ireland. This comes in a block that includes The 3 Band Boys, which I know all about

MS442:361/3-A12:2407/2408:remains of three band boys - Carson / Cooper / Chapman - exhumed and returned to England

And goes on to this

A/13056:Bay 16:2411/2412:Exhumation of Late Pte John W Winsley - Executed by Sentence of Courtmartial

Hence my initial post saying that it could have been an IRA court martial. I needed to eliminate a British SAD.

I have started some notes on him - click this link - in a way he should be easy to find as the name is very rare. He appears to be Irish. FMP has a good database analysis tool and there are no suitable births in England & Wales. There is one chap in 1911 census in England, but I can follow him to his death in 1918 in France (seems to be KIA in France)

But that does point to Cork and/Athlone as the origin. I will try rooting in Irish Census to see if I can find anyone else

In passing there were at least two murders in Ireland of a British soldier by a British soldier, and as far as I can see neither murderer, though guilty, was shot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Corisande

According to Statistics of the Military Effort ..., no British soldiers were executed in the UK by sentence of a British court-martial. There were 25 death sentences imposed on civilians at home by courts-martial, all for treason.

It is of course possible that an official execution of the type you describe has been massaged out of the figures (Statistics was published in 1922) but, if there was such a case, neither Putkowski & Sykes (Shot at Dawn) nor Oram have picked it up.

The murder of a British soldier by another British soldier, within the UK, could not be tried by court-martial under the Army Act (Section 41). A normal criminal trial would have been needed. If convicted, the murderer would have been hanged, not shot.

Of course, in the environment of Ireland from 1916 onwards, one can never say that certain things "never happened", but officially they should not have done. The possibility that soldier who was a murderer might be sent to a unit in France, and tried and executed there, is far-fetched but cannot be wholly discounted.

Ron

Ron

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ron

Thanks for the added confirmation that no British soldiers were executed by court martial verdict in Ireland at that time. The murders I mentioned are below

Have a look at

http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/sweeney/pollington/pollington.html

who appears to have been tried by Court Martial (until censorship stepped in)

This man was also murdered

http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/yates/yates.html

and his murderer sentenced to penal servitude, but I cannot get any press reports.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Corisande

A fairly recently-published book, Encyclopaedia of Executions by J J Eddleston, claims to record every judicial execution in Britain in the twentieth century, but it only seems to include Northern Ireland. It does not, for instance, include those executed after the Easter Rising, although it does include those shot or hanged in London for spying.

During the period 1914 to 1921 there were three executions of a soldier for the murder of another soldier: two in 1917, at Barrow-in-Furness and Aldershot, and one in 1918 at Sutton Veny. All three were hanged after trial in the ordinary criminal courts.

Ron

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Ron.

Out of interest, I assume it does include Roger Casement in London in 1916

Right back to establish what happened to the execution of Pte John W Winsley. I have read enough here to believe that his execution was ordered by an IRA court martial. I would still like to establish who he was as he does not have CWGC recognition.

We can be reasonably sure that his body was exhumed, but do not know where it was re-buried.

My problem seems to be that there are not enough possible "John Winsley" or "John W Winsley" (assuming that the Irish BMH transcription is correct) in the records. He does appear to be Irish, by elimination. No suitable birth exists in England & Wales Birth entries. Ireland gives 5 Births for John Winsley. Only 2 of these are possibles

I then seem to be able to narrow him down to one of only two possibles - click link - one of whom dies in France in 1918 and has CWGC recognition. So I eliminate him

The other chap joins RGA in 1912 and is released in Sep 1915 (severe eye problems). He may or may not have joined up again, but if he did, he did not serve abroad (no MIC).

He seems to be the only man in the frame for the man the IRA executed. He does not appear to be mentioned in The Year of the Disappearances, nor can I find him in other references. Nor is there a death entry in Irish GRO

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a thought but could he have been one of the 70 plus anti treaty fighters court martialed and shot by the Free State in 1923?

Link to post
Share on other sites

That is a possibility, I never even thought of that, but given the phrasing it could be.

Though if he were, I doubt that the Free State Government would have been corresponding with the British to return the body. There is no entry in Irish GRO for his death - though it is beyond my period of research, so I don't know how the Free State Government dealt with people they shot from an administrative point of view - in other words did they put them in GRO or just ignore them.

I will see if I can find out anything about that.

Either way though it seems to come back to the John Winsley born Cork 1892, joined RGA in 1912

and discharged in Sep 1915. In other words he seems to be the only man whom it could be, and I cannot find him after Sep 1915. Although discharged as medically unfit with his eyes, he could well have been back in uniform.

Most of the bodies exhumed appear to have been found because someone locally knew where they were buried and who they were. This chap seems to have had both name and court martial given.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That is a possibility, I never even thought of that, but given the phrasing it could be.

Though if he were, I doubt that the Free State Government would have been corresponding with the British to return the body. There is no entry in Irish GRO for his death - though it is beyond my period of research, so I don't know how the Free State Government dealt with people they shot from an administrative point of view - in other words did they put them in GRO or just ignore them.

I will see if I can find out anything about that.

Either way though it seems to come back to the John Winsley born Cork 1892, joined RGA in 1912

and discharged in Sep 1915. In other words he seems to be the only man whom it could be, and I cannot find him after Sep 1915. Although discharged as medically unfit with his eyes, he could well have been back in uniform.

Most of the bodies exhumed appear to have been found because someone locally knew where they were buried and who they were. This chap seems to have had both name and court martial given.

Slightly confused - having looked at the notes in your link I couldn't see any reference to Correspondence with British authorities, have I missed something. Could it be a case of relatives having the body returned to them after the 1924 amnsty? Say in Cork. He could have been for example a deserter from the Free State National Army who went over to the anti treaty forces - it did happen. Things were very confused - my uncle's father in law had to go into hiding in 1923 when, due to a misunderstanding, both sides were after him at the same time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is among a list of British exhumations that was produced by the BMH. I have edited the list on Winsley's page to extract the bit only on him. To a certain extent the list I have has been cobbled together, and could contain errors of attribution, but it is intended to be British exhumations for British consumption. The list contains exhumations like the Manchester Band Boys, Lt Vincent, Pte Motley and Pte Williams among others whom I have a certain background on, and they are all British.

I won't be in Dublin again till next Easter to get at that reference. What I was trying to do here was to see if there were British Court Martial deaths in Ireland. And I think we have established that there were not

Therefore I want to find out more about Winsley. If I have narrowed it down to one man (I accept that I might be wrong in this assumption, but it is a viable working hypothesis) then I need to find out what I can about him post 1915. It is an unusual name, which ought to make the task easier.

If he were a British soldier serving before the withdrawal, then I should be able to find some clues, perhaps only oblique, in the reference books I have. If he were to have been executed by pro or anti treaty forces during the Civil War, I am unlikely to find him

Link to post
Share on other sites

Corisande

O'Farrell's 'Who's Who' to which I have referred in previous threads has a section titled 'Civil War Executions' and has the entry:

"Winsley, Bernard: Cork County Prison, September 1922"

Different christian name but too much of a coincidence?

Aled

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I would say it is "too much of a coincidence". I will see if I can find anything on Bernard.

[edit]Odd with Bernard Winsley. There is a MIC for a man of that name, but I cannot find a birth in England,, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Nothing in Censuses either [/edit]

But on the other had the BMH transcription is not just an initial, but has a Christian name "John". Part of the joys of this sort of research.

Looks as if Centurion could have been right about a Free State execution.

(I probably need to get that book - even if it is "mission creep")

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Ron.

Out of interest, I assume it does include Roger Casement in London in 1916

Yes, it does. And William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in 1946, and Theodore Schurch, who was the only British soldier of WW2 executed by order of a court-martial other than for murder. He was hanged on the day after Joyce.

It occurs to me that changes of name might well have been used to disguise true identities, as was done by some men in the 1970s when Irish courts would often refuse to grant extradition orders because the men were known to the British authorities by different names. And, IIRC, even Eamon de Valera changed his Christian name, originally Edward, to a more "Irish" one.

Ron

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just occasionally one comes across someone using a different first name from the one(s) on the birth certificate. I had a guy on a project team I once managed who I always knew as Eddie. I only discovered when I had to process some paperwork necessary to get him a residence permit for some work in the Far East that his "real" first name on his passport etc was different, he didn't even have a name begining with E. On querying I discovered that for some reason when a child he had taken a dislike to his given name and had insisted on being called Eddie (why Eddie even he couldn't remember). As a result even the CV we used for clients had him down as Edward. It would seem plausible that John Winsley for some reason 'unofficially' changed his given name to a different one and was tried and shot under it but buried and exhumed under his real name name. The fact that you have a man named John Winsley who had served in the British army and who came from Cork and Bernard Winsley was executed in Cork might suggest that they are indeed the same man who on leaving the British Army had returned to his native city and later got mixed up in the civil war. Winsley is not that common a name. If he was buried in the prison, as would seem probable, he might have been exhumed after the amnesty at the request of relatives who wanted him reburied in a grave they could visit. If those relatives were by then living in the UK then the British authorities would have to be involved in the process.

Link to post
Share on other sites
It would seem plausible that John Winsley for some reason 'unofficially' changed his given name to a different one and was tried and shot under it but buried and exhumed under his real name name.

I think this is the essence of it now, either he is the John W Winsley whom I last see leaving British Army in 1915, or he has another name. I will just have to wait on this one until I am next in NLI in Dublin

Link to post
Share on other sites

either he is the John W Winsley whom I last see leaving British Army in 1915

you query him re enlisting would he have done so under the name bernard perhaps?john

Link to post
Share on other sites

either he is the John W Winsley whom I last see leaving British Army in 1915

you query him re enlisting would he have done so under the name bernard perhaps?john

Given that Bernard is listed has having been executed during the Irish Civil War in which, apart from some minor incidents on the N Ireland border, I believe that the British Army played no part this would not seem relevant.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Bernard link is very interesting, considering that John jr appears as "Barney" on the 1901 census. The 1911 census shows that John sr and Susan only ever had two children - so they must be Mary/Maria and John/Barney.

And, if you zoom in on the 1911 entry, you can see what appears to be a half-erased "B" under John's name.

Barney/Bernie sound very similar with an Irish accent!

Adrian

Link to post
Share on other sites

Adrian,

I am very grateful to you for that insight. Your logic is unimpeachable :)

The half-erased "B" under John's name.Barney/Bernie sound very similar with an Irish accent! is particularly nice.

That therefore seems to explain the "court martial". All I have to do now is work out why and when he was being exhumed and where he was reburied. Hopefully there should be some clues in the Irish documents.

Wonder what Barney sounds like with a Greek accent!

Link to post
Share on other sites

How about this, from a totally different angle?

A French girl called Bernadette Soubirous, born in 1844, entered a convent in which she died in 1879 (information from Wikipedia). Her name as a nun was Sister Marie Bernard but she is now better known as St Bernadette, having been canonised in 1933. She was of course the nun who saw visions at Lourdes.

Might the Winsleys either have given their children birth or baptismal names of Marie and Bernard, or changed them later in her honour? I don't know how popular the legend of Lourdes was at the time that the Winsleys were born, but it just might provide an explanation. Or be a complete red herring!

Ron

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting thought Ron. :)

Being a good Protestant boy myself, I am dabbling with the unknown a bit with this one. As I understand it, all (or the majority) of Catholic girls are called Maria with a second name. I would defer to someone who knows about these things

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

So how were British soldiers tried for murder in Ireland, given that it was part of the UK.

They do not seem to have been tried in a civil court, but by Court Martial. Was this the case if a soldier shot another soldier in England at that time.

Have a look at Sgt Pollington tried for murder by GCM - who appears to have been tried by Court Martial in Dublin(until censorship stepped in) for the murder of two fellow soldiers in barracks

This man Helmore also murdered a fellow marine and was sentenced to penal servitude, but I cannot get any press reports.

Link to post
Share on other sites

To answer a few points which have been raised:

1. Winsley does not appear in the list of 77 Republican (anti-Treaty) fighters executed by the Free State authorities during the Civil War (see 'Seventy-Seven of Mine said Ireland', by Martin O'Dwyer, Cork, Deshaoirse (sic), 2006). The first execution was on 17th November, 1922.

2. It is therefore possible, given the date of the execution, that he was a Free State soldier court-martialled and executed under the military laws of the new state. The Provisional Government had taken over in January, 1922 and the civil war began on 28th June, 1922. I greatly doubt that the British authorities would have have called it execution following court-martial if he had been shot by the Republican (I.R.A.) side.

3. Barney is the usual abbreviation in Ireland for Bernard. Bernie is more likely to be short for Bernadette; and when you say 'Irish accent' remember that there are many Irish accents, as different as Liverpool, Devon and Surrey!

4. A minority of Catholic girls are called Maria (or variants, such as Mary, Marie) nowadays.

Over to you!

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • ss002d6252 locked this topic
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
×
×
  • Create New...