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Remembered Today:

Upsetting Find


adrianjohn

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I've just come across a line which I find really quite upsetting. Looking through the Warlincourt British Cemetery site, I read:

Lance Corporal Hawthorne, 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regiment. Executed for Cowardice 11.08.1916.

Does anyone know anything about this man and the circumstances?

I think it's the baldness of the statement that makes it so seem so awful.

Interesting though, that most other 'executions' of this type went down as desertion.

adrian

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In brief he was in charge of a rear section of raiders on a trench raid. Juts before the raid was started the officer came and Hawthorne complained the night was too bright and it would be murder to go out in those conditions. Hawthornes comrades made similar comments and when the raiders left the advance trench Hawthorne and his party stayed behind.

Hawthorne was charged with cowardice and a second charge of 'previous to going into action, using words likely to cause alarm or despondancy'.

No attempt was made to justify his actions at his trial.

He was age 22 and landed in France as a private in March 1915.

Hope this helps

John

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Adrian

Hawthorne didnt desert. According to "Shot at Dawn":-

"Further operations were planned for July - in the form of a night time raid omn the German trenches. In charge of the rear section of the raiders was L/Cpl Hawthorne. But when the officer who was to lead the party appeared, Hawthorne complained. He argued that the night was clear and bright,insisting that it would be murder to go out under such conditions. In the confines of a battalion dugout, the raiders' rendezvous, the sentiment spread amongst Hawthorne's comrades, who began making the same representations. Eventually the party were persuaded to leave the dugout but when the raiders left the advance trench neither Hawthorne nor his party followed."

Personlly, I struggle to find much reason for clemency in this case (but I know others will take a different view).

John

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Adrian

Eventually the party were persuaded to leave the dugout but when the raiders left the advance trench neither Hawthorne nor his party followed."

It would then be more accurate to say he was shot as an example, as I presume none of the rest of the party were shot for refusing to leave the dug out, just Hawthorne as the instigator.

Whether he should have been shot or not is open to debate, but the others also failed to follow orders.

Is there any record of what punishments they suffered?

Lesley

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The result of his in-action ... court martial, death sentence, firing squad. And in all honesty, he probably had a fair idea that he would end up in a court room where his life would be at stake.

But not necessarily a Catch 22 as I understand it ...

What needs to be answered is how did the actual raid go? Were his fears realised? Did the patrol take severe casualties etc.

If the patrol WAS wiped out or heavily engaged resulting in substantial casualties then I suppose you could qualify for a Catch 22!

Edited by Desmond7
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I think the threat of getting killed in the raid may be sufficient. If you recall, in the book it was the threat of being shot down that was half of the catch. :( Phil B

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It would then be more accurate to say he was shot as an example

Lesley

I don't think it would, as such.

When we've discussed similar before, I have a good recollection of people saying that it was well embedded in military law/custom that, say, an NCO in charge of a party carried a greater responsibility and, therefore, likely to attract a more severe penalty.

Much the same principle applies today in criminal law - i.e. that someone in a position of trust is likely to get a more severe sentence.

John

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i suppose by august 1916 he had enough after being involved in the attacks on hohenzollern redoubt and gommecourt.

enoch

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I presume none of the rest of the party were shot for refusing to leave the dug out, just Hawthorne as the instigator.

The Manual of Military Law 1914 said, "...a non commissioned officer should as a rule be punished more severely than a private soldier concerned with him in the commission of the same offence."

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What needs to be answered is how did the actual raid go?

According to "Blindfold & Alone", the refusal of Hawthorne's party to leave the trench, meant that the first group had to be recalled and the raid cancelled.

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i suppose his death had nothing to do with general williams being put before a court of inquiry for gommecourt?

enoch

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i suppose his death had nothing to do with general williams being put before a court of inquiry for gommecourt?

I think that by refusing to follow a lawfully given order secured the mans fate regrdless of General Williams fate.

Andy

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The Manual of Military Law 1914 said, "...a non commissioned officer should as a rule be punished more severely than a private soldier concerned with him in the commission of the same offence."

I'm not suggesting this man was not punished appropriately, but just wondered how this worked up the chain of command.

I'm reading Gough's war memoirs at the moment, and in the part I've read so far, up to early 1915 there have been a couple of occasions when he records that he was ordered to carry out an attack or operation, but decided that the conditions were not favourable and so didn't do so. I'm not at home but can post the specifics when I'm back later on.

Obviously, he has to exercise some judgement about the men in his command, but isn't that what all commanders at whatever level have to do?

This is a controversial and difficult subject, but just some food for thought....

Alan

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This is an interesting discussion.

I came across one example of a senior officer being courtmartialled and reduced to the ranks for not heeding the advice of a junior private, but one who was an expert.

The case was this:

Sometime in the 1970s a man who had been born in the Alps and lived there all his life was doing his military service in the Chasseurs Alpins.

The commanding officer decided to carry out some exercise (it was winter with heavy snow).

This man was one of those ordered to head up the mountain. He protested that it wasn't safe as it was very bad avalanche conditions and what they were being ordered to do would probably start an avalanche. The officer knew full well that he had lived in the region all his life and could be expected to know what he was talking about.

The officer went red and ordered them to shut up and get on with it. They did, and an avalanche swept away and killed 5 of them. The man I know, survived.

The officer (battalion commander) was courtmartialled as a result of the evidence at the enquiry and reduced to the ranks. The court said that he should have listened to someone who was obviously an expert on what he was saying (and should have been pretty expert himself after a good many years in the Chasseurs).

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This is a bit different, though, Healdav - the officer leading the raid would almost certainly not be the one one who had ordered it. Whoever did order it would (should) have known in advance whether there was a good moon that night and whether cloud was forecast. It must have been a regular hazard of trench raiding. I can`t see the Oi/c raid having had the option of cancelling it? Phil B

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I think that by refusing to follow a lawfully given order secured the mans fate regrdless of General Williams fate.

Andy

What do you mean by "lawfully given"?

Robbie :blink:

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What do you mean by "lawfully given"?

Robbie  :blink:

Any order given by a "superior" officer which follows army regulations is lawfully given.

Andy

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For info, in relation to my earlier post, the two instances in Goughs Fifth Army were: -

1. 29th August 1914, Staff Officer from GHQ directs Gough (then commanding 3rd Cavalry Brigade) to move 12 miles from his location to Golancourt. Gough says the order must have not been thought through, was not practicable and arrived at a bad moment (regiments were short of ammunition). "I told the Staff Officer therefore that I could not carry it out, and must continue my mission of acting as a rear-guard to the I Corps."

2. Aubers Ridge (9th May 1915). Gough then in command of 7th Division. "Late in the evening (after 6 p.m.) orders reached me through Rawlinson from Haig to take over the front of the 8th Division and renew the attack the next morning"

His Brigadiers examined the 8th Division front, found they were being heavily shelled, trenches full of dead and wounded, "the living in great confusion."

"In these circumstances it would have been folly to move up my division and to attempt to assemble the battalions in these same trenches with any hope of a successful attack next morning."

Gough met with his brigadiers and they "decided it would be throwing the division away to comply with the order, so I took it upon myself to cancel the operation and telephoned through to Corps HQ to say what I had done - or rather not done."

He goes on to say Rawlinson approved of this decision in the morning, and of course the dialogue with Corps HQ might mean Gough more or less got the OK

For this second incident, the Official History says (in a footnote) effectively that the 7th & 8th Division commanders together agreed it was impossible and that Haig "therupon cancelled his own orders for the attack by the 7th Division" - which is not quite how Gough puts it!

However, as I say above, food for thought on how complying with clear orders in the midst of a planned offensive may be seen as dependent on rank.

Alan

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Has anyone got the tiral papers to see what was actually said?

John

Just by pure coincidence I ordered them from the Natiuonal Archives yesterday. I am expexting them within a fortnight based on previous orders. For those interested Frederick Hawthorne appears to be from Aldridge, near Walsall in the West Midlands and is actually commemorated on the local memorial there. He is one of several local SAD men that I am researching (Local to the Black Country) please get in touch via the Forum if your are interested.

Graham

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Obviously not a coward, he would have known the penalties he faced for refusing to go, maybe it wasnt his own safety he had in mind, maybe he was concerned about his comrades as well, I know it was a long time ago and we have had time to reflect on actions and reactions from that period but to condem a man for all eternity by naming him on his headstone as a coward really is playing god, is the dead body of a British soldier the property of HM gov or the family? if the family why couldnt they bury him in a family or un marked grave.

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Obviously not a coward, he would have known the penalties he faced for refusing to go, maybe it wasnt his own safety he had in mind, maybe he was concerned about his comrades as well.

Could not agree more. From what has been written in this thread it would appear that Hawthorne was somewhat unfortunate that someone further up the chain of command did not have his leadership qualities, or share his common sense.

Interesting that in the Dallas Moor thread CM wrote - and a general view from the Forum members - was that by allegedly shooting (killing?) at 4 men withdrawing from a heavy Turkish onslaught he was sacrificing the few for the many, who D-M then rallied to a counter-attack.

It would appear Hawthorne took a similar responsibility by being prepared to put his own life on the line to protect the men he was responsible for from what he regarded certain death. The subaltern got the VC and the L/Cpl a firing squad yet I know, albeit retrospectively, which of the two I would have rather had leading me.

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Easy for the armchair generals sitting, 90 years later, infront of thier p.c's with a warm coffee to pass judgement... <_<

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I am wondering ninety years later, if the thinking of the men could have changed alot of the hopeless charges.

A soldier in charge of mean with a 'Ours is not to reason why' mentality would lead his men to death in hopeless situations, but a soldier with the ' Is this the right way to do this or is there a better way' mentality, while trying to save his men would go up on charges. One might think it was up to that soldiers commanding officer to judge the soldier and what he was trying to achieve.

I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

What would have happened if a Lt or such had stood at the Nek and said No.?

Kim

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