The cases of the 26 Irish
soldiers serving in the British Army who were executed in the First World
War were set out in a recent report released yesterday by the Department of
Private A Smythe.
Executed on January 28th, 1915. Charged with deserting
when on active service in France on November 1st, 1914. Military police
found him in a barn on January 15th. He said that on the evening of November
1st his battalion was under heavy shell fire and he volunteered to go and
help carry wounded men back to dressing stations. After walking for most of
the night he met some French troops but they could not help him with the
whereabouts of any British troops. He was only resting at the farm, and
planned to leave that night. "I had no intention of deserting, I had a
complete set of equipment."
Private T Cummings
Executed on January 28, 1915. Charged with deserting
November 6th, 1914. Apprehended with Smythe on 15th January 1915. On
November 7th Cummings was one of the many of the 1st Irish Guards absent
from roll call after heavy fighting. Cummings stated that during the
fighting he became separated from the rest of the men and lost his way. He
met a group of French troops and stayed with them for some time while
attempting to locate his battalion. The day before being apprehended he
heard that there may be Irish Guards in La Bassee and was intending to go
there to find them.
Private T Hope
Executed March 2nd, 1915. On February 14th, 1915 Pte Hope
was charged with deserting his majesty's service, drunkenness and conduct
prejudice to good conduct and military discipline. On February 9th, 1915 Pte
Hope was arrested when drunk, wearing a police badge and when asked for his
name provided Lance Cpl Stout. In his defence Pte Hope stated that on the
night of December 23rd, 1914, he was very upset owing to the news of the
death of two of his brothers. "I had no intention of going absent when I
left the trenches. It was a sudden impulse". He said he had by mistake
entered German trenches later that night where he was kept some days before
being taken to Lille. During an attack he managed to escape and got into the
French trenches where he stayed for some days before moving on and trying to
find his own regiment.
Driver J Bell
Executed on April 25th, 1915. Driver Bell was charged with
three counts of desertion. The prosecution alleged that on October 20th,
1914, both Bell and his associate Wilkinson were ordered to march with a
dismounted party. On arriving at billets that evening both men were reported
absent, and not seen again by their battery until February 10th. In his
defence Driver Bell stated that on October 20th, 1914, he had asked to fall
out, which was granted, and upon returning 10 minutes later he found the
battery had moved on without him.
Private T Davis
Executed on July 2nd, 1915. Charge of quitting his post
without permission on June 22nd, 1915. Disappeared while on sentry duty. Pte
Davis stated that around 2.15am he got a bad cramp in his stomach and had to
visit the latrine. He was there about two hours and upon leaving had another
attack and had to return.
Lance Corporal P
Sands Executed on September 15th, 1915. Sands was granted
4 days leave from his Battalion in France on February 26th, 1915, but did
not return on 1st March as arranged. He was subsequently arrested in Belfast
on July 7th, 1915. Sands said he reported to Belfast Depot on March 2nd,
1915 as he had lost his warrant card and could not return to France without
a new one. He spoke to a corporal who was unable to help, so he then went
Private J Graham
Executed on December 21st, 1915. On December 9th, 1915 Pte
Graham was present with his battalion in the trenches at Cuichy, but that he
was absent from his company from January 26th until the following November.
Apprehended in Bethune on November 20th following an altercation in a
Private Patrick Joseph Downey
Executed on December 27th, 1915. At Salonica, Greece, on
December 1st, 1915, it was alleged that Pte Downey had refused to fall in
when ordered, and refused to put on his helmet when ordered. With a history
of minor insubordination and pleading guilty to the charge, Downey was found
guilty and sentenced to death.
Rifleman J Crozier
Executed on February 27th, 1916. It was alleged that on
January 31st, at 9pm Rifleman Crozier was found to be absent from the
trenches. He was apprehended on February 4th, when walking aimlessly around
without his identification or pay book. In his defence Rifleman Crozier
stated that on January 31st, he went into the front line trenches with his
platoon and was feeling very unwell, with pains all over his body.
McCracken Executed March 19th, 1916. On February 21st,
1916, McCracken was told to be ready for duty in the trenches with his
platoon but later that day could not be found. He gave himself up a few
miles away the same night. In his defence Rifleman McCracken stated that he
had only just came out of hospital and was not feeling fit enough for duty
in the trenches.
Rifleman J Templeton
Executed March 19th, 1916. Evidence heard that on February
20th the 15th battalion were told that they were to proceed to the trenches
later that day, and Templeton himself was told that he would be on sentry
duty on arrival. At the 9pm parade Rifleman Templeton could not be found.
Three days later he gave himself up to an officer behind the lines. He
offered no defence, and simply stated "I am sorry for what I have done".
Private J Cassidy
Executed July 23rd, 1916. Went missing on June 24th, 1916.
On June 30th, Pte Cassidy was apprehended by the French authorities and
handed over to the British military police. In his defence Pte Cassidy
stated that on the morning he went missing he went to the latrine and while
there a shell exploded beside him, covering him with clay. He got nerve
shock and for a couple of days he wandered around dazed before being picked
up by the French.
Private J Carey
Executed September 15th, 1916. Charged with two counts of
deserting. Alleged on June 14th, he absented himself until June 15th and on
June 20th, 1916, after being told to parade for the trenches, he absented
himself until apprehended on June 21st,. In his defence at courts-martial
Pte Carey stated: "I lose my head in the trenches at times, and I do not
know what I am doing at all. My family is afflicted the same way. My father
committed suicide over it. My brother's death in the Phoenix Park five years
ago on March 17th, 1911, was due to the same thing".
Driver J Mullany
Executed on October 3rd, 1916. Mullany was alleged to have
knocked a Sgt Major to the ground and punched him when they fell. The two
men were pulled apart but Mullany again went toward his superior hitting him
and knocking him to the ground again. Mullany stated that he did not strike
the Sgt Major, but that they had confronted each other and ended up tumbling
to the ground.
Private B McGeehan
Executed on November 2nd, 1916. On October 21st, 1916, it
was alleged that McGeehan had gone absent on the night of September 19th.
Apprehended five days later near Montreuil when looking for food and water.
In his defence McGeehan said that ever since he had been in France (18
months) the other men had picked on him and made fun of him. He didn't know
what he was doing when he went absent.
Rifleman S McBride
Executed December 7th, 1916. Charged with desertion while
serving on Vimy Ridge between May 15-17th. The court heard that during the
time that they were positioned on Vimy Ridge they had been subjected to
heavy and sustained shelling with McBride's platoon suffering severely,
especially from trench mortars. McBride was subsequently apprehended on
September 17th near Boulogne.
Private A Hamilton
Executed March 27th, 1917. Alleged that on the morning of
February 8th, 1917, Pte Hamilton left his position in the trenches and was
absent from his scheduled duty later that day. When questioned at Calais he
had no army book in his possession, and that he had given a false name. Pte
Hamilton stated that he had left to go to the dressing station. He had been
attending the doctor for some time previous suffering from trench foot and
bronchitis and did not feel fit for duty.
Private T Murphy (aka
T Hogan) Executed on May 14th, 1917. Alleged that he had
on March 17th, 1917, willingly deserted subsequent to being told to be ready
to move forward that evening. Pte Murphy was apprehended on April 3rd, 1917,
and in his defence stated that he thought his platoon were staying in a
dugout for the night, and he had not known they were readying to move
forward. He had gone to look for wood to make tea, had become lost in the
trenches. He eventually found himself in a village, where he was later
discovered in a dishevelled state.
Private J Wishart
Executed on June 15th, 1917. Charged with two counts of
desertion. On March 31st at Hazebrouck he absented himself and was
apprehended in Boulogne on April 20th. On April 30th, he again absented
himself and was again apprehended in Boulogne on May 11th. In his defence,
Wishart said that in December 1916 he received a telegram from his wife who
told him that their child was ill. He applied for leave to return home but
was refused and as time passed and he received no further information from
home he became more worried. "It was only worrying about my child that made
me absent myself. It was not through cowardice."
Private J Hepple (aka
R Hope) Sentenced to death but no confirmation of decision.
Allegedly went absent on January 21st, 1917, following an order for his
company to proceed to the trenches. Pte Hepple was arrested in an abandoned
house on May 1st, 1917. In his defence Hepple made no statement other than
saying that when found he was attempting to rejoin his battalion.
Private M Monaghan (aka
S Byrne) Executed on October 28, 1917. Charged with
wilfully absenting himself to avoid service in the front line on August 5th,
and also with escaping following his arrest on September 22nd. In his
defence he stated that on the morning of August 5th he had felt very unwell
with rheumatic pains in his head and feeling very cold and ill, he lay down
in a hedge and slept. When he awoke he found his battalion had left, so he
wandered around looking for them, afraid to report himself for fear of what
may happen. The accused was found on September 9th by the French.
Private G Hanna
Executed on November 6th, 1917. It was alleged that on
September 28th, Private Hanna went missing when his unit was moved to the
trenches. Apprehended two days later when asking for food. In his defence
Private Hanna stated that he had no intention of deserting - he had been on
service for three years, and had lost three brothers in that time to the
war. His last leave was in December 1914 and he had since heard from his
sister in Belfast who was not well. He absented himself because he was upset
at not being able to go and see "his people".
Private J Seymour
Executed on January 24th, 1918. Alleged that on the
morning of November 27th, 1917, the accused went absent after being informed
that the platoon were forming up into the line. Pte Seymour was arrested in
a YMCA hut on December 28th, 1917. In his defence Pte Seymour stated that on
the night of November 26th, 1917, he was sent to get some rations. Along the
way he met some men who gave him some rum. The next morning he woke up about
three kilometres from his last position and tried to find his regiment but
failed to do so.
Private B O'Connell
Executed on August 8th, 1918. Alleged that on July 7th,
1918, Pte O'Connell was noted as absent during the evening roll call. In his
defence he stated that he was unaware his battalion was going on into the
front line, and left to find a woman in one of the surrounding villages. As
he was unable to read or write, he stated that he was unaware of the
seriousness of his offence, and had intended to return to his battalion.
Private P Murphy
Executed on September 12th, 1918. On July 31st, 1918, the
accused absented himself until his arrest on August 12th. Shells had landed
near the position of the working party before Pte Murphy disappeared. During
the court-martial the accused did not make any statement, was found guilty
and sentenced to death.
Private James H.
Wilson He fought with Canadian forces. His case file has been
reported as lost by the Canadian authorities.
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