“In the Firing Line in Mesopotamia” The FGCM of 10555 Private Thomas Downing, 6th South Lancashire Regiment

From the File WO 71/632 Held at TNA

 

CHARGE SHEET

 

6th February 1917

No. 10555 Private Thomas Downing, 6th South Lancashire Regiment, a soldier of the Regular Forces, is charged with:-

When on Active Service when a soldier acting as sentinel sleeping on his post. In that he in the firing line in Mesopotamia on February 6th 1917 at 2.45am when sentry on a forward post was asleep.

 

FORM FOR ASSEMBLY AND PROCEEDINGS OF FIELD GENERAL COURT MARTIAL ON ACTIVE SERVICE

 

PROCEEDINGS

At* Firing Line, Mesopotamia, this Sixth day of February 1917.

Whereas it appears to me, the undersigned, an officer in Command of 38th Infantry Brigade on active service, that the persons named in the annexed Schedule, and being subject to Military Law, have committed the offences in the said schedule mentioned.

And I am of opinion that it is not practicable that such offences should be tried by an ordinary General Court Martial:

I hereby convene a Field General Court Martial to try the said persons and to consist of the Officers hereunder named

President

Lt. Col A. Macnaghton 6th K.O.R.L.R

Members

Captain F.C.C Briggs, Kings Liverpool Regiment

Captain O.A. Reid, Kings Liverpool Regiment

(Signed) JW O’Dowda, Brigadier General

Commanding 38th Brigade.

THE TRIAL OF NO. 10555 PRIVATE THOMAS DOWNING, 6TH SOUTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT

 

 PROSECUTION

 

1st Witness

No. 9401 Sergeant T. Miller 6th South Lancs Regt. being duly sworn states:

In the firing line on February 6th 1917 at 1 a.m I posted the accused, No. 10555 Pte. Thomas Downing, as a sentry in a forward post. His period of sentry duty was for 2 hours. At 2 a.m on the same morning I posted Pte. Burton next to and alongside the accused. All was correct. The forward post consists of a group of 6 men.

At 2.45 a.m I accompanied 2nd Lt. Jackson round visiting sentries and found the accused and also Private Burton both asleep.

The evidence is read over to the witness.

Accused declines to cross examine.

Q.1 by Court. In what position was the accused when you found him asleep?

A.1 He was sitting down reclining against the parados and his rifle was placed against the forward side of the small water course in which they were posted.

Q.2 What aroused this man from his sleep?

A.2 I kicked Pte. Burton in the leg and awakened him and while speaking to him the accused awoke.

The evidence is read over.

Accused declines to cross examine.

Witness Withdraws.

 

2nd Witness

2nd Lieutenant A.G. Jackson, 6th South Lancs Regt. being duly sworn states:

In the firing line at 2.45 a.m on Feb 6th 1917 I visited my forward post with the N.C.O on duty, Sgt. Miller and found the accused asleep reclining against the back of the watercourse. He had his rifle near him. The accused had not been on any fatigue during the previous afternoon. 

The evidence is read over to the witness

Accused declines to cross examine.

Witness withdraws.

 

3rd Witness

No. 7897 C.S.M. F. Woollett 6th South Lancs being duly sworn states:

The accused, Pte. T Downing had not reported sick previous to going on sentry duty, nor during the previous day. he had not to my knowledge been on any fatigues since midday Feb 5th 1917.

The evidence is read over to the witness.

The accused declines to cross examine.

The Witness withdraws.

PROSECUTION CLOSED

 

DEFENCE

 

The accused, No 10555 Pte. Thomas Downing in his defence states:

I was very tired on the morning in question. I was awake till about 2.30 a.m when a patrol of the East Lancs went through the line returning to their lines in the rear.

Court Closed to consider finding.

Proceedings before Sentence.

Captain and Adjutant P.W Ward 6th South Lancs Regt. being duly sworn states:

I produce statement as to Character and Particulars of the accused, No. 10555 Pte. T. Downing. These statements have been compared with all available documents.

The accused was wounded at Gallipoli and has generally done good service with the Battalion.

The accused declines to cross examine.

Witness withdraws.

Court Closed to consider Sentence

(Signed) A. Macnaghton Lt. Col

President F.G.C.M.

In the Field

7.2.1917

 

STATEMENT AS TO THE CHARACTER AND PARTICULARS OF THE SERVICE OF ACCUSED

 

No. 10555 Private Thomas Downing, 6th South Lancashire Regiment

There are no entries on the conduct sheet of the accused.

The present age of the accused according to his A.B.64 is 21 years and 8 months.

The date of his attestation specified in his A.B.64 is 15th August 1914.

The service for which the accused is allowed to reckon towards discharge is 2 years 6 months.

(Signed) P.W Ward Capt/Adj.

6th Bn. South Lancs Regt.

 

SCHEDULE

 

Name of Alleged offender (a):

No. 10555 Private Thomas Downing, 6th South Lancashire Regiment

Offence Charged:

When on Active Service when a soldier acting as sentinel sleeping on his post. In that he in the firing line in Mesopotamia on February 6th 1917 at 2.45am when sentry on a forward post was asleep.

Plea:

Not Guilty

Finding, and if Convicted, Sentence (b):

The Court Sentences the accused, No. 10555 Private Thomas Downing, 6th South Lancashire Regiment to suffer Death by being shot.

(Signed) B Macnaghton Lt. Col

President FGCM

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

BATTALION

 

No. 10555 Private Thomas Downing joined this Battalion in August 1914. he was wounded at Gallipoli in August 1915, rejoined in November the same year and on arrival at Basra was invalided to India. He rejoined [the Battalion] again at Amara in November 1916. While serving with the Battalion he has always done his work in a soldierly manner and has never given the slightest trouble.

(Signed) F.H Charlton Lt. Col

Commanding 6th South Lancashire Regiment

7th February 1917.

 

BRIGADE

 

To H.Q 13th Division

In forwarding the proceedings of the FGCM in the case of No. 10555 Pte. T. Downing, 6th Battalion South Lancs Regiment to be dealt with by superior authority, I attach the character furnished by the Accused’s Commanding Officer.

There appears to be no extenuating circumstances beyond his character and I therefore consider the sentence should be carried out.

(Signed) J.W O’Dowda

Commanding 38th Infantry Brigade

7/2/17

 

DIVISION

 

To 3rd Corps

There are no extenuating circumstances but in view of Private Downing’s excellent record and as an appreciation of the good work done by his Battalion during the present Operations I recommend that the sentence be commuted to one of 5 years Penal Servitude and that it be suspended.

(Signed) W de S Cayley

Major General

Commanding XIII Division.

10/2/17

 

CORPS

 

To

General Headquarters

In view of the fact that the accused (together with his fellow sentry) was found sitting down in the trench I am unable to see any extenuating circumstances and do not recommend and suspension of sentence in this case.

(Signed) W. R Marshall

Lieutenant General

Commanding, 3rd Indian Army Corps

10th February 1917.

 

REPORT OF TRIAL

 

From

The Deputy Judge Advocate General

1st and 3rd Indian Army Corps

To

The Deputy Adjutant General

General Headquarters

FGCM

No. 10555 Pte. T. Downing, 6th Battalion South Lancs Regiment

Charge: Sleeping at his post.

Finding: Guilty of the charge.

Sentence: Death.

Forwarded for the decision of the Army Commander, together with the recommendations of the Brigade, Divisional and Corps Commanders.

The finding is supported by the evidence, and the sentence is legal.

(Signed) Stanley R. Crawford

Lieut.

Deputy Judge Advocate General

1st and 3rd Indian Army Corps.

 

COMMANDER IN CHIEF

 

Confirmed.

(Signed) F.S Maude

Lieutenant General

 

SENTENCE

 

Promulgated and extracts taken at NAHR BASSOUIA this 18th day of February 1917.

(Signed) F.H Charlton Lt. Col

Commanding 6th South Lancashire Regiment

Thomas Downing was shot at dawn on 19 February 1917. There is no mention if death was instantaneous.

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