Hunter, Private William 10710, 1/Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

From the File WO 71/445 Held at TNA


 1st Charge:

Section 12 (A1) Army Act.

The accused No.10710 Private William Hunter, 1/Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, a soldier of the regular forces, is charged with:

When on Active Service, deserting His Majesty’s Service in that he, in the field, on the 23rd September 1915, absented himself from the 1st Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, until apprehended at BURBURE by Major F.D. Samuel 3rd Bn London Regiment on the 30th November 1915, thereby avoiding active operations against the enemy.

2nd Charge:

Section 22 Army Act

When in confinement escaping, in that he, at LILLERS on 1st December 1915, when in confinement in the detention room escaped.

3rd Charge:

Section 22 Army Act

When in confinement escaping, in that he, at MAZINGARBE, on the 5th January 1916, when in confinement in the guard detention room, awaiting Field General Court Martial, escaped.

(Signed) A.C. Oppenheim

Captain, Kings Royal Rifles




At* LILLERS this fourth day of February, 1916

Whereas it appears to me, the undersigned, an officer in Command of 2nd 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.


Captain A.C. Oppenheim, D.S.O, 2nd K.R.R.Corps.


Captain D.L. Ingpen, 10th West Yorkshire Regiment

Captain A.S.H Dicker, 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment

Lieutenant L.G. Holt, 1st L.N Lancs Regiment

(Signed) A.F McWilliam Brigadier General

Commanding 2nd Infantry Brigade

The Trial of 10710 Private William Hunter, 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment


1st Witness

10624 Corporal H. Marchant 1/LNLR duly sworn states:

On the evening of September 23rd 1915, I was present when the Platoon Sergeant of No.3 Platoon called the roll before moving to the trenches. The roll was called at dusk, about 6 p.m. The Accused was absent.

On the evening of September 22nd I was present in the Platoon’s billet when the Orderly Sergeant warned the Platoon, after evening roll call, that we were for the trenches the next day. The accused was present when this warning was given. I am the Accused’s Section Commander and I have remained with my unit the whole time. I did not see the Accused again after September 23rd for two months.

Cross-Examined by the Accused

The Accused could not have been with the Platoon on the evening of September 22nd when the warning was given for the trenches, as I now recollect that the Accused was then a Prisoner in the Guard Room.

2nd Witness

1163 Srgt. H. Lawton M.F.P duly sworn states:

At Lillers on December 1st 1915, about 8 a.m Accused was handed on to me as a prisoner. I locked the Accused in the Guard Room. About 3.30pm I found the door of the Guard Room had been forced and the Accused was missing.

On 4th December 1915, the Accused was again handed on to me as a prisoner about 12 noon. Later in the the same day I handed the Accused on to an escort of Police. On the 8th January 1916 acting on information received I went to Burbure and searched the woods west of Burbure. In the woods I found the Accused. I conducted the Accused to Lillers and detained him. When I searched the woods at Burbure the Accused attempted to run away.

No questions by the Accused.

3rd Witness

Major F.D Samuel, 3rd Bn, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) duly sworn states:

On the evening of November 30th, 1915 acting on information received I went to the farm of Monsieur Damas, Boisfontaine, Burbure. I took an escort with me. I found the accused there. I placed the Accused under arrest and he was taken to Burbure to the Guard Room of my Battalion.

No questions by Accused.

4th Witness

2695 Private T.J Marsh, 2nd London Regt. attached G.M.P duly sworn states:

On December 4th 1915 at about 3.30am acting on information recieved I went with a Frenchman and Rifleman Woodley to a small house in the Boisfontaine woods near Burbure. In a small barn, attached to the house I found the Accused. From a description given to us I recognized the Accused as a man who was wanted by the authorities. I arrested the accused and handed him over to Corporal Dennison, M.F.P who was in charge of the post at Burbure.

Cross-Examined by the Accused

The Accused made no attempt at escape when he saw me coming.

5th Witness

1724 Rfn A.G Woodley, 17th London Regiment duly sworn states:

On the 4th December 1915 in the early morning I went with Pte. Marsh and a Frenchman to a house in a wood near Burbure. Pte. Marsh searched the house. I stayed outside at first. Later I went in and saw the Accused with Pte. Marsh. I, with Pte. Marsh, took the Accused back as a prisoner to Burbure and handed the Accused to the M.F.P post.

No questions from the accused.

6th Witness

3267 Cpl. G.P Dennison, 7th London Regt. Attached M.M.P

On the 4th December, 1915 I was in charge of a control port at Burbure. About 5am the Accused was handed over as a prisoner to me by Pte. Marsh. I asked the Accused his name, number and Regiment. The Accused told me he was Private Hunter of the L.N.L.R. Later in the same day I handed the Accused on to an escort sent by the A.P.M Lillers.

Not questioned by the Accused.

7th Witness

789 L/Corporal G. Soames M.M.P duly sworn states:

About 11am on the 4th December 1915, with Cpl. Vidgeon, I took the Accused over as a prisoner from the control post at Burbure. I conducted the Accused to Lillers and handed him over to Sgt. Lawton, M.P.

No questions by Accused.

8th Witness

6488 Private B. Duckworth, 1st L.N.L.R. duly sworn states:

On the night of 5th January 1916 at Mazinghem I was a regimental Policeman in charge of the prisoners of whom the Accused was one. The prisoners were in two adjoining rooms. About 7.40pm I left the room in which the Accused was to inspect the other room. I was away about two minutes. When I returned the Accused was missing. I reported the matter to the Sergt. of Police about 8.15pm

No questions by the accused.


1st Witness

The Accused

The Accused does not wish to call any witnesses.

The Accused elected to give evidence on oath, being duly sworn states:

I am a native of Newcastle. I left school at the age of 14 and then went to sea. I stayed as a sailor for two years but then started to get into trouble. I had to run away from a ship at Montreal, Canada. Through this I lost touch with my home. I joined the Army at the age of 16, saying that I was 18. I joined a Lancashire Regiment where nobody was likely to know me.

I did not get on well with the others in the Regiment and I lost heart. I came out to the front on 4th January, 1915 and kept a clean sheet up to August ’15. While the Regiment was resting at Bethune in July/August 1915 I came across some friends from my own town in the Berkshire Regiment. We had a good time together and I was then absent from my Regiment for three days. When I came back I was awarded a Court Martial and kept in detention for over a month waiting for my sentence. My sentence was suspended and being then free from detention I had a good time with friends before the Regiment was due back in the trenches. During this time I got in league with a young woman and I did not like to leave her.

I did not realise the seriousness of what I was doing in remaining absent from my Regiment. While I was in the Guard Room after I had been caught I heard a lot of tales about men being shot for offences like mine and I got into such a state of mind that I did not know what to do. That is why I broke out after arrest.

Now I realise that I have played the fool all along and I am sorry. I ask the court to be lenient with me. I am young and I have always been easily led. I am not afraid of the trenches and if leniently treated this time, I hope to make a good soldier.

Cross Examined by the Prosecutor.

I am not afraid of the trenches. I have ran away from the Regiment twice before and gave myself up in the trenches each time, after the Regiment had been in the trenches for one day. It was not to avoid duty in the trenches that I stayed away this time. On the second occasion on which I ran away in August 1915 I did avoid two days and two nights in the trenches. During the two months when I was absent it did sometimes occur to me that my Regiment would be probably be in the trenches, that I was missing the trenches. I did not give myself up because I was having a good time and thought I would stay a bit longer. If I had not been arrested I should still have stayed absent.

I am not afraid of the trenches; When I missed the trenches it was not from fear but for other matters. The woman and having a good time. The fear of my punishment made me escape. I was 18 on 27th December 1915.



1st Witness

Captain W. Ratcliff-Keeble 1st L.N.L.R being duly sworn states:

I produce original A.F.B 122 of the Accused Which shows:

12 December 1914, Felixstowe. Absent from his billet from 8pm until apprehended by the Regimental Police in the town about 8.15pm on 27th December 1914.

14 Days F.P No.2 and deprived 5 days pay.

6.8.15, In the Field. Absent from Battalion while moving to the trenches.

10 days F.P No.1 and forfeits 3 days pay.

15.8.15, In the Field. When on Active Service deserting H.M Service until surrendering himself 18.8.15 (FGCM 2 years imprisonment, found not guilty of desertion but guilty of Absence without leave)

Sentence commuted by G.O.C to one years imprisonment suspended.

The Accused in mitigation states:

I came out to the front on 4th January 1915. I was in action in January 1915 firstly as a bayonet man in the trenches. I did my tours of duty in the trenches from January to August 1915. On 9th May 1915 I was in the Richebourg engagement. I did my duty properly on these occasions.

(countersigned) A.C Oppenheim Captain

President FGCM


Name of Alleged offender (a):

No. 10710 Private W. Hunter

Offence Charged:

(1) When on active service Deserting His Majesty’s Service.

Plea: Not Guilty

Finding and if convicted, sentence:


When in confinement escaping

Plea: Not Guilty

Finding and if convicted, sentence:


(3) When in confinement escaping

Plea: Not Guilty

Finding and if convicted, sentence:



To suffer death by being shot. The court strongly recommends to mercy on the grounds of extreme youth, service in the field and likelihood of being a good fighting man.


To 2nd Brigade

Private Hunter’s Company Commander states that for the past four months (his period of command of the Company) he has hardly seen the man, who has been in the guard room on a state of absence most of the four months.

I do not know the man myself but I am of the opinion that

His character as a fighting man is NIL as he intends to do no fighting.

He would carry on as before and avoid all trench work or fighting.

(Signed) M. Sanderson Lt. Col

Commanding 1/L.N Lancs Regt.


To 1st Division

I forward attached proceedings of FGCM on No.10710 Pte. W. Hunter, 1/LNLR

The number of cases of desertion or other serious crimes, such as sleeping on sentry duty, in the battalion have been unduly high. The state of discipline generally in the battalion is unsatisfactory.

I have consulted the Commanding Officer as to the prisoners character as a fighting man. The C.O does not know him personally, having been absent from the battalion since he was wounded on 25th September. The Company Commander does not know the man, who has been absent in a state of desertion, or in custody, nearly the whole time since the Company Commander has held command of the Company (4 months). Enquiring from other officers and N.C.O’s shows that the general opinion is that the prisoner has not a good character as a fighting man and that he does not intend to fight or to do trench duty.

His previous record is not good. He has three previous cases of absence, one in England and two in France. Of the latter one was for three days, in which he evaded duty in the trenches and are allied to the same period for which he is under sentence of one years imprisonment (suspended)

The present case, accompanied by persistent attempts to escape from confinement is a bad one. The date of his absence, 23rd September, being just previous to the battle of 25th September points to the intention to avoid action with the enemy.

Under the circumstances I am unable to endorse the recommendation to mercy recorded by the Court.

(Signed) A.F. McWilliam Brigadier General

Commanding 2nd Brigade


To H.Q 4th Corps.

In view of the character borne by Private Hunter as set forth in the testimonies of his Battalion and Brigade Commanders I am of the opinion that the Death Sentence should be inflicted.

(Signed) A. Holland Major General

Commanding 1st Division


To Headquarters, 1st Army

I think this man ought to be shot except that he is very young. He was only 17 3/4 years old last September and therefore recommend that the sentence be commuted to 5 years Penal Servitude not to be suspended.

(Signed) Henry Wilson


Commanding 4th Corps.

12th February 1916.

To Adjutant General, General Headquarters

I recommend that the death sentence be put into execution. The man is very young but his Commanding Officer says he is no good as a fighting soldier.

(Signed) C.C Munro General

Commanding 1st Army

for submission to the Commander-in-Chief

(Signed) Gilbert Mellor Lt. Colonel




(Signed) D.Haig General

16 Feb 16


To Headquarters 2nd Brigade

Herewith proceedings and confirmation of death sentence passed on No. 10710 Private Hunter of 1st L.N. Lancs.

The N. Lancs will furnish a firing party of 10 men and 1 officer.

The officer should personally load the rifles. Nine with live rounds and one with blank, or unloaded.

The officer will hand proceedings to the A.P.M at the time of execution. The proceedings will be completed.

You will arrange a suitable place for carrying out the sentence in conjunction with the A.P.M who will visit you this morning.

The prisoner, I understand will be sent down to you, probably tomorrow.

The O.C  L.N. Lancs will please furnish an explanation as to why his escape has not been reported. Please order the L.N. Lancs to place a picked guard over the prisoner when he is handed over to them.

A medical officer will be warned by you to be present at execution and will tender the required certificates. You will also make arrangements for a Chaplain to be with the prisoner from the time of promulagation, should he desire it.

(Signed) C. Pion Major


1st Division


I hereby certify that 10710 Private William Hunter 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment died in France at Les Bubis at 6.58am on February 21st 1916, death being instantaneous.

(Signed) JJ Arnold Pallant

Captain R.A.M.C

attached 1/Loyal North Lancs

In the Field


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