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Deserters 'returning to the fold'


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#1 CarylW

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:16 AM

Noticed a few articles appearing in local newspapers in the early years of the war concerning former deserters from the services trying to re-enlist, perhaps in the fervour of patriotism after the call to arms or for other reasons.
How common was this and what would have happened to them? Surely they wouldn't be allowed to re-enlist? Or would it depend on the circumstances? Maybe a previous good record until the desertion, or whatever?

#2 steve morse

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:45 AM

Whilst I cannot prove it 100%, one of my 9th Bn men, J Blake, probably deserted during or after the Boer War. He enlisted with a pal J Ryan and his pal was killed in 1901.

In 1914 J Ryan enlisted and was sent to gallipoli and wounded there. A local newspaper mentioned this in October 1915. Blake probably did not think that the local paper would mention men wounded.

Then we come to 14 December 1916 - both men listed as with 1st Bn -
12419 J Blake died of wounds and is buried in Dromesnil Comm Cem (only 2 graves) whilst 12419 J Ryan died of wounds and is on the Thiepval memorial.

I am fairly certain that J Blake used his old pals name in 1914 and after being wounded, either confessed or was found out. He was then sent to France with 2nd Bn.

It would seem that the authorities were just happy to have him back! It is obvious that the paperwork failed to mention that Blake and Ryan were one man and therefore he is buried as one and commemorated as the other.

The death certs are identical and the MIC are identical. They have the same number and to my knowledge never served together :blush:

I think the forces were happy to turn a blind eye in most cases and men returned to the fold to fight.

#3 David Porter

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:57 AM

Harold Tom Rossiter joined the 3rd Dragoon Guards on August 22, 1911 but deserted on September 9, 1912.
His service record clearly states that he rejoined the same unit on August 22, 1914 and "claimed benefit of King's Pardon".
All his former service was forfeited and he started again but with the same service number he was given in 1911.
Of course, he might have just been released from serving a prison sentence for his desertion but here is an early thread on General Amnesty

#4 corisande

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 01:02 PM

I came across a curious one when researching Casements Irish Brigade. This man Patrick Holohan Private, 9877 Royal Irish Regiment - click for a fuller story - is believed to have deserted the British Army in India, and escaped by a German cargo boat, arriving at Marseilles in 1914.

He re-entered the British Army under the general amnesty given to deserters. He was wounded and taken prisoner in Oct 1914, and ended up in Limburg

He joined Casements Irish Brigade and died March 1916 in Zossen POW camp.

#5 CarylW

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 02:11 PM

Interesting replies and I'm glad I asked the question because I hadn't realised there was a general amnesty of 1914. Wonder if there were any known instances of men who had been granted the benefit of the King's Pardon under Special Army Order of 7th August 1914, deserting again during the conflict?

#6 truthergw

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 04:05 PM

Just a notion but one of the differences between desertion and being absent without leave was that the prosecutor had to show that there was no intention to return to the colours. By turning up and asking to resume service, it might have been argued that he was not a deserter but had been absent without leave. I accept that might have been a little thin if the man had been on the run for years.

#7 geraint

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 05:04 PM

Valid point Tom, but the Army Record is specific. A man is noted 'deserted' or 'absent' according to their definition at that time. I've about 3 men from the 990 who embarked to France with 'deserted' noted on their records and two noting it to be by Divisional CM and the third by General Field CM. I've another 12 men who had FP or detention for specific absences (you may recall one on another thread being absent from tattoo. So I'm presuming that Caryl's asking for those specific official deserter.

I do have one. Richard Blood transferred from 4RWF to 3RWF and deserted. He was captured by police at his home in Llandegla. His 1914 Star was revoked. He rejoined, and was kia in 1916. His papers are on Ancestry.

#8 Stoppage Drill

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 06:23 PM

When I was serving at the Guards Depot in the early 1960's it was not too uncommon for us to receive Great War Foot Guards deserters who had surrendered. IIRC the usual procedure was to charge them, take them before the Company Commander of their particular regimental Depot Company who would award an admonishment, and then go through the formal process of discharge.

I suppose the experience was shared by all of the regimental and corps depots ? Was there any sort of amnesty in the 1960's ?



When I think about it, the time difference would have been about the same as a late Aden/early Northern Ireland deserter were to surrender today.

#9 252 gunner

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 07:17 PM

There might be something in the KRR's that your an AWOL for 42 Days(a guess) then posted as a deserter from then on .



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