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PaddyO

Deserters

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PaddyO

Hi,

 

In the course of researching my family's involvement in the Great War I have discovered two relatives who appear to have deserted from the East Surreys (albeit from different battalions in different years). However their cases have engendered a few questions with which I hope you can assist.

 

In the first instance TG (or TB if we are to use his alias as offered as an alternative in the Police Gazette) is reported to have gone AWOL two weeks previously and is being sought. His record of service does exist but is incomplete and there is no surviving mention of this absence. I assume he was either caught or returned voluntarily. His conduct is described as good later on and he serves through the war to its completion albeit with an apparent transfer to the Queen's Regt and later to the REs. In 1919 he returns home and is awarded medals (interestingly when he acknowledges receipt of them he writes his unit as East Surrey Regt).  So everyone is happy and it looks straightforward.

 

In the second case however CM (who is well known to the family as he was murdered in a street attack in 1925 while walking home with his wife) is 'struck off the strength as a deserter' according to his record of service in March 1916. Now oddly this man does not appear in the police gazette. The Regiment is still pestering him to bring in his son's birth certificate in May (the wonders of army bureaucracy at work) but letters are predictably not being answered (and this Battalion is then posted to France and the Somme so I can see how more pressing matters intervened).  There is however an evident paucity in the file on this matter though; just that one line.  There is understandably no issue of/record of medals and the trail goes cold until he pops up on the Battersea electoral registers in 1923 with his wife.

 

So my questions are why isn't CM pursued in the gazette?, was it possible for men to abscond in order to see out the war?, could he have re-enlisted?, what would the punishment have been if caught? and is there a good book/article dealing with home desertions?

 

Apologies for the length of the post. 

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ss002d6252
52 minutes ago, PaddyO said:

Hi,

 

In the course of researching my family's involvement in the Great War I have discovered two relatives who appear to have deserted from the East Surreys (albeit from different battalions in different years). However their cases have engendered a few questions with which I hope you can assist.

 

In the first instance TG (or TB if we are to use his alias as offered as an alternative in the Police Gazette) is reported to have gone AWOL two weeks previously and is being sought. His record of service does exist but is incomplete and there is no surviving mention of this absence. I assume he was either caught or returned voluntarily. His conduct is described as good later on and he serves through the war to its completion albeit with an apparent transfer to the Queen's Regt and later to the REs. In 1919 he returns home and is awarded medals (interestingly when he acknowledges receipt of them he writes his unit as East Surrey Regt).  So everyone is happy and it looks straightforward.

 

In the second case however CM (who is well known to the family as he was murdered in a street attack in 1925 while walking home with his wife) is 'struck off the strength as a deserter' according to his record of service in March 1916. Now oddly this man does not appear in the police gazette. The Regiment is still pestering him to bring in his son's birth certificate in May (the wonders of army bureaucracy at work) but letters are predictably not being answered (and this Battalion is then posted to France and the Somme so I can see how more pressing matters intervened).  There is however an evident paucity in the file on this matter though; just that one line.  There is understandably no issue of/record of medals and the trail goes cold until he pops up on the Battersea electoral registers in 1923 with his wife.

 

So my questions are why isn't CM pursued in the gazette?, was it possible for men to abscond in order to see out the war?, could he have re-enlisted?, what would the punishment have been if caught? and is there a good book/article dealing with home desertions?

 

Apologies for the length of the post. 

Where have you been searching the police gazette ? If it's the copies on FMP they aren't (or weren't) a complete run. I'd also have suspicions that the sheer number of men meant that many may not have made it in to the listings.

 

Without full names and service numbers it would be very difficult for people to assist above the basics.

Edited by ss002d6252

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PaddyO
14 minutes ago, ss002d6252 said:

Where have you been searching the police gazette ? If it's the copies on FMP they aren't (or weren't) a complete run. I'd also have suspicions that the sheer number of men meant that many may not have made it in to the listings.

 

Without full names and service numbers it would be very difficult for people to assist above the basics.

Thanks, yes it was FMP. That's interesting to know.  As a newbie I'd naively assumed the lists were fairly comprehensive.  

 

My omission of the men's names was a conscious decision; I was just hoping for general pointers.  

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PaddyO

As an update, am slightly ashamed to say I have another bolter in the family! Run from the RN in May 1915. He re-enlisted in November into his local battalion (using his real name, d.o.b. and address) and went to France with them where he was wounded July '16 and was finally medically discharged the following year. He died in 1929 aged 33. 

I'd be very interested to know if there are stats on desertions..

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