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Mazingarbe Executed Soldiers

Executed Soldiers

The abattoir at Mazingarbe would be used numerous times by the British Army as the ideal location for military executions.

Like Poperinge in Belgium the local cemetery has a large concentration of graves of executed soldiers.

You will notice that there is nothing on the headstone that would suggest that the soldier below met anything other than death at the hands of the enemy or at the very least in service of the nation.

Their stories are all very different, from those who simply absented themselves, to those who decided that obedience to military orders didn’t suit them. One man even shot dead one of his friends.

I have always had mixed feelings about how we should view these men. It certainly cannot be said that the system didn’t offer a chance of atonement for earlier failings, but then does a man who has decided that he doesn’t want to be in danger really care about redeeming himself ?

The arguments go on, even after the pardon (which concerned those who were executed — not those who had their sentences commuted).

Today we have different values and attitudes.

We can all be grateful that we were not there to be tested.

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 50.469398 2.713548 Map

Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery Extension


Communal Cemetery

Private James Graham

Private James Graham 9948
2nd Bn Royal Munster Fusiliers
Died on 21st December 1915
Son of Mrs Jane Graham
of 16, Lavitts Lane, off Old Market Place, Cork

Grave: Communal 42

Shot at Dawn for desertion

In January 1915 the Munster Fusiliers were serving in the area of Givenchy. At this time Graham took himself off and managed to remain absent until finally arrested on 14th November in a brothel in B├ęthune. He presented himself as a corporal and furnished a false identity.

At his trial he was also charged with fraud and condemned to death. He became the first soldier to be executed in the abattoir at Mazingarbe.

A memorial plaque to Graham has been placed on the wall of the old abattoir: Square du 19 mars 1962 — Rue Florent Evrard. The abbatoir is now used as the local council services yard.

Private John Docherty

Private John Docherty S/9672
9th Bn Black Watch
Royal Highlanders
Died on 15th February 1916 aged 27
Son of Thomas and Margaret Docherty
of 9 Brown Square, Edinburgh

Grave: Communal 3

Shot at Dawn for desertion

The first Kitchener Volunteer to be executed. John Docherty had enlisted early in 1915. He went absent in January being captured the following day by the Military Police. A medical examination failed to go as far as saying he was suffering from shellshock. Docherty was informed at 1845 hours on the 14th February that his sentence had been confirmed and would be carried out the following morning (At 0712 hours according to the War Diary).

Corporal Charles Lewis

Corporal Charles Lewis B/21000
12th Bn Highland Light Infantry
Died on 11th March 1917

Grave: Communal 98

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Having been warned for duty on 23rd January 1915 whilst resting at Noeux les Mines, Lewis went absent. He was arrested at Thiennes on 10th February by members of the 19th Durham Light Infantry.

Lewis gave numerous different accounts during his detention, wavering between being American (He was born in Butte City, Montana according to the Scottish War Memorial Project) or Canadian, to having worked in Canada. He stated that he had been blown up by an industrial explosion and that this had left him prone to moments of forgetfulness.

Medical examinations could find nothing wrong with him, and his plethora of accounts seemed to suggest that he knew what he was doing when he had gone absent — at the very moment he had been warned for the trenches.

Private Arthur Dale

Private Arthur Dale 4437
13th Bn Royal Scots
Died on 3rd March 1916

Grave: Communal 103

Shot at Dawn for murder

On the 8th February 1916 whilst out on rest Arthur Dale spent the day drinking in a local estaminet. His mate Lance Corporal James Sneddon came in and told him that he had drunk more than enough and should go back to his billet which Dale did. Witnesses state that they saw Dale climb into his loft with his rifle and a moment later a shot rang out. Sneddon fell, mortally wounded. The witnesses and arresting police all stated that Dale was very drunk and incoherent.

He was brought to trial on the 20th February and condemned to death for murder.

Field General Court Martial Statement on behalf of the accused by Captain C Yule,
13th Royal Scots, Prisoner’s Friend : “The evidence shows no premeditation or malice
aforethought. The deceased L/Cpl.himself said it was an accident.”.

James Sneddon is buried in Chocques Military Cemetery (Grave: I H 93)

Private John Jones

Private John Jones 9840
1st Bn Northamptonshire Regiment
Died on 24th February 1916 aged 21

Grave: Communal 104

Shot at Dawn for desertion

On the 8th October 1915 Jones’s battalion was in the front line at Mazingarbe (This is during the Battle of Loos). The Germans launched a bombardment and attempted to regain their old trenches. They were however beaten off and the Northamptons began preparations for a further advance.

On the 11th October Jones made off whilst on sentry duty. He was recaptured but managed to make good his escape and remained at large until 3rd February 1916.

His plea that his sergeant victimised him fell on deaf ears at the subsequent trial. His escape from custody weighing against him.


Communal Cemetery Extension

Private Anthony O'Neill

Private Anthony O’Neill 1/15134
1st Bn South Wales Borderers
Died on 30th April 1916
Son of James and Sarah O’Neil
of 20, Castle Street, Neath

Grave: I A 12

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Driver John Hasemore

Driver John Hasemore L/36251
180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery
Died on 12th May 1916 aged 23

Grave: I B 5

Shot at Dawn for disobedience

An ex Navy man Hasemore volunteered for service in the summer of 1915. Having joined up though he took a dislike to having to obey orders and became increasingly disobedient.

Ultimately he refused to obey even the most banal of orders and this — on active service — resulted in his trial for disobedience (In itself a fairly rare occurrence).

Private William Burrell

Private William Burrell L/10414
2nd Bn Royal Sussex Regiment
Died on 22nd May 1916 aged 21
Son of Charles and Fanny Burrell
of Mill House, Fishbourne, Chichester
Native of Pulborough

Grave: I D 3

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Burrell had enlisted in 1914 before war had commenced. In November 1914 he was shipped to France and the 2nd Bn Royal Sussex. In January 1915 whilst serving near Cuinchy he went absent. He was captured and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted and Burrell was sent to prison on 7th May 1915.

It became the procedure that these sentences would become suspended in order not to deprive the Army of men who would otherwise be sitting out the war in a safe cell (That these men were quite probably unreliable and had already shown that they didn’t want to be at the front was not taken into account).

Burrell was released on 4th April 1916 and sent back to his battalion who were in trenches at Loos. He went absent again within a few weeks.

Rifleman Edward Card

Rifleman Edward Card R/19333
20th Bn King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Died on 22nd September 1916 aged 23

Grave: I D 7

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Card had already received a year’s imprisonment with hard labour for an offence of desertion and during a period in the front line on the Somme in 1916 he went absent again.

He was captured within 24 hours at Amiens. He was brought to trial on the 9th September after the unit had moved away from the Somme and executed in the abattoir – the last British soldier to be so.

Private J Thomas

Private J Thomas 12727
2nd Bn Welsh Regiment
Died on 20th May 1916 aged 44
Son of Mrs M Davies, of Lampha, Pembroke

Grave: I D 20

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Father of three children and a Reservist, Thomas stated at his trail for desertion that at 44 it was unfair to expect him to be able to perform as well as younger men.

Private C Welsh

Private Charles Welsh A/38119
8th Bn Canadian Infantry
Manitoba Regiment
Died on 6th March 1918

Grave: III B 12

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Already under a suspended death sentence for desertion Welsh went missing prior to his units assault on Passchendaele. He was found ten weeks later in a private house in Poperinge.

Welsh became the last soldier to be shot by firing squad in Mazingarbe’s abattoir.


Other cemeteries in the area

Recent Additions

Brimont Churchyard

Braine Communal Cemetery

Soupir Churchyard

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