THE EXECUTION OF HARRY POOLE 1916

I came across this particular case purely by accident. On a website relating to The Yorkshire Regiment, there are three entries for British soldiers who were shot at dawn in the Great War, and one of these entries related to a Harry Poole from Sheffield. The book Shot at Dawn - Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes simply records that Harry was executed for desertion and no further details are given

The following information was obtained from the web-site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The first table gives the bare details of Harry's military career and his place of burial

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Private

Regiment:

Yorkshire Regiment

Unit Text:

7th Battalion.

Age:

22

Date of Death:

09/12/1916

Service No:

8534

Additional information:

Son of Mr. A. Poole, of 9, Bernard St., Park, Sheffield

Grave/Memorial Reference:

Near North-West corner

Cemetery:

CAVILLON COMMUNAL CEMETERY

The following information is from the 1911 UK Census

Name Harry Poole
Relationship to Head of Household Grandchildren
Condition Single Gender Male
Age 17 Estimated Year of Birth 1894
Occupation Stable Boy
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Industry G C Rly
Place of Birth Sheffield Yorkshire
Enumerator Information Address 94 City Road Sheffield Parish Sheffield Town Sheffield
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms Six Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN27901 RG78PN1596 RD510 SD3 ED9 SN279 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Sheffield Registration Sub District Sheffield Park Enumeration District 9

Name Rel Status   Age Place of Birth Occupation
Edward Poole  Head   M   Male  62  Burton, Notts, England  Grinder - Spring Knife
Elizabeth Poole  Wife   M   Female  60  Sheffield, York, England   
Albert Poole Son   M  Male  38  Sheffield, York, England   Grinder
Ellen Poole Son's Wife   M  Female  37  Sheffield, York, England   
Harry Poole Gr Son  Single    Male 17  Sheffield, York, England  Stable Boy - GC Railway  
Albert Poole Gr Son   Single  Male  15  Sheffield, York, England   Pony Driver - Colliery  
Willie Poole Gr Son Single Male 10  Sheffield, York, England   
Edward Poole Gr Son Single Male 7  Sheffield, York, England   
Elizabeth Poole Gr Dau Single Female 5  Sheffield, York, England    
George Poole Gr Son Single Male 3 Sheffield, York, England   

It seems to be quite a large family spanning three generations all living in the one house - Harry had four brothers and one sister

Ten years earlier in the 1901 Census, Harry was still with his grandparents at 55 South Street Sheffield

Name Rel Status   Age Place of Birth Occupation
Edward Poole  Head   M   Male  52  Sheffield, York, England  Pen Blade Cutler
Elizabeth Poole  Wife   M   Female  50  Sheffield, York, England  Silver Burnisher
Harry Poole Gr Son  Single    Male 7  Sheffield, York, England   
Jane Cocking Sister in law   Female 46 Sheffield, York, England  

In May 2012 I received the following information from a descendent of Harry

"I believe that I have established that Harry Poole did not join the "colours" from the Great Central Railway because I did check the journals of the GCR between 1914-1917 at the NRM, York; and there is no record of him in the lists of employees joining the "colours". [This was disappointing because this means that there are no grounds for Harry Poole's name to be scribed on the GCR memorial at the  Victoria Hotel, Sheffield.]"

To date this is the only information I have on Harry's life but you can quite safely say that Harry was working class, just like the other seven soldiers from Sheffield who were executed by the British Army in the Great War.

But what I find interesting is Harry's final resting place in the CAVILLON COMMUNAL CEMETERY in France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the following information

"Cavillon is a small village in the Department of the Somme, some 22 kilometres west of Amiens at the junction of the D156 and D121. The Cemetery is in the centre of the village, and the Commonwealth war graves are near to the entrance of the cemetery. Historical Information: Cavillon Communal Cemetery contains two Commonwealth burials of the First World War and the graves of three Second World War airmen".

Photo from WW1 Cemeteries - Harry's grave is at the front to the right.

The grave behind Harry's is Pte. W. H. RANDLE. of the 10th Bn. Sherwood Foresters who was executed on 25th November 1916. William was executed two weeks prior to Harry for desertion, and like Harry was working class miner who before enlisting worked at Shirebrook Colliery

Private, 13167, 10th Btn., 25/11/1916, aged 23. Son of William Henry and Harriett Randle, of 26, Vale Drive, Shirebrook, Nr. Mansfield, Notts.

He is remembered on a Commemorative Plaque in Holy Trinity Church, Shirebrook, Notts

Twenty four years later three RAF airman were laid to rest alongside Harry and William. They were 

HINTON STANLEY EDWARD
United Kingdom Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 107 Sqdn. Age 19 Date of Death 10/07/1940 Service No 755307 Son of Horace and Alice Hinton of Hackney London. Grave 1

MASLIN THOMAS WILLIAM
United Kingdom Pilot Officer (Pilot) Royal Air Force 107 Sqdn. Age 24 Date of Death 10/07/1940 Service No 42624 - Son of Thomas and Violet Ethel Maslin of Earley Reading Berkshire. Grave 2

TRUSCOTT GRANVILLE THOMAS
United Kingdom Sergeant (Obs.) Royal Air Force 107 Sqdn. Age 25 Date of Death 10/07/1940 Service No 581482 - Son of Thomas Charles and Emma Elizabeth Truscott of Bishop's Stortford Hertfordshire. Grave 3.

A website "Lost Bombers" provides information on the three airman and the operation which cost them their lives.

Blenheim P6894 Information
Type Blenheim
Serial Number P6894
Squadron 107 X1D OM-?
Operation Amiens (they were attacking Glisy airfield near Amiens that was being used by the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain)
Date 1 10th July 1940
Date 2 10th July 1940

Further Information - Serial Range P6885 - P6961. One of a batch of 62 Bristol Type 142L, Blenheim Mk.1V. P6885- P6934; P6950-6961; P6891; P6892; P6897; P6898; P6903; P6904 (6) to the Royal Hellenic Air Force. P6894 was one of five 107 Sqdn Blenheims lost on this operation. Note that L9468 was an 82 Sqdn Blenheim, borrowed by and crewed by 107 Sqdn. See: L9468; R3606; R3815; R3916. Airborne from Wattisham. Crashed at Cavillon (Somme), 16 km WNW of Amiens, France, cause not established. The crew are buried in the Communal Cemetery at Cavillon. P/O T.W.Maslin KIA Sgt G.T.Truscott KIA Sgt S.E.Hinton KIA "

The book "The Other Few" describes the raid of 107 Squadron against Glisy airfield near Amiens on 10 July 1940. Of six Blenheim sent only one returned with heavy damage after being attacked by two Bf 109. The crew reported that seven other Bf 109 attacked the five other Blenheim and apparently shot down all of them. The book said the German fighters were 9./JG 3 that claimed seven Blenheim shot down.
German claims:
10.07.40 Hptm.Dr. Albrecht Ochs: 3 ? 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ 20 km. westlich Arras 14.25 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-48B
10.07.40 Ltn. Franz Achleitner: 3 ? 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ 20 km. westlich Arras 14.25 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-49B
10.07.40 Ofw. Hans Heitmann: 2 ? 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ 20 km. westlich Arras 14.30 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-50B
10.07.40 Uffz. Otto Weßling: 2 ? 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ 20 km. westlich Arras 14.33 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-51B
10.07.40 Ltn. Franz Achleitner: 4 ? 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ 20 km. westlich Arras 14.33 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-52B
10.07.40 Uffz. Helmut Struve: 1 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ Le Touquet 14.35 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-53B
10.07.40 Fw. Hans Stechmann: 1 ? 9./JG 3 Blenheim £ 5 km. N.E. Le Touquet 14.40 OKL+JFV d.Dt.Lw. 4/I-54B
British losses: Blenheims L9468 (3 KIA), R3916 (3 POW), R3815 (3 KIA), P6894 (3 KIA), R3606 (3 KIA)

It is self evident that the three RAF officers who were laid to rest, were laid there by the French/German authorities. I am absolutely positive that if the British had anything to do with it, the three RAF officers would not be buried alongside soldiers that the British Army had executed!

As a postscript there is a memorial to HARRY at the National Arboretum at Alewas

In March 2014 I received from a descendent of Harry's a copy of his will. It is one of the saddest documents I have placed on this site knowing what waited in store for Harry the following year

 

Harry remembered on Sheffield's Barkers Pool War Memorial - Thursday 11th December 2014   

Sources

Unquiet Graves Guide  Execution sites of the First World War in Flanders - Piet Chielens and Julian Putkowski 
Rusteloze graven gids – Executieplaatsen uit de Eerste Wereldoorlog in de Westhoek
The Guide is centred on the countryside around Ieper (Ypres) and Poperinge in the Westhoek of Flanders and visits the places of execution and graves of men 'shot at dawn' by the British Army in the Great War.

Shot at Dawn - Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes - The standard reference work about soldiers executed under the British Army Act in the First World War (1989).

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

1901 - UK Census

Lost Bombers

1911 UK Census

Sheffield Soldiers of the Great War

Sheffield Indexers

World War 1 Graves

Sheffield History Forum

As a footnote, HARRY POOLE appears on the Roll of Honour for his local church St John's in Wybourn, Sheffield. His name is to the right of the central inscription

TO THE GLORY OF GOD

AND IN EVER GRATEFUL MEMORY

OF THE MEN OF THIS PARISH

WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE

GREAT WAR

1914 - 1918

Photo courtesy of Sheffield Soldiers of the Great War

God deserted Harry Poole at dawn on 9th December 1916

Notes

1. Private 13167, William Henry Randle

Born at Hucknall, William Henry Jnr. had been a miner at Shirebrook Colliery, and he was the son of William Henry and Harriett Randle, 26 Vale Drive, Shirebrook. William volunteered when war broke out aged 19, joining the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby full Regiment).
He was sent to Gallipoli, and one of his first tasks was to bury mounds of British corpses, rotting under the Turkish sun. He took part in the disastrous landings at Suvla Bay where the Sherwood Foresters lost 18 Officers and around 700 men. William was wounded and shipped back to England.
He recovered sufficiently to be ready to go ‘over the top’ on the first day of the Somme, July 1st 1916, where more than 140 battalion comrades were lost for the capture of a few yards of German held ground.

A month later, whilst guarding the Reserve trenches after hearing that his brother John was serving nearby, he went to find him. When he returned, the battalion had moved. William was posted ‘absent without leave.’ Distressed and confused William wandered around as the battle raged, until he was spotted by an officer and arrested.
It took three months to bring him to trial and with no one to defend him, he spoke for himself.
At his Court Martial he said he had left his post to find his brother John who was serving nearby with the South Staffordshires. He told them what had happened but no one even checked to see if he had a brother in the area. With no supporting evidence, his Officer Commanding, Major Leonard Gilbert told the Court, ‘I know nothing of his previous service but when in action in Fricourt he did not comport himself as a soldier would.’
With no one to challenge the officer, William was sentenced to death.
Whilst reviewing the evidence, Brigadier General G.F. Trotter said, ‘I believe it would be in the interests of the Battalion….that an example should be made. I therefore recommend that the extreme penalty should be carried out.’ This view was endorsed all the way up the chain of command including the British Commander Field Marshall Douglas Haig.
It is thought William was made an example of, to the others in the Battalion who had fought on the Somme.
William was executed at 6.46am on the 25th November 1916. He is buried near the North west corner of Cavillon Communal Cemetery, France, and he is commemorated locally at Holy Trinity Church, Shirebrook after being granted a pardon in 2006.
He was one of 306 soldiers executed on the Western Front who are all commemorated at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas.
Jean Lewis and Husband Dave signed up to the ‘Shot at Dawn Campaign’ fighting to win pardons for William and the others like him.
The amendment to the Armed Forces Act was intended to remove the dishonour of execution but did not quash the convictions or sentences. It also did not apply to those convicted of murder. Jean had been told by her family that her uncle had been shot for falling asleep at his post.

From  LEGION KNOTS Joining Branches Together Issue 6.Spring 2011
Nottinghamshire Royal British Legion Registered Charity 219279 Legion Knots 2 Editor - Pete Hopkins

Major Leonard Gilbert and Brigadier General G.F. Trotter who were instrumental in ensuring that William was executed do not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and so it can be assumed that they survived the war. No surprise there!  

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This page was last updated on 30/12/14 16:46