THE EXECUTION OF JAMES A. HADDOCK (1883 1916)

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

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Private

Regiment:

York and Lancaster Regiment

Unit Text:

12th Battalion.

Age:

32

Date of Death:

16/09/1916

Service No:

7595

Additional information:

Son of Edwin Haddock, of 21, Ranskill Rd., Tinsley Park, Sheffield.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

VI. F. 5.

Cemetery:

VIEILLE-CHAPELLE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY, LACOUTURE        

The Cemetery is in Vieille-Chapelle,  a village north east of Bethune. From Bethune follow the D945 to Estaires for approximately 10 kilometres. Take the right turn onto the small road signposted to Vieille-Chapelle opposite Zelobes Indian Cemetery. Follow this small road and on entering Vieille-Chapelle village, the Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery lies on the right hand side of the road.

Julian Putkowski, and Julian Sykes in their book state that James was a regular soldier, possibly a reservist at the beginning of the war, who had been recalled to the colours and arrived in France on 9th September 1914. James was originally posted to the 2nd Battalion but was transferred to the  Sheffield City Battalion (12th Yorks. and Lancs). At the time of his posting to the trenches on the Somme, he was already on a twenty year (later reduced to five years) suspended sentence for a previous offence of desertion. Despite this he left again on his way up to the trenches on 30th June 1916, the day before Somme Offensive of 1st July 1916. He went into hiding but was discovered five days later on 5th July by Military Police, seven miles from the Battalions trenches

At the subsequent Field Court Martial held on 24th August 1916, James defence was that he was suffering with his feet  and the medical officer had told him to rest. He had got lost trying to find transport and when he was apprehended, he was actually looking for the police to ask for directions. To say that this was a flimsy defence is something of an overstatement. His orders at the time of his desertion were to follow his colleagues into the trenches - James did not - he went missing for five days and when found, he was hiding in a civilian wagon without either his equipment or rifle. he had made no attempt whatsoever to rejoin his colleagues.

But the most crucial element to the case was his past Army service record. Since arriving in France, he had deserted seven times as well as being charged with being drunk on active service and refusing to obey an order. He was already under a suspended sentence of five years that had been passed by a FGCM as recently as April 1916. The verdict of the Court Martial was inevitable - James was sentenced to death by firing squad. The Court Martial had no discretion on this matter but did add a recommendation for mercy. The verdict was then passed up the chain of command and the sentence was endorsed at every level. The recommendation for mercy was not a factor. It finally reached the Commander in Chief of the British army in France General Douglas Haig on 12th September 1916 who confirmed the verdict and sentence of the FGCM

The execution by firing squad took place at dawn 6.14 a.m. on 16th September 1916.  

He was the first soldier from Sheffield to be executed in the Great War but sadly he would not be the last.

Unlike some of other soldiers who were executed, James did have experience of combat and so one can only speculate about the motives for his actions. Ralph Gibson and Paul Oldfield in their book "Sheffield City Battalion - 12th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment " comment that the most likely cause was a well known form of stress that is nowadays called "battle fatigue" but then came under the blanket term of "cowardice". They also mention that he may have been wounded prior to his desertion and he was experiencing problems at home - his wife died whilst he was on active service.

There is no mention at all of this case in the War Diary of 12th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment. His disappearance, capture, court martial and execution are totally ignored. He is not even commemorated in the publication "Soldiers Who Died In The Great War." 

Ralph Gibson and Paul Oldfield mention that James had a family and that one of the Company Sergeant Major's in the Battalion adopted his son. It would be interesting to know if his son ever got to know how his father had died - the Army would not have told him that's for sure. 

In March 2015 I received this information from a researcher of the Sheffield Pals Battalion (12th Y&L) who considers the assertion made by Putkowski and Sykes in their book to be inaccurate

"The case of Haddock on your web pages of Sheffield soldiers who were shot for desertion caught my attention only because of an interest in the Sheffield Pals Battalion (12th Y&L). Some of the account of him seems to be inaccurate, in particular the implication that he deserted on the day before the Battle of the Somme commenced, which I think you attribute to the book by Putkowski and Sykes.

I have been looking at birth and census records, and at his Army record, which is one of those that survived the 1940 blitz, and which are available online. Online, there is also a Medal Card, recording that he was entitled to the 1914 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal, but which also notes that he was shot for desertion.

My notes probably need to be read in conjunction with the court martial report in the National Archives, to which I do not have access at the moment as I no longer live in Sheffield or as near to London as you do.

Haddock was born in 1883, and his name was registered as Alfred James. That form of his forenames is sometimes used in his army records, but so is James Alfred. The service number #7595 is consistently used.

He originally worked as a labourer in a colliery, when living with his parents in Eckington.

His Army record is a little difficult to read in places, but it is clear that he originally joined the army in 1904. He seems to have attempted to extend his original 3 year engagement for 8 years, but that does not appear to have been agreed. He does not appear to be recorded in the 1911 Census.

In 1913, he completed training in the Territorial reserve. When the war started in August 1914, he was immediately mobilised and went to France on 9th September with 2nd Battalion Y&L.

His disciplinary record then does not appear to have been good; he was awarded Field Punishment half a dozen times in 1914/15, for periods varying between 7 and 28 days, but the reasons, if stated, appear illegible.

He seems to have been in and out of hospital in St Omer in January 1916. The reason is not clear.

The notes are not clear but he seems to have absented himself in February 1916. When he returned to duty, he was charged with desertion and sentenced by a Court Martial in April 1916 to penal servitude for 20 years. That sentence was subsequently reduced to 5 years and suspended.

There are barely legible notes that he suffered from a gun shot wound on 21st July 1916, and shell shock. It is not clear whether he was then serving with 2nd Y&L at the time or was attached to 10th Battalion, KOYLI. He then seems to have been in hospital in Rouen being treated for shell shock for a couple of weeks.

On being declared fit for return to duty, he was posted to 12th Y&L on 7th August 1916. He absented himself again on 9th August, which suggests that there may have been no one in his unit in whom he may have confided the alleged problem with his feet. He was arrested on 14th August.

The Court Martial on 24th August was convened by Brigadier-General T. Carter-Campbell, 94th Infantry Brigade.

There is nothing in the file to indicate how his parents were notified of his death. His personal effects were finally sent to his father in February 1917."

Notes

The 1901 Census shows James' father Edwin aged 39 a Coal Hack Washer who was born in Eckington, Derbyshire but lived in  the Attercliffe district of  Sheffield. The family look as though they initially came from Eckington in N.E. Derbyshire. The 1881 Census show James' grandparents (and father) as living in High Street, Eckington,  Derbyshire. The 1891 Census has the family living at 5 High Street, Eckington, Derbyshire. (Rg12/2770). James parent's were called Edwin and Sarah and there were three sons and a daughter living at the address

It should be noted that in the 1891 Census James is transcribed as "Alfd James Haddock"

1891 Census Record
Name Alfd Haddock
Age 7
Estimated Year of Birth 1884
Relationship to Head of Household Son
Occupation Scholar
Address 5, High Street District Chesterfield, Eckington Administrative County Derbyshire Birth Place Eckington Birth County Derbyshire 

and in the 1901 Census as

Name Alfred J Haddock Relation to Head of Family Son Age Last Birthday 17 Sex Male Profession or Occupation Colliery Labourer Condition as to Marriage Single Where Born Derby Eckington Address 7 Irving St Civil Parish Attercliffe Cum Darnall Rural District Town or Village or Hamlet Ecclesiastical Parish Holy Trinity Darnall Parliamentary Borough or Division Attercliffe Sheffield County Borough, Municipal Borough or Urban District Sheffield Administrative County Sheffield Ward of Municipal Borough or Urban District Attercliffe

I cannot find a record for James or Alfred in the 1911 census but his mother and father are recorded

1911 Census Record
Personal Information
Name Edwin Haddock
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Condition Married
Gender Male
Age 49
Estimated Year of Birth 1862
Occupation Bricklayers Labourer
Employed Y Working at Home N
Place of Birth Eckington Derbyshire
Nationality Brit Sub Par
Enumerator Information
Address 34 Craven Road Darnall Sheffield Parish Sheffield
Town Darnall Sheffield Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 5 Rooms Inhabited Y
Reference RG14PN28012 RG78PN1600 RD510 SD7 ED24 SN100 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Sheffield
Registration Sub District Attercliffe Enumeration District 24 

Final confirmation is in the BMD registers

Births Sep 1883 Haddock Alfred James Chesterfield Volume 7b Page 703

The house in Ranskill Road mentioned in the CWGC site was demolished years ago but it was in the area of Tinsley Park Road, Sheffield

James' grave in Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery

 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).

Ralph Gibson and Paul Oldfield  - "Sheffield City Battalion - 12th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment "(1994)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

UK Census

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This page was last updated on 16/11/15 15:26