VC winner branded 'war criminal' - wore a German paratrooper's smock to dupe snipers

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by Jim Clay, Apr 10, 2006.

  1. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    There is much in this long thread about the Geneva Convention, particularly in the early stages, with chunks of Geneva Convention IV quoted (the Fourth is the only one to deal with war crimes). Could I respectfully point out that Convention IV was signed in August 1949. It cannot be applied retrospectively to a battlefield action of 1941.

    What then did apply was the Hague Convention of 1907. But here we enter a very grey area. Article 23 was mentioned earlier, part of which states that "It is especially forbidden ... To make improper use of a flag of truce, of the national flag or of the military insignia and uniform of the enemy ...". But Article 24 states that "Ruses of war ... are considered permissible".

    It would be stretching the text to breaking point to claim that what this brave soldier did was a 'war crime' as defined in the fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with crimes against civilian populations.

    As for the Hague Convention of 1907 and the nigh impossiblity of adhering to it in modern warfare, all belligerents in WW2 drove a coach and horses through Article 25: "The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited".
     
  2. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    I'm really nitpicking here... but quoting the full art. 24 sheds some more light on it.
    "Ruses of war and the employment of measures necessary for obtaining information about the enemy and the country are considered permissible".
    Off to get my camo smock now and hide.

    It is actually interesting how some W-SS troops who had put red crosses on their ammo trains clearly state that they knew this was illegal but didn't give a damn about it. And interestingly enough they say nothing like 'the enemy would have done just the same', which they did with other illegal acts.
     
  3. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    The point is that beyond the Geneva Convention was another code of conduct pretty much understood by both sides.


    I wouldn't automatically assume this ;) It's fairer to say they understood it as far as it was expressed in THEIR particular "military regulations" - the WW2-era U.S. and British regs specifically SAY they include elements of the Hague and Geneva Conventions....but this may not necessarily have been the case with GERMAN mil regs of the period...

    A few months ago I was engaged in a LONG discussion on AHF that threw up the particular oddity of the treatment of francs-tireurs. BOTH the U.S. and British regs include the Hague provisions on these - tho' if you look carefully there are differences BETWEEN the two sets as a result of both nations' experience of irregular warfare;) - for the U.S., the long insurgency in the Philippines through the first part of the century, and for the british the Boer War- arguably fought almost ENTIRELY against Boer irregulars - and the many and various "police actions" on the fringes of Empire in the interwar period...

    But THIS differs completely from the GERMAN regs. While I wasn't able to turn up a copy of the WW2-era regs, the material I located at the time on the massacre at Kastelli Kissamou on Crete in May 1941 (the "crime" under discussion) would indicate that the Wehrmacht regs said something completely different about francs-tireurs...AND Student for instance had thus written into his FJ training regs that francs-tireurs COULD be killed without trial.

    The only German item I COULD find at the time was the "German Book Of War" from IIRC 1913, in other words the regs that Germany entered WWI with; and its VERY clear from this set of regs that IMPERIAL Germany had absolutely no place for the Hague Conventions, and actually looked down on other nations for respecting them and wrting them into THEIR regs...even tho' Imperial Germany WAS a High Contracting Power to the Conventions!!!:lol: If THIS attitude carried forward into the Reichswehr into the Interwar Period, and thus into the Wehrmacht, it's entirely possible that there were major differences...

    And THEN there's the very major difficulty that the Red Army didn't respect them - as V.I. Lenin had repudiated Russia's signing of the Conventions in late November 1917!

    As for the Hague Convention of 1907 and the nigh impossiblity of adhering to it in modern warfare, all belligerents in WW2 drove a coach and horses through Article 25: "The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited".

    IIRC I said elsewhere on the board here recently that there's ONE major complication with the Conventions; they provide for investigation, charging and ounishment of offenders AFTER THE FACT ;) They don't actually STOP a breach taking place!
     
    Heimbrent likes this.
  4. Scaramooch

    Scaramooch Junior Member

    Hi gents and lady,
    This is a very long and streched out issue. I first thought I will forget about it and shut this thread from my mind. But maybe anger got the best of me.
    Guys, we are talking of Crete here. There where two sides, one unwilling to give in one trying its best to get a foot hold on a small patch of land. just looking at the Sgt stats -
    HULME, Alfred Clive (1911-82)
    b. Dunedin Joined the 23rd Battalion as a sergeant and won the Victoria Cross for eight days of sustained fighting on Crete during May 1941.
    He stalked and killed 33 German snipers and once disguised himself as a German paratrooper and killed a number of the enemy on the outskirts of Galatos.
    After the war he settled in the Bay of Plenty

    Lets break this down -
    1) 8 days of sustained fighting.
    2) He on his own stalked and killed 33 Germans.
    and now the mistake - ONCE he disguised himself as a German paratrooper and killed a number of the enemy.

    Can we get into his head, no because nobody can say what he will do after more than 8 days of sustained fighting. And was the German cammo maybe not better than what he had at the time. Maybe the area that he had to work in was not in pace with what he had on and the German cammo was better. He was a sniper, it is his job to use what ever he has or can lay his hands on to do the work he was trained to do.

    Anyway I just felt I needed to add my bit here.

    Cheers
     
  5. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    (The Germans were actually highly paranoid when it came to franc-tireurs...)

    Their regs state the following (based on the example of the west) -
    First of all, the situation France was in was rather complicated: It de facto had a government till 1944 (Vichy), so the legality of resistance isn't as easy as it might seem. Apart from that, it wasn't only occupied territory, but also war theater (against GB ). Basis for the questions concerning franc-tireurs were the Hague convention of 1899/1907 and the armistice treaty between France and Germany of 1940 plus some other agreements between the latter and Vichy-France.
    The right for resistance of an occupied people wasn't really regularized; what was arranged 1940 however is that French resistants couldn't count on their citizenship.

    Basically a resistant had to fulfill the following to be recognized as combattant: 1. The existent of a leader, 2. wearing of insignia, 3. openly carrying weapons, 4. respecting the laws of war. If that wasn't the case, he was considered a franc-tireur.*
    How these were treated, no international law stated; for the Germans it was the Kriegssonderstrafrechtsverordnung resp. the Kriegsstrafrechtsverordnung. There it is stated that a franc-tireur had to be brought before a court martial or a drumhead trial (?) - if he was found guilty it could only mean a death sentence.
    An order (from Brauchitsch) aggravated the situation, since it stated: "Franc-tireurs have to be shot in battle or on the run", apart from that they should not be treated like Ps/W but like criminals.
    To avoid excess and acts of revenge German soldiers were not allowed to shoot captured franc-tireurs, however this only applied to Germany and was gradually weakened by orders from OKW and OKH. All in all, killing a franc-tireur was "allowed", but not "a must".
    In France, captured f.-t. were usually handed over to Sipo and SD or brought before a court (but only when their actions went against German soldiers). Otherwise they were to be brought before a French court (in case the Germans weren't "satisfied" with the verdict, German courts took over).
    From March 1944 on, the OKW ordered the German troops that from now on, "franc-tireurs had to be killed in action". Courts were only to be used if the offender could not be found out that the present moment.
    (The Germans actually did grant the French some right of resistance - but ONLY in the area of the front, and not in the hinterland).

    All in all it was not per se illegal to execute franc-tireurs; even the French themselves stated at Nuremberg that their own partisans were acting illegaly. Despite that it should be pointed out that captured resistants were often very brutally mistreated and tortured by Sipo and SD before execution.

    *However even when all these conditions were met, resistance were sometimes shot.

    *edit*
    The differences weren't all that outrageously huge, considering that the Allies didn't consider the executions of captured franc-tireurs illegal per se. And according to SHAEF all German partisans (werewolves) were to be swiftly executed.
     
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Heimbrent, I'll come back to your post in a sec....

    Scaramooch....your post has brought something screaming to my attention that I'd missed before when first reading through this thread...

    HULME, Alfred Clive(1911-82)
    b. Dunedin Joined the 23rd Battalion


    ....I forgot about the CONDITION in which a lot of the Australian and New Zealand troops arrived on Crete ;) As we know from ALL the histories of the battle, they arrived short of almost everything. WE don't 100% KNOW the reason he picked up German equipment....it COULD of course have been because he had NONE of his own! :unsure:


    Being a sniper, he was of course in a sticky position...for at times he could and would be well in front of the lines! :D BUT against this we have to read something ELSE that happened early in the war into the evidence...


    General Dietl equiping the KM survivors from the sunk German destroyers off Narvik with NORWEGIAN uniforms and forming them into scratch "naval" battlalions!


    One MAJOR element of the Hague Conventions was that combatants who be readily identifiable from civilian non-combatants by wearing uniforms and symbols etc. We simply don't know for instance what kit Hulme DID have with him when evacuated from Greece...or was he one of the guys came off the ships in Suda dressed in a blanket and a tin helmet??? :lol:

    Under Hague - it didn't matter quite as much WHOSE military equipment or uniform a COMBATANT wore....as long as he wore SOMETHING that distinguished him from civilians.
     
  7. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Heimbrent - I wasn't talking about francs-tireurs as in post-"invasion" resisters under a Hague-described "Occupation"...

    I was thinking more of francs-tireurs as in those actiavely resisting an invasion by a combatant...and NOT pre-formed into a levee-en-mass or similar ;)

    Hague is quite specific as to there being TWO chronologically-demarcated legal states/positions - "invasion" (war after all being one combatant invading another, in one direction or the other!) and "occupation".

    The francs-tireurs regulations in HRLW refer to the "invasion" state. And it's THOSE irregulars that Student etc. were in breach of HRLW when he specifically said they could be killed...my query over Kastelli and others was - exactly how was this phrased in the German regs??? Did it say they had to be arrested/tried under courts-martial? The U.S. and British regs are VERY specific that they DID have to be...
     
  8. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Hmm, I think the problem really is that the HRLW was a bit blurry when it came to details (people must have been arguing over it back then like we do on here). That's why the Germans made additional agreements with the French (in this case; presumably with other countries, too).
    I can't say how things were handled in Crete but I assume it was more or less similar to France. So the German regs were based on the HLRW, the "10 commandements for the German soldier" (maybe I can dig one up somewhere) and the different orders from the German high command. And these changed: At the beginning f.-t. had to be court-martialled. But they gradually changed the rules (see above) so it's hard to say which rule applied exactly when and how. Besides, you have to be aware of the fact that there was quite a mess in responsiblities in Germany. Usually different offices would have overlapping responsibilities - you can well imagine that they got into fights over questions.
    That's why it often depended on the person on the spot how things were handled. As for Student, I don't know much about him, but he was a paratrooper, and they were, like the W-SS, an elite (or at least considered themselves to be one) and had a similar mentality. And there was a vast amount of former (early) SA members in the paratroop units.
     
  9. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    How these were treated, no international law stated; for the Germans it was the Kriegssonderstrafrechtsverordnung resp. the Kriegsstrafrechtsverordnung. There it is stated that a franc-tireur had to be brought before a court martial or a drumhead trial (?) - if he was found guilty it could only mean a death sentence


    Do you know the publication dates for those? I mean generally, by year.

    An order (from Brauchitsch) aggravated the situation, since it stated: "Franc-tireurs have to be shot in battle or on the run", apart from that they should not be treated like Ps/W but like criminals.

    And particularly this???
     
  10. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Thanks for that - the dates are interesting...particularly that Brauchitsch's order began modifying the regs SO early...!

    Usually orders like this arise out of...."operational necessity"....and combat experience; I wonder....I've never heard of much Polish francs-tireur activity during the invasion...
     
  12. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Interesting.....pity the Google Translator is such a piece of sh1t! :)
     
  13. i believe that sergeant hulmes actions were very acceptable during wartime
     
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Going back to Hulme & this camo smock , I've found this which is bascically similar to what was posted back in 200&whatever this thread started & what I described earlier, maybe he didn't wave, I was wroong about that , he just looked around.
    Sport: Before the millions by Paul Lewis | New Zealand Listener

    Clive Hulme won his VC in Crete during World War II as an anti-sniper sniper. Once, wearing the uniform of a German paratrooper he had shot, he took up a vantage point behind his quarry and started dealing with snipers who were attacking his brigade. The Germans looked around to see where the shots were coming from and Hulme did the same, a convincing piece of play-acting. Then, after they settled down, he would shoot another and the scene would be replayed.
     
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I kind of came to the conclusion yesterday that we'll probably never know the exact circumstances of what he did unless he wrote about it.
     
  16. Gibbo

    Gibbo Senior Member

    How these were treated, no international law stated; for the Germans it was the Kriegssonderstrafrechtsverordnung resp. the Kriegsstrafrechtsverordnung. There it is stated that a franc-tireur had to be brought before a court martial or a drumhead trial (?) - if he was found guilty it could only mean a death sentence.


    Assuming that the ? after drumhead is an enquiry about what it means, a drumhead court martial is one hurriedly convened in the field to hear a case that has to be dealt with urgently. It would generally dispense summary justice. The origin of the name is that, in the days when armies carried musical instruments into battle, it would be held round a drum.
     
  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I kind of came to the conclusion yesterday that we'll probably never know the exact circumstances of what he did unless he wrote about it.

    Andy, I just explained what he did in my last post.
    He put on a German camo smock, took up a fire position, shot a German, when everyone looked about to see what was going on he looked around too , pretending to be a German, then shot another one, he did that several times.

    simple as....
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Yeah I saw that mate....Just call me a Sceptic :)
     
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    There's no big secret about what he did, even the NZ Army Museum state he wore enemy uniform here.
    http://www.armymuseum.co.nz/media/Hulme_BIO.pdf

    I'm sure he talked about it too.
    It's no secret in his family what he did.
    His daughter was upset his name was being dragged htrough the mud.
     
  20. mattgibbs

    mattgibbs Senior Member

    Owen;
    I never noted this thread until now. However I've read it all in one sitting and very interesting it is.
    I don't think you'll find that many people are disagreeing with you statement on purpose. For me, the whole thread, and the various quotes are missing one vital ingredient, as an evidence gatherer and researcher. What none of the quotes say is "Clive Hulme said" - or "When I interviewed Clive Hulme he told me that he had" or even "Clive Hulme wrote" or "Many years later Clive HUlme told his family he had worn..." blah blah blah. Is there anywhere written, even in the NZ Army Museum, a statement that directly quotes Hulme admitting he wore enemy uniform? That's the one thing I haven't read here. There is a whole lot of people saying he did, but no direct quotes or photos. In which case, as mentioned earlier, he wouldn't have a 'case' to answer. In my own opinion if he felt it was a justifiable ruse, and assuming his CO agreed, then his interpretation of the "laws" of the battlefield were correct. Arguing about them later won't change the opinions of that time and place, and we can't presume to judge.
    As in many threads on many forums I always like to look for direct evidence in contentious issues, and how reliable the source may be. Even veterans memories can be wrong when they've told a story so many times. Still, all in all a thought provoking discussion.
    Regards
    Matt
     

Share This Page