Court Martials records

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by CeliaM, May 20, 2014.

  1. CeliaM

    CeliaM Member

    I have been avidly reading the forums gleaning help from the topics for the last week or so. Thank you all. My first visit to Kew last Friday was hugely productive mostly as a result of the excellent thread(s) here.

    I'm researching an individual soldier. Joined TA in Durham, 1939, RA, 74th regt. I have his individual service record. I know there was a court martial for an event in June 1942, with the court martial happening in August 1942. He was sentenced to a years punishment, then held somewhere until the sentence was suspended on 22nd Dec 1942.

    "Suspended sentence of 1 year I/HL awarded by FGCM on 21 8/42 remitted by COG (?) Eight Army W.E.F. Authy 62E/1202/1862/A"

    After which he transferred to the 31st RA for the remainder of the war.

    I have the regimental diaries for 1942, the court martial isn't mentioned. (The event leading up to it is, which matches exactly with existing accounts from elsewhere). I've been wrestling with TNA's search system since Friday trying to locate the court martial documents.

    He doesn't appear by name in the WO71 files. Nor is his case likely to be one of the "X person plus others" that is listed.

    I'm planning a return to Kew this Friday and I'd really like to pin down his Court Martial record if at all possible! My searching seems to indicate that:

    WO90/8 : Judge Advocate Generals Office : General Courts Martial registers : Abroad 1917-1943
    WO213/43 Field General Courts Martial (Abroad Only) 16/4/42 - 22/2/1943
    WO 84/65&6 : Judge Advocate Generals Office Courts Martial Charge books - between them covering 8/2/1942-4/11/1942
    WO 86/98 Register of Charges Abroad 9/1940 - 10/1947

    May be the right files to try looking at. Has anyone looked at them? Am I barking up the likely right tree?

    I would also like to find the diaries for the detention barracks during his stay there. His Service records state "To Detention Barracks Abbassia" which I think is a mis-spelling? Can anyone shed any light on where he was sent so I can hit the TNA search again.

    Many thanks for any and all help!

  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I worked with court martial records for my book. I don't have the references handy, but I believe these were the WO90 and WO213 series that you cite above. You mustn't expect too much. The records I saw are massive ledgers, containing little but names, dates, brief charges, and dispositions by the courts. As I recall (it's been a while) they weren't indexed either, so you have to page through a lot to find what you need. There is not a lot of detail, but maybe you will find other records that will give those to you.

    One year at hard labor was a damned stiff sentence; a glasshouse was nobody's idea of fun except a sadist's, so that implies a very serious offense as well. Bear in mind that June 1942 was the awful month of the Gazala Gallop, when 8th Army lost two battles in succession, lost Tobruk, and was hustling back to the Alamein line. The 50th (Northumbrian) Division, to which 74th Field Regt belonged, took a severe beating and was in very bad shape when it reached Alamein. Despite general complaints about low morale in 8th Army, courts martial in the 50th Div were not exceptionally high during the summer months.
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I copied them all covering WW2 a few years ago for someone. All I'll say is good luck....They are bloody hard work to find an individual in as they are not in any accurate order. I think the dates they are listed by can be anything between 6 and 12 months out. They are dated by the date of entry into the register IIRC rather than the offence or conviction.
  4. CeliaM

    CeliaM Member

    Thank you both for your responses. I hadn't realised that the I/HL meant Hard Labour, seems so obvious now you've said it!
    Does the date of entry into the register follow any logical order?
    I'd love to read a more detailed account of the Courts Martial itself, something I'm beginning to think hasn't survived.

    Any ideas on where the camp was that he was sent to?

    I copied (with my last few minutes before leaving) & read the record WO 169/2566 for the first months of Field Punishment Centre Western Desert (May - Dec 1941) out of interest in the hope of gaining at least some insight.. Is that the type (or possible) punishment centre? Any other recommendations for reading (at Kew or published) to gain an insight into the punishment he served, conditions etc? (My current "bedtime reading" is El Alamein 1942, Battle Story by Pier Paolo Battistelli.)

    Thank you :)
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    They are only registers with basics like name, rank, number, unit which is not detailed, just RE or RA etc although a lot of the infantry units give the battalion. Guilty plea I think, offence accused of and sentence duration and type like hard labour, death penalty etc. You tend to find they are clumped together by area of operation ie. 10 from NWE, then 5 from Home Forces, 15 from SEAC and 5 from Italy and so on. From what I've seen I think they were entered in the register when the paperwork was received from the area of operation and how quick that was would depend on postal/courier priorities I guess.

    There's some examples of pages on the forum somewhere that I have posted.
  6. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    As to where he served his sentence, the army seems to have had at least two detention barracks (= military prisons) in the Middle East. The Mustaffa Barracks was near Alexandria, and there was also a DB in Jerusalem. I am not sure if the British establishment in Jerusalem was part of the same complex as the Australian detention barracks, which was located on Mt. Zion. These places were infamous hell-holes. If you've ever seen the film The Hill, you get some flavor of what they were like.

    In mitigation, I should say that in well-run units every effort was made to settle disciplinary problems 'in house.' No CO liked to wash his dirty linen in public, and sending up a case for court-martial was a bad reflection on both the unit and on its commanding officer. A lot of the guys in glasshouses--possibly a majority--were the worst of the worst, useless scum who had no business being in the army and had often been in trouble in civil life. Some got out of the glasshouses and became good soldiers, of course, as your relative did, but the odds were against it.
    CL1 likes this.
  7. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Ah, didn't read your reply carefully enough.

    I don't know where the "Field Punishment Centre, Western Desert" was located. Another FPC was at Geneifa in Egypt, on the shores of the Great Bitter Lake. War diaries for both can be found at Kew in the WO 169 series. By the way, Drew here will copy war diaries for a fee.
  8. CeliaM

    CeliaM Member

    Thank you both again :) Still planning to visit tomorrow, so fingers crossed I can find his entry / something useful! I've pre-ordered some documents and have a list of others. Hopefully this time my request for a camera stand seat will have made it's way through the system! (I had to go and smile nicely and ask to be moved last time.)
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Abassia barracks were in Egypt- but not a prison - but BAD NEWS - at the end of the day there was a rush for bed space in the

    centre of the square as the bugs could only reach there by dawn- time to get up - everyone else was bitten to death

  10. two dogs

    two dogs Member

    Celia, I think the correct spelling would be Abbasiyah but perhaps you already suspected that.
  11. CeliaM

    CeliaM Member

    Two Dogs, I hadn't managed to work that particular mis-spelling out, so thank you! I think I have seen it spelt 3-4 different ways now and none of them correctly.
    Tom, that sounds horrid, pity the poor soldiers at the edges!

    I did make it to the archives on Friday :) Have finally found time and energy to update this thread. It was a rather frustrating at times, but ultimately fruitful day. I called up 23 files in total, quite a few of which went back pretty quickly because they were quickly identifiable as not relevant to my soldier. I also got to visit the 2nd floor this time around :)

    WO169/6670 : = Field Prison Camp in Geneifa.
    WO169/6671 : = FPC in Palestine
    WO169/6672 : = FPC in Ikingi-Maryut - Alexandria Area
    WO169/6673 : = FPC in Beirut
    WO169/6674 : = FPC in Cyprus
    WO169/6675 : = Kermanshah in Iran : 10th Army, Records appear to be for Dec 1942 only.

    WO169/6665 : = 50 Military Prison & Detention Camp, from a quick skim read I couldn't be sure where this was located. Will update when I find out..
    WO169/6666 : = 51st Detention Barracks, Jerusalem.
    WO169/6667/8 & 9 (52, 53 & 54 Detention Barracks) I didn't order up despite originally noting them as possibilities to look at. (I'm satisfied I have enough information copied for my own researches).

    WO84/65 & 66 were treasury tagged files of official letters, predominantly UK cases, in date order, with named soldiers, discussing their cases and pleas. Lots of failure to return to barracks at the expected time, petty thefts, use of wrong ID cards and disorderly conducts. (There may have been other cases, some letters were more detailed than others, I was obviously skim reading & interested in a specific date/s, so I eliminated them as of use to myself & moved fairly swiftly onwards).

    Then there were the Judge Advocate General Court Martial Record books. All but one of those I viewed on lvl 2. With one exception they were all large A3 sized, heavy books.

    WO90/8 : Appeared to detail officers only.
    WO92/4 : Appeared to detail officers only.
    WO86/98 : 1 page of 1941/2/3/ FCM's at the front, then it went to 1945 listings, then back to 1941 at the back. (Proving it's always worth skimming right through!)
    WO213/40 : 1 page of entries from 1943, the rest appeared to be from 1941.
    WO213/43 : Apr 1942 - Feb 1943.
    WO213/48 : Is where I found my relative, the last file I looked at that day (I'd have stayed longer if he'd not been here obviously!) His FCM entry finally appears 8 months after the date it was held. I was very glad you'd forewarned me there could be a big gap in the dates!

    The other files I looked at were field regt. diaries I'd not had time to copy on my first visit having prioritised those which covered dates of most interest. I think that hospital trips aside I now have my relatives complete set of field regt. diaries, with HQ diary for dates of most interest. :) So now the reading, note taking, timeline cross checking etc.
  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Well done on finding him. I've looked for a few chaps and had no joy.
  13. pufflehead

    pufflehead New Member

    I wonder if any of you could help me. I have been trying to find the court martial records for Captain Warwick Charlton. He was editor of the Eighth Army News in North Africa. Various history books (eg Nigel Hamilton, Peter Caddick-Adams) and Charlton's obituary in the Guardian and Telegraph mention that he was arrested in Tobruk and given a court martial from he was acquitted. All these accounts seem to have different views as to what he was being court martialled for - some say for printing secret documents in his paper, others for printing disparaging remarks about Monty, and still others that he exposed a plot by some army officers to try to get rid of him and other Army press officers who were considered to be over promoting Monty. I am trying to find the court martial records to see what the charges really were, and spent yesterday at Kew ploughing through WO71, WO 213, WO 86, WO 90 to no avail. Any ideas what I could next?
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Those records you have looked at if I remember correctly are just entries for those found guilty. They are just registers. I have never found any records on actual court proceedings, I suspect they won't be released for years, assuming there are any.

    Have you contacted the authors and asked them for their sources regarding the info? I've done it twice and I seem to recall using the info received it turned out to be more of an authors opinion and a bit grey rather than a nailed home hard fact.
  15. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Celia - a thought, you could do worse than watch The Hill, starring Sean Connery as an NCO who is serving time in a 'Libyan' glasshouse for striking a senior officer - all star British cast and BAFTA winning performances. There is also Voices from the Glasshouse, by Carole McEntee -Taylor, albeit post war and in Britain.
  16. James Carver

    James Carver Member


    Could anyone help me, I am trying to find a General Court Martial transcript for March/April 1944. But I have exhausted all avenues I know of and still cannot find it. I have tried:
    • Ancestry
    • Fold 3
    • National Archives
    • MOD Disclosures 1 and 4
    • Judge Advocate Office
    Although I have been able to get bits and pieces of information, from these places. Information includes:
    • Name of Defendant/ Acting Judge Advocate
    • Location
    • Date and Time of Court Martial
    • Sentence
    • Umbrella term of charge
    But I wish to try and find the actual transcript as the person I am investigating disappeared one night (around the same year as the court martial) not to be seen or heard by the family again and I am trying to work out what happened. Also I am trying to get his medals for his children but the MOD Medal department says they cannot release the medals they hold without knowing if the court martial sentence forfeited them.

    I recently received a page extract of the judge advocate letter book from the National Archives which made me aware of the transcript saying it was attached. In the case of attachments to letters received by the judge advocate would they be included in the letter book, just on a different page or would they be stored elsewhere.

    Please could someone suggest where I might be able to find the records.
    James Carver

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