Decorated officer's fall from grace

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by lionboxer, Mar 29, 2023.

  1. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    One of "my men" from Lion Box seems to have had a fall from grace that I would like to get to the bottom of. The OC of 517 Artisan Works Company Indian Engineers Major Thomas Henderson was awarded the MBE in 1943 for his "conscientious and energetic work" under bombardment and machine-gun fire putting a boom across the river at Prome. A little over a year later he was marched off by the Military Police at Imphal. The unit war diary states on 28/04/1944 "at 11.30 the OC of this Company Major T Henderson was arrested by APM 4 Corps and taken away under escort. All his personal effects and office files were searched by the Military Police and certain articles taken away by them."
    Now this is a serious situation by anyone's standards but what can be the reason? He had been in the jungle for months and besieged by the Japanese for weeks and fought for three days as part of the garrison of Lion Box. Was he caught with his fingers in the till as I believe units held cash for various uses or was it something else? He is not mentioned in the unit diary again as obviously he would have been moved on, guilty or not. He is still mentioned in the Indian Army List for 1945 so not serious enough to be put in clink and discharged. It would be a shame that the last we hear of this brave man is when he is marched away under escort.
    Any ideas where I can look for further info?
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    WO 172/4202 Burma: Corps: 4 Corps: Provost (IV Corps) is only dated for Dec 1944 - there's always the chance that's an error. Not sure I'd expect 'case files' to be in it, though.

    If they were Div Tps, the CRE's war diary might refer to it?
  3. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    Idler, 517 were GREF troops under the command of CRE 107 Works but at the time of Henderson's arrest there was a great deal of disruption with the Engineer units spread about the Imphal Plain and some sent back to India as the Japanese advanced. I have the relevant diaries and will have another trawl through them though at the time there were more pressing issues to worry about than an officer being arrested! The 517 diary for June states that Captain Walker the 2 I/C was promoted and became OC "vice Major Henderson vacated". This was when the unit had been moved to Dimapur under CRE 101 Works.
  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    No idea where to find out more. He sounds as if he was in a unit that had serious potential for all manner of misdemeanours. An organised that builds stuff and buys things with real money offers great opportunities to the criminally minded for embezzlement, theft, fraud, black-marketeering , etc. I read recently an account of an officer in the Nile Delta who had drew materials and money to pay workers for a programme of ficticious building projects in the Western desert.

    If his medal citation was for building stuff under fire soulds more like an MC rather than an MBE, which tends to be out of combat related good chappery.

    One of the most famous decorated men to fall from grace was Brigadier James Michael Calvert, DSO & Bar, sometime leader of the chindits and commander of the SAS Brtigade in 1945.
    Calvert is second from left,next to Colonel Merrill (of the maurauders?)
    and on the left here - with Joanna Lumley's dad.

    In 1951 he was accused of paedophilia and kicked out of the Army. His supporters say that it was a set up of some sort. My old boss in the Royal British Legion claimed to have found Calvert as a vagrant on the streets of Glasgow in the 1990s and got him grace and favour accommodation. You used to be able to buy a copy of a CD of the interview with Mike Calvert from the Legion
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2023
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  5. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    Couple of newspaper articles which give further details:

    From June 1949:

    From November 1951:

    Last edited: Mar 30, 2023
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  6. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    Oh well done GeorgyB. Many thanks indeed. This was going to be my next line of search in the newspapers of the time.
    What an absolutely stupid and disastrous thing to do. What a stupid man. This will always be his legacy instead of a proud one of bravery and commitment.
    I'm just wondering why it took so long to bring him to book? What happened to him in the interim between his arrest and deportation to India?
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  7. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    This assumes this was the offence for which he was arrested by the APM in 1944, which may not be the case. Odd as he was arrested under, I assume, British Indian Army Regs. It may be that the British did not proceed with prosecution but for some reason the Indian Government did some years later.

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  8. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    From his defence:

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  9. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    That clears up my #7.

  10. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    Although another article gives a slightly different impression of why he remained in India!

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  11. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    Lionboxer, if you have a Newspapers subscription, there are quite a few articles in the Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore) from 1944/45 with more details of the case. If you don't, I can clip them and them post them here too or send them to you.
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  12. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    GeorgyB, thanks for this. I seem to have opened a can of worms with Major Henderson! I have FMP subscription and there is a plethora of newspaper reports about this. I haven't come across anything of the Civil and Military Gazette yet so would pleased to see what you've found on here.
  13. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    I forgot to add why wasn't he dishonourably discharged from the army? He is still referred to as Major.
  14. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    So after his arrest in April 1944, this is an account of perhaps the first court hearing in May 1944.

    It became known as "The Burma Fraud Case" and is well documented. Interesting reading for me as my grandfather was in the Indian Police in the Punjab in the 1920s and 1930s, and by the 1940s was a Superintendent.

    Last edited: Mar 31, 2023
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  15. JBar

    JBar Member

  16. JBar

    JBar Member

    Not sure how to attach file. Above is citation for his MBE.
  17. JBar

    JBar Member

    According to NAtional Archives he was a Captain at the time, so sounds like he was demoted at least.
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  18. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    In some of the newspaper reports from 1949 he is designated as Captain Thomas Henderson. I assume Major was his war substantive rank. Perhaps as it was a civil case and he hadn't been convicted (till 1951) he wasn't kicked out of the army, but that would seem odd if he was in jail in India for at least some of the time? I guess only his Service Record would reveal what happened to him on the military side.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2023
  19. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    The cutting in Post 10 states he was detained in Indian civil jails for four years. Indian justice moves very slowly, then and now. Once the process starts it is very unusual for a case to be expedited with - for us - a reasonable time frame. Civil justice also follows different rules of evidence and procedure. Not that I am an expert on Indian civil or criminal law.
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  20. GeorgyB

    GeorgyB Active Member

    Yes, some of the reports on the justice process are very lengthy, too long to post on here and don't always mention Henderson - he seems to be the only British officer involved.

    From July 1945

    From Nov 1945


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