Discussion in 'Service Records' started by Smudger Jnr, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    I seem to remember that destruction of uniform signified that a man did not intend to return to service where as an absentee who retained his uniform could claim he intended to return ,I do not know what the time scale would be.
    It is interesting that Borstal is mentioned ,was Borstal only for those under 18 years of age?, were their many 17 year olds serving and if so did many desert?
  2. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Borstals were run by HM Prison Service and intended to reform seriously delinquent young people. The word is sometimes used loosely to apply to other kinds of youth institution or reformatory, such as Approved Schools and Detention Centres. The court sentence was officially called "borstal training". Borstals were originally for offenders under 21, but in the 1930s the age was increased to under 23. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 abolished the borstal system in the UK, introducing youth custody centres instead.
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  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Found this from the same file, and adding it as it mentions something interesting about procedure for those sentenced to imprisonment by civil courts, as well as a ref to Borstal training for 16-21 yr olds:
    (As far as i can tell this is a end of 1943 / start of 1944 amendment to a 1936 Circular)

  4. TowerHamlets

    TowerHamlets New Member

    Injection - I am interested in your father's story as I am currently writing up the story of another soldier who fought in North Africa and Italy who also deserted. if you are happy to discuss your father's story more please contact me on and I would be happy to share with you the research I have done so far, best, Andy
  5. TowerHamlets

    TowerHamlets New Member

    Charles Glass' book "The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II," (Penguin Press HC, 2013) gives an interesting insight in to this not often discussed issue. According to Glass, 'for the most part they left the lines because they'd had nervous breakdowns…Too much shelling, close friends killed, not getting any sleep — the daily stresses were too much." Glass notes that; “Few deserters were cowards,” adding that the people who “showed the greatest sympathy to deserters were other frontline soldiers. There were those that deserted for other reasons though, including greed and Glass gives the example of one deserter who deserts to join one of the sizeable criminal networks, run by gangs of deserters that sprouted up in post-liberation Naples, Rome, and Paris. Another motivation identified by Glass is that of disgust. The “disgusted” soldier is John Vernon Bain, who became a famous poet after the war in the UK under the pen name Vernon Scannell. Scannell deserted three different times: once during training in the U.K.; once after he witnessed one of his fellow soldiers taking a watch from an unknown dead Allied soldier in North Africa; and once after VE Day, when he was in England recovering from serious leg wounds. He was convicted but discharged after a brief stint in a mental ward. I am currently writing up the story of one deserter whose family believe he deserted due to suffering from what we now recognise as PTSD, after serving in a rifle battalion for over a year. When he deserted in North Africa, in July 1942, almost to the week, morale in the Eighth Army was at its lowest and desertion was a serious problem. He later left prison to fight in the Italian Campaign. He was diagnosed with PTSD by Combat Stress a few years ago. He recently passed away from dementia - in his final days he was often upset as he was convinced the RMPs were coming to take him away again. I am interested in any information people have around desertion, particularly the opinions of the wider public and other soldiers towards deserters after the war and whether people did appreciate the different motivations for desertion.
  6. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    Its worth having a read of "Argument of Kings" by Vernon Scannell for a deserters tale of his War - its a while since I've read it but remember it as a good read - he deserted, was captured, imprisoned then sent back to the front where he was wounded.

  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Still an issue in 1950 (interesting figures and background attached).

    Was an amnesty eventually granted?

    The Chiefs of Staff were all against, Ministers broadly in favour.

    One concern was that it would damage the image of military discipline in the eyes of the new national servicemen.

    Attached Files:

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  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    First time I have seen this thread

    Re your Capt Crighton-Pascoe

    England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
    Name: William T Crighton-pascoe
    Birth Date: abt 1919
    Date of Registration: Mar 1946
    Age at Death: 27
    Registration district: Sturminster
    Inferred County: Dorset
    Volume: 5a
    Page: 285

    A copy would explain your uncertainty

  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


    (threads now merged)

    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I'd be interested to hear to what extent absence and desertion has been recorded in unit War Diaries. There's nothing at all in 1/4th Essex's diaries (or appendices) throughout the war, but a few mentions and warnings in 6RWK and, IIRC, 2Camerons (or was it 1Sussex?).

    Is it the case that such discussion was limited to Part One Orders (which haven't usually survived) or were some ('front line') units relatively free of the phenomena?

    Curious as to what you've all seen in other diaries.

    (Obviously if you're posted far from the front lines desertion is less common)
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    War Diary: 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS, September 1939 - July 1944
    1st Bn Irish Guards

    1939 October 4
    Wellington Barracks
    We have taken over the Public Duties for one week. Up to now this has been found by the 1st Battalion SCOTS GUARDS from CHELSEA Barracks. King’s Guard is a Vulnerable Point and a whole Company have to stand by to protect the Palaces in the event of an Air Raid or Civil Disturbances. Since the Reservists have been issued with drab greatcoats, whilst the remainder have still got blue grey ones it is not easy to arrange for a properly cloaked guard.
    The 1st Recruit Party consisting of 18 men arrived to-day from the Training Battalion.
    Up to now 5 deserters from 9 months to 10 years standing have returned from the IRISH FREE STATE to give themselves up since the outbreak of war.
  12. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I have several of this kind of thing for 6RWK. Courts Martial were mentioned as taking place at some point in January 1944 and the announcements were being made to the battalion in February. Alas, I don't have the Dec 1943 diary to see whether there was some mass incident and I don't really know what 78th Div was up to in late-43. I have the 1944 Diary as 6RWK were loaned to 4th Ind Div at Cassino.

    Still, look at those sentences--they weren't mucking about, were they?


    6RWK kept an absolutely brilliant diary, by the way. I have nearly 900 pages for a five-month period. Tons and tons of ephemera and reports and a 'chatty' tone throughout.
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  13. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    At any time in Italy, in both 1943 and 1944, the average number of Allied deserters living in the rear areas was 22,000 men.

    Enough for an entire Infantry Division.


  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Could you be more specific about 'living'?

    Hiding out? In private accommodation? On the road elsewhere?
  15. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I thought this was quite interesting.

    Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 03.20.55.png Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 03.21.09.png
  17. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    By ‘living’ I mean exactly that. Huge numbers of deserters had Italian girlfriends and lived in the community. They survived by stealing - 40% of everything that came into Naples was stolen. Often it was entire trucks - whatever they were carrying. Tyres were very popular as were blankets.

    The Allies simply did not have sufficient resources to look for these men.

    That Morale thesis is fascinating.


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  18. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Pvt Slovik's wiki entry is pretty interesting. Seems almost all of his fellow soldiers and offices gave him second and third chances to not hand over his note of confession

    I, Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik, 36896415, confess to the desertion of the United States Army. At the time of my desertion we were in Albuff in France. I came to Albuff as a replacement. They were shelling the town and we were told to dig in for the night. The following morning they were shelling us again. I was so scared, nerves and trembling, that at the time the other replacements moved out, I couldn’t move. I stayed there in my fox hole till it was quiet and I was able to move. I then walked into town. Not seeing any of our troops, so I stayed over night at a French hospital. The next morning I turned myself over to the Canadian Provost Corp. After being with them six weeks I was turned over to American M.P. They turned me loose. I told my commanding officer my story. I said that if I had to go out there again I'd run away. He said there was nothing he could do for me so I ran away again AND I'LL RUN AWAY AGAIN IF I HAVE TO GO OUT THERE.

    — Signed Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik A.S.N. 36896415[4]

    Eddie Slovik - Wikipedia
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  19. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

  20. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I haven't bought the book, but online extracts of a new book makes considerable use of the censorship reviews to assess morale:

    Fighting the People's War

    Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 12.56.10.png

    April 1944? Not a bloody surprise! That said, grumbling notwithstanding, the only confirmed case of desertion I can find from 1/4th Essex occurred before they went into battle at Cassino when the rain, the cold and the artillery harassment while waiting around got to one man.

    The author cautions that as unremarkable material from the men went, well, unremarked, using these summaries in isolation will paint an unfairly gloomy picture.

    Reference: WO 204/10381
    Description: Appreciation and censorship reports: Nos 1-52
    Date: 1942 Nov. - 1944 Sept.

    Has anybody ever looked at this file?
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019

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