Magazine article The Spectator

Conduct Unbecoming

Magazine article The Spectator

Conduct Unbecoming

Article excerpt

From Professor Richard Holmes Sir: Although Bruce Anderson ('Conduct unbecoming', 19 November) could do with some help, he will not get it from E. Derek Smith (Letters, 26 November). Mr Smith cites 'Lieutenant Leigh', allegedly shot in 1916 for innocently losing his way in the fog after the authorities had decreed that 'An officer must be charged and shot.' Details of courts martial are in the public domain, and from these we can see that no Lieutenant Leigh was ever executed. The only officer shot for misconduct during the battle of the Somme, Sub-Lieutenant Dyett, RNVR, was convicted by a court which found, reasonably on the evidence, that he had absented himself from his battalion when it was in action. There was no general order that an officer should be charged and shot, and both the court and Dyett's divisional commander recommended mercy. The commander of 5th Army, General Sir Hubert Gough, probably sealed his fate by noting 'it is highly probable that if a private soldier had behaved as he did in the circumstances he would have been shot'. …

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