Deserters from Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Between 1914 and their disbandment the Royal Dublin Fusiliers had 22 men sentenced to death for a variety of crimes - of these 3 were actually executed, and 2 of these three shot, were shot as deserters. However there were hundreds more who were, in one way or another, classified as deserters on their medal index cards. Because regiments were not proud of courts martial, evidence is somewhat scanty.

A BBC article states that during the period between August 1914 and March 1920 more than 20,000 servicemen were convicted by court-martials of offences which carried the death sentence. Only 3,000 of those men were ordered to be put to death and of those just over 10% were executed.

The average yearly incidence of desertion in World War One was 10.26 cases per 1,000 troops per year

Official Figures show the number of desertion per year

Year Ending 30/9/1914 - Struck off as deserters: 3,280 Given up as deserters: 3
Year Ending 30/9/1915 - Struck off as deserters: 40,375 Given up as deserters: 33
Year Ending 30/9/1916 - Struck off as deserters: 26,520 Given up as deserters: 36
Year Ending 30/9/1917 - Struck off as deserters: 21,838 Given up as deserters: 8
Year Ending 30/9/1918 - Struck off as deserters: 26,272 Given up as deserters: 5
Year Ending 30/9/1919 - Struck off as deserters: 21,618 Given up as deserters: 2

So 139,903 were struck off as deserters plus a further 87 that were assumed to be deserters out of the 7,165,280 British Army servicemen were deployed during World War I. This is 1.9% of all men deployed, deserted

The first two cohorts I looked at on the Dublin Fusiliers, 11000s and 25,000s service numbers, both show a 3% desertion rate, as recorded by the MICs

Executed for desertion  
Rickman deserter 12923 Private Albert RICKMAN of the 1st Battalion went missing on 1 July 1916, the day his battalion attacked the Hawthorn Ridge. He was an Englishman from Hampshire. Private Rickman had served with his Battalion in Gallipoli from April 1915 until January 1916. He then went with the Battalion to France. On the 1st July 1916 the Fusiliers advanced at 0800 in the second wave attacking near Beaumont-Hamel. Casualties were 11 officers and 300 other ranks. On the 2nd July the survivors held the British front line near Auchonvillers, gathering up the dead and wounded. 27 years old Private Rickman deserted and was not arrested until the 20th July on the rear lines. On the 7th September 1916 the death sentence was confirmed and on the 15th September 1916 Private Rickman, aged 27, was shot at 0600 for desertion.
Monaghan shot for desertion medals

40422 Private Stephen BYRNE: Private No. 1 Coy. 1st Battalion., Royal Dublin Fusiliers aged 30, was executed at 6.45am on Sunday 28th October 1917 at Basseux. He served under the assumed name of M. Monaghan. Brother of Thomas Byrne, of 32, Usher's Quay. He joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in January 1916 and had few discipline problems before his desertion. He was charged with wilfully absenting himself to avoid service in the front line on 5 August 1917 , and also with escaping following his arrest on 22 September. He was found on 9 September by the French. In mitigation, Private Monaghan stated that he had been over the top previously in 1917 with another battalion before his transfer to the RDF. Private Monaghan was found guilty on both charges, the sentence was subsequently confirmed and he was executed.


Court Martial Offences in Royal Dublin Fusiliers