Archive for Soldier

31 January 1945 – Eddie Slovik

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Eddie SlovikUS World War II Private Eddie Slovik became the only deserter out of 21,000 soldiers to be executed.

General Eisenhower is said to have given the go-ahead so his death could be used as an example to others.

Previously while training, Slovik had asked to be transferred to a non-combat post. But he had been refused, because they needed men on the frontline.


‘I am so unlucky’ he shrewdly wrote to his wife in 1944, before he’d even been posted anywhere. And how right he was. Of the 21,000 soldiers who were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, 49 received the death penalty. But only Edward Donald Slovik actually came face to face with the firing squad, as he became the only US soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War, which ended in 1865.

He was shot on this day in 1945, and to make matters worse his poor wife had absolutely no idea.

To find out more about this fascinating case check out William Bradford Huie’s book, The Execution of Private Slovik.

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18 January 1917 – Joseph Stones, Peter Goggins and John McDonald

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 18 by Old Sparky

Lance-Sergeant Joseph Stones

Three First World War soldiers were posthumously pardoned 90 years on, after they’d been executed for so-called cowardice in 1917.

Around 300-plus soldiers were shot for cowardice during the World War I. But it was these three young servicemen, in particular, who were to represent those ranks who were branded deserters.

For years the families of those men were ashamed to even mention their ancestors – why? Because threre was a stigma attached to having a so-called war coward in the family. And so they were all but erradicated from the families’ history. But their army lives were far from shameful, as younger relatives were to find out.

Under fire

Lance Corporal Peter Goggins and Sergeant Joseph “Will” Stones, both County Durham men, plus Corporal John McDonald from Sunderland, were done for deserting their posts. In actual fact, they were told to retreat 20 yards to a reserve trench, when they came under heavy artillery fire.

The most heart-rending story was that of Stones (pictured), who had actually earned three awards for bravery during his three years’ service. He was done for slinging his gun away when he’d actually thrown it at Germans as they rushed him. He then legged it to warn the rest of his troops on the instruction of his officer, who was wounded. But his actions backfired when he was branded a coward instead.

Court martialled

The irony is that these soldiers survived the hostile enemy attacks only to be shot by their fellow men for retreating. They were court martialled and found guilty. The soldiers were then put in chains, blindfolded and tied to stakes, where they were shot at dawn.

Just under 90 years on, after tireless campaigning from newer members of the family, these three men plus others were reprieved and granted pardons posthumously. Their names now take pride of place alongside other men’s names who died for their country.

Also on this day

18 January 1803 – George Foster

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4 January 1946 – Theodore Schurch

Posted in Hanged with tags , , , on January 4 by Last Writes

With 10 crimes levelled against him, Theodore William John Schurch was the last person to be executed in the UK for a murderless crime.

In March 1945 the Anglo-Swiss soldier was arrested in Rome for fascist activities during the Second World War. He stood accused of nine counts of treachery and one of desertion.

As an army man, Schurch was court martialled at the Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death. Schurch was hanged on 4 January 1946, aged just 27.

Also on this day

1928 – Bertram Kirby

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3 January 1946 – William Joyce

Posted in Hanged with tags , , , , , on January 3 by Last Writes

William Joyce

Fascist William Joyce was the penultimate man to be executed in the UK for a crime other than murder.

He was found guilty of treason for being a fascist politician and broadcasting Nazi propaganda to the British during World War II.

Nazi splinter group

Joyce started off as a member of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Sir Oswald Mosley before forming a breakaway organisation, the National Socialist League.

Anti-semitic Joyce, infamously nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen, was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Wandsworth Prison on 3 January 1946, aged 39.

Fellow Nazi sympathiser Theodore Schurch was set to meet Mr P. the following day and has the dubious honour of being the final person to be hanged for a crime that wasn’t murder.

You may also wish to check out Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce and Germany Calling: A Personal Biography of William Joyce – Lord Haw-Haw for more treachery and intrigue.

Also on this day

1928 – Frederick Fielding

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20 December 1945 – James McNicol

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on December 20 by Old Sparky

James McNicol was hanged at 9:30am in 1945 at Pentonville for murder of a fellow army sergeant Donald Alfred Richard Kirkaldie.

Family research suggests that the 27-year-old’s crime was actually manslaughter, rather than a jealousy-fuelled crime of passion over female army soldier, Pte. Jean Neale.

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8 November 1942 – Eddie Leonski

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on November 8 by Old Sparky

Eddie Leonski

Eddie Leonski

As if there wasn’t enough death during World War II, US-born serial killer Eddie Leonski strangled his way round Australia in his killing spree in the early 1940s.

From New York, he joined the US Army in February 1941 and was posted to Melbourne a year later. His first victim was 40-year-old Ivy Violet McLeod, who was found beaten and strangled On 3 May 1942 in Albert Park, Melbourne.

Then, Pauline Thompson (31) was found strangled 6 days later having been seen with a man with an American accent. His next strangling was Gladys Hosking, 40, on her way back home from Melbourne University.

A witness came forward saying that a muddy American man had asked for directions Of course he had tried and failed to kill on several occasions and those survivors were able to identify him. What could he do but confess to the crimes.

Naturally he was convicted, and the Army court martialled him. He was sentenced him to death in July 1942 and was hanged at Pentridge Prison in November – the second American serviceman to be executed during the Second World War.

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9 October 1967 – Che Guevara

Posted in Death penalty, Shot with tags , , , , , , on October 9 by Old Sparky

Che Guevara

Che Guevara

‘Shoot coward. You’re only going to kill a man.’

But what a man.

It’s not often we get to write about personal heroes, but today’s post is one such occasion, for these are purported to be some of the final words of Che Guevara, El Che or just Che to his mates.

Of course the words may be little more than an urban myth, but the man who uttered them was so much more. He has become a legend.

Che Lives!

Che Guevara has changed the course of history for several countries, freeing them from the shackles of Fascism and dictatorship with his brand of egalitarian democracy, albeit via bloody methods.

But hey, you’re here to read about his death, so we’ll stop waxing lyrical about his left-wing crusades. You can get those elsewhere.

Che was a wanted man. He’d helped lead Cuba to freedom from the iron grip of Fulgencio Batista. It was now safely in the left-hand palm of his comrade-in-arms Fidel Castro.

The Argentine was then to head deep into the bowels of Bolivia (via The Congo), where he started stirring up just as much trouble.

The fear

Stunningly, it wasn’t just the Bolivians who feared his unique style of revolution. He had opposers further north of the border too – the Americans quaked in their Louboutins1 at the very thought that infectious Communism was edging ever closer to their Capitalist shores.

After all, it would never do to have such a successful advocate so close in proximity to them, extolling the virtues of a leftie paradise. Moreover, it wouldn’t do to have one so seductive and one who was unafraid of employing such bloody methods.

So the question is, who ultimately got there first? The Bolivians? Or the Americans? The answer is both, thanks inadvertently to one of Che’s Russian mates.

Up to that point, he’d been the scourge of the beleaguered Bolivians’ efforts to keep the country revolution-free. Instead, he had become ensconced in establishing the National Liberation Army of Bolivia and he was already well-known for his stop-at-nothing guerrilla tactics.


As a result both camps deemed he must die, helped not least by Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider ‘better known by her nom de guerre “Tania”, who had been installed as his primary agent in La Paz, was reportedly also ‘working for the KGB and is widely inferred to have unwittingly served Soviet interests by leading Bolivian authorities to Guevara’s trail’. At least that’s the story according to Wikipedia.

The CIA teamed up with the Bolivian Army and hunted him down like a dog. Of course, that’s not how the Bolivians saw it. Indeed the BBC tracked down one of the Cuban-born CIA agents who made the historic coup.

‘Most people don’t know the real Che Guevara – the Che Guevara who wrote that he was thirsty for blood, the Che who assassinated thousands of people without any regard for legal process’ said Felix Rodriguez who actually took a photo of the man on capture.

‘Legal process’ eh? Where was the legal process when Rodriguez took the order from on high to execute without trial?

Che dies

The soldier tasked with carrying out the job was instructed to make it look like he’d been killed in battle.

That didn’t stop the execution party lopping off his hands and pickling them in formaldehyde as a way of preserving them. Why? This was carried out in case Castro asserted that Che was still alive and kicking arse. You can’t argue with fingerprints after all.

Che was then laid out on a slab, Christ-like and more photos taken as proof that the commandante was dead.

And so the legend was born. With that solitary action, 39-year-old Che morphed from prolific guerrilla and freedom fighter to immortal icon.

1 Anachronistic we know, but a great example of capitalism at its best.

Also on this day…and it’s another big name!

9 October 2002 – Aileen Wuornos
The US-born highway hooker and serial man-killer was put to death for a nine-month killing spree spanning north and central Florida.

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