Arthur Philip Oyns

Arthur Philip Oyns (94236) was a Sapper in 50th Searchlight Company Royal Engineers. Hwas tried by Field General courts-martial on 8 October 1917, with the charge that he did murder 28347 A/CSM T. McCain, 50th Searchlight Company RE, on the 13 July 1917 in the field (contrary to Army Act Section 41).

PRESIDENTLieut-Col S.H. Beattie MC (2nd Northants)
MEMBERSMajor W.E.H. Sims (20th Durham Light Infantry)
Captain C.H. Colesworth (21st Lancers)
Captain O.F. Davison (Army Supply Corps)
DEFENDERLieutenant Pilcher (Labour Corps)
PROSECUTORMajor E.E. Green (2nd Welsh Regiment)

The first prosecution witness 23611 Sapper Anson (50th Searchlight Company) stated that he heard a shot from the Nissen Hut on the camp at Brie at about 9.30pm on 13 July 1917. He went to the door which divided the hut, and saw the accused holding his rifle to his solder.

It was pointing out of the window. He then saw CQMS Finniston rush past the window outside the hut. The accused was standing by the window resting his rifle on the window sill, and pointing it outside. (CQMS Finniston was away from his unit wounded during Oyns’ trial.)

The second prosecution witness 1355 L/Cpl B. Boyce (50th Searchlight Company) stated that he heard two shots. He rushed to the hut and found Sapper Anson and CQMS Finniston holding the accused down on the floor. He picked up the rifle and found that the magazine contained three rounds, and no round in the barrel. There were two cartridges on the floor. The accused was in a very excited state. The witness said that Oyns had a grudge against CSM McCain. No other men had made remarks about this CSM to this witness. The accused said that “I will go up against the wall for one bloody man”.

26415 Sapper D. Lawlor (50th Searchlight Company) confirmed the previous witnesses and added that the accused was easily aroused.

The next three witnesses all confirmed various aspects already mentioned by Sappers Anson, Boyce and Lawlor: 496753 Sapper Hathaway (50th Searchlight Company), 168323 Bombardier T. Windebank RGA and 23722 L/Cpl W. Taylor (50th Searchlight Company).

Captain J. Smalley IMS examined McCain’s body at Lucknow CCS, and stated that McCain had been shot in the neck and upper chest.

The accused testified on oath that he had several drinks in the canteen, and became drunk. He admitted that he had held no grudge against McCain, and that he had been with him since he arrived in the company. He had suffered a drink problem before the war, and had to leave his previous job as an electric worker. He stated that he had to support his Mother since his Father died.

Sapper Oyns’ commanding officer Captain D.R. French Mullen stated that the accused was hard working, but did not get on with either the other men or NCOs. CSM McCain took an interest in the accused and thought that his shyness was due to his newness in the Army. CSM McCain was very popular and tried to help the accused before matters came before officers.

The accused’s friend stated that as the accused was drunk, he did not have intent and so was guilty of manslaughter and not guilty of murder.

Sapper Oyns was found guilty of murder by the court. The prosecutor Major E. Green (Welsh Regiment) then stated that the accused had two previous offences:

20/04/167 days FP No. 2Hesitating to obey orders.
11/03/1714 days FP No. 1Drunk & creating a disturbance

In mitigation, the accused’s friend (Lieutenant Pilcher) stated that the accused was a good son to his Mother, but was in trouble due to drink. Also the accused had been in confinement for a total of twelve weeks in the lead up to this trial.

Sapper Oyns, aged 31 years, was sentenced to death by shooting with no recommendation for mercy.

Sapper Arthur Oyns was shot on 20 October 1917, in a double execution with R/24441 Rifleman Frank Cheeseman (18th King’s Royal Rifle Corps) who, aged 29 years, was found guilty of desertion (both were tried separately and their offences are not connected).

Both Sapper Oyns and Rifleman Cheeseman are buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery.

Medal Index Card for Arthur Oyns (The Western Front Association)
Medal Index Card for Arthur Oyns (The Western Front Association).

Sapper Oyns is interned in Grave Reference 4.G.24, with Rifleman Cheeseman interned in Grave Reference 4.G.23.

Company Sergeant Major T. McCain is buried in La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery, Grave Reference I.G.5.

A third executed soldier is buried in this cemetery. 2064 Private William Wycherley of the 2nd Manchesters was executed for desertion on 12 September 1917, and is interned in Grave Reference 3.G.6.