Ernest Beeby

Ernest Beeby was tried at Huppy by Field General courts-martial, in France, on 15 November 1916 with the charge of desertion.

Pioneer Ernest Beeby pleaded not guilty to the charge of desertion. He was examined by a Medical Commission headed by the DADMS of 33rd Division (Major G.W.G. Hughes DSO assisted by Captain J.W. Wilson RAMC and Captain J.H. Morris RAMC). This commission found that he understood that the act he was tried for was wrong and he understood the consequences of his action. Therefore, the Medical Commission found that Pioneer Beeby was sane and fit to stand trial.

PRESIDENTMajor L.F. Leader (4th King’s L’Pool)
MEMBERSCaptain C.E. Going (1st Middlesex)
2/Lieutenant C.P. Parry-Crooks (1/4th Suffolks)

The following is an extract of the courts-martial proceedings.

No. 11516 SGT/Major A. O’Connell, 212nd Field Company, RE

At Guillemont on 24 October 1916, at 2pm the accused was not on parade. I reported him absent to the C.O and did not see the accused again until he was brought back under escort on or about the 29th October 1916.

No cross-examination.

No. 85814 A/Sjt. S. Boalch, 212nd Field Company, RE

On October 29th 1916, on the 2pm parade the accused was absent. I reported this to the Sergeant Major.

No cross-examination.

No. 441 L/Cpl. E. Thomas, M.F. Police

At Harve docks on the 26 October 1916, about 11.15pm I was on duty at No. 1 gate, Gare Maritime, when I saw the accused loitering in the vicinity. I questioned him. He told me he was absent from his unit. I arrested him and conducted him to the patrol guard detention room. The accused seemed to have lost his memory. He was sober. He did not appear to know what he was talking about.

No cross-examination.

No. P1328 Colour Sergeant W. Rashbrook, M.F. Police

At Harve on 27 October 1916, at about 8am I was on duty on Le Harve Docks where I saw the accused now before the court, in custody. I asked him to give me particulars of his name, number, unit. He gave me the following: No. 140320 Sapper Beary of the 90th Coy., RE. I asked him where he came from and he said “I came to France in September about the 9th and landed at Le Harve. I broke away from the draft just out from England while at No. 5 Rest Camp. I mixed myself with a party to go to “Blighty””. The accused was very strange in his manner.

No cross-examination.

The accused states on oath

At Harve Docks in October I fell off a Motor Ambulance and was taken to the guard room by a Corporal. That is all I remember. I fell on my head.

The Prosecutor:

Was it the same corporal that has given evidence?

The Accused:

I can’t say.

The Prosecutor:

What were you doing on a Motor Ambulance in Harve Docks?

The Accused:

I can’t remember.

No further cross-examination.

Evidence as to character:

Captain H.T. Morshead, 212nd Field Coy., RE produces the accused’s A.F. B.122 (Company Conduct Sheet).

  1. Character.

From a fighting point of view this man is worthless – nor has he any trade aptitude or qualification fitting him for service in an R.E Coy. His regimental and company conduct sheets shows his behaviour to have been habitually bad. Pioneer Beeby joined 212nd Field Company on 31 August 1916 at the commencement of a spell of Divisional rest, and has hardly been in action. He was sick during a considerable portion of the time the company was in the Third Army area, and he disappeared on the day his section was due to go into the line on arrival in Fourth Army front.

  1. State of Discipline of unit concerned.

The company is practically entirely free from crime and discipline is good

I am of the opinion that the crime was deliberately committed with the sole object of avoiding the particular service involved – viz. a tour of duty in the line.

17/11/16 Sd/ H.T. Morshead, Capt. RE. O/C 212 Field Company.


Attested at Kidderminster 31 March 1915. Age 23 years and 5 months.

Place of birth: Birmingham.

18/05/15Absent 1 hour3 days CB
25/05/15Absent 10 minutes
Attempt to escape escort7 days CB
28/05/15Absent 40 minutesFine 5 days pay
30/06/15Unshaved2 days CB
Obscene language7 days CB
04/07/15Absent 4 hours2 days CB
14/07/15Smoking on night operations
Obscene language2 days CB
17/07/15Absent 50 minutes7 days CB
21/07/15Absent 3 hours
Breaking out of barracks14 days CB
26/07/15Absent 1 hour
27/07/15Absent 1.75 hours96 hours detention
26/08/15Absent 7 days 1 hour8 days CB & fine 4 days pay
02/09/15Breaking out of barracks
Insolence to NCO2 days CB
27/10/15Threatening language
Refusing to work7 days CB
31/10/15Absent 17 hours 50 minsFined 5 days pay
01/11/15Absent 3 hours2 days CB
05/11/15Threatening language
Attempt to escape custody84 days hard labour
02/02/16Absent 12 hours 20 mins1 days CB
04/04/16Absent 12 hoursFined 2 days pay
Dirty RifleFined 2 days pay
09/05/16Breaking out of camp
Absent 11 hours5 days CB
09/05/16Breaking out of camp
Absent 11 hours5 days CB
11/05/16Improperly dressed
Disobedience14 days CB
13/05/16Absent21 days detention
10/06/16Desertion2 years detention
07/08/16Released from detention
31/08/16Joined 212nd Field Coy RE
07/09/16Entering Estaminet while under arrest
Insolence28 days Field Punishment No. 1
CB: Confined to Barracks.

The court found Beeby guilty of desertion and sentence him to death by shooting.

The sentence was confirmed, and carried out at Albert on 9 December 1916 at 06:27 hours. The death was witnessed as instantaneous.

Medal Index Card for Ernest Beeby (The Western Front Association)
Medal Index Card for Ernest Beeby (The Western Front Association).

Ernest Beeby is buried in Albert Communal Cemetery Extension in Plot 1, Row R, Grave 43.