For those that may not know, RFA is the Royal Field Artillery. My Grandad was a gunner in the RFA, he volunteered on the 1st January 1917 at Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow. Another guy became a Field Marshall on the same day. Both are not part of and have nothing to do with the story.
Trials by the army during the Great War were about maintaining Army Discipline. That was what they were all about. People do tend to assume they were about imposing some long out of date code of justice but that was simply not the case. There were thousands of trials by the British army in France. France being the Western Front so it may seem a little unfair to single one out.
So I did it, concerns two on trial and facing a fate worse than death, they were going to be eaten. there were food shortages and sometimes, well…
The trial was organised by and for A Battery 52nd Brigade RFA. A Battery 52nd Brigade RFA was part of 9th Scottish Division. 9th Scottish Division was highly regarded and has one of the best records of any Division in the Great War, but sometimes in even the best Divisions. Now two were on trial for their very lives.
A prisoners friend was arranged, and for the sake of justice so was a jury. This was a rare event, Army trials were rarely held in front of a jury. This is the only one from the Great war I know of.
Jimmy and Jane were brought in for trial. A wee word to explain the names. Most men in Scotland answer to the name “Jimmy”. Jane is a girls name. Nothing in the records gives any clues to the conduct of these two prior to the trial. A battery had decided to eat them. Fortunately, at Christmas 1914 there was still a spark of humanity and a brave gunner had objected. Now they were on trial for their lives.
Prisoners friends are often criticised as having little or no legal experience. In the case of Jimmy and Jane he was a good one, and both were acquitted. As Artillery Batteries rarely stay in one place for very long and Jimmy and Jane tended to travel with Gunner Grey. Both survived the war, there was a near miss on the night of the 28th May 1917 near Rennenghelst in Belgium. They were both taken by a farmer. Luckily the Battery managed to locate them both the next day.
After the Armistice, Jimmy and Jane entered Britain via Dover. Jimmy died in a zoo in London in 1920. Jane the goose lived on in retirement in a farm in Berkshire without her gander Jimmy until December 1931.