Dishonourable Death of Inniskillings

Story

The following is an account of an event that took place after Waterloo when Wellington’s Army was garrisoned as the Army of Occupation in France.


We were billeted at a village near Cambray called Aresne . A part of the Twenty-Seventh Regiment was billeted at a village near where we were situated, most of whom were I believe Irish; and two of the more ruffianly, knowing that a farmer who lived close by had gone to market, and would probably return laden with the value of the goods he had sold, laid wait for him with the intention of robbing him; and having met him, they fell upon him and left him in a corn-field evidently for dead, first stripping him of everything valuable about his person. There the man lay till his friends becoming uneasy at his long absence a search was made and he was tracked to his mournful bed. He was not dead when found, and so was conveyed to his house and properly attended to by a doctor, and at the end of a week he was able to give an account of the ill-treatment he said he had received at the hands of two soldiers who were quartered in the village occupied by the Twenty-Seventh Regiment.

One of the officers was consequently informed of the occurrence, and immediately went to the farmer to learn the rights of the story. The man could not tell the amount of money that had been taken from him, but he said he could recognize the men again. As soon, therefore, as he was able to walk, the officer took him down the ranks of his regiment, and certainly he proved to be correct about recognizing them, for he immediately picked out two men who were found to have been out at the time described. They were conveyed as prisoners to the guard-room, and reported to the general, who immediately ordered a court-martial, and, accepting the evidence of their sergeant, who pronounced them to be as often tipsy as not, found them guilty, and they were sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was, however, first sent to be approved of by Lord Wellington, who sanctioned it and returned it; and the execution was accordingly ordered to be carried out.

The men were allowed a week to prepare themselves for their awful doom, and at the end of that time the brigade was called together to take warning from their unhappy fate. It was on a Monday morning that we formed square round the gallows which had been erected for the occasion; and all being ready, the men were brought under the gallows in a spring-wagon guarded by a sergeant and twelve men of their own regiment, one of which latter having adjusted the ropes, the chaplain read the service. Then the question usual in these cases was put, but all they had to say was that they were both guilty and hoped this would be a warning to their comrades. The chaplain then left them, and on the wagon being moved along they were left dancing on nothing. The poor fellows were not long in expiring, but they were left one hour before they were cut down, during which time we had to retain our post, and at the end of it each regiment retired solemnly to its own quarters, leaving a company of the men's own regiment to bury them.


An extract from 'The Autobiography of Sergeant William Lawrence' who served in the 40th Regiment of Foot and was described in a publication of 1886 as 'Hero of The Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns'. He records an earlier confrontation with a soldier from the 27th Regiment:

I happened to be at the stall one day when I saw a soldier of the Twenty-Seventh Regiment, which was stationed at the barracks as well as ours, deliberately take half a pound of tobacco which was already tied up off the stall and attempt to get off with it. But that didn't suit me, so I pursued and overtook him, and delivered him over to his own regiment to dispose of as they thought best after I had told them the circumstances. I told them too that I didn't wish to prosecute him myself, so I never heard anything more of him. I took the tobacco back ...

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