Executed at Dawn

Private, Charles Francis McCol, 11/81, 1/4th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, was executed for desertion, aged 26. He was the son of Annie McCol, of 6 Bramhan Avenue, Woodhouse Street, Hull.

McCol had given up a reserved occupation to enlist in the 11th EYR in September, 1914.

He had served in Egypt from November 1915, and came to France in April 1916. He was buried by a shell at Neuve Chapelle in September 1916 and invalided home suffering from ‘heart failure and nervousness’. He was returned to France with the 1/4th EYR without a medical examination and deserted almost immediately. His sentence of ten years imprisonment was suspended so he could return to army duties.

He deserted again on the 28th October 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres and made his way back to Calais, where he is believed to have lived with a woman. He was easily arrested making his way to a rest camp trying to return to England.

At his trial, no medical evidence was available and McCol called no witnesses. His final statement to the Court said “I came from an exempted trade – shipyard plater – to join the army voluntarily in 1914. I am the only support of my mother who is a widow. I have tried to do my best”

The sentence of Death was confirmed by Field Marshall Douglas Haig and at 7.41am on the 28th December 1917, McCol was executed by a firing squad of ten men from his own company.

He is buried at the Ypres Reservoir Memorial Grave 1V: A6.  Charles McCol lived in the Sculcoates Parish of Hull, but his name is not recorded on any memorial. He is one of 306 soldiers executed by the British during the First World War.

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