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  • Bertie McCubbin
Person Details
London
He was the son of William and Emily Ann (née Dalton) McCubbin and the brother of Gladys, Eric, Wallace, Harold, Grace and Kenneth McCubbin (killed in action 20/3/1943). In 1901, they lived at 33 St Mark's Road Preston Lancashire and in 1911, at 16, Buckley Square Ardwick Manchester. William McCubbin was an asphalter who, married in Lincolnshire and with children born in London, Leicester, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Sheffield, apparently moved around the country in order to work.
In 1911, Bertie McCubbin was a mineral water bottler.
30 Jul 1916
22
189054 - CWGC Website
31821
Private
17th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
Bertie McCubbin was executed at Lone Farm Advanced Dressing Station along with another member of the Welbeck Rangers, George Lowton. Both men are buried in Brown's Road Military Cemetery, Festubert. McCubbin's Grave Reference: V B16 Bertie McCubbin was one of 306 British soldiers executed for military offences during the Great War. On July 7th 1916 he refused to go out into No Man's Land to occupy a listening post some 40 yards in front of the British parapet. Putkowski and Sykes observed 'The location where McCubbin was stationed had been fought over during the Battle for Aubers Ridge (1915) and in places it had been difficult for the British to establish a continuous front line. As a result, in places there were positions that became known as 'islands' because of their isolation. Obviously manning such positions was extremely stressful as army doctor Lord Moran was later to comment.' Shot at Dawn, (Barnsley: Wharncliffe Publishing, 1989 p.105) Appealing for clemency McCubbin explained that he stayed in his trench immobilised from shell-shock: ‘Dear Sirs, During my stay in the Annequin Trenches I had my nerves shattered by a shell which burst three yards away. I have never been right since my nerves are completely ruined. I put the plea forward that my case not a blank refusal to an officer but as nervousness on my part being made worse by the incessant bombardment which has been going on here lately. I have never been up before my commanding officer or colonel before until now and I have always tried to play my part in the army. I have also a father somewhere in France leaving my mother at home with six brothers and sisters and always thinking if anything had to happen to us two what would become of them which does not help me to get on a deal. If you deal leniently with me in this case I will try and do my bit and keep up a good reputation.’ This plea was his only defence at the court marital, where he was unrepresented. McCubbin’s company commander described him as a good soldier who had recently shown signs of stress. The court martial president imposed the death sentence but recommended mercy in recognition of the soldier’s character and disturbed state of mind. Brigade and Division commanders agreed commutation to imprisonment would be appropriate but First Army commander Charles Mayo insisted on the death sentence for McCubbin and his fate was confirmed by Sir Douglas Haig. McCubbin was shot at dawn on 30th July alongside another Forester George Lowton, a married man with five children, who had refused to go out and recover three portable bridges which were 75 yards from the German line. McCubbin did not die instantly, an officer administering the coup de grâce with his pistol. Initially, the circumstances of McCubbin’s death were withheld from his mother. She was told he had been shot by gunfire. Emily McCubbin tried in vain to find out details about her son's final days, even writing to the king. It wasn't until the end of the war, when a soldier who knew Bert visited her, that she learned the truth. Bert's niece, Grace Sloan, who fought for years for his name to be cleared, said: ‘She was completely devastated to be told he had been shot for being a coward. It was a terrible shock. She become insane and locked herself in her bedroom and refused to come out. All she knew was that she had been told he was a coward. She never got to know that he was simply ill.’ The loss of Bertie MCubbin did not end his family's suffering. As the war was drawing to a conclusion, McCubbin’s father William was gassed serving with the Labour Corps and died in Britain on November 17th 1918.
In addition to Bertie McCubobin and George Lowton, six other Sherwood Foresters were executed for military offences during the Great War. They were: Private A Briggs (21801) [desertion] 19/07/1918 Private RM Davies (73372) [desertion] 15/11/1917 Private F O’Neill (13612) [desertion] 16/5/1918 Private WH Randle (13167) [desertion] 25/11/1916 Private W Robinson (70715) [desertion] 10/4/1917 Corporal J Wilton (23972) [quitting post] 17/8/1916 Having been in a dangerously exposed spot between Trones Wood and Guillemont on the Somme for forty eight hours, Corporal Wilton ordered the evacuation of his section (without higher authority). Julian Putkowski notes that former Sherwood Forester Joe Beard from Warsop, who had served with the BEF since September 1914, in 1992 recalled Wilton’s case as ‘a bad business. The man was a reservist, older than us with a family. He had just been pushed too far.’ In 2006 Defence Secretary Des Browne announced, on moral rather than legal grounds, posthumous pardons for 306 men shot for cowardice and desertion during the Great War. However, he did acknowledge that the executions were carried out in a very different era under the duress of war. Families wishing to go beyond pardons by seeking complete exoneration for executed men would have to pursue the issue case by case in court. That no families have taken this course suggests that pardons have allowed descendants to draw a line and move on. David Nunn
Remembered on

Photos

  • Bertie McCubbin
    Courtesy of the Nottingham Post 20/6/2016 - Bertie McCubbin
  • Buried in Browns Road MIlitary Cemetery.
    Bertie McCubbin - Buried in Browns Road MIlitary Cemetery.
  • Execution post with details of Bertie McCubbin, part of the Shot at Dawn Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gillings
    Bertie McCubbin - Execution post with details of Bertie McCubbin, part of the Shot at Dawn Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gillings
  • Shot at Dawn Memorial at the National Arboretum, Alrewas commemorating 306 British soldiers executed for military offences during the Great War. Each is represented by an execution post with the man's details included.  Courtesy of Peter Gilings
    Bertie McCubbin - Shot at Dawn Memorial at the National Arboretum, Alrewas commemorating 306 British soldiers executed for military offences during the Great War. Each is represented by an execution post with the man's details included. Courtesy of Peter Gilings