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  • Photograph shows an execution post with details of William Henry Randle to commemorate his name which is part of the 'Shot at Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gillings
Person Details
Hucknall Torkard Nottinghamshire
He was the son of William Henry and Harriet Honoria Randle nee Blankley. Although on the 1901 Census it is recorded that William's father, also called William Henry, was born in Blidworth, Nottinghamshire, it appears from the 1911 Census that he was born in Warwickshire. Assuming this to be the case William Henry senior was probably born on 20 April 1868 (registered A/M/J, Foleshill Warwickshire) and was the son of Samuel and Amelia Randle. He was baptised on 26 October 1870 at Exhall, Warwickshire. Harriet was probably born in about 1874 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire (birth registered J/F/M Basford). William and Harriet were married in 1895, marriage registered O/N/D Basford. William completed the 1911 Census with the information that he and Harriet had been married for 16 years and had had five children of whom one had died. According to the details on the 1901 and 1911 census their five children were: William Henry (b. 1893, registered J/A/S), Elsie Ann (b. 1896, registered A/M/J), John Henry (b. 1897, registered O/N/D), Walter (b. 1899, registered J/F/M) and Ernest (b. 1900, registered A/M/J) who died the same year when he was only a year old (d. 1901, registered A/M/J). All the children were born in Hucknall Torkard. In 1901 William, a coal miner hewer, and Harriett were living at 25 Wollaton Street, Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire, with their five children; William Henry (7), Elsie Ann (5), John Henry (3), Walter (2) and Ernest (11 months). Ernest died the same year aged a year. By 1911 the family was living at 40 Vale Drive, Shirebrook, Mansfield. William (17) was working as a pony driver/miner, Elsie, who at 15 was of working age, was 'at home' (presumably unemployed), and John (13) and Walter (12) would still have been at school. The family later moved to 26 Vale Drive, Shirebrook, Mansfield, as this was the address given by John when he attested in January 1915. William volunteered on the outbreak of war and joined the Sherwood Foresters. His brother, John, attested on 5 January 1915 at the age of 19 years 3 months. He initially joined the Sherwood Foresters (21969) but transferred to the 8th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment on 20 July 1916 (43207). He was drafted for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and embarked Keyham Docks, Devonport, on 26 October 1915. He embarked Imbros on 29 January 1916 and disembarked Alexandria on 3 February 1916. However, he then transferred to France and appears to have served with the BEF in France from 28 June 1916. It was shortly after his arrival in France that his older brother William was posted 'absent without leave' having left his post to search for John whose battalion was serving close by. Details of William's court martial and subsequent execution are given in the 'military history' section below. After a short period of furlough in England in February 1918 John probably returned to France and was then discharged from the Army in about December 1918, returning to the family home at 26 Vale Drive, Shirebrook. John married Lucy L Hillsley in 1919 (marriage registered J/A/S, Mansfield). He died in 1959 aged 61 (death registered March, Chesterfield). John's mother probably died in 1924 aged 51 (death registered December, Mansfield) and his father at the age of 63 in 1932 (death registered December, Mansfield.
In 1911 he was a pit pony driver.
25 Nov 1916
23
587627 - CWGC Website
13167
Private
10th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
William Randle was one of 306 British soldiers executed for military offences during the Great War. Legion Knots Joining Branches Together Issue 6 Spring 2011: 'William volunteered when war broke out aged 19, joining the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby full Regiment). He was sent to Gallipoli, and one of his first tasks was to bury mounds of British corpses, 'rotting under the Turkish sun.' He took part in the disastrous landings at Suvla Bay where the Sherwood Foresters lost 18 Officers and around 700 men. William was wounded and shipped back to England. 'He recovered sufficiently to be ready to go ‘over the top’ on the first day of the Somme, July 1st 1916, where more than 140 battalion comrades were lost for the capture of a few yards of German held ground. 'A month later, whilst guarding the Reserve trenches after hearing that his brother John was serving nearby, he went to find him. When he returned, the battalion had moved. William was posted ‘absent without leave.’ Distressed and confused William wandered around as the battle raged, until he was spotted by an officer and arrested. 'It took 3 months to bring him to trial and with no one to defend him, he spoke for himself. 'At his Court Martial he said he had left his post to find his brother John who was serving nearby with the South Staffordshires. 'He told them what had happened but no-one even checked to see if he had a brother in the area. With no supporting evidence, his Officer Commanding, Major Leonard Gilbert told the Court, ‘I know nothing of his previous service but when in action in Fricourt he did not comport himself as a soldier would.’ 'With no one to challenge the officer, William was sentenced to death. 'Whilst reviewing the evidence, Brigadier General G.F. Trotter said, ‘I believe it would be in the interests of the Battalion ... that an example should be made. I therefore recommend that the extreme penalty should be carried out.’ This view was endorsed all the way up the chain of command including the British Commander Field Marshall Douglas Haig. 'It is thought William was made an example of to the others in the Battalion who had fought on the Somme.’ 'William Randle was executed at 6.46am on the 25th November 1916. He is buried in Cavillon Communal Cemetery. 'Following the death of Harry Patch, Brtian's last surviving World War One combat veteran, William Randle's niece Jean Lewis and her husband Dave were invited to attend a Westminster Abbey service in November 2009 commemorating the passing of the World War One generation.' Courtesy of Jim Grundy (Facebook) Small Town Great War Hucknall 1914-1918
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

  • Photograph shows an execution post with details of William Henry Randle to commemorate his name which is part of the 'Shot at Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gillings
    William Henry Randle - Photograph shows an execution post with details of William Henry Randle to commemorate his name which is part of the 'Shot at Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gillings
  • Photograph showing the 'Shot at Dawn Memorial' commemorating all the 306 men executed during the ' Great War' each one is represented by an execution post with the man's details included. The memorial is at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gilings
    William Henry Randle - Photograph showing the 'Shot at Dawn Memorial' commemorating all the 306 men executed during the ' Great War' each one is represented by an execution post with the man's details included. The memorial is at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Courtesy of Peter Gilings