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Forum Home > No Heroes Here. > Two sorry Black Country tales.

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There arn't many stories about the Great War on the website, mainly because they will be well covered in other places during the next few years. As well as the Heroes, there were also plenty of those who did everything they could to escape any Military Service at all. Records are a bit scarce, but every now and then, a few names pop up during a search for other things. Both of the names listed, came to light during a trawl through the year 1916, and were backed up by some scant, but detailed Service records. I make no apologies for the posts, things happen, and facts are facts, no one can, or indeed, should be able to alter Historical Records.

Leonard Benjamin Lamb was born in Mullet Street, Bromley, Pensnett, in 1891, the son of a hardworking Blacksmith. Unlike many others, Leonard recieved a fairly good education, reflected in the job he was doing when war broke out in 1914. The family had moved to 139, Dudley Road, Wolverhampton, some years before, and Leonard was working for a local Newspaper as a Linotype Operator. He had not, like others at the paper, volunteered in 1914, and if he was thinking he had been lucky, it ran out on 4 August,1916, when he was conscripted. I have mentioned eleswhere, that men who had a disabilty unknown to the Military, had the right of appeal to a local Tribunal. These organisations were comprised of the great and good of each area, but rarely had any specialist help when making a decision on the appeal. Consequently, a great many men were handed exemption certificates, based solely on what the man in front of them said he suffered from. ( Some Doctors were bribed, other evidence was simply forged ) The Military soon wised up to this, and began a series of reforms and counter appeals. The issuing of non-combatant certificates soon dried up as the Medical checks began to take effect. Leonard Benjamin Lamb was one of those with a certificate, and he had been assigned to to a unit called the Non-Combatant Corps, and given the number 292. When he recieved the order to report, as Private 30346, South Staffordshire Regiment, to the Depot at Lichfield, as a Conscientiious Objector, ( with a civil certificate to prove it ) he appealed again. This time he lost, they had better checks in place now, and he was forced to go to Lichfield, to be medically assessed, which he clearly knew he would pass; So he refused to undergo the Medical. He soon found himself in the Guard room, charged with disobeying a lawful order, and was subsequently sentenced to 112 days detention, with hard labour added. A letter from the Chairman of the local Tribunal, Horatio Blewitt, ( Wolverhampton's Town Clerk ) made no difference to the matter, and so began a long and to many,shameful and disgraceful series of mis-behaviour. If Pte Lamb now thought he would be dis-charged from the Army, he was in for a rude shock, for he was, on release, sent back to his unit. In October, he was back in the guard room, and on 1 November, sentenced to a years hard labour for again disobeying a lawful order. This sentence was served at Wandsworth Prison, London, where he refused to do work offered to him. Released early in 1917, and sent back to Lichfield, he was soon in trouble again. Given 28 days for breaking out of Barracks, he was sent to Winson Green Prison, the first of two visits this year, and a month later, he was back. Same offence, same punishment. On his return to duty, he was again in the Guard room, and this time, for refusing an order, he was  sentenced to 2 years hard labour, evidently the Army was getting sick of his little antics. He served some of the term in prison in Hull, being in residence in September,1918. The end of the War did not mean he walked away a free man, for he still owed the Military some time, and it wasn't until March,1919, that he was sent back to his unit. For the last time, he refused orders, and a month later, on the 4 April, 1919, he was Dis-honourable Discharged, something which he justly deserved. If he had acted like he had, in a theatre of War, he would have rightly been shot at dawn. As I have already said, while brave men were putting their lives at risk, this so called intelligent individual. adopted a shameful way to avoid any risk to his own skin. For the record, Leonard Bejamin Lamb died in 1950.

The second man was also in the South Staffordshire Regiment, he had faced a District Courts Marshal at the same time as Lamb, and he also held a Non-Combatent Certificate. He had claimed to have a serious mental condition, and he had also refused to attend his medical examination. Luther Gee, was born in 1891, the son of a fairly well known Smethwick Steam/Gas engine maker and fitter, William Luther Gee. He arrived into the world in Hancock Street, Langley, Warley, after which the family moved to Pound Road, and were living at 3, Downing Street West, West Smethwick, when the War began. Pte 24495 Gee, entered his employment as an Elementary School Teacher, and was called up in February,1916, when he promptly applied for, and got, an exemption certificate. He was given the same sentence  as Lamb, 112 days, and he served them all, following which he disobeyed another order and served 1 year at  the tough prison in London, Wormwood Scrubs. When his appeal was turned  down, he deserted, after disobeying a lawful order. He knew what was coming. Caught on the run in September 1917, he was given two years hard labour, and served time in Winson Green, when he was released early and sent back to his unit.  He wa soon in trouble  again, and spent a further two months at H.M.Prison Derby, being released on 25 June,1918. The records run out at this point, but it's highly unlikely that Luther Gee changed his mind about fighting, or a Military life. Both men also lost a great deal of their pay through other punishments, and neither ended up with any medals, or indeed, any honour at all. Some reading this, will agree with the actions taken by these men to avoid injury, or even death. There are though, many thousands of others, remembering those that selflessly gave their all, who will have their own views on the matter, I know I do. And again, for the record, Luther Gee died in Herefordshire in 1967.


A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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