Pronouncing Death – Roger Casement

issacs 1
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales The Right Honourable The Viscount Reading GCB, KCVO, PC, KC

29th June 1916

Sir Roger David Casement, you have been found guilty of treason, the gravest crime known to the Jaw, and upon evidence which in our opinion is conclusive of guilt. Your crime was that of assisting the King’s enemies, that is the Empire of Germany, during the terrible war in which we are engaged. The duty now devolves  me of passing sentence upon you, and it is that you be taken hence to a lawful prison, and thence to a place of execution, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you be dead. And the Sheriffs of the Counties of London and Middlesex are, and each of them is, hereby charged with the execution of this judgment, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.





Letter from Private Giles to the widow of Private Christopher Coleman of the 7th Leinster Regt, killed on the Somme.

Dear Madam

Yours to hand the 15 inst & I have great pleasure in answering your

most kind & welcome letter. I daresay you was a little upset at first

after receiving a letter from my fried but I do hope & trust these lines

will find you in the best of health & spirits under circumstances & I

shall also be very pleased indeed if you will accept my sympathy in your

sad bereavement you said in your letter you would like to know details

re what I know of him well dear madam its a


very strange thing how I fell across him. My company was sent to

Guillemont to clear a way for traffic after the place was taken (this was) &

my duty was to go round & see all tools was collected & I can tell you

I was always on the look out for any one that may have been wounded or

killed & missed which I know often is the case as there is so much to

do & of course the lads cannot do everything. However I came across this

fellow in a shell hole (a very large one) & passed him as I passed

others that lay about. & something struck me to go back & see him, as he

lay there as if resting from a long walk. his statue marked me very

much indeed he looked sa smart & of a lovely build. then I pictured my-


self in his place. how if it was me & suppose he has just got missed

altogether how will his friends ever know. so you can guess how I got

my mind seemed only of him & his dear ones if any, how was I to know.

(at this time I forgot all about going to look for tools. & I thought

of his top pocket that all I could get tp. & with my knife I cut it

down & I saw a piece of paper I got it out & read it. & to my great

relief I saw an address taht as you have at the present. & then I opened

the other & the label of him was inside. this label I refer to is one

they all have to wear when wounded & as he was wounded in the hand. that

accounts for it)


& no doubt he was going to keep it. I hope dear madam you will forgive

me of taking liberties with your dear husbands body. but you can rest

assured (I will give you my word of honour.) that he is buried & I

buried him the best I could. not so well as some but better than

thousands. I was at this time up at the ruined church & luck came my way again

going about as I liked that gave me another chance of going to see if

any one had interfared with him. this was after I had buried him. &

about 600 yards from the church. I came back to my party after about

(say houer away. & found a lovely square stone from the ruins with 5



engraved on it. then I claimed it & took it for his grave after

writing his name & regiment in copying ink pencil as best I could. hoping &

trusting that if I was called away myself some-one would be sure & come

across him & probably would let your know. This was as near as I can

say to date Sept 15th & Fritz as we call the German was still sending

the shells pretty thick. & just after I was finished my duty to wards

this unknown soldier (your dear husband.) a shell came just after we had

finished dinner & I lost four of my comrades. I am very sorry also for

their parents.


it’s a hard war & dreadful to see let alone hear about it, but I thank

God he has spared me to write these few lines to you to night. how I

wish I had sent at the first. you can I hope well understand me. I did

not like sending such bad news to you but it struck me all at once. my

friend sent me a paper & has it happened there appeared the photo of a

fellow belonging to my own country. he also was reported missing but I

have the clue of him as of your loving husband & I saw him I believe

the same day but not in such a good condition & his letters & his kit

baglay their. I picked them up & he belonged to my own


brothers regiment & the same company. I kept them until now & when I

saw his photo. I soon reckoned up what to do. Send his & yours as

well. I thought to my self if that lady’s in the same street she will

never know. So of course I asked my friend as to her opinion about the

matter & if she would send. This she has kindly done & we must Thank God.

as I said before & hope & trust he will keep me long enough to let you

know as much as I possibly can can as regards to your husband Dear

madam if there is any thing else you would like to ask me I shall only be

to pleased to hear from you at any-time –


You said as to me wanting anything at present I’m afraid I do not as

I’m in good circumstances this has happened since, (this affair) & I have

pretty well everthing of the best. also I have good friends at home &

relations that will provide for me if Im wanting. I may tell you I

have had to rough it for at least 9 months. & this part I’m at now is not

so far up to the line. my work at present is cook for the superior 6

officers at Headquarters & they are of the best as one could wish also

my mates & we are all happy to-gether & make the best of it. not

forgetting to thank you for your kind offer. which is very good of you.


if I have done you a favour, I have been rewarded for it. & thats my

blood. I cannot help it I must be doing good some-where my dear mother

was the same – when she was alive. & she was my only treasure. you

can guess the rest. (how I miss her.) dear madam I hope you will forgive

me writing so much as its your husband you want to hear about it looks

as if I am telling you more of my-self. I was quite forgetting hoping &

trusting to hear from you again I must now close

I remain

yours truly

Pte G H Wiles

P.S. if you would like me to send the label I shall only be to pleased

to do so at my earliest convenience

Please excuse bad writing and mistakes

Good bye & may God bless you


Dear Madam

wishing you a Happy & Prosperous New Year

& Best of Luck

yours G W

I have no other paper & envelopes

so please excuse


Four days in North Yorkshire

boars head

Entrance to the Boar’s Head public house and country hotel, Ripley, North Yorkshire

You can catch a bus to Ripley, from Leeds Bus station. Number 36.  It takes you all across the dales to North Yorkshire and drops you off right outside the Boars Head in Ripley, which was where I was staying for a four-day Yorkshire Break.  Ripley is one of those handsome stone built Yorkshire villages set in rolling dales, which round there are steeped in the blood and the history of religious and civil wars.   Not too far away was Marston Moor where Oliver Cromwell destroyed the Northern army of Charles the 1st.    And at Ripley castle, on the edge of the village, lived the Ingleby’s, heavily related to and implicated with those involved in the 1605 Guy Fawkes gunpowder conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  There’s some good people round here!

The 700-year-old castle still remains in the Ingleby family but is now a neat manicured family home/castle/manor house,  with extensive gardens, tea rooms, souvenir shops, a lake with a small waterfall, and long county walks.  It has become the poshest and most popular place in Yorkshire to have your wedding and you can hire it for grouse shooting, antique fairs and such like county pursuits.

We dined, Patricia and I, as the guests of Sir Thomas and Lady Ingleby, in the panelled library of the Castle.  Cromwell had dined here, in the very same room, shortly after the battle of Marston Moor, in 1644.    While he dined, Sir William Ingleby, a staunch catholic royalist and the then owner of the castle, who had fled from the bloody fields of the Marston Moor rout of the King’s Army, to his home in the castle, hid from Cromwell and his troops in the castle priest hole.

So, when the royal toast was proposed, I raised my glass of Yorkshire beer and toasted, quietly, under my breath, Oliver Cromwell.

Crofts, Ernest, 1847-1911; Cromwell after the Battle of Marston Moor

Cromwell on the march after the Battle of Marston Moor

We were told the tale of Cromwell and his soldiers arriving at the castle, weary and tired, their boots, horses, armour and swords stained with the blood of the battle, seeking entry for the night.   The sister of sir William refused to open the castle gates and a tense stand off ensued with Cromwell demanding entry and Sir William’s sister, known as Trooper Jane Ingleby, denying it.    Of course, Yorkshire common sense prevailed, and the gates were eventually opened.


It occurred to me that what he should have done, Cromwell, to gain entry, was to shout up at Jane on the battlements, “We’ve booked it for a wedding”


To Ripon next, about half an hour on the bus.   It has the appearance of a smallish country town; market square, town hall, war memorial, old buildings, some of them timbered, that sort of thing.  But it has a cathedral.  Massive.  As big as St. Paul’s in London and it’s a puzzle as why such a quaint country town should have such a monster size cathedral.   But it’s a very cool place to visit.  It has been a place of prayer since 670, perhaps even before that. The cathedral is built over the original little 670 chapel of St Wilfred.  You can go down a steep winding stone staircase to the chapel itself, a small stone room not much bigger than a smallish garden shed.   I sat in the stone chapel a little while, on my own.  Thought it could do with a bit of a refurbishment.

Back up in the cathedral I sat and listened to a choir practice and saw this strange creature carved on one of the stalls of the choir. choir stalls 2   They are peaceful places such cathedrals, even if like me, you have no faith, worship no God and follow no religion.   There is an elegance in the soaring architecture, the stained glass and the low lighting.I lit a candle for our son Gavan who was taken from us earlier this year and sat and thought about him for a while.    owen ripon cathedral

And I stumbled across these five panels mounted behind the alter in the chapel of peace and justice, dedicated to the poet Wilfred Owen and engraved with words taken from his poetry.


A bloke on the bus had recommended I go for a pint at the Royal Oak in Ripon and as it was only 100 yards or so from the cathedral I took up his suggestion and so found myself in this proper ancient Yorkshire pub with black beams and real Yorkshire horse brasses and copper topped tables.   It was renowned, the Royal Oak, for its food.   There was an all-day full Yorkshire breakfast, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Yorkshire sausages, Yorkshire beef pies, Yorkshire Barnsley chops, Yorkshire pikelets, Yorkshire vegetable soup, Yorkshire cheeses and sticky Yorkshire toffee pudding with Yorkshire custard.

I asked if they had any Lancashire hotpot.   They were very rude to me!  pint at ripon

But the beer was cracking, and for the beer alone I would always return to North Yorkshire, it was brewed in Saltare and by gum it wer good.

There’s not much else to see in Ripon, I had lunch, as one would while up north, in Greggs, a cup of tea and a steak bake, and wondered about the charity shops and into a large store called “The Yorkshire Trading Company” – a sort of cross between Woolworths and the Co-op, most notable for its clothing department which seemed to consist entirely of tweed jackets and flat caps, a sort of national dress in North Yorkshire, although I didn’t see any dog leads.   Whippets don’t kick in till you reach the County Durham Border.

There’s a plaque to Wilford Owen on one of the side streets, 34 Borage lane, where he wrote some of his poems while stationed a t Ripon Army camp, but I couldn’t find it.

And there is a very ancient custom in Ripon whereby each night, at precisely 9pm a man in a three-cornered hat comes out to the war memorial in the market square and blows a horn.   They have not missed a single night since 868 AD.    Well I was not going to hang around Ripon till 9pm but you can see the horn blower on YouTube, here    it’s worth watching till the end, to catch a real touch of Yorkshire charm and wit.  And if you are quick you can see the Greggs shop where I had my cup of tea and steak pie.

I was rather taken with the Yorkshire accent.  It has a real warmth to it and was surprisingly familiar for my mother hailed from Yorkshire and I was born in York so it was good to hear again the lilt and music of it.   If you holiday in France or Italy it would be natural to try and learn a phrase or two of the local language to help you navigate the days, how to order a cup of tea, or a beer, how to buy a bus ticket, that sort of thing.   So why not, I thought, a few Yorkshire phrases?     Thus it was that I started earwigging Yorkshire conversations and secretly practising the accent.    You may not believe me about this but below is an actual conversation I overheard between two Yorkshire ladies, sitting on the seat in front of me, on the number 36 bus to Leeds.  It was so good I had to write it down.  I swear to god this is a genuine conversation.

1st lady:

“ee, it wer right windy last week.  Theay don’t mek clothespegs like theay used ‘ter.  Our Frank’s trousers blew right off washing line, we ‘anvnt seen em since.

2nd lady.

“Yer’d might get sum proper pegs off ee. Bay”

I looked out the window at the passing countryside, hoping to see Frank’s Yorkshire trousers billowing across the dales, but they had long gone.   Probably somewhere over Scotland by now.   But I was encouraged in my wish to learn a phrase or two

I had worked on it.  In the “bath”  and on the “grass”  (with a short “a”) on long  country walks, and now here I was, waiting for the big red Yorkshire bus to Harrogate, determined to put it into practice.   What I meant to say, I didn’t in the end, but what I meant to say was

“ Eee by Gum, ‘ow much is ‘ticket ter ‘arrowgute?”

I glad that I didn’t.   Bus driver was from Poland.