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Thread: The Case of Frederick James Codling

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    Default The Case of Frederick James Codling

    A bit of trivia for those interested in the history of the Royal Air Force. Aircraftman 1st Class Frederick James Codling is the only known member of the Royal Air Force to have been executed for any offense after court-martial. His trial by general courts-martial on a charge of murder took place on the 14th of July, 1943 at Constantine, Algeria. He was executed by shooting on the 21st of July, 1943, and interred in MEDJEZ-EL-BAB WAR CEMETERY, in Tunisia. Codling was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and assigned to the headquarters of the Northwest African Air Forces. Information on the case is all but non-existent. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to obtain the trial records at this time (**). If anyone knows anything about the case, I would be deeply appreciative.

    Such information as I have was obtained from the document mentioned below (*), and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.

    (*) Particulars of death sentences carried out from 1941-1953, Reference WO 93/40

    (**) AIR 18/12

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    Other Airmen were executed for crimes in civilian courts, BUT were discharged from the RAF before execution. Therefore Codling is the ONLY RAF member executed AND commemorated by the CWGC. For example, LAC Arthur Heys, raped and murdered WAAF Winifred Evans and was convicted and executed

    Unlike the Army where numerous murderers are buried in unmarked graves in British prisons, yet are commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial to the missing at Brookwood Cemetery

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    Hi,

    RAF Overseas War Deaths lists CODLING unit as 4344 AA FLT

    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marks View Post
    Hi,

    RAF Overseas War Deaths lists CODLING unit as 4344 AA FLT

    Mark
    Thank you for that information. That information seems to suggest he was assigned to the RAF Regiment.

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    So, to Nit-Pick,
    Those RAF personnel to be executed for murder in the UK were Discharged before execution, so that they were NOT RAF at the time of execution? However, Codling was in Algeria when he was Sentenced? Does this mean that if he had been Discharged before execution then he would have been, simply, a UK citizen? And, following on from that, did the Military actually have, then, the Authority to execute him? Where are our MAFL experts when we need them??? I can already hear the pages of ancient APs being feverishly turned over!!!!!!!
    TIA
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resmoroh View Post
    So, to Nit-Pick,
    Those RAF personnel to be executed for murder in the UK were Discharged before execution, so that they were NOT RAF at the time of execution? However, Codling was in Algeria when he was Sentenced? Does this mean that if he had been Discharged before execution then he would have been, simply, a UK citizen? And, following on from that, did the Military actually have, then, the Authority to execute him? Where are our MAFL experts when we need them??? I can already hear the pages of ancient APs being feverishly turned over!!!!!!!
    TIA
    Peter Davies
    The Reader's Digest version of the answer to your question is this: Neither the Army nor the Air Force were authorized to try service personnel on a charge of murder committed within the boundaries of the United Kingdom. Murder committed by service members within the United Kingdom had to be tried by the civilian courts. As far as I know, there was no statutory requirement for such personnel to be discharged from the service prior to execution, or for that matter, prior to trial. The Air Force was authorized to try its personnel for offenses both military and civil which occurred ''beyond the sea'', to wit, in the various theatres of war. Codling would have been charged for ' 'when on active service, committing a civil offense, that is to say murder''. The senior officer who confirmed his sentence-probably Air Vice-Marshal James Robb, AOC RAF North West African Air Forces-could only have done so pursuant to a court-martial warrant issued to him by the Air Ministry. All perfectly legal at the time.
    Last edited by Ossian; 3rd December 2013 at 22:18.

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    As Peter suggested the limits applied to this airman are in the Manual of Air Force Law.


    "In order to give air force courts complete jurisdiction over airmen, courts-martial are authorised to try and punish airmen for civil offences, namely, offenses which, if committed in England, are punishable by the law of England.


    They are not allowed to try the most serious offences - treason, murder, manslaughter, treason-felony, or rape - if those offences can, with reasonable convenience, be tried by a civil court. They are, therefore, prohibited from trying any such offence if it is committed in the United Kingdom, or if is committed anywhere else in the King's dominions, except Gibraltar, within a hundred miles from a place where the offender can be tried by a civil court, unless indeed the offence is committed on active service.


    Subject to the above exceptions, a court-martial can try all civil offences of an airman wherever committed."


    Manual of Air Force Law 2nd Edition Jan 1933 reprinted 1939 embodied AL 1 to 8.


    Regards
    Ross
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