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Thread: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

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    Default A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Hello All,
    When collating the various lists/sources of WW2 POW data one gets, from time to time, the occasional anomaly. I try to eliminate these anomalies by cross-checking with those sources (TNA, LG, etc) likely to be the more accurate (not always fool-proof!!).
    On 15 Jan 1940 a Benson Railton Metcalf FREEMAN was Commissioned Plt Off(p) in the RAFVR GD Branch (77107). On 22 May 1940 Plt Off Freeman becomes a POW and ends up in Dulag DL Wetzlar POW #33107. I was concerned that his RAF, and POW, numbers could have been confused. So I put 77107 into the LG. On 2 Nov 1945 – not many months after he had been released from POW he is recorded as:-
    Cashiering by sentence of General Court-Martial. Pit. Off. B. R. M. FREEMAN (77107).
    Now he can’t have much time to pass dud cheques, or assault the CO’s wife/daughter? – he’d been “in the cage” for 5 years! So I investigated further.
    He was, apparently, Court Martialed for Treason! The sentence was 10 years imprisonment. Presumably, he ceased to be a member of the RAF from the moment the sentence was pronounced (any Appeals permitting)? Therefore he would have been unlikely to have served that sentence in one of the well-known military “glasshouses” (Shepton Mallet, Colchester, etc). He must have been in a civilian prison? Don’t know when he came out. There is some indication that he might have changed his name. He is clearly dead by now, but I can’t find any evidence of his Death Cert.
    Now I have gone on a bit about this for some reasons.
    On 4 Jan 1946 we (that is, the UK) hanged William Joyce (“Lord Haw Haw”) for Treason – 2 months after Freeman’s verdict, and Joyce was not English! Why was Freeman not hanged?
    There were – in my opinion – a number of other military personnel who had committed equivalent acts, but who were not either Court Martialed or – in one case – assisted (by a Neutral State) in avoiding the consequences of a possibly treasonable act!
    It is a difficult question. Laws/Attitudes have changed significantly since WW2 – not always, I think, for the better!
    A simple POW possible anomaly turned out to contain a significant intellectual/psychological content.
    Do we have a Legal Eagle who would care to comment?
    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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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Peter

    His Court Martial was reported in the newspapers at the time (November 1945). He was accused of having served in the Waffen S.S., written scripts for propaganda broadcasts, and having lived in Berlin under the name Royston, earning a salary of 200 marks a week from the German Government. His lawyer had pleaded for leniency as 'he had become a prisoner while serving his country, and saved British lives while a prisoner.'

    The article in the Hartlepool Daily Mail which reported the above also listed three other P.o.W.s who were found guilty of 'ignominy for aiding the enemy while a prisoner of war.' I've come across quite a few reports in the newspapers from the period just after the war regarding such cases.

    There's a bio on Facebook, which includes the following:

    'After sentencing, Freeman told his lawyer: “This just shows how rotten this democratic country is. The Germans would have had the honesty to shoot me!”'

    https://www.facebook.com/sandhursttr...4828310545479/

    His sister moved to Canada in 1953.

    Regards

    Simon
    Last edited by wwrsimon; 2nd May 2021 at 13:03.
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Hello,

    As far as Benson Railton Metcalf Freeman is concerned, you'll find an account of his life pre-war (a supporter of Moseley's Blackshirts, of course!), his service activities. treachery and ultimate sentencing, in:

    Footprints On The Sands Of Time.
    Clutton-Brock,Oliver.
    London:Grub Street,2003.
    pp.15-16 & 182-3 (Chapter 16: Traitors and Collaborators, 1939-1945)..

    Despite numerous appeals by his wife and friends to have his sentence commuted, it is believed that Freeman served his full ten-year sentence in Leyhill Prison, Falfield, Gloucestershire.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 2nd May 2021 at 14:29.

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    Resmoroh (2nd May 2021)

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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Simon,
    Thanks yrs. It gives the 'flavour' of the time!
    I was 9 when Joyce was hanged, and had followed WW2 through the (limited!!) pages of the WW2 Daily Mail since I could read. The UK Govt had 'changed colour' shortly after WW2 - whether this had any effect on sentences for such severe convictions I don't know. But it had some effects on schooling. When I did my (then) O Levels in British, and European, Histories a few years later my teachers (provincial grammar school) had different approaches depending on whether they had been too old to be 'called up', or actually been in uniform!
    Tks again for the insights.
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 2nd May 2021 at 14:39. Reason: QSD
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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Hello

    There are files on Freeman at Kew :
    http://discovery.nationalarchives.go...ils/r/C2976505
    http://discovery.nationalarchives.go...ils/r/C1959095

    I was interested in the whole story because he came down in my area, on 23rd May 1940 (not 22nd Peter), at Arques near St Omer. He was aboard DC-3 OO-AUI, ex SABENA airliner impressed in RAF service for transport mission. Not a DH-86 as stated in "Footprints..."

    Joss

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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Joss,
    Thanks for the additional information. Much appreciated. Did OO-AUI ever have an RAF Reg?
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Peter,

    Don't think so, but Google DC-3 OO-AUI - plenty of hits including a photo.

    Brian

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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    No, OO-AUI never had a serial allocated.
    According to the Air Britain DC-3 opus, it was serving with E Flight, 24 Sqn at the time of its loss on 23 May 40.

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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Hello

    As indicated by the other forum members, no, the SABENA airliners didn't have a R.A.F. serial number. From memory (I know, it's dangerous), there were 2 DC-3s (OO-AUI and AUH) and 6 Savoia-Marchetti SM-73Ps. All taken in charge by No. 24 Squadron. The machines not lost in May 1940 were given back to Belgium and served in Africa.

    Pictures of crashed OO-AUI are regularly put up for sale on auction sites, as it crashed near a main road, and so plenty of German soldiers took souvenirs pictures. I've even seen it on film, the footage lasting only a few seconds, but it was definitively that DC-3.

    Joss

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    Default Re: A Question of Treason in WW2 – or Not?

    Adrian Weale - Renegades: Hitler's Englishmen (1994). ISBN 0-297-81488-5

    There is a fair amount concerning him in this book.
    cheers PeteS

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