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British war crimes are acts by the armed forces of the United Kingdom which have violated the laws and customs of war since the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Such acts have included the summary executions of prisoners of war and unarmed shipwreck survivors, the use of excessive force during the interrogation of POWs and enemy combatants, and the use of violence against civilian non-combatants and their property.
The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaties and declarations negotiated at two international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands. Along with the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions were among the first formal statements of the laws of war and war crimes in the body of secular international law. A third conference was planned for 1914 and later rescheduled for 1915, but it did not take place due to the start of World War I.
A summary execution is an execution in which a person is accused of a crime and immediately killed without benefit of a full and fair trial. Executions as the result of summary justice are sometimes included, but the term generally refers to capture, accusation, and execution all conducted simultaneously or within a very short period of time, and without any trial at all. Under international law, refusal to accept lawful surrender in combat and instead killing the person surrendering is also categorized as a summary execution.
An enemy combatant is a person who, either lawfully or unlawfully, directly engages in hostilities for an enemy state or non-state actor in an armed conflict. Prior to 2008, the definition was: "Any person in an armed conflict who could be properly detained under the laws and customs of war." In the case of a civil war or an insurrection the term "enemy state" may be replaced by the more general term "Party to the conflict".
War crimes are defined as acts which violate the laws and customs of war (established by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907), or acts that are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I and Additional Protocol II.The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 extends the protection of civilians and prisoners of war during military occupation, even in the case where there is no armed resistance, for the period of one year after the end of hostilities, although the occupying power should be bound to several provisions of the convention as long as "such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory."
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, such as strategic bombing of civilian populations.
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international conflicts, where "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes" are to be considered international conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern international warfare that have taken place since the Second World War.
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949. While the first three conventions dealt with combatants, the Fourth Geneva Convention was the first to deal with humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. There are currently 196 countries party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including this and the other three treaties.
The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict published by the UK Ministry of Defenceuses the 1945 definition from the Nuremberg Charter, which defines a war crime as "Violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity." The manual also notes that "violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions not amounting to 'grave breaches' are also war crimes."
The Ministry of Defence is the British government department responsible for implementing the defence policy set by Her Majesty's Government and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces.
The Charter of the International Military Tribunal – Annex to the Agreement for the prosecution and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis was the decree issued by the European Advisory Commission on 8 August 1945 that set down the rules and procedures by which the Nuremberg trials were to be conducted.
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in war. The singular term Geneva Convention usually denotes the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–45), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties, and added two new conventions. The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoners, established protections for the wounded and sick, and established protections for the civilians in and around a war-zone. The treaties of 1949 were ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 196 countries. Moreover, the Geneva Convention also defines the rights and protections afforded to non-combatants, yet, because the Geneva Conventions are about people in war, the articles do not address warfare proper—the use of weapons of war—which is the subject of the Hague Conventions, and the bio-chemical warfare Geneva Protocol.
The 2004 Laws of Armed Combat Manual says
Serious violations of the law of armed conflict, other than those listed as grave breaches in the [1949 Geneva] Conventions or [the 1977 Additional Protocol I], remain war crimes and punishable as such. A distinction must be drawn between crimes established by treaty or convention and crimes under customary international law. Treaty crimes only bind parties to the treaty in question, whereas customary international law is binding on all states. Many treaty crimes are merely codifications of customary law and to that extent binding on all states, even those that are not parties.
The 2004 publication also notes that "A person is normally only guilty of a war crime if he commits it with intent and knowledge."
As part of the strategy to defeat the guerrilla warfare of the Boer Commandos, farms were destroyed to prevent the Boers from resupplying from a home base. This included the systematic destruction of crops and slaughtering of livestock,the burning down of homesteads, poisoning of wells and salting of fields.
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars; use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.
The Boer commandos or "Kommandos" were volunteer military units of guerilla militia organized by the Boer people of South Africa. The term came into English usage during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902.
On 26 October 1900, William Williams, a British justice of the peace at Ventersburg in the former Orange Free State, passed a secret message to Maj. Edward Pine-Coffin, alleging that Boer Commandos were concentrating in the village. Maj. Pine-Coffin passed the message on to Field Marshal Lord Frederick Roberts, who decreed that, "an example should be made of Ventersburg".
A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or puisne court, elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the same meaning. Depending on the jurisdiction, such justices dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions. Justices of the peace are appointed or elected from the citizens of the jurisdiction in which they serve, and are usually not required to have any formal legal education in order to qualify for the office. Some jurisdictions have varying forms of training for JPs.
Ventersburg is a small town in the Lejweleputswa District Municipality of the Free State province in South Africa, 148 km north of Bloemfontein. It was established on the farm Kromfontein which was owned by PA Venter who died in 1857. His son allowed a Reform Church to be established on the farm in 1864 and by 1871, the first plots of the original farm were sold. Ventersburg was declared on 6 May 1873. The Dutch Reform Church was built in Ventersburg in 1891 but it was burnt down in 1900 by the British forces during the Boer War. The church was later re-built in 1912.
The Orange Free State was an independent Boer sovereign republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, which ceased to exist after it was defeated and surrendered to the British Empire at the end of the Second Boer War in 1902. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State province. Extending between the Orange and Vaal rivers, its borders were determined by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1848 when the region was proclaimed as the Orange River Sovereignty, with a seat of a British Resident in Bloemfontein.
On 28 October, Field Marshal Roberts issued orders to General Bruce Hamilton, that all houses belonging to absent males were to be burned down. After burning down the village and its Dutch Reformed church, Gen. Hamilton posted the following bulletin, "The town of Ventersburg has been cleansed of supplies and partly burnt, and all the farms in the vicinity destroyed, on account of the frequent attacks on the railway lines in the neighborhood. The Boer women and children who are left behind should apply to the Boer Commandants for food, who will supply them unless they wish to see them starve. No supplies will be sent from the railway to the town."
On 1 November 1900, Maj. Pine-Coffin wrote in his diary that the remaining civilian population of Ventersburg had been transported to concentration camps. He admitted to having made sure that families were divided and that male and female Afrikaners were sent to different locations, "so that after the war they will have some difficulty in getting together."
The destruction of Ventersburg was denounced in the House of Commons by Liberal MP David Lloyd George, who said of Gen. Hamilton, "This man is a brute and a disgrace to the uniform he wears."
On 9 May 1901, Cols. Johan William Colenbrander and H.L. Grenfell rode into Louis Trichardt ahead of a mixed force of about 600 men. In addition to Kitchener's Fighting Scouts, the force included elements of the Pietersburg Light Horse, the Wiltshire Regiment, the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC), a large force of Black South African" Irregulars", and six members of the War Office's Intelligence Department commanded by Captain Alfred James Taylor.
Even though Louis Trichardt was "reeling from the annual effects of malaria", British and Commonwealth servicemen sacked the town and arrested an estimated 90 male residents suspected of links to the Zoutpansberg Commando.
On 11 May 1901, the remaining residents of Louis Trichardt, including both the Afrikaner and "Cape Coloured" populations, were ordered to evacuate the town. According to local resident E.R. Smith, British and Commonwealth servicemen helped themselves to whatever "curios" they wanted and allowed the civilian population only a short time to gather their things. The town of Louis Trichardt was then burned down by Native South African "Irregulars" under the supervision of Captain Taylor. The civilian population was force marched between 11 and 18 May to the British concentration camp at Pietersburg.
According to South African historian Charles Leach, Captain Taylor "emphatically told" the local Venda and Sotho communities "to help themselves to the land and whatever else they wanted as the Boers would not be returning after the war."
As a further strategy, General Lord Kitchener ordered the creation of concentration camps - 45 for Afrikaners and 64 for Black Africans.
According to historian Thomas Pakenham, "In practice, the farms of Boer collaborators got burnt too - burnt by mistake by Tommies or in reprisal by the commandos. So Kitchener added a new twist to farm-burning. He decided that his soldiers should not only strip the farms of stock, but should take the families, too. Women and children would be concentrated in 'camps of refuge' along the railway line. In fact, these camps consisted of two kinds of civilians: genuine refugees - that is, the families of Boers who were helping the British, or at least keeping their oath of neutrality - and internees, the families of men who were still out on commando. The difference was crucial, for at first there were two different scales of rations: little enough in practice for the refugees, and a recklessly low scale for the internees."
Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boer women and children diedas well as more than 14,000 Black Africans.
The Boer War also saw the first war crimes prosecutions in British military history. They centered around the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC), a British Army irregular regiment of mounted rifles active in the Northern Transvaal. Originally raised in February 1901, the BVC was composed mainly of British and Commonwealth servicemen with a generous admixture of defectors from the Boer Commandos.After more than a century, the ensuing courts martial remain controversial.
On 4 October 1901, a letter signed by 15 members of the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC) garrison at Fort Edward was secretly dispatched to Col. F.H. Hall, the British Army Officer Commanding at Pietersburg. Written by BVC Trooper Robert Mitchell Cochrane, a former Justice of the Peace from Western Australia,the letter accused members of the Fort Edward garrison of six "disgraceful incidents":
1. The shooting of six surrendered Afrikaner men and boys and the theft of their money and livestock at Valdezia on 2 July 1901. The orders had been given by Captains Alfred Taylor and James Huntley Robertson, and relayed by Sgt. Maj. K.C.B. Morrison to Sgt. D.C. Oldham. The actual killing was alleged to have been carried out by Sgt. Oldham and BVC Troopers Eden, Arnold, Brown, Heath, and Dale.
2. The shooting of BVC Trooper B.J. van Buuren by BVC Lt. Peter Handcock on 4 July 1901. Trooper van Buuren, an Afrikaner, had "disapproved" of the killings at Valdezia, and had informed the victims' wives and children, who were imprisoned at Fort Edward, of what had happened.
3. The revenge killing of Floris Visser, a wounded prisoner of war, near the Koedoes River on 11 August 1901. Visser had been captured by a BVC patrol let by Lieut. Harry Morant two days before his death. After Visser had been exhaustively interrogated and conveyed for 15 miles by the patrol, Lt. Morant had ordered his men to form a firing squad and shoot him. The squad consisted of BVC Troopers A.J. Petrie, J.J. Gill, Wild, and T.J. Botha. A coup de grâce was delivered by BVC Lt. Harry Picton. The slaying of Floris Visser was in retaliation for the combat death of Morant's close friend, BVC Captain Percy Frederik Hunt, at Duivelskloof on 6 August 1901.
4. The shooting, ordered by Capt. Taylor and Lt. Morant, of four surrendered Afrikaners and four Dutch schoolteachers, who had been captured at the Elim Hospital in Valdezia, on the morning of 23 August 1901. The firing squad consisted of BVC Lt. George Witton, Sgt. D.C. Oldham, and Troopers J.T. Arnold, Edward Brown, T. Dale, and A. Heath. Although Trooper Cochrane's letter made no mention of the fact, three Native South African witnesses were also shot dead.
The ambush and fatal shooting of the Reverend Carl August Daniel Heese of the Berlin Missionary Society near Bandolierkop on the afternoon of 23 August 1901. Rev. Heese had spiritually counseled the Dutch and Afrikaner victims that morning and had angrily protested to Lt. Morant at Fort Edward upon learning of their deaths. Trooper Cochrane alleged that the killer of Rev. Heese was BVC Lt. Peter Handcock. Although Cochrane made no mention of the fact, Rev. Heese's driver, a member of the Southern Ndebele people, was also killed.
5. The orders, given by BVC Lt. Charles H.G. Hannam, to open fire on a wagon train containing Afrikaner women and children who were coming in to surrender at Fort Edward, on 5 September 1901. The ensuing gunfire led to the deaths of two boys, aged 5- and 13-years, and the wounding of a 9-year-old girl.
6. The shooting of Roelf van Staden and his sons Roelf and Christiaan, near Fort Edward on 7 September 1901. All were coming in to surrender in the hope of gaining medical treatment for teenaged Christiaan, who was suffering from recurring bouts of fever. Instead, they were met at the Sweetwaters Farm near Fort Edward by a party consisting of Lts. Morant and Handcock, joined by BVC Sgt. Maj. Hammet, Corp. MacMahon, and Troopers Hodds, Botha, and Thompson. Roelf van Staden and both his sons were then shot, allegedly after being forced to dig their own graves.
The letter then accused the Field Commander of the BVC, Major Robert Lenahan, of being "privy the these misdeamenours. It is for this reason that we have taken the liberty of addressing this communication direct to you." After listing numerous civilian witnesses who could confirm their allegations, Trooper Cochrane concluded, "Sir, many of us are Australians who have fought throughout nearly the whole war while others are Africaners who have fought from Colenso till now. We cannot return home with the stigma of these crimes attached to our names. Therefore we humbly pray that a full and exhaustive inquiry be made by Imperial officers in order that the truth be elicited and justice done. Also we beg that all witnesses may be kept in camp at Pietersburg till the inquiry is finished. So deeply do we deplore the opprobrium which must be inseparably attached to these crimes that scarcely a man once his time is up can be prevailed to re-enlist in this corps. Trusting for the credit of thinking you will grant the inquiry we seek."
In response to the letter written by Trooper Cochrane, Col. Hall summoned all Fort Edward officers and non-commissioned officers to Pietersburg on 21 October 1901. All were met by a party of mounted infantry five miles outside Pietersburg on the morning of 23 October 1901 and "brought into town like criminals". Lt. Morant was arrested after returning from leave in Pretoria, where he had gone to settle the affairs of his deceased friend Captain Hunt.
Although the trial transcripts, like almost all others dating from between 1850 and 1914, were later destroyed by the British civil service,it is known that a Court of Inquiry, the British military's equivalent to a grand jury, was convened on 16 October 1901. The President of the Court was Col. H.M. Carter, who was assisted by Captain E. Evans and Major Wilfred N. Bolton, the Provost Marshal of Pietersburg. The first session of the Court took place on 6 November 1901 and continued for four weeks. Deliberations continued for a further two weeks, at which time it became clear that the indictments would be as follows:
1. In what became known as "The Six Boers Case", Captains Robertson and Taylor, as well as Sgt. Maj. Morrison, were charged with committing the offense of murder while on active service.
2. In relation to what was dubbed "The Van Buuren Incident", Maj. Lenahan was charged with, "When on active service by culpable neglect failing to make a report which it was his duty to make."
3. In relation to "The Visser Incident", Lts. Morant, Handcock, Witton, and Picton were charged with "While on active service committing the offense of murder".
4. In relation to what was incorrectly dubbed "The Eight Boers Case", Lieuts. Morant, Handcock, and Witton were charged with, "While on active service committing the offense of murder".
In relation to the slaying of Rev Heese, Lts. Morant and Handcock were charged with, "While on active service committing the offense of murder".
5. No charges were filed for the three children who had been shot by the Bushveldt Carbineers near Fort Edward.
6. In relation to what became known as "The Three Boers Case", Lts. Morant and Handcock were charged with, "While on active service committing the offense of murder".
Following the indictments, Maj. R. Whigham and Col. James St. Clair ordered Bolton to appear for the prosecution, as he was considered less expensive than hiring a barrister.Bolton vainly requested to be excused, writing, "My knowledge of law is insufficient for so intricate a matter."
The first court martial opened on 16 January 1901, with Lieut.-Col. H.C. Denny presiding over a panel of six judges. Maj. J.F. Thomas, a Solicitor from Tenterfield, New South Wales, had been retained to defend Maj. Lenahan. The night before, however, he agreed to represent all six defendants.
The "Visser Incident" was the first case to go to trial. Lt. Morant's former orderly and interpreter, BVC Trooper Theunis J. Botha, testified that Visser, who had been promised that his life would be spared, was cooperative during two days of interrogation and that all his information was later found to have been true. Despite this, Lt. Morant ordered him shot.
In response, Lt. Morant testified that he only followed orders to take no prisoners as relayed to the late Captain Hunt by Col. Hubert Hamilton. He also alleged that Floris Visser had been captured wearing a British Army jacket and that Captain Hunt's body had been mutilated.In response, the court moved to Pretoria, where Col. Hamilton testified that he had "never spoken to Captain Hunt with reference to his duties in the Northern Transvaal". Though stunned, Maj. Thomas argued that his clients were not guilty because they believed that they "acted under orders". In response, Maj. Bolton argued that they were "illegal orders" and said, "The right of killing an armed man exists only so long as he resists; as soon as he submits he is entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war." The Court ruled in Maj. Bolton's favor. Lt. Morant was found guilty of murder. Lts. Handcock, Witton, and Picton were convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
On 27 February 1902, two British Army Lieutenants — Anglo-Australian Harry Morant and Australian born Peter Handcock of the Bushveldt Carbineers — were executed by firing squad after being convicted of murdering eight Afrikaner POWs. This court-martial for war crimes was one of the first such prosecutions in British military history.
Although Morant left a written confession in his cell, he went on to become a folk hero in modern Australia. Believed by many Australians to be the victim of a kangaroo court, public appeals have been made for Morant to be retried or pardoned. His court-martial and death have been the subject of books, a stage play, and an award-winning Australian New Wave film adaptation by director Bruce Beresford.
Witton was sentenced to penal servitude, and Picton was cashiered.
On 1 March 1901,Lloyd George quoted a Reuters report about the lower rations given to the interned families of Boer Commandos. "It means," declared Lloyd George, "that unless the fathers come in their children would be half-starved. It means that the remnant of the Boer army who are sacrificing everything for their idea of independence are to be tortured by the spectacle of their starving children into betraying their cause." During the same month, Liberal MPs C.P. Scott and John Ellis dubbed them "concentration camps", after the reconcentrado camps set up by the Spanish during the Cuban War of Independence.
According to American historian Alfred de Zayas, both sides during the Great War "established, for judicial and political reasons, special commissions to investigate reported instances of war crimes by enemy forces."In contrast to their Allied counterparts, German investigators rarely publicized their findings for propaganda purposes. Furthermore, all except 11 volumes of the German Bureau's World War I archives were destroyed during the 1945 Allied bombing raids on Berlin and Potsdam.
The production and use of chemical weapons was strictly prohibited by the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which explicitly forbade the use of "poison or poisoned weapons" in warfare.
Even so, the United Kingdom used a range of poison gases, originally chlorine and later phosgene, diphosgene and mustard gas. They also used relatively small amounts of the irritant gases chloromethyl chloroformate, chloropicrin, bromacetone and ethyl iodoacetate. Gases were frequently mixed, for example white star was the name given to a mixture of equal volumes of chlorine and phosgene, the chlorine helping to spread the denser but more toxic phosgene. Despite the technical developments, chemical weapons suffered from diminishing effectiveness as the war progressed because of the protective equipment and training which the use engendered on both sides. By 1918, a quarter of British artillery shells were filled with gas and the United Kingdom had produced around 25,400 tons of toxic chemicals.
The British Expeditionary Force first used chemical weapons along the Western Front at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915 and continued their usage for the remainder of the war. This was done in retaliation for the use of chlorine by Imperial German Army the preceding April.
Following the Imperial German Army's use of poison gas at Ypres, the commander of II Corps, Lieutenant General Sir Charles Ferguson, had said of poison gas:
It is a cowardly form of warfare which does not commend itself to me or other English soldiers ... We cannot win this war unless we kill or incapacitate more of our enemies than they do of us, and if this can only be done by our copying the enemy in his choice of weapons, we must not refuse to do so.
Mustard gas was first used effectively in World War I by the German army against British and Canadian soldiers near Ypres, Belgium, in 1917 and later also against the French Second Army. The name Yperite comes from its usage by the German army near the town of Ypres. The Allies did not use mustard gas until November 1917 at Cambrai, France, after the armies had captured a stockpile of German mustard-gas shells. It took the British more than a year to develop their own mustard gas weapon, with production of the chemicals centred on Avonmouth Docks.(The only option available to the British was the Despretz–Niemann–Guthrie process). This was used first in September 1918 during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line with the Hundred Days' Offensive.
After the sinking of RMS Lusitania by the German submarine U-20 in May 1915, Lieutenant-Commander Godfrey Herbert, commanding officer of the Q-ship HMS Baralong, was visited by two officers of the Admiralty's Secret Service branch at the naval base at Queenstown, Ireland. He was told, "This Lusitania business is shocking. Unofficially, we are telling you ... take no prisoners from U-boats." Since April 1915, Herbert had ordered his subordinates cease calling him "Sir", and to address him only by the pseudonym "Captain William McBride."
On 19 August 1915, the German submarine U-27 surfaced, stopped, and searched the Nicosian, a British freighter, 70 nautical miles off the coast of Queenstown. After finding the Nicosian loaded with war materiel and mules bound for the British Expeditionary Force in France, the U-27's commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Bernhard Wegener, instructed the Nicosian's Captain and crew to take to the lifeboats.
As Wegener and his men prepared to sink the now-empty Nicosian with their deck gun, the Baralong arrived, flying the neutral American flag as a ruse of war. After lowering that flag and raising the British White Ensign in its place, Baralong's crew opened fire and sank the U-27.
Twelve German sailors survived the U-27's sinking: the crews of her two deck guns and those who had been on the conning tower. They swam to Nicosian and attempted to join the six-man boarding party by climbing up her hanging lifeboat fallsand pilot ladder. In response, Herbert ordered his men to open fire with small arms on the men in the water.
After a few German survivors managed to climb aboard the Nicosian, Herbert sent Baralong's 12 Royal Marines, under the command of a Corporal Collins, to board the sinking vessel. As they departed, Herbert ordered Collins, "Take no prisoners." The Germans were discovered in the engine room and shot on sight. According to Sub-Lieutenant Gordon Steele: "Wegener ran to a cabin on the upper deck - I later found out it was Manning's bathroom. The marines broke down the door with the butts of their rifles, but Wegener squeezed through a scuttle and dropped into the sea. He still had his life-jacket on and put up his arms in surrender. Corporal Collins, however, took aim and shot him through the head." Collins later recalled that, after Wegener's death, Herbert threw a revolver in the German captain's face and screamed, "What about the Lusitania, you bastard!"
In Herbert's report to the Admiralty, he alleged the German survivors were trying to board and scuttle the Nicosian, so he ordered the Royal Marines on his ship to kill the survivors. The Admiralty, upon receiving the report, vainly ordered that the incident be kept secret.
After the Nicosian's crew arrived at Liverpool, however, the American members of the crew gave sworn testimony to the United States Consul about the massacre of U-27's crew. After their return to the United States, they repeated their testimony before a notary public at the Imperial German Consulate in New Orleans. As a result, the US State Department forwarded a formal protest by the German Empire to the British Foreign Office.
The memorandum demanded that "Captain McBride" and the crew of HMS Baralong be court-martialed and threatened to "take the serious decision of retribution" if the massacre of U-27's crew went unprosecuted.
The Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, replied through U.S. State Department in a textbook example of diplomatic effrontery. He wrote, "His Majesty's Government do not think it necessary to make any reply to the suggestion that the British navy has been guilty of inhumanity, according to the latest figures available, the number of German sailors rescued from drowning, often in circumstances of great difficulty and peril, amounts to 1,150. The German navy can show no such record - perhaps through want of opportunity."
Sir Edward further argued that the alleged massacre of U-27's crew could be grouped with the Imperial German Navy's sinking of SS Arabic, their attack on a stranded British submarine in neutral Dutch territorial waters, and their attack on the steamship Ruel. In conclusion, Grey suggested that all four incidents be placed before a tribunal chaired by the United States Navy.
The U.S. State Department also vainly protested that the American flag had been used as a false flag. Walter Hines Page, the U.S. Ambassador in London, was telegraphed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing and ordered to not ask Sir Edward Grey any questions about whether the American flag had been used in the case. "The fact," he was told, "is established.
Lieutenant Commander Herbert and the crew of HMS Baralong were awarded a bounty of £185 for sinking U-27.
On 24 September 1915 HMS Baralong also sank U-41, which was in the process of sinking the cargo ship Urbino. According to the two German survivors, Baralong continued to fly the American flag after opening fire on U-41 and then rammed the lifeboat carrying the German survivors, causing it to sink. 's exploits in 1917, U-41: der zweite Baralong-Fall (Eng: "The second Baralong case").The only witnesses to the second attack were the German and British sailors present. Oberleutnant zur See Iwan Crompton, after returning to Germany from a prisoner-of-war camp, reported that Baralong had run down the lifeboat he was in; he leapt clear and was shortly after taken prisoner. The British crew denied that they had rammed the lifeboat. Crompton later published an account of U-41
Baralong's new commanding officer, Lieutenant-Commander A. Wilmot-Smith, and his crew were awarded a £170 bounty for sinking U-41.
According to historian Alfred de Zayas, the Prussian Ministry of War established the "Military Bureau for the Investigation of Violations of the Laws of War", (German : Militäruntersuchungstelle für Verletzungen des Kriegsrechts) on 19 October 1914. The Bureau's stated purpose was "to determine violations of the laws and customs of war which enemy military and civilian persons have committed against the Prussian troops and to investigate whatever accusations of this nature are made against by the enemy against members of the Prussian Army."
The Military Bureau "had wide competence to establish facts in a judicial manner and to secure the evidence necessary for legal analysis of each case. Witnesses were interrogated and their sworn depositions taken by military judges; lists of suspected war criminals were compiled, which would probably have led to criminal proceedings if Germany had won the war. The material remained largely secret, though some excerpts from witness depositions were used in German white books."
By the summer of 1918, the Military Bureau had documented 355 separate incidents of violations of the laws and customs of war by British servicemen along the Western Front.
The Military Bureau also compiled a thirteen-page "Black List of Englishmen who are guilty of violations of the laws of war vis a vis members of the German Armed Forces" (German : Schwarze Liste derjenigen Engländer, die sie während des Krieges gegenüber deutschen Heeresangehörigen völkerechtwidringen Verhaltens schuldig gemacht haben). The list, which survived the Allied firebombing of Berlin and Potsdam during the Second World War, contains a total of 39 names, including "Captain McBride" of HMS Baralong. In contrast, however, nine similar lists survive of alleged French war criminals and consist of 400 names.
Following the Armistice, investigation continued, particularly into crimes against German POWs, and culminated in a five volume report entitled International Law during the World War (German : Völkerrecht im Weltkrieg). The report was never translated, however, and had minimal effect outside of Germany.
Also following the Armistice, the victorious Allies pooled their reports, compiled a joint list of alleged German war crimes, and demanded the extradition of 900 alleged war criminals for trial in France and the United Kingdom. As this proved unacceptable to the German electorate, the Government of the Weimar Republic agreed to try them domestically in the Leipzig War Crimes Trials.
According to de Zayas, however, "Generally speaking, the German population took exception to these trials, especially because the Allies were not similarly bringing their own soldiers to justice."
In violation of the Hague Conventions, British troops conducted small scale looting in Normandy following their liberation.On 21 April 1945, British soldiers randomly selected and burned two cottages in Seedorf, Germany, in reprisal against local civilians who had hidden German soldiers in their cellars. Historian Sean Longden claims that violence against German prisoners and civilians who refused to cooperate with the British army "could be ignored or made light of".
An MI19 prisoner of war facility, known as the "London Cage", was utilised during and immediately after the war. This facility has been the subject of allegations of torture.The Bad Nenndorf interrogation centre, in occupied Germany, managed by the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre, was the subject of an official inquiry in 1947. It found that there was "mental and physical torture during the interrogations".
Rape took place during the British advance towards Germany.During late 1944, with the army based across Belgium and the Netherlands, soldiers were billeted with local families or befriended them. In December 1944, it came to the attention of the authorities that there was a "rise of indecency with children" where abusers had exploited the "atmosphere of trust" that had been created with local families. While the army "attempted to investigate allegations, and some men were convicted, it was an issue that received little publicity." Rape also occurred once British forces had entered Germany. Many rapes involved alcohol or post-traumatic stress, but there were also instances of premeditated attacks. For example, on a single day in April 1945, three women in Neustadt am Rübenberge were raped. In the village of Oyle, near Nienburg, two soldiers attempted to coerce two girls into a nearby wood. When they refused, one was grabbed and dragged into the woods. When she began to scream, in according to Longden, "one of the soldiers pulled a gun to silence her. Whether intentionally or in error the gun went off hitting her in the throat and killing her."
Sean Longden highlights that "Some officers failed to treat reports of rape with gravity." He provides the example of a medic, who had a rape reported to him. In cooperation with the Royal Military Police, they were able to track down and apprehend the perpetrators who were then identified by the victim. When the two culprits "were taken before their CO. His response was alarming. He insisted since the men were going on leave no action could be taken and that his word was final."
The British, with other allied nations (mainly the U.S.) carried out air raids against enemy cities during World War II, including the bombing of the German city of Dresden, which killed around 25,000 people. While "no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property" from aerial attack was adopted before the war,the Hague Conventions did prohibit the bombardment of undefended towns. The city, largely untouched by the war had functioning rail communications to the Eastern front and was an industrial centre. Allied forces inquiry concluded that an air attack on Dresden was militarily justified on the grounds the city was defended.
When asked whether the bombing of Dresden was a war crime, British historian Frederick Taylor replied: "I really don't know. From a practical point of view, rules of war are something of a grey area. It was pretty borderline stuff in terms of the extent of the raid and the amount of force used."Historian Donald Bloxham claims that "the bombing of Dresden on 13–14 February 1945 was a war crime". He further argues that there was a strong prima facie for trying Winston Churchill among others and that there is theoretical case that he could have been found guilty. "This should be a sobering thought. If, however it is also a startling one, this is probably less the result of widespread understanding of the nuance of international law and more because in the popular mind 'war criminal', like 'paedophile' or 'terrorist', has developed into a moral rather than a legal categorisation."
The bombing of Dresden has been used by Holocaust deniers and pro-Nazi polemicists—most notably by the British writer David Irving in his book The Destruction of Dresden —in an attempt to establish a moral equivalence between the war crimes committed by the Nazi government and the killing of German civilians by Allied bombing raids.
On 4 May 1940, in response to Germany's intensive unrestricted submarine warfare, during the Battle of the Atlantic and its invasion of Denmark and Norway, the Royal Navy conducted its own unrestricted submarine campaign. The Admiralty announced that all vessels in the Skagerrak, were to be sunk on sight without warning. This was contrary to the terms of the Second London Naval Treaty.
According to Alfred de Zayas, there are numerous documented cases of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force deliberately firing upon shipwreck survivors.
In July 1941, the submarine HMS Torbay, under Lieutenant Commander Anthony Miers, was based in the Mediterranean where it sank several German ships. On two occasions, once off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, and the other off the coast of Crete, the crew fired upon shipwrecked German sailors and troops. Miers made no attempt to hide his actions, and reported them in his official logs. He received a strongly worded reprimand from his superiors following the first incident. Mier's actions violated the Hague Convention of 1907, which banned the killing of shipwreck survivors under any circumstances.
On 10 September 1942, the Italian hospital ship Arno was torpedoed and sunk by RAF torpedo bombers north-east of Ras el Tin, near Tobruk. The British claimed that a decoded German radio message intimated that the vessel was carrying supplies to the Axis troops. [ citation needed ]Arno was the third Italian hospital ship sunk by British aircraft since the loss of the Po in the Adriatic Sea to aerial torpedoes on 14 March 1941 and the bombing of the California off Syracuse on 11 August 1942. Five sea-rescue boats, used to search for missing pilots from both sides of the conflict were also strafed and sunk by RAF planes during the same period.
On 18 November 1944, the German hospital ship Tübingen was sunk by two Beaufighter bombers off Pola, in the Adriatic Sea. The vessel had paid a brief visit to the allied-controlled port of Bari to pick up German wounded under the auspices of the Red Cross; despite the calm sea and the good weather that allowed a clear identification of the ship's Red Cross markings, it was attacked with rockets nine times. Six crewmembers were killed.American author Alfred M. de Zayas, who evaluated the 266 extant volumes of the Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, identifies the sinking of Tübingen and other German hospital ships as war crimes.
On 12 December 1948, during the Malayan Emergency, the Batang Kali massacre took place which involved the killing of 24 villagers. Six of the eight British soldiers involved were interviewed under caution by detectives. They corroborated accounts that the villagers were unarmed, were not insurgents nor trying to escape, and had been unlawfully killed on the order of the two sergeants in command. The sergeants denied the allegations. The Government's position was that if anyone is to be held responsible, it should be the Sultan of Selangor.
As part of the Briggs' Plan devised by British General Sir Harold Briggs, 500,000 people (roughly ten percent of Malaya's population) were eventually removed from the land, had tens of thousands of their homes destroyed, and were interned in 450 guarded fortified camps called "New Villages". The intent of this measure was to inflict collective punishments on villages where people were deemed to be aiding the insurgents and to isolate the population from contact with insurgents. The British also tried to win the hearts of the internees by providing them with education and health services as well as piped water and electricity within the villages. This practice was prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and customary international law which stated that the destruction of property must not happen unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
During an eight-year conflict in Kenya from 1952 to 1960 in which Britain sought to restore order many Kikuyu were relocated. According to David Anderson, the British hanged over 1,090 suspected rebels. It was found out that over half of them executed were not rebels at all. Thousands more were killed by British soldiers, who claimed they had "failed to halt" when challenged.Among the detainees who suffered severe mistreatment was Hussein Onyango Obama, the grandfather of former U.S. President Barack Obama. According to his widow, British soldiers forced pins into his fingernails and buttocks and squeezed his testicles between metal rods and two others were castrated.
In June 1957, Eric Griffith-Jones, the attorney general of the British administration in Kenya, wrote to the governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, detailing the way the regime of abuse at the colony's detention camps was being subtly altered. He said that the mistreatment of the detainees is "distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia". Despite this, he said that in order for abuse to remain legal, Mau Mau suspects must be beaten mainly on their upper body, "vulnerable parts of the body should not be struck, particularly the spleen, liver or kidneys", and it was important that "those who administer violence ... should remain collected, balanced and dispassionate". He also reminded the governor that "If we are going to sin," he wrote, "we must sin quietly."
The Chuka Massacre, which happened in Chuka, Kenya, was perpetrated by members of the King's African Rifles B Company in June 1953 with 20 unarmed people killed during the Mau Mau uprising. Members of the 5th KAR B Company entered the Chuka area on 13 June 1953, to flush out rebels suspected of hiding in the nearby forests. Over the next few days, the regiment had captured and executed 20 people suspected of being Mau Mau fighters for unknown reasons. It is found out that most of the people executed were actually belonged to the Kikuyu Home Guard - a loyalist militia recruited by the British to fight an increasingly powerful and audacious guerrilla enemy.[ citation needed ]
The Hola massacre was an incident at a detention camp in Hola, Kenya. By January 1959 the camp had a population of 506 detainees of whom 127 were held in a secluded "closed camp". This more remote camp near Garissa, eastern Kenya, was reserved for the most uncooperative of the detainees. They often refused, even when threats of force were made, to join in the colonial "rehabilitation process" or perform manual labour or obey colonial orders. The camp commandant outlined a plan that would force 88 of the detainees to bend to work. On 3 March 1959, the camp commandant put this plan into action – as a result, 11 detainees were clubbed to death by guards.All of the surviving detainees sustained serious permanent injuries. The British government accepts that the colonial administration tortured detainees, but denies liability.
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The Baralongincidents were naval engagements of the First World War in August and September 1915, involving the Royal Navy decoy vessel HMS Baralong and two German U-boats.
The Second Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British counter-measures brought them to terms.
The Ossewabrandwag (OB) was an anti-British and pro-German organisation in South Africa during World War II, which opposed South African participation in the war. It was formed in Bloemfontein on 4 February 1939 by pro-German Afrikaners.
Harry "Breaker" Harbord Morant, probably born Edwin Henry Murrant, was an Anglo-Australian drover, horseman, bush poet and military officer, who was convicted and executed for murder during the Second Anglo-Boer War.
Breaker Morant is a 1980 Australian war drama film directed by Bruce Beresford, who also co-wrote the screenplay which was based on Kenneth G. Ross' 1978 play of the same name.
The Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC) were a short-lived, irregular mounted infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in South Africa during the Second Boer War.
George Ramsdale Witton was a lieutenant in the Bushveldt Carbineers in the Boer War in South Africa.
The 1902 court-martial of Breaker Morant brought to trial six officers – Lieutenants Harry "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock, George Witton, Henry Picton, Captain Alfred Taylor and Major Robert Lenehan – of the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC), an irregular regiment of mounted rifles during the Boer War.
Opposition to the Second Boer War (1899–1902) was a factor in the war. Inside Britain and the British Empire, there was strong opposition to the Boers and a minority in favour of them. Outside the situation was reversed and indeed condemnation of Britain was often intense from many sources, left, right and centre. Inside Britain influential groups, especially based in the opposition Liberal Party formed immediately. They fought ineffectually against the British war policies, which were supported by the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Salisbury.
SM U-27 was a German Type U-27 U-boat built for service in the Imperial German Navy. She was launched on 14 July 1913, and commissioned on 8 May 1914 with Kapitänleutnant Bernd Wegener in command.
Peter Joseph Handcock was an Australian-born Veterinary Lieutenant who served in the Bushveldt Carbineers during the Boer War in South Africa.
Captain Alfred James 'Bulala' Taylor, D.S.O. was a British Army officer, mass murderer, cattle rustler, war profiteer, and accused war criminal during the Scramble for Africa and the Second Boer War.
HMS Baralong, also known as HMS Wyandra was a Royal Navy warship that was active during World War I. She was a "Special Service Vessel" whose function was to act as a decoy, inviting attack by a U-boat in order to engage and destroy it. Baralong was successful on two occasions in her career, sinking U-27 in August 1915, and U-41 in September 1915; however both these actions caused controversy, particularly the first, being referred to as the Baralong incidents.
Breaker Morant: A Play in Two Acts is a significant Australian play written by Kenneth G. Ross, centred on the court-martial and the last days of Lieutenant Harry "Breaker" Morant (1864–1902) of the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC), that was first performed at the Athenaeum Theatre, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on Thursday, 2 February 1978, by the Melbourne Theatre Company.
The military history of Australia during the Boer War is complex, and includes a period of history in which the six formerly autonomous British Australian colonies federated to become the Commonwealth of Australia. At the outbreak of the Second Boer War, each of these separate colonies maintained their own, independent military forces, but by the cessation of hostilities, these six armies had come under a centralised command to form the Australian Army.
Carl August Daniel Heese was a German missionary in South Africa. He was killed during the Second Boer War, his death was one of the issues at the court martial of Breaker Morant.
Pardons for Morant, Handcock and Witton, three Australian soldiers, were sought from their convictions for war crimes - the murder of several Boer prisoners-of-war - during the Second Boer War.
Captain Godfrey Herbert, DSO and bar, was an officer of the Royal Navy who was sometimes referred to as 'Baralong Herbert', in reference to the Baralong incidents that took place during World War I. In a naval career stretching from 1898 to 1919, and with a return to duty between 1939 and 1943 in World War II, Herbert had several close encounters with death.
The following events occurred in February 1902:
James Francis Thomas, was a solicitor from Tenterfield, New South Wales.
when some American muleteers who had been accompanying the mules returned to port, they spread stories of a massacre