Friday 5 January 1917 – We Lost 253
Flight Lieutenant Edward Rochfort Grange (Royal Naval Air Service) attacks three hostile machines one of which is driven down in a nose dive.
Sub Lieutenant Edwin Leopold Arthur Dyett (Nelson Battalion Royal Naval Division) is executed for desertion at age 21. In October 1916 he found himself along with the rest of the Division on the Somme and about to take part in the battle for Beaucourt in the Ancre Valley. By this time he had already made application to transfer away from the front as he didn’t think that he was suitable for that service. The Nelson Battalion was the reserve for the Hood and Hawke Battalions who were charged with taking the German Front Line on 13 November. The attack was a success, though the Nelson Battalion lost 34 killed and 204 wounded with a further 120 missing. As he was not considered to be quality material he was left as a reserve officer and it was only in the course of the battle with confusion all around, that he was sent forward with reserves.
Not being able to find anyone from his unit Dyett and another officer decide to return to Brigade Headquarters for more information. At Beaucourt Station they meet up with a junior officer on staff duties who has a number of men with him who need to be taken back to the front. This is where it all goes wrong for Dyett. While his companion accompanies the men back to the front and goes on to take part in the latter stages of the battle. Dyett took offence at being ordered by a junior officer and continues on his way towards the rear. He meets up with a number of soldiers who are also lost, but in the dark none of them can find Brigade HQ and they spent the night in a shell hole. What he does not realize us that the junior officer put in a report to HQ explaining Dyett’s refusal to go forward.
The following day Dyett is found at Englebelmer some kilometers behind the front line. He is placed under arrest and later charged with desertion. His trial is held at la Ferme du Champ Neuf near St Firmin a ten minute drive from Le Crotoy. Dyett does not give evidence and the evidence of the prosecution is damning. At the conclusion he is condemned to death, with a plea for mercy on account of his age and lack of experience. Major-General Shute in command of the 63rd Division recommends mercy, but General Gough makes the remark:
If a private had behaved as he did in such circumstances, it is highly probable that he would have been shot.
On 2nd January Field Marshal Haig confirmed the death sentence. Dyett is informed on the evening of the 4th and at 07:30 he meets his end, probably in the courtyard of the farm where he had been held and tried.
Today’s losses include:
- An officer executed for desertion
- The son of a member of the clergy
- The 1912 Edinburgh Angus Club Latin Medalist
- A man whose brother will also lose his life in the Great War
- A family that will lose three sons in the Great War
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Second Lieutenant Howard Glynn Williams (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is accidentally killed at home at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend Griffith Williams Rector of Llanrust.
- Second Lieutenant William Scott Boyle (Cameronians) is killed in action in Greece at age 21. He was the 1912 Edinburgh Angus Club Latin Medalist.
- Private William McAdie (Seaforth Highlanders) dies of wounds at age 19. His brother was killed in March 1915.
- Private George Chestney (Royal West Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 32. His two brothers will also die in the Great War.