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Sergeant Robert Leonard, 6th Dragoon Guards - reduced to the ranks, discharged 2 months 1 week ago #73804

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Dramatis personae:
Sergeant Robert Leonard, 6th Dragoon Guards. He was awarded the QSA with 4 bars.
Captain Walter Dougall, Squadron Commander, 1st Provisional Regiment of Dragoons.
Mr Norman Crombie, solicitor, of York.
Colonel J. A. Lambert, commanding officer of the 1st Provisional Regiment of Dragoons.
Mr St. John Brodrick, later Earl of Midleton, Secretary of State for War from 1900 to 1903.



....A court-martial, which had been in progress at York during the week, was concluded yesterday. Major Hayden, D.S.O., 1st West Riding Regiment, presiding. The prisoner was Sergeant R. Leonard, of the 6th Dragoon Guards, who is charged with an offence under Section 40 (1) of the Army Act with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline in that he at York on October 7th, 1902, sent a letter to the Secretary of State for War preferring complaints contrary to the orders contained in the Army Act. Mr. Norman Crombie, solicitor, defended the prisoner, who pleaded not guilty.
....The case for the prosecution was that the prisoner sent a letter to the Secretary of State for War, in which, after stating that he was aware he was committing a breach of discipline in writing at all, he proceeded: - "Recruiting, I believe, is a very serious matter at the present time. I have every reason to believe that there are plenty of men joining, but after a single week's experience, and at the most a fortnight, they desert in large numbers. For instance, five went from one squadron in one night, two the night following, and one the next, making eight men in three days from one squadron. I believe the commanding officers have been asked to give a reason for so many desertions. They reply they cannot. I can, and if my statements are doubted, then, I beg that you will send someone here you can absolutely trust in disguise to verify my statements." The writer then described the work of a recruit from reveille at 5.30 a.m., showing that the work was such "he had seen young recruits cry, and had heard them say that as soon as they had a bit of money they would desert. Why? Because they are bullied and chased from morn till night. No kindness is ever shown them; no excuses ever taken. The men are afraid of the N.C.O.s, the N.C.O.s are afraid of the officers: the subalterns are afraid of the squadron commanders, and the squadron commanders are afraid of the C.O. So that is simply a case of everyone going about in fear of each other. Crime is abundant."
....Colonel Lambert, commanding officer of the 1st Provisional Regiment of Dragoons, stated that last month prisoner complained to him that Capt. Dougall, his squadron commander, had checked him for neglect of duty in the presence of recruits. The evidence was that the captain had checked him, but not in the presence of recruits. - In cross-examination, he admitted that he probably told the prisoner he was making his position untenable in bringing unfounded complaints. He did not remember, but it was possible he said to Capt. Dougall that if he found him "a cantankerous non-commissioned officer, he (Capt. Dougall) would know what to do with him."
....Mr. Crombie asked witness if he was aware that in Squadrons A and C of the 6th there were 24 desertions in one month, as against only three for B and D in the 1st King's, the other half of the Provisional Regiment.
....Capt. Dougall, 6th Dragoon Guards, said that since the prisoner had been in the squadron he had not made any complaints, but had once asked to see the commissioned officer because he had been too severely checked for his recruits and horses being dirty on parade.
.....By Mr. Crombie: A certain number of non-commissioned officers complained of his treatment at Canterbury, but the commanding officer treated it with contempt. He did not make a monetary present to the non-commissioned officers who had sent the letter, but he could not say if any of them were among the recipients of a Christmas present given to those who behave themselves. He was not aware that there had been ten desertions from his troop during the last month.
....Mr. Crombie was about to question the witness as to the truth of the allegations in the leter, when the President intimated that they could not go into that.
....Mr. Crombie: That is the unfortunate part of it.
....Prisoner, in defence, handed in a written statement, in which he repeated the allegations contained in his letter to the Secretary of State for War.
....Mr. Crombie, for the prisoner, called Sergeant Covington, Military Prison Staff, who stated he had heard Captain Dougall bully the prisoner at Canterbury, and a recruit was called, who said he heard Captain Dougall use the words prisoner alleged when they were on recruits' ride.
....Mr. Crombie's address pointed to the fact that 24 recruits had deserted from the Carabiniers in October, and only three from the King's Dragoon Guards.
....Prisoner was found guilty, and sentence will be promulgated.
Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Friday 7th November 1902

....Sentence was promulgated at York on Saturday in the case of Sergt. Leonard, of the 6th Dragoon Guards, who was tried by court-martial last week on a charge of sending a letter to the Secretary of State for War preferring complaints. He drew attention to the great number of desertions from the Carabiniers, and said the reason was that recruits were bullied and chased from morning to night. Prisoner was reduced to the ranks.
Derby Daily Telegraph, Monday 10th November 1902

....Another development has taken place in the Leonard case, the ex-sergeant of the Carabineers having been found medically unfit for the Army and discharged. This will increase the indignation already existing in York, as Leonard will not be able to serve as a Reservist. A petition, signed by nearly, 15,000 persons, has been presented to the Secretary for War, and Mr. Butcher, M.P., has publicly announced that the circumstances connected with the case are engaging the personal consideration of Lord Roberts. Leonard was reduced to the ranks by Court-martial for having written a letter complaining that recruits were bullied and chased from morning till night.
The Western Times, Monday 24th November 1902


....Ex-Sergeant Leonard yesterday afternoon received his discharge from the Army on the ground that he is medically unfit for further service. The announcement that this was pending (says the York paper) has already resulted in an offer by a Leeds firm to find him light employment at a fair salary.
....Leonard states that the reason for his discharge stated on the papers was "defective teeth." The cause was given as "eating hard biscuit in South Africa." Leonard states that he was medically examined before his court-martial and pronounced fit to undergo the maximum punishment, two years' imprisonment with hard labour. He intends to remain in York if he can find employment.
Yorkshire Evening, Wednesday 26th November 1902




....The London correspondentof the "Manchester Guardian" writes to-day: -
....I have heard some authentic details about the case of Sergeant Leonard at York.
....I hold no brief for Mr. Brodrick or for the infallibility of military justice, but the facts which are ascertained about Leonard do not altogether in themselves favour his case. These stand quite apart from the character of Captain Dougall, against whom the charges of deliberate severity have been made.
....The petitioners of York may continue to think that the Army is in some cases made an unduly caustic school of discipline, and the brother officers of Captain Dougall will as certainly continue to think that he is a zealous officer who has tried to pull things straight where straightness was needed.
....Here, briefly, are some points in the case: -
....The 6th Dragoon Guards before being sent to South Africa had not been behaving well at Folkestone, and were almost prevented from going on active service. The reserve squadron left behind was commanded by Captain Dougall, and was composed of recruits, a few old soldiers, and such non-commissioned officers as had not been thought good enough for active service. Leonard was one of these non-commissioned officers. He had extended his service before this time, and had been sent to Canterbury for a riding course, but he had been returned from the riding school without being appointed as an instructor and without a certificate.
....Captain Dougall, who at first found himself at Canterbury in command of the reserve squadron, tried to raise the standard of discipline. According to his accounts, which have already been published, Leonard proved to be an inefficient and negligent non-commissioned officer. But Leonard, it must be said, was nevertheless allowed to go to South Africa in charge of a draft. The rest of the reserve squadron moved from Canterbury to York.
....We must follow Leonard to South Africa. There in 1902, he found that certain documents, including his own papers, had been captured by the Boers in a convoy. He then told his commanding officer that his time was up, and that he was due to be transferred to the reserve. With his commanding officer there was a certain officer, who had been adjutant when Leonard extended his service, and this officer believed that he remembered the dates of the extension, and that Leonard's statement was inaccurate. However, Leonard insisted that his time was expired, and he was sent home.
....The entry in the official documents as to his extended service, however, had not been captured, but was, and still is, in England. This document proves that Leonard's time was not expired when he said it was. It further shows that he agreed to the new messing conditions.
....Of course, it is conceivable that the entry of extended service might have been made incorrectly, but in that case Leonard had an opportunity of correcting it when he signed his name immediately below it agreeing to the new mess regulations.
....Leonard went on furlough on returning from South Africa, and afterwards returned to Captain Dougall's squadron at York. Meanwhile, application had been made to South Africa for the paper that Leonard had actually signed when he extended his service. It was this paper that had been captured by the Boers.
....Leonard's case, therefore, is that the entry at home is incorrect; the case of the authorities, apart from Leonard's general character, is that the entry is most unlikely to have been copied in wrongly, and that Leonard actually had an opportunity of correcting it, but, because he had a peculiar reason for doing so, did not correct it.


....Our York reporter to-day interviewed Leonard in reference to the statements upon his case which appear above.
....Leonard repeated his denial that he ever extended his service. "I went to Canterbury," he said, "to undergo a course of rough riding. All the non-commissioned officers were asked by the regimental sergeant-major if we were willing to extend our service on the completion of our course of instruction, or on the expiration of seven years with the colours. We all agreed, and signed a paper expressing our willingness to do so. I was taken seriously ill two months before the course was completed, and therefore could not obtain an appointment as an instructor or obtain a certificate. I was asked if I would go on another course, but when it commenced I was too ill to do so.
...."When a man agrees to extend his service, the commanding officer must see him, and he must also pass a medical board, after which his papers are signed in due course. But this was never done in my case, and it would be illegal for them to extend my service without it.
...."The statement that I extended my service by simply saying I was willing to do so is, therefore, quite incorrect."
....Questioned as to the statement that he told his commanding officer in South Africa that his time was up, and that he was due to be transferred to the reserve, Leonard replied that that was also incorrect. The commanding officer never saw him at all about it.
....His service had then been more than completed. He put his name down with others as time expired, and was simply warned that he was to prepare to return home with the lot. He was never questioned about the matter at all.
....With regard to the statement that the official documents show that his service had been extended, Leonard said he could not understand how the entry was ever made on his attestation paper. He added: "The headquarters were at Preston, while I was at Canterbury, and they probably came to the conclusion that I had extended my service, because it is the usual thing for non-commissioned officers who go through the course at Canterbury to do. I certainly agreed to the new messing regulations, but that has nothing to do with extended service, and I do not remember signing anything in reference to new messing regulations."
....Leonard characterised the assertion that he had an opportunity of correcting the Home Record as to his extended service as simply ridiculous. He had never had such an opportunity.
Yorkshire Evening Post, Friday 5th December 1902

....Captain Walter Dougall, against whom complaints were made by Sergeant Leonard at the recent York court-martial, has been ordered to leave the 1st Provisional Regiment of Dragoons at York and join the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers) at Bangalore, Madras. The captain has had twelve years' service, and has been quartered at Leeds and twice at York. He is decorated for the Boer War.
Sunderland Daily Echo, Saturday 6th December 1902

....EX-SERGEANT LEONARD IN LEEDS. - Ex-Sergeant Leonard, whose dispute with the military authorities at York will be fresh in the public mind, has settled in Leeds. He commenced his duties this week as steward of the Mercantile Club in Park Lane. In his earlier days in the army he was an officer's servant.
Edinburgh Evening News, Friday 20th February 1903

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