The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment

Private T J Highgate


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Private Thomas James HIGHGATE,  L/10061, 1st   Battalion,  Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment, died of wounds, Flanders France,  8th September 1914, age 19.

Born Shoreham. Kent, enlisted 4th February 1913, age 17, height 5ft 4½ inches, weight 127lbs, Guildford, Surrey, resided Catford. Formerly seaman, Training Ship Exmouth.

Son of James John & Alice Highgate, 69 Morena Street, Catford, SE.

Previously served in 3rd Battalion, Special Reserve, Queens Regiment, 6045, enlisted 4th October 1912, London, to 3rd February 1913.

4th February 1913, enlisted & posted 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment; 4th May 1913, attains age of 18; 29th August 1913, Dublin, exchanging duty without permission, 7 days confined to Barracks; 7th September 1913, Dublin, absent from Tattoo until 11.25pm, 5 days confined to Barracks; 15th February 1914, Dublin, having a rusty rifle on guard mounting parade, 2 extra guards; 28th February 1914, deserted; 4th May 1914, rejoined from desertion, in Guard Room awaiting trial.

5th May 1914, Woolwich, Confession, I Thomas James Highgate do hereby voluntary confess that I am No.10061, serving in the 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment and that I absented myself from that Corps on the 4th February 1914 and attempted to fraudulently enlist into His Majesty's Army by making a willfully false answer to question 10 on  attestation on the 4th May 1914 at Woolwich. I am further aware that this confession may be used in evidence against me.

22nd May 1914, tried by Court Martial, found guilty of desertion & sentenced to 42 days detention, 22nd May to 2nd July 1914; 26th June 1914, returned to duty, remitted for good conduct; 1st July 1914, Dublin, absent from Tattoo until 10.40, 5 days confined to Barracks;

29th June 1914, memorandum, Richmond Barracks, I have spoken to this man and find his memory good at present. His history of two shipwrecks, a fall from aloft and yellow fever on N coast of Africa would amply account for his occasional lapses of memory. His manner is stated to be peculiar at times. I consider that the mans story of last night is probably true and that he was not responsible for his absence - Capt RAMC.

6th September 1914, tried by FGCM, sentenced to be shot to death;  8th September 1914, General Court Martial for desertion, sentenced carried out, died from gun shot wounds. 

1st October 1914, War Office Memo - I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that the Deputy Adjutant General, 3rd Echelon reports that No.10061, Private Thomas James Highgate, 1st Battalion,  Royal West Kent Regiment, was shot for desertion on the 8th ultimo after trial by a Field General Court Martial. I am to request that you will cause the number name and regiment  to be verified, and the next of kin to be informed. Lord Kitchener's note of sympathy will of course be omitted from the communication to the relatives who simply be informed that the man was killed on the 8th ultimo.

Commemorated at  La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France.


Private Thomas Highgate, of the Royal West Kent Regiment, was the first British soldier to be executed for desertion during World War I - just 35 days into the war.

His offence, trial, sentencing and execution all took place on the same day - 8 September 1914.

Aged 17, he had been unable to bear the carnage of the Battle of Mons, and had fled and hidden in a barn.

Pte Highgate was undefended at his court martial because all his regimental comrades had been killed, injured or captured.

In 2000, the parish council in his home village of Shoreham, Kent, voted not to include his name on its war memorial.

Phil Hobson, who was council chairman at the time, said: "We had the opportunity of putting the name on it because we were replacing the plaque with all the names on - after nearly 100 years it was very worn.

"We took what we thought to be the best compromise position in that a space was left for his name should people want it to be added at a later date."

Stuart Gendall, of the Royal British Legion, said Pte Highgate's name should be on the memorial: "I think it would be most appropriate and certainly very poignant in this year - the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme."


Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Shot at dawn, pardoned 90 years on.

More than 300 British soldiers who were shot during World War I for military offences are to receive formal pardons, Defence Secretary Des Browne has announced.

Mr Browne said he would be seeking a parliamentary group pardon for the men, executed for offences such as cowardice and desertion.

It is believed 306 British soldiers were shot during the war from 1914-1918.


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This page was last updated on 11-Sep-2015.

Copyright   © 2008 Janet & Richard Mason