Only one British soldier was executed under the Treachery Act 1940: Theodore John William Schurch. Both William Joyce and John Amery were convicted and executed for high treason – a different offence.
Theodore John William Schurch was born on 5 May 1918 at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, Hammersmith, London, while his Swiss father was living in Britain, working at The Savoy Hotel. During his teens, Schurch joined the British Union of Fascists. In 1936, Schurch successfully joined the British Army as a Driver in the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). His RASC unit was posted to Palestine as Schurch is entitled to the General Service Medal 1918-62 with the “Palestine” clasp.
Schurch’s Security Service files, at the National Archives (KV 2/76 and KV 2/77) describe him as
- Height: 1.72 metres.
- Weight: 60 kg.
- Build: Slim.
- Hair: blonde, combed back, smooth.
- Eyes: Gray.
- Features: High cheekbones; sunken face; protruding ears; crooked, protruding teeth. Small blond moustache.
- Type: Fairly composed; talkative; smoke constantly.
Schurch’s Security Service files, at the National Archives (KV 2/76 and KV 2/77), describe the following family members.
- Born 10 January 1894, Rohrbach, Berne, Switzerland.
- Profession: Staff member, Hotel Savoy, London.
- Last known address: North Wembley, London.
- EUNICE HENRIETTA nee CHAPMAN
- Born 22 December 1894, South Hornsey, London.
- Last known address: Same as above.
- PAULINE EUNICE SCHURCH
- Born 1927 in London.
- Last known address: Living with parents.
THE COURT-MARTIAL OF THEODORE JOHN WILLIAM SCHURCH
T/61711 Private Theodore John William Schurch, RASC, attached to RASC Woolwich Depot, was tried by General Court Martial (GCM) held at Duke of York’s HQ, Chelsea SW3. The court was convened by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Loyd, KCB, DSO, MC, commanding London District, Leconfield House, Curzon Street, London W1 on 10 September 1945.
The court’s members when they first met on 12 September 1945, starting at 10.30 am were:
President: Colonel R.B.R. Colvin DSO (comd. Grenedier Guards).
Members: Lieu-Col. C.J.M. Martin OBE, RE, Lieu-Col. R.H. Bushman (O/C Train. Bn. Gren Guards), Major F. Holmand RASC (O/C 371 Coy. RASC), Major F.A. Holland (O/C 85 Command Ammo. Depot), Capt. T.E.S. Egerton (Coldstream West Garr. Bn.).
Waiting: Major M.H. Harbinson RA (Depot RA).
Judge Advocate: Major A.M.S. Stevenson, KC.
Prosecutor: Captain C. Lawson, Judge Advocate General’s Office.
Defence: Lieutenant A.C. Brands RA (Solicitor in Law).
Shorthand Typist: Sergeant S.J. Dummonds, RASC.
When Schurch was asked by the President if he objected to any of the court’s members, Schurch asked the court’s members to state their religion. In turn the court’s members gave the following replies: Colvin, Bushman, Holmand, Egerton and Harbinson all stated that they were Church of England, Martin was Presbyterian and that Holland was Jewish. Schurch objected to the Jewish member. After a short adjournment, the court agreed to the objection and Major F.A. Holland was replaced on the panel by the Waiting Member Major M.H. Harbinson, RA.
Schurch faced nine counts under the Army Act (section 12) in that he committed a civil offence that is to say treachery contrary to Section 1 of the Treachery Act 1940.
- In North Africa on or about 13 September 1942 obtained information from Allied POWs at Torbruk and communicated this information to the enemy.
- At Benghazi on or about 14 September 1942 obtained information from Allied POWs relating to Long Range Desert Group units, and communicated this information to the enemy.
- In North Africa in or about October 1942, obtained information from members of His Majesty’s Forces relating to various operations, re-crossed enemy lines and communicated this information to the enemy.
- In North Africa in or about November 1942, obtained information from members of His Majesty’s Forces relating to various operations, re-crossed enemy lines and communicated this information to the enemy.
- At Homs, in North Africa, in or about October to November 1942, obtained information from Allied POWs relating to the Special Air Service, and communicated this information to the enemy.
- At Rome, in or around February 1943, attempted to obtain information from Colonel David Stirling, Scots Guards, who was a prisoner-of-war, relating to the Special Air Service.
- At Rome, in or around April 1943, obtained information from Naval POWs in enemy hands, about the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and communicated this information to the enemy.
- At Rome, in or around April 1943, obtained information from Naval POWs in enemy hands, about military operations in the Mediterranean and communicated this information to the enemy.
- At Rome, in or about May 1943, obtained information from a POW in enemy hands relating to operations in the Mediterranean, and communicated this information to the enemy.
In addition to these charges which carried a mandatory death sentence upon conviction, Schurch faced one count of Desertion (unlike the First World War, desertion during World War Two was not punishable with death).
- In that he in North Africa absented himself during October 1942 with intent to join the enemy.
Theodore Schurch pleaded not guilty to all ten charges.
The court then agreed an adjournment, as both the prosecution and defence stated that they had not had sufficient time to prepare their evidence. The President announced that the court would adjourn until 10.30 am on 17 September 1945.
When the court resumed five days later, the Prosecution was represented by Major Hillard and SQMS P.E. Girling, RASC, was the Shorthand Writer.
The Prosecution called the following people who confirmed their written statements, and identified Schurch as the person mentioned in their sworn statements.
14264926 CSM G.Y. Thompson, SIB, Northern Command stated to the court that he had witnessed the typed statement of the accused’s signed statement.
The statements from the accused, Colonel Stirling, Lieutenant Bromage, Lieutenant Hart, Lietenant Hardy and Captain Lascaris were produced for the court.
Schurch did not call any witnesses in his defence, but he did give evidence under oath and was examined by his legal representative. Schurch was also cross-examined by the Prosecutor.
The court adjourned at 12.55 pm. When the court resumed at 1.20 pm, the court President announced that their findings would be promulgated to the accused. If the court had found Schurch not guilty, he would have been informed immediately by the court. Consequently, Schurch knew that he had been found guilty. In fact the court found him guilty of all ten charges.
Schurch’s Army Form B296 (Character & Particulars of Accused’s Service) stated that he was entitled to the General Service Medal with Palestine clasp, and possibly the Africa Star. It also stated that Schurch had several previous offences: Stating a falsehood to a NCO, Absence from duty and two offences of being absent without leave. His age was given as 27 years 4 months.
Schurch was sentenced to death by hanging, and this was promulgated to Schurch, who was held at H.M.P. Pentonville, on 10 November 1945.
Theodore Schurch was hanged at Pentonville Prison on 4 January 1946; the day after the execution of William Joyce at Wandsworth Prison. The executioner, in both cases, was Albert Pierrepoint.
T/61711 Private Theodore John William Schurch, Royal Army Service Corps (RASC), is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial . His entry is located on Panel 17, Column 3.