Circular Memorandum on Courts-Martial for use on Active Service

COURTS-MARTIAL ; LASKEY Major Francis Seward. (1918.)


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S.S. 412b. 12mo. Contemporary olive cloth-backed paper-covered boards, worn; original green wrappers bound-in, very good. Ownership inscription to front board and upper wrapper; interleaved throughout. 47pp. Issued by Adjutant General’s Branch of the Staff General Headquarters. August,

“Convening Officers will see that a copy is laid before every Court-Martial” (insert between p. 2 & 3).  

An extensively annotated interleaved copy of a scarce WW1 official pamphlet on how to conduct Courts-Martial.  

Two versions were produced during the First World War, to provide reference and guidance to Officers in a format more transportable and less weighty than the Manual of Military Law. The first (S.S. 412a) was published in June 1917 (presumably in reaction to the large scale French Army Mutinies that took place in May of that year) and the second (S.S. 412b) in August 1918. The second was likely published to coincide with the Allied Counteroffensive.  

This copy, an excellent example of S.S. 412b, belonged to Major Francis Seward Laskey of the Tank Corps. It is filled with remarkably thorough ink annotations, concerning procedure, precedent and amendments. For instance, Laskey adds numerous examples to the “Charges” section, such as “False Pretences”, “Allowing prisoners to escape” and ‘Wilful damage”. Elsewhere he utilises the blank leaves to expand upon factors capable of complicating the following of procedure, such as “insanity”. There are also various ms. deletions of the printed text, with updated information copied in on the adjacent blanks.  

As a body of writing, Laskey’s notes show how the pamphlet was a working document: a basic text that needed to be built upon by the Officers; a text that altered according to new orders and continued to change as the war developed, moving toward its terminus.  

Also inserted or tipped in, are a number of related documents, including: a copy of an ms. letter, regarding the proceedings of a Courts-Martial on T. Marshall of the 23rd Middlesex Regiment in November 1918; a rough proof of an official War Office broadside, MEMORANDUM AS TO STATEMENTS BY SUSPECTS AND PRISONERS; a 7pp. pamphlet by Major-General P.E.F. Hobbs, titled Disciplinary Powers of a Commanding Officer.  

For more information on F. S. Laskey, who went on to become a Lieut. Col. In the Tank Corps, see: [A.H.T. Cocks], The War History of the Sixth Tank Battalion, (Privately printed, 1919).  

Scarce. Copac locates one copy of this edition at the Imperial War Museum. Worldcat adds two further holdings, at the Canadian War Museum and the University of Victoria (CN). The 1917 edition is equally rare, with holdings at the Imperial War Museum, the University of Toronto and the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Stock Code: 224139

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