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12-04-2013, 14:12
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Prompted by Beer Nut's comments to my last post, I've been poking around the newspaper archive looking for rape trials of US servicemen in WW II.

This is one of the things I found:

The Editor of the 'Echo' has received a number of letters appealing for the lives of two coloured American soldiers who were sentenced to death by court-martial at a West Country military establishment last weekend, for the forcible rape of a 16-years-old Bishop's Cleeve girl.

In each letter the point is made that the sentence suggests racial discrimination —that white Americans would not have been so severely punished.

This view is entirely discounted by statement the Editor has received from official sources.


U.S.-Army spokesmen, asked to comment on the complaints, said that the case was one of several in the United Kingdom in which American soldiers had been sentenced to death.

They pointed out that a specific article of war provides this penalty for rape and that it is the Army's duty to enforce military law regardless of the individual's colour or creed.

Both white and coloured men, they said, had been similarly sentenced to death in the United Kingdom.

They added that the case automatically would be heard by a review board and that it would be judged entirely on its merits.

A selection of the letters, all in a similar strain, is published below :

Sir will you please allow the undersigned, war workers at a local factory, to make an appeal for the lives of the two coloured American soldiers sentenced to death for the rape of a Bishop's Cleeve I girl?

While we agree that rape is a serious crime, we feel that if these men die it will be because they are coloured.

In England we have learned the meaning of equality and freedom and we are revolted by the unjustness of the American laws concerning negroes.

In our opinion, birching and prison with hard labour would be more fitting a sentence for all who commit this crime, whether they be black or white.

William Kurn,D. Johnson, E. Tarling, H. Collier. M. Barnett, J. Collins, V. Howse, E. Lewis, M. D. Lunn, J. Bessent, J. Carter, O. G. Barrett, D. Cordwell, T. Tandy, F. Betteridge, R. Hare, D. M. Harvey, R. Sears, P. Higgins, A. Scott Blair, M. Powell, E. Aldridge, C. Collins, E. Jones, L. Freeman, E. French, M. Price, P. Brookes, K. Peacock, B. Bettany.

Sir,—Our committee would appreciate space in your paper with regard to the sentence of death recently passed on two coloured American soldiers for the forcible rape of a girl working in this factory.

Shop stewards in all departments in the factory have been approached by the workpeople with requests to take some action to obtain commutation of the death sentence to one of imprisonment. There is in the factory and in the village very strong feeling against such a severe sentence in the case of these men.

It is the almost unanimous opinion that this severe sentence, when compared with the sentences of imprisonment passed on white American soldiers for similar offences, suggests a racial discrimination that will be deplored by all peoples fighting against this very thing in the war against Fascism and racial persecution.

In view of the subscription of all the United Nations to the principles of the Atlantic Charter, and the principles of complete freedom for all peoples of all nationality and colour, we sincerely hope that the sentence on these two men will be commuted to a similar sentence to that given to white men for a like offence.
Shop Stewards' Committee, Smith & Sons, Evesham-road, Chelt.

Sir, —We, the undersigned, wish to protest against the sentence of death passed on two negroes for rape on a Bishop's Cleeve girl.

We know that this is a serious offence, but surely there are other ways which they can pay for this crime, without paying with their lives.

We feel had these men been white such a sentence would never have been passed.

These men came to fight for us, so if they can fight and risk their lives, let us treat them as equals.

Joan Channing, M. Birt, P. Timms, V. Holland, J, E. Jenkins, J. Walker, M. Holder, W. Dunster, K. Francis, G. Richards, A. P. Dent, B. E. Mudd, A. Brock, W. P. May, N. Meluish, T. N. Hill, G. Romans, S. C. Preater.

As outlined above, the American authorities point out that the law is the same for any offender, white or coloured."
Gloucestershire Echo - Friday 05 May 1944, page 3.
I'm not sure I believe the claim of the American authorities that everyone was treated the same. I've found cases of white soldiers found guilty of rape who only got 25 years hard labour.

Many locals clearly didn't believe them either.

Apologies for the lack of beery content.

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