Theodore Schurch

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Theodore William John Schurch
Born (1918-05-05)5 May 1918
Hammersmith, London, England
Died 4 January 1946(1946-01-04) (aged 27)
Pentonville, London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
 Nazi Germany
 Kingdom of Italy
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1936–1942
Rank Private
Unit Royal Army Service Corps
Battles/wars Tobruk

Theodore William John Schurch (5 May 1918 – 4 January 1946) was a British soldier of Anglo-Swiss parentage who was executed by virtue of the Treachery Act 1940 after the end of World War II. He was the last person to be executed in Britain for an offence other than murder.

Early life[edit]

Schurch was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, Hammersmith, London, while his Swiss father was living in Britain. During his late teens Schurch was a member of the British Union of Fascists.[1]

On 8 July 1936 he enlisted in the British Army as a Royal Army Service Corps driver.

Betrayal[edit]

During June 1942 Schurch was captured by Axis forces at Tobruk during the North African campaign. Soon afterwards he began working for both Italian and German intelligence. He often posed as a prisoner of war to gain the trust of Allied prisoners, including Colonel Sir David Stirling, initiator of the Special Air Service.

Trial and execution[edit]

Schurch was arrested in Rome during March 1945, and charged with nine counts of treachery and one count of desertion. He was tried by court martial at the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea, London during September 1945, Major Melford Stevenson presiding. He was defended by Alexander Brands King's counsel. He was found guilty of nine charges of treachery and one of desertion with intent to join the enemy.[2]

Schurch was hanged on 4 January 1946 at HM Prison Pentonville, at the age of 27.[3] His execution was performed by Albert Pierrepoint.

British Security Service files on him are possessed by The National Archives under references KV2/76 and KV 2/77. Papers in connection with his court martial are held there under reference WO 71/1109.

Schurch was the only British soldier executed for treachery committed during World War II. However, Duncan Scott-Ford, a merchant seaman, was also hanged for treachery, and New-Zealand-born Captain Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan of the British Indian Army was convicted of espionage, and shot by a guard. Harold Cole, a British POW who betrayed the French Resistance was shot dead by the French police during January 1946, a month after he escaped from custody.

Civilians William Joyce and John Amery were executed for treason, a different offence.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graham Macklin (2007). Very deeply dyed in black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the resurrection of British fascism after 1945. International Library of Political Studies. 14. I.B.Tauris. p. 34. ISBN 1-84511-284-9. 
  2. ^ "News in Brief." Times, London, England, 3 Jan. 1946: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
  3. ^ "Soldier Executed." Times, London, England, 5 Jan. 1946: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.