Private Donald Lawrence

Private Donald Lawrence (aged 34) of G Company, 11th Reserve Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), (Moorepark near Fermoy)

Date of incident: 21 July 1919

Source: CE, 23 July 1919; Inquest Book No. 2, 1897-1929 (TNA); Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


Note: A former steelworker aged 34 and a native of Norwich, Lawrence died at Moorepark military camp near Fermoy of self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. At the inquest Captain Walter Spear Nolan, the commander of D Company at Moorepark, testified that ‘on Thursday last [17 July 1919] the deceased [Lawrence] was brought before him on a charge of refusing to obey an order. Witness [Nolan] remanded him for the C.O., as the charge was too grave to have witness [conduct a trial]. Deceased was further remanded by the C.O. with a view to a courtmartial. On Friday, deceased was again before witness, and he stated that he had no complaint. On Saturday he was again before him on a charge of trying to induce witnesses to give false evidence. On the 21st he was further remanded until the General would decide on the evidence whether he could order a courtmartial. At about 7:15 that evening it was reported to witness that deceased had shot himself, and he went down and saw the deceased lying on the floor, with the back of his head shot away.’

Lawrence had been conscripted into the army in July 1918 and was not entitled to be demobilised at the end of the war. The evidence tended to show that he feared facing a courtmartial on the doubly serious charges of having refused to obey an order and of having tried to subborn potential witnesses. The inquest jury was unanimous in its opinion that ‘the deceased was temporarily insane at the time’ he shot himself to death with a revolver. See CE, 23 July 1919. The website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission reveals that Private Lawrence is commemorated by name on the screen wall in Fermoy Military Cemetery, where he was buried.


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