Archive for January 4th, 2009

1946: The treacherous Theodore Schurch

1 comment January 4th, 2009 Headsman

One day after William Joyce became the last Briton put to death for treason, 27-year-old Theodore Schurch hanged for treachery at London’s Pentonville Prison.

Like Joyce, Schurch had enrolled in the British Union of Fascists as a teenager in the 1930’s, and it was reputedly at the party’s direction that he joined the army as a driver.

During World War II, Schurch crossed and recrossed enemy lines, delivering operational intelligence to the Italians and Germans by helping to interrogate prisoners of war, or posing as a P.O.W. himself to gain the confidences of other captured Allied soldiers.

Scurch’s army buddies seemed to think he was alright, and there was probably more than a shred of truth to the defense’s contention, paraphrased by the London Times (September 18, 1945), that the lad

was a poor, uneducated fool who was caught young [by fascist ideology] when he knew no better and jockeyed into a position from which he could not recover.

But obviously, one makes this argument when one is in no position to contest factually the capital charges against oneself, and indeed has admitted much of it. Schurch was convicted on all nine counts of treachery, plus one of desertion. Not a big fish, maybe — but just the right size to become the last man hanged in Britain for a crime other than murder.

He’s actually listed as a war casualty, which in a way he was, on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Brookwood Memorial outside of London.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Espionage,Execution,Germany,Hanged,History,Milestones,Soldiers,Spies,Treason

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