James was my great uncle. He was born in Argyle St. of the Shankill Road, in the West of Belfast. He was born to James and Elizabeth (nee Quail) Crozier on August 6th 1894, and was the 9th of 10 children we know off. When James enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles he was working at the 'Ship yard' as an apprentice. James was one of the 306 soldiers 'SHOT AT DAWN' during the War to end all Wars, the war that changed the world. James had been lost to our family after his execution for desertion in 1916 - some more on that later. There have been many stories, books, even a documentary made about the events that overcame James in France.
At the National Arboretum in Staffordshire a tree has been planted for each soldier that was shot at dawn. As you can see from the plaque it was thought that James was underage when he enlisted. This has been proven not to be the case, he was in his 20's when he enlisted.
James became a legend on the Shankill Road, even though we his family knew nothing about him. A group of men from the Shankill area traveled to the Somme Battle field every year and laid a wreath on his grave.
Soldiers shot for desertion normally have a numbered grave, no cross, no name on the simple marker, just a number. So for the other of the 305 soldiers they are NOT buried with their comrades, but James is he lies with his comrades at the SUCRERIE MILITARY CEMETERY, COLINCAMPS.. To understand more about Jame's story there are a couple of books that have been written and a documentary made by Edward Woodward 'In suspicious Circumstances - To Encourage the others'.
There were many questions raised about the proceedings of the Court martial. First James refused to have 'the soldiers friend' and defended himself, during the trial he didn't raise any questions on any of the testimony given against him. And his only defense was that he was feeling ill and didn't remember leaving the trenches, didn't remember anything for the 4 days before his arrest some 20 to 25 miles from the front line. During that testimony witness #3 Corp. W. Taylor 7th Ammunition stated that he was stationed 25 miles in the rear of the front line trenches and found James strolling along their lines, he had no numerals, cap badge, rifle or equipment on him. He also had no paybook. Witness #4 Corp. Brightmore 4th Division MMP had noticed that while James was in his charge "his behaviour was peculiar. I asked him where he had been since leaving the trenches and he was unable to tell me". Then there is the Doctor's testimony that 'he is in sound health in mind and body. I further certify that there is no evidence to show that he has recently been other than sound in mind and body', and since James had been absent for 4 days that they could not produce evidence on the state of his mental condition - a point that the Irish government raised as being invalid.
James was lost to the Family for many years, has name never to be spoken. As I started my research into the Battenburg St. Croziers two fellow genealogists Martin Crozier and Rondey Freeburn had contacted me after seeing my website and asked the big questions about James being related to us. At the same time my Aunt Edna sent me an issue of the Shankill Mirror that showed the grave of James Crozier with a group from the Shankill laying a wreath. James is now part of the family again and talked about. Because of this my dad, being the head of the family at that time received the pardon and this letter.