Warburton's final(?) court martial appearance (OT)
- It seems time could lie heavy on the British army in its garrisons
across the Empire after all the excitement of the Napoleonic Wars.
Warburton got to participate in another court martial in 1824 in
Malta... (from a Maltese website):
From a site on the British Army in Malta:
Since the very beginning of British rule it was common custom for
British troops to be provided at religious ceremonies, or to fire
salutes, and give due deference to the Bishop of Malta. [snip]
Therefore when Hector Greig, Chief Secretary to the Government, sent
the following letter such procedure had become routine:
To: Captain Charles Bayley, Military Secretary.
`Chief Secretary's Office, Valletta. 4th August 1823. I have the honor
to acquaint you that application has been made to Government for
salutes from Castle St.Angelo and St.Michael's Tower on the 9th and
10th instant being the eve and anniversary of St.Lorenzo the tutelar
saint of Vittoriosa. [snip]
Bayley in turn signed it "Approved", and forwarded it to Major Addams,
the Commanding Officer of the Royal Artillery on Malta. Addams in turn
sent a written order to Lieutenant Dawson, who was in charge of a
Royal Artillery detachment at Fort St.Angelo, so that these salutes
would be performed.
Dawson, who had been in the Army for sixteen years, wrote a letter to
Major Addams containing this paragraph:
` .I beg leave respectfully to state that I feel myself placed in a
difficulty in issuing orders to that effect to the men under my
command conceiving as I do that I should thereby become a party to an
idolatrous act of worship committed by these assembled to pay honor to
the above Saint and thus violate my principles as a Christian and
He asked to be exonerated from carrying out the order, and requested
Lieutenant Somerville, the Adjutant of the Royal Artillery, to ensure
that the Major-General would see his letter. Major Addams called upon
Major-General Sir Manley Power and showed him the letter, to which the
`Let Lieutenant Dawson refuse at his peril'.
Addams forwarded this reply in writing, but Dawson was not content and
wrote another letter to Addams which included this sentence:
` I hope unnecessary for me to state that I feel the duty of prompt
and implicit obedience to my military superior but I hope it will be
seen that the present order requires me to take a part in idolatrous
ceremonies which are repugnant to my principles as a Christian and
Addams discussed the situation with Lieut-Colonel Raitt, the Deputy
Adjutant General, and on his advice directed another officer to be at
Fort St.Angelo, to carry out the order.
The Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland arrived back in Malta from Genoa on
Sunday 2nd November, and three days later on the 5th he issued a
General Order that: ` Captain Atchison and Lieutenant Dawson of the
Royal Artillery be struck off all duties of every kind'. They were
arrested on the 14th on orders from the Master General of Ordnance.
The Court Martial of Lieutenant George Francis Dawson, Royal
Artillery, opened on the 1st March 1824, but with adjournments
continued till the 22nd March.
The officers called to hear the case were:
Lieut-Colonel Augustus Warburton and [a bunch of other officers]
`First Charge. Disobedience of orders, insubordinate and unofficerlike
conduct when stationed at Fort St.Angelo in the island of Malta in
hesitating and declining to carry into execution the orders he had
received on the 6th of August last for firing salutes from that Fort
on the 9th and 10th of the same month according to established usage
and having written two letters dated 7th and 9th August to Major
Addams, Commanding the Royal Artillery remonstrating against carrying
the aforesaid orders into effect.
Second Charge. For writing a letter dated 11th August 1823 of a highly
insubordinate nature and shewing a spirit of opposition to the
authority of his commanding officer (Major Addams) for having given
orders to Sergeant McClelland of that Corps to fire salutes at Fort
St.Angelo on the 10th of August last, and for having ordered the
expenditure of stores, or the execution of regiment orders, without
such order, passing thro'him (Lieutenant Dawson), he well knowing that
his own conduct and that of another officer, had led to the measures
against which he was remonstrating the above conduct being highly
subversive of military discipline and holding forth a most dangerous
example to the British Army'
An additional charge was added by Brevet Major Addams:
`For neglect of duty and disobedience of orders in not giving
directions to the detachment under his command for firing a salute at
Fort St.Angelo on the 9th of August last at Noon and in being absent
from Cavalier St.Angelo (in the aforesaid Fort) without leave, when
such salute was fired by the said detachment.'
Lieutenant Dawson pleaded Not Guilty to all the charges preferred
When cross-examined, Sergeant John McClelland told the court that
[snip] a total of 30 petards were fired.
In reply to a question put to him by Dawson he agreed that a man had
been sent by the priests from the church who told him that a signal
would be given, and the bells would start ringing, for the Royal
Artillerymen to fire their salute, but he added: "But I cannot
positively swear that I understood him as he was a Maltese."
On Thursday 18th March Lieutenant Dawson started reading his written
defence statement, but after one hour the Judge Advocate General
interrupted saying that the religious matters he had introduced were
unconnected with the charges. Dawson resumed his statement, but was
interrupted a second time for the same reason. After some deliberation
the Court decided that religious quotations would not be permitted and
the extracts from religious books already made would be expunged from
the record. On hearing this decision Dawson, replied: "I must decline
to go on with my defence", and withdrew from putting forward any defence.
The Court resumed on the 22nd March, to announce their verdict, which
was Guilty of the First charge, Guilty of the Second charge, but only
Guilty of the first part of the additional charge, and:
` .does sentence him, the prisoner, Lieutenant George Francis Dawson,
of the Royal Artillery to be cashiered and rendered incapable of ever
serving His Majesty in any military capacity whatsoever.'
Two days later on the 24th March 1824, the Court Martial of Captain
Thomas Atchison, opened, with the same group of officers forming the
Court. The charge was [virtually the same - big snip]
As in the Dawson Court Martial, the prosecution statement was made by
Lieut-Colonel Raitt, and Major Addams, Adjutant Somerville, and
Sergeant McClelland, all gave testimony.
After adjournment, the Court re-assembled on 31st March and the
defendant started reading his written defence statement, but after one
hour the Court found it necessary to stop him as he was introducing
religious matters. The Court closed to consider the line of defence
being followed by Atchison, and on re-opening he was called upon to
delete 34 lines from his statement, which the Court had found
objectionable. Shortly after, the Court closed again for the same
reason, and on re-opening declared that several pages containing
religious material should be omitted since they were unrelated to the
On 5th April, the Court resumed and gave their verdict that he was
Guilty of the charge, and he was sentenced to be dismissed His
The proceedings of the two Court Martials were sent to London for
confirmation, but the Judge Advocate General, J.Beckett, returned the
papers to Malta:
`Downing Street 31st May 1824.
I regret to be under the necessity of returning these proceedings in
order that they may be revised. The grounds upon which a revision
becomes necessary is this, viz: That the two officers above named,
whose cases were brought under consideration of the Court Martial do
not appear to have had a full, fair and legal trial.'
Accordingly, on 19th July, the original members of the Court Martial
for Lieutenant Dawson, reassembled, with the exception of Major
Percival who had died on the 8th of May.
Dawson was given his written defence statement, which he was allowed
to read in full to the Court. He also complained about the length of
time it had taken for the Court Martial to be held, and also that:
`Although it was well known that in this case a Protestant British
Officer was to be tried for alleged crimes springing out of those
religious opinions which are identified with the constitution of his
country and cemented by the best blood of her people that Officer
should be brought before a Court having a President, who, tho'
deservedly respected from his rank and character, is himself a member
of the Roman Catholic Church and consequently unable to estimate the
principal grounds of the defence.'
Nevertheless, the Court passed the same Opinion and Sentence, as
The Court for Captain Atchison, re-assembled on 21st July, and on this
occasion he was also permitted to read his statement in full, but the
Court came to the same conclusion Guilty and to be dismissed His
This time the sentences on both officers were upheld by London, [snip]
Upon their return to England both officers continued to protest
against the action taken against them.
Dawson left Malta in November 1824, and in February 1825, had a
booklet printed by John Butterworth & Son, of 43 Fleet Street, London,
which brought to the notice of the British public a full record of the
Court Martial and his reasons for maintaining that it was not a
military order but an order by a Roman Catholic priest which he
refused to obey. On leaving the Army he took Holy Orders and died as
Rector of Orpington, Kent, on 11th October 1850.
Similarly, in October 1825, Atchison arranged for Hatchard & Son, of
Piccadilly, London, for them to print and issue a booklet on his behalf.
In it he states:
`Roman Catholic Governments make the troops attend their Cathedral
services under arms and a soldier is ordered to present arms and drop
his colours as an act of outward worship to the Host.
It was usual when I was in Malta to order twice of thrice a year a
grand Guard of Honour from the British regiments of the line of one
hundred or one hundred and fifty men and officers, with the King's
colour of the regiment to which they belonged to attend High Mass in
the Cathedral of Valletta, and our Protestant officers and men had not
only to attend, but also to present arms, drop the King's colours when
the Host was elevated; thus doing the same acts of outward worship to
this object which the Maltese troops and British Roman Catholic
soldiers under arms with them did; for these military acts are
substituted and intended for the same purposes by the Priests who
directed them as the bowing down and kneeling of the Roman Catholics
who are not under arms. A signal from the top of the church caused the
Royal Artillery on the battery to join their salute to this worship.
The Governor, or Lieutenant Governor at Malta usually attends the High
Mass worship on these occasions and the Staff and principal officers
of the garrison are ordered to accompany him'
`King's Army Regulation dated 1811 orders: No Roman Catholic soldier
shall be compelled to attend the worship of the Church of England.'
Captain Atchison submitted a petition to the House of Commons in 1833
and continued for the rest of his life to over turn the Court Martial
decision. He died at Manningham on the 4th December 1877.