Trooper Alexander Butler

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Trooper Alexander Butler

Trooper Alexander Butler was born in London England. During World War I he served with The Royal Canadian Dragoons.

Born in London, Butler had served for more than six years with the Seventh Hussars, a British Calvary unit. Soon after war was declared, the 26-year-old immigrant enlisted with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in Valcartier, Quebec and was part of the first Canadian contingent to go overseas. The regiment saw heavy action at Festubert and Givenchy and in the trenches below Messines Ridge, where the Germans constantly harassed the British lines with artillery and sniper fire from high-ground positions.

Butler’s records suggest that he was a competent soldier with no disciplinary problems. In May, 1915, he had suffered a fall from his horse and hit his head. A year later after his regiment had been reinstated as a calvary unit, he suffered another fall, again injuring his head. On June 8, 1916, while his regiment rested behind the lines preparing for the Somme offensive, Butler calmly walked up to another trooper, Edward Mickleburgh, and fired five rifle rounds into him.

At his Court-Martial, evidence was given that Butler may have suffered some brain damage from his falls. “There was evidence the accused had acted in an odd manner at times,” according to the charge report. But it found no evidence of insanity. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to death—the only punishment for the capital crime of murder—but recommended mercy.

The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, who was in the final stages of preparation for the Somme campaign, refused the recommendation of clemency and confirmed the death penalty. Accordingly, Butler was shot by firing squad before dawn on July 2, 1916.

Canadian senior officer received no indication of Butler’s fate. The Canadian Calvary Brigade was not operating with the Canadian Corps, and so he was tried and executed by British authorities.

Butler was one of two men executed for murder during World War I and, therefore, not included in the government recognition in the Book of Remembrance in Ottawa.

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