It didn’t take Charles Saxton long to realise he’d made a mistake. In late January 1892 he joined the Yorkshire Light Infantry in Pontefract. The unit was stationed at Guernsey, which many would have considered an attractive posting, but Saxton hadn’t reckoned on not being suited to the military lifestyle.
A little over ten months after signing up, on 16 November, he absconded – and the hunt for the missing soldier was on.
Discovery and trial
Saxton remained at large until 5 Febaury 1894 when he was spotted at Chapeltown, a suburb of Sheffield in South Yorkshire. He should maybe not have strayed quite so close to home. Pontefract, where he’d signed up, is only 20 miles by road from Chapeltown.
In fairness, he hadn’t been entirely clueless. When picked up by Police Constable Burrows just a few hours after his arrival he admitted that he’d expected to be caught. He just hadn’t expected to be nabbed so soon. He’d hoped to have at least a couple of weeks of freedom back in his home county first.
Unfortunately for Saxton, he hadn’t merely gone absent without leave. He’d also burned his uniform by the side of the road in Barnsley. Naturally, this would have to be paid for, in addition to which he was sentenced to do 128 days work as penance.
Return to Guernsey
Still, Saxton could count himself lucky. Although he was remanded in custody for eight days to await his return to Guernsey, that and the 128 days labour was the worst the authorities had in store for him.
At the beginning of century, two Hussars had been executed for desertion. In their case, they had mistakenly landed on Guernsey rather than running away from it. They were taken back to their platoon and shot on Bincombe Down, near Weymouth.