On New Year’s Day 1943 Private Harold Smith, an American soldier stationed in England, celebrated by going absent without leave. With another serviceman he went on a girls-and-drink spree in London.

The pair were serving with the First Tank Destroyer Group, and on returning to their base at Chiseldon, Wiltshire, on JANUARY 8th they found that their unit had left and Smith decided to rob the camp. He stole a .45 revolver and opened fire when a guard, Private Harry Jenkins, confronted him.

Jenkins was shot and killed, and a 36-hour manhunt ended when Smith was arrested in London and charged with murder. At his court-martial he claimed he had acted in self-defence, saying he thought Jenkins was about to open fire. But the court was told that it was standard procedure for a guard to reach for his gun.

On March 12th, Smith was found guilty, and on June 25th he was hanged at Shepton Mallet by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint.