MUTINY AT WINTON, QLD
ON 13 JUNE 1942
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

On the evening of 13 June 1942, the citizens of Winton, in western Queensland held a dance for the American and other troops in the town. At about 8:30pm or 9:00pm that evening, the following members of Company "F" of the 29th Quartermaster Regiment were at the dance when a fight broke out:-

Private L. V. Carter (38039566)

Private Perry L. Garrett (37061532)

Private Celestial A. Ratliff (38028087)

Private James E. Wintersmith (15043042)

Captain Collett B. Dilworth interceded to stop the fight. Captain Dilworth stated "In that fight I found that Private Garrett was definitely engaged, also Ratliff. I walked across the dance hall over to the engagement. I found that Garrett was the only one that was fighting."

With the assistance of some enlisted men, the four accused were ejected from the dance hall, and ordered to leave the area and not to return that night. The four men left as ordered but at about 10:00 o'clock that same night, they were seen by Lieutenant Harvey C. Bowdle returning, each armed with a rifle. Lieutenant Bowdle advised Captain Dilworth and they both accosted the men, who then stated that they had "come back for those white boys - that they were treated wrong and were going in to settle the score."

Captain Dilworth ordered them to return to camp. Privates Wintersmith and Ratliff ran around the two Officers and entered the dance hall. Private Carter ran around to the back of the hall. Captain Dilworth then entered the dance hall and approached Ratliff who said to him "Get away, I know what I'm doing." Captain Dilworth told him "You will have to get out of here". Ratliff responded with "Leave me alone. Stand back or you will get hurt."

Captain Dilworth managed to eject Ratliff from the dance hall. Captain Dilworth kept pressing him and asking him to give him his rifle. Ratliff then said "Stand back or I'll shoot you." Captain Dilworth then obtained a pistol from Sergeant Jackson and walked into Ratliff and told him that if he did not hand over his rifle he would shoot him. Ratliff told him "Stand back."

Dilworth kept walking up to him. Ratliff had his gun at low port and not pointed directly at Dilworth. Dilworth then pressed his pistol against Ratliff's stomach and again demanded the rifle. Ratliff then handed over the rifle.

Lieutenant Bowdle approached Garrett and demanded his rifle. Garrett said to him "Stay back Lieutenant or I will shoot you." Bowdle stayed there until Captain Dilworth came from the Dance Hall with Ratliff and Wintersmith. Bowdle approached Garret again and demanded his rifle. Private Carter, who had then returned, said "Don't you touch him or I'll shoot you Lieutenant."

Carter later attempted to go over the picket fence and Sergeant Jackson said that Sergeant Wheaton walked up to him, pulled him off the fence, took his rifle, and pitched the rifle to Private Alfred Hulin. Wheaton then walked up to Wintersmith and took Wintersmith's rifle. Private Garrett pointed his rifle at Wheaton and told him to give the rifle back. Wheaton unloaded the rifle before he gave it to Wintersmith.

Captain Dilworth then approached Garrett and demanded his rifle. Garret said "Don't come any closer for I'm going to shoot." Dilworth walked up to him with the pistol and Garret gave Jackson his rifle which he had been holding at port arms. Lieutenant Bowdle then took Wintersmith's rifle. The Officers then inspected the rifles and found that they had all been loaded and cocked. The four trouble makers were then returned to their camp.

At their trial convened at Mount Isa by G.C.M. on 12 September 1942, the four men testified as follows:-

Private Carter:- "When we got to dance they were fighting and so then I got in to a jeep with Sgt. Harrison and went back to camp and I went to bed and I heard them say 'Get your rifle'. I got out of bed, got my rifle and went into town. Time I got there Cpl. Wheaton took my rifle, gave it to someone and put me in Jeep. I sat in Jeep until we got ready to leave."

Carter did not know who stated "Get your rifles." He had been drinking heavily, including wine, beer and whiskey all mixed. He denied pointing the rifle at Captain Dilworth. He claimed his only reason for getting his rifle was to "Stop the row."

Private Wintersmith:- "Went up there and had several drinks and we had supper and messed around. Decided to go over to dance hall. Went around dance hall and were standing by talking together when fighting started. After the fight the company commander ordered everybody out of the dance hall.  We went to camp and went to bed. Somebody yelled 'Get you rifles' and we heard some shots up town so I grabbed y rifle and started up that way. We got there and ran into Cpl. Wheaton who said 'Give me that rifle' and I gave him the rifle without any trouble."

He claimed that he did not talk to or point his rifle at Captain Dilworth. He said the reason that he took his rifle was to stop the trouble. He also did not know who said "Get your rifles".

Private Garrett:- "We went to town and were dry and wanted something to drink. Drunk wine, beer, whisky and stuff. *** I really don't know what happened *** Don't remember *** How much I drunk I don't remember but I drunk a lot."

Private Ratliff said that he and Corporal Latson went into town at about 5:30pm and they both drank one and a half bottles of whiskey.

Private Ratliff:- "I went in and stood about 10 minutes. I came out and went back to camp. Somebody came back from town and said something was happening and get your rifles and go to town. Someone handed me a rifle which was loaded (I didn't find that out until later). I went back to town and met Captain Dilworth at the door. He said 'You can't come in here'. I backed out of the door with my rifle in my hands at port arms. Captain said 'Sgt Ratliff, give me your rifle.' My having been drunk I said 'Captain sir I am not a Sergeant.' and by the time I said that he ran around to his left and got a pistol from Sergeant Jackson. Then he turned around again and said 'Give me that rifle' and I handed him the rifle."

Ratliff said that he was not present when Captain Dilworth gave the order to leave and remain away from the dance hall.

Wintersmith, Ratliff and Garrett were each found guilty of lifting up a rifle against Captain Dilworth. The acts of the four men constituted a concerted insubordination and defiance of lawful military authority with the intent to override such authority or neutralise it for the time being. Accordingly, they were each found guilty of Mutiny as charged.

Privates Carter and Ratliff were given a Dishonorable Discharge Suspended and were confined for 5 years to the Main Stockade, Base Section No. 3, APO 923. Private Wintersmith also received a Dishonorable Discharge Suspended and was confined for 3 years to the Main Stockade, Base Section No. 3, APO 923. Private Garret was given a Dishonorable Discharge and was confined for 5 years to the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

A Board of Review comprising Judge Advocates Stagg, Roberts and Murphy, was held in Melbourne on 21 April 1943 and examined the record of trial for the four soldiers. The Board of Review was of the opinion that the record of trial was legally sufficient to support the approved findings and the sentences.

 

REFERENCES

Holdings Opinions and Reviews, Board of Review,
Branch Office of the Judge Advocate General, South West Pacific Area (A), Pacific (P),
Volume 1 B.R. (A-P), CM A 55 - CM A 1142

 

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This page first produced 27 February 2016

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