There was a further complication. At midnight on New Year's Eve the Station Commander had announced the New Year promotions and awards, and to great cheers was the news of John's promotion to squadron leader. So, although he'd been a fellow junior officer until then, after midnight he had become a senior officer. At the time of the incident he had all of an hour or two's seniority, he was on another squadron and not in Cloughie's chain of command, but someone decided this was irrelevant, what both John and Cloughie took to be advice to leave was in fact an order.
Cloughie was accused of disobeying a lawful command. Wow, this was really serious. The court martial started with John giving his evidence, then the prosecuting officer called the first of the Rangers. This was where things took an unusual turn, as the Ranger was happy to tell all, in that charming Irish way, and the Judge Advocate had to keep interrupting his full flow, to tell him that he could and indeed should decline to answer questions that might incriminate him at any future disciplinary proceedings against him.
The Judge Advocate was crystal clear in his choice of words, but the Ranger didn't care, he completely ignored his advice, and told it as he saw it. He was quite happy to tell all about it being 4 v 1, as in his view Cloughie had started it by driving too close to them. It was exactly the same when the second Ranger was sworn in, then the third, then the fourth, and I thought the Judge Advocate looked a little frustrated at having his legal advice ignored.
The trial took a few days, but Cloughie was up against it. He hadn't gone home when John had told him to, and he'd stayed to have a good punch-
After the Board had adjourned and considered the evidence, we were called back in. "Quick March….." "Halt."
And we stood to attention to hear the verdict. The President looked at the Judge Advocate, looked at his colleagues on the Board, and looked Cloughie in the eye. Then all he said was, "Not guilty."
The gasps around the court were audible, Cloughie's face was a picture of relief and delight, and having heard all the evidence, I couldn't believe it. We went straight back to the Squadron with the good news, and no one else could believe it either. We heard later that the Judge Advocate had recommended that the Board visit the site of the fight to see for themselves where the incident had occurred. A wise lawyer indeed.
Cloughie’s Court Martial 04