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Harold Joseph Pringle[1] (died 5 July 1945) was the only soldier of the Canadian Army to be executed during the Second World War for military crimes.

Pringle enlisted in the Canadian Army with his father. On medical examination he was accepted but his father was turned away due to poor eyesight.

Pringle was a disciplinary problem for his unit, going AWOL many times, and he was sent to a reformatory camp for a year. He escaped after serving six months there and was sent to Italy where he was posted to the 1st Battalion, The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment as a Private with the service number of 'C/5292'.

Pringle's combat record after the escape was unblemished until after the Hitler Line battle, when he deserted and went to Rome to join the Sailor Gang. The Lane Gang was a bigger and better organized gang in Rome that smuggled goods for the black market. The Sailor Gang did much the same things, but on a smaller scale, as it only had five members.

The members of the Sailor Gang lived pleasantly for many months, but then things started going downhill. They were almost always drunk, got into fights, and made rash decisions, up to the point where one of their members was shot by another. They tried to take him to the local field hospital, and all of his gang (except one who was given immunity for his testimony at their trials) alleged that he died on the way, claiming also that Pringle and the gang leader shot the man after he was dead several times so it would look like a Mafia killing.

The dead man was discovered and police apprehended almost all the members of the Lane Gang and the members of the Sailor Gang. The members were tried and Pringle was sentenced to death for murder. Pringle appealed the decision, which was rejected. On 5 July 1945 Pringle was executed by a Canadian Army firing squad.

He was subsequently buried in grave number 11, row B, plot VII at Caserta CWGC Cemetery in Italy.


  1. CWGC :: Casualty Details at
  • Clark, Andrew (2002) A Keen Soldier: the Execution of Second World War Private Harold Joseph Pringle Alfred A. Knopf, Canada, Toronto, ISBN 0-676-97354-X
  • Madsen, Chris (1999) Another Kind of Justice: Canadian Military Law from Confederation to Somalia UBC Press, Vancouver, ISBN 0-7748-0718-0

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