The murder of Private Owen McLoughlin in Randalstown, Co. Antrim

The fatal stabbing of Private Owen McLoughlin of Motherwell, Scotland took place during a brawl following a dance in Randalstown, Co. Antrim.

On 1st August 1942, elements of The Pioneer Corps organised a dance in Randalstown Orange Hall, Randalstown, Co. Antrim. As well as the British soldiers, locals, and members of the United States Army attended the event. Tensions between British and American troops grew throughout the evening and ended in tragedy.

A brawl took place towards the end of the evening that resulted in the death of Private Owen McLoughlin (13060340), a 24 year old from Motherwell, Scotland who served in The Pioneer Corps.

Private William E. Davis, a 23 year old of Cleburne, Texas, U.S.A. dealt the fatal knife blow in Randalstown, Co. Antrim. At a United States Army Court Martial on 1st September 1942, authorities found Davis guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. He received a sentence of 8 years’ imprisonment. He also received a dishonourable discharge from the United States Army. The hearing lasted 2 days rather than the usual single day hearing for a capital case.

During the Court Martial, the Coroner stated:

I trust that the unfortunate incident will not mar good relations between the British and American forces and that every Officer and N.C.O. will see that such events as this do not recur.

At the Court Martial, there was evidence of at 3 least 3 attacks on American soldiers by British soldiers during the evening.

Davis said that when dancing he saw an American being punched by two British, and he pulled away one soldier, whose name he later learned was McLoughlin. Outside the dance hall, he went to the aid of an American who was being held by two British. McLoughlin tried to hit him with a broom, and he followed him, intending to take it when someone stabbed him (Davis) in the back. He drew his knife and followed McLoughlin, who ran off.

Liverpool Daily Post, Wednesday 2nd September 1942.

Private John Stevenson, a Glaswegian in The Pioneer Corps drew his knife after witnessing the stabbing of McLoughlin. He entered the fray and stabbed American soldiers Private William E. Davis and Private George Seaton. At a Court Martial on 25th September 1942, authorities found Stevenson guilty of “wounding with intent to maim” and sentenced him to 3 years’ penal servitude. The original charge had been “wounding with intent to murder”.

Private H. Shepperd, also a Glaswegian in The Pioneer Corps was also involved in the melée at Randalstown orange Hall. He had struck American Engineers Sergeant A.A. Coggleshall and Private Edmund Jastrzebski with a bottle. The Court-Martial in September 1942 also found Shepperd guilty of “wounding with intent to main” and he received the same sentence as Stevenson.