Shot At Dawn

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by Drew5233, Sep 20, 2009.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    My First post and pictures from the National Memorial Arboretum.

    This was by far the most thought provoking memorial I have seen to date in the arboretum, sadly for the wrong reasons in some cases. The location of this tragic memorial is tucked away surrounded by trees with its back towards the River Tame. It's location makes it the furthest away from the 'main attractions' and for some probably too far to venture to.

    The official line seems to be that it was placed the furthest to the east so it is aptly and ironically the first to feel the sun at dawn but call me cynical I would have had a direct path to it rather than a one day camel ride across uneven ground to find it.

    Anyway rant over and here's the picture listed as Memorial 329 Shot At Dawn:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    During WW1 approximately 306 soldiers were shot for cowardice and desertion. Nearly all of them were sentenced to death are a short trial with no opportunity for a defence hearing.

    This statue is modelled on Private Herbert Burden of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers who was shot at Ypres in 1915 aged 17.

    Behind the statue you can see some of the 306 stakes each bearing a name of all those who were shot at dawn during WW1.

    :poppy::poppy::poppy:





    Some further info in the links below:

    List of cemeteries containing burials of men executed under the Army Act during the Great War:
    World War One Cemeteries, Shot at Dawn cemetery list

    Pardoned 90 years too late:
    BBC NEWS | UK | England | Shot at dawn, pardoned 90 years on
     
    Steve G likes this.
  2. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Nice pictures Andy.

    Not a very nice piece of British Military History.:poppy:

    Nice to see recognition of the former mistakes made, but not really compensation for what the families went through at the time and long after.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Tom,

    I think it's worth mentioning Janet Booth at this point. She started the campaign in 1992 to have all the men pardoned and she had a personal connection to the pardon. Her grandfather, Private Harry Farr was shot in 1916 for cowardice.

    The family took the MOD to the High Court and won and as a result of the verdict a pardon was given to all the men in 2006.
     
  4. CROONAERT

    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    During WW1 approximately 306 soldiers were shot for cowardice and desertion.

    The 306 is also made up by those who were executed for :
    Sleeping at Post (2)
    Disobedience (4)
    Quitting Post (6)
    Striking a Senior Officer (4)
    casting away arms (2)
    Threatening a senior officer (1)

    Desertion was , by far, the biggest reason for executions (272) with murder (63) being next (though I don't believe these received a pardon?). There were 15 mutineers executed and then the next main reason was cowardice with 14 executions.

    In total, there were 3,342 death sentences passed by british Army military Courts M , with 438 of these sentences being carried out... a far better chance of survival than if you were on "death row" in the French Army (whose total executions is unknown, but, because of the "Marne Order" of 1914 (repealed mid-war) would almost certainly run into the thousands!).

    Nice shots though (no pun intended!)... it's somewhere i'll have to get to myself soon, I think.

    Dave.
     
  5. Steve G

    Steve G Senior Member

    That hit the mark. (Dear lord! I'm Not trying to out do Dave in the bad puns race either!) I have strong, and not very mixed, feelings about all that.

    You have a 'Drink', Andy. By way of thanks for the 'Camel Trip' and that heart breaking photo :poppy:
     
  6. militarycross

    militarycross Very Senior Member

    Would be nice if Canada did the same for the 25 who suffered the same fate. What is remarkable in our case is that there was a disproportionate number of francophone soldiers shot as compared to the number who served.

    The other remarkable element of this is I have seen some of the Notification Letters that went home to the family, with "the marginally noted soldier having been executed for desertion" or words to that effect. Weird lot in the department of Militia at the time.

    great post. Thanks.

    Be interesting study to see what gallantry had previously been ascribed to these three hundred before they met their fate at the hands of a system that failed them. I am sure there were some DCMs and other awards if it were examined.

    phil
     
  7. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    For many years I campaigned to have the names cleared of all blame. The great majority of those shot, were sick and shell shocked. It was with some satisfaction that the Government did something about it.
    Perhaps now those shot at dawn will rest easy in their graves.
    I hope so.
    Sapper
     
  8. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Throughout wars but notably during the Vietnam War there has been a conflict amongst doctors about sending distressed soldiers back to combat. During the Vietnam War this reached a peak with much discussion about the ethics of this process. Proponents of the PIE principles argue that it leads to a reduction of long-term disability but opponents argue that combat stress reactions lead to long-term problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.


    Thankfully, we've progressed to the point where we don't execute sick men any longer but the quote above does give one pause. The human psyche and prolonged combat is difficult to reconcile.
     
  9. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    I think it's a quite superb memorial. I hope to visit there very soon.

    I find the subject of the men Shot at Dawn fascinating. So much so I've started a blog on it. It will contain transcriptions of the FGCM of each of the 306 men executed that are currently held at TNA.

    Blindfold and Alone
     
  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Australia was the only country that did not want its soldiers (all volunteers) to be executed. The 129 Australians (including 119 deserters) that were sentenced to death during the war (117 in France) were not shot.
     
  11. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    Would be nice if Canada did the same for the 25 who suffered the same fate. What is remarkable in our case is that there was a disproportionate number of francophone soldiers shot as compared to the number who served.



    phil


    Canada made an apology in 2001, the men have been written into the Book of Remembrance.

    Not good enough ?
     
  12. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Tom,

    I think it's worth mentioning Janet Booth at this point. She started the campaign in 1992 to have all the men pardoned and she had a personal connection to the pardon. Her grandfather, Private Harry Farr was shot in 1916 for cowardice.

    The family took the MOD to the High Court and won and as a result of the verdict a pardon was given to all the men in 2006.

    A copy of the pardon is attached to each man's file at TNA. Here is one as an example:

    [​IMG]
     
    Smudger Jnr likes this.
  13. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    What angered me for so many years when I was campaigning for these men, is that eventually they were pardoned when that still gives the impression that they did commit an offence, when in reality a great many of those executed were suffering battle exhaustion, and were out of their minds.... To shoot mentally sick men is utterly unforgivable, and is a crime in itself
     
  14. Thunderbox

    Thunderbox Member

    At risk of inflaming the thread, I do not agree either with the blanket pardon, or with the emotive supposition that those executed were all helpless victims of undiagnosed shell-shock, etc.

    There was certainly no legal basis for re-judging cases after nearly 100 years, when no witnesses or fresh evidence are available. The pardons are political act, in line with the current habit of apologising for other acts of our ancestors that are now held to be unsavoury.

    I don't intend to offend those who have campaigned for this pardon, or open a heated debate; I merely to point out that there are two sides to this, and that a fair number of veterans/historians who have examined this aspect of WW1 feel that the executions took place in a context that is often not comprehended by today's generation.
     
  15. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    I will not disagree with the argument that they were not all victims of shell shock. Far from it as there were those who absconded before ever serving in the front line. As for the pardon I think its a matter of personal conviction. Either you view it as a political act or a gesture of compassion from a more fortunate and dare I say it enlightened generation?
     
  16. Thunderbox

    Thunderbox Member

    I personally wouldn't accept the more "enlightened" bit, but grant that it is an act typical of a generation largely unable to comprehend the world as it was 100 years ago, let alone the issues of managing c.5 million conscript soldiers over the four years of that awful war.
     
  17. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Nothing to do with changing attitudes for me. The fact that Haig lied to Lloyd George and others when he claimed that all defendants had been cleared by a medical board - that NO soldier stood trial without a board and that any soldier deemed unfit by a board was tried. Sadly later on Lloyd George knew this to be untrue and did nothing. Haig whilst writing a dispatch praising the army medical service saw fit to overrule their advice when it did not fit in with his view that sick soldiers were malingerers. Sharpen a unit up with an execution! True to our national characteristics and ability to cover up, when Haig died hundreds of thousands turned out to see their commander off. His abilities as a commander are for a different argument - should there be pardons? Yes on the grounds that many could not have looked justice in the eye due legal process was not followed, a miscarriage of justice - nothing to do with emotion then or now.
     
  18. Thunderbox

    Thunderbox Member

    Depends entirely upon your perception of history, and of your perception - or experience - of wartime military necessity.

    I see a normal wartime military law process, with very considerable resources allocated to the judicial process - and with particular care in the conduct of the various (and numerous) capital offences.

    There were about a million courts martial during WW1, and millions of medical assessments of one sort or another. Included in the CMs were tens of thousands involving charges that were capital offences even under normal civilian law (rape, murder, arson, etc). Of these, just a tiny fraction eventually resulted in an execution.

    When I look at the case records, I see the proper involvement of witnesses and lawyers in the due process of the court. Having sat on CMs myself, I can also see the tell-tale signs that the prosecution proceedings have often been reduced to that necessary to convict: believe it or not, CMs usually seek to minimise the record of the defendant. Its clear that capital convictions were very closely considered indeed.

    An emotive subject with, by the passage of time, no consensual resolution possible.
     
  19. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Perception and experience - I shall decline to answer that.
     
  20. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    When I look at the case records, I see the proper involvement of witnesses and lawyers in the due process of the court.

    Which of the files can you see the involvement of lawyers in?
     

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