British soldiers shot at dawn.

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by banjotrooper, Mar 29, 2007.

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  1. Can anyone help please? I know a total of 306 British soldiers were shot at dawn for military crimes in WW1, they have just received a full pardon from the government. This was due to the S.A.D. campaign. However, 346 soldiers are listed as being shot at dawn. The other 40 were probably executed for capital crimes. The S.A.D site doe's not give any information on these 40 men. I find myself visiting many shot at dawn soldiers graves around Ieper (Ypres) where I live. I am becoming uncomfortable about possibly placing a poppy cross over a blokes grave, who may have commited rape and murder! Is there a comprehensive list or book about, that includes where, why, how etc please? :?
  2. Always wondered why the SAD campaign didn't battle for these chaps aswell. After all, a number of those executed for murder were very probably suffering from PTSD brought about by their experiences in 'the trenches'. Using the SAD argument about PTSD and its effects on those executed for desertion, other military offences etc, surely some of the murderers were not responsible for their actions and deserved a blanket pardon aswell?

    Anyway, apologies, can't help with a definitive list.


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  3. Each to their own mate, but I can't relate to blokes who buggered, raped and murdered their way to a fireing squads post! Other ridiculous crimes maybe, but that is another issue. By the way, I partly agree with your answer, but there were also some terrible crimes committed by some pretty grim blokes too! Thanks for your comments.
  4. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    the 346 includes soldiers from the Empire & the 306 are UK only. Agood place to look at the names you are interested in is here:

    They make no mention of any of the 40 being criminals
  5. Damn! I was hoping that my tongue in cheek response would have come through a little more than it did. Must be slipping! Blanket pardons = complete shite!

    If memory serves there are two books that may assist:

    Cathryn Corns & John Hughes-Wilson's 'Blindfold and Alone'
    William Moore 'The thin Yellow Line' (a right good read and does contain a full list + offences)

    Failing that I am sure that the CWGC would have a list if you asked them.


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  6. Ventress

    Ventress LE Moderator

    I am sure people forget that a percentage of those shot were murderers, rapist etc, and were tried by the justice system of the day. You didnt see the Pte in the trenches rise up and speak out against such actions.

    Having had the honour to speak to a LCpl from the 1Bn East Lancs, back in 1990, he was very much in favour of the action. He said, "If my mates and I could wait in a trench under fire and then advance on the enemy without running away, then so should everyone else, and if they didnt put 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em!" He also didnt speak very highly of the Territorials or Kitcheners Army men. He recalled an attack at Ypres "Where the Territorials couldnt hold their weapons they were that scared!"
  7. What sounds tragic today was common place yesterday and the way of life and death. The laws and punishments were harsh and you knew what would would happen if broke these rules.
  8. Crikey Jonny I was just about to give you both barrels!
    This to me is more revisionist crap. We are not fit to stand at the graves of the people who fought that war and are not fit to judge the standards of those days. People seem to forget just how many people were aquitted of capital offences at court martial and how many of those convicted were later pardoned or had their sentences commuted.

    The 'Shot at Dawn' campaign was I hope the last of the 'Oh what a lovely War/Lions led by Donkeys' claptrap that we ever have to endure.
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  9. I'm ambivalent about this. It's very easy with the benefit of hindsight and the passing of 90 years to be shocked this sort of thing went on. But it's often overlooked that this was right at the dawn of modern warfare, the old school mentality of the thin red line still dominated.

    From what I understand of it, in the world of red coats and rank and file, the biggest killer of soldiers in a classical battle were routs and routs were caused by panicked men who ran away. The classical mindset still dominated in WWI so, by the standard of the time, these poor blokes weren't viewed as men suffering from PTSD, they were despised as unreliable and dangerous to all around them.

    It's understandable with the utter change both in modern society and warfare to look upon the poor sods that were executed as victims unjustly treated. But they were judged by the standards of the their time.

    I approve of the compassionate sentiment but I can't help thinking that this is more PC revisionist history creeping in again.

    OK, that's enough long-windedness from me for today!
  10. Re Ventress comment above. Just shows how, if one waits long enough, everything comes back again. The point his contact made is exactly the basis for my opposition to the blanket pardon when it was discussed here recently.
    Too late now but the pardon was wrong.
  11. agtee that the blanket pardon was a wrong way to approach this.It needed to be done on a case by case approach i feel , no matter how long it would have taken. a good programme that was on a couple of months back on Channel 4 and hosted by Ian Hislop from "Have i got news for you"- about this debate-said Haig had the final say on any firing squad action, he basicaly had the final yes or no, and it worked out that 1 in 10 men were shot at dawn , with Haig giving pardons or custodial sentences to the remainder. quite interesting.
    • Informative Informative x 2
  12. Not sure I agree with the comments made here. Ultimately they are buried as soldiers, if they commited crimes, they have certainly paid the price. Respect for the fallen should be regardless of crime.
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  13. Do Not Forget that some of these people Shot at Dawn were -
    1. Under the age to be in combat
    2. Were simply picked out of the line as their name was picked out of a hat as Haig decided that the advance was not as it should be and so certain battalions were to select soldiers and "Make an Example of them".
    3. In France an artillery officer was shot at Dawn for refusing to order the guns to "Drop Short" behind his own countrymen and to then advance the barrage towards his own troops giving them the option to walk into German machine guns or face their own Artillery Barrage.

    Some of these generals certainly treated the lives of the troops they commanded as no more worthy than the cattle a farmer was sending to slaughter.

    If anyone takes the time to sit down and read the transcripts of some of these court martials then they will see why a pardon had to be given across the board.
    • Bullshit Bullshit x 3
  14. Either give a reliable source or admit it's bullshit. No 1 I grant you, there were underage soldiers who were shot for desertion even after they admitted their age. No 2 is bullshit, as far as the British (and Commonwealth) Army is concerned. Nos 2 and 3 are both from an anti-war Hollywood movie, Paths of Glory.

    Now you're just being absurd. Do put away your Blackadder DVD and pick up some proper books (not referring to 'donkeys' in the title, btw), there's a good chap. These generals had sons and nephews among the junior officers, who were the first to die in any advance, so decisions were not taken lightly or randomly. And, of course, a rather disproportionate number of generals died in the war, so maybe they were equally careless with their own?

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