Firing squad drill

#1
All the talk of a coup in the intelligence cell has got my twisted little mind thinking. Every time I have seen a British or Commonwealth firing squad depicted in film or television, the procedure has been carried out differently.

Was the procedure standardised in the drill manuals, or was it ad libbed by the officer in charge? If it was standardised, who was present, and what was the procedure?

I know this is a rather specialised and morbid part of military history, but I think it is interesting nonetheless.
 
#2
Due to the pruning of the defence budget I have an economic idea for firing squad drill which I intend to use on those responsible.

"FIX BAYONETS!"
 
#3
stoatman said:
All the talk of a coup in the intelligence cell has got my twisted little mind thinking. Every time I have seen a British or Commonwealth firing squad depicted in film or television, the procedure has been carried out differently.

Was the procedure standardised in the drill manuals, or was it ad libbed by the officer in charge? If it was standardised, who was present, and what was the procedure?

I know this is a rather specialised and morbid part of military history, but I think it is interesting nonetheless.
What about the Target I trust they had an appropriate way to die can't have them slovenly sloaching over and groaning, then bleeding every where. This is the British Army we do have some standards
 
#4
They were run by Assistant Provost Marshals. Look up WW1 history and you should find something about it. If not watch more Blackadder...
 
#5
Loading one rifle with blanks was the old way of doing it as well, so each soldier could say that they hadn't fired the fatal shot.
 
#7
Praetorian said:
Loading one rifle with blanks was the old way of doing it as well, so each soldier could say that they hadn't fired the fatal shot.
That's one I've always doubted -- even in the heat and stress of the moment, you would know the difference.

I would also assume that the firing squad would receive the commands "load" and "ready", rather than being passed preloaded rifles . One film depiction of the execution by Australians of a Japanese war criminal certainly included these commands.
 

cpunk

LE
Moderator
#9
It varied in format. Normally a squad of 8-12 from the condemned man's unit, commanded by an officer who would fire a 'coup de grace' into the victim's head after the first volley had been fired. Usually it was done more or less privately, but on occasions - usually when there was a perceived disciplinary problem in the unit - the condemned man's battalion was formed up to watch and every now and again, representative sub-units from the whole brigade or division were formed up.

There's a good discussion of how it was done in Judge Anthony Babington's 'For the Sake of Example'.
 
#10
#11
stoatman said:
Praetorian said:
Loading one rifle with blanks was the old way of doing it as well, so each soldier could say that they hadn't fired the fatal shot.
That's one I've always doubted -- even in the heat and stress of the moment, you would know the difference.

I would also assume that the firing squad would receive the commands "load" and "ready", rather than being passed preloaded rifles . One film depiction of the execution by Australians of a Japanese war criminal certainly included these commands.
I've always assumed (if the blank thing is actually true) that it was to allow members of the firing squad to believe up to the point of pulling the trigger that there was a chance they were not going to be the one who shot the guy. This assumes pre-loaded rifles.

The Army being the Army the correct procedure must be documented somewhere.



OaC
 
#12
So it would seem that there was no Laid Down Procedure for the Execution of Troops in the field by Firing Squad.
The Official Hangman did however attend a Training Course, at a prison, then acted as No. 2 on several executions, before caring out the task as Hangman.
john
 
#13
Double post elininated - Sorry.
I am a bit tired
 
#14
A few years ago a newspaper here in Boston had an interesting interview with an old man who lived just north of Boston. He was the hangman who hung the Nuremburg war crimilnals. He had been a Sgt. in the MP's and assigned as a hangman.

I mention this as he described material he had received from the British which had a chart involving body weight, neck size etc to calculate the slack left for the drop to ensure the neck breaks but the head does not come off (very messy). Apparently the US did not have a written procedure at the time.

The reporter asked if he had any regrets and he said he had none and described how evil the NAZI leaders were.

If any of you find such a chart maybe you could send a copy to the Iragi's as they seem to need technical assistance.
 
#15
I would guess that it would be 'normal' foot/rifle drill right up to the the point where 'Ready, aim, FIRE' was given.

I seem to recall Edward Heath had the dubious honour of commanding a firing squad as a Gunner officer, bet he often wished it was Maggie...
 
#16
I had to do a 40 min lesson on Summary execution back in the early eighties and the procedure was very much alive and extant.
I believe it is somewhere tucked away in the 'Provost Manual' but must be in QR's somewhere.
I don't recall the blank thing, amazing how much Hollywood influences our memories.
I do remember that the actual 'firing squad' is made up from the ranks of the victims unit, that there is a MO present but that it was the duty of the attending 'Provost Officer' to deliver the coup de grace if the unit fail in their duty to kill the prisoner. The provost officer need not to have been a commissioned rank.
Unit provost staff need not get excited, they were referring to RMP.
 
#17
Airfix said:
I would guess that it would be 'normal' foot/rifle drill right up to the the point where 'Ready, aim, FIRE' was given.

I seem to recall Edward Heath had the dubious honour of commanding a firing squad as a Gunner officer, bet he often wished it was Maggie...
In September 1945 he commanded a firing squad to execute a Polish soldier convicted of rape and murder
 
#18
Praetorian said:
Loading one rifle with blanks was the old way of doing it as well, so each soldier could say that they hadn't fired the fatal shot.
Probably an element of myth to this notion. After all, you'd notice the absence of recoil.
 
#19
DavidBOC said:
A few years ago a newspaper here in Boston had an interesting interview with an old man who lived just north of Boston. He was the hangman who hung the Nuremburg war crimilnals. He had been a Sgt. in the MP's and assigned as a hangman.

I mention this as he described material he had received from the British which had a chart involving body weight, neck size etc to calculate the slack left for the drop to ensure the neck breaks but the head does not come off (very messy). Apparently the US did not have a written procedure at the time.

The reporter asked if he had any regrets and he said he had none and described how evil the NAZI leaders were.

If any of you find such a chart maybe you could send a copy to the Iragi's as they seem to need technical assistance.
The official table of drops is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Official_table_of_drops

The problem with reference to the American method is that the British method uses a thinner rope with a free running loop whereas the American method used the conventional knot which, in the vast majority of cases, applies the force to the neck differently (laterally as opposed to a combination of laterally and torsionally).

Not all of those hanged at Nuremberg by the Americans went instantly: Von Ribbentrop, for instance, only went when an MP jumped on the rope with him and pulled his head to one side. Apparently, Pierrepoint was absolutely appalled at the incompetence of the American executioners.
 
#20
GordonBrown said:
I had to do a 40 min lesson on Summary execution back in the early eighties and the procedure was very much alive and extant.
I believe it is somewhere tucked away in the 'Provost Manual' but must be in QR's somewhere.
I don't recall the blank thing, amazing how much Hollywood influences our memories.
I do remember that the actual 'firing squad' is made up from the ranks of the victims unit, that there is a MO present but that it was the duty of the attending 'Provost Officer' to deliver the coup de grace if the unit fail in their duty to kill the prisoner. The provost officer need not to have been a commissioned rank.
Unit provost staff need not get excited, they were referring to RMP.
I remember that lesson :) It was one of the RMP NCO's tasks to ensure the post or legs of a 'suitable wooden chair' were buried to the correct depth. The provost officer was to replace a live round with a blank round from one the Firing parties weapons etc etc.
I believe the actual procedure was removed from the Provost manual in the late 90's once Blair had pledged the UK to one of the early Human Rights draft documents.
 

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