Perpetuating the Blank Round Myth

#21
Re: Victor Silvester - I'm sure I've read that his account has a fair amount of poetic license. Can't find anything to back that up ATM. To be fair, the recollections of an elderly man of events over 60 years ago have to be taken with a pinch of salt. He claims to have participated in five firing squads - he likely served under six months in France, yet participated in some 2% of all British executions in WWI?

Edit - 5.4 million Brits served in France. Perhaps some 100 - 150 men were executed while Silvester was in France. The odds do not work in his favour.
 
#22
Re: Victor Sylvester - I'm sure I've read that his account has a fair amount of poetic license. Can't find anything to back that up ATM. To be fair, the recollections of an elderly man of events over 60 years ago have to be taken with a pinch of salt. He claims to have participated in five firing squads - he likely served under six months in France, yet participated in some 1.6% of all British executions in WWI?

Re: my comment about old soldiers frequently talking bollocks. I doubt that the CoC would make any soldier participate in more than one firing detail, let alone five. Sylvester's account also happens to mirror about five other individuals' "personal accounts" in small details...

The US WW2 firing squad procedures are fairly clear and in print, but they of course are not related to whatever procedures British forces may have used. The most credible British accounts are much as you might expect: no mention of blanks, just officers and NCOs striving to make the whole episode as quick, efficient and least-awful as possible.
 
#23
I have to wonder whether an army which would execute individuals for desertion would play such a game. Doesn't it signal that there's something wrong being done?

My gut instinct is that every opportunity would be taken to reinforce the message 'this is the just punishment for cowardice' and that would include having every member of the detail firing.
 
#25
The most credible British accounts are much as you might expect: no mention of blanks, just officers and NCOs striving to make the whole episode as quick, efficient and least-awful as possible.
Re Josef Jacobs; "At 7.12am on 15 August 1941, an eight-man firing squad composed from members of The Holding Battalion, Scots Guards, shot Joseph Jakobs. .......Later that day, a post-mortem was performed by Bernard Spilsbury. One shot had hit Jakobs in the head, the other seven had been around the target area."

So that could be eight live rounds with one Jock deciding to speed up Jacob's demise.

Or 7 live, one blank or miss and a rupert with the Webley. A miss is unlikely at that range, IMHO
 
#27
[h=1]
Josef Jakobs

The Execution
[/h] [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Ten days later, Jakobs was taken to the old miniature .22 rifle range in the Tower's grounds, where the First World War spies had been shot, and placed in a brown Windsor chair (due to his damaged right leg) and a white lint target was then pinned on his chest over his heart. At 7.12am on 15 August 1941, an eight-man firing squad composed from members of The Holding Battalion, Scots Guards, shot Joseph Jakobs. The execution was witnessed by Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Gerard, the Deputy Provost Marshal for the London District.

[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Later that day, a post-mortem was performed by Bernard Spilsbury. One shot had hit Jakobs in the head, the other seven had been around the target area. An inquest held that afternoon decided that Jakobs had died of "Injuries to the heart caused by the passage of bullets", and the inquest verdict was "Execution of judicial sentence of death in accordance with military law". Jakobs was then taken from The Tower of London, and was buried in a civilian grave at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, Northwest London. The grave was not marked, and the area used for Jakob's grave has since been re-used.[/FONT]

http://ww2today.com/15th-august-1941-the-last-execution-in-the-tower-of-london

Most spies and traitors were hanged at Wandsworth Prison during the war. The decision to execute Jakobs by Firing Squad at the Tower appears to be because he was still suffering from his injuries – he could not stand up. He was blindfolded and placed in a chair for the execution – the officer in charge gave a silent signal to the Firing Squad and he was shot dead.
 
#28
Someone mentioned that they might not have blanks under field conditions, which is true enough -- but executions were not summarily carried out in the field but behind the line.

On a separate point I thought the majority of those shot at dawn were repeat offenders or had done something more serious than desertion or cowardice.
 
#29
Someone mentioned that they might not have blanks under field conditions, which is true enough -- but executions were not summarily carried out in the field but behind the line.

On a separate point I thought the majority of those shot at dawn were repeat offenders or had done something more serious than desertion or cowardice.
Theres a huge "shot at dawn" thread somewhere here; we probably don't want to start that all over again!
 
#30
Most spies and traitors were hanged at Wandsworth Prison during the war. The decision to execute Jakobs by Firing Squad at the Tower appears to be because he was still suffering from his injuries – he could not stand up. He was blindfolded and placed in a chair for the execution .
Have you seen the size of the trapdoor at Wandsworth, old Albert Pierrepoint could have seen him off sitting on piano stool with a baby grand with the St Winnifred's school choir on his knee!
 
#31
#32
I thought that one reason for the use of a blank was to give a bit of legal cover to the firing squad. As a guilty verdict requires 'beyond reasonable doubt' at least 1 (random) member of the firing squad was an innocent man if there should be any comeback.
 
#33
Have you seen the size of the trapdoor at Wandsworth, old Albert Pierrepoint could have seen him off sitting on piano stool with a baby grand with the St Winnifred's school choir on his knee!
A mental image that I will file away for future use (not sure exactly when though)
 
#34
Two points:

Victor Sylvester - pretty much discredited as a source.

The blank - I've always assumed that, if it was used, it was to allow a soldier in the firing squad up to the moment he fired to believe he wasn't going to fire a live round.
 
#35
in the 2 or 3 executions by firing squad in the US in the last 40 years, one of the rifles has been loaded with a "blank", a wax bullet in at least one case.
Gary Gilmore's shirt had five holes in it and there were five marksmen. This implies that your fact might not be one.
 
#36
I thought that one reason for the use of a blank was to give a bit of legal cover to the firing squad. As a guilty verdict requires 'beyond reasonable doubt' at least 1 (random) member of the firing squad was an innocent man if there should be any comeback.
Sounds like bollocks. As the firing squad were detailed to the task they weren't at any risk of being charged if the victim turned out to be innocent.
 
#37
The blank - I've always assumed that, if it was used, it was to allow a soldier in the firing squad up to the moment he fired to believe he wasn't going to fire a live round.
I'd always assumed that was what it was was done for (if indeed it was) interesting thread though, given me a few things to look up and read today.
 
#38
Sounds like bollocks. As the firing squad were detailed to the task they weren't at any risk of being charged if the victim turned out to be innocent.
Slightly off topic but I believe the "I was only following orders" defence is null and void.
 
#39
Gary Gilmore's shirt had five holes in it and there were five marksmen. This implies that your fact might not be one.
So claimed the executed murderers brother. I've seen a couple of references to there being six rifles - one loaded with a blank - but there was only 5 riflemen. Doesn't make sense.
 
#40
For that Dostler execution - given that he executed enemy soldiers dressed either in civilian clothes or disguised as soldiers from the other side (US soldiers who landed in Italy dressed as Italians), what was he executed for?

Was it just a 'revenge' execution by the Yanks or have I misunderstood the laws about executing spies?
 

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