Shot at dawn

#1
The Minister is taking the opportunity of his position to impose his own opinions on a matter which has been exhaustively examined over many years. One would think there are better matters for his Civil Servants to be researching and submitting solutions. I regard his alleged conduct to be an abuse of his position. Would we be happy with, say, one of the Streatham Common Wanderers being appointed and asking for priority on new proposals to integrate gay, lesbian, transexual and bisexual soldiers more widely than now?
There is a case going through the courts. Why not leave the matter to that route?
I have no real opinion of right or wrong on the question of the executions. The PTSD 'experts' will use this proposed review as a lever. My sympathy lies with those who resisted the stress of the massacre going on around them and did their duty. We will never know whether British lives were lost as a result of the breaking of one of those subsequently shot.
 
#2
OldRedCap said:
The Minister is taking the opportunity of his position to impose his own opinions on a matter which has been exhaustively examined over many years. One would think there are better matters for his Civil Servants to be researching and submitting solutions. I regard his alleged conduct to be an abuse of his position. Would we be happy with, say, one of the Streatham Common Wanderers being appointed and asking for priority on new proposals to integrate gay, lesbian, transexual and bisexual soldiers more widely than now?
There is a case going through the courts. Why not leave the matter to that route?
I have no real opinion of right or wrong on the question of the executions. The PTSD 'experts' will use this proposed review as a lever. My sympathy lies with those who resisted the stress of the massacre going on around them and did their duty. We will never know whether British lives were lost as a result of the breaking of one of those subsequently shot.
I agree entirely, the trouble with people like this is that they insist on carrying their own pet prejudices and opinions with them when they enter higher office (see Mo Mowlam and Ulstr Unionists for example!). This subject has been exhaustively covered over the past few years but the campaigners pay absolutely no heed ot any of the arguments or reasons given. If they pardon all of these guys not only will it be a great insult to all those who did their duty and stood their ground but we may as well pardon everybody accused of anything before say, the introduction of PACE, as their convictions are unsafe by current standards. There's an excellent chapter on the subject in Gordon Corrigans book "Mud Blood and Poppycock" which I urge anyone interested in the Great War to run out and buy.
 
#3
...and, in reality, what does it change? They were shot 90 years ago, it will not bring them back or change the opinion of those who knew them. This is another example of politicians posturing to prove their trendy credentials. Also, what of the unfortunate servicemen in the firing squads? Are they now to be considered murderers?
 
#4
Isn't this the same sort of thing as having people demand Britain apologise for the Slave Trade of hundreds of years ago? It appears the only people upset about Britains involvement... Is the british. I just returned from Africa, an they don't give a damn about that stuff, it happened so long ago. Why do people insist on bringing this sort of stuff up time and again?
 
#5
One wonders how all of you would have felt if it was one of your relatives who had been shot at dawn? Are you aware that the wives of those shot received not one penny from the state at a time when welfare did not exist? Thos poor women (and their children) spent the rest of their lives scraping an existence.

The whole point of the enquiry is to show that the attitude of Senior Officers right up to, and including, Haig was that other ranks were mere canon fodder. Haig is on record as being apoplectic over the fact that the Australian High Command refused to execute any of their troops. His comment was something like, "It is only by executing some of them that discipline will be maintained". That says it all I think. Who are any one of us to say that they were or were not suffering from shell shock? Are we medical experts? Was Haig and his staff? No? I thought not.

It is easy to judge after the event, Gentleman.
 
B

bokkatankie

Guest
#6
We will be apologising for Dresden next.....oops we already did, still at least we have not apologised for Bloody Sunday.......
 
#7
Andyroo said:
One wonders how all of you would have felt if it was one of your relatives who had been shot at dawn? Are you aware that the wives of those shot received not one penny from the state at a time when welfare did not exist? Thos poor women (and their children) spent the rest of their lives scraping an existence.

The whole point of the enquiry is to show that the attitude of Senior Officers right up to, and including, Haig was that other ranks were mere canon fodder. Haig is on record as being apoplectic over the fact that the Australian High Command refused to execute any of their troops. His comment was something like, "It is only by executing some of them that discipline will be maintained". That says it all I think. Who are any one of us to say that they were or were not suffering from shell shock? Are we medical experts? Was Haig and his staff? No? I thought not.

It is easy to judge after the event, Gentleman.
So judging after the event is okay if you do it?
 
#8
I wasn't saying that shooting soldiers for l'encouragement autres is a GOOD idea, i'm saying it did happen nearly a hundred years ago, it's been looked at an awful lot in the past decade at least, does it need to be dredged up time and again?
 
#9
Andyroo said:
One wonders how all of you would have felt if it was one of your relatives who had been shot at dawn? Are you aware that the wives of those shot received not one penny from the state at a time when welfare did not exist? Thos poor women (and their children) spent the rest of their lives scraping an existence.

The whole point of the enquiry is to show that the attitude of Senior Officers right up to, and including, Haig was that other ranks were mere canon fodder. Haig is on record as being apoplectic over the fact that the Australian High Command refused to execute any of their troops. His comment was something like, "It is only by executing some of them that discipline will be maintained". That says it all I think. Who are any one of us to say that they were or were not suffering from shell shock? Are we medical experts? Was Haig and his staff? No? I thought not.

It is easy to judge after the event, Gentleman.
It is always dangerous to impose the attitudes of the modern day on the actions of the past. The Bentley/Craig case is a classic in this; when Bentley was hanged in the 1950s society knew exactly what it was doing and why, that's how the law stood then. When they hanged a women at the West Gate in Canterbury in 1811 for sheep stealing that's how the law stood then - should we be granting her a posthumous pardon?

When many WW1 vets were still around they were pretty much of one voice - 'you got shot for desertion; we stayed and did our bit they didn't'.

The vast majority of those shot (300 or so out of the thousands of sentences handed down) were second or third time offenders. Yes it was a harsh way of dealing with people; just over 20 years later the Army had become more enlightened and whilst sentences of death for desertion were handed down in WW2 none were carried out in the British Army.

WW1 was a particularly brutal war; the British High Command, particularly after 1917, was scared lest the Army mutinied in their opinion this called for robust discipline. That's the way it was then.
 
#11
Andyroo said:
One wonders how all of you would have felt if it was one of your relatives who had been shot at dawn? Are you aware that the wives of those shot received not one penny from the state at a time when welfare did not exist? Thos poor women (and their children) spent the rest of their lives scraping an existence.

The whole point of the enquiry is to show that the attitude of Senior Officers right up to, and including, Haig was that other ranks were mere canon fodder. Haig is on record as being apoplectic over the fact that the Australian High Command refused to execute any of their troops. His comment was something like, "It is only by executing some of them that discipline will be maintained". That says it all I think. Who are any one of us to say that they were or were not suffering from shell shock? Are we medical experts? Was Haig and his staff? No? I thought not.

It is easy to judge after the event, Gentleman.
As someone mentioned earlier in the thread, have a look at Mud, Blood and Poppycock where there is a detailed examination on firing squads and comparisons of the other combatants. It should also be noted that the majority of death sentences were actually commuted. I agree that some of those shot probably had shell shock, were under age or just couldn't take any more but without doing a case by case study there is no way of giving a pardon. Certainly there should not be a blanket one as sought earlier, as some of the executions were for desertion where the individuals were found in civvies way behind the lines. Look at the numbers executed in the French Army - I don't see a call for pardons over there :wink:
 
#12
As my history teacher drummed into us, Hindsight is both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful, as you can see everything at once, from different sides, and see it all come together. Terrible because you see things that today are unthoughtof, but which were the norm then. Judgement on the past is really not something anyone should do, rahter the past should be assessed in context.
 
#14
This isn't a case of imposing present attitudes on the past, the majority of these guys who were shot were extremely brave soldiers who were cynically used as an example as a warning to other soldiers. In other words their prosecutions and executions were politically driven, sounds familiar? If anything, we could put the attitude of Senior Officers then quiet neatly into a modern context. Maybe one or two of the condemned men were cowards, does that mean those that weren't should be condemned for all eternity?

The real cowards were those that sent these men to their deaths from the safety of the rear areas. They were not in a moral position to judge these men, neither are we. May they all Rest in Peace.
 
#15
I too, cannot recommend strongly enough Gordon Corrigan's study into this, which dispels a number of the myths that a number of the posters here clearly still subscribe too (as did I, to an extent - as we are all susceptible to propaganda).

Capital punishment, rightly or wrongly, was the known penallty for the relevant offences (including murder - should we pardon those who murdered in the Army but not in civilian life?) Medical evidence was admissable; there was a horrible war on.

They may or may not have been brave soldiers, but they certainly were convicted of a criminal offence carrying the death penalty after a due legal process, which was entirely appropriate to the time.
 
#16
The due legal process of a 15 minute hearing, with no appeal? I'm just glad the condemned soldiers could rely on the sound common sense of their brave Senior Officers to give them a fair trial!!

It's lucky we no longer have the death sentence now because many of us are being prosecuted under legal process, even without any real evidence.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
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#17
Warrior_Poet said:
The real cowards were those that sent these men to their deaths from the safety of the rear areas. They were not in a moral position to judge these men, neither are we. May they all Rest in Peace.
Bollox (apart from the last sentence). Learn a bit about the matter first, please. The Generals of the time had a pretty high attrition rate - the 'lions led by donkeys' scenario was debunked years ago by historians willing to do a bit of actual work on the subject.

Next you'll be saying that the 'War Poets' represented the views of the Army. Utter cant. My Grandfather, God rest his Soul, had pretty firm views about these men - and it wasn't that they were poor political pawns, either. He served through the War, having joined the TA in 1914. His views are certainly more typical of the situation and views of his time than those of modern historians.

Rant/Off :evil:

Edited to add, in reply to the above post - yes, some are being prosecuted - but few are being found guilty. It's a LEGAL system, after all.
 
#18
I've been told I'm slightly to the right of Hitler and Gengis Khan where dealing with law breaking scroats is concerned. Life should mean life, 15 years means 15 years and you get EXTRA time added being bad and FCUK ALL off for being good!

However (I just love a 'however'!), CAPITAL PUNISHMENT AS A DETERENT DOESN'T WORK, IT NEVER HAS, IT NEVER WILL!!!

It didn't work in the WW I trenches, it still isn't working in the 'Land of the Free' (that always makes me laugh, that one!).

Those that were 'shot at dawn' for desertion deserve our understanding and respect if for no other reason than they were the most truley ARRSEfcuked squaddies in modern British history! At least those on ops today (all volunteer prof soldiers) get some chance of help not being able to cope with the riggers of the job, where as all that those who were shot at dawn got was a 12-shot volly of .303 from their mates!

And before you knock them, they ALL made a contribution to the war effort before the act that got them shot - including the 17 year old boy who had joined under age - a fact that was made known to the powers that be and dismissed before he got his nation's 12-round thanks!

For those that would like to know some of the fact/figures of the matter, have a look at http://www.shotatdawn.org.uk

And for the one or two posters subscribing to the 'they had a trial and it was legal' argument, you may like to read the following and hang your heads in shame:

Below is a copy of a letter from Brigadier General H O'Donnell who commanded the 106th Infantry Division. He appears to have acted like a dull "donkey" in condemning soldiers to death. It is difficult to think of anything so scandalously crude. Any sense of justice was callously betrayed. This case involved six soldiers - Lance-Corporal's J Macdonald and P Goggins, and Pte's T Ritchie, D Forrest, A Davies and M Dowsey.





I forward herewith the Proceedings of a Field General Court Marital in the case of the men marginally noted.


In each case the men have been found guilty of the charge and have been sentenced to "Death". I am doubtful, however, if the evidence is sufficient for a conviction. From enquiries made the men in character and behaviour appear to be of the average in their battalion.


The battalion, however, has not done well in the fighting line. They suffered somewhat severely from heavy shelling while in the SOMME fighting in July and were very shaky in the advanced trenches before GUILLEMONT in August.


I am reluctantly compelled to recommend that should the finding be confirmed the sentence be carried out for the purpose of example and to show that cowardice in the presence of the enemy will not be tolerated in the British Army.


H. O'Donnell Brig-Gen 1 1/17


Personally, I feel that EVERY serviceman executed for MILITARY offenses deserves as postumous pardon, whether it be for desertion or, in one case, not putting his cap on and working in the rear area!
 
#19
CheekieNorthernMonkie said:
in one case, not putting his cap on and working in the rear area!
He was dealt with for disobeying an order. He had a poor discipline history. The order he disobeyed was to put his cap on and get stuck in.
We - here and now - do not know if execution was a deterrent. It did not completely stop people leaving their post or falling asleep on guard duty. It may have reduced the number there would have been had no punishment been imposed for these offences.
My original posting was about the Minister and his abuse of his position to serve a personal whim. The question as to whether or not he had a point was one I had hoped to avoid. My own opinion is that the ones executed were victims of the war just as much as those killed in the front line. There is no purpose in 'clearing their name'. When was the last report of someone being taunted as the relative of a coward? The dead are beyond insult. To what end an inscription on a stone now abandoned and irrelevant? Is that all their life was worth?
 
#20
Warrior_Poet said:
This isn't a case of imposing present attitudes on the past, the majority of these guys who were shot were extremely brave soldiers who were cynically used as an example as a warning to other soldiers. In other words their prosecutions and executions were politically driven, sounds familiar? If anything, we could put the attitude of Senior Officers then quiet neatly into a modern context. Maybe one or two of the condemned men were cowards, does that mean those that weren't should be condemned for all eternity?

The real cowards were those that sent these men to their deaths from the safety of the rear areas. They were not in a moral position to judge these men, neither are we. May they all Rest in Peace.
Well said WarriorPoet.

At no time in my post did I say there should be a blanket pardon. What, however, I did say is that their families suffered because of the executions.

The executions were used as a means of scaring troops into remaining at their posts. I don't ever remember reading about Haig and his staff being knee deep in blood soaked mud nor picking lice from their bodies. Haig was callous in his attitude and gave not one jot for the lot of the serviceman living in the squalid conditions in the trenches. The Germans treated their troops far better. Their dug-outs were far superior and helped them lead a better existence in the line.
 

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