Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by PLANK, Feb 22, 2008.

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  1. Hi
    I have just been watching a super video film and the presenter was Ian Hislop. The prog was all about the injustices (in some cases) in the 1st WW and these resulted in the death penalty (they were shot at dawn).
    I am DO NOT wish to discuss the rights and wrongs of this but what I an wondering "were ANY allied soldiers/sailors or airmen dealt with in the same manner for similar offences ie: cowardice or desertion in the face of the enemy in WW2 ???
  2. Re your question about WWII, I would say, Plank, there was a change of default mindset between WWI and WWII. Certainly the death penalty existed in WWII, and thereafter, but not dispensed so freely or for such pompous or Imperial reasons of 'example'. Perhaps some understanding of combat fatigue and senior officers who were juniors in WWI and saw examples of stupidity they did not want to repeat.

    Incidents and numbers that compare directly with the cases of WWI I don't think you'll find for the British forces in WWII. These, for example, distinct from convictions for murder or treason. Somewhere I have a nominal record of CMs, and from memory even though there was a death penalty considered or even pronounced, the sentence was typically reduced or commuted. Have to say I’ve not made a study of this, and the one incident I did follow-up on the instigation of an eye witness to an alleged murder of a civilian, nothing was found.

    There was the instance of the mutiny at Salerno in Sept ’43, where at the resultant CM three men were sentenced to death which was later commuted. There’s an interesting Parliamentary address on this at Salerno Mutineers, and also a reasonable documentary made a few years ago which you may want to look out for, and the inevitable book.

    I believe it was a bit different in the US services, but perhaps they had a higher instance of prosecutions? For example, they had a very high instance of desertion to contend with in Italy.

  3. I believe Norman Cota had one man shot for desertion late 1944, I think that was the yanks only one, IIRC the fella had gone absent quite a few times.
  4. pte eddy slovak. usa was shot by firing squad in wwii.
    most other crimes comited by the americans were delt with by hangings-ie rape , murders ect..
  5. HMP Shepton Mallet, was handed over to the US Army 1940-45, a number were shot but due to complaints from the vicar across the way they built a topping shed (Its now the health care centre), the first hangings were a pigs ear so Thomas Pierrepoint did 13 of the 16 undertaken.
    The bullets are still in the wall of the prison.
    Shepton Mallet was nicknamed the "Glass house" because of its glass roof.
  6. A nurse FFS.
  7. Feel free to correct me but from my understanding of the topic:

    A) In WWI the majority of death sentences (for cowardice/mutiny or common law crimes) were commuted to life imprisonment.
    B) In WWII, the same applied but only common law crimes of murder etc actually resulted in an execution (and then rarely).

    This is a generalisation but if you are only just starting on your studies in this area it may give you a helpful starting point.

    I claim no particular expertise of this subject.
  8. IIRC WW1 it worked out to 10% of those given death sentences had them carried out, round about 300 odd.