Thursday, November 09, 2006

Time to honour soldiers shot at dawn...

More than 300 British soldiers executed in the First World War have been officially pardoned with yesterday’s Royal Assent of the Armed Forces Act 2006 – just in time for them to be included in Acts of Remembrance this weekend.

The Government pardons remove the dishonour of execution and recognise that the firing squad was not a fate the deserved by such soldiers as 20 year old Privates George Collins and Charles Kirman, both of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

(see my August archive for details of their cases).

Many of them were brave men who volunteered, served with distinction, but were shot for cowardice after suffering shell-shock after months in the hell-hole trenches.

Pardons for the 300+ men shot at dawn by their own side - even 90 years late - finally removes the awful stigma their families had to live with for decades.

At Remembrance Day services this weekend, as we honour those who gave their lives in countless conflicts of the past Century - as well as those serving us today - I hope that the executed soldiers of the First World War will be given special mention for the first time.


Anonymous said...

Why SPECIAL mention? Why should they be honoured over the men who followed their sense of duty to their deaths fighting the enemy?

fairdealphil said...

Michael: Special on this occasion to mark their pardon and include them in acts of remembrance, after 90 years of shame.

ps...hope you are enjoying the results of American elections half as much as I am.

Anonymous said...

We've been remembering the others for 90 years now (and long may we do so): these wretched people deserve something special at long last.

Who decides who is a coward? And what gives someone the right to murder a young man because he is afraid of what is a truly horrific situation? It is inhuman. Those who have made these decisions, and the men who had to fire the shots, are as much casualties of war as the poor blighters who were shot. Wounds happen to the mind and the soul as well as the body in war.

Anonymous said...

Yes all very nice arguments, but two flaws alas.

1. You can't judge past events by our current moral whims. What next? Should we demand an apology from the Normans for their unpovoked aggression? Should Germany be compensated for the actions of the French in the Thirty Years War? By your definition yes. By any use of common sense, no.

2. You didn't fight in that war. You weren't one of the senior officers charged with winning that war. All very well patting someone on the head and saying "don't worry son, you don't have to go over the top if you don't feel like it". How many others would have wanted to fight if you had done that? And what would the result of the war have been?

Just glad that FairDealPhil wasn't a General, or we would be a province of Mitteleuropa.

On the American elections...clutching at straws aren't you? The Democrats are about as close to your politics as mine. Even Bob Piper worked that out. You enjoy your "victory". You are easily pleased. Looking forward to winning the House and Presidency again in two years. History favours me on that score.

fairdealphil said...


thanks for your contribution. totally agree.

fairdealphil said...


in answer to your numbered points:

1. of course times, morals and attitudes change over time - thank goodness. but are you saying the pardon for those shot at dawn is wrong?

2. if anyone should have been lined up against a wall in the first world war, it was the Generals you mention - notably Earl Haig.

have you ever heard of the phrase "Lions led by Donkeys"??

the unjust executions typified the double standards of the class divisions of the time.

American elections: no, i'm not clutching at straws. You may not have noticed, but the fact is that the Democrats have taken control of both legislative Houses in the US. So yes, i'm celebrating the return of sanity to the table of US politics.

I don't know how close you are to the Democrats, but I'm about as far away from Bush Republicans as I am from Lincolnshire Tories.

I also believe the world would be a safer place with a Democrat in the White House.

Anonymous said...

On the pardon. I think it is a mistake. I harbour no malice for these men, and would have probably felt pity for them at the time. But you can't change the past, and we should remember why these men had to be shot at the time. It was the right thing to do.

Yes Phil I have heard it. Contrived by none other than Alan Clark, from a conversation allegedly involving that other miliary genius Ludendorff. And I can honestly say I have never heard it seriously utterly by anyone who knows anything about the First World War. I had this discussion with people in my last job. They came up with this silly argument about First World War Generals. When I asked them to name five, both of them got Haig...and that was it. Obviously real experts(!). Can you name five without using Google? No, I thought not, which is why I wouldn't value your opinion on the subject. Haig won the war. I doubt you would have.

You mean the Democrats who voted for the war in Iraq? By that logic, the Tories also deserve to win. Bookmakers make the Tories and the Republicans the respective favourites for the next big elections, and they are rarely wrong. That'll be a hard day for you.

fairdealphil said...


We'll have to agree to differ on the soldiers shot at dawn.

No-one is trying to re-write history, just acknowledging that the 300+ did not deserve the firing squad.

You might be able to name five Generals, but do you know anything about why the men were executed?

Many were volunteers with distinguished service; most had no legal representation at their trials which often lasted just a few minutes.

I'm proud we have a Labour Government prepared to give them a pardon 90 years on to lift the shame.

On elections, surely you cannot be the same Michael Oakeshott who made this expert observation and confident prediction the day before the american people kicked the republicans out of BOTH the house of representatives AND the Senate...

michael oakeshott said...

So just to be clear. Some guy, who called the White House a couple of times is exposed as a hypocrite. And from this FairDealPhil, the entire Republican Party, a party endorsed by 60 millions people two years ago, is damned.

Or is this just another desperate attempt to smear a people. You really will be gutted when they hold Senate this week. And they will.

Monday, November 06, 2006 12:24:59 PM

Anonymous said...

"No one is trying to re-write history"...before a long and tired attempt to re-write history. You have criticised the generals before admitting to not even knowing who they were. A few episodes of Blackadder won't impress me Phil.

To be fair the Senate is 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats and two Independents. The Republicans might not have held it, but a landslide this ain't. Such joy at such a minor victory is a sign of their low expectations. I hope they celebrate their victory...they haven't had much to shout about in the last forty years(of which the Tories have had 22 years in power...some wilderness that).

fairdealphil said...


1. first world war.

i patiently hoped we could agree to differ and each show respect for another's opinion.

clearly not.

i certainly don't recall admitting not knowing the names of the generals...

here's one for you:

how many of the 300 British officers were among those shot at dawn?

2. US elections.

Everyone in the world accepts that the Democrats have won control of the Senate.

it is a major victory - look at the change they have already achieved.

Why can't you admit you got it wrong?

Yes, you are right about the Tory past. The Tories have been the most successful electoral machine for a century and a half.

Until 1997. Wilderness is your word, not mine, but seems to sum up the past Tory decade.

Five new Tory Leaders chosen to take on Blair - all rejected either by their own party or by the British public or both.

Perhaps these the five First World War Generals you were thinking of?

Anonymous said...

Ever more bizarre...

Quite how Cameron - who I don't like - has been rejected is anyone's guess.

I don't respect your opinion on the First World War, because you know nothing about it. Simple. Almost all of them were not officers, the point has been raised before. Two reasons. Firstly an officer was less likely to suffer cowardice or shell shock, since he was likely to be an experienced soldier. They were involved in the thick of the action however. 57 British Generals died in the war, a large proportion. But then that wasn't in Blackadder was it Phil? Secondly, yes there were class issues which meant they were often spared(15 in one case).

A tip: next time you make a comment, try to know what you are talking about.