Shot at dawn ... Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Act

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by golden_rivet, Dec 9, 2008.

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  1. Thier is a cross for each one shot at dawn, in a field at the Aboretum in Alrewas Staffs . RIP :salut: Very moving
  2. About time too.
    Whats happening to the British ones?
  3. Sorry but I disagree.
  4. You wouldnt, if you could understand that they many of them were almost sure to be suffering from shell shock/truama :salut:
  5. This is an emotive subject. The execution of genuinely "PTSD" soldiers is obviously unacceptable by todays standards and IMO was unacceptable then. However, it is all too easy for every executed soldier to become such a person in exactly the same way as every serviceman serving on Ops today is a "hero" according to the majority of the media. Neither is true but, for many, to suggest that this is the case is itself unacceptable. My position is that those that can be shown to have been genuinely suffering from "shell shock" should be pardoned. I recall watching a documentary some time ago that said medical records of some certainly state this quite clearly Those that were executed for what were capital crimes (and not related to PTSD) got what they would have got at home in the UK. Whilst I don't support the death penalty this would seem reasonable...

  6. Re: Shot at dawn ... Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Ac

    How can any of us alive today comment on the trauma's and experiences of soldiers of that era.

    How can we comment of their medical condition.

    Being in combat affects everyone diferently, I for one do not envy those that lived and died in WW1.

    Respect to all.
  7. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Careful reconsideration of individual cases is absolutwely right and proper. I do NOT think a block pardon was the right answer as this devalued those who were, with hindsight, wrongly or unjustly convicted - it reduced them to the level of those who were punished for genuine offences. Sadly, to keep that enormous but largely half-trained army fighting, under officers who must often have been struggling with the responsibility thrust upon them - from platoon commanders right up to the top, for we had NEVER fielded an army on that scale or under those conditions before - needed drastic measures. That so FEW had to be so punished out of an army of - ?- five million in total, nearly all basically civilians in uniform, just shows how dogged and brave that generation was. Every native family in the UK must have ghosts from that era, stories of death and maiming and disasters on the home front afterwards.
  8. But PTSD and such was not recognised at the time. I don't see how we can re-judge by todays standards and moral code, that's all.
    I'm not saying that they were all deserters, far from it. Just looking at it from the point of view that I mentioned. I know how emotive this is, and I really don't want to anger people. What happened was dreadful by any standards but like I say, I really don't think that we can second guess rules and regulations from so long ago. Where does it end? We've already had some descendant of a slave trader crawling around on his knees begging forgiveness for something that was perfectly normal and legal when it happened.
  9. Re: Shot at dawn ... Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Ac

    It was not recognised because it was not understood.

    Taking your point about standards changing over the years: they were executed by the standards then; they are being pardoned by the standards now.

    Whilst I agree with your comment regarding all this hand-wringing about (for example) the slave trade, I must disagree on this one.

    Fair enough though - an opinion you're entitled to and you're not trying to provoke.
  10. Whilst PTSD was not recognised "war neurosis" was ("shell shock" was a term only used later in the war). This is an excerpt from a BBC history site:

    "These were not exceptional cases. It was clear to everyone that large numbers of combatants could not cope with the strain of warfare. By the end of World War One, the army had dealt with 80,000 cases of 'shell shock'. As early as 1917, it was recognised that war neuroses accounted for one-seventh of all personnel discharged for disabilities from the British Army. Once wounds were excluded, emotional disorders were responsible for one-third of all discharges. Even more worrying was the fact that a higher proportion of officers were suffering in this way. According to one survey published in 1917, while the ratio of officers to men at the front was 1:30, among patients in hospitals specialising in war neuroses, the ratio of officers to men was 1:6. What medical officers quickly realised was that everyone had a 'breaking point': weak or strong, courageous or cowardly - war frightened everyone witless."
    So, whilst I agree second guessing against todays standards is impossible, what we are actually debating is whether men suffering from a recognised psychological condition should having be ajudged cowards, deserters, malingerers, etc. It is also worth noting that apparently more men (possible shell shocked) committed suicide than were executed.

  11. I disagree with this.

    This blanket-pardoning patronisingly implies that at the time the military police did not know what they were doing when sentencing men to death, or that they did so without due gravitas.

    There was a stark choice for men at the Front at that time: either fight, and risk being killed - or desert, and certainly be shot for desertion. Knowing that this harsh penalty would befall them if they ran is largely what forced men into carrying on fighting, rather than run away.

    I'm not saying that, in a few certain cases, they didn't get it wrong. But shooting men who deserted maintained the necessary discipline among the rest. We subsequently won the war (indeed by the skin of our teeth) thanks, in part, to such strict discipline.

    I have no problem with individual cases being reviewed and pardoned if a pardon is due. A blanket pardon, however, is very wrong.
  12. It must be remebered that some of those executed were dealt with in that manner to 'Encourage' and/or 'Stiffen the resolve' of the men in their Battalions who would read of the punishment in Daily Orders.
    Often men had deserted, fallen out of March or 'malingered' on more than one occasion, but prior to this they had often seen extensive Front line service.
    IMO it is only right that a blanket pardon should be given to make amends for the injustices that were carried out purely to 'Encourage les outres'.
  13. Re: Shot at dawn ... Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Ac

    A state that is willing to sanction the execution of people who, in many cases, did not want to fight in the first place is hardly worth fighting for. Whether or not it maintained discipline, which I don't doubt it did in many cases, is not a good enough argument for the state to murder its citizens.

    In my opinion.
  14. I have read a bit about WW1, from people of differing opinion and I think that the order of the day made it inevitable that there would be executions for desertion. If only there had been executions for incompetence, the War may have ended earlier!
  15. Suggest all of you should attempt to get hold of and read a book called
    ''Butchers and Bunglers WW1 '' the conditions of trench warfare the ignorance of Generals of the conditions in the trenches and the front.
    Mass attacks against machine guns etc -fcuking disgusting
    Haig ----was warned by Lloyd George that England and the colonies had no more men left to fight with.
    Its a good job the Americans came in in 1917 --fresh cannon fodder
    however by then the Germans were war weary from the blockade .

    The Germans never surrendered --- they just stopped fighting . The Armistice and eventual 1919 disarmament was brought about by economic

    A whole generation of young men died --lot of families had no heirs and just disappeared when the parents died .

    :nemo: :nemo:
  16. Sorry Dunkers but whilst I understand the sentiment (and agree with the last sentence) the above is nonsense for several reasons. Including; the RMPs never convicted anyone, Courts Martial did; the RMPs did as they were ordered in terms of the administration of the punishment (they didn't actually do the shooting) and no, they were no different to the rest of the Army; amateurs doing an exceedingly difficult job, with little training and harsh rules. The primary concern I have is the execution of psychologically impaired individuals that were at the, literal, end of their tether. To suggest that this was justified because it maintained moral is appalling. The Australians fought with honour, courage and no death penalty, much to the chagrine of the IGS and many British Provost Marshals!

  17. That many British soldiers were conscripted civilians is a fair point I_M_D and it raises an interesting rhetorical question as to whether this means they should have been subjected to harsher, or lighter, military discipline. I also stand corrected with respect to who convicted whom.

    I do not mean to suggest that the shootings were justified because they maintained morale. By the standards of the day, being shot for desertion in genuine cases of cowardice was acceptable and changing that now (historical revision) is not, I think, a good idea. I think that it would be disgusting in the extreme to suggest that we (90 years after the fact) can begin to comprehend the horrors they faced. But that makes the historical revisionism, currently going through Parliament, all the more unacceptable. Who are we to say that British conscripts should have managed to crack on with shooting Germans (also conscripts) without pain of death to do so? As has been rightly pointed out, the men forced to fight His Majesty's enemy were not professional volunteer soldiers and (as Guzzler says) often did not want to fight. Why, then, should we put upon them the modern expectations we have of professional soldiers? In my opinion this is what the current Bill going through Parliament does - that they should have been able to crack on with the job by way of professional standards rather than fear of death.

    But, thinking about this, maybe I have it all arse-about-face. Maybe it IS appropriate that we take the humane option of pardoning all those unwilling soldiers for their executions after this appropriate length of time. Many (indeed most of them after 1916, being conscripts provided by the Conscription Act) didn't want to be there. Their bravery in going to the Front at all, out of duty, ought to have us all in sheer awe of them. At the time it was probably the case that their executions were considered necessary to maintain order at the front line - why else would we shoot our own side? Now, however, maybe a posthumous apology is in order. Those shot for cowardice were forcibly killed ("murdered", to take Guzzler's term) - and who can blame them for that alleged cowardice? I believe that having had a 90-year breathing space, it now feels easier to pardon them for the fate they suffered. Who knows (but for the few remaining veterans) if we really had to shoot those men? (I didn't know the Australians didn't.) Was winning the war really worth that price? (Did we even have to do that to win it?) Indeed, was it even worth winning - would the second world war have happened if we'd lost? That's the benefit of hindsight, however.

    All I want is that the terrible memory of those who fell in WWI (by either enemy action or execution) is not desecrated. I hope that is what we all want.
  18. Without doubt many did die, but many did come home, both my grandfathers served and came home.

    Victory in 1918, and it was victory came about because Britain and France had conductr3ed total war against Germany. They had held of the German attempts to overrun France mainly by both the French defence at Verdun and the British offensive at the Somme in 1916, which had destroyed the German capacity for offensive action but not at that point their capability to defend. At the same time tyhe total blockade of Germany progressively reduced the German capacity to wage war at all. Lloyd George planned for the war to end in 1919 with a last great offensive, yes Lloyd George would have had the war last another year and still planned to win it with massed troops. Haig saw his chance after the failed German 1918 offensive and went for the kill and made the final breakthrough and was pushing the German army back fast enough to be able to see that Berlin for Christmas 1918 was a real possibility. The German high command realised this too and tiold the Kaiser to sue for peace, hence the 11/11/18 cease fire. Peace negotiations took so long because there were many in Germany who were not willing to accept that Germany was defeated despite the army in the west being unable to fight and the navy being wracked with communist inspired mutiny, and also attempts to retain the eastern empire won from the Russians.

    Finally if the British generals were so bad where were the good generals they should have learnt from?
  19. Suggest all of you should attempt to get hold of and read a book called
    ''Butchers and Bunglers WW1 '' the conditions of trench warfare the ignorance of Generals of the conditions in the trenches and the front.
    Mass attacks against machine guns etc -fcuking disgusting
    Haig ----was warned by Lloyd George that England and the colonies had no more men left to fight with.
    Its a good job the Americans came in in 1917 --fresh cannon fodder
    however by then the Germans were war weary from the blockade .

    Sorry, I've knocked around here long enough that I hope people know I don't usually pull rank but the above is B*llocks. I am a military historian with several degrees in this and can say pretty conclusively that the book you cite Greenie is dangerously ill-informed nonsense.

    Almost any book written before 1930 and after 1970 is not going to go down the lines you suggest. Peoples' view of WW1 was fixed by 60s radical revisionists homing in on the War Poets- who were in any case unrepresentative of their generation (by virtue of being educated and almost exclusively drawn from the officer class- stand fast Isaac Rosenberg). For a better discussion of this point see Paul M Fussel, The Great War and Modern Memory- a bit dated now but still a classic.

    Alan Clarke, Lions and Donkeys, is pretty much recognised as gash penny journalism these days so, although entertainingly written, shouldn't be taken seriously.

    The point to bear in mind is that the generals didn't start the War, the politicians did- and the weapons immediately available favoured the defensive- machine guns, barbed wire, trenches. Given that the alternative to the battles up to 1916 would have been to sit around doing nothing, it is difficult to see what the generals were supposed to do. In any case, major battles such as the Somme were fought to take pressure off the French army. For an investigation of discipline, social mores, and why the British army didn't crumble when others did try the American Gerard J DeGroot, Blighty: British Society in the Era of the Great War.

    For a comprehensive, although controversial, debunking of many of the Great War myths- incompetence, lost generation, every Tommy wearing a halo and every general a pair of horns, etc, read Gordon Corrigan, Mud, Blood and Poppycock.

    Also, don't forget that we did win the war- the role of the Americans was important in strengthening resolve, but their numbers were not anywhere near big enough for them to have had the impact that the revisionist historians or received wisdom would claim. The British Army of 1918 was probably the most successful force ever put into the field by a nation. We were half way to Berlin when the Germans surrendered. There were hundreds of thousands of Americans on their way across the Atlantic, which must of undoubtedly focused German minds a little, but it is a moot point whether they would have arrived in time to do any fighting even had the Germans not signed the Armistice. The British and Empire forces would have been in with a very good shout of finishing the job by force of arms.

    With reference to the Shot at Dawn controversy, I have to say that it does come down to a matter of opinion rather than objective fact. However, I think that there is a lot to be said for an individual review of cases rather than a blanket pardon. There were undoubtedly miscarriages which could be addressed- although to what practical end it is difficult to see given that we can't resurrect them and in most cases even their children are now dead. If we want to do it to just feel better about ourselves then I'm not sure that's particularly healthy.

    There were however cases where people were executed because they were cowards- and they let down their mates and possibly endangered their lives. The penalty for this was death according to the mores of the time and that is what they got.

    The clinching argument for me has always been the opinion of the veterans themselves. I'm not talking about the few survivors we have now- and I mean them absolutely no disrespect, but they have had nearly a hundred years to think on things since they happened. Consequently, asking for their opinion now, as has been suggested by the govt, is about as relevant as asking two people drawn from the crowds thronging the recruiting offices in 1914.

    If you go to the Imperial War Museum archive and listen to the tapes of the interviews they carried out in the 40s and 50s and 60s, the picture seems to be that the people who fought thought that the people who were shot were in many if not all cases criminals.

    By all means we can have a generational reassessment, but only if we are happy that in 60 years time that means our grandchildren can sit down and reassess what we did- and I don't mean the obvious candidates such as the war in Iraq, I mean things that we currently wouldn't think twice about. The most telling thing is that, for the 60 odd years when people from the Great War marched past the Cenotaph in their thousands, the relatives of those who were shot at dawn didn't get a look in.

    Of course, times change, but for me that has always been a powerful indication of the futility of trying to rewrite history.

    Right, time to do some work :thumright:

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