Memorial At Peninsula
Shot at Dawn Poem©
YOU TIED MY HANDS, BLIND FOLDED ME.
BOUND ME TIGHT, AS I TREMBLED WITH FRIGHT.
IT WAS THEN THAT I HEARD, A COMFORTING WORD,
FROM THE PADRE, WHO KNELT BY MY SIDE.
HE BID ME FAREWELL ON MY JOURNEY THROUGH HELL.
THE LAST WORD I HEARD WAS AMEN.
YOU DIDN’T HEAR, YOU DIDN’T SEE.
ALL YOU DID WAS PUT BULLET’S IN ME.
2017©Memorial At Peninsula Ltd
Shot at Dawn Poem and Painting by Philip Pickford
Shot at Dawn DVD ( ALL GAVE SOME – SOME GAVE ALL )
This DVD was made by Memorial at Peninsula Ltd
ALL GAVE SOME – SOME GAVE ALL
Shot at Dawn Poem by Philip Pickford
SHOT AT DAWN Between the years of 1914 and 1920, more than 3,000 British Soldiers were sentenced to death by courts martial for desertion, cowardice, striking an officer, disobedience, falling asleep on duty or casting away arms. Saying that, only 11 per cent of the sentences were carried out.
In total 346 where shot at dawn and 1 hung = 347 including some who committed murder, 306 where pardoned by the Government many many years later. ( yet there are 307 posts at The NMA) ?
Roughly 90% of cases, the sentence was commuted to hard labour or penal servitude.
Medical evidence apparently showing that many were suffering from shell-shock, this was also submitted to the courts, but was not recognized and misinterpreted. Most hearings lasting no more than 20 minutes.
Transcripts made public 75 years on after the events suggest that some of the men were underage. Others appeared to have wandered away from the battlefield in states of extreme distress and confusion, yet they were charged with desertion. When the suppressed documents relating to these courts martial were released, they showed that these men were demonstrably shell-shocked.”
Contrary to popular belief, they were not all denied natural justice….’Rough justice’ it may have been, but justice nevertheless. They were given access to legal representation but not the right of appeal, as the Field Marshal’s decision was absolute. Because ‘Shell- Shock was not recognized back then, most of them were not given proper medical examinations and so their conditions were over-looked.
The function of the threat of executions was to a intimidate and frighten soldiers in the battlefield….Risk the possibility of a bullet in battle or certain death if you don’t do your duty.
The standard soldier in the trenches would be suffering from chronic insomnia and anxiety attacks. He would be wet and cold in wind-chill factors that dragged temperatures as low as minus -18. This alone was enough to drive anyone crazy.
To say that all these men who were shot were bad and deserved their punishment is to ignore all these factors. Most just couldn’t take any more.
By 1930, Parliament had introduced legislation banning the death sentence for the offences for which the 306 were shot. None would be shot today.
Remarkably, most of those shot in the 1914-18 war were volunteer soldiers rather than conscripts and, perhaps unsurprisingly considering what was happening in their homeland, Irish soldiers were shot with proportionately more frequency than those of other regiments.
Among other principles of justice, the presumption of innocence was paid no more than lip service by many British courts martial. Some believe that the British Army was far more likely to shoot a working class man than an officer, and broadly speaking, this was true.
They were finally ‘pardoned’ in the August of 2006 under section 359 of the British Army Act.
In it is shown a list of the ‘original offences’ that soldiers could be tried and executed for :-
359 – Pardons for servicemen executed for disciplinary offences: recognition as victims of First World War
(1)This section applies in relation to any person who was executed for a relevant offence committed during the period beginning on the 4th August 1914 and ending with the 11th November 1918.
(2)Each such person is to be taken to be pardoned under this section in respect of the relevant offence (or relevant offences) for which he was executed.
(3) In this section “relevant offence” means any of the following– (a) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Army Act 1881 (c. 58)– (i) section 4(2) (casting away arms etc); (ii) section 4(7) (cowardice); (iii) section 6(1)(b) (leaving post etc without orders); (iv) section 6(1)(k) (sentinel sleeping etc on post or leaving post); (v) section 7 (mutiny and sedition); (vi) section 8(1) (striking etc superior officer); (vii) section 9(1) (disobedience in defiance of authority); (viii) section 12(1) (desertion or attempt etc to desert); (b)an offence under any of the following provisions of the Indian Army Act 1911 (Indian Act, No 8 of 1911) (i) section 25(b) (casting away arms, cowardice, etc); (ii) section 25(g) (sentry sleeping on post or quitting post); (iii) section 25(i) (quitting guard etc); (iv) section 27 (mutiny, disobedience, etc); (v) section 29 (desertion or attempt to desert).
(4)This section does not (a) affect any conviction or sentence; (b) give rise to any right, entitlement or liability; or (c) affect the prerogative of mercy.
(5) Any reference in this section to a provision of the Army Act 1881 (c. 58) includes a reference to that provision as applied by any enactment, wherever enacted.
The first soldier to be Shot at Dawn was Thomas Highgate
(Information obtained from www.tommy1418.com)
Good books too read are
Blindfolded and Alone
by Cathryn Corns and John Huges Wilson
Shot at Dawn
By Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes
Please follow the link below to see the posts of the soldiers executed
by firing squads in WWI
“A Post for each one Pardoned”
The posts are in the Nation Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas