Shot at Dawn: Executions in World War One by Authority of the British Army Act

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Leo Cooper, 2003 - History - 302 pages
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'I Could not look on Death, which being known, Men led me to him, blindfold and Alone.' (Epitaphs of the war: 'The Coward') Thus, in two short, bitter lines, Rudyard Kipling summed up a series of events that are among the most shameful and inglorious in all British history: The executions by firing squad of some 350 members of the British and Empire forces during the First World War. Based on years of painstaking research, this is the first book to give complete details of all these executions, including names of victims; their 'crimes'; the circumstances, dates and places of execution, and of burial (where known); names of regiments and other units; and victims' personal histories and private circumstances (where known).

The authors demonstrate the ineptness, ignorance and unfairness of the British court martial system at the time, and how frequently condemned men (from almost every regiment and corps in the army) were proved to have been formerly brave soldiers who had simply cracked under the pressure of trench warfare. These men were judicially killed as a lesson to other soldiers who, it was thought, might themselves crack. In the event, many of the victims went to their deaths with unbelievable courage and dignity, as eyewitness accounts in this book show. Here, too, are details of how next-of-kin of executed men were hoodwinked into believing that their men had died in action, a system of cover-up which persists to this day.

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About the author (2003)

Mark Dunning combines his successful career as a lawyer specialising in legal redress with a twenty year long research interest in British Army capital courts martial cases. In 2010 he was awarded an MA in Modern British History by the University of York. Julian Putkowski is a university lecturer residing in Hackney and a member of the Scientific Committee of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper. Since 1978 his research about the British Army during the Great War has featured in many radio and TV programmes, including The Monocled Mutineer (BBC); Going Home (Opix), and Mutiny (Sweet Patootee). Julian writes authoritatively about mutinies and military misdeeds, and with Julian Sykes he co-authored Shot at Dawn and supported the campaign to secure posthumous pardons for the executed men.

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