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Brand: David Johnson

Executed At Dawn

by David Johnson

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Executed At Dawn : British Firing Squads On The Western Front 1914-1918

Much has been written about the 302 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were executed for military offences during the First World War, but there is usually only a passing reference to those who took part - the members of the firing squad, the officer in charge, the medical officer and the padre. What are their stories? Through extensive research, David Johnson explores the controversial story of the men forced to shoot their fellow Tommies, examining how they were selected, how they were treated before, during and after the executions and why there were so many procedural variations in the way that the executions were conducted.

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Surely the worst of all the many odious tasks imposed upon the British infantryman during the Great War was to be called to serve in a firing squad to kill a comrade sentenced to death by a court martial. Some two hundred men lost their lives in this way, often for (in today's eyes) very trivial offences. This well written book looks at the unfortunate men who served in these firing squads, based on their memoirs and official records. Most like, Corporal Arthur Bray, felt that Englishmen should not be shooting other Englishmen as they were in France to shoot Germans. The author also considers the role of the Military Police, the subsequent successful campaign in the 1920s to abolish the death penalty within the services, as well another successful campaign in the 1990s to secure pardons for the men who had been 'Shot at Dawn'. This is a useful addition to the literature on this emotive subject. Simon Fowler Friends of The National Archives http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/get-involved/friends.htm Friends of The National Archives