Shot at Dawn

Discussion in 'World War I' started by Hobilar, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. Hobilar

    Hobilar Member

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    Despite the Cardwell reforms of the previous century Military Discipline in the British Army during the Great War could still be as harsh as it had been 100 years before. Although flogging had been abolished in the 19th century the death penalty could still be awarded for a number of offences.

    During the course of the war some 3,080 death sentences were passed out by General Court Martial of which 346 (including three on officers) were actually carried out by Firing Squad. The most common offence was that of Desertion (266 including two of the Officers), but other offences included Mutiny (3), Cowardice (18), Murder (37 including the remaining Officer), Striking a superior Officer (6), Disobedience (5), Sleeping on post (2 -though normally punished by field punishment), Quitting post (7) and casting away Arms (2).

    Most of those who faced a firing squad did so in France or Flanders where the main British war effort was directed (322), and of these, nineteen death sentences were on members of the Native Labour Corps (mostly for murder), and of the 324 Other Ranks shot 91 were already on suspended sentence including 40 suspended death sentences. Many pre-war deserters having rejoined at the start of war rather than face more severe penalties and many of the others also had prior criminal records.

    General Sir Douglas Haig (the British Commander in Chief) to his credit would only agree to execution if no other extenurating circumstances could be found. Thus the rate of 11% of death sentences actually being carried out.
     
  2. Emac44

    Emac44 Active Member

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    Hobilar there is a documentary airing tomorrow on History Channel here in Aussie dealing with this very subject 11th November 2007. Its an interesting paradox that General British HeadQuartars wanted the death penalty extended to Australian Troops and wanted the Australian Parliament to enable that Australian Troops could be shot by a British Firing Squad. The answer from the Australian Government was a resounding NO. This came about during the Boer War when 2 Australian Officers with the Bushvelt Carbineers were shot by firing squad in South Africa. And the Australian Government and People were not going to give British High Command this type of authority over Australian Troops. The 2 Australian Officers were Lt Harry Harboard Morant (The Breaker) and Lt Peter Hancock. Charged with murder of a German Missionary and several Boer Prisoners
     
  3. Hobilar

    Hobilar Member

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    I think the difference in attitude lies (and I am sure that you will correct me if I am wrong) is that during the Boer War, Australia (though largely enjoying States self-Government) was still not a Federated country. By the Great War the Australians had their own Federal Government and Capital, thus having more say in how their troops were employed.
     
  4. Emac44

    Emac44 Active Member

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    Not far of it Hobilar you got it pretty right mate. But it came also of our passed further back then Boer War about British standing in Australia. Bit hard to explain and if I did would go right of the point if I tried too
     
  5. Emac44

    Emac44 Active Member

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    By the way Hobilar. Watched the BBC documentary on Shot at Dawn of English and Native troops who were shot by firing squad. It was on History Channel here in Australia and was part of a series of documentaries aired on History Channel to mark the 89th anniversary of the end of World War One. There is a part 2 to the documentary Shot at Dawn. Part 2 deals with Native Troops who were executed
     
  6. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Emac, was that Breaker Morant?

    and does anybody know is Kubrick's film "Paths of Glory" based on an actual event?
     
  7. Emac44

    Emac44 Active Member

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    Yes Nijaco Harry Harboard Morant. Known as Breaker Morant or just The Breaker. Not sure about Path's of Glory, Have heard about it but not viewed it
     
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