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Pardoned: the 306 soldiers shot at dawn for 'cowardice'

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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Aug 2006 8:38    Onderwerp: Pardoned: the 306 soldiers shot at dawn for 'cowardice' Reageer met quote

Pardoned: the 306 soldiers shot at dawn for 'cowardice'
By Ben Fenton

(Filed: 16/08/2006)

All 306 soldiers of the First World War who were shot at dawn for cowardice or desertion will be granted posthumous pardons, the Ministry of Defence said last night.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, has decided to cut short a review that had been prompted by campaigns to exonerate the men, and emergency legislation will be put before the House of Commons soon after it resumes sitting in the autumn. The news was greeted with joy by the family of Pte Harry Farr, who was executed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 for cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The ‘Shot at Dawn’ memorial to the 306 executed soldiers at the National Memorial Arboretum

His daughter, Gertrude Harris, 93, and granddaughter Janet Booth, 63, had fought a legal battle to overturn the ruling in 2000 by Geoff Hoon, the former defence secretary, that there was no case for a posthumous pardon.

Mrs Harris, from Harrow, north-west London, said: "I am so relieved that this ordeal is now over and I can be content knowing that my father's memory is intact.

"I have always argued that my father's refusal to rejoin the front line, described in the court martial as resulting from cowardice, was in fact the result of shell-shock. And I believe that many other soldiers suffered from this too, not just my father.

"I hope that others who had brave relatives who were shot by their own side will now get the pardons they equally deserve."

In a statement, Mr Browne said: "Although this is a historical matter, I am conscious of how the families of these men feel today. "They have had to endure a stigma for decades. That makes this a moral issue too, and having reviewed it, I believe it is appropriate to seek a statutory pardon. "I hope we can take the earliest opportunity to achieve this by introducing a suitable amendment to the current Armed Forces Bill.

"I believe a group pardon, approved by Parliament, is the best way to deal with this. After 90 years, the evidence just doesn't exist to assess all the cases individually.

"I do not want to second guess the decisions made by commanders in the field, who were doing their best to apply the rules and standards of the time. "But the circumstances were terrible, and I believe it is better to acknowledge that injustices were clearly done in some cases, even if we cannot say which - and to acknowledge that all these men were victims of war."

Mr Browne has waived the review announced somewhat reluctantly by the MoD when Mrs Harris won the right to challenge a refusal to reconsider the case by John Reid when he was defence secretary.

John Dickinson, the lawyer representing Mrs Harris, said: "This is complete common sense and acknowledges that Pte Farr was not a coward but an extremely brave man.

"Having fought for two years practically without respite in the trenches, he was very obviously suffering from a condition we now would have no problem in diagnosing as post traumatic stress disorder, or shell-shock, as it was known in 1916."

The amendment allowing the Defence Secretary to pardon the men will be appended to the next piece of legislation the MoD puts before the Commons and it is possible that it will be complete by Christmas.

John Hipkin, the organiser of the Shot at Dawn campaign to secure pardons for soldiers executed during the First World War, welcomed the decision. "It's incredible news," he said. Mr Hipkin, a retired teacher from Newcastle upon Tyne, highlighted the fact that four of the 306 executed were aged 17 when they were shot.

A campaign for justice has been run for decades on behalf of those shot at dawn, starting almost immediately after the war ended, largely on the grounds of the primitive methods of justice exercised by military tribunals during the 1914-18 war.

Pte Farr was executed after a 20-minute court martial on the Somme in Oct 1916. Evidence was given by a medical officer that could have allowed the tribunal to excuse him, but it was ignored.

Pte Farr was one of 18 men shot for cowardice during the Great War. Almost all the others were executed under the military code against desertion.

Pte Farr's case has become emblematic of those in which relatives and friends argued that no proper account was taken of the stress of trench warfare.

However, the Ministry of Defence has resisted posthumous pardons for a long time, not least because of the fear that they might create unwelcome and unforeseen legal precedents.

But Mr Browne has been known to have stronger views on the subject than his predecessors.

A government source said the Defence Secretary had acted as a matter of principle because he felt there was an urgent moral matter to be resolved.

Mr Reid was advised last winter by MoD lawyers that no soldier executed in the 1914-18 war should ever be granted a pardon on procedural grounds. This was justified on the basis that the lack of documentary evidence would make it impossible to show that procedural errors had occurred.

Correlli Barnett, a military historian, said last night that the mass posthumous pardon was "pointless" after all these years. "These were decisions taken in the heat of a war when the commanders' primary duty was to keep the Army together and to keep it fighting. They were therefore decisions taken from a different moral perspective," he said.

"For the people of this generation to come along and second-guess decisions taken then is wrong.

"It was done in a particular historical setting and in a particular moral and social climate. It's pointless to give these pardons. What's the use of a posthumous pardon?"

Those who were shot for cowardice or desertion were by and large treated fairly, according to the standards of the time, he added.

Leader: War and forgiveness

Victims of war beyond our comprehension

Sgt Peter Goggins

Pte Billy Nelson

Sub Lt Edwin Dyett

Pte Abraham Bevistein

The long road to pardon

The 306 executed men


Meer artikelen over dit onderwerp op de site van de Telegraph:
* Leader: War and forgiveness
* Victims of war beyond our comprehension
* Sgt Peter Goggins
* Pte Billy Nelson
* Sub Lt Edwin Dyett
* Pte Abraham Bevistein
* The long road to pardon
* The 306 executed men
"‘Shotvarfet. Shotvarfet.’ " - "It's not worth it."
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BerichtGeplaatst: 28 Aug 2006 9:47    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Honour my dead uncle as you said you would
By Michael Reilly
Pte Thomas Highgate
# Pte Thomas Highgate

THE great nephew of the first soldier to be shot for desertion during the First World War has challenged a parish council to fulfil its promise.

Terrence Highgate says now the Government plans to pardon 306 soldiers executed during the 1914-1918 conflict, he wants Shoreham Village to honour his great uncle Private Thomas Highgate.

Although the 19-year-old was one of the village's war dead, his name has never appeared on its memorial.

Pte Highgate, who was found hiding in a barn and wearing civilian clothes after fleeing from the Battle of Mons in Belgium, was found guilty of desertion at court martial and shot at dawn in September 18, 1914.

Earlier this month, Defence Secretary Des Browne announced he would be seeking a group pardon for all the soldiers shot for desertion, cowardice and other offences.

Now Mr Highgate, 67, is calling on Shoreham's parish council and British Legion to place Pte Highgate's name on the memorial.

There was a heated debate in the village in 2000 when it was discussed whether the name should go on its newly refurbished memorial. A gap was left in case Pte Highgate was ever pardoned.

Now Mr Highgate, of Northumberland Park, Erith, says it is time for Shoreham to honour its pledge.

The retired mechanic said: "I am pleased about the pardon. It will be welcomed, but it is obviously too late.

"The only thing I want is for the people of Shoreham, who said if ever he was pardoned his name would be put on the plaque, to fulfil their promise so my great-uncle can rest in peace and dignity."

Shoreham Parish Council chairman Councillor John Keates says discussions on whether to add Pte Highgate's name will be held next month.

The blanket pardon will be discussed as part of the Armed Forces Bill which is currently going through Parliament.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Jul 2015 11:49    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Algemeen Shot At Down topic, zie
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