Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Lancashire Fusilier

Shot at dawn - British WW1 Military Executions.

Recommended Posts

AlanCurragh

Absolutely, John - the thread was indeed closed for a while, and some comments editted or removed, but not because there is any desire to prevent debate on the list as posted by the OP and any subsequent comments

Alan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

Could you not have simply posted the link?

Kate,

Thank you for your question.

No, not really, I am a bit of a History buff, and part of my doing the work and extracting the information, which came from various different cemeteries, was so that I had a data base list on my computer to work from, as it is my intention to place all the names in alphabetical, and date order, along with other statistics relating to the men's regiments and their offences.

I hope that helps.

Regards,

LF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Skipman

LF. If you enter shot at dawn site:1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums you will find some excellent information from old threads.

Input any search term into your browser, ie Lancashire Fusiliers (followed by a space) then site:1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums you will find many threads on most subjects.

Happy hunting.

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

LF. If you enter shot at dawn site:1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums you will find some excellent information from old threads.

Input any search term into your browser, ie Lancashire Fusiliers (followed by a space) then site:1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums you will find many threads on most subjects.

Happy hunting.

Mike

Mike,

Thank you for the good advice, I shall certainly make use of it in future searches.

Regards,

LF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
QGE

LF

If you are interested in this thorny subject I would echo Tom McClusky's view that "Blindfold and Alone" is a fairly balanced book that covers the subject well and attempts to list all the known cases in a useful appendix. One is never far from controversy and strong opinion on this topic - the authors of "Blindfold and Alone" spend some time trying to dismantle some of the arguments of another book - "Shot at Dawn" by Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes published in 1989, so you might want to wade through both books as a starting point.

The bibliography in the Notes to the Text in "Blindfold and Alone" would be the next stop that I would recommend - the authors very helpfully provide a myriad of references to original documents held at The National Archives as well as earlier (and less well researched) publications on the subject.

The forum is full of helpful people, but in my experience by doing a lot of groundwork first fellow members will be more inclined to offer more help and friendly advice.

Regards. MG.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John_Hartley

Thanks for the clarification, Alan. Appreciated. I'm sure some members will be sharpening their pencils, daggers, keyboards or whatever as we speak.

ulsterlad2 - thanks for the link. I'm sure youre right. I havnt checked LF's list but presume, therefore, that it doesnt include men whose are commemorated on memorials to the missing or, indeed, who were executed in countries other than Belgium & France.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
auchonvillerssomme

Ok here is a shot at dawn conundrum, at the NMA 'Andy Decomyn's statue 'Shot at Dawn' is modelled on Private Herbert Burden, of the 1st Battallion Northumberland Fusiliers, who was shot at Ypres in 1915 aged 17'

1. The CWGC has him as Herbert Francis Burden

2. There are 2 MIC's cards for him 1. Herbert F. Burden and another same number and regt but Herbert T. Burden.

3. The website http://www.shotatdawn.info/page20.html states 'The youngster had been born on 22 March 1898 in Lewisham, where his father worked as a gardener. It seem very likely that Burden had either joined up as a boy solider before the war or lied about his age on enlistment. He probably served with 1/5 B. Northumberland Fusiliers in Britain before being drafted to serve overseas'.

So who is this man?

post-11859-0-30657600-1327952561.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
auchonvillerssomme

I suspect he is the same man, but I wonder if the army knew that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

The list on the first page looks remarkably as if each of the cemetery links on this site has been opened and copied and pasted.

http://www.ww1cemeteries.com/othercemeteries/shotatdawnlist.htm

Ulsterlad2

Reference your observation, if you read lines 3-4 of my original post " I came upon a website which lists various British Military Cemeteries in Belgium, France and Turkey ", and line 5 " as I extracted the data ", I think that confirms your observation.

I now have an excellent data resource on my computer for future use, and I shall be placing the names in date, alphabetical, and offense order, and also list the names by Regiment.

Regards,

LF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

Thanks for the clarification, Alan. Appreciated. I'm sure some members will be sharpening their pencils, daggers, keyboards or whatever as we speak.

ulsterlad2 - thanks for the link. I'm sure youre right. I havnt checked LF's list but presume, therefore, that it doesnt include men whose are commemorated on memorials to the missing or, indeed, who were executed in countries other than Belgium & France.

John,

You will see from line 3 of my original post, that my list was taken from cemeteries in France, Belgium and Turkey only.

Regards,

LF.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kate Wills

Perhaps you know of the lists published by Sykes & Putkowski; Oram; Corns etc?

They all agree on the names, dates etc. Wouldn't it save much time and effort to scan those?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

MG,

After having a lot more information on the subject, now would be a good time to read both the books you suggest, and I appreciate you bringing them to my attention.

I also appreciate your advice.

Regards,

LF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

Perhaps you know of the lists published by Sykes & Putkowski; Oram; Corns etc?

They all agree on the names, dates etc. Wouldn't it save much time and effort to scan those?

Kate,

Again many thanks for your questions, and again, I am sorry to have to keep saying no to you.

No, I was not aware of the lists you mention, and no, as I did not have the book lists, I could not scan them.

As I said, I am very happy with my extracted data lists, and the method I used for extracting the information.

Regards,

LF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
auchonvillerssomme

These are on my bookshelves, I won't critique, I leave that to others.

Shot at Dawn : Executions in World War One by Authority of the British Army Act Putkowski, Julian; Sykes, Julian

Death Sentences Passed by Military Courts of the British Army 1914-1924 Gerard Oram

The Thin Yellow Line (Wordsworth Military Library) William Moore

For the Sake of Example: Capital Courts Martial, 1914-20 (Paladin Books) Anthony Babington

Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War John Hughes-Wilson, Cathryn M Corns

If you want a very interesting view from one specific officer go for A Brass Hat in No Man's Land, Crozier, Brig.-Gen.F. P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
keithmroberts

Lancashire Fusilier

There are bigger lists in most of our cities. Some are in cathedrals, some in town halls, and the CWGC maintain a list of over a million in the Debt of Honour Register. I can't see much to be learned about the 306 or 343, who have been so much researched.

They were dealt with in accordance with law. How well administered, it is pointless to try to speculate. We still have miscarriages of justice today after all but we also know how many sentences were not confirmed. Around them the British Empire had over a million killed, our opponents many more, and the French and Russians also had massive casualties. I happen to agree with those who find the attention spent on that number disproportionate.

Although I was not then interested in the Great War, I grew up aware of some old men who still bore the mental and physical scars. My grandfather's small village lost 80 men killed, in all theatres of war, and well over 300 served overseas. I have not been able to work out just how many of them were injured, but I bet most of them were scared, cold and fearful for much of their time.

In truth I find their stories and those of the community that they left behind, much more interesting. if you add to our understanding of the small number executed, after so much research, you will have done well indeed. The basic facts and figures I am afraid really don't make much impact. You referred to the cemeteries with SAD men buried in them. Just check the registers for one or two of those, and see how many others died, probably just as scared, just as cold. They had families and histories too. We should remember them all.

Keith

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
punjab612

I suspect he is the same man, but I wonder if the army knew that?

I suspect you are right. Having looked through the record of the E Surrey man I notice he deserted at Dover in December 1914. Could he have rejoined the NF & been overseas by 24/3/1915 (date of entry from MIC of Herbert T)? Or did he 'desert' to France & get put into the NF from the IBD? Would be interesting to see if there is any further clues in the FMCG file.

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Phil Evans

I suspect he is the same man, but I wonder if the army knew that?

I believe that it is the same man.

Looking at his MICs, one appears for the 15 Star and the other for the BW & VM.

He is on one of the local memorials I am researching at the moment. (I'm also kicking myself because, earlier today I realised that I had missed his service record while Ancestry was on free Saturdays.) I did find a link that had the transcript of his trial, but it is broken.

Co-incidentally, the memorial also features Thomas Highgate ........ but I don't want to go there!

Phil

Edit: Not wishing to mislead anyone, HFB actually appears on one of the lists in the church records. I don't believe that he was on the memorial in it's final form, which is "lost".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

There are bigger lists in most of our cities. Some are in cathedrals, some in town halls, and the CWGC maintain a list of over a million in the Debt of Honour Register. I can't see much to be learned about the 306 or 343, who have been so much researched.

They were dealt with in accordance with law. How well administered, it is pointless to try to speculate. We still have miscarriages of justice today after all but we also know how many sentences were not confirmed. Around them the British Empire had over a million killed, our opponents many more, and the French and Russians also had massive casualties. I happen to agree with those who find the attention spent on that number disproportionate.

Although I was not then interested in the Great War, I grew up aware of some old men who still bore the mental and physical scars. My grandfather's small village lost 80 men killed, in all theatres of war, and well over 300 served overseas. I have not been able to work out just how many of them were injured, but I bet most of them were scared, cold and fearful for much of their time.

In truth I find their stories and those of the community that they left behind, much more interesting. if you add to our understanding of the small number executed, after so much research, you will have done well indeed. The basic facts and figures I am afraid really don't make much impact. You referred to the cemeteries with SAD men buried in them. Just check the registers for one or two of those, and see how many others died, probably just as scared, just as cold. They had families and histories too. We should remember them all.

Keith

Keith,

Many thanks for your post, and let me assure you, I respect and agree with your sentiments completely. My post was never to honour the SADs, or in any way take away from the millions of men who died bravely, rather than those who ran away from their duties for whatever the reason.

In fact, the way I stumbled on this matter in the first place, was whilst researching a very brave man, in fact a VC holder, Lt. Col. Charles Doughty-Wylie VC whom I was trying to get information on for another thread I am running on Great War stained glass Memorial Windows ( please take a look at it, I am sure you will like it, as it deals exclusively with honouring the very brave men who fought and died in the Great War ). At that time my focus was on a brave and honourable man with a VC, not the men Shot at Dawn.

I am a History Buff, and greatly enjoy researching, and once I had found the information on my VC man which I then posted to my other thread, I rushed back to the SAD issue, and without really giving it that much thought, the Researcher in me then took over, and several hours later I had my SAD list, which I then innocently posted, not thinking for one minute that it would be so " interesting ".

I have no regrets for posting the list, and make no apologies for my post, I have had lots of thanks from members for posting the list, and like myself, many members had not seen that raw data before.

All my posts and interests before that day ( and moving forward ), had focused on the history of those brave men who fought and died in WW1.

I am also a avid Collector of WW1 uniforms, and weapons, and if you read my posts on any of those subjects, you will see that my respect and admiration for the men who fought and died in the Great War, is in fact the reason why I joined this Forum in the first place.

Again, I thank you for your post.

Kind regards,

LF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RaySearching

Could you not have simply posted the link?

the op could have posted this link here

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bob lembke

Although not expert on this question, I have occasionally poked my nose into discussions of this sensitive topic, as a resident Hun. I have occasionally mentioned the situation in the German Army, which was quite different in several ways.

The last time I did so there was a discussion between two British Forum Pals in the post, and one had a cryptic retort to the other (the immediate topic was the fairness of the courts martials that handed down capital sentences), which I interpreted as to state that there never were or rarely were aquittals in these trials. Is this true? Secondly, it seems that only about 10% of the death sentences were actually carried out. Can this be interpreted, if in fact there rarely was an aquittal, that not carrying out the execution was perhaps some sort of compensation to the certainty of a conviction at trial?

Bob Lembke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John_Hartley

Can this be interpreted, if in fact there rarely was an aquittal, that not carrying out the execution was perhaps some sort of compensation to the certainty of a conviction at trial?

Bob

You are correct in understanding that aquittal rates were low. I vaguely recall an earlier thread which had some statistics. This is hardly surprising bearing in mind the nature of the charges. Without wishing to be frivolous about these matters, it is difficult to consider how a court martial might conclude that desertion was not desertion, when the description of the offence is laid down in military law.

Personally, I struggle with the concept that a judicial process might "compensate" for a conviction by not carrying out a legitimate sentence. That said, whilst there is often discussion about the rights and wrongs of why a particular execution was carried out, I cannot recall reading discussion about why one was not. I wonder if there is any factual information about the +90% of cases where sentence was not carried out.

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
auchonvillerssomme

Phil and Peter, if he isn't the same man then there will be some interesting discussions, will the real Herbert Burden please stand up. What confuses the issue further is the line in his defence where he states "Defence: I went to see a friend of mine in the R.W. Kent Regt. in which Regt. I served in 1913 and as I heard he had lost a brother I wanted to enquire if it was true or not."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bob lembke

Bob

Personally, I struggle with the concept that a judicial process might "compensate" for a conviction by not carrying out a legitimate sentence. That said, whilst there is often discussion about the rights and wrongs of why a particular execution was carried out, I cannot recall reading discussion about why one was not. I wonder if there is any factual information about the +90% of cases where sentence was not carried out.

John

John;

I agree that not carrying out an execution post-conviction would be an absurd way to attempt to mitigate a legal system in which there was almost no chance of an aquittal.

My reaction to passing about 3400 sentences of death is not very positive, I must admit. But then not carrying out 90% of the sentences is also surprising. Perhaps the many death sentences were considered useful "pour les autres", but that many actual executions not useful. I have not looked at the primary sources, but my understanding is that, in the German Army (actually, there were four), which I think was about three times the size of the British Army, 82 men were shot in the course of the war, but only 18 were for military offenses, while the others were for "civilian" offenses like rape. However, I have no idea what the numbers are, but I would not be surprised if I was told that all of the death sentences were carried out.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, my father and others in his company killed their company commander, shot him right off of his white horse while he was waving his sword and shouting orders at the men. (He was drunk and had gotten the company up at 3 AM for "manuvers" on a parade ground near the barracks.) The Feldwebel (sergant major) marched the company back to the barracks and the barracks was surrounded by infantry. For three days officers entered the barracks and conducted interviews and took depositions. During these interviews I am sure that it came out that the company commander was an utter coward (he had never gone into combat with his men) and was stealing the men's funds to buy beer for fighter pilots that he was attempting to impress. He also allowed the NCOs to perform serious abuses of the men. This was not sensible behaviour in a storm unit in which every EM/OR wore an automatic pistol.

After three days of interviews the infantry disappeared, and large barrels of beer were brought up to the barracks for the men. It was not the first act of violence by the men against the officer. Clearly the decision was that an elite storm company was worth more than one rotten officer. (The abuses of the men were made more possible by the fact that the company commander did not even report to the nearby HQ of the Fifth Army, but to flame regiment HQ something like 100 miles away.) Then it seems that the CO became a "non-person", his name was stricken from the rolls of the regiment, and the regimental death roll. This probably was done by the regimental court of honor.

I understand the German Army of the period better than the British Army, but I cannot imagine such a series of events occuring in the British Army of 1916.

Bob

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×