CLIO 7 (1) - page 47

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Although our opinions differ on how
these soldiers should be remembered, this inci-
dent should not be taken lightly. With concern
for personal well-being at the forefront of mod-
ern society, it is simply unimaginable that in this
day and age, somebody would be punished for
having an illness that they merely cannot con-
trol. It is also important for us to understand the
deeper purpose of the executions. The discon-
nected and privileged war generals saw it as kill-
ing two birds with one stone. Whilst getting rid
of ‘dead-weight’ in their armies, they were also
able to threaten other soldiers with the same
consequence if they showed similar weakness as
their comrades.
Despite the fact that the army constant-
ly reassured themselves that the men were being
punished in the name of justice, it was clear that ex-
ecutions were unnecessarily brutal. To begin with,
the court cases for ‘cowards’ were often incredibly
biased. Those on trial could expect little support
frommedical officers proving their mental illness.
One such medical officer of the time quoted, ‘I went
to the trial determined to give him no help, for I
detest his type - I really hoped he would be shot’.
After a brief check and approval from the Field Mar-
shal, on the following dawn, the soldier would find
himself tied to a stake, being faced with a firing line
which likely consisted of his own friends. Next, his
eyes were tied with a blindfold. And before he knew
it, the soldier was hit with continuous shots. If this
did not kill him instantly- the officer in charge would
finish him off with a revolver. Some men refused a
blindfold, therefore looked straight into the guns
that would kill them- it challenged the authority of
the marshals and allowed the men to prove their
true bravery in their final moments.
It seems blindingly obvious that a soldier
faced with such horrific treatment in their lifetime
deserves at least some form of recognition posthu-
Re-enactment of the execution faced byWW1 deserters
soldiers of World War One worthy of pardon?
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