Shot at Dawn: Lest We Forget WW1 Crimes and Haig: An Overdue Tribute To All Those Executed For Cowardice In World War 1.
80,000 Shell Shocked Men.
Shot at Dawn: Lest We Forget WW1 Crimes and Haig: An Overdue Tribute To All Those Executed For Cowardice In World War 1; by Pearldiver, tells of the hundreds of young men who were wrongly executed for Cowardice and Desertion by Commanders who knew that they were suffering from the effects of battle fatigue and shell shock, yet used their executions as deterrents to others and a demonstration of their own misplaced powers. During World War One Douglas Haig (whom I will not honor with direct reference to his position) was responsible for the strategies and enforcement of discipline to all allied troops.
Haig was vain-gloriously guilty for what today is considered to be war crimes, having personally signed off the Death Warrants of hundreds of allied soldiers and delegated, yet oversaw that signing off of death warrants for hundreds more. Douglas Haig had been advised in 1915, that a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder referred to then as ‘Shell Shock’ had been found to exist in some 8% of men in active service, across all nations. This figure was not only written down, but also it was not humanely acted upon. As if in response to those findings, Haig then ordered more and more shells to be fired, more and more men to charge across open ground covered by barbed wire and enemy machine guns and that should any man under the command of an English Officer be found to be in dereliction of duty; that he attend a court martial from which he be executed by and/or in front of his friends.
Real people - real waste.
The intent to dishonor these young men even went so far as to have them buried in unmarked graves, with no ability to be identified. One would have to question that action as possibly being one of removing the evidence of the crime. Clearly humiliation was intended also as those who formed the firing squads were often mates with the accused. For the Anzac troops, the English public school boys who were placed in charge of those more mature men, they were hated, often more than their enemy. To counter that obvious ‘disrespect’ Haig gave those same immature English Officers, the ability to merely shoot without Court Martial, an act that was quite predominant, yet which strangely was not recorded accurately within the archives.
As a man, I am most passionate about such injustice, as an author, I am always going to be duty bound to write about such injustices. As the Grandson of a Kiwi Soldier who had volunteered to serve King and Country and survived to tell of the lifetime of shame felt by kiwis having to execute shell shocked kiwi friends; I will honor all of those young men and their friends who suffered for the rest of their lives as a result of the arrogance of fools like Douglas Haig! The Americans and the Australians would not allow Haig the opportunity to directly discipline their troops; it is a great pity that other nations did not also exercise such foresight! The men from Down-Under who were executed had already served at Gallipoli, two of those 'kiwis' shot at dawn were of Australian descent; an example of the arrogance of Haig.
So were these men.
Within the official war archives, those servicemen and women executed for Cowardice are listed only as such; 306 British and Commonwealth, 600 French, 13 Belgium, 23 Canadians, 5 New Zealanders, 0 Australian, 0 American, Unknown – Indians, South Africans and others. There were 48 Germans and an Unknown Number of Turks and other Axis troops executed for these ‘offenses.’
Too late for many, however in 1930, the military Death Penalty was outlawed as being barbaric and as a result of the tens of thousands of documented cases of PTSD after the Great War! In 2001, many of these men were granted a pardon. Was that an admittance of the blame that should have been pinned to the heart of Douglas Haig and his sub-ordinates? Of course not, they were honored as great leaders of men and received all the benefits of those accolades! This article is not in any respect intended to disrespect our servicemen and women, rather it is written to honor them – All of Them! To those who were wrongly shamed by those in power to do so; here is an overdue tribute to every young soul who was shot at dawn!
This poem of hope is that we, as people, never allow such inhumane actions ever happen again.
Shot at Dawn.
Lower me down strangers
With no military honor bestowed on me
Though like you I volunteered and fought
Like you I lived and died in the mud and rain
Like you I saw and smelt the carnage
In a far off land, like you, I am dying to be free
Lower me down this day, strangers
Draped in my unmarked, bloodstained sheet
Here lies the broken body of an unknown man
Unknown I hope I will not always be
In time perhaps they’ll find what remains of me
And wonder why I had no boots upon my feet
How did so called civilized nations regard human life as being so worthless?
Stuff Haig and these English schoolboys who’d
Recruit us to kill all who hate them, justifiably
They ignore that we lose our lives two by two
Just faceless fodder, to whimsical rates of loss
Lower me down to hell, strangers
To my last post, away from this insanity
You have killed me as a coward sir
Your gutless act, example to all my Anzac friends
Shot against a broken fragmented post, at dawn
On a sea of empty mud, where once forests grew
You strip me of my pay, my dignity, my tags and name
Yet let me hold my lucky charm, as if to make amends
Shell shock? How could that be?
In his last letter home, he said he was going to a place in Belgium. We haven't heard from our son for awhile!
I am but guilty of surviving endless shell bursts
That have killed my friends and wounded me
Disoriented from the percussion, all shocked
Now guilty of cowardice, Haig’s bastards claim
Yet no blindfold hides the pain, so shoot well my friends
White marks my heart don’t close your eyes to see
So lower me down fellow strangers
And know that tomorrow this could be you
If you survive please tell my family I died well
Because you know the charges were all untrue
Lower me down my brothers, bury too my charm
And I will nourish my acorn and life will be renewed
All you grandsons of those arrogant English boys
Who’d chase foxes across, once a no mans land
They knew we were shell shocked, 80,000 like me
Many buried under this Anzac oak, now wild and free
Acorn charm in my hand, you buried me well my brothers
A tree in time gave up truth, now here honorably; we stand.
Copyright © 2010 - 2015 Art of the Diver with all rights reserved.
It only takes an acorn to grow a tree of truth... Lest We Forget.
Clearly Cruelty Was Power.
Many forms of cruelty existed.
Finally Some English Officers Gained the Courage to Stand Up Against the Politicians.
Siegfried Sasson and many others like Wilfred Owen had had enough! This is Sasson's Open Letter of 31 July 1917 to the Government, published in The Times. Other writers like Kipling (after the loss of his son John) and Tolkien himself a Lieutenant (after the loss of his two best friends) along with Purvis; all created the current of opinion. This Was Very Powerful for the time and could have resulted in Sasson's own execution. Interestingly when he was charged it was successfully argued that the author was, at the time suffering from: Shell Shock!
A Soldier's Declaration
"I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerity's for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize."
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The graves of thousands of young men lost at the Front.
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