Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shot by both sides

In World War I, more than 300 British soldiers were shot and killed ... by the British.

Cowardice, desertion, and other military offences are the reasons they were executed. Essentially, they were given the death sentence for not fighting because they were either unwilling or unable.

I can understand why anybody would be unwilling. These were young men sent out to kill their fellow man. Maybe they didn't know what they were fighting for. Maybe they objected on moral grounds. Lord knows they probably didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Don't want to fight? Here's a bullet in the head for you, Private.

Others were unable. They had "shell shock". This is what we know today as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of these guys were physically unable to shoot a gun. They could not even hold a pencil because their hands were shaking so much with PTSD.

Shell shock, my arse. Here's a bullet for you, too.

Anyone would think that there wasn't quite enough lives wasted in war so we'd best start shooting our own. Great job, guys. Very sensible.

Now, 90 years on, these soldiers are finally due to receive an official pardon. And about bloody time, too.


Blogger Gentleman-hobbs said...

WELL SAID !!!!! It is about time, what did Haig know anyway sitting 5 miles back eating french cuisine and drinking vintage plonk. He is a tosser who should have been shot for war crimes!

17 August, 2006 19:50  
Blogger Fruning Graplecard said...

I was there. Poor fellows standing in their own doings for days, sometimes weeks on end, waiting for death.

About time the chaps were treated to a pardon.

Well done for bringing this to our attention.

I myself tried the time honoured ploy of sticking pencils up my nose and saying "bibble, bibble,bibble" in order to get out of the mess, but they wouldn't have it.


Grafas Fruning Graplecard

17 August, 2006 20:49  
Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

It's taken so long 'cause successive governments didn't want to acknowledge that our armed forces commited murder. Even so long ago. They're still not admitting it was murder. Just a different time with different values. Bollocks. It was murder.

17 August, 2006 21:06  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

gosh. people's reactions to this issue are extremely interesting to me.

Whilst not, obviously, being in favour of shooting random people at the drop of a hat, I'd just raise a couple of issues that bear thinking about:

1) many of these men had volunteered. They were there of their own free will they had signed up for the deal.

2) the death penalty was still applicable in civil life in England at this time. being executed for the commission of a crime was not unheard of.

3) medical opinion on shell shock and psychiatric disorder was in its infancy.

also: the British army didn't use summary execution (like the French, Italian, Austrian and I think Russian armies) nor decimation (like the Italian army)

it's not completely fair to judge anachronistically; the standards of the day ought to be kept in mind.

maybe I ought to do my own blog entryo nth is actually

17 August, 2006 21:16  
Blogger The Anti Crapitalist said...

The obvious thing left out of all of this bullshit was their class.

They were shot basically because anyone below officer rank was cannon-fodder. They treated the working class hero fighters as expendible, and those that broke down and tried to get our of the horror of their situation were summarily shot as an example to the others.

There was nothing noble about the 1st World War. The only good thing it did was break down social barriers to such an extent that people refused to take shit from their "betters" afterwards and everyday society got more democratic post war.

How Britain ever got its place in the world whilst ignorant, blue-blooded scum were calling the shots in anyone's guess.

17 August, 2006 22:29  
Blogger _z. said...

Good Post man!

18 August, 2006 00:07  
Blogger tideliar said...

hear hear. Good show that man. About time too, poor bastards.

18 August, 2006 00:46  
Blogger Deep Stoat said...

Mr anti-crap,
You have your facts wrong. Three quarters of the British aristocracy were wiped out, yes, wiped out by the first world war. Visit any village war memorial. Everyone was expendable, regardless of class, and by and large all ranks considered they were doing their duty.

It is at the latter half of the twentieth century when your thesis might apply, because by the end of the 1930's it was possible for the military elite to engage in long range war. The essential difference being that after that time the officer classes could be hidden away miles from any engagement.

I wonder who you consider to be "scum"? Is it people who by an accident of birth were born with priveleges in an age of inequality? Is it the many officers who came up through the ranks because of their merit as soldiers? Who is scum? Is it a word you use a lot?

We got our place in the world through conquest, innovation and enterprise. Trying to rewrite history so that it suits your quaint Arthur Scargill views wont wash. We have things we can be proud of as a country and things to be ashamed of. We should not judge yesterday by today's standards. We can look at this Government's foreign policy and say that it is all wrong, but there are many who do not share this view. You don't have a monopoly of the truth and considering your vacuously hysterical contribution, I am rather glad.

18 August, 2006 02:07  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Thanks all for your comments, as always.

Spangly: The three points you make are all true, I'm sure, but I don't think they negate any of the points I made in the post. These men were executed for their inability or reluctance to fight, which is ludicrous by any standard. Surely even in those days, the very notion of killing your own men must have been absurd?

AC & DS: Feel free to battle this out (but no shooting any of our own, okay?). You know me: I never like to let research get in the way of writing a post, so I'm keen to follow your discussions.

18 August, 2006 08:34  
Blogger the cappuccino kid said...

good post matey.

18 August, 2006 08:48  
Blogger Pie said...

Us Brits have committed more than our fair share of atrocities. I only hope we can continue to learn from the past and finally own up to our crimes.

18 August, 2006 08:55  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

well, asterisk, this was actually one of the main themes of my doctorate. Does shooting people act as a sufficient (dis)incentive to others to improve the overall military perfomance of the army? you have to remember that an army's raison d'etre is fighting. If it won't fight it's no good.

It has to find ways of getting people to fight for it. All armies use some combination of the carrot & the stick; the British WWI army used more carrot and less stick than almost any of its contemporaries.

another thing is, has the government also apologised for all those people unfairly executed by the civil courts? and if not why not? and when is the cut-off date?

18 August, 2006 12:41  
Blogger Tanya said...

If they suffered PTSD today, the scenario would have been very different.

Sadly, these men didn't receive the treatment they needed because, as Spangly Princess pointed out, the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder was a long way off from where it is now.

But I certainly do feel that they were, indeed, cannon fodder. Young men proudly signed up to throw themselves at bullets and bombs and anything else that could be thought up.

War was... is.... always will be... unfair and ugly.

18 August, 2006 16:25  
Blogger The Anti Crapitalist said...

DS: "Trying to rewrite history so that it suits your quaint Arthur Scargill views wont wash"

Well being as asshole doesn't wash with me either.

The fact that three quarters of the aristocracy died is a plus point for me. Everyone lives their life by accident of birth, some just fuck their own lives up, others seem to feel they are compelled by divine right to fuck other peoples lives up.

18 August, 2006 19:21  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Great post and what a mixed bag of responses, very exciting.

18 August, 2006 20:18  
Blogger the cappuccino kid said...

how does king arthur (hey i'm from barnsley) get dragged into a post about world war 1 ? now i am confused!

19 August, 2006 09:07  

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