1914-1918
   


"Those who go to war at the request of their nation do not know the fate that lies in store for them. This was a war of such overwhelming sound, fury and unrelenting horror that few combatants could remain unaffected," said Minister Duhamel. "While we cannot relive those awful years of a nation at peril in total war, and although the culture of that time is subsequently too distant for us to comprehend fully, we can give these 23 soldiers a dignity that is their due, and provide closure to their families." 
The Honourable Ron J. Duhamel,
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Dec. 11, 2001




    The effort put forth by Canadians in the First World War remains impressive. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers left a legacy of valour and sacrifice that must be remembered.

     The objective of this page is not to belittle or diminish the sacrifices made during the 1914 - 1918 "Great War" - in fact, quite the opposite. Canada sent a predominately volunteer force of nearly 650,000 men and women to participate in the war effort. Approximately 66,000 never returned. Their loss could never be redeemed. Their sacrifice could never be truly appreciated.

        During W.W. I,  23 Canadians were "shot at dawn". Twenty-three young Canadian men were executed for desertion. We are not saying their actions merit any degree of praise. We are not trying to cast more upon these men than their actions merit. We are saying, however, that these men did not deserve to be tied to a post, blindfolded and killed.

    During the First World War executions were accepted in the British army as the way to punish and prevent further desertions. The Canadian government did not interfere with these traditions. It should be noted that the Australian government refused to allow such executions to be inflicted upon its citizens.

        It is our opinion that the executions of  young men is beyond the scope of Canadian justice. We cannot even begin to understand the stress and blind fear that would have taken over these men. How many of these men needed treatment? If it became necessary to "set an example" then other courses of action should have been used.

    The Government of Canada has offered an apology and formally announced its regret for this situation. On December 11, 2001, Veteran Affairs Minister, Dr. Ron Duhamel rose in the House of Commons and with sincerity and passion, read the names of those 23 Canadians into the Parliamentary record and announced their names will be written into Parliament Hill's Book of Remembrance. He was whole-heartedly supported by all of Canada's opposition Parties.

       

Please click here to view the pictures taken of the pages from
Canada's 
Book of Remembrance.
(This has been reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder, Veteran Affairs Canada)

       

Finally, the men who volunteered to fight for their "King and Country" - and their families -  may find a true sense of closure.


    Many thanks to those who have responded to the call for sponsorship of the 23 Canadians at the Memorial Arboretum.

    Although all soldiers have now been sponsored, your support is still very much needed to maintain and improve the memorial and grove.
    Any financial donation will be much appreciated.


Finally . . . some excellent news from the U.K.

General Distribution 8 November 2006:

 

At Last - Pardons Royal Assent

---

The amendment granting posthumous conditional pardons received the full approval of the British Parliament after a two-hour debate last night.  Following the usual parliamentary tradition, the Royal Assent of HM Queen Elizabeth will have affirmed the pardons today.

This is a great moral and political victory for the living relatives and the Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign because it at last formally acknowledges that the executed were undeserving of their fate.  Importantly, it restores their honour and dignity.

It is also a milestone in military history that represents a significant triumph for all those who worked so hard to secure the pardons.

Although the military records of the executed continue to show each man was properly convicted and sentenced, every file will now contain an important formal recognition by the State that it was deemed proper that each soldier be granted the benefit of a conditional pardon.  The aim is to remove any element of stigma and shame.

Julian Putkowski has adroitly noted the irony of the debate in the Commons yesterday and the anniversary of the last executed soldier in the Great War –  Private Louis Harris on 7 November 1918.  Mark the name carefully for added significance.

Please share with me in the honour of saluting the determination and courage of those who have consistently and unremittingly fought for the granting of pardons. 

Andrew Mackinlay MP has tirelessly been at the forefront in addressing political hostility to our cause.  As a tribute, you might be interested to know that at the inauguration of the death cells in Poperinge Town Hall in Flanders in 1997, Andrew noted on the first page of the visitor’s book that, ‘…The executed men have been pardoned by the British people already, i.e. by the vast majority of public opinion – now for an official pardon in Parliament.’  Little did he realise it would take him a decade to achieve it!  I think you will agree with me – he did a terrific job in the commons last night in the same way Lord Alf Dubs did previously during the debate in the House of Lords

John Hipkin, once a boy merchant seaman and prisoner-of-war in World War Two has successfully exploited his experiences and sympathies for the executed soldiers, particularly the boy soldiers.  John has travelled extensively in the pursuit of our cause and on occasion found himself on the wrong side of a heavy overbearing officialdom within the county constabulary who sought unlawfully to constrain his protestations.  Often alone, this has required considerable resourcefulness and cold courage.  His mission has known no bounds and he can now rest assured that his endeavours have proved exceedingly fruitful.  His wife, Wynne, has supported him throughout and deserves our sincerest gratitude.

Julian Putkowski, academic, author and historian has diligently exposed many of the injustices within the execution processes.  This has proved vital and helped generate convincing insight into aspects of historical reality.  In short, his scholastic and historical efforts have been central to the whole campaign.  Ever pressed for time, the pardons campaign has always assumed his first priority.  We owe him a considerable debt of gratitude.

Our best wishes also go to Gertrude Harris, particularly at this time when she is poorly.  We wish her a speedy recovery.  In spite of her age, Gertrude has shown immense courage and stamina in confronting a sceptical establishment about the deplorable fate of her father – Harry Farr.  She has reflected a quiet and dignified strength of character, which is shared by many of the other living relatives.  Space forbids mentioning them all but our thoughts are especially with you this momentous day.

Praise is also deserving to our friend on the other side of the Irish Sea.  Peter Mulvany has striven assiduously to bring attention to the case of the Irish executed.  Such were his efforts that he garnered the fullest support of the Irish Government.  In their own gentle diplomatic way they have added to the pressure upon the British Government to face the terrible dilemma of the executed soldiers.  We thank them for endorsing the pardons issue.

Finally, even though it is much after the event, we should say a last thanks to Mark Peck, then an MP in the New Zealand government.  He was the first successfully to initiate military pardons in 2000 on the other side of the world.  It is difficult to gauge what effect this had on the British, but it is proper to assume that the establishment viewed it as the first crack in the stern unyielding edifice of the status quo.

On behalf of the small nucleus of those actively representing the core of the pardons campaign, can I say a big and warm thank you for your continued support and encouragement.  As time has progressed and developments achieved, this has become increasingly important.  We are grateful for those who have pressed their Members of Parliament including those who have made representations to local councillors of importance.  It has all helped tremendously.

The small contingent of SAD supporters who will be marching past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday shortly, will hold their chin in and chests out a little more proudly in the knowledge that their plea for a greater measure of mercy has now been formally recognised.

For my part, this has been an energizing yet solemn privilege.  I am proud to have contributed in but a small way in helping to free the executed from underserved blame and shame.  Most of these men endured unimagined horror and though deemed unworthy, showed tremendous courage in the firing line of comrades and pals.

Alas! At the going down of the Sun – We will remember them……

God bless you all!

Harry Templeton  [SAD Pardons Campaign]


     

     
  • Review the  Shot At Dawn site for the United Kingdom for further information regarding the campaign and the Arboretum.



On October 9, 2002, I had the opportunity to visit the preserved cells and execution post displayed at the Poperinge town hall in Flanders, Belgium. Many executions took place at this location. Poperinge is approximately 10 kilometres to the south-west of Ieper (Ypres).

John Stephens

- Please click on the thumbnail to view full sized photographs -

 

The cells as they appears today
The Poperinge Townhall. The exhibit is located through this gate.

 

       
   

The execution post exhibited in the courtyard of the town hall.

   

 

 
           

news from Rosemary Clarke

The Unveiling of the 
Shot at Dawn Memorial: 
Thursday June 21, 2001

The Arboretum opened on June 21, 2001. A number of WW1 veterans will honoured the occasion, as did the Royal Engineers, members of the Salvation Army and Scottish Pipers. 

A white dove symbolising a spirit of peace and reconciliation was released.

 

         

 
   

 


The Shot At Dawn Timetable

1985 - The Royal British Legion called on the government to review the cases of soldiers who had been executed for cowardice. 

September 1995 - The British Leader of the Opposition announced that a future Labour Government would consider the cases of the executed men.

May 1997 - Dr John Reid (British Minister of State for the Armed Forces) announced that a review would take place.

July 1998 - Dr John Reid explained the reasons for not granting a full legal pardon, although sympathy was expressed for the victims and their families. It was requested that the stigma they had suffered be removed and that the names of the soldiers be added to appropriate war memorials and books of Remembrance.

January 1999 - A question concerning the possible granting of a collective pardon for the executed soldiers was raised in the British House of Lords by the Earl of Carlisle, with no positive outcome.

November 1999 - Members of the Scottish Parliament pressed for the Westminster Parliament to grant a pardon for soldiers executed during World War One.

April 2000 - The Prime Minister of New Zealand announced a review of the cases of five soldiers executed for desertion, with a view to a pardon by virtue of the Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Bill.

May 2000 The Unquiet Graves Conference took place at the Cloth Hall, Ieper and discussed the execution of soldiers and civilians of various nationalities, during World War One. A book, Unquiet Graves, co-authored by Julian Putkowski and Piet Chielens (Co-ordinator of the In Flanders Fields Museum), will tell the full stories of 62 of the executed British soldiers.

July 2000 - On the eighty-seventh anniversary of the execution of Private Herbert Burden (executed at 17 years of age), the sculpture based on his features, which will form the centre-piece of the Shot At Dawn Memorial Garden was installed at the National Millennium Arboretum, Staffordshire. It is intended that the official unveiling will take place during the spring of 2001.

September 2000 - Royal Assent was granted to the New Zealand Government's Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Bill, relating to New Zealand soldiers executed, either by their own, or British firing squads during World War One. The vote had been 112 for the motion and five against.

November 2000 - For the first time, relatives and supporters of the 306 executed British soldiers joined the march past The Cenotaph at Whitehall, following the annual Remembrance Day service and two-minute silence.

November 2000 - The Canadian Government's Minister for Veteran Affairs, Ron Duhamel is seeking posthumous pardons for the 23 Canadian soldiers who were shot by firing squad during World War One.


December 11, 2001 -    The Government of Canada has offered an apology and formally announced its regret for this situation. On December 11, 2001, Veteran Affairs Minister, Ron Duhamel rose in the House of Commons and with sincerity and passion, read the names of those 23 Canadians into the Parliamentary record and announced their names will be written into the Book of Remembrance in Parliament Hill's Book of Remembrance. His words were supported by all of Canada's opposition Parties.

printed courtesy of Rosemary Clarke's
"Executed for Example"


Canadian Volunteers Executed During W.W. I

1.

W. Alexander, 10th Battalion, 2nd  Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

 

Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Shot:

Oct 18, 1917

Desertion – absent without leave for 2 days

2.

Frederick S. Arnold, 1 Battery, 1 Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery

 

 

Lancer-Bombadier

Shot:

July 25, 1916

Desertion –

Absent without leave – arrest in plain clothes

3.

Fortunat Auger, 14th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

 

 

Private

Shot:

March 26, 1916

Desertion –

Absent without leave for 3 days

4.

Harold George Carter, 73rd Battalion

 

 

Private

Shot:

April 20, 1917

Desertion –

Captured after 5 days

5.

Gustav Comte, 22nd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

July 3, 1917

Desertion –

Absent for 6 weeks

6.

Arthur Charles Degasse, 22nd Canadien Francais Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

Private

Shot:

March 15, 1918

Desertion –

 

7.

Leopold Delisle, 22nd Canadien Francais Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division  

 

Private

Shot:

May 21, 1918

Desertion -

8.

Edward Fairburn, 18th Western Ontario Battalion, 4th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division  

 

Private

Shot:

March 2, 1918

Desertion -

9.

Stephen McDermott Fowles, 44th Manitoba Battalion, 10th Brigade, 4th Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

June 19, 1918

Desertion –

 

10.

Maurice J. Higgins, 1st Western Ontario Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

December 7, 1916

Desertion –

Absent for 16 days

11.

Henry Hesey Kerr, 7th British Columbia Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division

 

Private

Shot:

November 21, 1916

Desertion –

Absent for 24 hours

12.

Joseph Lalancette, Canadien Francais Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

July 3, 1917

Desertion –

Absent for 1 month

13.

Come Laliberte, 3rd Toronto Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

Private

Shot:

August 4, 1916

Desertion –

Arrested after refusing to follow orders

 

14.

Norman Ling, 2nd Eastern Ontario Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

Private

Shot:

August 12, 1918

Desertion –

 

15.

Harold Edward James Lodge, 19th Central Ontario Battalion, 4th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division  

 

Private

Shot:

March 13, 1918

Desertion –

Absent for 5 weeks

16.

Thomas L. Moles,
54th Kootenay Battalion, 11th Brigade, 4th Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

October 22, 1917

Desertion –

 

17.

Eugene Perry, 22nd Canadien Francais Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

April 11, 1917

Desertion –

 

18.

Edward James Reynolds, 3rd Toronto Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

Private

Shot:

August 23, 1916

Desertion –

Arrested after refusing to follow orders

 

19.

John William Roberts, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, 8th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

July 30, 1916

Desertion:

 

20.

Dimitro Sinizki, Northern Ontario Battalion, 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

Private

Shot:

October 9, 1917

Cowardice –

Arrested after refusing to 
follow orders

 

21.

Charles Welsh, 8th 90th Rifles of Winnipeg Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division  

 

Private

Shot:

March 6, 1918

Desertion –

 

22.

James H. Wilson, 4th Central Ontario Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

July 9, 1916

Desertion –

 

23.

Elsworth Young, 25th Nova Scotia Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

 

Private

Shot:

October 29, 1916

Desertion –

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  Last updated: December 2011