New pardon plea for WWI soldier

I think not
The family of a World War I soldier shot for cowardice are to ask the High Court to overturn a government decision refusing to pardon him posthumously.

In February, Defence Secretary John Reid upheld earlier decisions turning down the request to pardon Private Harry Farr, of Kensington, London.

His 92-year-old daughter, Gertrude Harris, said she was very disappointed by Mr Reid's decision.

The family has always insisted her father was a victim of shell shock.

'Other countries'

Pte Farr's granddaughter, Janet Booth, told the BBC's Five Live that her family want the government to follow the example of New Zealand, France and Germany, who have pardoned their soldiers who were shot in the same way.

"I can't understand why our government won't pardon the men. I know it was a long time ago, but it should never have happened and it's never too late to say you're sorry and put things know..that were done wrong to these soldiers.

"Why the MOD can't say yes we'll pardon them, and let us all get on with it."

The case will be watched by scores of other families who want to clear the names of British troops executed by firing squads.

Pte Farr fought with the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and was just 25 when he was shot at dawn on 2 October, 1916.

He had been in hospital for five months suffering from shell shock, the family say.

The defence secretary rejected Pte Farr's case on the grounds that it could not be proven conclusively that shell shock was behind Farr's refusal to return to the front. (external - login to view)
This is a sad part of Commonwealth history. During the First World War, numerous Commonwealth soldiers were "shot at dawn" for various crimes throughout the war. 23 Canadians were executed at the hands of the British Army to which we fell under in the Order of Battle. These men were volunteers (the entire Canadian Army of 650,000 from a population of 8.5 million were volunteers) and as such should not have be subjected to this punishment. The Australian Army was the only Commonwealth nation to NOT allow their men to be executed by the British. In total 129 Australians were scheduled for death, but the punishments never occured. The Australians, as indicated by their high number, were an extremely unruly and unprofessional Army at the time, although they were an Army that achieved results, like the Canadians. While it is unfortunate that 23 Canadians were shot by the British, our views changed post war. The executions, coupled with British blunders at such battles as The Somme and Passchendaele, ensured that Canadian troops were to never be placed under the authority of the British again. This was evident in the Second World War, where Canadian troops were attached to British Corps/Armies, yet never subjected to punishment and/or orders if they fell contrary to Canadian better judgement. In short, the executions helped solidify an "all Canadian" command structure for future wars.

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