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Symbol of red poppy, white marker and rifle Judgement and Punishment

 

You call me a coward

You call me a coward
You who sit in judgment here
That's easy for you to say
When no enemy shells fall near.
You call me a coward
You who want an example made
You say I must have run
And thrown away my gun
You say I must have fled
For all save I were dead.
 
My version of events
You reject out of hand
You say it’s good I survived
The hells of no man’s land
For it means I lived to die again
In front of true and trusting men
Who've swallowed all your lies
And would just as soon
Shoot one of their own
Than swat at bothersome flies.
 
It is dawn behind the battle lines
The daylight’s blossoming hour
And many of your own you murder
So no cowardice here may flower
You need to teach a lesson
To soldiers one and all
They’re fighting for King and Country
But their fate lies in your hands
If they fail to fall in battle
They’ll be shot against a wall

George Macintyre

 

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I have seen many ghastly sights in the war, and hideous forms of death ... but nothing ever brought home to me so deeply, and with such cutting force, the hideous nature of war and the iron hand of discipline, as did that lonely death on the misty hillside in the early morning. Even now, as I write this brief account of it, a dark nightmare seems to rise out of the past and almost makes me shrink from facing once again memories that were so painful.

Reverend Canon Frederick Scott
of Sergeant William Alexander, 10 Canadian Infantry Battalion
executed 18 October 1917, aged 37
 
 

 

... The officer had loaded the rifles and had left them laying on the ground at our position. We got into position and were warned to fire straight, or we may have to suffer the same fate. The prisoner was taken out of a car (we saw him get out, with a black cap over his head and guarded) and placed on the other side of the curtain.

If we did not kill him, the Officer would have to. As soon as the curtain dropped (the prisoner was tied in a chair five paces away from us, a black cap over his heart) we got the order to fire. One blank and nine live rounds. It went off as one. I did not have the blank. The prisoner did not feel it. His body moved when we fired, then the curtain went up. That was the easiest way for an execution I had heard of. The firing squad only saw him for a few minutes. We went back to the Battalion Orderly Room and got a big tumbler of rum each, and we went back to our billets, ate, and went to bed. We had the rest of the day off. It was a job I never wanted.

from It Made You Think of Home the journal of Deward Barnes, CEF
of the execution of Private Harold Lodge

13 March 1918

 

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Last Post
 
The regimented clickety-clack
Of hobnailed boots on cobbles
Command my full attention
There is no turning back
From my destiny with dawn.
Former colleagues in arms shun
Me now, a coward in eyes
That have feasted on
Half-truths and outright lies.
 
My reveille will all too soon
Become my last post
In a corner of some Belgian courtyard
That will be ever England's shame,
A memorial to those murdered
In the King's name,
A military example pour encourager les autres
With no compassion for sons, daughters
And wives thrown on to unwelcoming streets
As further disgrace to disgraceful men
Condemned never to see the sun again.

George Macintyre

 

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