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 full text of the Minister's statement can be read at the Veteran's Affairs Canada web site.



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.

       

 


from Rosemary Clarke

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

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.

 

 

 


What Progress Has Been Made?

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.


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 Central Ontario 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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