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April 16 , 2009

Murderous Tommies


Much has been written about the soldiers executed during WW1 for military offenses, all of whom were conditionally pardoned in 2006. However, until now very little attention has been paid to the cases of men who were tried under the Army Act and executed for murder.
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The British Army has always been reticent about publicizing courts martial and eighty years elapsed before the government was compelled to prematurely declassify the written proceedings of First World War capital courts martial. Even then, public attention tended to concentrate on cases involving soldiers who had been shot at dawn for offenses other than homicide, and virtually nobody was inclined to seek a posthumous pardon or judicial review for the murderous Tommies. This meant neither the victim’s nor the convicted men’s families were able to discover details about the murder cases.

Though readily identifiable online via much-visited war cemetery websites, until now there has been no readily accessible, historically reliable and balanced narrative about the activities and courts-martial of all the murderous Tommies of the Western Front. This book provides for a full account of the cases involving the fourteen soldiers and one officer whose homicidal misdeeds were committed in France and Flanders while hostilities were in progress.

Drawing on contemporary records, this carefully researched work chronicles the circumstances in which each of these men either slaughtered one of their comrades or an unarmed civilian. It examines the murderer’s motives and presents a balanced analysis of each case, including a detailed assessment of the extent to which each condemned man was granted a fair hearing by officers who sat in uneasy judgment as well as those involved in confirming the death sentences.
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