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Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War Hardcover – 12 Jul 2001


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; 1st Edition edition (12 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304353973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304353972
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 680,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Meticulous research backed by eloquent and elegant writing which accommodates the pressures and values of the time, disproving the First World War myth which had terrified conscripts forced 'over the top' by uncaring officers, and rear-echelon generals handing out death sentences to any who shied away. (Brian James BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE (November 2003))

It is hard to describe a book on a subject as bleak as this as 'splendid' - but it is... This is a powerful, well-argued and clearexposition of the justice - both rough and tough - meted out. For the serious student of the Great War this book is a must because it exposes an aspect of that conflict's vast secret underbelly, which has been hidden far too long. (MILITARY MODELCRAFT June 2003 (also TOY SOLDIER))

Book Description

The definitive and complete history of one of the most controversial aspects of the First World War: The story of British soldiers executed for cowardice and desertion.

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This is an important and timely book about an aspect of war which has haunted me - there is no other word for it - almost all my adult life. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By tallchap on 16 Oct 2001
Format: Hardcover
Set aside the hearsay and emotional accounts of the events surrounding those soldiers shot for cowardice during the great war.
Instead read und understand the clearest and most well researched factual accounts of these circumstances and allow yourself to make your own informed judgement on these difficult circumstances.
Whatever you decide, there is obviously a fine line between the assumption of cowardice and the little that was know of the psychological effects of life in the trenches on what were very typically young soldiers.
Altogether a fascinating book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Orlando on 25 Oct 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I remember my father telling me of a chap he knew who had only two sons and within days had received two telegrams to inform him that one of his sons had been killed in action whilst the other had been "Shot at dawn for cowardice in the face of the enemy" Reading these books certainly makes one think.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Nov 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-researched and powerful book, which brings out into the open many of the true issues behind the executions that took place during the war. The authors have laid out in a digestible form the backgrounds to medicine and law as they applied at the time. By electing to select a range of cases to illustrate their points they have produced a highly readable and well-reasoned account of the reality of military discipline. LP Hartley's words: 'The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there' is a highly relevant quotation - things were done differently in our fathers' days and no amount of our regret can wash away that truth. As Corns and Hughes-Wilson point out, some men suffered harsh treatment at the army's hands, but others appear to have been treated fairly by the law as it stood in 1914. This is a truly excellent read and I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in social or military history. It is well written and is thoroughly deserving of the excellent reviews it has received from the National Press.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Green knight on 25 July 2012
Format: Paperback
It is interesting that this topic is still one of heated opinion today, some years after the book was written and the Pardons Campaign ran it's course. It is true that the authors have a bias. In that respect there is an obvious flaw in their objectivity- but then someone had to set the case for the defence, so to speak.

It has been argued by some reviewers that their choice of cases to identify and discuss in depth may have been weighted to those that were deservedly guilty, but there are many cases discussed in the book that are not so. They havn't 'cherry picked' their cases to present. The reader has to make his progress avoiding the biased angle, but I got the impression the author's efforts and research led them to their belief; not that they set out with this viewpoint and put in untold hours meerly to substanciate it.

It is very true that it is false to view a previous age with the liberal morals of our society. The authors take a lot of trouble to try to place us into that sort of society and its mindset and functioning, as best as can be, before getting down to cases. The past is indeed a foreign country in this respect. From our safe 21st century armchairs we cannot understand a world where total war reigned and the Empire had to stand or fall on the shoulders of those men in Khaki- whether volunteers or conscripts. Nevertheless it is clear that the large majority of those guilty of a capital offence had their second chance, and a lot of those shot were repeat or severe offenders.

Ultimatly I found the book well written, and excellently researched, given a lot of records no longer exist. It certainly succeeds in giving "the other view", and for that it is very readable. Moreover, as can be seen from the barrage of reviews here, it is a book that is unquestionably thought provoking!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So easy to be critical of these poor souls.all I feel is sympathy for the way they were treated While at War, and so much was expected of everyone at that time,Of course some were going to come up short.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. John Conrad Mullen on 18 April 2009
Format: Paperback
The authors have done the work of unearthing a huge amount of (not always fascinating) detail about executions of British soldiers during world war one.

The main lesson that can be drawn is that the key factor of whether a deserter or a disobedient soldier was shot was whether or not the hierarchy felt that an "example" was needed, at that particular time, in that particular regiment, in order to terrorize other soldiers into continuing the killing and fighting according to the rules. (Or as the authors would put it "to build up morale".

The authors are clearly in favour of the British war aims and are generous in their analysis of the actions of military leaders. But it is an honest book and you can learn a lot.
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26 of 37 people found the following review helpful By B. J. O'Brien on 7 Jan 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book contains much interesting, moving and no doubt correct information about its subject. That is valuable in itself.
Corns and Hughes-Wilson don't just offer information. They also argue for a certain thesis: 'Spilled water cannot be replaced in a smashed jug' (Arab proverb), and so any idea of retrospective pardons should be strongly opposed.
The book's presentation of its thesis is so slovenly, that it would be a fine text to use for practice on a course in critical thinking. Suppose you want to form your own opinion on this controversy. Here are a few examples of the kind of obstacles Corns and Hughes-Wilson put in your way:
1 There are gratuitous sneers here and there about their opponents who advocate pardons. The reader has to be alert to separate sneer from substance.

2 In presenting one of the main pillars of their argument they rely mainly on Arab proverbs and poetic aphorisms such as 'The past is another country'. The thoughtful reader will hope to find a clearly reasoned statement of the authors' position on the tricky question of moral judgements about other times and places. But once you cut away the book's vague rhetoric on this point there is nothing left.

3 There are some whopping contradictions to be found if you keep your eyes open. For example.
The authors seem to be saying, albeit rather impressionistically, that the executions were basically OK by the standards of the time. However, the jacket of the book states that the executions were 'Controversial even at the time' (so does the blurb above on the Amazon screen).
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