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For the Sake of Example: Capital Courts Martial 1914-1918 - The Truth (Penguin Classic Military History) [Paperback]

Anthony Babington
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

28 Mar 2002 Penguin Classic Military History
346 officers and men were summarily executed at dawn following their court martials in the field between the outbreak of war in 1914 and the end of March 1920. Anthony Babington is the only writer who has been allowed access by the ministry of defence to all the files relating to these cases. He found that although the majority of the executed men were guilty, or technically guilty, of the charges laid against them, many were treated with considerable injustice and great inhumanity. This book reveals the grim and sometimes horrific details of the trials and executions. The disclosures it has revealed aroused a widespread sense of shame and have led to frequent parliamentry demands for posthumous pardons.

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141391006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141391007
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,331,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Anthony Babington served in the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1939-1945. He was a Circuit Judge in London from 1972 until his retirement in 1988. His other books include A House in Bow Street, The English Bastille, and Military Intervention in Britain.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUBLISHERS REVIEW [From The Dust Jacket Flap] 7 April 2009
I believe that most readers choose a book from the publisher's advertisements. [eye catching illustrated dust jackets / the publisher review(s) on the jacket flaps]. FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, I HAVE A SUPPLIED A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE BOOK, AND HERE IS WHAT THE JACKET STATES :


According to the official records of the British Army a total of 346 officers and men were summarily executed at dawn following their convictions by courts martial in the field between the outbreak of the First World War and the end of March 1920. The details of their trials and executions have been closed to the public ever since, but during the last decade there has arisen a sense of profound uneasiness regarding the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

In the preparation of this book Anthony Babington has made use of a great deal of new evidence which has only recently come to light and which has enabled a full and accurate account of these matters to be written for the very first time. It is now apparent that although the majority of the excecuted men were guilty, or technically guilty, of the charges that had been laid against them, many of them were treated with considerable injustice and considerable inhumanity.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but better than many others on the same subject... 12 Feb 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I agree with the previous reviewer. This book is one of the more reasonable of those arguing for pardons. It is certainly superior to "Shot at Dawn" which is a polemic that has unfortunately become the bible for the pardons movement in spite of numerous factual erros.
Regarding the previous reviewers comments regarding other armies and the death penalty.
ITALY: 750
The French and German statistics are not considered reliable, they merely represent the number of people we KNOW were shot. French and German records are not so complete as those available for the British and summary execution in the field was not so heavily frowned on. It should also be noted that French and German discipline and morale collapsed far more significantly that British.
In WW2 the Germans executed around 15,000 of their own men for desertion. The british did not maintain the death penalty for desertion and over 100,000 men deserted and by 1942 officers at all levels were calling for the death penalty's reinstatement. In addition, the Australian force in WW1 was not covered under the Army Act and so no Australians were executed. The desertion and indiscipline rates in the Australian Corps were well above those of British and Canadian formations. Almost 6 million men passed through the british Army in the course of WW1. Of these, 346 were executed, 37 of whom were executed for murder and 18 for cowardice. Of those shot for desertion, 40% had serious previous charges on a variety of offences and many had deserted either in 1914, before the war stagnated into trench battle or before the even got to the front for the first time. The image of a brave young conscript (the average age of those executed was 26 and the overwhelming majority were over 21) finally cracking psychologically after weeks spent under constant bombardment may be accurate in a tiny minority of cases but it is certainly not the general picture. There are cases where a pardon is definitely arguable but there simply is no case whatsoever for a blanket pardon. The idea that in shooting deserters (the vast majority of whom were not shot) the British Army was operating a policy of "legalised murder" is ludicrous.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Coverage but Debate is Lacking 16 July 2001
By Severin Olson - Published on Amazon.com
In this book Babington tells the story of the many young soldiers executed by the British army during the First World War. The facts and stories behind each case are provided, as well as background information about the war. Many of the cases are chilling and tragic, and leave the reader wondering how he would have behaved in the circumstances. Overall, I feel this book has only two significant drawbacks. While interesting and informative, this book fails to put the debate about military capital punishment into a proper philosophical or intellectual framework. The author seems to assume that his readers will all share his disgust with the executions. But isn't there a place for such punishments during wartime? Are not disobedience, cowardice and desertion serious offenses? The system was certainly out of hand in the WWI army, but that does not mean that capital punishment must be done away with entirely. Of course, a society that finds it innapropriate to exclude gays from the military can hardly be expected to favor executions. I was also troubled by Babington's failure to tell us more about the punishments served out in other armies. As it is, he leaves this to a paragraph or two at the end of the book. Understandably he could not have covered this mater in too much detail, but greater effort could have been made to compare and contrast the situation in France and Germany with that of Great Britain. But these are fairly minor flaws. This is a good book about those unfortunate souls who lost their lives mostly for the sake of example.
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