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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into this often 'taboo' subject
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...
Published on 16 Oct 2001 by tallchap

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous if not neutral
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...
Published on 18 April 2009 by Mr. John Conrad Mullen


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into this often 'taboo' subject, 16 Oct 2001
This review is from: Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent study and certainly thought provoking, 25 July 2012
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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-researched, highly readable account, 20 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (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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5.0 out of 5 stars The horrors of war, 25 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (Hardcover)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars An area we could all find ourselves., 5 Aug 2013
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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
3.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous if not neutral, 18 April 2009
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Mr. John Conrad Mullen "johncmullen" (Agen, France) - See all my reviews
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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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25 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars WARNING! This book must be read critically, 7 Jan 2002
By 
B. J. O'Brien (Rotterdam Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (Hardcover)
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).
On the issue whether executions were necessary because they discouraged mass desertion that might otherwise have occurred, sometimes the authors seem to be suggesting that this was indeed so, and in other places the opposite.
4 There is also scope for spotting important inferences from the facts which the authors unaccountably fail to draw. They state (p. 103) that 'the death penalty was used only in a minute percentage of cases', and they back this up with ample evidence. Do they conclude that those few who were executed were therefore treated unfairly - perhaps even so unfairly that they deserve a pardon? No, Corns and Hughes-Wilson don't seem to notice that this possible line of debate even exists. As a reader, you will have to spot it for yourself.
On a frivolous note, I can't resist recording that the acknowledgement at the beginning to 'our eagle-eyed copy-editor' contains both a spelling mistake and a punctuation mistake in the same sentence.
In short, recommended to two classes of reader: those who want a library of all the main works on this subject; and those who want something for a good workout of the critical thinking faculties.
Definitely not for someone who wants just one thoroughly reliable work on the subject.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 30 Dec 2001
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Cat (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (Hardcover)
This is an excellent analysis of this difficult issue. Corns and Hughes-Wilson have looked at all the aspects of the Great War military executions, putting them into the social, military and medical context of the time, instead of trying to judge yesterday by the standards of today. The book is presented in three parts: firstly the authors set the scene in the context of 1914, they then go on to do an in-depth examination of some of the cases to illustrate various categories of military crime and then look at the post war reviews and changes. This is a difficult and emotive subject and the authors tread a careful line, pointing out when men seemed harshly served by the justice of the time, but also when, by the standards of the day, there was little alternative but to use the ultimate punishment. A good read, well-written and excellently researched.
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A controversial book undermined by substantial contradiction, 29 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (Hardcover)
It is claimed this book is a comprehensive study of British Military Executions during WW1. It is nothing of the kind. Less than a third of the cases are considered. The authors admit they have their own political axe to grind to counter the claims of the Pardons Campaign. It is pro-establishement and conservative in appeal. Because of this, its scholarship is undermined. Evidence which does not support their case is ignored and they use questionable sources to substantiate some dubious claims. Haig could not have done a better job to justify the executions, yet the authors are adamant it served no useful purpose. They try hard to have it both ways which shows inconsistency. They suggest the British Generals at the front were preoccupied with desertions and mutiny which account for the use of the death penalty. No evidence is given to back this up. Instead they reveal mutiny was a rare offence and that most desertions happened on British soil. Not one deserter was shot on home ground. The authors have adopted a narrow "legalistic" view to justify the death penalty which pushes aside humanitarian considerations and justice, yet are inexplicably drawn to acknowledge considerable shortcomings in the decisions that were made by the High Command. In doing so they impose current standards into history which is exactly what they accuse others of doing. It is claimed the British Generals showed considerable mercy in only executing a tenth of those sentenced, yet do not consider what some already suspect that the sentencing policy was too extreme. They also assidiously avoid a proper discussion of the implications of the decision of the New Zealand Government who recently pardoned all its soldiers who were shot by the British Military Authorities. For a comprehensive critique of this book visit the website of the Shot At Dawn Campaign, particularly the page on The New Contemptibles.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 26 Jun 2011
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This is a superb book for those interested in this sad subject. A wonderful research tool. It is absolutely fair to both sides - the system that had to execute people and those executed. It is totally realistic and unsentimental
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Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War
Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War by Cathryn M Corns (Hardcover - 12 July 2001)
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