Shot at Dawn Soldiers buried in cemeteries or commemorated on memorials in the Salient.

More than 300 British and Empire soldiers were court-martialled and executed during the First World War. Many of them received only summary trials and were shot the next morning.


in any sense that we recognise today, is impossible to say. Some undoubtedly were, others were numbed by the stress, the squalor, the sight of so much death, or shell-shocked and driven to the edge of madness by being forced to endure the unendurable.

I believe these men were shot not because they were guilty, but AS AN EXAMPLE.

The case of Sergeant W Stones - at 2.30am on Nov 26, 1916 (on the Somme), the British came under heavy mortar fire in thick mist. Stones went out on patrol with a lieutenant and came face to face with the enemy. The lieutenant was shot dead and Stones ran back to raise the alarm. He jammed his rifle across the trench to slow down the pursuing Germans - this cost his life. On return when it was discovered he had no weapon he was arrested with "shamefully casting away his arms". He was later tried and shot.
Many wish to see pardons for 307 soldiers who were executed by firing squad after being found guilty of offences such as cowardice, desertion, disobedience, quitting or sleeping at their post, throwing away arms and striking a superior officer.
The men from Britain, New Zealand, Canada and other parts of the Empire, were almost exclusively from the ranks, only two were officers.
One such example of that of:-
PRIVATE HARRY FARR (25) no relation
Was shot by firing squad at dawn on October 1916. At the court-martial two weeks earlier, Private Farr (8871 - 1st West Yorks) was found guilty of "mis-behaving before the enemy in such a manner as to show cowardice".
Private Farr simply refused to return to the trenches while suffering from "shell shock". After two years on the Western Front he was so badly affected that he spent five months in hospital. Despite this he was found guilty at the court-martial and executed in Northern France.
Private Farr's widow, Gertie Batstone was informed of his death but learnt only later of the manner of it. Soon after, her war pension was stopped.

In the Ypres salient there are 73 known graves of soldiers shot at dawn and a further 3 commemorated on the Menin Gate. Poperinge New Military cemetery holds an infamous record in that it contains the largest number of men to be executed by the British Army and buried in one place. The reason for this lies in the fact that such disciplinary matters were usually carried out when the battalions were in camp away from the front lines and Poperinge was one of the most important centres for military camps in the British sector. 

In the courtyard between 1916 and 1919 a number of British Soldiers were executed. Records show at least 8 were definitely shoot here. The shooting post (1) preserved there was used only for the final execution on 19th May 1919.

After a defendant had been found guilty and sentenced to death and this had been confirmed by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, the convicted soldier and his unit were informed. This was usually on the evening before the execution was scheduled to take place. A chaplain was assigned to remain in the man's cell for the night.

Next morning, at dawn, the execution took place. The man, sometimes drugged with morphia or alcohol was executed by a firing squad which was composed of at least six soldiers. One of their rifles was customarily loaded with a blank round.

The medical officer pinned a piece of white cloth over the man's heart, the priest pronounced benediction.

After both had withdrawn, the order was given to fire. Immediately the shots had been fired the MO would examine the man, if he was still alive, the officer in charge would deliver a coup de grace with a revolver.

In Poperinge, two of the cells in which the condemned men spent their final hours, were restored to the state they had been during the war. The cell adjacent to the street is furnished with a lavatory bucket (3) and a few planks (2) to sleep on. The cell with the two windows (4), gives views of the courtyard, were the executions took place.


These are the names of the soldiers shot at dawn buried / commemorated in the Ypres Sector.


On the 26 July 1915 five men were executed on the ramparts of Ypres in what became the largest single execution by the British during the war. All the men were from the 3rd Worcesters, they were originally buried in the Ramparts Cemetery, three were later transfer here:

Private     J Robinson

Private     A D Thompson

Private     B Hartells

Bleuet Farm

Private      T Hawkins

Private      A Westwood

Private      F W Slade 

Dranoutre Military

Private      F Broadrick

Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station

Private     J Seymour

Ferme Oliver

Private     G Watson

Private     R Hope

Hagle Dump

Private     W Dossett

Private     G Ainley

La Clytte Military

Private     L Mitchell

Lijssenthoek Military

Private     W Baker

Locre Churchyard

Private    A Evans

Private    J Byers (both aged 16 - 1st Royal Scots - tried 31/1/15 and executed together 6/2/15)

Private    G E Collins

Locre Hospice

Private     D Jetson

Private     W Jones

Maple Leaf

Private     A Parry


Private     J J Hyde

Private     C Britton

Private     D Gibson

Menin Gate Memorial

Private    W Scotton

Corp        G H Povey

Driver      T Moore

Private    H Burden

Nine Elms

Private     J McFarlane

Private     J Nisbet

Perth (China Wall)

Private     G E Roe

Private     T Harris

Private     T Docherty

Corp         F Ives

Private     E Fellows (other two from the Ramparts - 3rd Worcesters)

Private     E Fraser

Private     L R Phillips

Pont d'Achelles

Private     E Worsley

Poperinge New

Private     J H Wilson

Private     J Bennett

Private     A Botfield

Private     R Stevenson

Private     B McGeehan

Private     R T Tite

Private     W H Simmonds

2nd Lieut. E Sheffington Poole (one of three officers)

Private     J Crampton

Private     J W Fryer

Private     J S Michael

Private     J Stedman

Serg.        J T Wall (3rd Worc's)

Private     G Everill

Private     H Morris

Private     F C Gore


Private     R Loveless Barker

Private     F Loader

Private     W Smith

Trois Arbres

Corp,     G W Latham

Private   F Auger

Private   P Black

Private   J King (assumed name)


Driver    A Lamb

Private  A Richman

Vlamertinge New

Private  E Delargy

White House

Private   H H Chase

Private   W J Turpie

Private   A E Eveleigh

Private    R W Gawler

Ypres Reservoir

Private     T L Moles

Private     E Lawrence

Private     C F McColl

Shot At Dawn ( Dedicated to Peter Goggins) by Katie Hopley (16)

How can you kill someone

For being afraid?

That is disgusting!

You should be ashamed


As members are shot

Families back home are torn apart

They’re all branded

Where’s the heart?


Not killed by the enemy

They now lose their name

Branded as cowards

Their families the same!


Over 300 men

They all need to die?

A thirst for blood

That’s why!


So end this injustice!

Give them all back their name

Only then will you end

Our countries 84 year shame!

The Unquiet Graves (by Piet Chielens and Julian Putkowski) guide takes you through the countryside around Ypres and Poperinge to visit the places of execution and graves of men 'shot at dawn' by the British Army in the Great War.

An excellent guide, available from the Flanders Field shop in the tourist centre.

The following article appeared in the Daily Telegraph (22nd June 2001), following the  unveiling of a new memorial to those Shot at Dawn during the First World War.

RELATIVES of soldiers executed for desertion during the First World War renewed calls for the Government to pardon the men yesterday as they gathered for the unveiling of the Shot at Dawn memorial.

During the 1914-18 war, 346 British and Commonwealth soldiers were executed, a figure higher than those recorded by both the French and Germans.

At the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffs, 306 stakes, resembling the posts to which men were tied before being shot, have been driven into the ground in memory of those executed. Each stake bears a metal plaque bearing the deserter's name, age, rank and date of death.

In front of the semi-circle of stakes is a statue modelled on Private Herbert Burden, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who had lied about his age to join up but was shot at 17 for desertion.

The Shot at Dawn campaign has been seeking a pardon for the 306 since Public Record Office files released in 1990 outlined the prosecution cases against the men.

Many had not been legally represented and most were suffering from shell shock or post traumatic stress disorder.

No pardon is being sought for the other 40 men executed for either murder, treason or mutiny.

Yesterday, Gracie Harris, who was three years old when her father, Harry Farr, 25, was shot, was given the honour of unveiling the 10ft statue sculptured by Andy De Comyn. Mrs Harris, an 87-year-old widow from Harrow, north London, said: "1 am very proud and very grateful that now we have somewhere we can come and pay honour to those soldiers who I consider were wrongly executed.

"Most were suffering from post traumatic stress, which today is recognised as an illness."

Mrs Harris's father, a regular in the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in November 1914.

By May 1915 he had been admitted to hospital suffering from shell shock and was treated for the next five months.

However, during the Somme offensive of 1916 he was ordered to take rations to the front line.

As he approached amid the exploding shells that were falling on the trenches he refused to go forward.

He was tried and found guilty of desertion at a court martial and sentenced to death.

Mrs Harris did not find out until she was 40. "My mother was too ashamed to tell me but it explains a lot of things that made my mother very sad over the years."

Doris Sloan, 72, and her brother, John Campbell, 74, were at the commemoration to remember their uncle, Bert McCubbin. He was a 22- year-old private in the Sherwood Foresters when he was shot on July 30, 1916.

His mother later received a telegram saying her son had been killed by "gunshot" and discovered the truth only after a friend of his returned from the front line. Mrs Sloan said: "She went insane with grief. She never received his medals and never received a pension because he was shot as a coward.

"I have been fighting for a pardon for my uncle for more than a decade. The Government just cannot admit they made a mistake.

"But it is a wonderful feeling to have a memorial to him and all these others who I believe were wrongly killed. It is an honour to think his name is now on the memorial."

Alongside the 274 British deserters, 23 Canadians, five New Zealanders, four Africans and one Jamaican are remembered.

The New Zealand Government last year pardoned five deserters. John Hipkin, chairman of the Shot at Dawn campaign, said: "In the vast majority of cases these men had lost their minds.

" As Lord Moran, a medical officer during the war, said, 'a man's courage wears out in battle as his uniform does.' I am still going to continue to campaign especially as support is growing for our cause. This is a permanent visible reminder of what the British Army did to their soldiers.

"But it is a great comfort to relatives of those executed soldiers. They can see the courage of their loved Ones unveiled in a special way."

Andrew Mackinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock, who has campaigned in parliament for a pardon, said: "I am deeply disappointed that the Government still refuses to grant pardons but these people have already been pardoned by the highest court in the land, British public opinion."

Out of 3,080 men sentenced to death during the war just 10 per cent were executed and a number of these were under suspended sentences for a previous offence.

Back to Home Page