Shot at Dawn and an appeal for forgiveness – a moving story from Bolton’s archives

This is so upsetting. I knew that executions were carried out, but this is the first time I’ve read an individual, personal account and it’s appalling. I just had to reblog. I would love to have seen the play, even though my eyes would have been like swollen red tomatoes at the end of it.

GM 1914

James Smith Playcomp

Lois Dean has researched and written this powerful story from Bolton’s archives.

Shot at Dawn and an Appeal for Forgiveness

The brave young Bolton soldier had faced guns before, at Gallipoli and the Somme, but those James Smith faced early on the morning of 5th September 1917 were to be fired by his own countrymen – friends and comrades from his own unit.

James ‘Jimmy’ Smith became the only Boltonian to be ‘shot at dawn’ after being found guilty by a military tribunal of desertion and cowardice.  However, his experience of the horrors of war told a different story, one that led to his pardon nearly 90 years later.

Born in Noble Street, Bolton, in 1891, the son of James and Elizabeth Smith, Jimmy was brought up by his aunt and uncle when his mother died soon after his birth.  At 18, he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a…

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About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
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3 Responses to Shot at Dawn and an appeal for forgiveness – a moving story from Bolton’s archives

  1. Sad. I watched a “Midsommer Murder” episode recently with a story line that seemed very similar to this true story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve spent the morning in tears, Jack. That young man was just one of 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed during WW1 for desertion and cowardice. Many were suffering from shell shock and were ill. I’ve been reading some of their stories and it’s heartbreaking. There was a disproportionate amount of Irish soldiers executed by the British army, all the Irish were young volunteers, as there was no conscription in Ireland (unlike the UK from 1916). The Australians refused to execute any of their own volunteers. Australia said, ‘Any man who volunteered for hell couldn’t be faulted, or shot, because he’d had enough.’

      Liked by 1 person

      • 306? My goodness, Jean, I had no idea the number was so high and so devastating to the young Irish volunteers. I fully agree with the quote from the Australians. War is, literally, hell and made worse by senseless murder perpetrated by your own side. My war was Vietnam and I can attest to the fact that desertion and cowardice have nothing at all to do with the actions of those suffering from shell shock and illness. Awful.

        Liked by 1 person

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