A cautionary tale

August 21, 2006

When I was coming to the end of my PhD, I worked at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In the midst of lots of other stuff, I published an article about the death of Sir Douglas Haig – which you can find on JSTOR. I was then asked to contribute a brief article to the Haig Society journal. I did so – with pleasure – but I made what in retrospect looks to me like a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »


Meg the Artillery Mule

August 21, 2006

I did promise I’d keep blogging my progress on my paper on the 90th anniversary of the Somme. Well, progress is slow, but I have picked up on a couple of things. First is this English Heritage recreation, which I sadly don’t now have time to go and see. Damn. The other was a very useful visit to see the Head Historian at the Imperial War Museum, Nigel Steel. I haven’t had a chance to ask Nigel whether I can put elements of our conversation (all uncontroversial) online, so I’ll just relate for the moment that he thought that there had been a large amount of press coverage of the anniversary, gave me a lot of press cuttings and a couple of useful pointers. I’m currently working on getting some more information from other institutions, including the BBC and the NAM.

An end to shame

August 21, 2006

Guardian interview with Harry Farr’s daughter:which highlights a number of interesting points about families and the memory of war. Fascinating to note that Farr was effectively disowned by his father – a point very seldom pointed out in other coverage.

Later – something which I’ve only just thought about – and further to Heather’s comments about Irish soldiers on the post below – is whether there’s been any reaction from the other countries from which executed soldiers came. I’m presuming that there’s already been extensive coverage in New Zealand and Canada. But what about Ghana and Nigeria. Excluding those executed for murder, Corns and Hughes-Wilson have the following in their list:

Pte Samuel Sabongidda, 3/Nigerian, 27/7/1917 – Violence

Pte Herbert Morris, 6/British West Indies, 20/9/1917 – Desertion

Pte Fatoma, West African Regt, 19/9/1915 – Cowardice

L-Cpl Allassan Mamprusi, Gold Coast Regt, 28/4/1917 – Cowardice

Pte Aziberi Frafra, Gold Coast Regt, 28/9/1916 – Casting away arms.

I also think I probably need to check how the 306 being pardoned are actually defined. Is it just those who were executed for cowardice and desertion? Is anybody campaigning for those executed for mutiny, casting away arms, disobedience, sleeping at post, quitting post or striking a senior office?

Private P Davis, for example, was executed for quitting his post on the Gallipoli peninsula on 2 July 1915. Davis’ excuse was that he’d a major attack of diarrheoa – a prevalent enough problem on the peninsula –  but since he’d been convicted of absence on two previous occasions, the court did not commute his sentence. Davis was a member of 1 Munster Fusiliers, which suffered very heavy casualties in the original Gallipoli landings. Is he going to be pardoned?

A step too Farr?

August 16, 2006

Typically, the government decides to pardon 306 executed British soldiers from the First World War in the middle of confirmation and clearing week, when I am attempting to ensure that the History Department at QM has enough students for next year. So I missed the chance to be on CNN this morning. Read the rest of this entry »