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THE VERY SHORT WAR OF GEORGE WARD

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  • THE VERY SHORT WAR OF GEORGE WARD

    On September 14, 1914, south of the Chemin des Dames, the Allied movement came up against the first German entrenchments. This day, which, in a way, foreshadows fifty months of war of trenches, sees the 2nd Class George Ward leave his shelter following a bombardment, in the surroundings of Moussy. Judged by a court martial and sentenced to death for abandoning his post, he was shot on September 26, 1914, in Oeuilly. George Ward, 20 years old, was the second soldier in the British Expeditionary Force to be shot during the war.

  • #2
    Three George Ward
    Three George Ward have their names engraved on the Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial, among those of 3,888 British killed in the first battles of the Marne and the Aisne in 1914 [Commonwealth war Graves commission]. These three combatants have in common that they have no known burial. One of the three George Ward, under registration number 6502, is listed in the Norfolk Regiment. His disappearance dates back to September 15, 1914. A second, under the registration number 7750, is part of the West Yorkshire regiment, he disappears on September 20, 1914, at the age of 29.
    The last of the three, following the chronology of disappearances, is incorporated into the Royal Berkshire. His death is recorded on September 26, 1914, but unlike the first two George Ward, it is not due to machine gun bullets or german shells: the 2nd Class or "private" George Ward, number 9641 , died, executed at 5:56 pm, Saturday September 26, 1914, after having been tried and sentenced to death on the charge of "cowardice", by a court martial. Son of George and Jane Ward, both domiciled at 1, Guinness Buildings, Brandon Street, London ["Executed for example, honoring British, Irish and Empire servicemen shot at dawn during World War"], young George Ward is the second soldier of the British Expeditionary Force, to be shot during the First World War, for real or supposed facts of serious disobedience to military rules. Its execution comes three weeks after that of the soldier Thomas Highgate, passed by the arms at the dawn of September 8, 1914.
    Image.jpg Memorial of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre

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    • #3
      Less than a week of active service.
      The execution takes place at the farm of Oeuilly, behind the Chemin des Dames. It is in the south-west of this village, located on the north bank of the Aisne, that Ward is buried [A military cemetery was created by the services of the 6th Army, in the north-west of Oeuilly, the next day of the Nivelle offensive. Transformed in the early 1920s, this necropolis has 1,046 graves of identified combatants, but has no British graves], according to indications from the march journal of his unit. After the war, however, the British War Graves search section did not find the remains, as the tomb may have been destroyed by subsequent bombing in this area [Julian Putowski and Julian Sykes; Shot at Dawn, 1989].
      George Ward's war was very short: less than a week of active service, a few days on the front, a baptism of fire and the young soldier, accused of abandoning his post, was brought before a military court; he is condemned and passed by arms. This brief military course was traced by the British historian Julian Putowski, in particular from elements of the official file preserved by the British archives [In "Shot at Dawn", file of George Ward: WO 95/1361 National Archives Kew, London].
      The work of Julian Putowki and Julian Sykes in the 1980s was instrumental in the cause of the British "shot at dawn". It was by disclosing the reconstructed routes of each of the shotees, and by making their names public, that the researchers gave a decisive boost to the rehabilitation campaign.

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      • #4
        L'Aisne at Pont Arcy
        George Ward's war begins on September 12, 1914. On this day, the young man arrives in France with a detachment of reinforcements, which must make up for the losses suffered by the "1st Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment" in Mons in Belgium, then during the Battle of the Marne. This Regiment belongs to the 6th Brigade of the 2nd British Infantry Division, commanded by General Douglas Haig [Ray Westlake, British Battalions in France and Belgium, 1997 __ Paul Kendall, Aisne 1914: the first trenches, 2012] The "Private" George Ward travels two days to join his unit. On September 14, from 5 a.m., the 6th Brigade crossed the Aisne at Pont Arcy. On the floating bridges, the progress of the men is slow. Three hours are necessary to assemble the entire Brigade on the bank, north of the river [Brigadier General Sir JE Edmonds, Military France and Belgium 1914, The Battle of the Aisne, September 14, the fight for the ‘Chemin des Dames’, 1933]
        Later in the day, the George Ward Battalion was engaged in battle to conquer Moussy Ridge. At noon, the British seized a small height northeast of Braye-en-Laonnois. But, under the pressure of the German bombardment, around 2:00 in the afternoon, the Royal Berkshire fell back on a line north of the Metz farm. During the night, the soldiers dig basic trenches. The official losses of this day amount to 1 officer and 40 soldiers killed or wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel M.D. Graham, officer commanding the Battalion, establishes his command post at the Metz farm.

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        • #5
          Brought back by the military police
          The following days and nights, the Regiment's positions were violently bombed, the British faced several deadly counterattacks by the German Infantry. The climatic conditions are bad: the cold, the rain and soon the mud, which interferes everywhere in the trenches, add to the suffering and the nervous fatigue of the men. Between September 15 and September 21, 116 Royal Berkshire soldiers were killed, injured or missing.
          It was during this period that Georges Ward was reported missing on an appeal. His disappearance gives rise to the opening of an investigation. A non-commissioned officer assures that Ward was seen with no apparent trace of injury, leaving his position on September 14 at around 9 p.m.
          The same non-commissioned officer claims to have asked him where he was going; to what Ward would have said he went to the aid station after being hit by shrapnel. Six days later, the young soldier is arrested and brought back by the military police to his regiment.
          On September 24, he is brought before a military court where he is assisted by an officer who has no training as a lawyer.
          Prosecuted for having abandoned his post, found guilty of "cowardice", he was sentenced to be shot at daybreak. General Douglas Haig confirms the sentence. According to Julien Putowski, Haig's position reflects his desire to set an example, to prevent the possibility of other desertions. Especially since during this period, the British health service has reported several cases of voluntary mutilation.
          The time at which Georges Ward was shot - 5:56 p.m. on September 26 - departed from the procedure, the British code of military justice providing for the execution of the sentence at daybreak.

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          • #6
            A testimony in 1929
            Why was Ward not shot at dawn? This question may be answered in testimony produced in 1929 by Labor Deputy Ernest Thurtle. According to the witness, whose identity Thurtle does not disclose, but which he assures that he can, if necessary, confirm his story before a competent court, Ward tried to escape before his execution. Wounded by shots from his guards, he was caught and brought back on a stretcher. Order would then have been given to the guard sergeant, to finish off the condemned on his stretcher. Can the sequence of events as described by the witness for Deputy Thurtle explain the late hour of the actual execution of Georges Ward?
            The official sources and this account of 1929 do not place the facts on the same dates: the witness of Thurtle evokes September 22, while the statement of the non-commissioned officer, retained in the report of investigation, indicates that Ward would have been seen leaving his position on the evening of the 14th; similarly, Ward officially died on September 26, while the witness in 1929 spoke of an execution on September 30.
            Is it really surprising that the official version and this unofficial version produced a posteriori, are so divergent? One is for the prosecution, the other, part of a parliamentary campaign, for the defense. If the second did not really convince British historians, their work on the 306 people shot, nevertheless revealed the great fragility of the decisions rendered by military justice during the Great War.

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            • #7
              Witness for Deputy Thurtle
              The testimony in the Georges Ward case, received in the form of a letter, cited by Thurtle in the brochure "Shootings at dawn __ The Army Death Penalty at Work", published in 1929.

              "We were in the reserve trenches, at the Metz farm, on or about September 22, each man in his shelter, when an enemy shell fell in the trench, killing two men. I was standing on the road at this moment. When the shell exploded, soldier "A" came out of his shelter and I jumped in it. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon. At 5:30 in the afternoon, the Company withdrew on the road, and Soldier "A" presented himself to Sergeant Major S., who asked him why he had left the trench. "A" replied that he was slightly injured when he was not.
              For his crime, he was brought to court martial on September 29, and executed on September 30, 1914. Only his sergeant-major was required to testify. I was the only man who saw what had happened, yet I was not called to testify.
              About his death. To form an execution platoon, as we were going up in line that night, they asked twelve men to carry tools [These are probably tools used for the construction of the trenches: shovels, picks ...]. At that time, the men who carried the tools were the first to use them, so there were of course lots of volunteers, but when these were gathered, they quickly understood that their mission was to execute the poor " A". As he was brought in, he walked away from the guard sergeant, and the platoon shot him as he fled, injuring him in the shoulder. They brought him back on a stretcher and the provost marshal ordered the guard sergeant to finish him off where he lay wounded.
              These are the truthful facts and you are free to use my name, service number and this letter when you see fit. "

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              • #8
                THURTLE's CAMPAIGN
                Ernest Thurtle, a veteran, Labor MP, campaigned in the House of Commons in the 1920s for the abolition of the death penalty from the British military code.
                He published in 1929, as part of this campaign, a brochure entitled "Shootings at Dawn __ The army death penalty at work" in which are compiled testimony relating to cases of death sentences, for reasons of desertion and/or cowardice, by military justice, during the First World War.
                Thurtle indicates there that the files of the executed soldiers, remain in the hands of the War Office and that they are inaccessible to the public. Situation which justifies the recourse to these letters of witnesses: "The only way to reach the truth is to question comrades of the victims of execution", "he writes in substance. The Deputy claims to dispose for each cited case, full details (names of units, dates, locations and reason for charge). His brochure is a tool for a political campaign to remove capital punishment from the list of sanctions used by the military institution, sanction, the execution of which is entrusted to troops.

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                • #9
                  MEMORIAL, FORGIVENESS, DEBATE
                  A monument to "Shot at dawn" was inaugurated on June 21, 2001 in the United Kingdom. Erected in the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas in the county of Staffordshire, it salutes the memory of the 306 soldiers of the British Empire executed for acts of cowardice and/or desertion, during the Great War. A statue of a blindfolded young man tied to a pole represents Herbert Burden, a 17-year-old shot. This work by artist Andy de Comyn is surrounded by poles, arranged in a semicircle on which are inscribed the names of the 305 other convicts, including that of 2nd Class Georges Ward, service number 9641.
                  This memorial has become the emblem of a campaign waged in Great Britain to obtain the rehabilitation of the executed. This campaign, which started at the beginning of the 1980s, was based on work and sometimes positions taken by historians, lawyers and even veterans. It relied on the fact studied that acts qualified as desertion or cowardice could constitute a reaction to combat stress and to post traumatic stress syndrome. It also found that many judgments had been issued in a hasty fashion and that some accused had not received a proper defense.
                  In August 2006, the British government announced that 306 soldiers charged with desertion and cowardice and shot on the basis of these charges were pardoned posthumously. The officially announced pardon does not apply to 40 other people who were charged with the crime of blood or mutiny. But this announcement did not end the debate over the dawn shootings; on the advisability of their rehabilitation and on the considerable legal difficulties which such an enterprise would face.
                  Image (2).jpg

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                  • #10
                    Wars are full of George Wards. OMAHA Beach was covered with them.
                    Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                      Wars are full of George Wards. OMAHA Beach was covered with them.
                      What is the relationship between the "shot at dawn" of WWI and the soldiers who died during the landing in Omaha ???

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                      • #12
                        Thank you for posting.!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by daddut roger View Post
                          On September 14, 1914, south of the Chemin des Dames, the Allied movement came up against the first German entrenchments. This day, which, in a way, foreshadows fifty months of war of trenches, sees the 2nd Class George Ward leave his shelter following a bombardment, in the surroundings of Moussy. Judged by a court martial and sentenced to death for abandoning his post, he was shot on September 26, 1914, in Oeuilly. George Ward, 20 years old, was the second soldier in the British Expeditionary Force to be shot during the war.
                          Since you appear to be obviously quoting from an original source, please post a link to that source.
                          Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                          • #14
                            A post from Mountain Man that addressed the poster and not the post was removed.
                            Thank you
                            ACG Staff

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                              Since you appear to be obviously quoting from an original source, please post a link to that source.
                              these are old articles (this one: 2012) taken from a brochure published for free, each quarter, under the direction of the Department of Aisne, for educational purposes and with a duty of memory...
                              and I take pleasure in translating these texts to share them with you...

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