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Eleswhere, I have mentioned, that executions for a variety of offences were carried out by all the major Allies in the War. A few of then were photographed, secretly I should add, for being caught with a camera invited severe punishment. The one depicted in this article is a French Execution, carried out on the Somme, in 1916. It is noteworthy, for what looks like a entire Battalion of the 72nd Infantry Division has been paraded and then marched past the executed soldier. This practise was also carried out by the British in the early stages of the War, but was found to be counter-productive, and was discontinued. The French Army, suffering some heavy losses, began to show signs of unrest, and this may have been an attempt to instill upon the men, the punishment for Desertion. It failed to work however, for the next year, various Mutinies broke out along the front line. over 600 soldiers were condemned to death, but common sense took hold, and only 43 men, with the worst records, were actually executed.
In the first picture, and you can see it was taken by a soldier in the second rank, the prisoner is being secured as the parade forms up, all with fixed Bayonets. The firing party, on the right in the picture, has lined up, commanded by the Officer with his sword drawn.
In the second picture, the photographer has moved forward slightly, obviously to try and capture the moment the party fires. which will be when the sword is lowered. He doesn't manage to catch the moment, but you can see that the prisoner has been placed on his knees.
Some time has now, elasped for the firing party have marched past, and the large parade, led by a mounted Officer, is approaching the by now dead man. A second section, in the background, is about to wheel left and also march past. As I said before, as an exemplary lesson to the men, it had mixed success.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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