the friend online
25 August 2006


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The quality of mercy

  • Blake's 'mercy, pity, peace and love' came to mind as I read of the defence secretary's decision to recommend a posthumous pardon to all 306 British first world war soldiers executed for desertion or cowardice
  • Previous ministers had refused to budge on this: there was 'no legal basis'
  • But Des Browne persuaded his armed forces department that, if only for pity's sake, mercy should prevail in the cause of peace
  • That's the spirit!

    Of course, these men were not conscientious objectors
  • They joined the army, as volunteers or conscripts
  • They fought for their country
  • Private Harry Farr, whose family's 90-year-long campaign for justice highlighted the issue, fought in the trenches for two years before shellshock made a wreck of him
  • He refused to go 'over the top' again, was branded a coward in a twenty-minute court-martial, and shot at dawn

  • David Boulton & Jill Allum

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