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First World War (Executions)

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he is giving to the possible exoneration of some 300 British soldiers, executed by firing squad for alleged military indiscipline in world war I; if he will procure a copy of the book "Shot at Dawn" by Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes for his Department's library; and if he will make a statement.

The events covered in the book "Shot at Dawn" by Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes must be seen in their historical context. The use of the death penalty in world war I was governed by a penal code which reflected the attitudes of the time. Those attitudes have changed but it would be wrong to judge the historical events of 75 years ago against current attitudes and perceptions. There are no plans to re-open the cases of those men executed. Two copies of the book are held in the Ministry of Defence library.