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According to the official records of the British Army a total of 346 officers and men were summarily executed at dawn following their convictions by courts martial in the field between the outbreak of the First World War and the end of March, 1920. Anthony Babington is the only writer who has been allowed access to all the files relating to these cases by the Ministry of Defence. He found that, although the majority of the executed men were guilty, or technically guilty, of the charges that had been laid against them, many of them were treated with considerable injustice and considerable inhumanity. They were usually tried by comparatively junior officers; their defences, such as they were, were seldom adequately presented; after the trials had finished the papers were passed for review to a succession of senior commanders who were kept in total ignorance of the mitigating factors which should have influenced their decisions; the condemned were informed of their impending executions either on the evening before, or on the actual morning that they were to be taken out and shot; and there was no proper procedure by which they could appeal.
There can be little doubt that a not insubstantial proportion of them had been suffering from emotional shock or nervous exhaustion at the time they had committed their 'offences'.
This book revealed for the first time the grim and sometimes horrific details of these trials and executions.
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