In the summer of 2011 I went to the National Memorial Arboretum, near Tamworth. The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK’s centre of remembrance and has memorials to many branches of the armed and civil services. My aim was to view and photograph the memorial to those shot at dawn during the first world war which was one of the memorials I did not have time to see on a previous visit.
I was immediately struck by the number of marker posts, one post for each person shot, but subsequently pardoned. Examination of the labels on the posts quickly revealed how young many of these poor unfortunates were and I started to go round the posts reading the ages, looking for a post of a young soldier to focus on while showing many others behind. I was so blinkered in my task that having found the best post to focus on and set up my camera I was overcome to find the marker was for a namesake.; whether or not we are directly related I do not know.
Many of these poor souls were shot for “cowardice in the face of the enemy.” Whilst the conditions in the trenches are generally well known and the horrors of the new “mechanized war” has been much talked of the scale of the shelling, death and injury inflicted on both sides can perhaps be summed up in the simple statistic that of the British Expeditionary Force of 100,000 in August 1914 only 4,000 remained by 31st December 1914.
I could not look on Death, which being known,
Men led me to him, blindfold and alone. ~ Rudyard Kipling