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Justices militaires et guerres mondiales

Jean-Marc Berlière
Jonas Campion
Luigi Lacchè
et al.

The Last Word on the Capital Court Martial Controversy in Britain?

Towards a History of British Military Law in World War I

Gerry Rubin

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With the enactment by the British parliament of a statute entitled the Armed Forces Act 2006, it seems that the controversy surrounding the executions of over 300 British and Commonwealth soldiers in the First World War, following their convictions by courts martial for military offences, has now been laid to rest.1 The statute authorised posthumous pardons, which were then formally granted, to those shot at dawn for offences such as desertion, cowardice, sleeping on post, and casting away arms in the presence of the enemy. As such, whether one is persuaded that the gross injustice of executing soldiers under such conditions has at last been rectified 90 years after the events, or whether one believes that a ‘politically correct’ symbolic gesture has made a mockery of respecting the uniqueness of historical circumstances, it is perhaps time to make some final observations on a debate which has generated both emotion and scholarship in equal measure.

Indeed, a shift of focus in respec...


Part-time Professor of Law at Kent University, UK. He has published, among various topics, on United Kingdom history of military law and labour law; history of policing, history of imprisonment for debt and 20th century marital coercion crimes. He is currently working on a social and cultural history of an inter-war British murder cause célèbre, “A. A. Rouse and the Blazing Car Murder (1930-31)”

© Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2013

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