Tag Archives: Australia

Postcard to Mum Down Under From, #Folkestone #FWW #WWI

A dreich morning, it is the only way of describing it. I am cold, wet and miserable standing here by Williams grave. My hands are a ghostly shade of pale. The camera is soaking and I have the shivers. My head is close to the dark place it often haunts. A bad morning and the photo is crap, but the day and I are in paradise compared to William’s last morning ninety-nine years ago today. The morning of the 17th April 1917 was to be William’s last.  An Australian Infantryman he was due to return to France from Folkestone that day.  He had been wounded in action in October 1917. On the 12th April, he had gone A.W.L. from Tattoo for three days. He was to receive 14 days Field Punishment No.2 (F.P.2) and forfeit 17 days pay for this crime. F.P.2  the prisoner was placed in irons or fetters, subjected to hard labour and had to carry out all normal duties. It is during these last few days that William wrote a postcard to his mum.

“Dear Mother The military has sent me over to France to be wilfully murdered as I knew to much for them I gave them the best snye system the world could ever be produced ending up with their ruin writing”

He gave the card to another soldier to send. on the 17th William went to the medical offices at No.3 Rest Camp Earls Avenue Folkestone

Not long after 9 a.m.  on the 17th William went to the medical offices at No.3 Rest Camp, Earls Avenue, Folkestone. Sometime after 9:20 the medical orderly left the room to go into the medical officer’s room next door. The orderly, Lance Corporal Hooke, stated at the inquest “I heard a noise as in a man in a fit. I went back into the room and saw deceased. he was lying down on the bed, his head rather inclined the blankets kicked over part of his face, he was kicking his legs up and throwing his arms about. I saw that he had cut his throat.”IMG_8393

William was given a military funeral at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. His coffin was draped in a Union Jack. The Canadians provided a firing party and played the Last Post, Australian representatives from the Australian Imperial Force in London were in attendance.

William’s parents were informed by letter, that he had committed suicide while temporarily insane and, that they had buried him on the South side of the garrison church.

Source: William Burn Gemmell’s service record.

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Up date on the struggle for an MA in WW1 studies

ok, short update, not going to happen. long update. could not raise the funds, by a very long way. Never mind shoulders back stomach in. Not the end of the world the good news is there is a grant of £10,000. That would do nicely, thank you UK Government. all you have to be is normally resident in England, well I am now. So what is the catch? And under 60 years of age.

I’m 3, yes three days, to old.  (written on 31 January 2016)

Never mind.

Still looking for some of the books. Always looking for books. The books on the reading list I have yet to find are listed below. Bur first my main focus will be on the medical services in the Palestine campaign. a trip to Israel is called for.

General texts
J.M. Bourne, Britain and the First World War (1989)
Cyril Falls, The First World War (1960)Adrian Gregory, A War of Peoples (2014)
Specialist studies
Holger Afflerbach and David Stevenson, (eds.) An Improbable War? The Outbreak of World War I and European Political Culture Before 1914 (2007)
Stephen Badsey, The British Army in Battle and its Image (2009)
Ian Beckett & Keith Simpson, A Nation in Arms (1985)
Stephen Broadberry and Mark Harrison, The Economics of World War I (2005)
Hugh Cecil and Peter Liddle (eds.), Facing Armageddon (1996)
Roger Chickering and Stig Förster, (eds.), Great War, Total War: Combat and Motivation on the Western Front, 1914–1918 (2000)
Susan R. Grayzel, Women and the First World War (2002).
Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War (2008)
Paul G. Halpern, A Naval History of World War I (London: UCL Press, 1994)
Richard F. Hamilton and Herger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917 (2004)
Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War (2007)
Spencer Jones, From Boer War to World War: Tactical Reform of the British Army, 1902-1914 (2012)
Annika Mombauer, The Origins of the First World War: Diplomatic and Military Documents (2013)
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, Command on the Western Front (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992),
David Reynolds, The Long Shadow (2013)
Gary Sheffield, The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army (2011)
Peter Simkins, Kitchener’s Army (1988)
Charles Townshend, When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914–1921, (2011)

 

#FWW Review of Poppies From the Heart of Strathspey

Now being reprinted
Stuart
3/17/10
Review: Poppies from the Heart of Strathspey by Peter Anderson (2010),
The published histories of the First World War are plentiful, and for
many it seems that the same old ground has been ploughed again and
again. Some would even question whether there is anything new to
write, but in so doing miss an entire vacuum of knowledge that awaits
exploration – the effect the War had on the local communities who
provided the men to fight. Peter Anderson’s analysis of the men of
Strathspey – an area of Scotland in Morayshire – begins to fill this
hole.
The book opens with a scene of the town of Grantown-on-Spey in July
1914, before the cataclysm was to hit. We are introduced to local
shops, dignitaries, and the minor news incidents of the day. It was a
perfectly normal town, disturbed only by a thunder storm that
disrupted the local Scout Camp, until the real storm was to come. The
opening perfectly sets the scene for the frantic activity of August
1914, as troops are mobilized, and shops ready themselves for war.
The approach of the author is to present us with a journal of the war
and beyond (the final entry is, in effect, the 3rd February 1928 with
the funeral of Field Marshal Earl Haig demonstrating how the ripples
of war streamed outwards well beyond 1918). The entries centre on the
men of Strathspey, who saw action in all quarters of the war, and
presents their story. We are given their military details, their date
and place of death, and more often than not local details about their
life at home and that of their families. Interspersed throughout are
photographs of the soldiers, their graves, the houses in the local
area (if standing), memorials, inscriptions, newspaper clippings, and
more. The extent of the research is praiseworthy, and the book itself
(complete with index and bibliography) extends to nearly 300 pages.
In taking this approach, the author risks two criticisms. First, that
the book resembles a litany, where the reader is dulled into
submission with death after death being listed. This is fine for the
wall of a memorial, as the desired effect is to impress on the
observer the vastness of the slaughter, but not acceptable for a
printed book that seeks to tell a story. Second, that the information
is so localized it is only of interest to residents of that particular
community. However, Anderson manages a difficult task extremely well
and avoids both problems. Although we are presented with the
successive deaths of the men of Strathspey, the stories are told from
a human perspective. We get a glimpse into where they lived, worked,
their families, when they enlisted, and the memorials erected after
their deaths. It is such detail and insights that raise the book well
beyond a memorial scroll and grabs the reader’s attention. Secondly,
these men fought in all the major conflicts of the war so this is very
much a history of the entire conflict seen through the focus of the
men and women of one area of Scotland. Moreover, Anderson places the
events that affected Strathspey in the wider historical and social
context. The entries for 1917 open with the death of Harry lauder’s
son (December, 1916), the announced death of Private S/16634 John
Stuart Grant on the 24th April 1917, is part of the offensive at
Arras, and as already mentioned the book envelopes itself with entries
on the outbreak of war and the death of Haig.
This is a book written with a sense of dignity and respect (for both
the soldiers and the reader), and collects together an impressive
amount of research. As well as taking the reader on an emotional
journey, outlining the effects the war had on a single community which
is important in itself as we attempt to write the wider history of the
conflict – it surely acts as a fitting memorial to the men and women
of Strathspey who sacrificed so much.
Stuart Lee
Oxford

#Fww WW1 Allenby’s Other Battle, Ok its a blog on Cholera in Egypt and Palestine

The agent of Cholera, Vibro cholerae had been discovered in 1883, (1) it was known that if Cholera took hold among Empire Soldiers in any future conflict in would decimate any army in the field. Victory in a future war depended more on an ability to defeat cholera than it did on numerical, firepower or tactical superiority by British Empire Forces in the Field. In 1915, Dr. Armand Ruffer, C.M.G., President of the Sanitary, Maritime and Quarantine Council of Egypt, Alexandria, sent the the following note to the various British Medical services.

Dr. Ruffer’s Views on Cholera

(Report begins) “The first point is that although, in many epidemics, cholera has been a water-borne disease, yet a severe epidemic may occur without any general infection of the water supply. This was clearly the case in the last epidemic in Alexandria.[107] Attention to the water supply, therefore, may not altogether prevent an epidemic. The second point is that the vibrio of cholera may be present in a virulent condition in people showing no, or very slight symptoms of cholera, e.g. people with slight diarrhœa, etc.

The segregation of actual cases of cholera, therefore, is not likely to be followed by any degree of success, because this measure would not touch carriers or mild cases, unless orders were given to consider as contacts all foreign foes, and all soldiers who have been in contact with them. This is clearly impossible.

There cannot be any reasonable doubt, therefore, that if the Turkish army becomes infected with cholera, the British Army will undoubtedly become infected also.

Undoubtedly inoculation is the cheapest and quickest way of protection of the troops, provided this process confers immunity against cholera.

It is very difficult to estimate accurately the protection given by inoculation against cholera. My impression from reading the literature on the subject is that: (1) The inoculations must be done at least twice. (2) The inoculations, if properly made, are harmless as a rule. (3) The inoculations confer a certain protection against cholera. I may add that I arrived at this opinion before the war, when the French editors, Messrs. Masson & Co., asked me to write the article “Cholera” for the French standard textbook on pathology. My opinion was therefore quite unprejudiced by the present circumstances.

The cholera inoculations were harmless as a rule; that is, they were not always harmless. Savas has[108] described certain cases of fulminating cholera amongst people inoculated during the progress of an epidemic. In my opinion, the people so affected were in the period of incubation when they were inoculated, and the operation gave an extra stimulus, so to speak, to the dormant vibrio. One knows that, experimentally, a small dose of toxin, given immediately after or before the inoculation of the microorganism producing the toxin, renders this microorganism more virulent.

The conclusion to be drawn is that inoculations should be carried out before cholera breaks out.

I am afraid I know of no certain facts to guide me in estimating the length of the period of immunity produced by inoculations. Judging by analogy, I should say that it is certainly not less than six months, that it, almost certainly, lasts for one year, and very probably lasts far longer.

I understand that 90,000 doses of cholera vaccine have been sent from London. I take it that the inoculation material has been standardised and its effects investigated, but, in any case, I consider that a few very carefully performed experiments should be undertaken at once in Egypt, in order to make sure of the exact method of administration to be adopted under present conditions.

Probably, a good deal may be done by the timely exhibition of drugs, such as phenacetin, etc., to mitigate the more or less unpleasant effects of preventive inoculation.

As I am on this subject, may I point out the necessity of establishing at the front a laboratory for the early diagnosis of cholera and of dysentery. Cholera has appeared in the last three wars in which[109] Turkey has been engaged, and therefore the chances of the peninsula of Gallipoli becoming infected are great. The early diagnosis of cases of cholera, especially when slight, is extremely difficult and often can be settled by bacteriological examination only.

There never has been a war without dysentery, and almost surely our troops will be infected in time, if they are not already infected. But whereas in previous wars the treatment of dysentery was not specific, the physician is now in possession of rapid methods of treatment, provided he can tell what kind of dysentery (bacillary or amœbic or mixed) he is dealing with.

This differential diagnosis is a hopeless task unless controlled at every step by microscopical and bacteriological examination.The French are keenly aware of this fact, so much so that they have sent, for that very purpose, three skilled bacteriologists, two of whom are former assistants at the Pasteur Institute, to the Gallipoli Peninsula” (Report ends).(2) Most soldiers were then inoculated.

There was an international agreement on the control of infectious diseases which remained in force through out the Great War and an Isolation Hospital was established at Alexandra.  Mecca was as now the major pilgrimage destination for Muslims and Cholera was thought to be rife both there and in Syria.(3)

Disater though threaten when there was an out brake in Sinai, Mentioned in  Fifty Second (Lowland Division) 1914-1919,(4) An RAMC Captain, RS Taylor, was out looking for the wounded on the 7th August 1916 after the Battle of Romani (4-5 August 1916). He did not find any wounded but he came across a very sick Trooper from the Auckland Mounted Rifles.(5). Taylor had the Trooper isolated and informed 52nd Divisional Head Quarters. All the cases of diarrhea were also isolated just in case they had cholera.  Cholera is a fear inducing disease and volunteers were called for. Four orderlies, most probably from 1/1st Lowland Field Ambulance, Captain Taylor’s unit, and a cook stepped up to the mark. Two officers were sent from the ANZAC Military Bacteriological Laboratory at Alexandria Colonel Martin, and Major Ferguson. They decided to establish local “diarrhoea camps” each with a temporary field laborator. All measures were taken to stop the spread of Cholera to the Suez Canal.(6) Thankfully they were successful. Over the next two weeks 28 cases were diagnosed, 16 were from the 10th ANZAC Mounted Division, 10 of whom from the 10th Light Horse. in all 7 soldiers died.occurred, with 7 deaths,The source of the infection was from a few wells in Katia a former Turkish encampment, and at Hod el Hassania. were the Turks had left some contaminated water barrels. The rapid response to the outbreak and the success of the measures undertaken were a remarkable achievement and saved Egypt from a repeat of the last cholera epidemic in the mid 1890s when thousands died.(5) The outbreak of cholorea was contained and over by the 23rd August 1916. There were two other outbreaks during the campaign, one at Aqaba in 1917, no imperial troops were in the area, and the other outside Tiberius almost entirely in the civilian population, one trooper caught the disease and died.

The victory of cholera has often been understated, but with out it there would have been no victory in Palestine, the death toll from the cholera could have been greater in the middle east than the number of deaths from Spanish Flu. as  a gauge of the success of the anti cholera precautions taken by Allenbys Medical Services, during the time the Desert Mounted Corps were operating in the Esdraelon Valley there were of 11,000 cases of sickness admitted to ambulances. Only one of these cases was cholera.(7)

Notes 1) Page 82 Surgeon, Scientist, Soldier: The Life and Times of Henry Wade                                       2) Page 49 Official History of the Australian medical Services                                                             3)Official History of the Australian medical Services                                                                                      4)P295                                                                                                                                                                 5)    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41911/41911-h/41911-h.htm#Page_106 The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Australian Army Medical Corps in Egypt, by James W. Barrett and Percival E. Deane                                            6)Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918,Volume III – Special Problems and Services (1st edition, 1943)Author: Butler, Arthur Graham http://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1069708–1-.PDF, p261                                                  7)History of the Great War Medical services, Vol 3, p482 Naval and Military Press reprint

#FWW #WW1 #Palestine and Cholera, Palestinian Out Takes

Not The Blog on Cholera, still working on that, more a series of one liners that I may or may not use later on. They are all about Palestine.

If you were going to invade Palestine circa 1917, what would be needed? apart from an army that is. A modern army with all the usual trappings, guns, rifles, the odd tank, aircraft, men, hospitals, intelligence, ships. Often forgotten that Royal Navy control of the coast of Sinai and Palestine played an important part in the invasion. So you have all those. Allenby took as well as all the above two books. The King James Bible, not because he was religious, but because the Jews were one of the most successful invaders of Palestine, the route they took is detailed in the Bible, and a book of maps, in Allenby’s case he carried with him The Historical Geography of the Holy Land by George Adam Smith. So for a while I might be doing a spot of biblical studies with the good book in one hand and G.A. Smith’s book in the other.

Recently I have been looking at incidents of cholera in the Sinai and Palestine region, there was no Israel then,  during 1916-1918. Cholera was considered a major threat  to the well being of Allenby’s Army, and a great deal of effort was made into early diagnosis, and also to the prevention of the disease. Allenby used mobile labs to identify outbreaks as early as possible. These were nearly rendered pointless by Lawrence’s and the Arabs capture of Aqaba where there was a minor outbreak.

On 26th September 1918 one soldier in the Egyptian expeditionary Force did contract cholera. This was in the area of Tiberias. Tiberias in September 11918 was rife with cholera. Lindsay Baly, in his book Horseman Pass By, claims that Cholera

“was checked by the herculean effort of German Medical officers with the Turkish Army  who isolated any Turkish unit with a case.”

Not sure how true this was of Turkish troops in Tiberias, but the population was not isolated and cholera was free to spread. There is one out take fro Tiberias. Along the shore of the Sea of Galilee there is a ruined synagogue, which dates back to the founding of the city, 2,000yrs give or take a month or two. Tiberias was founded in 20 A.D.  On one of the columns is carving of a face.

The news seems to be full of atrocities committed by Jihadists from or going to Syria. In 1918 the allies employed Syrian Cavalrymen as auxiliaries, mostly scouts. Here is Artilleryman Zeysolff an Alsatian-Lorrainer and deserter from German forces attached to the Turkish Army.

” All of a sudden, I could make out three cavalrymen coming towards me. i told my friend: “Come on, on the double, the Syrians are coming!. and he answered me, ” I’ve done them no harm, they will do me no harm either. I just want to eat my melon.” I took all I could and, with my melon under my arm, I fled in the opposite way from where the cloud of dust came nearer. The melon fell down but I didn’t take time to pick it up. I was lucky, the Syrians cut off my friend’s head.”          (P32, Palestine and World War I)

If it was not for the Asia-Minor agreement, Syria might have declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Asia-Minor agreement is better known as the Sykes Picot Agreement, france promised Syria was not going to let the Syrians get in the way of an expansion of the French Empire, just as Britain was not going to let the Arabs and their asperations get in the way of painting more of the globe in Imperial Red.

Allenby’s Army was an Imperial Army, it fought the second last great British Imperial campaign, the last was Field Marshal Slim’s campaign in Burma during WWII. The was a major difference between the two campaigns. Both fought with a considerable number of soldiers from the Indian Army.

In the First World War the opposing Turkish Army was Sunni, the same religion as a large number of the Indian soldiers. The Ottoman Sultan was the head of the Sunni branch of the Muslim faith, so there was a higher proportion of deserters.

The similarity of the two campaigns was that neither campaign was ever going to win the war. Ultimate military victory in the Great War was down to Haig, and in the Second, victory over Japan down to Nimitz.

references include

Allenby’s Military Medicine, Eran Dolev, I.B. Tauris Books.

Horseman Pass By, Lindsay Baly, Spellmount Books

Palestine and World War I, edited by Eran Dolev, Yigal Sheffy, and Haim Goren, I.B Tauris books

Allenby’s Other Battle.

. Medicine is often overlooked in general histories of the Great War. We hear about the battles, the home front, women, football, but rarely medicine and illness, the medical  exception being the Spanish Flu. Medicine can however tell us much more. It can confirm the Australians made it into Gaza during the second battle of Gaza. There was three cases of gonorrhea in Australian soldiers who took part in the battle. Gonorrhea is not easy to catch in the open desert, so it is a good indication that they were infected inside Gaza. As well as sexually transmitted diseases the soldiers of Allenby’s  Army faced another potential killer disease, malaria. Malaria in Egypt and latterly in Palestine had four origins. It was carried by some soldiers from India, a benign primary form was also was prevalent along the Canal, Before the advance into malaria also broke out in a limited scale and odd places in Sinai, and a malignant form of the disease in Palestine itself.

The Public Health department of Egypt had fitted out a railway car as a mobile biological laboratory which they placed at General Murray’s disposal for use in the Canal Zone in April 1915. the Egyptian Expeditionary Force,EEF-Allenby’s Army had to wait until April 1918 for mobile laboratories to be sent out from Britain. Meanwhile a pamphlet was dispatched to all Medical Officers with instructions on how to diagnose malaria and arrange suitable treatment and care for soldiers with the disease. A base laboratory was established at No.24 Stationary Hospital by Sir David Semple.  The Desert Mounted Corps also had an ANZAC Field laboratory, but for the rest of the EEF there was no way medical officers in the field  could quickly confirm a soldier was suffering from malaria or another similar illness. in February 1918 an RAMC Captain suggested the formation of Malaria Diagnostic Stations,MDS. Seven medical officers and sixteen orderlies were trained for a month from the third week in March 1918 and at the end of April 1918 these men had formed two  MDS units. Each unit could be carried in one general service wagon.

During the summer of 1918 Turkish prisoners and the Egyptian Labour Corps became particularly prone to malaria, Medical Units at the railheads were rapidly expanded, with laboratories at Ludd, Jerusalem, Deir-el-Belah, and Jaffa. Hospitals for prisoners of war were opened next to casualty clearing stations as well as at Deir-el-Belah, El Arish, and Kantara. The Egyptian Labour Corps was susceptible because it was they who were carrying out the anti -malaria work of draining marshes and diverting streams. Over two hundred man hours were spent from April 1918 on the various anti-malaria projects. Mosquito breeding areas were targeted wells were oiled, shell holes were filled and or oiled,  ponds and marshes were drained, reeds cleared as far as possible all breeding areas, mostly were stagnant water could accumulate were dealt with.  British forces were still being infected, but less and less. Malaria only finally being checked when the medical services insisted that only the bare minimum of troops could continue the pursuit and all others were to be withdrawn to healthy camp sites. An attempt was made to get the Australian stopped from wearing shorts-malaria being carried by mosquitoes, this was heavily resisted. The odd thing is evidence suggests, (2) that the troopers themselves were more afraid of malaria than they were of being wounded. More preventative measures were also used. Ronald Ross had discovered how malaria was transmitted from one infected person to people not infected Veils, nets creams and gloves were issued. Quinine however was not compulsory, doctors were not sure of its effectiveness, and was also in limited supply.

Dispite the anti malaria campaign and the counter measures, during the closing months of the war, the final pursuit by the EEF of the remains of the Turkish Army it was noted that there seemed to be a higher incidence of malaria cases in the Desert Mounted Corps. It is thought this is because the Desert Mounted Corps operated in the Esdraelon Valley. It was the failure of the second Transjordan attack, the so called second raid, meant that the bulk of the bulk of the mounted troops had no option but to remain in the valley. Summer temperatures in the southern half could reach higher than 120F, (I am to old to convert this to centigrade, but it is extremely hot.) To the north and after the end of summer, Damascus suffered a malignant outbreak of both malaria and the flue on the 6th October 1918, Malaria was carried into the city by troops of the Desert Mounted Corps, with 2,000 patients in the Barracks Hospital alone the resources of the RAMC were seriously strained. 4th Cavalry Division was also heavily infected, and was unable to continue the advance.The arrival of No.66 Casualty Clearing station and 96 class A(1) RAMC men from Kantara plus the Assistant Director of Medical Services help ease the situation. Allenby was left with only the 5th Cavalry who had spent just one night in the Jordan valley being able to continue the advance reaching Homes on the 16th October. Chaytor’s force also began to suffer after several days in the Jordanian valley. In just two months Chaytor had lost over 8,000 men to mainly malaria, this compares with 139 battle casualties since September. Two thirds of his starting force were now gone.

Footnote.

1) Class A men from the RAMC were being retrained in Kantara as infantrymen due to the manpower shortage.

2) Allenby’s Military Medicine p131

References,

Eran Dole, Allenby’s Military Medicine

Eran Dolev, Yigal Sheffy, and Haim Goren (Editors) Palestine and World War 1 Chapter 7.

Major General Sir WG Macpherson History of the Great War Medical Services Vol 3

Sad Australians and the very last waltz. #1WW

“It’s the very last waltz and it’s called the Dangle”                                                                          John Entwistle, (The Who)

History is a discussion, a debate, an argument, sometimes history even reaches the dizzy heights of a literal street brawl. We think we know what happened, it is the why that makes it all fun. everyone knows the facts of the first world war, right up to when they signed the armistice that came into effect at 12 noon on the 11th November 1918. Yes, 12 o’clock, that is the time the ceasefire came into effect as far as Germany was concerned, !2 noon in Berlin, but it was 11 o’clock in London, and it sounds better than at the 12th hour on the 11th Day.

Then there are those sad Australians, I have never met a sad Australian, as a people they tend to be happy bright and gay, at least the ones I have met or know are. But, the blog is about the First World War are it is the Shot At Dawn, SAD Australians that are more interesting.  Like me everyone interested will have been informed “No Australians were shot at dawn in the First World War.” The Australian Government would not allow their soldiers to be executed by firing squad, and that’s a fact.

Now one of the things about history is when someone says, “and that’s a fact” there is a high degree of probability that it isn’t. So lets have a look at that “Fact” first. It was not the Australian Government that refused to allow Australians, tried and sentenced by Field General Court Martial, FGCM, to be shot, it was the British Governor General who refused. Why? I have no idea. That said, if a government or the military wanted someone dead, there is more than one way to skin a Wallaby.

Next the Australians shot at dawn, sad bunch, I have found two. All served in the New Zealand Army. The first, Trooper John Sweeney was executed on the 2nd October 1916. Born in Tasmania, and residing in Tasmania John decided to enlist in the New Zealand Army in October 1914. he served in Gallipoli, and Egypt before arriving in France in July 1916. just after leaving Etaples for the Somme on the 26th July John deserted. He was arrested five weeks later, after avoiding service on the Somme.  He was tried by FGCM and sentenced to death he was shot by firing squad.. On hearing about John’s execution his father committed suicide. His pension was paid to his cousin who died in August 1919. 

The second Australian to be shot was Private John King, Putkowski and Sykes claim not to have known his real name, king’s real name is Frank Hillier Needs. an habitual offender, ex-miner, no idea why he joined the New Zealand Army. Looking at his service record he was a lucky man not to have been shot earlier. His luck ran out on the 19th August 1917 at 5.30 am when he was executed by firing squad.

There was a third soldier executed, Verney Asser, tried and executed, by the civil authorities, Hanged on the  5th March 1918 for killing another soldier. Verney case is interesting because he was an Australian soldier who shot and killed another Australian soldier on an army camp in England. subject to military law, the military, possibly because they knew a death sentence would very likely be commuted, allowed Verney to be tried by the English civil authorities. The Govenor General of Australia having no power over English Civil authorities.

Verny had fallen out with another solder, Corporal Durkin, over a woman. The two soldiers were at Sutton Veny Camp on Salisbury Plain. Both had been drinking. Durkin seems to have chosen the wrong moment to gloat over his success with the woman. Verney Asser then shot Durkin, killing him. Verney was sentenced to hanged. He did the very last waltz on 5th March 1918.

More information can be found in Shot at Dawn, Putkowski and Sykes

New Zealand Archives, on for Verny Asser, on the web