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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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Courtmartials for cowardice/ Treatment of German prisoners of war


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I am currently writing a novel set during the Battle of Messines. One of my characters is shot for "cowardice". I am wondering if anybody could throw light on the sequence of events that would lead to execution. Another character in the novel is a German engineer who is taken prisoner during a trench-raid. Once again, I am seeking information on the likely sequence of events from the moment of capture.

With regard to the first of these circumstances, I am seeking answers to the following questions - and similar in the case of the second:

Who was empowered to arrest someone suspected of cowardice?

Where would a person be taken immediately after arrest? Who would question them? Would they be visited by a commanding officer?

How rapidly would the whole process occur?

What investigative procedures would take place?

What ranks of officers would be involved in the court-martial? How would the evidence be presented?

What rights did the accused have as far as defence counsel was concerned?

I am mainly interested in the first few days of this character's experience, from the point of arrest. I would also like to know whether it is likely that a person found guilty after the Battle of Messines would be executed at Poperinge - or would it be elsewhere?

If anyone is able to help me with any of these details, I will mention them in my acknowledgements.



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Have you tried googling any of the questions or doing a forum search?

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Hi Giles. Use the Advanced search and much of what you require will already be on the Forum

For example input "shot at dawn" in the search box, including inverted commas, and select Only search in titles and there are 76 threads available.


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There was a very successful trench raid by the 1/9th Bn Highland Light Infantry (Glasgow Highland) on 27 June 1916 detailed in this thread:-


I suspect if you look at the war diary for that unit and the equivalent Divisional (33rd Division) war diary you will find more information on the pre-raid orders for handling of prisoners.


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