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Hedley Malloch

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The Killing of the Iron Twelve: An Account the Largest Execution of British Soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War.

 

Between October 1914 and February 1915, the village of Iron sheltered eleven members of the BEF. Eventually they were betrayed and shot by the Germans in Guise Château before being buried in graves they had been forced to dig for themselves. I am Chair of the Iron Memorial Fund and I have just completed a book on the affair which will be published by Pen and Sword in June this year.

The book tells the story of the lives of many Allied soldiers on the run, and re-interprets many of them in the light of new evidence. The story moves on to how the soldiers came to Iron and the family and village politics into which they became enmeshed. The biographies of all of the soldiers are outlined, including that of the likely leader. They were betrayed twice by three men and it was the first (and hitherto unknown) betrayal and the botched German raid that followed that set the scene for the savagery of the ultimate German response. An important question why did the Germans react with such brutality to this and in other aspects of the occupation. The book explains this by analysing the prevailing culture of the occupying German army.

The deaths of the 11 soldiers were part of a wider pattern and the book analyses the executions of all 24 British soldiers caught on the run behind the Western Front. They were not random events, but highly ordered with respect to time and place. The pattern can be explained in terms of the German army’s decision-making systems and the personalities of two named German officers who were implicated in all 24 executions.

A previously unanswered question about this tragedy is whether or not there was a 12th man who escaped the firing squad at the last minute? Three candidates are identified, with names, rank and number for two of them.  The third has no identity, but his story begs a question: there are over 3000 names of the CWGC memorial at La Ferte-sous-Jouare. They all went missing – but were they all killed? The book concludes with the aftermath of the executions, the tragic fates of the French families concerned, and why the British government did nothing to hold to account the Germans responsible for these violations of international law.

There is a strong Irish dimension to the book with the stories of many Irishmen being woven into the narrative. These include the two Irish sergeants who led what was possibly the most respectful and deferential mutiny ever conducted in the history of the British army, Francis Jameson and his party who lived in a hole in the ground in a field for over two months. A third was the Munster Fusilier whose refusal to be rescued from his hiding place endangered the escape network to such an extent that they sent men to kill him. Finally, the reason why the Germans stopped shooting British soldiers caught on the run turns out to have a totally unexpected Irish ingredient.

The book draws on national and local archives in France, Ireland, the UK, Belgium and Germany; the diaries of locals, newspaper and journal articles and interviews with the descendants of those concerned.

In writing the book I have benefitted considerably from many people in GWF who over the years have answered my queries. My thanks to you all. Copies can be ordered direct from Pen & Sword.

 

 

Edited by Hedley Malloch

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Ghazala

Thank you for this.

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Hedley Malloch

I am sorry that the text is not clearer.

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Hedley Malloch

ITV will run the story of the Iron 12 in the week before Remembrance Sunday 2019. Plans are to show it during the week in two parts during the regional news bulletins of those ITV regions where traced relatives of the eleven soldiers are living today; these are, Central, Anglia and Yorkshire. As well as the story, the output will feature interviews with the soldiers' families, and with the those of the French families who sheltered them, about the meaning of this story for them today.

 

I am off to France later this week to help with the shooting of the programme which will take place in the Nouvion Forest, Iron and Guise.

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2ndCMR
On 08/03/2019 at 05:44, Hedley Malloch said:

An important question why did the Germans react with such brutality to this and in other aspects of the occupation. The book explains this by analysing the prevailing culture of the occupying German army.

 

And to what was that mentality attributed?

 

Congrats on the book by the way. 

 

The subtitle is well chosen as it will draw in all the "shot at dawn" cranks -  who will then be disappointed to learn the eleven were only shot by the Germans! 

 

Still, they might learn something before they rush off in search of some other moral hillock from which to wave their brave pennants. LOL.

Edited by 2ndCMR

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David Filsell

Hedley,

Your  book has just received a deservedly great revue in Stand To! by Mr Broomfield.

Regards

David

 

Edited by David Filsell

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John P. Moore

Sounds like an interesting book. I have just ordered the Kindle version. 

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Hedley Malloch
On 29/10/2019 at 19:19, David Filsell said:

Hedley,

Your  book has just received a deservedly great revue in Stand To! by Mr Broomfield.

Regards

David

 

David, Thank you very much.

We have just finished a great day’s filming in Iron, Guise and the Nouvion Forest, with Peter Bearne (producer) and Kelly behind the camera, both of ITV. A real privilege to work with them and to see the care and professionalism which goes into making a minute of screen time. The French interviewees were M.Andre Gruselle, the Mayor of Iron, and great-grandson of Leonie Logez, and Denis Chalandre, grand-son of Vincent Chalandre, both of whom who looked after the soldiers. Andre and Denis were in good form.

Peter Bearne says it is planned to show the story in two parts in the ITV Central, Anglia and Yorkshire regional news bulletins on November 8 and November 11.

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David Filsell

Hedley,

My pleasure. Good luck with the filming.

regards

David

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Hedley Malloch

ITV Central's video clips of the story of the Iron Twelve are now on Youtube. Links are below.

 

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21fCtYwria4&t=82s

Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-3HFQ96_I4&t=80s

 

They tell the story using Fred Innocent's story, a Nottingham man in 2/Royal Munster Fusiliers. The clips feature interviews with the descendants of Fred, and with those of the two French families who looked after the soldiers. These are Denis Chalandre and Andre Gruselle, great-grandson of Léonie Logez.

 

Many thanks to Peter Bearne, Kelly, and all at ITV Central.

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Hedley Malloch

I will be giving a talk on my book, ‘The Killing of the Iron Twelve’ to Wolverhampton WFA on Saturday 8 February at 14:30 at St. Peter’s Collegiate School, Crompton Park, Wolverhampton, WV3 9DU. A modest donation at door. Refreshments included.

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