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Crucifixion of a Canadian Soldier


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I have been told that at 21:00hrs on Thursday 12th December Channel 4 are showing a documentry about the alleged crucifixion of a Canadian soldier in 1915 by the Germans.

After the War the Germans where found innocent of the charges as no real evidence was found but, apparently, this documentry will name the soldier concerned.

Hopefully Channel 4 will do a good job with telling the story. ;)

Lee

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The Sunday Times last week named him as Sgt Harry Band of Canadian Army but British born. They also included a photo of him.

CWGC list him as No. 27286 15 Bn, Canadian Infantry Died 24.04.15 & commemorated on Menin Gate.

The incident is alleged to have happened at St Julien.

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Terry - Thanks for the information. I've done a quick check on him and came up with:

Born: Scotland.

Employment: Lineman.

Born: 12 August 1885.

Attested: 18 September 1914.

Previous Service: 3 years in the 1st Forfar Volunteers and 3 years with the 48th Highlanders.

Lee

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According to the Channel 4 website 'The Crucified Soldier' will be the start of a Secret History WW1 season. An article by Dr Alan McDougall on the truth behind the atrocities of the Great War will appear soon on Channel 4 History Footnotes

Regards

Marc

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Hello,

Could anyone tell me how the documentary about the alleged crucifixion was or give a conclusion (did it happen or not)?

Jan

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Jan - I taped it but haven't watched it yet.

I did speak to a couple of people who've seen it and they said that there was a British (?) soldier who reported seeing a Canadian sergeant who had been crucified. There were many such reports but this was the only one that gave an ID to the sergeant, the people I spoke to said that there wasn't enough evidence to prove it had happened.

They also said that the programme went of on a bit of a tangent and delved into the German treatment of Belgian civilians. Although my friends, quite rightly too, were appalled at the massacres committed by the Germans and understanding that this part of the programme was to show that the Germans were capable of acts of brutality it didn't prove they crucified the sergeant. ;)

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I watched the programme and came to the conclusion that they had no tangible evidence whatsoever. The incident may well have happened but they didn't prove it!

The programme was padded out with stories of German brutality to civilians and the whole thing seemed to be designed to produce a 'horror story' to launch the series & generate ratings.

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I could have thought it would be like that. The evil huns who cut off the hands of children!

Jan

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After watching the (taped) programme this morning I have to agree with Terry's verdict. :(

I thought that Ch4 had gathered new evidence on the subject but discovered that it was just a mash of conjecture, rumour and not much else. If this incident had happened today and the evidence shown in this programme was given in court the case would have been thrown out.

I was disappointed with this episode and can only hope that the rest of the series will be of better quality; why am I not filled with optimism? ;)

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I didn't watch the programme as some of the researchers from it contacted me and I wasn't very impressed with them, so doubted if it would be a balanced programme - obviously I was right.

These sorts of stories were all part of the propaganda machine, and while the killing of prisoners took place on both sides during the war, this is sadly what war is like. This type of propaganda was there to whip up public sentiment against Germany and get behind the war effort.

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This programme took three accounts from different people, discredited them, and then used these discredited accounts to 'prove' their fourth and 'correct' interpretation. Still remains fiction at present, I think.

Cheers

Joe

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I agree with comments made so far about the programme. Unfortunately the whole of the "Secret History" series follows a similar line: regurgitate old stories add a bit of spin and pretend that you have found something new.

Terry Reeves

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One of the most unfortunate myths of the Great War is that German atrocities were a myth. Yes, some atrocity stories were a myth , almost certianly this is one of those.

They did use human shields, mass deprotation for slave labor, collective punishment including murder, on and on. Look at a village war memorial sometime in the occupied zone, one category of those dead for France, another of those murdered by the Germans.

If you read one Great War book this year make it German Atrocities 194 1918 A History of Denial.

THese atrocities are no more debatable than the Holocaust.

I absolutely reject any connection to modern, progressive democrartic Germany, one of the finest countries on earth.

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I agree there have been atrocities against civilians, but these atrocities were to a certain degree "understandable". Of course killing civilians is a war crime. But isn't the shooting by civilians on the Germans also a crime, which can lead to serious counter-measures as there have been.

Do you know that quite a few civilians were shot by the British too because they were thought to be spies?

As always: there is no black and no white, only grey.

Jan

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In the programme there was reference to several German atrocities. One involved the shooting of a German officer in a Belgian village. The Germans, convinced that it was the action of civilians, rounded up the women and children and locked them in the church. They then shot over 100 men and boys as a "reprisal". Subsequently a German enquiry into the incident proved that no civilians had been involved, and the officer had in fact been killed by friendly fire.

So far as the crucifixion of the Canadian Sergeant was concerned the programme revealed evidence of two letters written by a soldier, who had been in Bank's platoon, to his sister. The first said that he (the soldier) understood she had been told her brother was missing, and he said that he knew he had been killed on 24 April and had died "doing his duty". The second letter which appears to have been in response to a request from his sister for more information says that regretably Harry Banks had been crucified by the Germans.

The programme said the post war Canadian enquiry into the incident had been unaware of these letters, and that they had been kept secret within the Banks family for many years before being disclosed. It is these letters which appear to have been the "new evidence"

Tim

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Quite right. The "new evidence" would not stand up in court.

The letters did not prove the event happened nor, if it did, whom the victim was or who carried out the alleged atrocity. All they proved was that someone wrote two letters making certain alegations.

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The letters did not prove the event happened nor, if it did, whom the victim was or who carried out the alleged atrocity. All they proved was that someone wrote two letters making certain alegations.

I think if you look at the programme very closely, it doesn't even prove that, Terry.

Band's sister, Mrs. Petrie, was apparently a strong, determined woman who had, in her mind, already begun to link her dead brother with the "Crucified Canadian" story, without any evidence at all.

The first letter from Pte. Freeman to Mrs. Petrie, telling here that Banks was dead, is never seen, only alluded to, so no proof there.

Then we have to assume that Mrs. Petrie wrote to Freeman saying something like, "I don't believe you. I think he was crucified, am I right?"

To which Freeman is supposed to have replied with a second letter saying, "yes, you're quite right - he was," or words to that effect. (Bizarre or what?)

The second letter from Freeman was shown in the programme but I thought I noticed something and checked it later as I had recording the programme.

Two letters are shown, one being Freeman's second "Yes, you're right" letter and the other being a letter from Mrs. Petrie to someone called "Martin" saying that she has, at last, found the truth.

You'll need to have videoed the programme to check this but:-

"Freeman's" letter to Mrs. Petrie, agreeing that Band had been crucified contains the words "Harry" and "crucified."

Mrs. Petrie's letter to Martin contains the words "Harry" and "Crucifiction" (sic).

Look at the shots of both letters, concentrating on these words and I think it looks pretty obvious that the same person wrote both letters, and that person was, presumably, Mrs. Petrie. I'd be interested to see if anyone else agrees!

If this is right, then neither of Pte. Freeman's letters were proven to exist.

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Tom

Unfortunately I didn't record the programme so can't scutinise it, but what you say is very interesting.

I must say when I watched the programme the explanation that the family had kept these letters "secret" for many years and had no revealed them to the enquiry had a very hollow ring to it.

I think that most normal people with that sort of evidence would have been falling over themselves to release it to an enquiry into their brother's murder , or if they had missed the enquiry would have been petitioning for it to be re-opened! I don't know the alleged dates of these letters, but my understanding is that they were written by Pte Freeman whilst still on active service, whereas the Canadian enquiry was not held until after the war.

Tim

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I don't own a TV.

I happened to be staying with some folk who do, so actually saw this programme.

It reminded me why I don't own a TV.

I began to give up when the academic talking head from Cambridge (discipline never mentioned?) explained that the number of wayside Calvarys in the region would have put the idea of crucifixion into Tommy's head.

I lost heart when a letter from a senior German official was read out in the finest 'For you Tommy, zee var iss ovar' accent I've heard for a long time.

And I was defeated by the logic of 'The Boche were beastly to the Belgians' therefore 'The Krauts crucified a Canadian' . With apologies for the possibly offensive epithets but the alliteration is too much resist.

Jock Bruce

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I unfortunately contrived to miss this programme due to my catastrophic short term memory so can't comment on its content. However, there seems to be a modern tendency to simply deny the possibility that events similar in ghastliness to the crucifixion episode could possibly have been deliberately perpetrated. I do not share this opinion. There are many mentions of horrible incidents such as the deliberate killing of prisoners by both sides . I find it highly likely that relatively small numbers of men starting with psychopathic tendencies will have been further brutalized by their battlefield experiences and run amok . One also wonders whether men with such tendencies would naturally have volunteered for elite raiding party duties to give them an outlet for these tendencies and the opportunity for access to a disadvantaged enemy.

Of course, once the other side find the evidence of such activities , the desire for revenge would have been considerable and possibly irresistible.

It also occurs to me that the ways of death on the Western Front were so various and bizarre that the Canadian could have been picked up by a shell blast and had his body disposed of by chance in such a way that mimicked the appearance of deliberate crucifixion to a cursory battlefield examination under pressure. Such discoveries could still prompt the requisite revenge to be taken.

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I agree with Tom that thre was no "evidence" at all. My previous posting was not clear enough!

Also, I do not think that anyone has suggested that no atrocities took place or even that this 'crucifixion' did not happen but simply that there was no evidence given in the programme that it did.

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The trailers for the programme claimed that they would prove that the story was true. Many (possibly thousands) will have seen this trailer but not the actual programme and understandably be convinced that this atrocity did take place on the strength of this. After having seen the programme I think nothing concrete was proved, but such is the power of t.v.

It was good that other parts of the programme focused on other atrocities committed by the Germans. I'm sure this was news to many although I imagine it was only added as others have said to prove that they were capable of being so cruel.

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I saw the programme and was not convinced that a soldier had been crucified. Even if a soldier had been so treated the case was not made that he was Sgt Band

I hold no brief for the German Army in WW1, but before words like 'atrocity' are used it should be remembered that they were the occupying power and therefore had discipline and control problems not faced by the Allies. We have no guarantees that we would have behaved any differently had the roles been reversed.

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I hold no brief for the German Army in WW1, but before words like 'atrocity' are used it should be remembered that they were the occupying power and therefore had discipline and control problems not faced by the Allies. We have no guarantees that we would have behaved any differently had the roles been reversed.

Hello Hedley,

As I told before: I know of one miller who was shot in Becelaere by the British, because they thought he was a spy.

In 'A Galloper at Ypres' you can read the story of the miller of Gheluvelt who was put against the wall. The British (I believe Bedfords) claimed that the mill was turning the moment they passed on the Menin Road. The next moment there was a German bombardment on the Menin Road and the British were convinced the windmill had alarmed the Germans... The miller shouted out his innocence by saying that he hadn't given anything to the Germans when they passed through the village a few days before.

One of the farmers (an old man) in Cruiseecke wouldn't flee from his farm in October 1914 and hid himself in the cesspool. The British found the man and thought he was a spy. He was bound between two horses and dragged to Gheluvelt center. When he arrived there, he was dead. The body, covered with blood, made quite an impression on the other inhabitants of the village, so they all hurried to flee (as was ordered by the British).

I also remember reading the war diary of the 28th division (if I'm not mistaken) and there one of the officers complains that the Belgians would prefer to be under German occupation and that they were unthankful to the British because all they wanted was to earn a lot of money from the British...

The British "crimes" weren't so general and on a large scale as the German, but as Hedley said: 1. the British were considered as "friends" and the Germans as "foes" and 2. there was a war going on and everyone that behaved conspicuously was immediately considered a threat to security...

Jan

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Even to this day some Armies practice horrific cruelty. In yesterday's Sunday Times there was a ghastly picture of Peruvian army commandos using live dogs, suspended by their paws in a cruciform, for bayonet practice. There have been complaints from World Society for the Protection of Animals, and article said that the Peruvian authorities claim that this practice had now been stopped. It had been used as a means of stimulating the soldiers' blood lust.

As others have said war, and it seems training for war, can be a charter for a certain minority regardles of race, with pyschopathic tendancies, be it 1915 or now.

Tim

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