During the Great War France is reported to have executed more than 600 soldiers for military crimes on and off the battlefield. A number were shot in response to the French Army Mutinies in 1917. France 24 reports a move to have these men pardoned:
A report delivered to France’s Ministry of Veteran Affairs on Tuesday has suggested the country officially review the history of First World War soldiers who refused to fight and were executed by the hundreds as an example for other troops.
As France prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the “Great War” next year, the new text highlights the double injustice suffered by many soldiers who were killed by firing squad and went down in history books as “cowards”.
One century after the start of the bloody conflict, “there is a large consensus in our society that the majority of them were not cowards, but decent soldiers, who performed their duties and did not deserve to die,” the report read.
It said that between 600 and 650 French soldiers were executed by their own side after disobeying orders from commanding officers, while around 100 others were put to death for espionage and other crimes.
It said that with 100 years of hindsight about the “dreadful circumstances” at the frontline, it was understandable that some men “broke down”.
The report discourages case-by-case probes to uncover the guilt or innocence of each executed WWI soldier, a process it said would have “disproportionate costs” and produce uncertain results.
Rather, it recommended a “formal declaration” by the state with perhaps a subsequent educational programme meant to clear the soldiers of dishonour.
“To declare that these soldiers also, in a certain way, ‘died protecting France’, would serve a sort of moral and civic pardon,” the report concluded.