Pardon for British soldiers executed during World War I

Pardon for British soldiers executed during World War I By The Associated Press

LONDON ? Britain's legislators Tuesday granted posthumous pardons for soldiers executed during World War I, ending years of campaigning by the families of men condemned to death for cowardice.

Around 300 soldiers, who were executed during the 1914-18 conflict for failing to return to the front lines, were included in the pardon. The government has said it is continuing research to identify other soldiers who were brought before firing squads after only summary trials.

The decision to pardon the men was made as part of the Armed Forces Act

2006, which only awaits the guaranteed assent of the queen to become law.

The pardons acknowledge that many of the men suffered shell-shock from the horrors of the war and thus refused to return to their units.

In 1993, then-Prime Minister John Major ruled out pardons because "we cannot rewrite history by substituting our latter-day judgment for that of contemporaries."

The families of the executed men had brought three lawsuits against the government, each one exposing the flawed trials the men received. In one case, a soldier was tried and executed on the same day as his offense.

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Stephen Tontoni
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It was my father's opinion that Private Slovik should not have been executed. He said it had a bad effect on troop morale and Slovik wasn't mentally fit to be on the front lines to begin with.

Bill Banaszak

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A few weeks after the trial, one of the court officers was captured in the Ardennes. As he walked with the hordes of fellow prisoners, he heard enough to know that many were guilty of worse than Slovik--the example was clearly wasted and the execution was a travesty.

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