Blindfold and Alone: The story of the men shot at dawn16th November 2017, 7:45 PM
Cost £5 (pay on door) to include wine and nibbles; all proceeds to the Horley-Vimy Association and WW1 charities.
An entertaining and informative lecture by Andy Thompson.
On the 18th October 1916 a lone Surrey soldier was taken behind a cowshed in the small French village of Carney and shot by firing squad. Harry Farr had been sent home earlier in the war. He arrived home with a small label tied to his jacket with the letters NYD-W written on it by a medic in pencil. "Not yet diagnosed - windy" was later to be acknowledged as shell shock but the condition was not recognised by the authorities until much later in the war. Farr had been sent back to France in 1916 and, blatantly unwell, had refused to march into the trenches.
In the House of Commons in the early summer of 1917 an MP asked the Deputy Minister of War how many British service men had been shot by firing squad. The Deputy Minister didn't know but said he would find out. The next day the House was told that the matter had been declared closed for 75 years and that the details would not be made public until 1992 - long after all those concerned were dead.
The information was eventually released in the 1980s and a fierce debate began about the legality of the military law that allowed men, often very young and suffering from the trauma of war, to be shot after a rudimentary trial by three officers. 100 years on the issue remains sensitive and challenging and the lecture will examine the events and reaction from all sides.
In 2006 the government pardoned 306 of the 346 men who had been executed during the war.
The lecture will follow the story through the individual stories of the victims and will examine what led to the pardon - much welcomed by Harry Farr's 99-year-old daughter.