The BBC has done a follow up to the story of Private Joseph Bateman, whose name was added to his local memorial in Wordsley, nearly ninety years after he was shot by a firing squad for desertion. Recently the historian who campaigned for Bateman’s name to be added to the memorial met up with the soldier’s granddaughter.
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What do you think – should those who were executed for desertion or cowardice be added to existing war memorials?
We’ve reported before about the recent increase in adding the names of those ‘shot at dawn’ for cowardice and desertion in the First World War to war memorials and how many of these men were actually already named on memorials.
One that wasn’t was Private Joseph Bateman. He volunteered soon after the First World War began but, by December 1917 after disappearing from duty several times, he was convicted of desertion and shot by a firing squad.
A local historian became interested in the story of Pte Bateman and began to research the details of his life. In 2006 he was successful in his campaign to have Bateman’s name added to the memorial in Wordsley, in the West Midlands.
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There was an article on the BBC website recently that referred to a successful campaign to add the name of a soldier shot duing the the First World War for desertion to his local war memorial.
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It is a very common misconception that people who were executed for desertion or cowardice were not commemorated on war memorials. In fact, there are many examples where they were named on their local memorial immediately after the First World War. As with all memorials, the criteria for a name to be included varied between communities and while some may have considered execution as reason for omission, others did not.
For example, Joseph Fox, executed in 1915 for desertion, is found listed on both the Chippenham war memorial, unveiled in 1921, and the Roll of Honour in his parish church. Similarly, Ernest Beaumont, executed later that same year, appears on his local memorial in Cambridge.