War Diaries Talk

Major put in a strange position

  • Stork by Stork

    This is the title page of a Court of Inquiry of whether Sgt Denison and 15 men surrendered to the enemy without reason.

    At the bottom of this page AWD000421n it isn't known whether Major Kennedy, who was near those 16 men during the battle, showed lack of judgement in not firing on them.

    On this page AWD00041vh Major Kennedy says, "I did not open fire as I would have done had I known they were British and thus stopped them..."

    It just seems that Major Kennedy is in a very strange position--- if he had known they were enemy, he would have withheld his fire and let them live, but if he had known they were British, he would have fired and deliberately killed 16 of his own countrymen.

    You probably noticed the location Rossignol Wood, which is near Hebuterne, France. This happened on 27/2/17. 'Graben' is German for 'trench.'

    This AWD00041xv is an order released at the end of the Court of Inquiry saying that anyone seen going over to the enemy should be shot at once.


  • cyngast by cyngast moderator

    I think that what Major Kennedy meant was that if the men he saw with hands up and no weapons were enemy soldiers, it would be advantageous to capture them if possible so they can be interrogated. On the other hand, British soldiers surrendering to the enemy without cause, meaning that the circumstances at the time did not warrant a surrender (they weren't surrounded, etc.), were considered deserters. Deserters who are caught are court-martialed and generally shot, so men seen deserting to the enemy on the battlefield would also be shot, in part to prevent their giving away any information they had about British plans.

    It seems to me that this is not the whole story. I wonder what really happened, why those men might have surrendered, and what happened to them afterwards.