Shot at dawn: the First World War soldiers executed for desertion and cowardice
The sites at which British, French and Belgian troops were executed for desertion and cowardice during the First World War have been captured on film.
About the images
In a series of haunting images, British photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews focuses on the locations at which individuals were shot or held in the period leading up to their execution, between 1914 and 1918.
The photographs, which feature in a photobook Shot at Dawn, were taken as close as possible to the precise time at which the executions took place. The titles of the photographs feature the names of the soldiers who were executed, alongside the dates, times and locations of their executions.
The book also features essays by historians Hew Strachan and Helen McCartney on cowardice, desertion and psychological trauma brought on by military service.
Paul Bonaventura from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford, which commissioned the book, said: “To ensure obedience on the battlefield, the armies of nearly all the combatant states felt obliged to make an example of troops who disobeyed orders. Men were brought before courts-martial, sentenced to death and shot for a range of offences, including cowardice and desertion. Most of these executions took place at daybreak.”
All images © Chloe Dewe Mathews, courtesy of Ivorypress.
Enhance the festive season with a subscription to BBC History Magazine + David Mitchell's latest masterpiece UNRULY - signed and hardback!
As a print subscriber you will also get FREE access to HistoryExtra.com worth £34.99