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Time: 9:48:54 PM
Remote Name: 126.96.36.199
You would think that a question like this would be easy because a soldier who commits a crime is either guilty or not guilty. If they were found guilty, the severity of the punishment would match the nature of the crime. For example cowardice, a traitorous act or contravening "conventions" like shooting prisoners or non-combatants would mean the most severe penalty. Sorry, but the assumption that the accused will be dealt with fairly is an historical fallacy. Don't misunderstand. Some, and I emphasise some, soldiers no doubt received a fair hearing. (I'm not sure of the 2 Austns. shot during WW1 as members of the NZ force but, as no one has told me differently, they may have deserved it.)
However, too often the Death Penalty was used as a disciplinary measure. For instance the French randomly shot some of their own men for cowardice. Birdwood wanted Australians to be subject to British Army Law primarily so as he could enforce the death penalty and prevent the higher instances of desertions wwhen compared with other armies. Morant and Handcock were still shot even though they appear to have redeemed themselves, according to military law, by helping to beat off a Boer attack while prisoners.
The real question is why, after the sentence is commuted, does this soldier only serve two years? Perhaps you are on the right track, Steve, when you say he was at Pozieres. Perhaps the officer got all his mates (or relatives) killed in a suicidal charge and this bloke was just a little annoyed? (Shades of Fromelles and the Nek, here.) In perspective, he serves less than Witton and has his sentence shortened without the political pressure.
I know hindsight is a wonderful thing and the difference between tactical success and failure could be as little as the Turks lowering their sights at Beersheba. We would also like to believe that there is one rule for all but, if this were so, some of the WW1 senior officers should have faced an inquiry over their tactics which, in some cases, were little short of murder. Death Penalty now? Have the times changed or does children overboard and political manipulation mean nothing to you?