Forgotten Soldiers: The Irishmen Shot at Dawn: Book Review
Publishers - Gill & McMillan
Note: The Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl is not involved or linked in anyway with this publication.
A book entitled Forgotten Soldiers: The Irishmen Shot at Dawn written by BBC Northern Ireland journalist Stephen Walker was launched in Belfast on Thursday the 25th October 2007. The author makes reference on many occasions to the Farr case and it being a landmark case (legal) in a way that suggests the Farr case was the pre-eminent factor along with the effort of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign in the final resolution of the pardons issue. In consequence, the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl owe it to our support base throughout Ireland and further afield to point out the following:
In their embellished press release promoting Forgotten Soldiers, The Irishmen Shot at Dawn By Stephen Walker, the publishers state:
Press Release: Twenty-eight Irishmen were executed by the British Army during the First World War for desertion and disobedience:
Press Release: For decades the full story of how the Irishmen died has largely remained a secret, but now one of the most controversial chapters in British military history can at last be told:
Press Release: Forgotten Soldiers is the first book to chronicle how relatives and campaigners fought to clear the men’s names:
The Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl:
The Farr Case - A Cause Célèbre ?
In a Pro Bono application in May of 2005, Mr Justice Stanley Burnton found that there was 'room for argument' that he (Private Harry Farr) had been wrongly refused a conditional pardon. However Mr Justice Burnton also declared inter alia that the family of Private Farr lacked the legal grounds for a free pardon......thereby ruling out the *free pardon/full pardon option in a leading case which many observers believe to be one of the most deserving of a free pardon/full pardon. Significantly, Mr Justice Burnton's opinion effectively raised the legal bar by setting a precedent insofar as future applications for pardons in world war one execution cases would only be dealt with on the basis of the 'room for argument' principle via the conditional pardon route...legally capping future British political outcomes to the pardons issue. Consequently, the legal limitations of the 'room for argument' principle via the conditional pardon route first enunciated by Mr Justice Burnton in the Farr case in May 2005, are now reflected in the 2006 British Pardons Amendment. *A free pardon/full pardon is understood to mean a pardon not encumbered by any expressly stated constraint or weighted legal, parliamentary or royal impediment narrowing its scope or effect.
The Ministry of Defence did not lose the Farr case as asserted by Andrew MacKinlay MP and others. The Farr case had never reached a final conclusion and had not gone forward for a full hearing, indeed the preliminary opinion of Mr Justice Burnton in the initial application in May 2005 had already raised the legal bar to any future action by the British Government/MoD. Rather than resolving the issue the consequence of the Farr application in May 2005 effectively ruled out the full pardon option in all WW1 execution cases and any expected British political response to the Irish Government Report was re-routed and parked down a British legal cul de sac for nearly two years, and not several months as stated, thereby taking the pressure off the British Government at a critical time in the Irish campaign. The introduction of the PARDONS FOR SERVICEMEN EXECUTED FOR DISCIPLINARY OFFENCES: RECOGNITION AS VICTIMS OF FIRST WORLD WAR on the 7th November 2006 is the British Government's official response to the Irish Government Report into the execution of the Irish Shot at Dawn 1914-18 encumbered by the limitations set out in May 2005 by Mr Justice Burnton in the Farr application.
It should also be noted that in November 2003 following the initial Irish Government support for the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl effort. A meeting took place in Newcastle, England with the leader of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign. He gave his assurance that no legal action was envisaged/considered or being taken in the UK, as to do so in our opinion, would have frustrated future Irish Government efforts and divert the Irish campaign down a British legal cul-de-sac. The Irish effort then proceeded on the basis that no legal action was being taken in the UK by the Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign or the UK Families. The legal application in the Farr Case May 2005 (significantly post the presentation of the Irish Government Report in October 2004) patently breached that assurance. As a consequence:
It is inconceivable that the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign were unaware of the preparation for the Farr case as expert knowledge was needed to prepare the legal briefs which was only accessible through the UK SAD campaign effort. The facts are, the Farr Pro Bono application in May 2005 is responsible for blocking the full pardon route for all our world war one Shot at Dawn, thereby eliminating the possibility of a full pardon for our Irish Shot at Dawn, to the detriment of our Irish Families, leaving them in a British legal and political vacuum. The Farr case had never reached a final conclusion or gone forward for a full hearing to test their legal argument for a conditional pardon, and for Walker and others in the UK to flag the Farr case as a Cause Célèbre is at the very least imprudent and a British distortion of the facts.
War Shame Ended Shame of Daughter an article by Henry McDonald, Ireland Correspondent, The Observer, Sunday October 28, 2007, with extracts from Forgotten Soldiers, The Irishmen Shot at Dawn. a book by Stephen Walker, states inter alia
'For the first time, former War Veterans' Minister Tom Watson has admitted his meeting with Harris in the summer of 2006 prompted him to force the MoD to change policy and grant her father and other shell-shocked troops a pardon';
To state or imply that it was this meeting that forced a change in British government policy on the pardons in isolation to all other efforts, is incredibly naive at best and downright insulting to all involved in supporting the campaign for pardons, in particular, the crucial role of the Irish government's international diplomatic effort towards the final resolution of the pardons issue.
RTE TV Irish Television 'Would You Believe Special Documentary - Shot at Dawn - 9th November 2008:
On Sunday the 9th November 2008 a 'Would You Believe' special television documentary was transmitted to launch the Irish remembrance week schedule. As some pundits continue to ignore or minimise the Irish Governments role towards the successful resolution of the pardons issue, the following inter alia might be taken into account whenever discussions arise as to who did what and when :
It is regrettable that the Irish Government's key role in this unique change of British policy is continually being ignored and minimised in particular by British connections. Consequently, as we were closely involved, the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl will vigorously rebut any erroneous statement/spin placed on the public record about the separate Irish campaign effort, irrespective of source. It should be noted for the record, that previous attempts by those involved in the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, had failed to convince the Irish Government to support the pardons issue prior to June 2001. A separate all Ireland 'Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl' unconnected with the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, set up and based in Dublin, was ultimately successful in persuading the Irish authorities to support the issue on behalf of the 26 Irish Shot at Dawn. Apparently, there are some individuals and other groups only too willing to claim the credit for the effort done by others, indeed there are still those who credit the success of the Irish Campaign directly to the existence of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, which is grossly unfair to our support base. Consequently, in the interests of the historical record, the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl will continue to set that record straight. This website may provide other information of relevance at
The British Pardons Campaign:
In 1998, the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign was effectively dead in the water as a result of John Reid's refusal to countenance any pardons. It was the Irish campaign effort that made the difference and but for the Irish governments input, the Farr case and the British Pardons Campaign would still be languishing in the cul-de-sac of the British political and legal system ad infinitum. To claim or imply otherwise is perverse.
Irrespective, we have always been of the view because of the mosaic involving various individuals, groups, organizations, politicians and governments etc, who supported and became involved in the resolution to the pardons issue, that all regardless of contribution, are fully entitled to their share of the collective credit for their collective effort...and especially not forgetting the 76 year old Belfast pensioner and her elderly friends who deliberately crossed the sectarian divide in 2004 to get support for our Irish petition to pardon our 26 Irish Shot at Dawn..the success and credit also belongs to them....bless em. Are these courageous elderly ladies from Northern Ireland not also entitled to share in the credit? There are many examples of elderly pensioners and elderly veterans living throughout Ireland who supported the Irish campaign. Are they not also entitled to share in the credit?...is their contribution to go unrecorded?
The ability of Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl to attract all Ireland support for pardons from all sections across the sectarian divide for our 26 Shot at Dawn British soldiers, albeit Irish born (and taking into account that we were coming out of a conflict situation with the Irish troubles in our recent past), is a testament to the goodwill, common sense and humanitarian approach of all the Irish people. The subsequent involvement of the Irish government and the production of its own report into the executions of our 26 British soldiers is a seismic historical development and its affect on Anglo-Irish relations is apparently still not fully understood by some British commentators and scribes etc.
The successful holding of the Somme Commemoration in the National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin, on Saturday 1st July 2006 did not go unnoticed by our British friends. In the absence of any agreement on the Irish peace process, the unified support for the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl on the pardons issue, promoted the principle of all Ireland agreement, albeit on a single issue. Ironically the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign had achieved a consensus on the island of Ireland for its objectives, in a divided political and religious environment where no other subject matter had attracted such all Ireland agreement in recent memory. All Ireland agreement which = Irish peace process which = final settlement of the Irish question which = Tony Blair's place in history, as he was about to leave office as British Prime Minister. To suggest or imply that it was the heartbreaking story from a wonderful old lady, accompanied by tea, tears and sympathy courtesy of that very sympathetic organization, the British Ministry of Defence, which was the tipping point that led to the pardons, is stretching things, a wee bit. The Ministry of Defence have never been intimidated by such niceties and have always battened down the hatches when under pressure. So what was the real motivation? The British have never given anything away unless they see a benefit in return, and any policy/action they undertake will always be in the British National and Strategic Interest. It was all elementary dear Watson, elementary, the Irish peace process and Blair's place in history with the final settlement of the Irish question in place was the tipping point, ie the resolution of the pardons issue in the context of the Irish peace process.................for slow learners.
We were assured from the outset by Walker that he wanted his book to be a book of record, and it was on that basis that we gave our support. Regretably, far from being the tome of record which one hoped it would be, Forgotten Soldiers, The Irishmen Shot at Dawn, a book by BBC Northern Ireland journalist Stephen Walker, seems to be nothing more than another British spin to suit a British audience......facile largire de alieno.
Re an Irish Pardon for Irish born British soldiers Shot at Dawn:
Re an Irish Pardon for Irish born British soldiers Shot at Dawn: On the pretext that such a measure would be persuasive in encouraging a British Government to look more sympathetically at the pardons issue it was suggested during the campaign particularly by Andrew Mackinlay MP and some individuals in the UK associated with the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, that the Irish Government should independently proceed and pardon all our Irish born executed British soldiers irrespective of any British determination on the matter, effectively calling for an Irish panacea to a British dilemma prior to any final adjudication in the Farr case and significantly without consulting with the Irish campaign effort ignoring our concerns. Those that mooted such a course of action should note the following. Constitutional obstacles and political sensitivities would have dictated that any pardon an Irish Government might have considered would only have effected those Irish born in the Republic of Ireland, would have excluded those who were born in Northern Ireland, would not have effected the soldiers courts martial file it being held by the Ministry of Defence outside Irish jurisdiction, and taking into account historical concerns would ultimately have been divisive. Such an Irish pardon is, and was, never worth a penny candle, and if introduced would have needlessly jeopardised the interests of our Irish families during a very sensitive time in the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign. It is to their inestimable credit that the Irish Government took the advice of the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl resisted that pressure and disregarded those UK representations on behalf of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, a decision later vindicated by the introduction of the 2006 British Pardons Amendment.
To state that ones father is a cousin of a cousin of Private Bernard McGeehan, and then in the same breath to describe Private McGeehan as being ones great-uncle, and then in another instance as being a cousin of Private McGeehan, then a second cousin, is blatantly inconsistent and plainly a genealogical impossibility. You cannot be a great-nephew and a cousin second or otherwise of Private Bernard McGeehan at the same time. Just because one appears to have the same surname does not necessarily mean a relationship does exist, irrespective as to how desirable that is. Regretably, there are just to many inconsistencies in Mr McGeehan's story, raising doubts as to his relationship, if any, with Private Bernard McGeehan.
Since 2005, Mr McGeehan from Northern Ireland and now located in the UK, has continually represented himself to the general media et al, as a relative of Private Bernard McGeehan, thereby adroitly attaching himself on the back of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign and by default attaching himself via the back door with the independent Shot at Dawn Campaign Ireland effort, to the detriment of our Irish based support. Despite conveying our concerns, todate, Mr John McGeehan has not proved to our satisfaction his relationship to any of the 26 Irish Shot at Dawn. Consequently, we must advise caution in dealing with this source. Over the years some individuals for various reasons have made claims of relationship to the Irish Shot at Dawn, unfortunately, very few have been able to corroborate such claims and such claims usually evaporate and come to nothing.
Friday - 30 November 2007:
Although these questions about Mr McGeehan's relationship to Private McGeehan were first raised in 2005 and noting that uptill Friday 30th November 2007, no documentary evidence has been produced by Mr McGeehan to substantiate his claim, irrespective, if by the 1st January 2008, Mr John McGeehan can substantiate to us through documentary evidence, his claim of relationship as either a grandnephew, second cousin or cousin to Private Bernard McGeehan, the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl will issue a fulsome apology and note same on our website, together with making a large monetary donation to an Irish cancer charity of his choice. In the circumstances, we believe it is reasonable to again put the following question, if there is a relationship to Private Bernard McGeehan, where is the documentary evidence?
Saturday - 19 December 2009: Update
To date, Saturday - 19 December 2009, despite communicating our concerns, not one shred of documentary evidence has been produced by Mr John McGeehan to corroborate his purported relationship to Private Bernard McGeehan, one of our 26 Irish born British Soldiers, Shot at Dawn for military offences during world war one. It is noted that as a response to our criticism, a website linked to the Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign asserted (and one assumes with the support of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign) that:
We put the question again to all concerned. Where is the documentary evidence corroborating Mr McGeehan’s relationship as the cousin, second cousin, family member, grandnephew, relative or whatever of Private Bernard McGeehan? Asserting that Mr McGeehan was born in the Republic of Ireland is a total irrelevance, a statement designed to link him with the Irish campaign and obfuscate the issue. (Mr McGeehan has been resident in the UK for some considerable time and is understood to be a member, inter alia, of the British Labour Party and has no connections whatsoever with the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl either through the front or the back door. Under no circumstances does Mr McGeehan represent the Irish effort or our families and in particular he does not represent the McGeehan family).
Out of respect to surviving families, the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign is not prepared to accept an assertion of relationship to one of our Irish Shot at Dawn soldiers on face value alone.
Incredibly Mr McGeehan’s uncorroborated claim of relationship to Private McGeehan has clearly impressed others in the UK, which gave him an immediate buy in to the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, to the extent, that he is now the co-ordinator of the Shot at Dawn Wales group, is a media contact/spokesperson for the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, was a central part of a BBC Northern Ireland documentary on the Irish Shot at Dawn in 2005, despite communicating our concerns about Mr McGeehan to the programme maker and to others in the UK, has been interviewed extensively by the world’s media quoting ad nauseam his uncorroborated relationship to Private McGeehan, has been given unlimited access to the upper echelons of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign and via the back door the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign, to the detriment of our Irish support base, and interestingly is cited as being a second cousin of Private McGeehan in the book Forgotten Soldiers Published October 2007 by BBC Northern Ireland journalist Stephen Walker, sourced from Mr McGeehan himself, again we communicated our concerns about Mr McGeehan to the author prior to publication We reiterate, so far, no bona fide relationship has been established whatsoever by Mr John McGeehan to Private Bernard McGeehan.
Those in the UK and in particular Mr Julian Putkowski who initially vouched for Mr McGeehan should also be asked as to why Mr McGeehan's uncorroborated claim of relationship to Private McGeehan was accepted so easily by the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign without firstly confirming his actual status? All our other Irish relatives have proven to our satisfaction their relationship to our Irish Shot at Dawn. Is Mr McGeehan to be treated differently? We think not. Mr McGeehan's apparent inability to produce any documentary evidence to substantiate his claim of relationship as a second cousin or whatever of Private Bernard McGeehan is a matter of great concern for the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl. Taking into account the above we believe the airing of this matter publicly on this website is more than justified.
For the record, the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl is not linked with any UK grouping styling itself as the Shot at Dawn Campaign, Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign, Shot at Dawn Wales or Wales Shot at Dawn and any such attempted linkage by others in the UK is erroneous.
Over a period of years and particularly since November 2007, the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl has through various channels of communication advised Mr John McGeehan that he is required to produce the necessary documentary evidence (as our other Irish families have done) to support his claim of relationship to Private Bernard McGeehan. Consequently, as Mr McGeehan has failed thus far, to produce any verification of relationship, we are now confirmed in the opinion, that Mr McGeehan is not, and never was a second cousin, or a relative of Private Bernard McGeehan, and that all such uncorroborated claims by him, amount to an outrageous deception, to the detriment of our Irish families and support base. Mr McGeehan's inability to corroborate his relationship to any of our Irish Shot at Dawn is of great concern. It is also of great concern that an organisation such as the Pardons Campaign in the UK which prides itself on high moral standards and the integrity of its sources and members, should support and permit Mr McGeehan such latitude. In the light of the above, are the criticisms by Colonel John Hughes-Wilson and other opponents of the Pardons Campaign in the British military and political establishment now vindicated, when they point to some hidden agenda behind the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign effort ?
If there was existing irrefutable documentary evidence of a bona fide relationship to Private McGeehan, it is our belief that such evidence would have been produced by Mr McGeehan a long time ago. To date, no cogent rebuttal has ever been presented directly to the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl by Mr John McGeehan in response to the above. Consequently, all claims and assertions by Mr John McGeehan of a bona fide relationship to Private McGeehan in the absence of documentary evidence should be treated as bogus until proven otherwise.
Saturday 14th March 2009: A person claiming to be a relative made contact with the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl and presented documentary evidence proving his direct relationship to Private Bernard McGeehan. This relative had no problem corroborating his relationship to Private McGeehan and we are satisfied from our own genealogical sources, that he is a bona fide relative of Private McGeehan. To date, all our bona fide relatives have presented documentary evidence confirming their relationship to our Irish Shot at Dawn, except Mr John McGeehan of the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign.
Please note, there is a moral imperative on those who claim relationship to any of our Irish Shot at Dawn to prove through documentary evidence their bona fides. The Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl (to protect the integrity of the Irish Shot at Dawn Campaign effort against spurious claimants), cannot and will not accept such claims of relationship to our Irish Shot at Dawn without the appropriate documentation being produced.
Following the publication of a story extracted from the book Forgotten Soldiers by Stephen Walker, in the December 2007 edition of the Cork magazine, the Holly Bough, regarding the execution of Private James Graham, one of our 26 Irish born British soldiers, Shot at Dawn. A person claiming to be a relative of Private Graham made contact. Subsequently an interview took place in Cork City with a Mr McCarthy. Documentary evidence confirms that he is the grandnephew of Private James Graham. Interestingly, ones maternal great grandparents come from North Cork and we are descended from the same branch of this Cork McCarthy family. See the McCarthy Irish/Argentine Connection.
Unknown to the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) until the 1st November 2007, an article entitled Payouts Hope For Ex-Seamen had been published in the Newcastle Journal on January 12th 2002 which asserted inter alia, referring to a Mr John Hipkin, that:
This is misleading and untrue. Although the article goes on to elaborate on our involvement, it does misleadingly give the impression that Mr Hipkin is somehow responsible for any compensation that might have been procured for former merchant seamen held captive by the Germans and forced to do slave labour and that contact was initiated by ourselves, which is also untrue. Mr Hipkin contacted us in the first instance in May 2001 as a result of our article in the UK edition of the Irish Post. He did give information regarding the fact that he had seen Irish born merchant seamen as prisoners in the merchant navy internment camp, known as Milag Nord in Germany during world war two, and we are grateful for that information. However, the claim or suggestion that his evidence is responsible in some way for our decision to lead a campaign to extend the deadline on a compensation fund set up by the German government, is blatantly untrue. After extensive consultation with other authorities in Ireland, the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) initiated its own research project which was ultimately successful in achieving large compensation for Irish born, British and allied merchant seamen who were captured during world war two while serving on British or allied vessels and forced to work as slave labourers in the Nazi Slave Labour Camp in Bremen-Farge. This research project is still ongoing.
The Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) which also coordinates the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl, vigorously rejects this unfortunate assertion by the Newcastle Journal. We wish to point out that Mr John Hipkin also leads the British Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign.
Note for Journalists BBC Northern Ireland:
Regarding the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl effort. Notwithstanding the immense debt of gratitude owed to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and in particular to the Civil Servants in Iveagh House Anglo-Irish Division, a great debt of gratitude is also owed to the NUJ/SIPTU and their members for the critical role they played in the success of the whole Shot at Dawn Campaign effort, Irish and UK. Without the attendant publicity of sympathetic and constructive written analysis it would have been extremely difficult to pursue the British Government down the line and exert the appropriate pressure. One could point to Irish North and South, UK, USA, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand newspapers in particular. Thank you folks. The collective efforts of all concerned deserve a collective credit and you will not be forgotten by the Shot at Dawn Campaign Irl or our Irish families some of whom must still remain anonymous at their request. That said, one has had very bad experiences with some radio and television journalists, in particular from the BBC in Northern Ireland. Following a previous unpleasant experience with a journalist from BBC Radio Ulster/Radio Foyle we indicated our concerns on the website of the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) see BBC Radio (Northern Ireland) programme entitled 'A Journey to Remember'.