We can never forget
By
John Westwood

I want to remember Private Archibald Browne... why? I didnt know him and he certainly didn't know me. He lived with his mother in Ingatestone and at the start of the Great War he enlisted in the Essex Regiment.
He went to France in August 1914 and was part of the Mons retreat, and was in action around Le Cateau, the Aisne and the Marne.
In November he deserted.... and was shot 19th December.
I also want to remember Herbert Morris who at 17 had joined the British West Indies Regiment, came from Jamaica to the mud of Flanders, he wasnt allowed to fight in the frontline, so acted as a shell carrier for the artillery. One day he couldnt stand the sound of the guns, and ran away. He was caught and shot at dawn many thousands of miles away from home.
Why bother? they were cowards, deserters, quitters... all 306 of them. They let their comrades down, or so it seemed.
Dig deep those of you who read this it is not a pleasant tale and one that will appal you as you read their tales and the others who escaped the firing squad, all 2700.
In the scheme of things a number very small, yet they were soldiers who faced the enemy for a long time before they could not take any more.
New Zealand forgave their five executed soldiers.
Since then we hear of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 'shell shock' and neurasthenia, it existed, we look at things now more sympathetically with understanding.
I attended the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony at 8pm... and was almost moved to tears, every day they remember....
Earlier this year I too paid a pilgrammage to Ypres for the scond time and explored some of the places where the executions took place in an effort to understand why.
The town of Poperinghe houses a execution post and death cells in its Town Hall, one of the last to be executed was a Chinese Labourer in 1919. The new military cemetery houses some 17 soldiers who lost their lives at the hand of the firing squad. It was a sobering thought to be amongst so many ...
Last week back to Ypres, and the cemetery at Langemarck, its a German cemetery, once visited by Hitler after the fall of Belgium, no Portland headstones, just flat tablets in the ground, under which are buried a number of soldiers. The cemetery is near where the Massacre of the Innocents took place, young untrained German soldiers marching, singing going into battle, mown down by machine gun fire. It is a grey gothic forbidding place and one that has made a huge impact on me.
have a pip squeak and wilfred at long last in my possession, and that is my link to the past and I will always remember those who in all conflicts understood what they had to do regardless of the why....
Times change and these conflicts are from a bygone age, but they live and will always live with the records, films and photographs taken at the time.
We can never forget....
John Westwood
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