Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The UK Defence Secretary Des Browne has announced a plan to seek approval from Parliament to grant a group pardon to more than 300 British soldiers executed during the First World War for offences such as cowardice and desertion.
The proposed pardon will include the case of Pte. Harry Farr, whose family had appealed to the Defence Secretary to grant a full, posthumous pardon. The Ministry of Defence informed the family lawyers of the decision hours before making a public announcement.
Farr’s family members said in a statement that they were “overwhelmed”.
The government proposes to pardon all those executed in World War I under the Army Act 1881 and the Indian Army Act 1911, for what are considered “battlefield offences”, such as cowardice or desertion, which may have been influenced by the stress of the battle. The proposal involves several Commonwealth and former colonial countries whose troops also fought alongside British troops. Mr. Browne said that he intends to introduce a suitable amendment to the current Armed Forces Bill to request Parliament’s approval.
Announcing the plan, Mr. Browne said, “I am conscious of how the families of these men feel today. They have had to endure a stigma for decades. […] I believe it is appropriate to seek a statutory pardon.”