On this day in history : 8th September 1914 – Nineteen-year-old Private Thomas Highgate is the first British soldier to be executed for desertion during World War I….
Three days earlier, on the first day of the Battle of Marne, Thomas had been found hiding in a barn, dressed in civilian clothing – his nerves having got the better of him…. Thomas had fled from the battlefield and had hidden in a barn in the French village of Tournan; he was discovered by a gamekeeper – who happened to be an English ex-soldier….
Thomas was tried by court martial – a brief trial presided over by three officers…. The following morning at 6.20am he was informed that he was going to be executed; at 7.07am he faced the firing squad….
In total 306 executions of British and Commonwealth soldiers took place in World War I – for ‘crimes’ such as cowardice and desertion….