Soldiers executed

September 14, 2017

The Shot at Dawn Memorial in the British National Arboretum.

Today, 100 years ago, 20000 gathered at Fatima for a promised apparition and miracle.

The air suddenly cooled. The sun dimmed, so stars could be seen.

A shimmering opalescent rain fell towards the ground, but evaporated before hitting the earth.

Some observers claimed they saw the sun dancing about the sky.

Wet clothes and the muddy ground suddenly dried.

After that, a light appeared and a woman floated in the air.

The fifth and final apparition of Fatima had begun.

Some observers saw only coloured lights; some saw nothing at all.

A solitary photograph taken of the sun during the event showed nothing unusual.

This week in 1917, the 11th Battle of the Isonzo drew to a close.

Italian General Luigi Cadorna had ordered another unsuccessful frontal attack on Austro-Hungarian positions along the Isonzo River.

In three weeks, the battle had cost a total of 273000 casualties.

Cadorna maintained discipline by summary executions.

He ordered the execution of about 750 soldiers, the highest number in any army of the Great War.

He even approved the re-introduction of the Roman practice of decimation.

Decimation was the execution of one soldier in every 10 where a unit mutinied.

Last week saw two British soldiers executed for desertion.

One, a 22-year-old Jack Wall, who had been in the army since 1912, and served on the Western Front from 1914. Jack went missing during an attack.

The other, Jimmy Smith, a 26-year-old, had been in the army since 1909. He had served on Gallipoli and the Somme.

Wounded badly by shrapnel, he was buried in October 1916 by a shell explosion. When he returned to his unit, his behaviour was noticeably odd.

As the Battle of Passchendaele began, he was found wandering in a nearby town. His own unit comprised the firing squad. Pitying him, most missed. Jimmy fell wounded.

When his unit commander shook too much to deliver the coup de grace, it fell to Jimmy’s mate, Richard Blundell, to take the revolver and shoot Jimmy dead.

The unit received 10 days leave for its service. Jimmy and Jack were pardoned in 2006.

Meanwhile in Benalla, the electoral rolls closed for the forthcoming state elections.

The Benalla electorate had 4067 men and 3787 women enrolled to vote.

However, statewide, women on the voting rolls outnumbered men by nearly 41000.

This week the High Court decided that a referendum under the Australian Constitution could validly be held on the proposed abolition of the Legislative Council of Queensland.

Hence the result overwhelmingly favouring retention of the Queensland Upper House would stand.

The Upper House was finally abolished in 1921 by appointment of Upper House members until there was a majority favouring abolition.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party. Coo-ee — Honouring our World War Heroes

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