The story of First World War deserters who were shot at dawn, then pardoned nearly a century later has often been told, but these 306 soldiers represent a tiny proportion of deserters. More than 80,000 cases of desertion and absence were tried at courts martial on the home front but these soldiers have been ignored. Andrea Hetherington, in this thought-provoking and meticulously researched account, sets the record straight by describing the deserters who disappeared from camps and barracks within Great Britain at an alarming rate.
She reveals how they employed a range of survival strategies, some ridding themselves of all connection with the military while others hid in plain sight. Their reasons for desertion varied. Some were already living a life of crime whilst others were conscientious objectors who refused to respond to their call-up papers. Boredom, protest, troubles at home or physical and mental disabilities all played their part in men deciding to go on the run.
Andrea Hetherington’s timely book gives us a vivid insight into a hitherto overlooked aspect of the First World War.