Among the many tragedies of Britain’s World War 1 experience is the story of the 306 men ‘shot at dawn’, 26 of whom were Irish. These men were executed on the field for various offences such as desertion or cowardice, but dubious courts martial eventually resulted in official UK government pardons.
‘Would You Believe’ meets Dublin bus driver, Peter Mulvaney of the ‘Shot at Dawn’ (Ireland) Campaign which was instrumental in securing pardons for all 306 men. Reporter Mick Peelo travels to England to meet with some of the families of the dead soldiers who’ve lived through 90 years of stigma to finally see their war dead rehabilitated.
These include 95-year-old Gertie Harris, the daughter of Private Harry Farr, executed though he had been hospitalised for five months for shell shock; and the O’Callaghan family, who rediscovered their lost ancestor Patrick Downey who’d been shot for disobedience after he failed to put on his cap. ‘Would You Believe’ also visits a new memorial to the executed men in Britain’s National Memorial Arboretum.