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Shot at Dawn memorial re-opens


The Shot at Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum has been officially re-opened after an extensive restoration funded by hundreds of donations.

Opened more than 20 years ago, the memorial remembers the 309 men from Britain and the Commonwealth who were shot at dawn.

The majority were killed for desertion, cowardice and sleeping at post. When they appeared at their Court Martial, they were told they’d brought shame on their country and had no opportunity to defend themselves.

Sentenced to death, the men would be executed by firing squad.

The centre piece of the memorial is the statue of a young soldier, blindfolded and facing a firing squad represented by six conifer trees.

It was designed and sculpted by Andy de Comyn, who described what work was done.

He said: “The sculpture itself is looking a lot brighter than the last time you saw it, so it’s had first of all had a really good clean, and then a coating which is just a mixture of lime and polymers, and then a waterproof coating over the top of that.

“First of all, it brightens it up, but it’s also going to keep it looking nice for a long time and keep the rain out.”

The 309 new posts which surround the sculpture are made from a durable, recycled material and each represent the life of someone who was shot at dawn.

One of them recognises Private Harry Farr who was just 25 when he was executed. He had joined the army in 1908 and was part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in November 1914.

During his service, he’d been diagnosed with shell shock and had spent months in hospital. Despite this, he returned to his battalion and in September 1916 he was ordered to the front.

Overwhelmed due to his condition, but lacking any visible injuries, Harry was told to return to his unit, but he couldn’t do it.

He was court-martialed for refusing these orders and was sentenced to death after a trial which lasted just 20 minutes.

When he faced his execution by firing squad on 18th October 1916, he showed one final act of courage and refused a blindfold when he was led out to face his executioners.

Private Farr’s granddaughter, Janet Booth, was part of the public campaign to have those shot at dawn officially pardoned, which was achieved in 2006.

At the service to reopen the site, members of the public took part in a minute's silence before being allowed to pay their own respects.