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Sunday, 5 October 2014


Aemililus Paullus, a general in Ancient Rome, enjoyed rounding up army deserters and crushing them, one by one, under the feet of elephants.

The desertion rate for American soldiers in the War of 1812 was 12.7%,

Desertion was especially common in America in 1814, when enlistment bonuses were increased from $16 to $124, inducing many men to desert one unit and enlist in another to get two bonuses.

Nineteen-year-old Private Thomas James Highgate was the first British soldier to be convicted of desertion and executed during World War 1. Highgate was informed of his fate at 6.22 am on September 8, 1914 and shot by a firing squad less than an hour later at 7.07 am.

306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were executed for desertion during World War I by firing squad. Of these, 25 were Canadian, 22 Irishmen and five New Zealanders.

One was Private Herbert Burden, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who lied about his age to join up. He was just 17 when he was shot in 1915 — still below the official age to fight overseas (19).

During World War 1 there were only two countries who wouldn't execute soldiers for desertion: the US and Australia.

A United States wartime poster deprecating absence

Only one of the 20,000 American soldiers who deserted during World War II was punished by execution - US Army private Eddie Slovik.

Private Eddie Slovik was killed by firing squad at 10:04 a.m. on January 31 1945 after he walked out from his infantry unit. Twelve picked soldiers were detailed for the firing squad from the 109th Regiment. The weapons used were standard issue M1 rifles with just one bullet for each rifle. Slovik was hit by eleven bullets, at least four of them being fatal. He was the first American soldier to be executed for desertion, since the Civil War.

Portrait of Eddie Slovik. By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, $3

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