Harry Farr
Private Harry Farr was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

 who was executed
Execution by firing squad
Execution by firing squad, sometimes called fusillading , is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war.Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 for cowardice
Cowardice is the perceived failure to demonstrate sufficient mental robustness and courage in the face of a challenge. Under many military codes of justice, cowardice in the face of combat is a crime punishable by death...

 at age 25. He came from Kensington
Kensington is a district of west and central London, England within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. An affluent and densely-populated area, its commercial heart is Kensington High Street, and it contains the well-known museum district of South Kensington.To the north, Kensington is...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and was in the 1st Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment
West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Own)
The West Yorkshire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army. In 1958 it amalgamated with The East Yorkshire Regiment to form The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire...



Harry Farr was born in 1891. Farr joined the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 and fought in the trenches
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

. His position was repeatedly shelled, and in May 1915 he collapsed with strong convulsions
An epileptic seizure, occasionally referred to as a fit, is defined as a transient symptom of "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain". The outward effect can be as dramatic as a wild thrashing movement or as mild as a brief loss of awareness...

. In hospital, his wife Gertrude (died in 1993 aged 99), who was denied a widow's pension after the war, recalled, “he shook all the time. He couldn't stand the noise of the guns. We got a letter from him, but it was in a stranger's handwriting. He could write perfectly well, but couldn't hold the pen because his hand was shaking.”

It is now thought that Farr was possibly suffering from hyperacusis
Hyperacusis is a health condition characterized by an over-sensitivity to certain frequency ranges of sound...

 / misophonia
Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound,” is a form of decreased sound tolerance. It is also known as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome ....

 / category 4 acoustic shock
Acoustic shock
The term acoustic shock is used to describe the symptoms a person may experience after hearing an unexpected, loud sound via a telephone. The loud sound, called an Acoustic Incident, can be caused by feedback oscillation, fax tones, or signalling tones....

, which occurs when the olivocochlear bundle in the inner ear
Inner ear
The inner ear is the innermost part of the vertebrate ear. In mammals, it consists of the bony labyrinth, a hollow cavity in the temporal bone of the skull with a system of passages comprising two main functional parts:...

 is damaged by sound causing it to lose its ability to soften and filter sound, making loud noises physically unbearable (auditory efferent dysfunction). Despite this, Farr was sent back to the Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 and fought at the Somme
Battle of the Somme (1916)
The Battle of the Somme , also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 14 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name...

. After several months of fighting, he requested to see a medical orderly but was refused.

After Farr refused to return to the front line, he was subjected to a court martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

, at which he had to defend himself. This lasted only 20 minutes, and some questions have been raised about its competence,. General Sir Douglas Haig
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig
Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC, was a British senior officer during World War I. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the end of the War...

 signed his death warrant
Execution warrant
An execution warrant is a writ which authorizes the execution of a judgment of death on an individual...

 and he was shot at dawn on October 16, 1916. His family have always argued that he was suffering from shell shock
Combat stress reaction
Combat stress reaction , in the past commonly known as shell shock or battle fatigue, is a range of behaviours resulting from the stress of battle which decrease the combatant's fighting efficiency. The most common symptoms are fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's...

 at the time. He was tried in court for misbehaving before the enemy in such a manner as to show cowardice and found guilty and was sentenced to be executed.

Soldiers in the firing squad ordered to carry out the execution were often tormented by the experience for the rest of their lives. John Laister, who died in 1999 at the age of 101, recalled how he and a number of others were marched into the woods and told they were to be part of a firing squad. Speaking on the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 television program
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

me Everyman in 2006, Laister said he was still haunted by the moment that he looked in the direction the rifles were pointed and saw a mere boy stood with his back to a tree. “There were tears in his eyes and tears in mine.”


Harry Farr's wife Gertrude, then living in Kensington, London, was first told her husband had been killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

, but later when her pension
In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.The terms retirement...

 was stopped, she was informed he had been shot for cowardice
Cowardice is the perceived failure to demonstrate sufficient mental robustness and courage in the face of a challenge. Under many military codes of justice, cowardice in the face of combat is a crime punishable by death...

 and she was not entitled to it. In 1992, Gertrude and her family discovered that some documents were being released by the government and that Andrew MacKinlay MP
Andrew MacKinlay
Andrew Stuart MacKinlay is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Thurrock from 1992 until he stepped down at the 2010 general election.-Early life:...

 was involved in a campaign for justice for those in similar positions to Farr. When they got hold of the court martial papers, they were horrified to discover that Farr had been dragged screaming and kicking back to the front, when he in fact needed urgent medical treatment.

Despite a sustained campaign, Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 refused a pardon. In 1993 Gertrude Farr died.

On August 15, 2006, Harry Farr's family announced that Farr was to be granted a pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

,. The announcement came as Des Browne
Des Browne
Desmond Henry Browne, Baron Browne of Ladyton is a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Kilmarnock and Loudoun from 1997 to 2010...

, the Defence Secretary
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

, said that he would seek a statutory group pardon; i.e. one achieved through an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 for all those executed regardless of the individual merits of the case. Des Browne told BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

's Today
Today programme
Today is BBC Radio 4's long-running early morning news and current affairs programme, now broadcast from 6.00 am to 9.00 am Monday to Friday, and 7.00 am to 9.00 am on Saturdays. It is also the most popular programme on Radio 4 and one of the BBC's most popular programmes across its radio networks...

 programme that, after 90 years, "the evidence just doesn't exist inside the cases individually". It has been suggested that the move would avoid numerous court cases. A group pardon would also exonerate those who had been properly found guilty of cowardice. An historian said that of cases in the Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment
The Royal Norfolk Regiment, originally formed as the Norfolk Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the British Army. The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881 as the county regiment of Norfolk...

 he had examined there was at least one who had a history of desertion. Historians have criticised such a move in the past as trying to apply modern standards retroactively.

The mass pardon of 306 British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 soldiers executed for certain offences during the Great War was enacted in section 359 of the Armed Forces Act 2006
Armed Forces Act 2006
The Armed Forces Act 2006 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.It came into force on 31 October 2009. It replaces the three separate Service Discipline Acts as the system of military law under which the British Armed Forces operate...

, which came into effect on royal assent on 8 November 2006. This number included three from New Zealand, twenty three from Canada, two from the West Indies, two from Ghana and one each from Sierra Leone, Egypt and Nigeria.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson (politician)
Thomas Anthony Watson is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East since 2001. Watson was a Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office from 2008 to 2009...

, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
A Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is the lowest of three tiers of government minister in the government of the United Kingdom, junior to both a Minister of State and a Secretary of State....

 at the Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

, was instrumental in including this in the Act. He was said to have acted having met the relatives of Private Farr.

However section 359(4) states that the pardon "does not affect any conviction or sentence." Since the nature of a pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

 is normally to commute a sentence, Gerald Howarth
Gerald Howarth
James Gerald Douglas Howarth known as Gerald Howarth is a British Conservative Party politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for Aldershot since 1997, having been the MP for Cannock and Burntwood from 1983 to 1992....

 MP asked during parliamentary debate: "we are entitled to ask what it does do." It would appear to be a symbolic pardon only, and some members of Parliament had called for the convictions to be quashed, although the pardon has still been welcomed by relatives of executed soldiers.

'Song For Harry Farr', written by Huw Pudner and Chris Hastings in 2006 is about Harry Farr's execution on the western front. The UK rock group, Stray
Stray (UK band)
Stray are a British band, formed in 1966. The vocalist Steve Gadd , guitarist Del Bromham , bass player Gary Giles and drummer Steve Crutchley formed the band, whilst all were attending the Christopher...

 included the song, "Harry Farr" on their 2009 album, Valhalla.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.