Posthumous Human rights victory for Harry Farr
The family of Private Harry Farr, who was shot at dawn for cowardice in the First World War, have been told by the Secretary of State for Defence today that he will be granted a posthumous pardon.
The Secretary of State for Defence also announced that the Armed Forces Bill will also be amended and they will look at pardoning everyone executed during the first world war for cowardice and military offences. The Government will also be consulting with all interested governments whose soldiers were shot during WW1 for cowardice, desertion and comparable offenses.
The announcement is the end of a long road for the family who have fought a 14 year battle to clear his name. Private Harry Farr's daughter, Gertrude Harris (93), and his granddaughter Janet Booth (63), have fought tirelessly for the pardon and in May 2006 they met with the Veterans Minister, Tom Watson, at the Ministry of Defence where Gertrude put forward her case in person, as to why her father should be granted a pardon.
Mrs Harris of Harrow has undertaken an exhausting battle in a bid to get the government to acknowledge that Private Harry Farr was suffering shell shock, not cowardice, and should grant a pardon to clear her father's name.
Representing Mrs Harris, John Dickinson of national law firm Irwin Mitchell said: This is complete common sense and rightly acknowledges that Private Farr was not a coward but an extremely brave man. Having fought for 2 years practically without respite in the trenches, he was very obviously suffering from a condition we now would have no problem in diagnosing as post traumatic stress disorder or shell shock as it was known in 1916
Gertrude Harris commented: I am so relieved that this ordeal is now over and I can be content knowing that my father's memory is intact. I have always argued that my father's refusal to rejoin the frontline, described in the court martial as resulting from cowardice, was in fact the result of shell shock, and I believe that many other soldiers suffered from this, not just my father. I hope that others now who had brave relatives who were shot by their own side will now get the pardons they equally deserve.
There is a fear that many of the 306 soldiers convicted of offences and shot at dawn were in fact suffering what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder.
History of the case so far:
Private Harry Farr was executed by the British Army during the First World War. His family claim that the Court Martial, which led to him being executed for cowardice in 1916, ignored crucial evidence of shell shock which would even in 1916 have required the penalty to have been mitigated.
The evidence shows that Private Harry Farr served continuously in France from 1914 to 1916 and saw many horrors at Neuve-Chappelle and the Battle of the Somme. Medical evidence, at and after his Court Martial, showed he was treated several times due to being sick with nerves and suffering shell shock and his descendants argue that his eventual refusal to return to the frontline was a direct result of the mental stress caused by warfare.