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Private Arthur Briggs
21801 9th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
Died 19th July 1918 Aged 27
Son of Henry & Harriet Briggs
7 Railway View, Lockoford Lane
Buried Hersin Communal Cemetery Extension, France
Private Briggs was shot at dawn for desertion on the 19th July 1918.
Shot at Dawn Memorial at the National Arboretum, Staffordshire
Commemorating the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed after court-martial for cowardice & desertion during WW1
Photograph courtesy of 'The Derbyshire Times' July 1918
Arthur Briggs joined the 9th Bn Sherwood Foresters in 1915 and saw action almost from the start. By 1916 his battalion was caught up in the futile campaign in Gallipoli and it was there that Arthur succumbed to dysentery and was shipped home to convalesce. At the end of that year he was sent back to France, and left behind an 18 year old pregnant girlfriend and a mother who was totally against any marriage to the girl.
Arthur had to wait until the beginning of 1918 to be allowed home on leave to finally get married. He had been granted 7 days leave but at the end of the furlough he did not return to his unit, instead he left for Scotland with his wife and child.
Whist Arthur was ‘absent without leave’ in Scotland he was informed by his mother that his youngest brother Sam had been killed in action - aged just 20. Then only two months later his father Henry died on 26th May 1918. It was only a short time later that Arthur was found and arrested in Edinburgh by military police. Apparently he told the arresting officer 'I was going to give myself up tomorrow!’
He was immediately taken back to France to attend his Court Marshal. He was defended by an officer from 9th Battalion who was a solicitor in civilian life and Arthur admitted to one of the charges - that he had been an ‘overstayer’ on previous occasions, but he did not admit desertion. But the fact that he had disposed of his kit and his uniform, was damning evidence. And army witness statements seemed to suggest he wasn’t up to much as a soldier. So despite his plea to the contrary the Court Martial found that he was guilty of desertion and he was sentenced to death.
The following morning 21801 Private Arthur Briggs aged 27 was taken out and shot - reports say the time was between 3 and 4am at Bracquemont in France on 19th July 1918, and he was buried in Hersin Communal Cemetery Extension.
It has been reported - although never substantiated - that Arthur’s firing squad was made up of comrades from his own regiment.
It is known that at many ‘shot at dawn’ executions,comrades of the condemned man were made to watch, or parade past the body -supposedly as a deterrent.
Arthurs story is tragic, his mother Harriets just as terrible -at least 4 of her sons joined the army - 3 were killed ( son Fred was killed in action 1st Sept 1918 aged 25) and her husband Henry died at home and all in the space of less than 6 months.
Arthur and his brothers are remembered on the small memorial in Christ Church, Stonegravels, Chesterfield
His epitaph reads ' Gone but not Forgotten'
We have recently obtained a copy of Arthurs will... in which he leaves ' the whole of my personal property & effects, namely all household goods and all monies to my wife........'
Courtesy of The National Archives
We have visited Arthurs grave in Hersin Cemetery and laid a plaque on behalf of Brimington which shows our own views that Arthur Briggs was 'murdered' by the British High Command.
We also left our own thoughts of his tragic and unnecessary death in the cemetery book there.
Some 90 years after their deaths 306 of the 346 soldiers who were executed for military offences during the first world war were granted posthumous pardons from the British Ministry of Defence. These soldiers were executed during hostilities for breaches of military discipline that included desertion, cowardice, quitting their posts, striking a Senior Officer, sleeping at their post, and casting away their arms. The remaining group of 40 soldiers were not granted a pardon, because of the nature of their crimes which included murder and mutiny.
Hersin Communal Extension Cemetery
Hersin is a small town near Sains-en-Gohelle and only 6 miles from Lens in France
We visited Hersin Cemetery again to renew Brimingtons tribute at Arthurs grave -
We called into Hersin Cemetery again on our way down to the Somme and left a new plaque and Brimington cross
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