Death or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial in the Great War by Teresa IacobelliDeath or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial in the Great War by Teresa Iacobelli

Death or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial in the Great War

byTeresa Iacobelli

Paperback | January 1, 2014

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Soldiers found guilty of desertion or cowardice during the Great War faced death by firing squad. In this revealing look at military law in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, historian Teresa Iacobelli examines the cases of 25 Canadian soldiers who were executed by their own military as well as the untold stories of the 197 men who were sentenced to death but spared.

Death or Deliverance – the first book to consider commuted sentences alongside cases that ended in tragic executions – offers a nuanced account of military law in the Great War. Novels, histories, movies, and television series often depict courts martial as brutal and inflexible, and social memories of this system of frontline justice have inspired modern movements to seek pardons for soldiers executed on the battlefield. Beyond well-known stories of unyielding and callous generals, however, lies another story, one of a disciplinary system capable of thoughtful review and compassion for the individual soldier.

Published to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, this book reconsiders an important and unexamined chapter in the history of both a war and a nation.

Teresa Iacobelli received her doctorate from the University of Western Ontario and is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow. Her current research examines how the two world wars have been portrayed in popular media and how these depictions have shaped Canadian identity and social memories of war.Teresa Iacobelli received a doctorate in history f...
Title:Death or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial in the Great WarFormat:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 8.98 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:January 1, 2014Publisher:Ubc PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0774825685

ISBN - 13:9780774825689

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from How foreign a country was the past? This is an interesting one to pick up along with Executed at Dawn by David Johnson, though this one focuses on the Canadian soldiers that were executed during the First World War. The sentiments of British politicians in the 1990s are echoed in this book and it takes a different stance from Johnson's work. It was a different time, it was the military, we cannot judge them by our standards, there isn't enough information for us to say they were wrongly sentenced, etc. I find it very hard to suspend my bias when reading about the First World War. When the first formal proposals of pardoning executed soldiers came forward, there were still veterans of the war alive. This is barely a hundred years ago. It was a different time but this particular point in the past wasn't a completely foreign country. I think it's important for modern governments to deal with recent historical issues, particularly with the crisis of mental health in the military today. Johnson's book also makes the compelling argument that a pardon is not just about the executed, but about lifting the weight off the shoulders of the men who were forced to participate in the executions (the firing squads were often made up of soldiers that the condemned knew and had fought alongside). Acknowledging that people suffering mental illness were wrongfully executed is worth pardoning those who may have been justly executed, given the legality of such executions at the time.
Date published: 2017-05-09

Table of Contents


1 Competing Ideologies

2 Military Law: An Overview

3 The Crimes

4 The Court Martial Process

5 The Confirmation Process

6 The Campaign for Pardons


Notes; Bibliography; Index

Editorial Reviews

Death or Deliverance tells an important story, that of desertion in the First World War and the ways in which the army reacted. Investigating the later campaign to pardon the soldiers shot for that offence, Iacobelli adopts an entirely original approach – she incorporates the stories of those soldiers found guilty of desertion but who avoided the firing squad. The book’s conclusions and its many comparisons between military law and civilian jurisprudence at the time are sure to spark scholarly debate. - Bill Rawling, author of Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps, 1914-1918