August 25th, 2013 Headsman
On this date in 1916, Canadian World War I enlistee Benjamin De Fehr was shot for murder.
De Fehr was one of 25 Canadians to go to the stake for military offenses during the Great War. Twenty-two of those were condemned as deserters; another for cowardice when he refused to advance.
De Fehr, by contrast, picked up his rifle inexplicably on August 19, 1916, and shot his Regimental Sergeant-Major James R. Scott in the back. He was tried three days later, and executed three days after that. His best defense was a disputed claim that he was drunk, probably not a winner under the circumstances even if true.
“Shot at dawn” soldiers have earned a good deal of latter-day sympathy, but suffering from shellshock and fragging your RSM are two different things. De Fehr wasn’t even a front-line soldier himself; he was a driver behind the lines. He was excluded from the 2006 posthumous pardon of 306 British Commonwealth soldiers executed during World War I.
He’s buried in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, just three plots away from his victim.
Also on this date
- 897: Pope Stephen VII, Cadaver Synod convener
- 1936: Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, Old Bolsheviks
- 1972: Vassilis Lymberis, the last executed in Greece
- 1876: James Murphy, gibbeted
- 1945: John Birch, Society man