I could not look on Death, which being known, Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.
Rudyard Kipling

Recently I have been working on a short course with the University of Leeds;

World War 1: Changing Faces of Heroism

As part of this course we have been asked to review a book or film about World War One and due to my interest in the 306 men executed for cowardice during this time I have decided to review the short film entitled: Coward.

The film is directed by Dave Roddham.

Synopsis: Coward is a moving and insightful drama that takes us from the idyllic pastures of Ireland to the brutal and senseless trenches of the First World War, as Private Patterson tries to keep a family promise to look after his younger cousin. A promise that proves near impossible to fulfil in the relentless and hellish onslaught of the battlefields of 1917 Belgium. Courage and commitment collide in a story, inspired by real events, that underscores the tragic nature of war and illustrates how justice can often be a casualty of warfare.

I have chosen to review this film, due to my interest in those men who were executed during World War One, the film is only about 30 minutes long, but what it lacks in length it certainly makes up in quality. The acting, cinematography and storyline are very good and showcase’s courage on the Battlefield, even with those men suffering from shell-shock.
This film does not shy away from the brutality and horrors of War, from bodies of dead comrades buried into the walls of trenches, to the mayhem, noise and confusion of going over the top.
Every man is a hero, every man should be remembered. It’s the injustice and bad politics of War, where so often we find true War Crime committed from those men in command to their often coldness at tribunals towards the men condemned, to their decision making and careless lack of empathy for the ordinary soldier.
Coward is based on a true story; we see the strong bond between family members and the relationships between the men in the trenches, often stretched to breaking point, volatile and at the same time bound in unity. This film is at times heart-breaking and an honour to watch.

Twenty-six Irish born British soldiers were executed for military offences such as desertion and disobedience during the First World War. Many of these executed were later believed to have been suffering from shell-shock.

In 2006, eighty-eight years after the First World War Armistice, the British Government agreed to pardon all 306 soldiers executed for these battlefield offences.


3 thoughts on “Coward

  1. Two ironies here: I have a B.A degree from University of Leeds in History and I read the book from which the film was made. It upset me considerably, reminding one of the insensitivities and cruelties of war. Have you read the British novel, The Absolutist? If not, Stephen, you must … it’s outright horrifying. The Absolutists (which you probably know) were the Pacifists who refused to do anything to support the war. So they were usually made to go and retrieve putrid body parts off barbed wire and … well, read it, please !

    I like that you’re focusing on this episode, the more so since legally speaking the Irish are still British. A woman at the UN here in New York tried to explain it all to me, but it was too much international law for me to absorb in half an hour. I think I understood that while the Queen granted Ireland Home Rule she never granted them independence, so they have the right to work in Britain, vote in elections, etc. Legally, they’re British … illegally they’re just plain Irish !

    • Hi Mark, Thank you very much for your comment. I have not read ‘The Absolutist’, but it’s certainly now on my list. I haven’t read the book Coward either which I also intend to do. 🙂

      This area of World War One, is something that both interests me and saddens me at the same time. It’s something I would like to learn more about especially the individual stories behind these executions.

      A big thank you for your comment 😉

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