Book Quotes – Niall Fergusson

[During WW1, the killing of POWs was commonplace by both sides … ] “Though sometimes spontaneous, this kind of behaviour seems to have been encouraged by some commissioned officers, who believed that the order ‘Take no prisoners’ enhanced the aggression and therefore the combat effectiveness of their men. A verbal order to finish off French prisoners was issued to some German officers as early as September 1914. But there was nothing particularly German about this sort of thing . One British brigadier was overheard by a soldier in the Suffolks to say on the eve of the Battle of the Somme ‘You may take prisoners, but I don’t want to see them.’ Another man, in the 17th Highland Light Infantry, recalled the order ‘that no quarter was to be shown to the enemy and no prisoners.’ Private Arthur Hubbard of the London Scottish Regiment also received strict orders not to take prisoners, ‘no matter if wounded.’ His ‘first job’ he recalled, ‘was when I had finished cutting some of the wire away, to empty my magazine on 3 Germans that came out of their deep dugout , bleeding badly, and put them out of their misery, they cried for mercy, but I had my orders, they had no feelings whatever for us poor chaps.’ ….”

 

From The War of the World by Niall Fergusson (2006)

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