This month's MEDAL NEWS features a story of a Memorial Plaque issued to a soldier "Shot at Dawn". At the time of going to press the Plaque was being checked out but now we can confirm that on January 26 DNW's sale will feature the Plaque of one Alfred Thomas Ansted. The cataloguing states:
Alfred Thomas Ansted attested for the Royal Fusiliers on 21 September 1905 and served with the Colours for 8 years, before transferring to the Reserve in 1913. Recalled for service, he served with the 4th Battalion during the Great War on the Western Front from 9 February 1915. He originally went absent without leave in May 1916 and for this received a suspended sentence. However, he went absent again in August 1916 from Guillemont on the Somme and two months later handed himself in to the Military Police at Corbie. During his trial he claimed to have been ‘unnerved by shellfire’. Found guilty of cowardice, he was summarily executed by firing squad on 15 November 1916, and is buried in the Bertancourt Military Cemetery, France. Along with the other soldiers executed for desertion and cowardice, Ansted was officially pardoned by the British Government in 2006. He was subsequently commemorated on the ‘Shot at Dawn’ Memorial in the National Arboretum.
The issue of Memorial Plaques to deserters is uncertain. The official line seems to be that those who were executed, at least, would have forfeited both medals and the right to a Plaque as well as their pension. Certainly in this case, although Ansted has a Medal Index Card showing initial entitlement to a 1914-15 Star trio, both the 1914-15 Star roll and the British War Medal and Victory Medal roll clearly state ‘No Medal - Shot for Desertion’. Similarly, his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers’ effects shows, under ‘war gratuity’, just the words ‘not admissible’, and his ‘Dependant’s Pension’ card reads ‘Refusal’. However, as this plaque bears a unique name it seems that in this case at least a plaque was officially issued. Whether that was through an administrative error, upon request, or for another reason is not known. Certainly this was the exception rather than the rule, and consequently this plaque is extremely rare, and may well be a unique issue to a soldier shot at dawn during the Great War
It is estimated to sell at between £2,400 and £2,800