Pte Herbert Burden, Northumberland Fusiliers.
Herbert was executed on 21 July 1915, the 41st soldier to be executed in the Great War. Herbert's case was one that received a great deal of publicity in terms of the "Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign" but research (see Blindfold and Alone by Cathryn Corns and John Hughes-Wilson) has indicated that his case may be far more complex than previously imagined.
It has been suggested that Herbert joined the Northumberland Fusiliers before the war, in May 1914, overstating his age (which he claimed was 18 years and two months) by two years. He subsequently deserted and joined the East Surreys in November 1914 then, three weeks later, deserted again and rejoined the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was sent to France in March 1915 once he reached his ‘army' age of 19.
Herbert was warned for a working party on 26 June 1915 but he went missing. He was arrested two days later and tried on 2 July. At his court martial he was found guilty of desertion. It also was revealed that he had a very bad record, with seven cases of absence in the UK and one in France plus other offences.
As Corns and Hughes-Wilson say "Discipline was still being applied to the standards of the pre-war regular army and Private Hebert Burden was shot for desertion on 21 July 1915".
The photograph shows the plot at the National Memorial Arboretum - the statue is said to bear a likeness or be modelled on Herbert Burden.
21 July 1915
Research by David Tattersfield, WFA Development Trustee