Patricia Wilson Smith

'Flight' 2014


'Flight' a solo exhibition in November 2014, told the stories of a handful of the 306* soldiers executed for desertion during the first World War

Soldiers like Sub Lt. Edwin Dyett,
who was ruled to be guilty of desertion, and executed by memers of his own company on Friday 5 January 1917

Each porcelain feather carries a soldier's name. and the date of his execution.

'Flight' A Canterbury Festival event
St Marys Church. Lower Hardres

I made and installed 306 porcelain feathers in my local church, to commemorate 306* allied soldiers who were executed; shot at dawn for breaches of military discipline that included desertion, cowardice, quitting their post, striking a senior officer, sleeping at their post, and casting away their arms. Many were young boys. Keen to enlist, they had lied about their age, and could not have imagined the horror of the warfare they were to endure.Many had suffered from shell-shock; psychological trauma that the generals refused at first to recognize. To maintain discipline in the ranks, especially as the numbers of casualties rose higher, the generals took an unflinching line where cowardice and insurbordination were suspected.

In 2006, 306 men were pardoned, after a world-wide campaign of fifteen years.

*This is believed not to be an accurate and final figure

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