Belgium: The Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium has nearly 11,000 people are buried within it. Allied casualty clearing stations were positioned nearby, and its where soldiers (from both sides) would have received treatment for wounds sustained on the battlefield. It’s the second-largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Belgium.
In the second photo, the middle grave is of William Baker. Baker served in the 26th Bankers battalion with the Royal Fusiliers and, unlike the men surrounding him, did not die of his wounds. Moreover, he was shot for desertion.
Over three thousand men were given the death sentence between 1914 – 1918, and this was mainly for desertion, although 90% of these sentences were commuted. Baker is one of the three hundred or so to have actually had the sentence carried out.
The death sentence was often the last resort – it’s not really great if you’re killing the men you need to fight, so generally, it was avoided. Baker, however, had pushed the tolerance for leniency and had absconded three times before his death in August 1918.
Once in April, when he was trying to escape on the mail boat to Boulogne, twice in May and then finally, he was caught (using an assumed name) receiving treatment for his wounds at a hospital in Etaples three months later. He was shot at dawn after a Field General court martial. He was 21 years old.
Furthermore, he is not singling him out to humiliate or embarrass him. From the relative comfort of the 21st century, he wonders how he would have coped on the battlefield in Belgium in 1918.
He mentioned in the statement that if anything, “I can empathise with someone who was young and clearly terrified – but I say this as a modern living person: those around him would likely not have viewed his actions with such consideration.”