Why Did Some Men Desert and Refuse to Obey Orders in the Western Front, and Were They Treated too Harshly?
Why did some men desert or refuse to obey orders on the Western Front and were they treated to harshly?
The western front was a place of in despicable suffering and death. The trenches were damp and wet. They were brimming with disease. Amongst this there was constant shell fire described as 'true hell on Earth.' The trenches were physical protection from the raging war, but they offered no physiological shelter. Numerous men were pushed past their limits. This lead to soldiers trying to escape. They often deserted and refused to obey orders. Strict leaders like General Haig looked this upon harshly. Because of this, men and boys were sentenced to death. This essay looks at why the soldiers chose to desert and refused to obey orders on the Western Front when they knew the consequences. It explains the different views on the soldiers found guilty of their charges from separate ends of the rankings spectrum.
Shell shock, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was a common and honest reason for desertation. There were two views on PTSD at that time, neither of them quite right. The first one was that shellshock was just cowardice. A large number of soldiers with the symptoms were put down as malingerers and sent back to the front line. The second theory behind shell shock was that it was caused by heavy artillery. …
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