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World War One pardoned soldiers recognised

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Hon Mark Burton
Minister of Defence

31 August 2005 Media Statement

World War One pardoned soldiers recognised

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Mark Burton today presented war medals, certificates and medallions to the families of three New Zealand soldiers who were executed during World War One, and who were pardoned by Parliament in 2000.

A special ceremony was held in the Legislative Council Chamber for the families of Private Jack Braithwaite, Private Frank Hughes and Private Victor Manson Spencer, who were shot for the offences of mutiny or desertion.

The Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Act 2000 pardoned five soldiers of the New Zealand Division, First New Zealand Expeditionary Force, who were executed during World War One for either mutiny or desertion. The Act started as a Private Members Bill introduced by Mark Peck and was adopted by Government.

The purpose of the Act was ‘to remove so far as practicable, the dishonour that the execution of those five soldiers brought to those soldiers and their families’.

Helen Clark said today's ceremony marks the end of a sad chapter in our history.

"Military discipline of the day could only recognise dissent or shell shock as the offences of mutiny or desertion, punishable by death by firing squad. In today's ceremony we honour the memory of these three soldiers who volunteered to serve their country.

"Now we can remember their service and sacrifice with pride and sorrow whenever New Zealand commemorates those who died in war, and in the service of peace," Helen Clark said.

Mark Burton said the families of two other soldiers pardoned by the 2000 Act, Privates John King and John Joseph Sweeney, will attend a similar ceremony in Canberra next month.

"I am honoured to present these awards to representatives from the Braithwaite, Hughes and Spencer families, who have travelled from Bluff, Christchurch and Hamilton to attend this ceremony," Mark Burton said.

ENDS

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