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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 15:52 GMT


Somme 'deserter' honoured

Private Giles missed his roll call for the Somme

A soldier who was executed for desertion during World War I is to be commemorated on his local war memorial after a campaign by his family.

The BBC's Peter Hunt: "His crime was to fall in love with a French woman"
Private Peter Giles was court-martialled and shot after he missed a roll call during the Battle of the Somme.

But his great-nieces Margaret Lowes and Elizabeth Williamson, from Newcastle, believe their great-uncle was the "victim of a great injustice".

[ image: Private Giles did not intend to desert]
Private Giles did not intend to desert
They have unearthed a letter from his sister which proved that he did not intend to desert - he was spending a last night of passion with his French girlfriend.

He overslept and the next morning he returned to the trenches - only to find his fellow soldiers had moved on.

He caught them up, but missed his roll call for battle and was court-martialled for desertion.

[ image: His death certificate show he died at 5.30am]
His death certificate show he died at 5.30am
Papers at the Public Record Office show that during the court martial he did not mention his girlfriend - saying instead that he had become ill.

But his superiors did not believe him, and he was shot on 24 August 1916, aged 24.

His great-nieces are still campaigning for a full pardon, but for now they are delighted that his name will be etched onto the memorial.

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