Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Shot soldier added to honour roll

Bolton Council Roll of Honour
Pte Smith's name will now be added to Bolton's Roll of Honour

A soldier who was executed during World War I is to have his name added to his home town's roll of honour.

Pte James Smith, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, was shot for desertion in 1917 despite suffering from shellshock at the time.

Historians later found he had earlier been buried alive in an explosion and he was one of a number of soldiers pardoned by the government in 2006.

Bolton Council has now voted to place him on the town's roll of honour.

The decision on Wednesday marked the culmination of a campaign local resident Charles Sandbach, whose grandmother was Pte Smith's niece.

Gallipoli battle

He told the BBC: "James was actually pardoned a few years ago. He wasn't a coward. He wasn't a criminal.

"There is absolutely no reason why his name should not be up on the roll of honour."

Pte Smith enlisted into the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in 1910 at the age of 19 in a bid to escape poverty.

His horrific war experiences included a landing battle on W beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, a battle which resulted in six of his comrades being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Later in France he almost lost his life on the Somme when a German artillery attack buried him alive.

Despite his rescue, he was left in a poor mental and physical state and later suffered a breakdown while stationed in Ypres, France.

Publicity campaign

Pte Smith was later court martialled three times for breaches of discipline in 1916 and 1917. In the final incident he was accused of desertion, put on trial and executed on 5 September 1917.

Names of executed World War I soldiers were never added to memorials but more than 300, including Pte Smith, were pardoned by the government in 2006.

Mr Sandbach had requested that Bolton Council add Pte Smith's name to the local roll of honour in light of his pardon.

The council is also to undertake a publicity campaign to establish if the names of any other local soldiers should be added.

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