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Bishop to pray for shot troops.

Byline: By Rhodri Phillips

Three North soldiers executed at dawn by their own troops during the First World War are to be remembered in prayers by the Bishop of Durham following a plea.

George Macintyre, of the Shot at Dawn Campaign, wrote to Bishop Tom Wright asking him to remember three members of the Durham Light Infantry in his service on Sunday, January 17, 87 years to the day after the soldiers were killed.

Lance Sergeant Joseph Stones, 25, and Lance Corporals Peter Goggins, 21, and John McDonald, 28, all went before a court-martial on Christmas Eve, 1916.

Goggins, a former miner from Stanley in County Durham and McDonald, a former steelworker from Sunderland, were found guilty of quitting their posts and Stones, also a former miner from Crook, in County Durham, was found guilty of being without his weapon.

The Shot at Dawn campaign has been pressing for pardons and official recognition of those shot in the First World War for the past 13 years.

The bishop responded last night: "I am very happy to hear of the research and the conclusion of this campaign.

"I will certainly remember with sorrow and commemoration in prayer the three servicemen on Sunday 17th."

Mr Macintyre said: "Obviously I would be very pleased if the three soldiers were mentioned by the bishop in the service.

"These men have been forgotten. It might seem strange running a campaign now after all these years but these soldiers have still not been pardoned.

"Mentioning them at the service will keep them at the forefront of people's minds."

The Shot at Dawn Campaign was started by John Hipkin 13 years ago after he read a story in The Journal about a 17-year-old soldier who had been shot for desertion.

Mr Hipkin said yesterday: "I am delighted that the Bishop of Durham is supporting our cause.

"It is an enormous breakthrough to have the men honoured and their reputations vindicated by the church.

"It is wonderful that the church is sympathetic to the plight of these soldiers and a remarkable way of bringing honour to these men."

Mr Hipkin has campaigned worldwide for soldiers shot at dawn in the First World War, gaining pardons for five New Zealand servicemen after he wrote to the country's Prime Minister, Helen Clark.

Mr Hipkin said: "Four years ago for the first time the relatives and supporters of the soldiers executed for desertion were allowed to march to the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Day. This was a big breakthrough.

"But there have been no pardons as yet. Tony Blair must do something about this."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2004
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