Poem by 
Colin Ian Jeffery

Twelve soldiers, the firing squad
Stand waiting with loaded rifles
One with a blank bullet the others with live bullets
So they cannot tell which one fired the blank
And think themselves innocent of the coming death.

There is a post to which a young man
Still in his teens is tied with hands behind the post
He trembles but not from the early morning cold
But knowing death is minutes away for him
And he will never see his parents again.

The officer in charge of the firing squad
Steps up to the man to be shot
Offering him a blindfold which is declined
He pins a white sheet of paper over the man's heart
This is the target for the firing squad.

An army chaplain stands near to the man to die
Reading aloud the twenty-third psalm
The officer shouts "Take aim... Fire! "
The man slumps down restricted by his tied hands
Twitching with chest crimson with blood.

The officer runs forward unclipping his holster
Pulling out his pistol he shoots the man in the head
Finishing his suffering and death throes
His duty now done with a nightmare to haunt him
For the rest of life - - the killing of a deserter at dawn.
Private Herbert Burden, of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers
Private Herbert Burden, of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers
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