“After such intense fighting you always had men lying out in no mans land. Probably with their testicles blown off, crying in agony and laying out there all night long in the dark and in the rain.
Most would never have survived; but you had a choice. They could die in agony or you could shoot them.
You were shown how to do the thing very cleanly. You would take out your .45 revolver and talk to the man. Kneel behind him and whilst you were talking pull the trigger. Put a bullet through the back of his head and immediately the whole front skull came away and they were dead instantly.
There was no pain about it, but I can honestly say this: That I never had the courage because that’s what it took. I never had the courage myself to shoot a wounded soldier. I carried out the operation myself many times over on wounded animals. I could kill a pet dog better than a vet could, but I was never able to shoot a wounded soldier.
I probably should have. My friend Otto Murray Dixon was wounded in the stomach. He was in great agony from what I was told. The kindest thing would have been to shoot him on the battlefield. Instead they took him back to the hospital and he died days later.
It’s a tremendous thing to shoot a friend, even when he is in agony. I just didn’t have the courage to do it. Most of them died overnight, though I’m sure they didn’t thank you for it.”
– Norman Collins, British Expeditionary Force,
World War One
As we always say here at Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.