26 March 2017

BS Historian Blog and Blank Rounds

Tower of London - East Walk - display commemorating wartime spy executions
Tower of London - East Walk - display
commemorating wartime spy executions
I came across a WordPress blog yesterday entitled the BS Historian - Sceptical Commentary on Pseudohistory and the Paranormal. I'll leave it to everyone's imagination as to what "BS" stands for. The anonymous author of the blog wrote a post on: Conscience Bullets – Firing Squads and the use of blank cartridges.

The blog author mentions Josef's execution and states that "There is no evidence to suggest that a blank cartridge was used in Jakobs’ case."

I don't agree with that statement as I do think there is a fair bit of commentary that indicates that was indeed the case. One of my blog posts looked at the British Procedure for Military Executions by Firing Squad, a document which states that two blank rounds were to be used.


The reasoning behind some rounds being blank was thought to be that it afforded each member of the firing squad a bit of doubt - "did I really fire the lethal round?". This worked well in the days of muskets when the wad that was placed in the muzzle along with the ball of shot also generated recoil. It was hard to tell the difference between a musket loaded with wad and ball and one just loaded with the wad. With modern rifles and bullets, any skilled marksman would notice the difference between the recoil of a live round versus that of a blank round (recoil was less due to absence of a bullet). But apparently, over time, the mind could convince itself that the recoil was softer. Another possible explanation was that should the firing squad ever be brought before a tribunal (e.g. by the enemy), each could plausibly deny that they had fired the lethal round. While the reason behind the modern-day usage of blank rounds might be a mystery, it was clear from the Military Police Manual, that blank rounds were issued.

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