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St Augustine’s Church, Norwich: Soldier Shot for Desertion

Private John Abigail was the only member of the Norfolk Regiment to be shot for desertion in World War One.

The Norwich soldier deserted four times in England and France – the final time on the eve of the Battle of Passchendaele when he and his comrades were waiting to go “over the top”.

It is thought family trauma and shell shock, rather than cowardice, could have led the 20-year-old to desert. He was executed by firing squad on 12 September 1917.

Private Abigail’s name is carved on a war memorial at St Augustine’s Church in Norwich and he is one of very few deserters in Britain to be recognised in this way. He received a posthumous pardon in 2006, along with 305 others who were shot at dawn.

Location: St Augustine’s Church, Norwich NR3 3BY

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