Extract from Walter H. Ayles’ Statement at His Third Court-Martial.
“I am directed to look at the alleged atrocities committed by Germany and to the remarkable – and may I add, suspicious – absence of atrocities by their opponents, either in available newspapers or Government documents… It is a notorious, historic fact that every country has endless atrocities staining the pages of its history… Before Louvain was bombarded and the ‘Lusitania’ sunk Napoleon had poisoned his own wounded in the Syrian hospitals and shot his Turkish prisoners in cold blood on the same plea as Germany – that of military necessity… The outrages of Italy in Tripoli a few years ago were of such a character that even hardened newspaper correspondents handed in their papers and returned home, refusing to stay to ro witness and report such horrible buthchery of prisoners… Every student of English history knows of the crimes in the Crimea and South Africa, and of how in the Great River War the very tomb of the Mahdi, hold sacred by the Sudanese, rifled it for its contents and flung the remains into the river; of the horrors of Denshawai in 1906, when innocent peasants were killed for defending their property from British outrage; of the Irish fight for independence in 1916, when innocent men like Sheey Skeffington and wounded men like James Conolly were shot for being Irish patriots… Before Germany unrighteously violated the treaty of 1839, guaranteeing Belgian neutrality, the British and Russians had torn up a much more recent one guaranteeing the integrity of Persia. The treaty guaranteeing the integrity of Morocco was not only torn up with the consent of Britain, Belgium and France, who had signed it, but Frenchmen had pushed a railway through a sacred Moroccan burial ground and put down by bullets, bayonets and shells the protests of the people, whose dearest feelings were thus outraged. All our guarantees to the Egyptians and to Europe to evacuate Egypt have been torn up like scraps of paper and Britain has now annexed its territory. And what shall I say to the – shall I call it pressure – brought to bear upon Greece and Romania to enable the Allies to get an overland route to Constantinople. For any nation to accuse another of committing atrocities or violating treaty obligations appears to be as consummate a piece of hypocrisy as that of a thief accusing robbers of dishonesty. Every nation has done things equivalent to these within the last 30 years. They have done them because they are part of the unholy system of international greed and selfishness. The guilt lies at the door of all nations, and it is only possible because men of all nations are prepared to slay, steal, lie and outrage to back up the nefarious policy of their own Government. War is the greatest forcing ground for atrocities and falseness ever established by man, and however evil the methods adopted by one side the other is sure to follow its horrible example. that has been clearly and conclusively proved in this war. There is no method used by the Germans that the Allies have not committed used, except one, the torpedoing of unarmed German ships; the reason probably being that there are no German ships on the high seas to torpedo. There are no atrocities by the Allies that the Germans have not committed save probably one, that of submitting her sick and wounded in distants parts in large numbers to torture and death, by a criminal neglect to supply adequate medical stores and equipment and proper transport for food and other supplies. If I am to fight those who commit atrocities and violate treaties, I must fight every nation. Then I should discover that to carry on my holy war, so called, I should be compelled to commit the very crimes against which I was fighting. ‘You cannot cast devils out by Beelzebub.’ War itself is the greatest of all atrocities… I love my country too much to countenance such a crime. I must be loyal to God and humanity; and in being loyal to them I shall be serving in the highest way I know the real interests of our people and our country.”