8 September 1914 – Thomas Highgate

Thomas Highgate

Thomas Highgate

Thomas Highgate was just a fearful teenager when he served in the First World War, and poignantly became the first soldier to be executed for being a deserter.

The Royal West Kent Regiment soldier was shot at dawn for ‘cowardice’ a mere 35 days into the war, aged 19. Highgate and the other 305 soldiers have since been exonerated in 2006 by the Ministry of Defence.

War wounds

However it has opened new wounds according to the ‘Daily Telegraph’. Apparently parish councillors had previously voted to keep Pte Highgate’s name off their war memorial, despite the fact that nearly 80% of parishioners had voted that his name should be added.

Indeed the parish priest who’d spearheaded the campaign gave up his tenure and had gone with God to Gloucestershire in defiance of the bureaucrats’ refusal to buckle. Instead the councillors decided to leave a space in case he was ever pardoned.

This pardon came through in the shape of the MoD’s list of exonerated men in August 2006, yet, apparently, despite this declaration, Pte Highgate’s name still hadn’t made it onto the memorial as of 2006.

Some 300-odd soldiers were finally freed from the shackles of unfounded shame as a result of the same posthumous pardon, including some familiar names who we’ve already covered in previous months: namely Joseph Stones, Peter Goggins and John McDonald.

Also on this day

8 September 1999 – Mark Gardner
8 September 1999 – Alan Willett

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10 Responses to “8 September 1914 – Thomas Highgate”

  1. do you know whether Thomas Highgates name has now been put on the memorial in Shoreham. I am his great niece. thank you

    • Nick Withers Says:

      I have visited the memorial in June 2010 and Pte Highgate’s name is NOT on the memorial in Shoreham but a space has been left. I visited The National Memorial Arboretum in May and he is commemorated there. I have some photos if you are interested

  2. Alice Says:

    His name is now on the memorial because of the pardon he recieved in 2006.

    • Dear Alice, I am a journalist putting together pages for a WW1 supp and would be keen to highlight the plight of Thomas Highgate. Do you have photo of the memorial?
      Thanks
      Lesley

    • Margaret Says:

      Alice, I regret to have to inform you that the name of Thomas Highgate is, at today’s date, (16.9.2014) still missing from the memorial.

  3. Ann Palmer Says:

    Sadly no – his name is still not there. I have recently led a project to restore the view to the famous Shoreham Cross from the war memorial. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-11444272

    This story is a tragic one and I hope that I can get justice for Thomas’ family.

    • Dear Ann, I am a journalist putting together pages for a WW1 supp and would be keen to highlight the plight of Thomas Highgate.

    • Margaret Says:

      Thank you Ann that you hope to get justice for Thomas. Might I suggest that you contact one Richard Inniss, Chairman of Shoreham Parish Council, 01959 524853. He is overruling the villagers who voted in a poll 8 to 10 that the name of Thomas be included because he thinks that Thomas was not born and bred in Shoreham. His nephew Terence Highgate has since produced his birth certificate to prove otherwise and the local paper, Tonbridge Courier has published a copy. Good luck!

  4. clement525546 Says:

    it sucks

    • I thought that he was shot at age 17, that is what it says on my work for a history assessment.

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