Passage from a proposed broadcast on the Fifth Column
Just imagine the sort of scene that may take place in the near future.  The sirens start to wail, the bombers come roaring overhead, the furtive conspirator, who has been hypnotised into believing that with Mosley as ruler he will be the Gestapo chief of an English county, creeps swiftly upstairs.  With beating heart, he pulls aside the curtain of an attic window to signal the enemy bombers on to their objective; but he knows nothing of the grim little group of watchers who are stationed in his back garden.  Suddenly, there is a battering upon the door below.  It is broken in, and half a dozen armed men rush up the stairs.  The rat is cornered and dragged off to prison.  For him there will be no mercy.  He has been caught red-handed in the act of aiding the King’s enemies.

His trial will be brief.  In our files we have thousands of certified copies of letters which have passed between England and Germany during the last few years, without their writers having the least suspicion that these have been opened by our security department and copies of them made before they were sent on to their destination.  That man’s file will be produced in court or, lacking such letters, evidence given of his sympathies and recent activities.  It will be useless for him to plead that he was only endeavouring to adjust his curtain.  The verdict is a foregone conclusion.

I do not suppose that many of you have ever seen a firing squad execute a spy.  It is a grim business.  Such executions are usually carried out in the early morning.  The scene is generally the cold grey yard of a military barracks.  Perhaps there is a little pale sunlight giving promise of a lovely day which the spy knows that he will never live to see as he is led out of his cell.

He is escorted to a large post driven into the ground and tied to it, because sometimes traitors lose their nerve at the last moment and show a desperate desire to run away.  The victim’s hands are tied behind his back and a canvas mask is drawn over his face.  But he has already seen the little group of soldiers loading their rifles and a cold sweat breaks out upon his forehead.  Those soldiers are uneasy because the hate the job they have to do.  When the traitor has been blindfolded, he can still hear what is going on.  The officer’s orders, the clicking home of the bolts of the rifles.  He tenses himself for the last ordeal and perhaps begins to pray.

‘Fire!’ cries the officer.  The rifles crack.  The awful split second has come and the victim tenses himself to receive the bullets that will end his life.  Another split second; another second.  Dully, he realises that he is still standing there unharmed.  For an instant, he may believe that he is already dead, but a moment later he hears the officer giving fresh orders and realises the horrid truth.  The soldiers, each not wishing to be responsible for his death, have all fired high.  They can be punished for that, but they do it all the same.  In consequence, the sweating victim stands there in an agony of apprehension while the whole appalling ordeal has to be gone through all over again.

But at the second attempt, the victim is rarely killed.  Nine times out of ten, the troops, hating their work, do not aim at the heart or head, and after the second volley, the wretched traitor hangs groaning from the post --- five or six bullets having smashed into his body --- but still conscious.  He hears footfalls as the Provost Marshal, whose duty it is to finish him off, crosses the yard.  After what seems to him an interminable time, the cold barrel of a revolver is placed against his temple and his brains are blown out.  The still quivering body is cut down and dragged away to be cast into the lime-pit of the prison yard.  That is the end reserved for traitors.  It is also the fate of misguided idealists who are led into aiding the enemy by placing their personal theories before their county’s safety in time of war.


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