Today (4th August) the United Kingdom is marking the centenary of its entry to the First World War, with events all over the country and in Belgium. A century earlier, with its ultimatum to Germany running out, HM King George V issued a series of proclamations calling up the Reserves and embodying the Territorial Force. The next day mobilisation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) began setting it on the long road to the Battle of Mons, its first major engagement of the war. Ultimately the BEF would grow to over 2 million men.
As the officers assembled their kit one item that would have at least found its way into kitbags of the adjutants and commanding officers of the BEF was the newly amended ‘Manual of Military Law 1914’. It was this book which provided the legal framework for the iconic but unrepresentative ‘shot at dawn’ cases. Thanks to the University of Hong Kong Library we are able to read the Manual online. It’s worth taking a look if only to see how far military law has come in the last century. For comparison the current Manual of Service Law can be found here.