The Killing of the Iron Twelve (Kindle)
An Account of the Largest Execution of British Soldiers on the Western Front in the First World War
- "This is a powerful morality tale and Malloch has told it brilliantly" - Ronan McGreevy, Irish Times
Why did the Germans brutally and illegally execute a group of British soldiers who had been trapped behind the lines during the retreat to the Marne in 1914? Hedley Malloch, in this gripping and meticulously researched account, vividly describes the fate the soldiers on the run, and of the French civilians who sheltered them. He tells a dramatic and tragic story of escape, betrayals and punishment that also gives a fascinating insight into the life stories of the soldiers and civilians involved and the mind-set of the German army on the Western Front. The book names the German officers responsible for this atrocity, and explores their motivations.
This compelling read begins by establishing the context whereby the German Army of occupation in 1914/1915 could execute soldiers found behind the lines.The Western Front Association
A wide variety of examples are given of soldiers caught alone or in groups, sent to prisoner of war camps or executed. A similarly thorough and enlightening study is done for German treatment of civilians in captured territories, the German habit of taking hostages, of Germanification of the conquered land and sending the conquered to labour for the German war effort. One remarkable story follows another. Each is told with the finesse of a novelist and the skills of an historian - if you wish to follow the references you can. If you read French, you should.
The men involved in this story with its tragic ending are lovingly brought to life as sons, brothers, colleagues and friends. Why they enlisted is well argued: the fear of poverty for many, getting behind King and Country for others.
The story unfolds with growing foreboding. How this story has not made it to the big screen beggars belief.
Highly recommended for its extraordinarily powerful insight into the fragged edges of the first months of the European War, this war that in time was called a World War, and much later the First World War.
If you have a Top Ten 'books on the First World War' - then make room for 'The Killing of the Iron Twelve' by Hedley Malloch
Read the full review here
As featured inStand To! Western Front Association
Article: 'Cold-blooded execution of Irish and British soldiers in WWI' as featured byIrish Examiner, 23rd November 2019 - words by Ryle Dwyer
I then realised that this book is so much wider in scope than just the killing of the Iron 12, and that’s what made it such a compelling and interesting read for me.Great War IMPS
Review by Nigel Rayner for
How a jealous lover’s revenge led to the execution of six young Irish soldiersThe Irish Times 11/11/19
A new book reveals the brutal fate of 11 soldiers, six of them Irish, and their French host, in 1915
Listed in the 'First Flush' featureBooks Ireland, November/December 2019
As featured inStand To! Western Front Association, October 2019
Article spread: 'Soldier James: One of the First World War Iron men' as featured byLiverpool Echo, 13th September 2019 – words by Cheryl Mullin
Article: 'Sad pictures show family of Sheffield soldier killed in Iron 12 wartime atrocity' as featured byThe Star (online & print), September 2019 – words by Julia Armstrong
Article: 'Book reveals First World War atrocity' as featured byThe Star (print), 24th August 2019
Article: 'Book reveals brutal execution of Sheffield troops during First World War' as featured byThe Star (online), 21st August 2019 – words by Nigel Booth
This is an episode of WW1 with which i am not familiar, and one that I found particularly fascinating and, at the same time, harrowing. The author attempts to set the record straight by naming the perpetrators of this enormous outrage.Books Monthly
Hedley Malloch, who is chair of the Iron Memorial fund and Honorary Life Member of the RMFA, has done a wonderful job with his book, a true memorial in its own right to those that were executed; innocent soldiers who just happened to find themselves on the wrong side of the lines.Redcoat and Khaki
Read the full review here
This is a compelling read about the fates of soldiers ‘lost’ behind the lines when the war went past them in 1914. It focuses on a group that avoided capture for 6 months and why they were executed. In all it is well researched with good supporting photographs. I do not agree that the German doctrine of Auftragstaktik was a compelling reason why some German officers took the actions that they did; rather that the objectives to which they operated were conflicted by several different legal parameters and command structures that made different interpretations possible. Auftragstaktik properly directed would not have resulted in such differing and tragic outcomes. Apart from that minor matter of opinion the book is recommended.Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide