Death at Dawn

Death at Dawn, was a major production commissioned by the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project, staged to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. The Cloud Nine premier production, in September 2014 was shortlisted for not one, not two, but three separate awards in The Journal Culture Awards. At the awards ceremony, actor Heather Carroll – who tackled three roles in the play – won the Newcomer of the Year award. Author Peter Mortimer was among a shortlist of three for Writer of the Year, and the play was also nominated in Performance of the Year category. Death at Dawn had already won British Theatre Guide’s regional award for Best Direction.

Death at Dawn was produced by Cloud Nine Theatre Company, directed by Jackie Fielding and funded by Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and North Tyneside Council. It was performed from 1st – 6th September 2014 at the Linskill Centre, North Shields, less than half a mile from where Hunter lived. A professional cast of seven were joined by around ten young drama students aged around 18 – 20 drawn from local North Tyneside schools and colleges.

It was restaged in February / March 2016 in Wallsend and in the Great Hall of The Discovery Museum, Newcastle.

Death at Dawn is built round the real life story of the young North Shields soldier William Hunter who was court-martialled and executed in France in 1916 for desertion. More than 300 soldiers were shot at dawn by the British Army in the Great War but Hunter’s case is unusual because sentence was carried out even though the authorities believed at the time that he had signed on under-age. In almost every other similar case, the death sentence was reprieved. For reasons unknown, the sentence on Hunter was carried out. The play examines possible reasons and also explores the realities behind a policy that saw the army shoot its own men.

Death at Dawn was published by Red Squirrel Press in September 2014; it is available for purchase through Inpress.