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Ernest Thurtle (11 November 1884, New York State – 22 August 1954) was a British Labour politician.

Thurtle worked as am accountant and salesman. He saw service in the army in World War I and was badly wounded at the Battle of Cambrai. In 1912 he married Dorothy, daughter of George Lansbury, leader of the Labour Party in the 1930s.

Thurtle contested South West Bethnal Green and Shoreditch without success, and was Member of Parliament for Shoreditch, London from 1923-31 and 1935-50, then Shoreditch and Finsbury from 1950 until his death.

Thurtle's greatest achievement in Parliament was to bring about the abolition of the death penalty for cowardice or desertion in the British Army. With over 300 British soldiers shot by firing squad after brief trials during the First World War, Thurtle first introduced the measure for abolition in 1924, which became Labour party policy in 1925 and eventually approved by the House of Commons by the Labour government in 1930. Supporters of the measure included T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) but the abolition was rejected at first by the House of Lords who were encouraged in their resistance by various retired generals including Lord Allenby. The House of Commons insisted and the measure was enacted.

The argument that it would reduce the determination of the soldiers was countered by the fact that the Australians had always made it clear when they joined the war effort, that none of their men were to be executed for these crimes. No Australians were shot for cowardice or desertion and yet it was clear that their troops had been as effective as any others in the war. Thurtle continued to be involved in ex-servicemen's associations.

Thurtle was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Pensions in 1924, a Labour whip 1930-31 and a junior minister at the Ministry of Information from 1941 to 1945. He was also a journalist and author.


  • E Thurtle: Times winged chariot Chaterson, London, 1945

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ernest Griffith Price
Member of Parliament for Shoreditch
Succeeded by
Charles Harold Summersby
Preceded by
Charles Harold Summersby
Member of Parliament for Shoreditch
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Shoreditch and Finsbury
Succeeded by
Victor Collins


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