Ready, Aim, Fire!

In 1815 John Smith, a notorious Australian bushranger/outlaw, was captured by members of the 75th Highland Regiment and sentenced to death by firing squad. Unfortunately, the members of this Regiment were renowned for being terrible shots with previous prisoners dying slow painful deaths as a result. Knowing this John Smith begged for mercy.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do”, said the Captain, “as I’m nothing if not a reasonable man. I will allow you to choose where the men stand and will even add another 50 men to the firing squad for a total of 100 men so that at least one of them is sure to kill you. But don’t get any funny ideas. The men cannot stand more than 20 metres away from you and must all be facing you while you must remain tied to the post in the middle of the yard. It’s my knock-off time now and you’re due to be shot later today at 6pm. In the unlikely event that you are not killed outright but only terribly wounded I will, tomorrow, release you from the post so that you can die peacefully.”

To the Captain’s surprise and outrage when he returned in the morning he discovered that John had been set free alive and well. The men explained that it was because of where John had made them stand.

Where did John tell the men to stand?

John told the men to stand around him in a circle. When the men realised that if any man missed the target then some of their own, very possibly themselves, would undoubtedly be hit they all refused to fire, untied John and set him free.


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