Field Punishments

Many of the men from the parish were awarded field punishments during their time in the forces – mainly for trivial misdemeanours such as returning slightly late from leave or having dirty kit. When transcribing army records we deliberately chose not to include details of their "crime" and "punishment".

Military law reinforces discipline

The maintenance of discipline in the army has always been considered a very serious affair. Whilst it is clear from statistics that there was much ill-discipline in the army throughout the war, most of it was of a non-serious nature. The instances of failure to obey orders are relatively few, and the number of men convicted and suffering from serious punishment was miniscule as a proportion of the whole. The acts of discipline outlined on this page were defined by the Army Act and the Field Service Regulations.

Small scale misdemeanours

These crimes included everything from matters of individual presentation such as being unshaven, untidy or losing kit; not saluting or addressing superiors correctly; dirty or incorrect equipment; being late on parade or after curfew, etc. They would be detected and dealt with by the NCOs and officers of a man's own unit. NCOs often gave men extra fatigues or exercise as punishment for small matters. Being confined to barracks or losing a day's pay was a torment too, for men who were eager for rest and amusement.

Moderately serious offences

For moderately serious crimes, a man could elect to be tried by a district court-martial, or be 'convicted' and sentenced by his Commanding Officer. The CO could sanction maximum punishments as follows: detention up to 28 days; field punishment up to 28 days; forfeit of all pay up to 28 days; for drunkenness, a fine up to 10 shillings. The CO could inflict minor punishments, with the offender having no right to a court-martial: confinement to camp for up to 14 days; extra guard duty; reprimand, severe reprimand or admonition.

Serious matters

These were tried by Courts-Martial. Some of these offences were ones that would have been tried by a civilian court if the man had not been on active service e.g. murder or rape. Other offences were purely military in nature, such as desertion.

Field punishments

Field Punishment Number 1 consisted of the convicted man being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, often a gun wheel or similar. He could only be thus fixed for up to two hours in 24, and not for more than three days in four, or for more than 21 days in his sentence. This punishment was often known as 'crucifixion' and due to its humiliating nature was viewed by many Tommies as unfair. Field Punishment Number 2 was similar except the man was shackled but not fixed to anything. Both forms were carried out by the office of the Provost-Marshal, unless his unit was officially on the move when it would be carried out regimentally i.e. by his own unit.

The Long Long Trail