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UNITED KINGDOM

Nineteenth-century British Army punishments

Research by "Diogenes"



THE STRAP

(Extract from 1836 Report Commissioners on Military Punishments: Parliamentary Papers, Reports Commissioners, 1836, Vol.1)

Private A.B. of 1st Foot Guards Examined

Q. Have you any Company Courts Martial in your Regiment, where you sit over each other?
A. We have such things.

Q. How do you punish the men in such instances?
A. By what we term in the Regiment sling-belting them.

Q. What is that?
A. Giving them so many dozen strokes with the sling of a firelock.

Q. Whereabouts is it?
A. On the bottom.

Q. With his trousers off do you mean?
A. Yes.

Q. He is held by some of his comrades?
A. Yes.

Q. He is laid down upon a bench is he not?
A. Yes.

Q. For what offences is such a punishment usually awarded?
A. for thieving from his comrades or for dirty tricks.

Q. Is that felt much among the soldiers?
A. It is disgraceful; he is never thought anything of if so punished.

Private B.C.

Q. What sort of punishments are inflicted by the men themselves after a Company Court Martial?
A. Giving a man 8 or 10 dozen stripes with the sling of a firelock on the backside.

Q. That is a very severe punishment?
A. Yes it is.

THE BIRCH

Until the abolition of formal corporal punishment in the British Army in 1881, the floggings ordered by Regimental Court Martial were invariably inflicted across the shoulders with the cat o'nine tails. This punishment survived after 1881 in military prisons but was increasingly replaced by the infliction of the birch across the bare buttocks. In 1895 it was reported that the cat was "never used now except for cases of assault" and that the birch was considered a very severe and humiliating punishment. Most men cried out and those who did not "generally dropped down when others who shouted have not" (Confidential Report of the Committee Appointed to consider Treatment of Military Prisoners, Public Record Office, W.O. 32/8733).

DETAILS FROM RETURN SHOWING PARTICULARS OF EACH CASE OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT INFLICTED IN MILITARY PRISONS AT HOME IN 1895

Brixton Military Prison

A. Jones, Private, 16th Lancers 
Age 25 
Offences: Idleness at crank, reporting sick without cause, refusing crank. 
Number of lashes ordered: 18 birch 
Inflicted: 18 birch

Gosport Military Prison

T. O'Connor, Private, 1st Grenadier Guards 
Age 19 
Offences: violently assaulting warders; attempted assault on Governor 
Number of lashes ordered: 25 birch 
Inflicted: 25 birch 

J. Smith, Private, 2nd South Wales Borders 
Age 20 
Offences: repeatedly threatening a warder 
Number of lashes ordered: 12 birch 
Inflicted: 12 birch 

J. Murphy, Private, 2nd West Riding 
Age 25 
Offence: assaulting warder 
Number of lashes ordered: 25 birch 
Inflicted: 25 birch

Dublin Military Prison

J. Batchelor, Private, 2nd Hampshire Regiment 
Age 20 
Offence: repeated idleness at crank 
Number of lashes ordered: 12 birch 
Inflicted: 12 birch 

J. Dansie, Private, 2nd Duke of Cornwall Infantry 
Age 18 
Offence: repeated idleness at crank 
Number of lashes ordered: 12 birch 
Inflicted: 12 birch 

J. Drew, Private, 1st Yorkshire Light Infantry 
Age 21 
Offence: attempting to escape 
Number of lashes ordered: 12 birch 
Inflicted: 12 birch




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