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Military punishment -- hopefully simple question


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Forgive me if this is well-known.

In discovering a relative's military record online I noted that he was punished for Neglect of duty while on look-out and sentenced to 7 days [something] troop punishment

The bit in between the brackets is what has me baffled. It certainly looks to me like No.4. The problem is that I have only ever heard about Field Punishments Nos. 1 and 2.

Were there more numbered punishments? If so, is there a reference somewhere that I can consult? What did "troop punishment" mean?

If anyone would like to take a look at the record, they are welcome to contact me by e-mail and I will send them a copy of the image.

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Most minor offences, up to battalion or regiment level were delt with by the unit commander. Major offences were dealt with by court martial.The following troop punishment could be issued by the commanding company or battalion officer:-Punishment – Minor Offences

Minor offences were to do with King's Regulations, Standing Orders and Unit Routine orders and included incorrect dress or untidy appearance, loss of personally-issued clothing and equipment; not saluting or addressing superiors correctly; dirty or incorrect equipment; being late on parade or after curfew and so on. They would be detected and dealt with by the NCOs and officers of a man's own unit. NCOs often gave men extra fatigues (work) or exercise as punishment for trivial indiscretions to avoid blackening their service career.

The Officer Commanding (Company) could give the following punishments:

  • Up to seven days confined to barracks.
  • For drunkenness, a fine up to 10 shillings.
  • Forfeit of all pay for being absent without leave.
  • Extra guard or picquets6 for offences on those duties.
  • Reprimand or admonish NCOs below the rank of sergeant.
The commanding officer (battalion) could sanction maximum punishments as follows:

  • Detention up to 28 days in the guard room cells.
  • Field punishment up to 28 days to a soldier not being a NCO (on field service).
  • Forfeit of all pay up to 28 days.
  • For drunkenness, a fine up to 10 shillings.
  • Confinement to camp for up to 14 days.
  • Extra guard duty.
  • Reprimand (officially noted).
  • Severe reprimand (officially noted).
  • Admonition (warning, without punishment).

This was a common cause for complaint, particularly in peacetime. A system applied here too, which was quite specific:

  • First case – no fine.
  • Second case – 2s 6d (two and a half days' pay).
  • Third and subsequent cases – 5s (five days' pay)
  • Third and subsequent cases within 6 months – 7s 6d
  • Third and subsequent cases within 3 months – 10s
And then the next level:-

Field Punishments

These were punishments carried out in the field, ie out of barracks. They were regarded as rather brutal by most soldiers. They were administered by provost staff unless the unit was on the move, when the unit would carry it out. There were two field punishments:

Field Punishment No 1

The offender may, unless the court-martial or CO otherwise directs:

  • Be kept in irons.
  • Be attached by straps, irons or ropes for not more than two hours in one day to a fixed object. Must not be attached for more than three out of four consecutive days or for more than 21 days in all.
  • Be made to labour as if he were undergoing imprisonment with hard labour.
Field Punishment No 2

Same as No 1, except he may not be treated as above in (2).

When the unit was on the move an offender sentenced to Field Punishment No 1 was exempt from the operation of (2), but all offenders sentenced to field punishment were to march with their units, carry their arms and accoutrements, perform all their military duties as well as extra fatigue duties, and be treated as defaulters. Field punishment for a period not exceeding three months could also be awarded by a court-martial for any offence committed on active service.

Punishment – Serious Offences

These were tried by court-martial of which there were four types, General Court Martial (GCM) District (DCM), Regimental (RCM) and Field General (FGCM). Of these the regimental had the least power. Of the others, the FGCM and GCM could pass a death sentence. Officers could only be tried by GCM or FGCM and NCOs above rank of corporal could not be tried by a court inferior to a DCM.

A FGCM was made up of a president who was an officer with field rank (a captain may sit if no senior officer available) and a minimum of two other officers. In some circumstances, one other would be accepted if no other officers were available, but the powers of this type of FGCM were limited. Some of these offences were ones that would have been tried by a civilian court if the man had not been on active service eg, murder or rape. There was a given maximum punishment for each offence.

Penal Servitude

This was essentially confinement in a military jail and subject to the privations of such institutions. All offenders would be 'reduced to the ranks'. Offences included:

  • Leaving the ranks on pretence of taking wounded men to the rear.
  • Wilfully destroying property without orders.
  • Offering violence or using threatening language to his superior officer.
  • Disobeying a lawful command given by his superior officer.
  • Striking a person in whose custody he was placed (second offence).
  • Fraudulent enlistment (second offence).
Cashiering or Imprisonment

Cashiering was only applied to officers and was the removal of commission and dismissal from the service. Imprisonment was indicative of a shorter and less intense period of confinement than penal servitude, probably with the subject's own unit. Offences included:

  • By discharging firearms negligently occasioning false alarms in camp.
  • When concerned in a quarrel, refusing to obey an officer who ordered him into arrest.
  • Striking a person in whose custody he was placed (first offence).
  • Fraudulent enlistment (first offence).
  • Assisting a person subject to military law to desert.
During the Great War, 5,952 officers and 298,310 other ranks were court-martialled. Of those tried, 89% were convicted; 8% acquitted; the rest were either convicted without the conviction being confirmed, or with it being subsequently quashed. The main punishments applied were:

  • 24% - 3 months detention in a military compound
  • 22% - Field Punishment Number 1
  • 12% - Fines
  • 10% - 6 months detention
  • 10% - Reduction in rank
  • 8% - Field Punishment Number 2
Capital Punishment

General and FGCM could impose the severest penalty – death, usually by firing squad. It was rare, the army executed 37 men between 1865 and 1898, a period of frequent colonial wars, and another four during the Boer War (1898 - 1902). The list of offences punishable by death seems endless:

  • Shamefully delivering up a garrison to the enemy.
  • Shamefully casting away arms in the presence of the enemy.
  • Misbehaving before the enemy in such a manner as to show cowardice.
  • Leaving his CO to go in search of plunder.
  • Breaking into a house in search of plunder.
  • Committing an offence against the person of a resident in the country in which he was serving.
  • Forcing a safeguard.
  • Forcing a soldier when acting as sentinel.
  • Doing violence to a person bringing provisions to the forces.
  • By discharging firearms intentionally occasioning false alarms on the march.
  • When acting as a sentinel on active service sleeping at his post.
  • Causing a mutiny in the forces, or endeavouring to persuade persons in HM forces to join in a mutiny.
  • Disobeying in such a manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority, a lawful command given personally by his superior officer.
  • Striking his superior officer.
  • Deserting HM service, or attempting to desert.
All were detailed in the Army Act and King's Regulations. During the Great War, 3,080 men, 1.1% of those convicted, were sentenced to death. Of these, 89% were reprieved and the sentence converted to a different one. However, 346 men were executed for the following crimes:

  • Desertion (266)
  • Murder (37)
  • Cowardice in the face of the enemy (18)
  • Quitting their post (7)
  • Striking or showing violence to their superiors (6)
  • Disobedience (5)
  • Mutiny (3)
  • Sleeping at post (2)
  • Casting away arms (2)
Compared to the other armies of the Great War, the British Army was well disciplined and, although many were tried and convicted, serious offences were comparatively rare.

Later Developments

There was, and still is, much controversy about the death sentence handed out to men who served their country in time of war. After Parliamentary debate, the Army Act of 1930 stated that British military personnel could not be sentenced to death for offences such as desertion and cowardice, but were given terms of imprisonment instead. The only military offence punishable by death was mutiny. Civilian crimes which merited the death penalty remained in place.

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Thank you for the information, which is very interesting. With respect though, it doesn't really answer my question...

I guess I should try and find either a copy of the Manual of Military Law or a reference source for contemporary military abbreviations / jargon.

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Here, see what you think. At a pinch, it could be No.1, but if you look at the 1917 on the right it (the 1) doesn't appear to match up...which is why I wondered if it was a 4.

Other question, while people are poring over this: to the left you see "Onboard ________________"

And to think I read doctors' handwriting for a living!


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Hi, certainly looks like 'Onboard'.. something.. Castle, was the Brigade on the move?

Troop Punishment........ a minor punishment awarded by a Commanding Officer.

The Regulations call it 'Confined to Barracks' CB's.

Confinement to barracks for any period not exceeding fourteen days , during which defaulters will be required to answer to their names at uncertain hours throughout the day and will be employed on fatigue duties to the fullest practicable extent, with a view to relieving well conducted soldiers therefrom. Defaulters will attend parades, and take all duties in regular turn. When the fatigue duties required are not sufficient to keep the defaulters fully employed, the CO may order them to attend punishment drill, provided that they shall not be liable to punishment drill after the expiration of 10 days from the date of the award of confinement to barracks.

Regards Charles

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Cheers! Many thanks for the answer. Interestingly (to me anyway) this is the only blemish I can find on what's left of his record, and comes just after he received news of the death of his infant son -- the death certificate is in his record. One more poignant story amongst millions.

Was the brigade on the move? Good question. I'm having trouble squaring the battalion / brigade numbers on his record with what I can find about the RFA on this site. I was very surprised to see no theatre of war on his medal card -- despite his being mobilised in July 1916 and posted (where?) in September 1916. Any experts on the Royal field Artillery here???

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Next question is what was the movements of the Brigade?

Have alook at the 'Long Long trail' up at the top of this page on the left, to see if you can track it down?............ 320 Brigade RFA looks to be 2/HIGHLAND Brigade with service numbers from 630001 to 635000 320 BDE, RFA TF/BDE, have a look at what Division that was with and that should give you a start.

Regards Charles

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His name was John Francis Marriott, service number 157185 and he joined up at Rotherham. I do not know the significance of the number 636335, which appears on his medal card and the demobilization card shown below. Unfortunately the record is quite badly damaged, but

  • The attestation sheet indicates he was assigned to the Royal Field Artillery, T.F.
  • This page (see left) seems to indicate that that he was posted to 321 Brigade 11ttuki.jpg
  • The punishment log (see above) has a stamp of B Battery, 320 Brigade
  • His demobilization card (see below) appears to suggest 375 something.


Apologies if I have used the wrong terminology in places. It's all very confusing for a novice...

David in Delta BC, Canada

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Looks like he was with the 51st Highland (TF) Division, would be worth starting a new thread to get a picture of what the 320th and 321st Brigade RFA did and were they where.

His Discharge says he was with the MEF (Med Expeditionary Force) so a ship has been in the picture, his number (636335) is from a batch issued to the Highland Brigade RFA.

Regards Charles

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"Were there more numbered punishments? If so, is there a reference somewhere that I can consult? What did "troop punishment" mean?"

What I gave you was a detailed description of "Troop Punishment" Sorry that it was not numbered 1,2,3,4,5. I did find that different regiments listed punishments not necessarily in the same order as each other.

The official reference for troop punishment is under the "Kings Regulations".

Best Wishes,


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Just one point here. As a junior NCO, he was liable to answer for ' crimes' committed by the men in his charge. The man would be punished and so would his corporal for allowing it to happen. In serious cases, this could go up the chain as far as a sergeant. This ensured that NCOs did not turn a blind eye to misdemeanours. What I am saying is that he may not have committed an offence but simply not been aware of one that was committed by one of his men.

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Might this have been on board a troopship?

Hence the phrase "confined to quarters" as opposed to "confined to barracks"?

Also under this on the sheet it looks like ****and water.

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Yes you are right, he is on a troopship and has been given Punishment No 4 for Neglect (which is on the scale of punishments) and is the onboard Equivalent of CB's, It is awarded by his own CO not serious enough for the ships Captain.

Stoppages of smoking

Eating meals under sentrys charge

half hour to dinner

Not exceeding 3 hours pack drill, if weather permits: if not, to parade without packs.

To stand for two hours on deck from 6pm to 8pm.

Answer roll call every bell between Morning Parade and 6pm.

Kings Regulations and Admiralty Instructions Chapter XXXV section 1213 and Volume II Appendix XX Tables I and II

Regards Charles

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Thanks for this. Thought it had a familiar "theme".......one of those on my signature was similarly treated while on a troop ship although his entry was noted as "CB for 48 hours".

The offence was "......in that he was insultingly abusive to a Corporal........".

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Once again, many thanks to all. I knew it was number 4!!!

As always these documents raise more questions than they answer...

By the way, I did not mean to offend anyone when I said that a reply didn't answer the question -- it's just that "troop punishment" was a term I han't come across, and FP1 and FP2 are the ones mentioned everywhere on the net.

Cheers, and keep up the good work.

David in Delta BC, Canada

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