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Remembered Today:

Field General Court Martial


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Hello - a bit of an open ended question - How frequent were FGCMs during intense periods of warfare?

I have been researching Gallipoli for some time and the 30th Inf Bde Routine Orders are preserved (in part) in the War Diaries held at Kew. Between 14th Aug 1915 and 29th Sep 1915 there were 18 FGCMs (including a Military Mouted Police Cpl), many for sleeping whilst on sentry duty or verbally abusing/striking a superior officer/wilful defiance etc. Most resulted in a death sentence which was typically commuted to several years penal servitude (PS) ranging between 2-10 years. It struck me that this was rather a large number of cases - nearly one every 2 days - although I do not have any other reference points. Was this typical in other theatres, or did the 30th Inf Bde (10th Irish Div) have a particularly bad track-record? Sleeping whilst on Sentry duty seemed to have been a big problem for the exhausted troops...... ..just curious. MG

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I don’t have statisitics for Field General Court Martials (FGCMs) that took place during 'intense warfare'; however I have provided some information from page 669 of Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire in the Great War, 1914-1920. Page 669 is titled: "Total Summary of Analyses of Proceedings of the Trials of Officers, Soldiers, and Civilians by Courts at Home and Abroad, Recived by the Judge-Advocate-General from 4th August, 1914, to 31st March, 1920". It at least provides you with ‘end state’ figures to compare against and to illustrate how common FGCMs were.


• General Courts-Martial: 5,545

• Field General Courts-Martial: 407

• Total: 5,952


• General Courts-Martial: 997

• District Courts-Martial: 143,009

• Field General Courts-Martial: 154,304

• Total: 298,310

Results for Soldiers trialled by FGCM:

• Convictions: 134,094

• Acquittals: 15,489

• Quashed: 3,261

• Not Confirmed: 1,460

Top 10 Soldiers’ Offences on FGCM (Total trialled 154,304):

1. Absence: 35,866 (23.2%)

2. Drunkenness: 33,104 (21.5%)

3. Miscellaneous Military Offences: 28,198 (18.3%)

4. Disobedience: 11,399 (7.4%)

5. Insubordination, etc.: 10,662 (6.9%)

6. Desertion: 7,173 (4.6%)

7. Striking or violence: 6,368 (4.1%)

8. Quitting, etc., post: 6,294 (4%)

9. Theft: 4,246 (2.8%)

10. Self-inflicted Wound: 3,882 (2.5%)

The percentage figures (in brackets) are mine and adjusted to one decimal place. The upshot is that FGCMs were more common than one might expect. I hope this is of use,


Tom McC

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Hello Martin

The figures quoted by Tom are equivalent to an average figure of 100 FGCMs per day across all British units in all theatres during the whole war. No doubt there would have been fewer on days where a formation was heavily engaged in active fighting (e.g. 1 July 1916 on the Somme) but there would be a genewral wish to hold them fairly quickly, as otherwise witnesses and others involved might have moved on.

Evidence from the capital cases suggests that a delay of only a couple of weeks, at most, between apprehension and trial was typical. Other sources comment on how brief the proceedings actually were, so several cases could be dealt vwith in one day by the same court of officers. They too would have been kept away from their units for the minimum time feasible.


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