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Imprisonment after found guilty at a court martial -- where?


FrancesH
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Can anyone tell me where an officer served a prison sentence (with or without hard labour) after being found guilty at a court martial? Would it be in a military or a civilian prison, and if so where? In the instances I have found the officers concerned were all sent back to the UK for their trial from the Western Front, so I presume they would be in prison in the UK.

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4 hours ago, FrancesH said:

Can anyone tell me where an officer served a prison sentence (with or without hard labour) after being found guilty at a court martial? Would it be in a military or a civilian prison, and if so where? In the instances I have found the officers concerned were all sent back to the UK for their trial from the Western Front, so I presume they would be in prison in the UK.

When an officer was convicted of a criminal offence that led to a sentence of imprisonment of any kind he was automatically dismissed the service and then served out his sentence in a civil prison just like any subject of Great Britain and Ireland.  That is still the case today.

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Thank you! Since I suspect from previous encounters that you know everything, can you also tell me when an officer was court-martialled, did they actually have their stripes ripped off? I notice that in case the court judgment was that the guilty officer should undergo 'every sign of ignominy'. I wondered if this took an actual physical form?

 

Best wishes F

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1 hour ago, FrancesH said:

can you also tell me when an officer was court-martialled, did they actually have their stripes ripped off?

Officers didn't have stripes, but they had other insignia - on their shoulders and/or on their cuffs.

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Mate,

In the AIF an officer was uselly dismissed but they could also take a rank reduction

These are a few I have;

WOOD    Paul    353    CSM    19Bn    ACo prom 2/Lt 10-15 (G) to 4Co/1Bn ICC 1-16 shown T/OC 4Co (from Langley) 9-16 revert (to Capt Denson) 10-16 rtn CCo/19Bn 5-17 FGCM 2-12-18 Misbehaving before the enemy in a mannor as to show cowardice sentenced dismissed from the Service F&B SNLR loss of medals mentioned in book by Frank Reid "ahead of them raced Lt Woods with a revolver in one hand and a Gurkha's Kukri stuck in his puttee's. When eighteen hundred yards from the Turkish treches he calmly proceeded to fire at any of the enemy who showed themselves. We got the order to retire and Lt Woods came back to us with his revolver and kukri, we did not see him in action again as some weeks later he went to France"
 

WATSON    Arthur Donald    1271    Pte    01 LHR    9R att D Troop ASqn/Comp LHR 11-15 to 1 LHTR 2-16 to 2 DAC 3-16 to 12Bty/4 FAB 3-16 to 10Bty/4 FAB 7-16 to cadet RA St Johns Wood UK 3-17 prom 2/Lt 10-8-17 to Y2A MTMB 9-17 WIA 3-10-17 R/arm shrapnel in the line at Broodseinde to AGBD 3-18 F&B FGCM 14-5-18 drunkeness sentenced reduced in rank FGCM 3-7-18 drunkeness sentenced dismissal SNLR relist British 1st King Edwards Horse (2202)
 

STEWART    John        Lt    01 LHR    2R Tos 4-15 tos A Sqn D Troop 5-15 WIA 7-8-15 R/hand & abdoman bomb in charge at Popes post (P) evac to (19 BGH) hosp Egypt 8-15 to (2 London GH) hosp UK 9-15 (G) AB Weymouth UK 12-15 to 1 LHTR 6-16 rtn A Sqn 6-16 to 2ic C Sqn 6-16 to hosp (alcholism/debility) 6-16 rtn 7-16 FGCM 26-7-16 drunk sentenced dismissed RTA disch 5-9-16 SNLR (Boer War 1st Aust Horse (1108) and Lt DSqn/3 NSWMR to 4th Dragoon Guards) AKA Jack Stewart
 

THOMAS    Cyril James        Capt    2 LH Bde Trn    (6Co AASC) to HQ ASC Anzac MD 3-16 disch 23-8-16 SNLR one of a number of officers dismissed over misssing supplies (CMF 11 yeas) brother Claude Lt AASC KIA

WARREN    Bertie        Lt    03 LHR    9R att OCo/CTC 12-15 to hosp (pyrexia) 1-16 to QM 1 LHTR 5-16 to Adjt (from charles booth) 12-16 to hosp (neurasthenia) 4-17 rtn 5-17 to school of Instruction Zeitoun (unknown course) 6-17 rtn 7-17 to 03 LHR 7-17 FGCM 22-8-17 AWoL sentenced dismissal disch 22-10-17 SNLR forfit medals (Boer War Sgt Prince of Wales LH (32727) (Port Pire A Troop ASqn/24 LH (Flinders) CMF 3 years)
 

S.B

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20 hours ago, FrancesH said:

Thank you! Since I suspect from previous encounters that you know everything, can you also tell me when an officer was court-martialled, did they actually have their stripes ripped off? I notice that in case the court judgment was that the guilty officer should undergo 'every sign of ignominy'. I wondered if this took an actual physical form?

 

Best wishes F

Hello Frances, I’m glad to help, but I certainly don’t know everything.  In answer to your question, in the British service there was/is no ripping off of rank and snapping of swords asunder, which is an invention of old Hollywood movies.  Bizarrely an officer did not automatically lose his rank, unless it was an act of treason, which led to a death sentence anyway.  This is why disgraced officer characters as ‘Majors’, ‘Captains’, etc. we’re regular fodder as subjects for black and white British films of the between wars and post WW2 eras**.  Many of them were purported as having undergone periods of imprisonment, but retained their rank title. 

**David Niven famously played one in the 1958 film ‘Separate Tables’.

41BF4E17-0202-4631-99B3-B8C2B27C789D.jpeg

761A3179-8F0C-4A1A-B7FD-0D5B4203D0FF.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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47 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

**David Niven famously played one in the 1958 film ‘Separate Tables’.

(As an aside-  He won the Oscar for Best Actor for it as well)

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I am pleased to know that a cashiered officer retained his title-- I have exactly this where the man concerned is 'Captain' in the 1930s. I thought he was just trying it on, so it's interesting to know he had every right to do so.

 

Thank you also for the clarification that the snapping of swords, etc, was a movie invention! 

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33 minutes ago, FrancesH said:

I am pleased to know that a cashiered officer retained his title-- I have exactly this where the man concerned is 'Captain' in the 1930s. I thought he was just trying it on, so it's interesting to know he had every right to do so.

 

Thank you also for the clarification that the snapping of swords, etc, was a movie invention! 

I’m pleased to help Frances.  As someone who spent a lifetime immersed in British military culture, I find the misleading tropes and fallacies enfuriating.

NB.  A major general was recently imprisoned here, he will still be a major general when he comes out.  Interestingly the vast majority of offences are historically, either financial (usually fraud), or sexual.  In short, all very ‘British’.

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2 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

(As an aside-  He won the Oscar for Best Actor for it as well)

Yes, unsurprisingly.  He was effectively acting in the role of a man whose military culture he was eminently familiar with, and steeped in himself.  I’ve not watched it for some years, but always thought how deeply familiar his bearing, mannerisms and demeanour were.  I saw the very tail end of that culture as it gradually changed to reflect more closely the social earthquake that had occurred in civil society at large.  It was a very slow process indeed.

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Another question! You explained further up the thread that officers found guilty by court martial then served their sentence in a British gaol (and for example, I've  now found one doing so in HMP Wandsworth). However, they don't seem to appear in the 'records of criminal prisoners' (available on Ancestry), whereas officers tried in a civil court are included. You may not know the reason for this but I thought it worth asking? Many prison registers frustratingly no longer exist, and similarly it is often not mentioned in an officer's file where his sentence was served. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 14/04/2022 at 13:28, FrancesH said:

Another question! You explained further up the thread that officers found guilty by court martial then served their sentence in a British gaol (and for example, I've  now found one doing so in HMP Wandsworth). However, they don't seem to appear in the 'records of criminal prisoners' (available on Ancestry), whereas officers tried in a civil court are included. You may not know the reason for this but I thought it worth asking? Many prison registers frustratingly no longer exist, and similarly it is often not mentioned in an officer's file where his sentence was served. 

I’m sorry for the delay in responding Frances, I didn’t get a flag for some reason.  That said, I’m afraid I don’t know what the answer might be in this case.

One final point to emphasise though is that unlike for other ranks, there was no specific military prison for officers, so they either received a lesser sentence, such as a reduction in rank and continued service, were dismissed the service in ignominy but without incarceration, or for the more serious offences tried in a civil criminal court, served a sentence of imprisonment.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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On 13/04/2022 at 14:11, FROGSMILE said:

Hello Frances, I’m glad to help, but I certainly don’t know everything.  In answer to your question, in the British service there was/is no ripping off of rank and snapping of swords asunder, which is an invention of old Hollywood movies.  Bizarrely an officer did not automatically lose his rank, unless it was an act of treason, which led to a death sentence anyway.  This is why disgraced officer characters as ‘Majors’, ‘Captains’, etc. we’re regular fodder as subjects for black and white British films of the between wars and post WW2 eras**.  Many of them were purported as having undergone periods of imprisonment, but retained their rank title. 

I'm not quite so sure about this, especially as regards the Great War period. There is a difference between being dismissed from the Army, with or without a prison sentence, and being cashiered, which declares a man as disqualified from serving the King in any capacity - even as a postman. I believe that it was also the case that officers dismissed (not cashiered) in the early part of the war were often conscripted as soldiers under the Military Service Acts. They presumably were not allowed to use their former rank.

Incidentally, I have seen a report that Captain Alfred Dreyfus was to have his sword broken over the adjutant's knee, but it was bungled, even though the sword had been partially cut through beforehand, so this part of the "degradation" is not a Hollywood invention!

Ron

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On 09/05/2022 at 18:37, Ron Clifton said:

I'm not quite so sure about this, especially as regards the Great War period. There is a difference between being dismissed from the Army, with or without a prison sentence, and being cashiered, which declares a man as disqualified from serving the King in any capacity - even as a postman. I believe that it was also the case that officers dismissed (not cashiered) in the early part of the war were often conscripted as soldiers under the Military Service Acts. They presumably were not allowed to use their former rank.

Incidentally, I have seen a report that Captain Alfred Dreyfus was to have his sword broken over the adjutant's knee, but it was bungled, even though the sword had been partially cut through beforehand, so this part of the "degradation" is not a Hollywood invention!

Ron

You raise a really good point about the distinction between dismissal and cashiering Ron, and I seem to recall that details are contained in the Manual of Military Law of the period, which I do not have.  There’s also a distinction between sentences of imprisonment and sentences with hard labour, the criterion for which I also do not know. Inevitably it all depended on the offence of course.  Anything that you can quote from the contemporary MML making it easier to understand will be gratefully read by me too.  I don’t pretend to have a detailed knowledge of imprisonment regulations, just some basic principles regarding the difference between the handling of officers and other ranks. 

As regards the famous case of Dreyfus, and based on just a little reading about it, I believe that many of the protocols in his specific case were contrived to humiliate, and part and parcel of the media furore and hysterical political (anti semitic) shenanigans at the time.  I understand that they were unique to him and not a part of the Code Napoleon, or French Military Law, but merely to put on a grandstand show for the public to read about over their breakfasts.  As you’ve pointed out, even cutting part way through the sword didn’t make it snap, which suggests that it wasn’t something well practised and familiar.

All further contributions gratefully received, there’s more to learn I’m sure.

Afternote:  apparently the breaking of sword and ripping off of insignia was a French practice that was what one might call fashionable for a while.  It required some degree of pre preparation and theatre and appears to have been a feature of French military law during one of its several Republics.

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A gambol  through the results of searching on  "Detention Barracks" on Discovery at The National Archives may prove interesting, if tantalising.

     I have a memory that there were military prisons in France-and an even vaguer memory that we  (the Brits.) borrowed a French prison for the duration. (Amiens way???)

    There are actually  2 war diaries for a military prison outside the UK. Here is the reference to one of them:

image.png.bd2cdba7dd4ac4f1c9b0fa097f2f3315.png

    Right- off for a cup of tea and the DVD of Sean Connery v Harry Abdrews in "The Hill"

  

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Hello Frogsmile, Ron and Alan, many thanks for your comments. I was interested to see that Ron drew a distinction between 'dismissal' and 'cashiering'. All the cases I am currently investigating ended with cashiering but also with a prison sentence. Nearly all those concerned then rejoined the services as 'other ranks', which seems in contradiction to your comment. For example Wilfrid Marsden was cashiered and sentenced to two years with hard labour in 1916.  Almost immediately after his release he rejoined the RFC and was promoted to Sergeant Trainer. As I said somewhere earlier in the thread, it is difficult to be certain in all cases where men served their sentences (it depends what's survived in their service records), but of the two I know about for certain, one went to Wormwood Scrubs and one to Wandsworth -- so to civilian, not military prisons. As far as I am aware at this minute (you never know what you're going to turn up) all my subjects were in Britain (rather than on the Western Front) when they were arrested. Also, Frogsmile, of this specific group of cases as far as I can tell at the moment, the officers concerned served their full sentence despite, in some cases, repeated appeals to the War Office for an earlier release. 

In case anyone would like to know, all this is building up to an article for Stand To! which should appear towards the end of this year. 

 

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As I understand it, if a cashiered officer served his term in prison-and was of military service age when released, then after the Military Service Act he was open to conscription anyway.

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1 hour ago, FrancesH said:

Hello Frogsmile, Ron and Alan, many thanks for your comments. I was interested to see that Ron drew a distinction between 'dismissal' and 'cashiering'. All the cases I am currently investigating ended with cashiering but also with a prison sentence. Nearly all those concerned then rejoined the services as 'other ranks', which seems in contradiction to your comment. For example Wilfrid Marsden was cashiered and sentenced to two years with hard labour in 1916.  Almost immediately after his release he rejoined the RFC and was promoted to Sergeant Trainer. As I said somewhere earlier in the thread, it is difficult to be certain in all cases where men served their sentences (it depends what's survived in their service records), but of the two I know about for certain, one went to Wormwood Scrubs and one to Wandsworth -- so to civilian, not military prisons. As far as I am aware at this minute (you never know what you're going to turn up) all my subjects were in Britain (rather than on the Western Front) when they were arrested. Also, Frogsmile, of this specific group of cases as far as I can tell at the moment, the officers concerned served their full sentence despite, in some cases, repeated appeals to the War Office for an earlier release. 

In case anyone would like to know, all this is building up to an article for Stand To! which should appear towards the end of this year. 

 

Thank you Frances, I do hope that we can find out more.  The discrimination between Cashiering and Dismissal doesn’t exist anymore** and I’m not sure when that qualification was abolished.  Clearly it seems to be quite germane. It really requires consultation with a Manual of Military Law contemporaneous with WW1.  I know that some iterations are accessible online via the excellent FIBIwiki administered by @MaureenE , but I’m not sure if it is that for 1914.

**from memory just dismissal with and without “ignominy” I think, each carrying different consequences.

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There appear to be multiple digitisations of the 1907 Manual available on archive.org. (and 1929 as well-just for the keen).  I seem to remember browsing a while back on GWF about officers being cashiered for bouncing cheques and-after MSA, going into a court martial as an officer and being marched out again as a Private.  May be worth locating for the examples.

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4 minutes ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

There appear to be multiple digitisations of the 1907 Manual available on archive.org. (and 1929 as well-just for the keen).  I seem to remember browsing a while back on GWF about officers being cashiered for bouncing cheques and-after MSA, going into a court martial as an officer and being marched out again as a Private.  May be worth locating for the examples.

It’s all in the detail of the sentencing I think.  We need to be able to compare some of them involving imprisonment.

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14 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

As I understand it, if a cashiered officer served his term in prison-and was of military service age when released, then after the Military Service Act he was open to conscription anyway.

Hi Alan

I can see no evidence of conscription, they seem to have rejoined of their own free will, indeed several made specific statements that they were doing so. One officer chose not to rejoin and was not conscripted either! 

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57 minutes ago, FrancesH said:

Hi Alan

I can see no evidence of conscription, they seem to have rejoined of their own free will, indeed several made specific statements that they were doing so. One officer chose not to rejoin and was not conscripted either! 

   Go for it.   My memory may be muddled on this but I am fairly sure there is stuff about cashiering for bounced cheques on a GWF thread-somewhere!

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3 hours ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

   Go for it.   My memory may be muddled on this but I am fairly sure there is stuff about cashiering for bounced cheques on a GWF thread-somewhere!

You're correct in that there was no direct exception under the MSA for men who had been officers and been dismissed, in whatever form.

The MSA 1916 was clearly worded in the details of exceptions to conscription, as it existed under the first implementation of conscription, to be clear that former officers would come under the act.

image.png

The MSA was later amended to adjust the exceptions and open up conscription to more men but there appear to be no further restrictions to prevent former officers from falling under the remit of conscription, where the relevant age criteria etc were met.


Craig

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Thanks Craig.  I think you will know the answer to this problem.   A man enlists for "duration of war".  He is commissioned, then court-martialled (bouncing cheque-whatever). What is then his status?

i)  "Duration of war" obligation-but as an OR

ii)  No obligation to serve-  ie Did his obligation to serve for "duration of war"  cease when he was commissioned-   the old practice that a man was discharged from the army as an OR and then taken up on commissioning?

iii)  Did the obligation serve for "duration of war  continue after commission (or was it part and parcel of wartime commissions anyway??)

Edited by ALAN MCMAHON
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20 minutes ago, ALAN MCMAHON said:

Thanks Craig.  I think you will know the answer to this problem.   A man enlists for "duration of war".  He is commissioned, then court-martialled (bouncing cheque-whatever). What is then his status?

i)  "Duration of war" obligation-but as an OR

ii)  No obligation to serve-  ie Did his obligation to serve for "duration of war"  cease when he was commissioned-   the old practice that a man was discharged from the army as an OR and then taken up on commissioning?

iii)  Did the obligation serve for "duration of war  continue after commission (or was it part and parcel of wartime commissions anyway??)

As I understand it, previous terms of service entirely ceased on the commission, and he was then under the separate terms of engagement with the commission. Once this ceased, then he had no existing terms of service, and so was back to square one. There may have been rules regarding temporary officer war-time commissions and what happened to those men once the commission was over, but I have no idea on that side (I expect anything that did exist would not allow, directly, for an officer who had been effectively sacked to simply return back to the unit).

Craig

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