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Punishment in the British army in 18 Century

Reading the book "Man of Honour -- Jack Steel: for queen and Country" by Iain Gale.

This is a story of lieutenant Jack Steel , a gentleman, a soldier, and a hero. The battle happened in Upper Bavaria, 1704. The enemy was Louis XIV of France, a megalomaniac intent on possessing all Europe. Lieutenant Jack Steel leads his men, the finest infantry in Queen Anne's army, through the battle of Blenheim, risking death and destruction in the fight against the tyrant.

In chapter three, the author wrote about the rules and punishment in the British army in 18 century. Through lieutenant Jack Steel's observation and feeling, the author presented for us a horrible scene of brutality and barbarian.

In the army, every major or captain has the responsibility of telling every man in his company that if one of them steals so much as an egg they will be either hanged or flogged without mercy.

All men found gathering peas or beans or under pretence of rooting to be hanged as marauders without trial.

There were clear distinctions between what merited 'severe punishment', 'most severe' and 'the utmost punishment'.

Flogging, like the other common forms, was brutal and barbaric. A flogging was not the worst punishment that the army had to offer. There was death, of course, by shooting, hanging or breaking on the wheel - in which your bones were smashed with an iron bar before you were cut down and left in the dust of the parade ground to die slowly and in unimaginable agnoy, or until a merciful officer put his pistol to your head and blew your brains to the air. There other ingenious punishments to suit particular crimes.

There was the whirligig, in which the prisoner was place in a wooden cage that was then spun on a spindle until he was so dizzy that at the least he suffered vomiting, involuntary defecation, urination and blinding headaches. At worst he would experience apoplectic seizures, internal bleeding and possibly death.

Then there was the wooden horse on which the convicted man was compelled to sit astride while weights were gradually attached to each foot. It didn't help is your victim happened to be among those administering the punishment, as so often seemed to be the case. It was said that a prolonged spell on the wooden horse could bring about rupture and destroy forever your chances of fathering a family.

Everything in the army worked only by example, and that meant punishing some poor bugger today, whether or not he really was a thief.

In once scene, two soldier convicted stolen, and they were going to be flogged. But it's the custom that when the army was in the field, desperately attempting to preserve its manpower while unable to forgo military justice, only one man to be punished. So the two men drew lots to determine who would receive the flogging. The winner returned to the ranks and stood smiling with grim satisfaction as he watched his partner in crime led out to be punished.

The convicted soldier stood between the Grenadiers of the escort with his head hanging down, staring at his feet, waiting for the inevitable. He had been stripped to the waist and his hands bound, ready to receive punishment, and the white of his thin flesh shone horribly stark and raw against the massed red coats of the parade and the grey of the unforgiving morning.


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