Encyclopedia - Field Punishment No. 1

1917 War Office diagram of the appropriate means of implementing Field Punishment No. 1 Field Punishment No. 1 comprised a British Army punishment imposed for minor offences such as drunkenness, and was often applied during the First World War.

A most humiliating form of punishment which continued into the late 1920s, Field Punishment No.1 saw the soldier in question attached standing full-length to a fixed object - either a post or a gun wheel - for up to two hours a day (often one hour in the morning and another in the afternoon) for a maximum of 21 days.   An earlier punishment by flogging had been earlier abolished within the British Army in 1881.

Stories abound of soldiers positioned to face the enemy lines, invariably out of range of enemy fire but allegedly not always so.  If exposed to open sunshine this form of punishment proved ever more discomforting, quite aside from the constant problem of trench lice.  If the soldier in question started to sag while attached to the post he would often be checked by military police.

Similarly stories persisted of commanding officers who abused regulations governing such punishment by tying soldiers' hands behind their back and suspending them by a rope tied around their wrists, their feet barely touching the ground.  In part to overcome such stories the War Office in London issued an advisory in 1917 to "all General Officers Commanding-in-Chief, Abroad" which specifically stated the form the punishment must take (see below).

12th January 1917


I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that they have had under consideration the question of the method of carrying out Field Punishment No. 1, with special reference to paragraphs 2 (b) and 2 (c) of the Rules for Field Punishment (Manual of Military Law, page 721), and they have decided that, with a view to standardising the method in accordance with which a soldier may be attached to a fixed object, the following instructions will, in future, be strictly adhered to:-

With reference to paragraph 2 (b), the soldier must be attached so as to be standing firmly on his feet, which if tied, must not be more than twelve inches apart, and it must be possible for him to move each foot at least three inches.  If he is tied round the body there must be no restriction of his breathing.  If his arms or wrists are tied, there must be six inches of play between them and the fixed object.  His arms must hang either by the side of his body or behind his back.

With reference to paragraph 2 (c), irons should be used when available, but straps or ropes may be used in lieu of them when necessary.  Any straps or ropes used for this purpose must be of sufficient width that they inflict no bodily harm, and leave no permanent mark on the offender.

Although chiefly applied by the British Army, Field Punishment No. 1 was also occasionally implemented by Australian forces.

An Armlet was a cloth band worn around the arm to identify a particular duty or function.

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