"When it is decided to tie a prisoner to a fixed object, it has been found advisable to carry out this punishment in as public a place as possible." - The Canadian Officer's Guide to the Study of Military Law, by Major E.W. Pope, The RCR, 1916
Many old soldiers like to talk about the "good old days" when, in their hazy remembrance, soldiers were more disciplined, less likely to question any aspect of military life, and worked and played harder. While the achievements of the Canadian Army in the Balkans throughout the 1990s and Afghanistan in the past decade certainly prove that today's soldiers are as effective as any previous generation in their own time, the idea that soldiers "play" less hard is more a distortion of the effects of the cultural shift away from acceptance of drinking as a sport or hard drinking an expected ability, by some, of a professional soldier. These changes have not diminished the Canadian soldier's ability to make Canadians proud of their service at home and abroad, but we easily forget that one of the aspects of maintaining discipline in days past was harsher punishments in the military justice system.
In the 1980s, a soldier caught with marijuana might face 30 days or more in military jail, while his civilian counterpart might receive a few hundred dollars fine from a local civil court. Turning the clock back further, we find that the most common punishment handed out at summary trials during the First World War, those expedient trials run by Officers commanding Battalions or Companies, was Field Punishment No. 1.
The following excerpt from The Canadian Officer's Guide to the Study of Military Law, by Major E. W. Pope, The Royal Canadian Regiment (Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1916), provides a description of this style of punishment.
CHAPTER XIV - RULES FOR FIELD PUNISHMENT AND THE KEEPING OF CONDUCT SHEETS
(See M.M.L. p. 721, and F.S.R. Pt. II, chapter on "Discipline")
109. I. For any offence committed on active service an offender may be sentenced, by his commanding officer, to twenty-eight days' Field Punishment, and by a Court Martial to three months'
Field Punishment is of two kinds:
(a) Field Punishment No. 1.
(b) Field Punishment No. 2.
2. Where an offender is sentenced to Field Punishment No. I, he may, during the continuance of his sentence, unless the Court Martial or the commanding Officer otherwise directs, be punished as follows:
(a) He may be kept in irons, i.e. in fetters or handcuffs, or both fetters and handcuffs; and may be secured so as to prevent his escape.
(b) When in irons he may be attached for a period or periods not exceeding two hours in anyone day to a fixed object, but he must not be so attached during more than three out of any four consecutive days, nor during more than twenty-one days in all.
(c) Straps or ropes may be used for the purpose of these rules in lieu of irons.
(d) He may be subjected to the like labour, employment, and restraint, and dealt with in like manner, as if he were under a sentence of imprisonment with hard labour.
3. Where an offender is sentenced to Field Punishment No. 2, the foregoing rule with respect to Field Punishment No. 1 shall apply to him, except that he shall not be liable to be attached to a fixed object as provided by paragraph (b) of Rule 2.
4. Every portion of a Field Punishment shall be inflicted in such a manner as is calculated not to cause injury or to leave any permanent mark on the offender; and a portion of a Field Punishment must be discontinued upon a report by a responsible medical officer that the continuance of that portion would be prejudicial to the offender's health.
5. Field Punishment will be carried out regimentally when the unit to which the offender belongs or is attached is actually on the move, but when the unit is halted at any place where there is a provost marshal or an assistant provost marshal the punishment will be carried out under that officer.
6. When the unit to which the offender belongs or is attached is actually on the move, an offender awarded Field Punishment No. 1 shall be exempt from the operation of Rule 2. (b), but all offenders awarded Field Punishment shall march with their unit, carry their arms and accoutrements, perform all their military duties as well as extra fatigue duties, and be treated as defaulters.
110. Method of carrying out Field Punishment. Although it has not been considered advisable to allow Field Punishment No. 1 to be administered in the United Kingdom, it is the punishment most frequently met with in the theatre of war. It is easily carried out, if the proper procedure is understood, and has been administered with excellent results. It must be remembered for obvious reasons that a man undergoing Field Punishment does not thereby miss his tour of duty in the trenches. No punishments are carried out when the unit is actually on trench duty, and since the sentence runs concurrently with this duty due attention should be paid to this point by the Commanding Officer in making his award. Many officers have an idea that Field Punishment No. I consists in merely tying a prisoner to a fixed object for a certain length of time each day. This is quite wrong. The proper system is to make a man sentenced to this punishment do all the fatigues and sanitary work possible in the vicinity of the billets which his unit is occupying, with a view to relieving well-conducted men there-from. Then when there is nothing left for him to do of that nature, he can be tied to a fixed object for a period not exceeding two hours daily. When it is decided to tie a prisoner to a fixed object, it has been found advisable to carry out this punishment in as public a place as possible.