Witley, January 29, 1917

Monday   Cold & freezing Ordinary routine

Now that the excitement of actually firing was over, the routine consisted of gun drill, route marches, and inspections, together with fatigues and piquets. Writing some fifty years later, Archie Wills said the routine was “enough to drive us to the ‘glass-house’, which was a notorious military prison at Wandsworth, were the worse offenders were straped [sic[ on gunwheels in the fashion of a crucifixion.” (1)

He is describing “Field Punishment Number One.” field-punishment-number-1-cwm

In his “Tommy’s Dictionary,” Arthur Empey defined it thus: “Official name for spread-eagling a man on a limber wheel, two hours a day for twenty-one days. His rations consist of bully beef, water, and biscuits. Tommy calls this punishment ‘Crucifixion,’ especially if he has undergone it.” (2)

It is normally assigned, says Empey, for “repeated  minor offences.” (3) When a sentry was crucified for failing to pass along a warning that a wiring party was in front of the lines and should not be  challenged or fired upon, he said the punishment was very light, “in that failing to pass the word down a trench may mean the loss of many lives, and the spoiling of some important enterprise in No Man’s Land.” (4)

The drawing above is from the collection of the Canadian War Museum: it is identified as the work of Private Thomas Fisher, who has written on in “Tied to the Wheel — Field Punishment

(1) Wills, Archie. “My Life in the Army”. 8. Volume 6 of All in a Lifetime, a typescript autobiography ca 1970. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria. 14
(2) Empey, Arthur Guy. Over the Top by an American Soldier who Went. 1918. 291
(3) Empey. 178
(4) Empey. 38

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”
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