Crucifying Tommy: punishment in the First World War

Emsley, Clive (2012). Crucifying Tommy: punishment in the First World War. History Today, 62(11) pp. 29–35.



The outrage at the execution of soldiers for cowardice during the First World War continues to this day. This article focusses on the less well-known Field Punishment Number 1 which generated considerable scandal during the war. The punishment, initially devised to replace flogging, appears to have been given additional refinements by individual units so that, by 1914 it resembled crucifixion with men being tied to wheels and sometimes left during bombardments. The article explores the effect of the press and popular outrage on the Army Council leading to the eventual decision to regularise the practice, removing the brutal refinements, and then abolish the punishment.

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