HC Deb 20 July 1847 vol 94 cc607-8

moved— For a Return of the number of Soldiers of Her Majesty's Land Forces, Cavalry and Infantry, that have been marked as deserters, in each of the last three years; also, a Copy of any General Orders by the Commander of the Forces respecting marking, now in force; similar Return for the Marino Forces (if any); And similar Return for the Navy (if any). The hon. Member, said he did not know until recently that the practice of branding—not burning, but marking—deserters existed in the Army; but it appeared that an order had been issued by the Horse Guards directing that they should be branded or punctured with the letter "D" indelibly impressed. He was aware that it was very important to discountenance desertion in the regular Army; at the same time he thought it very discreditable to mark men as beasts were marked. He did not know whether the practice existed in the Marines and Navy.


said, he had expected that the returns, to which there was no objection, would have been moved by his hon. Friend without any observation; but as his hon. Friend had made some remarks, he would make a short statement to the House upon the subject of marking deserters. No doubt, many years ago there did exist a very improper practice of branding men for desertion, that was, after a man deserted a number of times; but this was never done without a sentence of a court-martial, never at the discretion of the commanding officer. The House would see that it was absolutely necessary that some means should exist by which a man practising desertion should be known again; and no other means had been discovered, especially since the lash had been discouraged, but that of marking the man with the letter "D," which was nothing more than a kind of tattooing, which sailors voluntarily underwent. The deserter was tattooed with the letter "D" by the point of a needle fixed in cork. He had no objection to the returns moved for, and a copy of the order from the Horse Guards should be included.

Motion agreed to.