HC Deb 07 November 1916 vol 87 cc20-2

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a punishment known to soldiers as "crucifixion" is being inflicted on British soldiers as a penalty for losing their gas helmets; whether he is aware that the punishment in question has resulted in the death of at least one soldier, a man of forty years who gave up a good professional position to join the Army; and will he take steps to prevent the infliction of this punishment?

22. Commander WEDGWOOD

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in connection with the field punishments of our men at the front, he will say if men are or ever have been during this War in the British Army punished by being tied, neck, waist, hands, and feet, to cartwheels; whether a man has died while fastened thus; and whether he will issue instructions that degrading or painful forms of punishment are absolutely forbidden and will result in future in the court-martialling of the officer concerned?


I would refer the hon. Members to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the right hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division and to the hon. Member for South Carnarvonshire on the 2nd instant. The Army Council are waiting to be furnished with the name, number, and regiment of the soldier who is alleged to have died under the circumstances suggested.


Is it not possible by departmental action to prevent this form of punishment, field punishment No. 2, being used in any case, and so avoid the scandal of these cases altogether?


I am still awaiting information with regard to this particular case. I am not aware that there has been a case of this kind.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the publication by Mr. Blatchford in one of the Sunday papers of this case has caused a great deal of unrest throughout the country, and will he undertake to have the paper prosecuted if the statement is not true?


Or is it only a certain section who are now prosecuted for prejudicing recruiting?

Commander WEDGWOOD

Can I have an answer to that question?


I am not quite sure—


I sent it to the right hon. Gentleman.


I agree that the publication of a matter of this kind is very damaging, and we have asked that particulars should be given, but up to the present we have not had them. When the facts are known we shall have to consider what steps we should take.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Why has not the case been denied before now? It is scandalous.