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13th April 2005Would you arm soldiers under arrest in a crisis ?
By Coll
I know it seems like there would be an obvious answer to this, especially if the soldier(s) were part of a force being attacked by an enemy which greatly outnumbered them, but being aware of the strict rules in the military, particularly in Victorian times, would these rules prevent this sort of decision being made, meaning prisoners could not assist in the fighting ?.

Using Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift as examples, surely when opposed by an army of many thousands, any soldiers who may have been arrested (for any offences) would be allowed to assist in the defence of the camp or the buildings at Rorke's Drift.

14th April 2005Derek C
This happened to Breaker Morant ..... "During the court proceedings, the Boers attacked Pietersburg where the trial was being held. The accused men fought bravely and the Boer attack was defeated. It made no difference to the outcome of the trial."
Morant was on trial for mudrer!
15th April 2005Coll
Derek C

Yes. If I remember correctly, there was a film based on this trial called 'Breaker Morant' starring Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown.

15th April 2005Mike Snook
yes but Coll, I presume you know all that tosh about Hook in Zulu is absolutely untrue?

15th April 2005Coll

Yes. I was curious though, after Bromhead (Michael Caine obviously) started ranting about Queen's Regulations (I think) regarding the character Hook, and it made me wonder, if the situation called for it, would these specific regulations be ignored, at least till the event had passed, to let a soldier under arrest, participate in a battle alongside his mates.

16th April 2005Derek C
I would imagine that the "enemy situation" as well as the "crimes" of the accused, would have to be considered in the heat of the moment. A suspected traitor would probably remain under lock & key, but possibly, a sharp shooter under arrest for say AWOL, would probably be set free to assist?
16th April 2005Coll

I agree.

However, I'm sure there were companies or even larger forces, consisting of prisoners only, who were used in the most dangerous environments, with promises of being allowed to help themselves to any loot, etc., that they found. More or less given a free hand to do what they wanted after that particular battle was over.

This was not associated with britain, but there was a regiment (don't know it's name) I think used by the germans during W.W.2. for that specific purpose.

There is a chance that such units were used in many other campaigns through time by different countries, possibly unwilling to sacrifice quality soldiers, in what was more than likely suicide missions, with a very low percentage of a successful outcome.

17th April 2005Colin
Also guys, the 20th Maine (Union) on the 2nd day of Gettysburg had over 100 "desterters" with them.

All but 2 took part in the defence of Little Round Top and made a big contribution in stopping the Confederate forces sweeping over Round Top and behind the main Union Army. If this had not happened it is likely that the rebel army would have won the battle on the 2nd day, rather than lost it on the 3rd, and the whole American Civil War may have had a very different outcome.