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DateOriginal Topic
19th August 2003Crime and Punishment in Zululand?
By Glenn Wade
If a soldier committed a crime in Southern Africa, who would have he been sent to? Was there a specific rank that delt with these matters? I know that aboard a ship there is/was a 'Master at Arms' but was there such a rank in the British army in Zululand?
Cheers Lads!
20th August 2003Keith Smith

There is some evidence that there were Military Police even at that time (both Ron Lock and myself are ex-Redcaps!):
" Military Police.
1 Sergeant at 8d., and 3 men at 4d., from the 2nd January, 1879, for duties at Utrecht." General Order No. 27 of 10th February, 1879, Times of Natal, 10th February.
Many transgressions were dealt with by commanding officers in the various units and punishment could range from fines, demotion and even a flogging. I am unsure if there were any military prisons but I am certain that the usual 'jankers' were used. There are lots of examples of these in Norman Holmes' various works, including 'The Noble 24th'.

21st August 2003Mike McCabe
In 1877 the Military Mounted Police (MMP) were established for service at home and abroad, and in 1882 the Military Foot Police (MFP) were raised for service in Egypt. They did not, however, become a permanent corps for service at home until 1885. Originally, the MMP and the MFP were two distinct organisations, each with its own promotion rosters, but essentially all part of one organisation. The first large scale deployments of formed bodies of Military Policemen being employed in roles comparable with those of military policemen were in WW1.

The MMP appear to have remained based in the Aldershot Garrison area for the first decades of their existence, and I'm unaware of whether any formed bodies of military police deployed on operations before the Boer War or WW1.

Interestingly, it appearsthat the South African Field Force did not have a Provost Marshal appointed before May 1879, and then it was Lt Col Brewster KDG rather than a 'capbadged' military policeman. Could that partly be because they did not earn rank as commissioned officers until later, I wonder?
21st August 2003Keith Smith

I'd very much like to learn your source(s) for Lt.-Col. Brewster in order to be able to examine the topic a lilttle more widely. He doesn't rate a mention in Mackinnon and Shadbolt.
22nd August 2003Mike McCabe
See the 'Narrative', page 146 (Greenhill Books Edition). It's not always reliable, I agree.
25th August 2003rai england
Flogging on campaign was still allowed during the Zulu War a great illustration of this appears in the Penny illustrated paper this also appears in one of Ian Knight's books, also Cape Town Castle was used as a jail. Punishment was very much left to the regimental officers fines, flogging, loss of pay.
26th August 2003Mike McCabe
Lest anybody think from the above that punishing soldiers had some sort of 'reacreational' character to it, there were such things as the Articles of War and the various 'Service Discipline' Acts, which were simply specialist areas of law in the overall UK national code of law. Until the later and more widespread delegation of powers to sub unit commanders to deal with disciplinary matters 'summarily', powers of punishment
were usually vested in 'Regimental' Courts Martial (the system had to be able to function during the probable absence of company commanders on leave), regularly convened under one or other of the Battalion Majors (or sometimes Captains) - with the Adjutant prosecuting - to try soldiers for offences. Serious cases might appear in front of the Commanding Officer, or a District or General Court Martial. This was more often resorted to for more serious, or 'prevalent', offences with the express purpose of securing a more serious punishment for offenders. At the unit level, punishments awarded were often quite minor. The damage to promotion chances of having a 'conduct sheet' - and possible loss of much valued (and pay earning) good conduct stripes - were often perceived as very real sanctions in themselves (especially in the Indian Army, and the more professional regiments). In the last quarter of the 19th century, soldiers were very much aware of personal reputation.