Mutiny, desertion and the ultimate punishment

Mutiny was the gravest military crime, for it struck at the very heart of military discipline, and desertion was not far behind for similar reasons. Nearly all armies executed malefactors. Sometimes the purpose was to act as a warning or deterrent to others, with the justice of sentences passed on individuals of less importance than the disciplinary needs of the army. There were certainly cases, perhaps numerous ones, of psychiatric casualties (soldiers who have sustained mental wounds) being shot. Civilian justice and military discipline served two different purposes. Germany used the ultimate penalty sparingly: only 48 of 150 death sentences were carried out. The numbers shot by the French army are unknown, as they included some summary executions, but the shooting of 600 (out of 2,000 condemned) are documented. However, in the aftermath of the mutinies of 1917, while 554 men were sentenced to death, only 49 were executed. The British executed 321 for military offences, plus an unknown number of Indian soldiers. The Australian government refused to allow death sentences to be carried out on their men, otherwise subject to British military law. Punishments were particularly savage in the Italian army. They included ‘decimation’, choosing soldiers by lot from a unit that had failed in some way, and executing them. A favoured policy of General Luigi Cardona, it was discontinued by his successor as de facto Commander-in-Chief, General Armando Diaz, seeking to restore the morale of the army after the disaster at Caporetto in 1917. Some 750 Italian soldiers were shot. – See more at: http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/military-discipline#sthash.y2rzkJUI.dpuf

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