On being Crimed 99 in the Army. THE YPRES TIMES 135 ONE thing that must have impressed and sometimes amused many of us on quitting civil life for military service during the war was the subject of "crime" in the Army. I had been joined up but a few days when one morning, whilst tidying up the hut in which I had been appointed orderly, the camp sergeant-major stepped in to have a look round. On learning that I was a raw recruit he gave me some hints about the keeping of a hutHow essential it was to cleanliness to have the floor swept as often as need beHow imperative it was that all tins and platters and such like things be washed and polished and put away or hung in their appointed places. I appreciated his remarks until, on turning to move away, he advised me to be careful and not "drop into crime." In my greenness I hastened to inform him that I was not in the habit of committing crimes, at which rejoinder he smiled faintly, and remarked that of course crime in the Army was a somewhat different thing from the samples of it reported in the daily newspapersand, with a further observation to the effect that I would soon be shedding all my civilianism, he took his leave. The Army, I found, winked at sin but punished crime. There appeared to be a difference. Any act that tended directly to lower discipline was a crime. Language the most blasphemous could be indulged in with impunity, but if a man lost his cap badge he was taken under escort before his C.O., and if no good explanation of its disappearance was forthcoming he paid the penalty by forfeiting, let us say, two days' pay, and, in addition, the cost of a new cap badge was charged to his account; and all this because he could not produce an article of Government property which as likely as not his neighbour had pinched from him. Again, of an evening, some half-dozen soldiers might have been seen under going hard drill for a couple of hours under a corporal. Like the bad schoolboy who. gets extra lines to commit to memory, these men, in expiation of their crimes," were sentenced to extra drills. In full accoutrement they are manoeuvred and marched about keeping the parade ground warm for various offences. One of the men had probably come on parade the previous morning with a three days' growth on his chin; another may have been found with a dirty rifle, while a third, imagining that he was unwell, had gone sick the day before. The M.O., however, certifying him to be quite well, he is promptly crimed for thinking he wasn't, and is made to pay for his mistake. These are, perhaps, a few of the lesser crimes in the Army code, but between these and the great capital crime of desertion, there are varying offences, such as drunkenness, late for parade, insubordination, etc., with corresponding penalties for the delinquents. And not many escaped with a clean sheet during their term of service. In the eye of the military no man is faultless, which of course is good horse sense. A fault is as essential to the man as his pay-book. He may be able to conceal it for a time; it may be stowed away in his haversack with his Field- Marshal's baton, but sooner or later it is brought to light. If, however, by some mischance any man should have joined up without a fault, you may be sure the sergeant would have no difficulty in finding one for him. To put it in a sentence, the Army looked for crime. A watchful eye was there fore kept upon the troops' illicities, and that "non-com." was suspect if he had no crimes to report over a given period. He was lax with wrong-doers and would no doubt be interrogated closely by his superiors. Pondering this, one sees there is logic in it. Where large numbers of men are gathered together under such conditions and such stern control, breaches of


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1929 | | pagina 9