Home » 1916 » Field Punishment No.1 – April 1916, Neuve Chapelle

Field Punishment No.1 – April 1916, Neuve Chapelle

Neuve Chapelle, France (April 1916)

When we were going into the line for the first time at Neuve Chapelle, there’s a bloke fastened to a cartwheel, his legs and arms were out in the sun. It was a punishment for something, like insubordination to an officer.

They were just making a mug of the lad; showing you that you were not to be a naughty boy. He was fastened to a limber wheel.

They called it Field Punishment No.1.

You were shackled in irons to a fixed object – a limber wheel usually served the purpose well. You were only meant to be up there for two hours at a time in 24 and not for more than three days in four and not for more than 21 days.

There were notices up about these fellows who were executed for desertion.

And that’s how went into the line; you can imagine that cheered us up no end.

There was no real action when I was there; no one went over. There was sporadic shelling, otherwise it was quiet. They were getting ready for the Somme do, which started on the first of July. All the guns and everything were being massed down there.

We were rookies.

The staff aren’t going to put untried soldiers into a spot that’s on fire. There was a Sap and sandbags and a machine gun and you sat and watched them. Perhaps a few shells came over – a few trench mortars, that sort of thing. We called them ‘Minnies’ because they were fired from a mortar gun, what the Germans called Minenwerfers or ‘mine-throwers.’ You’d have to be unlucky to be killed by one of those; it would have to land at your feet or on your head. So long as you pressed yourself into the side of the trench you’d be fine.

Artillerymen move a Minenwerfer into a firing position

They wanted to soften us up a bit.

We did things like putting a helmet over the parapet on the end of a stick to see what would happen.

We practised crossfire with the machine-guns and getting as many rounds off as possible in a minute to mimic an attack.

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