Punishment during World War One

Lesson Rationale

In this activity, students will gain an insight into military discipline and to consider the nature of crime and punishment during World War One. In addition, they will discuss and make judgements on the highly contentious issue of whether those sentenced to death during the war should be pardoned.

Please note that some of the images are of bodies – the images are not degrading or gruesome but they are genuine. Please consider the nature of your presentation of these contents and the responses of the students.

Key questions

  • What do the statistics suggest about numbers and distribution of military police? Why was this?
  • What were the most common reasons for court martial?
  • What were the most common sentences passed?
  • What similarities and differences were there between the alleged offences and treatment of officers and soldiers and Imperial/colonial troops?
  • What percentage of death sentences were carried out? Why?
  • What does the evidence show about how crime and punishment changes in a war situation?
  • Should soldiers sentenced to death during the war be pardoned?