It is difficult to imagine the shock with which the British public heard in 1854 of the disgraceful behaviour of the officers of the 46th Regiment of Foot. A young officer had been unmercifully bullied by a brother officer and, at last driven to defend himself, had struck the bully. A court-martial followed but, to the amazement of all reasonable persons, the officer charged was the victim and not the bully.
Despite the orders of the court that nothing should be reported, every word was recorded by a Correspondent of The Times and published in that newspaper. So, the world learned of the goings-on in the officers’ quarters and mess of this line regiment. Drunkenness was rife, and gambling was common. Women were brought back into barracks – an offence which would have brought the most severe punishment to any private soldier guilty of such an act. And any officer who did not quite “fit”- for lack of means or social background – were treated i with disdain.
The reports provoked national outrage. That public pressure then led to two more courts-martial, including that of the bully.
The scandal unfolded against the background of the Crimean War on Russia. As a result this regiment, apart from a small contingent, was held back in Britain and eventually arrived after the war’s three major battles, the Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman had already been fought. A shaming experience for any regiment.
Finally, the results of the three courts-martial provided a last shock. You will not read this true story of the reality behind the smart facade of the Victorian army without yourself being outraged.
WINDSOR COURT-MARTIAL: Drunkenness, Gambling, Whoring and Bullying in the Victorian Army
This revealing book uncovers a barracks scandal in the Victorian army at the height of the Crimean War. Major Colin Robins, an expert on the Crimean conflict, tells a shocking true story of bullying, snobbery, whoring and drunkenness that caused three court-martials and a regiment’s public disgrace.