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Description found in Archives
Series part of
Microfilmed between 1950 and 1954
Place of creation
No place, unknown, or undetermined
Scope and content
Series consists of courts martial records compiled during or after the First World War. The Canadian Expeditionary Force was administered and disciplined under military law as codified in the British Army Act, the basic legislation for the Canadian Army until after the Second World War. Under Section 69 of the Canadian Militia Act, all British laws governing Imperial troops in Canada, if they were "not consistent with this Act or the regulations made hereunder, shall have force and effect as if they had been enacted by the Parliament of Canada for the government of the Militia". Thus, except for the rare instances when a Canadian law superseded a portion of it, the Canadian militia was governed by the British Army Act. The Manual of Military Law was the basic guide to the interpretation and application of the Act, and described in detail the range of offenses, trial procedures, and sentences. When a serviceman was charged with a minor offence, it would be dealt with summarily by his commanding officer. If a charge was more serious, or if the individual charged demanded it, the case was dealt with by a military court, known as a court martial. A variety of courts martial could be convened, based on the severity of the offence being tried, which was dependent in part on whether the offence occurred in a combat zone or not. For minor offenses, other ranks were tried in a field general court martial, generally consisting of at least three officers presided over by an officer not below the rank of major. These courts were equivalent to the `district court martial' of peacetime. A general court martial was required for the trial of an officer or of any person accused of a capital offense. It consisted of not less than five officers, presided over by an officer not below the rank of colonel. A legal officer, called a judge advocate, could assist courts martial with respect to points of law. Charges were brought against an individual on application from his unit to the Convening Officer, usually the commander of an infantry brigade or an officer holding an equivalent command. This application would include statements of evidence, the proposed charges, and a certified true copy of the accused soldier's conduct sheet. Common charges included offenses by sentries (ie. absence from his post, sleeping), drunkenness and insubordination, disobedience, desertion, absence without leave, looting, and self-inflicted wounding. Sentences for other ranks included the forfeiture of pay for up to three months; fines (for drunkenness only); stoppages of pay (when damage or loss was occasioned by the commission of an offence); reduction in rank (in case of non-commissioned officers); field punishment; imprisonment (with or without hard labour for a maximum of two years); penal servitude (not for a term less than three years); and death. Possible sentences to which officers were subject included forfeiture of pay, a reprimand, a severe reprimand, penal servitude, imprisonment, dismissal or cashiering (considered more ignominious than simple dismissal). A death sentence required the sanction of the Commander-in-Chief. At least 25 members of the CEF were shot by firing squad (files relating to their courts martial are found in RG24, reel C-5053, MIKAN 140678, R112-609-0-E). The clause in the Army Act providing for the death penalty was only amended in 1930 (20 Geo V, c.22, part II). Afterwards, only treachery or mutiny, and no longer desertion or cowardice, as had been the case during the First War, were punishable by death. Various forms are present on a court martial file. They include Army Form A47, "Form of Order for the Assembly of a General or District Court Martial"; Army Form A3, "Assembly and Proceedings of a Field General Court Martial on Active Service". They can also include Army Form B116, "Form of Application for a Court Martial". For courts martial in the United Kingdom, Army Form A9, "Form of Proceedings for General, District and Regimental Courts Martial", is used. Files often contain the form B296, "Statement as to Character and Particulars of Service of Accused". Other documentation present includes covering notes and memos; conduct and charge sheets; and written statements from witnesses. Because sentences had to be confirmed at higher levels, the paper trail extended from unit to brigade to division to the Canadian Corps to the level of the British Army.
Copyright belongs to the Crown.
Finding aid 150-5 is a computer generated list sorted by reel number. Listed are the reel number, file number, file title and outside dates. A detailed outline of the most common offenses under the Army Act can be found with the printed paper copy of the finding aid. Database available on Library and Archives Canada Web site. 150-5 (Electronic)
Dates of creation note
1. Courts-martial and courts of inquiry Canada.
2. Cours martiales et tribunaux d'enquête Canada.
3. Canada. Ministry, Overseas Military Forces of Canada
Related control no.
1. 1989-90/100 GAD
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