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Oakville soldiers in the 164th: James Gann

James Gann (1882-1941) was born in Winnipeg. He was a railroad worker in Oakville when he was attested in the 164th Battalion, 17 December 1915. He went with them to England, and 1 December 1917 he joined the 3rd Battalion, CEF. 2 March 1918 he was granted 14 days leave in Paris. He didn’t return when his leave expired, and the Military Police arrested him on the 20th. He was confined for ten days, then tried by Field General Court Martial, sentenced to Field Punishment No. 1 for 42 days, and loss of pay for six days.

Record of Gann’s court martial, in his service record.

Field Punishment No. 1 is explained in Major E.W. Pope’s Canadian officer’s guide to the study of military law (1916): (a) He may be kept in irons, i.e. in fetters or handcuffs, or both fetters and handcuffs; and may be secured so as to prevent his escape. (b) When in irons he may be attached for a period or periods not exceeding two hours in any one day to a fixed object, but he must not be so attached during more than three out of any four consecutive days, nor during more than twenty-one days in all. (c) Straps or ropes may be used for the purpose of these rules in lieu of irons.

Source uncertain, perhaps from a helpful manual. Field Punishment No. 1 was sometimes called the soldier’s crucifixion

The manual helpfully suggests that ‘it has been found advisable to carry out this punishment in as public a place as possible’. The soldier would still do his normal duties, as well as the extra duties like sanitary work that were given to defaulters. The punishments were not carried out when the unit was on trench duty.

Private Gann must somehow have impressed his superiors, since he was sentenced to double the normal duration for this punishment. His troubles were not yet over. On September 6th he received gun shot wounds that would leave scars on his arms and body. He was hospitalized, and after returning to Canada was eventually discharged 3 April 1919.

In April 1930, under the name John Joseph Gaughan, he married Mary Boyce in Winnipeg. He died in Deer Lodge Hospital, St James, Manitoba, 3 December 1941.

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