7 Reforms That Improved the Lives of the Victorian British Soldiers

5. Punishment Reforms


Initially, punishment was one of the worst components of military life. Courts-martial had unrestrained power and overused it at the behest of the leadership of the day. Reforms to bring these excesses under check started way back in 1829 when for the very first time, physical punishment was limited to a maximum of 500 whips. Even a beast would still find it unbearable to take all that lash.

Further reform saw this number reduced severally to an eventual 50 whiplashes in 1846. At around this time, there was also a smaller number of men receiving this sort of punishment. Instead, incarceration slowly started replacing the punishment as a more humane option.

At first, soldiers would be deported to Australia as a form of punishment, ripping them off their right to be with their families at home. This, however, ended with the introduction of more humane alternatives such as imprisonment.

So did branding which remained in use up to 1871. Then it was used no more, followed by flogging which ended completely in 1881.

4. Good Conduct Pay


Logic has it that stressing on the wrong deeds only serve to glorify them. Rewarding good deeds, on the other hand, is a more effective way to promote and encourage proper conduct. This wisdom was conspicuously missing in the early Victorian military establishment. Discipline then focused on punishing awkward behavior and not rewarding good conduct. Changing this state of affairs was one of the main things Howick did.

As Secretary of War, he sought to bring about performance appraisal in the forces by introducing good conduct badges. Ordinary soldiers’ good conduct would be overtly acknowledged and praised. This led it to being a status above the default. It was tremendously humane and yielded pragmatic outcomes and a better disciplinary alternative to the deadly whiplash. There was a good conduct pay that accompanied the title and the prospect of the reward actually heightened good behavior within the forces. Everyone wants material rewards and would do anything to get it.