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The offences register 1852-1854

In the year 1853, Pte James Wilkie, aged 14, of No. 3 Company was reported for 'committing a nuisance in front of the vestibule' for which he was sentenced to three days work and CSJ. Three days work is understandable. CSJ is believed to be an abbreviation for 'cross step jumping', but what does that mean? CSJ is identified in the punishment register (Document WO 143/53, p 52 line 17). Until a better explanation is forthcoming, Peter Goble, who analysed the register, considers this had to do with a standard exercise that boys had to do at physical training (or PT) lessons.

From a standing position, boys were required to jump and land with their feet about 18 inches apart, their arms at shoulder height and level, pointing sideways and parallel with the ground.

Vestibule of the RMA in front of which one boy was reported 'committing a nuisance' for which his sentence was 'three days work and Cross Step Jumping'
On the second jump, they were to land to the attention position. On the third jump they again landed with feet are apart, but with the hands clasped above the head. This sequence or movements and positions was repeated as required.

Extra work and CSJ was the least onerous of punishments meted out to boys for the offences they committed. Offences committed and punishments received fell into many categories. For instance, among offences committed we find these categories – or variations of them: neglect of duty; of dirty appearance – shoes or uniform; stubbornness; inattention at drill; talking at drill; talking in chapel; not eating one's cabbage, meat (or other delectable food); playing chess-marbles-reading or making bread rings on a Sunday; being absent from the bath, from washing or from work; making an unnecessary noise in chapel, [eructation is the polite word for 'breaking wind'], which could be the same noise made when "he Broke wind over ……"? No offence was more onerous and, hence, the saddest, as boys who wet or dirtied their bed. Instead of being cured with assistance and understanding, such boys were punished and, in some instances, ridiculed.

Punishments varied to a considerable degree from one days extra drill or extra work at a boy's trade to time spent in the black hole and cuts or stripes delivered across a boy's posterior or backside. The black hole was a place of isolation described in the ledger simply as the black hole. Yes it is know that it was not entirely windowless because one boy piddled through the window and had extra time added to his punishment.

The largest number of stripes awarded for a single 'crime' was 24. On some occasions, depending on the offence, stripes were given in full view of the school (see A flippant solution elsewhere in this record. Sometimes, pay was withheld, normally for junior NCOs who failed in their duties either by neglect or failing to prevent boys from misbehaving. Many combinations of punishments were awarded to defaulters, the most common being days drill, extra work and CSJ.

One might assume that as a percentage of the total population, the entries in the punishment register would be small. Such an assumption would be wrong. Some boys are entered repeatedly. The case of Enos Seth (see The sins of Pte Enos Seth and deeds of Staff Surgeon Thomas G. Balfour has already appeared in these pages. He had 18 entries during a 23 month period. Other boys had in excess of 30 entries in the register.

The ledger is more than a simple record of names, offences and punishments. It gives all sorts of information that is not obvious from other documents. Frequent mention is made of 'the green', which was a large area of grass in from of the main entrance where the boys were allowed to use for recreational purposes. There was a walnut tree somewhere on the perimeter of the property. When nuts were in season, the walnut tree attracted boys as iron filings to a magnet and many an extra drill – and some cuts – were awarded to boys found throwing sticks and stones to dislodge the nuts. Then there was the 'commandant's gate', the 'surgeon's gate, and the 'garden gate' all posts along with the vestibule and hall at which a boy dressed in a frock coat did duty.

The books are also indicative of various duties assigned to boys. Dining room orderlies, for example, cleaning parades – boys under the control of a corporal cleaned the classrooms, lit the fires and tried not to leave coal dust where other boys had been cleaning and dusting. There were servants parades, for every member of the senior staff had a 'boy' servant. [Dr. Balfour is noted as dismissing one who failed to meet his expectations (Pte Enos SETH)] The Asylum also had a piquet, which was thought to have formed a security patrol, a fire patrol perhaps. At this time, lighting was by means of coal gas and, boys being boys, there are several cases on the books of boys playing with the gas lamps, burning paper.

It is interesting to observe that boys of the institution in the 1850s had little to occupy their recreational time, no games other than those they created for themselves were available to them. It was a life of work, school, cleaning chores and duty rosters, so no wonder they got up to any kind of mischief. Many a boy made use of the stone bath before it was their company's time, reflecting later during extra drill that it was worth it.

Although there is no mention of toys or play in any of the documents available for study, several boys were 'caught playing in the ranks', playing marbles on the floor, others 'skipping in the hall with no shoes on', and another of lying on the 'green' and refusing to obey orders, which one interprets as being told to get up and not doing so. One boy was caught with 'bones hidden in his jacket'; another with being caught with bones in his bed. The same boy, one Sanders, was punished for asking another boy to assist in collecting bones. Nor is this obsession with bones as macabre as it might seem, for flat 'rib-like' bones were prized possessions for use as knick-knack tappers – quite unknown to the children of today.

Two flat bones were ideal for use as a source of musical percussion. One bone held between the thumb and forefinger with another gripped between the forefinger and second was the standard hold. A deft flick of the wrist and the bones would clack-clack merrily in time and tempo to the beat of the latest song. Here one must introduce Cpl Issett who had a week's pay deducted for 'singing in loud manner in the hot house.' One must surmise that the rest of he company joined in the chorus because, in the commandant's words, written in the ledger, "The whole Company to receive 4 hours extra drill." As the largest number of boys discovered in the Company Number entries is 86 almost a quarter of the institution's population will have been on defaulters for that day. This mass criminality was also noted on the 7 October 1853 when three boys destroyed their bibles and a further 21 destroyed their prayer books. This is not the sort of behaviour expected of children who received religious instruction at Morning Prayer, at Evening Prayer, at Catechism lectures, and religious instruction from the minister. The trigger for this moment of madness has yet to be discovered.

Analyzing the punishment registers, one is left with strong impressions and a few smiles. For instance, hilarious 'crimes' and their 'attendant' punishments are good for a smile:

The youngest criminal, J. RENNISON, for 'Not eating his meat & pudding at dinner time' was awarded 7 days extra drill; the oddest, T. KENDALL for 'Making water out of the Black Hole Window' got an extra four hours confinement in the black hole; the funniest was J. McINNIS who, for 'Breaking wind over Mr. Gales head' got work 4 days and CSJ; while in the 'cabbages & kings' category, J. SOFFE, for 'Throwing his cabbage at the Sgt Major' got 'four hours in the black hole', which seems rather severe. 

The enemy within as far as the boys of the Asylum were concerned were Sergeants WATT,  O’GRADY, FARQUHAR, MILLIGAN  MARTIN, FRASER, JEFFERIES, LOVE, MARLOW, MARSH and MARTIN are all names that tally with the Admission ledger, were in fact boys of the RMA. The gimlet eyed Sgt Major, a much feared personage, missed nothing, for he was aware of every trick with which the boys tested him. Alongside him, one might mention the Quartermaster, the Quartermaster Sgt, Adjutant and, odd as it may see, Dr. Balfour,  Dr. Du Sautoy and some the Master Tradesmen who were part of the permanent staff.

One can conclude that the boys at the RMA were kept busy for a reason. Any free time was spent on extra duties there being several Martinets to ensure that the labour force did not diminish. Strict discipline was a necessary evil, with over 300 boys confined in the building, staggered bath, washing and dining times, and strict discipline was necessary. Movement in the building, up and down stairs from classroom, to dormitory, to dining room, etc  was a constant motion of  boys on the march to a strict schedule. Even so with eagle-eyed NCOs in charge of companies and squads it didn’t stop the occasional "Running away from the squad when marching from the dining hall" or "spitting over the banister at the Sgt Major." Without tight control, anarchy would surely have ruled the day.

The average number of boys at the Asylum in 1852 was 344. Before the Commandant appeared 72 Boys, who committed 608 offences or an average of 8.4 each. In 1853 the number was 311 and, before the commandant there appeared 231 boys who committed 1600 offences or average of 6.9 each. Following is a sample table of 'crimes and punishments' with these abbreviations: BH;- Black Hole ; ST:- Stripes; DR:- Drill; CSJ :- Cross Step Jumping; Wrk:- Work. The offence 2, is a continuation where the description is too long for 1 cell.

NAME Reported By Offence Offence 2 BH St Dr CSJ Wrk Pay
SANDERS William Sgt Major Dirty at morning drill              
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Losing one of the Company's buff stick   2          
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Absenting himself from exercise in the hall   2 24        
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Using disrespectful language to Sgt O'GRADY   2   3      
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Having bones in his bed & threatening language to me 4          
SANDERS William Sgt Major Stealing bottles from the hospital   4   10 10    
SANDERS William Sgt Major Swearing at the Cpl of the piquet   6       4  
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Absent from morning drill & cleaning         2    
SANDERS William Sgt Major Misconduct in the hall         2    
SANDERS William Commandant Looking & shouting out of the ward windows after Prayers whilst Tattoo was beating       2    
SANDERS William FARQUAHAR Sgt Being in bed with his socks on         3    
SANDERS William Sgt Major Concealing himself under a bed to escape drill dis obedience of orders, not having his gloves on       3    
SANDERS William BALFOUR Dr Trespass Out of bounds & Disobedience of orders in not reporting himself when ordered     3 3    
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Forcing the Cpl's post at the Surgeons gate and not returning when ordered     3 3    
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Absent from washing       3      
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Throwing soap at his nurse       10 3 10  
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Improper conduct at evening prayers         4    
SANDERS William WATTS Sgt Disrespect towards Sgt WATTS         7 10  
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Absent from cleaning & cleaning in his ward       3      
SANDERS William O'GRADY Sgt Talking & playing in the ranks       3      

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