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Pvt F.J. White

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Frederick John White

7th Queen's Own Hussars  

The Headstone

fjwhite.jpg (332023 bytes)In 1846 Private Frederick John White was awarded 150 lashes by Courts Martial and flogged.  He died 26 days later on the 11th July and is buried in Heston Churchyard, Gt. London.  The headstone was initially re-erected in 1886, but after re-lettering in 1962 and subsequent damage by vandals in 1974 and again in 1977,  The Regiment finally replaced the complete headstone. 

 

What follows is an extract from:

The History of The 7th Queen’s Own Hussars Vol. II,  by C.R.B. Barretts

On 15 June a private of the Regiment at Hounslow who had been guilty of insubordination was sentenced to receive one hundred and fifty lashes.  The punishment, it was proved, was not severely inflicted, if the subsequent evidence given by the doctor is to be credited, and there is no reason to impugn his testimony.

The name of this man was Frederick White.  It appears that for the purpose of punishment he was tied to a ladder, the ordinary triangle not being, it would seem, available; and as far as one can see this was the only departure from the ordinary method of inflicting corporal punishment.  After the flogging, White was as usual taken to the hospital.  Here it was found that his back was not badly lacerated,  the ‘real skin not being cut through’.  He was duly treated and all went well with him till the morning of 6 July, on which day he was to return to duty and be discharged from the hospital, his back being completely healed.  White now complained of a pain in the region of the heart, through his back and shoulder blade.

Dr. Warren, the surgeon of the Regiment, who had of course been present at the punishment, did all that he could to relieve the man.  Paralysis of the lower extremities,  however, was discovered, and the unfortunate soldier died at 8.15 p.m. on 11 July.   Another army surgeon was then sent by Sir James McGrigor, Bart, the Directory of the Army Medical Department, to make a report on the affair.  A post-mortem disclosed that inflammation of the pleura and of the lining membrane of the heart existed, and that the man’s death was ‘in no way connected with the corporal punishment inflicted on 15 June’.  An inquest was held publicly, during which it became apparent that the coroner was some­what a partisan in his attitude towards the military authorities, medical and otherwise.

It was given in evidence that the man had, on 4 July, when seemingly in good health, been employed in cleaning out the mortuary and also with other patients in his ward in the hospital on the ordinary duties per­formed by those in hospital.  Capital was endeavoured to be made out of the fact that the mortuary was a small room with a stone floor, and damp.  It was sworn that during his punishment White made ‘little or no motion with his body and kept his breast towards the ladder without the least struggle or twisting himself.’  Dr. Warren stated that ‘never did I witness so little muscular effort in all the punishments I have wit­nessed, as I did in this case.’  There was no spasmodic action of the muscles of the back on either side, and being close by, if there had been I must have seen it.’

It was stated that on receipt of a letter from his brother in America on 7 July, White was ‘observed to be despondent,’ but how this affected the matter cannot be exactly discovered, as the first serious symptoms appeared on 6 July.  Public attention was of course drawn to the matter, and it came before the House of Lords on 14 August in connection with a petition for the immediate abolition of flogging in the Army.         There was as usual much discussion, but no result. The Medical Times appears to have attacked the coroner and a libel action followed, but this concerns us not.

Attempts to abolish flogging in the Army were unsuccessfully made in 1876 and 1877.  In 1879 flogging was reduced by the Army Discipline Act and rendered commutable to imprisonment.  The total abolition of this form of punishment did not take place until 1881, when other penalties were substituted therefore.  It is curious to note that there seems to be no record of the details of the offence for which this man was flogged.

According to the rules of the service at that date, the amount of punishment awarded was not stated to be excessive.

A book entitled: "The Strange Death of Private White”  is available on-line at     www.militarybookworm.co.uk   

Author: Harry Hopkins. Published 1977, by Weidfenfeld & Nicholson
273pp. Index, illus - A Victorian Scandal That Made History.


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