Field Punishment Number 1

Recently, thanks to a Google search by my mum, I discovered that two WW1 medals and a bronze memorial plaque for our ancestor Richard Maultby were sold at auction in Cornwall in 2015. At the age of 44 he was the oldest of my ancestors (as far as I know) to lose his life while serving his country. However, Richard’s service record shows that he did not fully fit the mould of the obedient, patriotic Tommy that is so often portrayed. I particularly want to explore some uncomfortable truths about his time in the trenches, and investigate his mysterious death, but I’d like to begin by telling the story of his life.

A difficult start

Richard William Maultby was born on 10 November 1871 in Newport Pagnall, Buckinghamshire, the fourth of nine children (seven surviving) of my 3x great grandparents Thomas and Eliza Maultby. Thomas Maultby was an ambitious railway station manager whose career took him from Newport Pagnell to Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire and then to Liverpool, as Assistant Superintendent of the Northern Division of the London and NW Railway Company. By 1881, Thomas was trying his hand at being a coal merchant, but met with financial difficulties. In spite of heart problems, and the death in autumn 1881 of his baby daughter, Thomas left his family in England for a new railway job in Toronto, but he died there in February 1882. Richard was just ten years old.

Just seven months later, Richard was badly injured in an accident. He was one of four boys who were playing in a pit in Leighton Buzzard when a heavy load of earth fell on them. Richard sustained a broken collar bone and hip injury, two others also had broken/fractured bones, and one was crushed so severely that it was feared he wouldn’t survive. Thankfully, they all recovered, though it was ‘almost miraculous that all four boys were not killed upon the spot’.

Bucks Herald – Saturday 16 September 1882, via British Newspaper Archive

It must have been a terrible time for the Maultby family, but they were supported, and perhaps saved from destitution, by Theodore Harris, a kindly banker and Quaker, who had himself been twice widowed. Eliza had worked as a housemaid for Theodore prior to her marriage, and the families had a close and decades-long relationship (which deserves its own story). After losing her husband, Eliza became a housekeeper to Theodore’s son, who opened his home to at least one of her children as well. Eliza sadly had to place her two youngest children into an orphanage, but Theodore Harris acted as guarantor for payment. The Harris’s also helped some of Eliza’s children find suitable employment.

A young mariner

The teenage Maultby children soon entered the world of work. The eldest, my 2x great grandmother (also called Eliza), became a Post Office Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist, while another became a domestic servant. And Richard Maultby went to sea. He may well have been given a leg-up by Theodore Harris’s brother Frederick Harris, a prominent ship-owner. In 1887, the British Steamship Investment Trust was formed, and Frederick Harris was one of the company’s two Managing Directors. In 1891, Richard, aged 19, was boarding at 81, Chestnut Grove in Bootle, Lancashire, close to docks on the River Mersey. His occupation was given as ‘Mariner’. Broadly, he was a merchant seaman, since he worked on commercial ships. Specifically, he worked on passenger ships, as a Waiter and then Steward.

A world traveller

Thanks to crew lists, I can place Richard on a number of ships spanning 14 years. In 1889, after ending a contract on the Umbria, Richard, aged 17, was engaged as one of over 30 waiters on the Pavonia. The following year he began work as a waiter on the Gallia. Although he signed most monthly musters ‘Richard Maultby’, in September 1890 he gave his name as ‘Dick Maultby’, my only evidence that he had a nickname. In 1897, after another stint on the Umbria, Richard, still living on Chestnut Gr., Bootle, was a waiter on the Campania.

All of these ships were new ocean liners operated by Cunard. These massive express steamships were designed to transport passengers, post and cargo across the Atlantic (from Liverpool to New York or Boston) in about a week. They were built with cutting-edge engineering, designed to be record-breaking … Just before Richard worked on the Umbria, she had made the fastest Atlantic crossing on record, and when the Campania was launched, she was the largest and fastest passenger liner afloat. (To give you an idea of the ships’ capacity: S.S. Gallia had 300 first class two-berth cabins and space for 1,200 steerage (third class) passengers and 2000 tons of cargo. (However, she only had two baths!))

As well as being very fast and very big, these ships were very luxurious (at least for the wealthiest passengers); maritime Basil Greenhill, in his book Merchant Steamships, declared that the interiors of Campania and her sister ship Lucania ‘represented Victorian opulence at its peak — an expression of a highly confident and prosperous age that would never be quite repeated on any other ship.’1

Richard ‘Dick’ Maultby’s signature on an 1890 crew list of the Gallia, with a stamp showing he was a waiter (Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919,

In 1898, after more time on the Gallia, Richard spent a year a little closer to home, as a Steward on the Fenella. She was operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and made regular round trips between Douglas on the Isle of Man, Glasgow and Liverpool. A steward usually helped to manage the dining room, but the term does not seem to have been applied consistently. Then, in 1899, he joined the crew of the new Omrah, built in Glasgow for the Orient Line, and travelled from London to Sydney.

Richard was probably at sea when the 1901 census was taken, as I haven’t found a record for him. Around this time he was employed on the Johannesburg, a cargo steamer operating between the UK and South and East Africa. In 1903, he signed an agreement in London to join the crew of the brand new White Star ocean liner, Ionic, which travelled between the UK and New Zealand. His home address had changed to 176 Victoria Dock Rd (probably in East London) and he was still a steward. However, there were 40 stewards on board (in addition to private stewards and two stewardesses), so I assume that in those large numbers, they were waiting tables.

Richard Maultby’s signature on a 1903 crew list of the Ionic, recording that he was a Steward who had most recently worked on the Johannesburg
(Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919,
SS Ionic
Ship NameType of vessel (launch date)RouteRM in crew
R.M.S. UmbriaCunard Line ocean liner (1884); fastest Atlantic crossing in 1887Liverpool to New Yorkc1889, c1897
S.S. or R.M.S. PavoniaCunard Line ocean liner (1882)Liverpool to Boston1889
S.S. GalliaCunard Line ocean liner (1879)Liverpool to New York & Boston1890, c1898
R.M.S. CampaniaCunard Line ocean liner (1893); largest and fastest passenger liner when launchedLiverpool to New York1897
S.S. (R.M.S.) FenellaSteamer operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (1881)Between Isle of Man, Glasgow and Liverpool1898
S.S. OmrahOrient Steam Navigation Company (1899)UK to Australia1899
JohannesburgWhite Star Line ocean liner (1903)UK to New Zealand1903
S.S. IonicCargo steamer, Bucknall Steamship Lines Ltd (1895)UK to South and East Africac1903
Richard Maultby’s known employment, 1889-1903; Many of these ships were requisitioned in WW1, with several of them being sunk by enemy action.

Life on board

Richard would have spent much of his time below deck in the ships’ dining rooms, though records do not show which class of passenger he served. The Campania carried 600 first-class, 400 second-class and 1000 third-class passengers.2 Its first-class dining saloon was over 10 ft (3.05 m) high, 98 ft (30 m) long and 63 ft (19.2 m) wide. ‘Over the central part of this room was a well that rose through three decks to a skylight. It was done in a style described as “modified Italian style”, with a coffered ceiling in white and gold, supported by ionic pillars. The paneled walls were done in Spanish mahogany, inlaid with ivory and richly carved with pilasters and decorations.’1 However, the second- and third-class dining rooms that served the vast majority of passengers were much plainer, and the work presumably more demanding. Richard’s own quarters must also have been in stark contrast to these grand ships’ public spaces.

Breakfast menu on the Campania (class unknown), 10 Sep 1898; GG Archives

Passengers on the international ships included business travellers, tourists, and many emigrants from the UK and Europe, seeking better quality of life in the New World. They must have had fascinating stories to tell, if Richard had the opportunity to listen.

Although Richard worked on ships built with the latest engineering know-how and equipped with the latest technologies, such as wireless communication, journeys were not without their dangers. The histories of the individual ships in this time period include incidents of collisions, rescues and passengers overboard!

From seaman to soldier

I have no records for Richard between 1903 and 1914. But in late 1914, Richard was either living or passing through Canada — because on 2 November 1914 he volunteered for military service at Montreal. From his CEF service records, I learned that Richard, whose trade or occupation was ‘seaman’ and ‘steward’, was a week shy of 43 years old, but gave a birth date of 10 Dec 1874 — i.e. claiming to be 40. As I have no photograph of Richard, his medical history at attestation helps me to picture him: He was almost 5’7 tall, 150 lb, with blue eyes, black hair, and a fair complexion. (I found it interesting that he had black hair; his cousin’s daughter, Mabel Annie Maultby, also had black hair — sadly that information came from a description that was made after she was killed in the Guard’s Chapel bombing, 1944). It was especially delightful to learn that Richard had a tattoo on his right arm, and a ‘hairy chest and abdomen’!

Some details from Richard Maultby’s medical history, Library and Archives Canada
(RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6055 – 37);
all subsequent images of his service records in this article come from this source.

Private Richard Maultby (service number 63623) joined the 23rd Reserve Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and on 23 Feb 1915, his unit sailed for England on the S.S. Missanabie. The 23rd bn. was based in England but reinforced Canadian infantry troops in France, and in May 1915 Richard was transferred to the 3rd bn. (the ‘Toronto Regiment’) and sent to Rouen.

Perhaps it was at that point that Richard wrote his will, on the back of a list of pay rates. Though he had named his mother as his next of kin, he stated that in the event of his death, all of his money was to go to his sister, Mrs [Martha] Cotton.

Discipline in the Field

Richard’s service record reveals that within a few weeks of arriving in France, there were serious problems with his conduct. On 23 August, he was found to be drunk while on active service, and two days later was sentenced to ’14 days of F.P. No. 1′.

According to the Imperial War Museums website, Field Punishment No. 1 ‘was introduced in 1881 following the abolition of flogging, and was a common punishment during World War I. A commanding officer could award field punishment for up to 28 days, while a court martial could award it for up to 90 days. F.P. No.1 consisted of the convicted man being placed in restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day. This was applied for up to three days out of four. It was usually carried out in field punishment camps set up for this purpose a few miles behind the front line, but when the unit was on the move it would be carried out by the unit itself. During World War I, F. P. No1 was issued by the British Army on 60,210 occasions.’

In earlier years, men’s arms were spread wide apart, earning it the gruesome nickname ‘The Crucifixion’. When Richard was sentenced, the punishment would have looked like this contemporary illustration:

It would have been physically uncomfortable, but perhaps the greater hardship was the humiliation of having to go back into restraints, day after day. In addition to the restraint, Richard would have had to do hard labour, and even though he also continued in active service, he was penalised with a cut to his pay, as shown in the salary statement below. Through the lens of 2022, regardless of his behaviour I can’t help feeling angry that he was subjected to this harsh indignity.

Statement of payments showing that Richard was fined for being drunk on active duty.

In January 1916 Richard was granted nine days’ leave. I have no insight into why, or how he spent that time. As Andy Wade (Men of Worth Project) has pointed out, allowing for two days’ travel to and from the UK, Richard could have spent five days with family.

However, a few weeks later, Richard was in trouble again for ‘insolence to a superior officer’ while on active service. On 2 June he was sentenced to 28 days of F.P. No. 1, the maximum sentence that could be issued by a commanding officer (presumably, the same CO he had offended).

Part of Richard’s service record, showing his two sentences of Field Punishment No. 1

These documents do not record what Richard said to the officer. Given that Richard was repeatedly re-hired to work on some of the world’s most luxurious ships for more than a decade, he must have been a reliable employee, and used to taking orders and working under pressure. Is it possible that in the years leading up to the war, his life had come off the rails? One clue to that possibility is the will of his aunt, Ann Maultby (d. Oct 1915), who left legacies to all of Richard’s siblings, but excluded him. Or, was it the acute stress of conditions in the trenches that caused him to drink heavily and provoke his superiors? My mum has suggested that it would have been intensely frustrating for Richard, a working-class mature man with extensive life experience, if he had to take orders from a much younger, less experienced officer. Whether or not that was the case, we know that the trenches took their toll on many men’s mental health. Richard’s actions, seen then as military crimes, might today be recognised as symptoms of stress, anxiety, or PTSD.

Missing, Presumed Dead

The final events of Richard’s life are opaque, and the details many pages of surviving records are complex. The official report of his disciplinary sentence was entered into his record on 14 June. However, by then, Richard was (probably) already dead.

On 13 June 1916, less than two weeks into his 28-day sentence, Richard went missing in action. The battalion diaries of the 3rd Bn. have been fully transcribed by the The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archive, and show that on 13 June the battalion was deployed in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, at Ypres in Belgium. The strategic importance of the location is explained in The Long, Long Trail.

The lengthy diary entry for that day (the final day of the battle) details intense fighting, starting just after midnight. Operation Order A436 (password SORRELL) was wired to the trenches, instructing artillery to begin bombardment at 12.45 am. Three companies then rushed to the German trenches under a smoke screen, taking the Germans by surprise — many were bayoneted in the trenches, and hundreds taken prisoner. Fighting continued into the afternoon and evening. By 11 pm, when they were relieved by the 8th Bn., the 3rd Bn.’s casualties were reported as follows: 3 officers killed, 1 officer died of wounds, 1 officer missing, 11 officers wounded. 40 O.R. Killed, 92 O.R. Missing, 207 O.R. wounded. Per WW1 researcher Andy Wade , CWGC records report that 83 men in Richard’s battalion died that day.

However, the day was seen as a victory: ‘The Germans had been pushed off the Mount Sorrel and Tor Top ridge, and the Canadians had most successfully executed their first deliberately planned attack on the Western Front.’3 On the anniversary of the battle, 13 June 1917, a Toronto lady sent the battalion a box of wood sorrel, which they wore in their caps to celebrate the re-capture of Mount Sorrel a year before. A memorial to the Canadians’ actions defending the region from April to August 1916 is located on Torr Top.

Canadian Hill 62 Memorial in Ypres, Belgium (CC BY 4.0, Benoit Brummer)

Richard was one of those initially reported missing. It was all too common for there to be confusion about what had happened to soldiers, especially in other ranks. Missing soldiers might have been taken POW, been wounded — perhaps taken to a hospital, or killed. My husband’s ancestor, also a Private in the CEF, was reported missing in April 1915, but wasn’t officially ‘presumed dead’ until November 1916. Richard Maultby’s family had to wait nine months for news, until in March 1917 he was, for official purposes, ‘presumed to have died on or since 13th June 1916’, when his unit was in an ‘ATTACK SOUTH OF ZILLEBEKE’. He was 44 years old.

Circumstances of Death, Library and Archives Canada

Back in England, I can only begin to imagine the fear, and then the distress, that Richard’s mother Eliza must have felt. Her youngest son John was also serving overseas (as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers), as were her grandsons, Harold and Harry. Eliza had endured the sudden loss of her husband and the financial hardship that followed, but now she was nearly 80 years old, and the shock of her son’s death may have been too great; five months after his death was entered in his service record, she died of a brain hemorrhage.


Despite Richard’s questionable service record, his was not an ignominous death — he was treated in the same way as any soldier killed in action. Since his body was never found, he has no gravestone, but is remembered at Menin Gate, Ypres. He was also eligible for service medals, and his family was eligible for a memorial medallion. Eliza died before she could receive them, but someone in the family, probably Richard’s sister Martha, did receive them. Over a hundred years later, the discovery of the medals (even though they are in someone else’s possession) has prompted me to investigate Richard’s adventurous life and his death more fully.

Richard Maultby was far from home for most of his life, but eager to defend his country, and he quickly volunteered to serve, even though he was over-age. He had to suffer the humiliation of physical discipline in front of his fellow soldiers, but he fought alongside them in the battle that ended his life. I hope that Richard’s family never learned about his punishment, and that in their eyes, he deserved all the honour and respect given to the memory of the fallen of the Great War.

With thanks to genealogist Kelly Cornwell for sourcing additional crewlists, genealogist and merchant navy expert Lucy Browne, and in particular Andy Wade of The Men of Worth Project for his interest in Richard’s story, and helping me to make sense of the sequence of events in Richard’s service records.


  3. Actions in the spring of 1916, The Long, Long Trail

More resources:

Richard Maultby on the Canadian Great War Project

Richard Maultby on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial

Learn more about army discipline in WW1 (The Long, Long Trail)

2 thoughts on “Field Punishment Number 1

  1. A wonderfully well researched story Clare, I also have a steward on my tree so it was really interesting to read all the details of what life would have been like below decks. I sense a bit of stubbornness in your man, but also someone with a sense of duty


  2. I found Richard’s story fascinating! He sounds as if he was a very independent man, who spent much of his life at sea with no stable home of his own. Given that he never married and was much older than the average soldier, it is perhaps no surprise that he found it hard to knuckle down to military discipline. It is impossible to judge him from today. What is irrefutable is that he volunteered for service and gave his life for his country. That makes him a hero in my eyes.


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