Cruelty is Alleged
In Punishment of a Canadian Soldier at the Front
Spokane Daily News; 3 May 1900
New York, May 3:—A Special to the World from Ottawa says:
Colonel McLellan has presented in the Canadian House of Commons a petition from his constituency asking the government to inquire into the report that a soldier of the First Canadian Contingent had been punished for looting.
It appears that after a long, arduous march, and having fought in the battle of Paardeberg, the Canadians were exhausted and half starving, having subsisted on quarter rations for three weeks.
The Canadian in question, a private, driven frantic by hunger, "commandeered" a Boer farmer's chicken, which he shared with his tent companions. He was subsequently court martialed for looting, and a war correspondent reports that the British officers sentenced him to 56 days in confinement as punishment.
Bound to a Wheel
This was carried out by a species of crucifixion, the victim being bound with outstretched arms and legs on the wheel of a field gun carriage in the face of the blazing sun for two hours each day. The agony is said to be intense.
The minister of militia could not confirm or deny the correspondent’s dispatch.
It was shown that such a barbarous form of punishment is not provided for in the army laws of England, and the government was asked to give the house of commons the information upon the subject. The report of Colonel Otter received here does not state the kind of punishment meted out to the trooper, but adds:
"No doubt the provocation is great, considering the lack of food for the previous three weeks, yet the offence, from a military point of view, could not be palliated."
Our Little Army in the Field
"There had been an incident on the march that could have had tragic results. Two British officers had seen Private A.W. Belyea of D Company [of the Second (Special Service) Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment] grab a stray chicken that crossed his path. Looting was anathema to the army, and Belyea was court-martialled. To set an example for the troops the brigade was formed up in a hollow square to hear the verdict. For poor Belyea the ordeal was terrifying as he stood alone, head bowed, awaiting the decision of the court. The verdict was hardly in doubt, and the offence could draw the death penalty. The officers who made up the court realized the maximum punishment did not fit the crime. Belyea was confined to barracks for 56 days, a meaningless punishment on the veldt. (From a related footnote - ...Capt S.M. Rogers, who commanded D Company, told his men, "Now listen, boys, it wasn‘t for stealing the chicken that [Belyea] was going to be hung, it was for getting caught at it, so watch yourself.")" - Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field; The Canadians in South Africa 1899-1902, 1996