Blowing From Guns: Statistics

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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby jf42 » 19 Apr 2012 08:22

Just having looked through these notes and read reference to a high caste Hindu's fear of being defiled by the hangman's touch, were they not concerned about the touch of those who tied the condemned to the guns?

I find it hard to believe there was any humane purpose in this ghastly means of execution, which was surely intended to quell any inclination to mutiny among troops who witnessed it, Hindu or Muslim- Pour encourager les autres. After the Mutiny, grim retribution obviously played its part. Chilling to read that the physical effects were similar to those on a suicide bomber.
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby L. Braden » 19 Apr 2012 19:02

Ironically, this method of execution was the most humane, because all accounts confirm that death was instantaneous -- unlike the gallows and firing squad, in which death was not always instantaneous, as numerous accounts indicate.
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby ArmyJ » 22 Jun 2015 23:58

This may be a stupid/morbid question, but was roundshot/canister loaded for this style of execution, or did they just let the explosion of the powder do the work?
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby jf42 » 26 Jun 2015 00:04

I think it is a reasonable enough question; no more morbid than the topic itself. I confess it has occurred to me once or twice, although not with sufficient urgency to pose the question myself, so I am unable to furnish an answer.
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby Les Waring » 26 Jun 2015 02:00

This practice was probably more part of the 'Mutiny Legend', fomented by the press in Britain, as was the wholesale 'dishonouring' of European ladies. Doubtless, some rapes did occur (it's in the nature of war when civilians are involved) though the official enquiry never found clear evidence of any, and the same can probably be said of the 'blowing from guns'. I've never come across any account of the latter from the accounts of the 'Mutiny' in, around and during the Relief of Lucknow. A 'good, old British hanging' (which as my generation was taught never did any harm to anyone) seems to have been the favourite execution method in that theatre. It was probably more repulsive to the victims as, in rural areas, the bodies would often be left hanging, to be eaten by wild pigs.

Since this was never an official policy, and certainly went against the Royal and Governor General's proclamations (1858) of the end of hostilities and amnesty for all those not found guilty of murdering British subjects (including loyal Indians), my guess is that this practice was 1) less prevalent than often assumed 2) very much a 'private' undertaking and therefore the mechanics likely to have varied from place to place and to the 'aesthetic preferences' of those carrying out the 'executions'.

I would have thought that roundshot would have been more practical, since the shot could have been recovered for future use. Gunners amongst our members, might be able to enlighten us as to whether powder alone would have produced the desired effect i.e. total dismemberment.

Sorry if I offend anyone by my rather light-heated treatment of this topic, but I always associate it with the wonderful, comic scene in 'Flashman in the Great Game', where 'Flashy' is lashed to a gun and about to be 'blown' only to be saved by the chance presence of his fellow rider in the Charge of the Light Brigade, Clement Heneage V.C., in the firing party. Flashman, of course, does not share the belief in martyrdom which a Moslem would have had, nor of rebirth, which would await a devout Hindu, and I think this is one of the best accounts of what it must have been like to be subjected to such a punishment if you had no consolation of religious or other beliefs, especially if you were innocent as Flashmen, for once, was in this case.

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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby trooper » 26 Jun 2015 04:55

A standard powder charge plus it's wadding would have been more than sufficient to fulfil the job. The concussive effect alone would cause severe damage without the wad being blown through the victim. Trooper
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby mike snook » 26 Jun 2015 10:15

Yes quite so. There was no projectile involved. Quite unnecessary.

The punishment was used in a salutary way - so it was conducted in front of large parades of wavering troops or, later, as order was being restored, large crowds. I have read accounts of it, but have not noted them; but as I go about my business over the months ahead I will this time round take note and report such references here.

One of the ghastlier effects was to send the head flying skywards. This style of execution was very much the exception rather than any kind of rule. Hanging, as Les has said, was the default method. Few mutineers were taken alive anyway. One of the things I recall from the British accounts I have read was how quietly the condemned went to their deaths. It is a moot point, and a conversation not worth having, whether this was a function of great dignity or perhaps simple acceptance or eastern 'fatalism'. There is one story, the details of which evade me, of one turncoat 'native' officer raging and calling a blood curdling curse down upon somebody who was present, though I cannot immediately recall whether he was about to be hanged or blown from a gun. Most however went to their deaths without a word: this is a common refrain in the sources.

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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby Atheling » 28 Jun 2015 05:48

Liz wrote:
Mark wrote:the thought of it does send a shiver down one's spine!


Yes indeed, but let's remember the historic context. There are period references to local rulers using this as a method of execution long before the Mutiny, along with execution by elephant and other far more drawn out processes.

There are also period references that describe some local rulers as 'merciful' compared to others, because they did not lop off body parts often and when they did, they had boiling oil nearby so the injury could be cauterised promptly!


Indeed, from what little I actually know about this form of execution it was an old Mughal tradition(?).

I imagine that in reality this is a much more complicated subject other then a simple black and white, so's to speak, answer?

It's certainly an interesting thread- though certainly macabre!

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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby ArmyJ » 29 Jun 2015 23:28

I've read several sources that reference the punishment, but the details always focused on the method of binding the prisoners rather than the method used for the execution.

A side note, the method was used during the invasion of Afghanistan in 1839. (then) Cpt Havelock spoke of the executions, and William Dalrymple wrote about it as well in Return of the King (though he could have been using the same source), mentioning the many of the officers from India had seen similair executions, referring to them as 'commonplace.' Although it was actually Shah Shuja's contigent who executed the men, the British were present.

Sorry to derail the thread, I know this is the wrong catagory for Afghanistan wars.
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby Peter » 17 Jul 2015 13:03

From the list of books posted by johnpreece on viewtopic.php?f=12&t=10414 …..

Gowing T, Sgt Major, A Soldiers experience or a Voice from the Ranks, 1889, Nottingham
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46989:

p 295: An Execution Parade
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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby johnpreece » 30 Jul 2015 10:43

My old history teacher was fond of saying that no knowledge is ever pointless and in that spirit I draw attention to:

Bayley John Arthur Reminiscences of School and Army life 1839-1859
privately printed London 1875

Of the 52nd regt. Pp165. Lahore 9th June.

He describes the execution of two sepoys of the 35th Native Infantry and prefaces his remarks by saying that there are so 'many fatherless shaves flying about' 'that I shall write only what I saw.'

“Each mutineer was then placed with his back against the muzzle of a field gun loaded with a service charge of powder. 2lbs I think. His arms being fastened by a rope to the upper part and his legs to the lower part of the wheels behind him; the sentences were read, the bugle sounded and the guns were fired. I was in command of the leading company and had an uninterrupted view of all that took place. I think that the muzzles of the guns must have been on a level with the upper part of the men's shoulders; for the effect of the explosion was to send their heads flying up perpendicularly at ;east thirty feet, the legs and arms falling under the guns.”


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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby Les Waring » 30 Jul 2015 12:39

John

Do you have any indication of the year of this execution. If it were as late as 1858, then it would be very significant.

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Re: Blowing From Guns: Statistics

Postby johnpreece » 30 Jul 2015 20:01

Les,

sorry to have raised expectations. In context of what is written it is clear that 1857 is the year.

A lesson to me not to be lazy in adding context! The only bright spot is that I have not read as far as 1858 yet so who knows?

If you want to read yourself the link is:

http://www.archive.org/stream/reminisce ... 4/mode/2up

regards
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