Encyclopedia - Self-inflicted Wounds (SIW)
Self-inflicted Wounds - or SIWs as they were known - comprised a highly serious wartime military offence.
Such wounds most often took the form of rifle shots to the hand or foot, the aim being to effectively disqualify the recipient from further front-line service. In the British Army wounds which resulted in hospitalisation at home were often termed 'Blighty Ones' and thus sometimes perversely sought after.
While many - if not most - such self-inflicted wounds went undetected, the consequences for the individual concerned were ominous should suspicions of foul play be raised and confirmed by medical officers.
In an attempt to determine guilt military authorities would strive to determine the type and nature of bullet which caused a given wound - if the bullet was 'home grown', i.e. not fired from an enemy weapon, then the outlook was dark indeed in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary: if found guilty of a self-inflicted wound in the British Army the ultimate penalty was capital, i.e. death by firing squad.
In the British Army some 3,894 men were found guilty of SIW; in practice none were executed but instead sent to prison for lengthy periods.
Photograph courtesy of Photos of the Great War website
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