Articles of war

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The disciplinary code for the Royal Navy. They were first issued in 1653 and were based on the ancient sea Laws of Oleron in which maritime crimes and punishments are specified. In Tudor times most captains of ships supplemented the Laws of Oleron with their own rules based on their own ingenuity in inventing punishments to fit the crime. In order to provide a code of punishment which would apply throughout the navy and not depend on the whims of individual captains, the Articles of War were introduced. They were incorporated into the first English Naval Discipline Act of 1661. It was under the 13th article of this harsh Act that Admiral John Byng was executed.

Whereas the Articles of War were omitted from the Army Act of 1955, they were retained in the Naval Discipline Act of 1957. The US Navy's Articles of War were superseded in 1950 by the Uniform Code of Military Justice which applies to all American armed forces. It is likely that a British Tri-Services Act will follow the same route before 2010.

Subjects: Maritime History — Early Modern History (1500 to 1700).

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