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On January 5, 1895, Captain Alfred Dreyfus being cashiered

Cashiering (or degradation ceremony), generally within military forces, is a ritual dismissal of an individual from some position of responsibility for a breach of discipline. From the Flemish 'Kasseren' the phrase entered the English language in the late 16th century, during the wars in the Low Countries. Although the O.E.D. states that the first printed use in this sense appears in Shakespeare's Othello (1603), it appeared in the 1595 tract The Estate of English Fugitives by Lewes Lewkenor, 'imploring his help and assistance in so hard an extremity, who for recompence, very charitably cashiered them all without the receipt of one penny.'


Alfred Dreyfus' ripped off officer stripes, kept in Paris's Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme

It is especially associated with the public degradation of disgraced military officers. Prior to World War I this aspect of cashiering sometimes involved a parade-ground ceremony in front of assembled troops with the destruction of symbols of status: epaulettes ripped off shoulders, badges and insignia stripped, swords broken, caps knocked away, and medals torn off and dashed upon the ground.

The term originated in the era when British Army officers generally bought their commissions; being cashiered meant that the amount they had paid was lost, as they could not "sell-out" afterwards.[1] Essentially, the commission purchase price was a cash bond for good behaviour, forfeited to the Army's cashiers (accountants) in the event of cowardice, desertion or gross misbehaviour.

Famous examples[edit]

Famous victims of cashiering include Francis Mitchell (1621), Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (after the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814), Alfred Dreyfus (1894, see trial and conviction of Alfred Dreyfus and Dreyfus affair), and Philippe Pétain (1945).

While most closely associated with Captain Dreyfus, the ceremony of formal degradation (Degradation militaire) occurred several times in the French military under the Third Republic. At least one other army officer and a naval officer were subjected to the ritual of having their swords broken and the insignia, braid and buttons publicly torn from their uniforms, after being found guilty of charges of treason. More commonly a number of NCOs and private soldiers underwent similar punishments for committing various serious offenses, before execution or imprisonment.[2]

In fiction[edit]


In the 1936 film The Life of Emile Zola, the degradation of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus (played by Joseph Schildkraut) is shown in full, with his own troops being ordered to turn their back on the captain as he is marched before them.

In the movie Mary Poppins (1964), when George Banks is fired, a version of cashiering occurs: a member of the bank's board of directors ceremoniously tears up the carnation from his lapel, and then destroys his hat and umbrella before attempting to show him the door.


Cashiering is mentioned in Rudyard Kipling's poem "Danny Deever" (1890), in which a British soldier in India is degraded before his regiment before being hanged for murder: "They're taken of his buttons off an' cut his stripes away".

In Thomas Pynchon's novella The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), the Metzger character acted as a child star in a film called Cashiered, about a World War II British officer drummed out of the army on trumped up charges, who tries to clear his name.

In David Weber's Honor Harrington novel Field of Dishonor (1994), Pavel Young is cashiered when he is dishonorably discharged from the Royal Manticoran Navy. Additionally, Denver Summerdale recalls his earlier cashiering in the novel On Basilisk Station (1992), further information on the reasons for his cashiering appears in Field of Dishonor.


In the NBC TV Series Branded, Jason McCord is shown being cashiered from the US Cavalry in the opening credits.

In the pilot episode of the AMC television series TURN (April 6, 2014), British Captain Hewlett orders British Captain Joyce to return to England to be court martialled and cashiered for brawling in an American tavern, in violation of the occupying army's rules to maintain law and order.[3][4]

In the television series Star Trek: Voyager, during the pilot episode Caretaker, Part 1 Act 2, the character Tom Paris, acting as a Special Observer, recounts being cashiered out of Star Fleet after admitting to falsifying reports regarding an accident he caused, due to pilot error, that resulted in the deaths of three officers during a prior assignment.[5] [6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holmes, Richard (2001) [2001]. "Chapter III - Brothers of the Blade". Redcoat: the British soldier in the age of horse and musket (Hardback ed.). London: HarperCollins. p. 159. ISBN 0-00-257097-1. 
  2. ^ Larcade, Jean-Louis. Zouaves & Tirailleurs: les regiments de march et les regiments mixes (1914–1918). p. 529. ISBN 2-9515171-1-4. 
  3. ^ "Turn Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot". TV.COM EPISODE REVIEW. April 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Season: 1, Episode 1: 'Pilot'". AMC TV Episode Guide. 
  5. ^ "CARETAKER, PART I". 
  6. ^ "Voyager :: TrekCore".