This is coolbert:
Again, from that prior blog entry I have asked this question:
"Those penal battalions a wartime measure perhaps UNIQUE TO THE RED ARMY?"
According to the wiki, penal battalions NOT strictly a measure "unique to the Red Army" or even so a temporary World War Two [WW2] phenomenon but existing in the historical context as well.
Soldiers recalcitrant in their duty, shirkers, malingerers, a troop committing a criminal offense [I would imagine under either military or civil law] assigned to penal units, expunging their sentence and redeeming themselves.
These penal units not merely punishment by confinement of course but combat military units often given very difficult mission perhaps even assignments considered to be hazardous and dangerous in the extreme!
From those examples as listed in the wiki entry we have:
1. Great Britain. Royal African Corps (1800–1821).
"the Royal African Corps [RAC], composed of military offenders from various regiments pardoned on condition of life-service in Africa and the West Indies."
Military service for life OVERSEAS, banishment from England FOREVER.
Such an assignment to a regiment in then West Indies or Africa during that period of time also can be thought to be analogous to A SENTENCE OF DEATH!
Troops in such tropical areas the chances of death from disease just magnitudes greater than becoming a fatality from combat operations.
Soldiers of that period serving in tropical climates dying in droves primarily from yellow fever and malaria.
AND, of course, no possibility EVER of return to England even if you survived your military service.
The French too during both the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic era possessing and employing combat penal units.
"Régiment pénal de l'Ile de Ré, formed in 1811"
Penal regiments during the Napoleonic era consisting of "draft dodgers" assignment to a battalion for corrective measures "depending on the level of crime those in them were guilty of, had varying degrees of severity"
Persons guilty of merely avoiding conscription their punishment less harsh, redemption considered possible, those draft dodgers guilty of addition civilian criminality less worthy and not sent to units that ultimately given a combat mission? This is not so totally clear to me.
Bataillons d'Infanterie Légère d'Afrique.
"Battalion of Light Infantry of Africa formed in 1832 and made up of men with prison records who still had to do their military service or soldiers with serious disciplinary problems."
THIS IS NOT FOREIGN LEGION!
"The Battalions of Light Infantry of Africa (French: Bataillons d'Infanterie Légère d'Afrique or BILA), better known under the acronym Bat' d'Af', were French penal military units, serving in Northern Africa and made up of men with prison records who still had to do their military service or soldiers with serious disciplinary problems."
Whether it is RAC of BILA these penal units seem to have comported themselves well in combat. Well, they had to. The sea at their back, return to their homeland impossible, they had no option other than to stand and fight and fight well, death being the only other alternative.