The Minute Book
Sunday, 6 October 2013

1943 Message from the Commandant
Topic: Officers

In the January 1943 edition of the newsletter "BMA Blitz" published by the candidates and staff of the Officers' Training Centre at Brockville, Ontario, the commandant provided this guidance in his message. Known as the "Brockville Military Academy," the OTC was commanded by Colonel Milton Fowler Gregg, V.C., M.C.

1943 Message from the Commandant

By Col. M.F. Gregg, Commandant, Officers' Training Centre

1.     This year anything may happen. I will not wish you "A Happy and prosperous New Year" because it can be neither in the old meanings of the words.

2.     Unless you have a foolproof formula — which I haven't — it isn't much use to speculate about what will happen in theatres of operations this year.

3.     There are, however, some things, to keep us from being easy optimists can do with serious thought by all of us at B.M.A.:—

(a)     The Hun and the Jap are still at the top of their form.

(b)     Much as we hate to admit it, up to now their form has indicated pretty skillful training.

(c)     The Canadian Army, as such, has not yet entered sustained battle.

(d)     We, of the Canadian Army, have had over three years of training — attempting to acquire skill but, in the main, without the enemy present to prove that it will work.

(e)     I believe it will work, and I think you do too. But, for that reason, we can't afford to be smug and self-satisfied that all the answers have been found.

(f)     When the Canadian Army goes into sustained action, the training picture will change within a month.

(g)     Then the demands will be such that there won't be time for much training speculation in quiet places like Brockville.

(h)     The battle itself will provide the ruthless test of what will work and what won't.

(i)     Under fire, the ideas and methods that won't fit that battle picture will have to be improvised into something that will.

(j)     It may sound prety desperate, but it has been done often before and turned the tide by a hair.

(k)     Often the good old principle of war—"Surprise"—will be forced upon you because the Hun will know your standard plays in advance and you'll have to "improvise" to survive.

4.     If you agree, then you will know why we at "B.M.A." harp upon the importance of the maximum use of these three months for:—

(a)     Solid foundation in orthodox skill, based on such experience as now available. You must ave that for you will have plenty of times to use it. Without it, you'll be in a muddle which will sap confidence and kill initiative. With it, your show will kick off in tidy fashion and leave you free to be on alert for an opportunity to vary or improve upon the standard play. It's exactly the same as in football or hockey.

(b)     Practice in improvisation after the groundwork is laid. When you played your practice games at school, you tried out some of your own canny stunts—some of them proved foolish and you discarded them. But the effect was, that when the league games came, you had confidence in yourself, to improvise at the vital moment. You've got to have some confidence in your ability to "ad lib" in the battle or you won't have the nerve to try it when it is essential. That's why this is a good place to start to create that confidence.

5.     So I ask instructors and candidates to make the most effective use of all th time granted in 1943 (whether at Brockville or beyond) to:

(a)     make sure your skill with men, weapons and equipment is sound.

(b)     imagine how the items of your training can best be fitted into the battle and inquisitively let that be the urge for your study and questioning.

(c)     let your enthusiasm out-do the B.M.A. 1942 model. It has proved that sustained enthusiasm and controlled speed are potent factors in overcoming the handicap of the shortness of this Course.

(d)     practice in making your decisions quickly without dithering, both during training hours and after. Don't worry when they prove silly but keep at it until you can make a sound decision on anything in three seconds.

(e)     take advantage of the field work and bits of mild battle inoculation here, not only to learn to do, but to plan quickly so you will be able to do it when real fear, fatigue and excitement will combine to freeze your mind. mental and physical stamina, the capacity to improvise with your team in a pinch—will be your salvation while shaking yourself out of the first tense stages of the battle.

6. As I passed these notes to the Adjutant to have them types, he said "They sound pretty gloomy." All right, then. For all of you, may 1943 be a year of Happy Humiliation of the Hun.

Brockville, 1 Jan., 1943

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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