"Leave," a cartoon by First World War artist Bruce Bairnsfather. Published in "Fragments from France."
Click to see full image.
Don't Salute the Bandmaster
From: Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British Officer 1600-1956, by E.S. Turner, 1956
In an attempt to save new subalterns [during WWI] from social pitfalls, the veterans began to publish little books of 'useful advice.' Besides listing those taboos which survived from days of duelling—no mentioning of ladies' names in the mess, no unsheathing of swords in the ante-room—these authors offered detailed instructions on the drinking of toasts and the circulation of the port. In his Straight Tips for Subs, Captain A. H. Trapman added these:trapman
- Don't salute the bandmaster;
- Never address a captain by his military rank alone—it is only tradesmen who do that;
- Don't resent being fallen in for drill with ordinary recruits;
- Always say 'Good morning' when returning a soldier's salute;
- When marching with your men you may salute ladies and personal friends unless your men are marching to attention;
- You are not expected on entering the mess to invite anybody to have a drink—so don't do it;
- When the senior subaltern speaks to you seriously it is wise to listen and to take notice, for he has the power to convene that totally illegal assembly, a subaltern's court-martial, if your general behaviour gives him any excuse.
The author of The Making of an Officer, who signs himself 'C.N.', is anxious that no subaltern shall spend his leisure time 'motor-cycling with females' or becoming a 'kinema creeper, bookworm, or bar-loafer.' He pictures a senior subaltern haranguing a newcomer who is showing signs of slackness—and the period, be it noted, is 1916:
'You have got to adjust your ideas. By the mercy of Heaven, you've come into the finest regiment in the British Army. You are on trial—if we don't like you, you will have to go. Up to date youve done very well; you haven't talked too much or butted in when other fellows were gassing—but now we want a bit more. This regiment hunts; we always have hunted, we always shall hunt. You need not drink, you need not smoke if you are hard up--but hunt you must. If you are hard up you can quit toddling up to town for the week-end; nothing runs away with money like that. You can keep two horses on what you spend on a couple of weekends in town; and in this regiment we will have fellows spending their money the right way. It's the tradition of the regiment … When you can ride hard without turning your head there's plenty of time to think of messing about with girls.'