Some Notes On Quarterblokery (Part 2)
Canadian Army Journal, Vol 16, No 1, Winter 1962, reproduced by courtesy of the Irish Defence Journal (Dublin) from an article Entitled "MORE About Quarterblokery" by "H.E.D.H."
A Question of Carts and Bottles
In the pre-1939 days, the British Army had a number of Reserve Army horsed cavalry regiments known as Yeomanry. A small permanent staff of sophisticated Regulars was attached from the affiliated Regulars regiments to the Yeomen to assist them in their training and administration. Yeomanry regiments attracted well to-do men who could afford to keep horses in private life and they looked forward to the annual fortnight's training in camp as a great get-together when they would work hard, train hard and play hard. When they came into camp, a "set" of camp equipment, including tentage, bedding and whatever vehicles and equipment was necessary for their sojourn, was issued to them by the local Ordnance Depot. At the end of one of these camps, one regiment of Yeomanry found that they were, amongst other things, deficient of a water cart, or, as QM Argot would put it: "One, carts, water, MK. VI" (valued approximately at BP120). As gentlemen, they cheerfully decided that they would have to pay up. But they had a regular Quartermaster. "You don't want to do that, sir." he old the Colonel. "Leave it to me." Stores were handed back and receipts obtained and at the same time certain minor deficiencies were admitted to, "eluding a debit voucher for one "Bottles Water, Mk. VI" (value 3/8ïd) which may or may not have been missing. After a decent interval had lapsed, the QM, knowing the "system" well, and that all the documents would be pigeon-holed and in the charge of junior clerks, sent a somewhat scruffy routine memo to the Depot which stated tersely, "Ref. my DV/1994 (Q) d. 17.8.38 for `bottles' substitute `carts'." Such a nondescript piece of information was beneath the level of the Depot officers who scrutinize and, as the QM foresaw, it was dealt with by some plodding clerk who mechanically took the voucher out and made the amendment without any reaction. Some time later, the question of the missing water cart was brought up by the Issuing Depot. After sending a number of polite but vague interim replies, the Yeomanry QM referred them to the fact that it had been paid for on his DV/1994, etc. Routine confirmation of this was obtained from the clerks and that, as far as the "Mummerset Yeomanry" were concerned, was the end of the matter.
Technique of Hand-over
As I have said, QMs are inclined to regard the various supplying agencies as fair game. When the Regimental Depot of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps moved from Woolwich to Portsmouth in the 1920's, they took over a barracks there from a brigade of field artillery. A Board of Officers presided over the "Marching In and Hand-over". Among the items to be taken over were a quantity of wooden trestle tables and six-foot wooden barracks forms. These were duly found in a shed, beautifully stacked and "countable" so good in fact that the professional instincts of the Ordnance "Quarter bloke" were aroused and he hesitated. "Get on with it," said the Board, who were by then getting fed up. "You can see they're all there." The Gunners nodded affirmatively. "I'm sorry," said the Ordnance man, "but I can't count them at the back; can we have them out?" The Gunners demurred, it would hold things up, unnecessary work, etc., but they began to dismantle the neat stacks. The front stacks were correct, but the rear ones were found to be tables and forms cut neatly in halves and so laid that in the gloom of the shed the lack of length would not be apparent. Of course, no one felt outraged by this - it was part of the "system"... referred to, and the Gunners were just unfortunate in having an Ordnance man to hand over to.