Some Notes On Quarterblokery (Part 3)
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."
On Active Service
QMs really come into their own on Active Service when the "interlocking" peacetime system of accounting is in abeyance and replacement stores can be demanded on a certificate. This method is not abused for personal gain, but only in the laudable but sometimes misguided feeling that they must have "a bit in hand". This is particularly so if the supply system is not working too well, and they do not feel confident about rapid replacement. The "good" QM will have his "bit in hand". He will do it quietly and discreetly, and no one will ever know he's got it. The "bad" QM will acquire his reserve by crude skulduggery which will be spotted by the Staff and the Supply Service, and, worst of all, when the war suddenly gets mobile, he will bring lorry loads of stores into the divisional dump which neither he nor they can move. Most regular Quartermasters are not indifferent psychologists either, and set out to find out the best method of softening up whoever they want to get anything out of. As a Divisional Ordnance Officer it was my job to tour units to see, by physical inspections, how scarce quantities of clothing could best be apportioned. One QM used to take me to his tent door and as we stood discussing our troubles a well-organized charade would take place for my benefit. Several men from different directions would come past, each one worsely arrayed than the one before him. Clean and polished, they would be threadbare, patched or newly torn, wearing shrunken suits or enveloped by ill-fitting garments many sizes too big. At last my heart would melt. "O.K. Send a truck into Division in the morning and you can have 100 sets of clothing." When I was in the BEF most Ordnance Stores were scarce, and various forms of control were tried. In my Division we thought we would curb extravagance by keeping records of the comparative consumption of certain staple items, and then publishing our findings. We produced these figures on a graph and this made the "bad" boys look really bad and the "good" boys very good; it told the story in a more striking form than numerals published in Routine Orders would, so the DADOS (f) decided that we would get all the QMs (some 30-40) and the Div Q Staff in to look at the graph instead.
The End of a Chart
Messages summoning them were sent out and we added a few frills to the chart and hung it up in the largest room in our offices. They were duly assembled, and, being astute men, at once spotted the graph and saw what it was about. At this point DADOS was called away to take a telephone call from the Base, and the QMs were left alone. When we returned it was to find several of them beating out the flames from what was left of the charred graph, it having been "inadvertently" set on fire by someone's cigarette whilst they were all standing around. Our dramatic evidence gone, our denouement fell flat and all they got was a routine harangue on economy from the AQMG. On another occasion in the BEF an order came out authorizing units to hold "small stocks" of medal ribbon on a scale of 1-inch per medallist to issue when torn or worn clothing was replaced. At my Divisional HQ we reckoned we knew our units pretty well and did a calculation based on their previous stations, make-up of personnel and such like. We checked their indents against this "control" and found most of them reasonable except one. This was from a TA battalion of a famous Highland Regiment which had recently come into the Division. Their indent began "Ribbon, silk, medal, Victoria Cross, 36 inches". Increduously, we sent it back with a note "Please confirm that you have 36 holders of this decoration in your battalion." A few days later the Major Quartermaster, himself with two rows of ribbons, came in and explained. "Oh, he said, "we've no got them yet, but we'll have them alright and I want a wee bit by me when the time comes." Boastful? Not really; maybe a little arrogant, but this is the stuff of which fighting men are made. Poor gallant Highlanders; in action against over-whelming enemy forces, the whole battalion was captured at Saint Valery and passed into captivity. To end on a lighter note, perhaps one of the best stories illustrating Quartermasters' minds and methods is told of an Irish Regiment in the old days. Bread had "come up" and the QM's private storeman was apportioning it to the companies. "If you please, sorr," he said, "I am one loaf short who shall I give it to?" "Keep it yourself, Mick," was his master's reply.