The Minute Book
Thursday, 5 February 2015

Basic Officer Training; Sandhurst
Topic: Drill and Training

1960 - The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst; Intake 28. Junior's Drill Cometition. The Inspection!, posted to flickr by Brian Harrington Spier

Basic Officer Training; Sandhurst

Quoted in To Revel in God's Sunshine; The story of the Army career of the late [Sandhurst] Academy Sergeant Major J.C. Lord, MVO, MBE, compiled by Richard Alford

Consequently, under the enthusiastic control of Sgt. John France, Scots Guards, we began our drill training on the second day — before we had any uniforms! I remember thinking how my calf-leather shoes were standing up to the punishment. Every opportunity was taken for a few minutes drill as we waited, for example, for kit issues. The training got under way. Two periods of drill a day, two of physical training, the next made up of weapon training, map reading and basic infantry skills. We were up at 6.30, washed, shaved, bed made and dressed for BRC or Breakfast Roll Call Parade, at 07.00. On this parade we had to be immaculate or be punished.

During the first six weeks there were many ways in which we could get into trouble — from BRC to lights out at 11 p.m. we negotiated what seemed to be a continuous minefield of potential disaster. The smallest fault in turnout meant 'show parades'. The inspecting cadet NCO would pick a fault and say, "Show belt brasses" or "Show boots" as appropriate, and that meant that in addition to the rigours of evening work, the unfortunate junior would parade in a specified uniform at 10 p.m., carrying the offending article suitably prepared for a second inspection. Failure to get on parade on time, or being generally scruffy and disordered in dress, were the juniors' ticket to 'changing parades'. The senior cadets would stand after supper in 'Picadilly', the concourse of the four platoon corridors, in the company block, and the first parade would be called. Out would come the juniors from their doors — "Stand to your doors juniors" was the call — and be inspected. Then they would be told the next form of dress and to parade in five minutes for another inspection. Usually it would go from Service Dress to Combat Dress to PT Kit to Battle Order and so on. In each inspection you could be checked and given extra changing parades as a result. When we got to rifle inspection the situation became even more precarious. We had to parade with rifles 'dry cleaned' meaning not a scrap of oil on them anywhere and achieved by using liquid stain remover 'thawpit', and a stiff brush. On the order "Strip the rifles for inspection" we had to take it apart without putting any of the eight basic pieces down. Always somebody dropped a component and depending on the mood of the Cadet NCO, he or the whole platoon had to do it again. Having satisfied the inspection team, rifles had to be re-oiled and reinspected along similar lines of discipline.

All this 'harrassment', as the Americans call it, went on after a full and exhausting day's work and was in addition to room inspections and cleaning muddy gear after periods on the training area.

I remember noting the ironical comment of our Sergeant Major, when he was showing us how to polish boots. He said that best boots had to be polished all over to a glassy shine, including the welts, and the soles had to be brush polished. However we were on no account to polish the studs, because that was 'bull' and not allowed in the army of the 60s!

After work we would spend hours polishing boots. We had three pairs — weapon training (brush polished only), drill (toes and heels polished), uppers (brush polished), and best — every bit polished. We were not allowed out of uniform at any time during the day. We wore plain clothes once, after about four weeks when we were allowed a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon to attend the Horse Show in the grounds — then back into it. Seven days a week and church parade on Sunday. No old soldier will need to be reminded of the methods used to clean uniform and equipment but for the record and for the uninitiated, the glassy shine was achieved on leather boots with a polish painstakingly applied with the index finger cloaked in a yellow duster. The technique was to dab the duster in polish, spit on the boot and rub in the polish in a small circular motion until, after what seemed an eternity, a shine would begin to appear. It took hours and was not just confined to boots. We had brown leather belts and bayonet frogs which had to be equally glassy. My intake was the last to wear the khaki battledress, and this presented additional joys in that it included webbing anklets with brass buckles and leather straps. The webbing had to be blancoed, the straps polished to a high shine and a scrap of polish or blanco on the brasses meant trouble on inspection.

The rifle was no exception; the sling was of webbing and was bound in brass at each end. Similar rules of perfection were applied. The wooden parts of the rifle were polished with what was universally known as 'the brew', of which each company had its own closely guarded recipe. We agreed amongst ourselves that it was basically french polish, with methylated spirit and one or two extra touches. It was doled out by the seniors from the brew bottle shortly before the juniors' competition, with a view to giving us the edge on the other eleven platoons competing. It must be said that when we went on parade, once we had become familiar with the uniforms and equipment, we sparkled. We were absolutely immaculate from top to toe, and in an odd sort of way the work we had put in seemed worthwhile. We began to swank a little. There were times when I wondered if it would ever end. As we flew from one end of the Academy to another we would pass more senior cadets in plain clothes, going to their academic studies in the manner of university students, which in effect they were. Would we ever reach that stage of languid serenity or were they a race apart? Of course, a few months before these young men had been through the rigours we were experiencing, but it was difficult to believe.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Worthy Leader
Topic: Leadership

A Worthy Leader

US Army Infantry Journal, February 1943

A leader then, to be worthy in the eyes of his men would do well to follow these commands:

1.     Be competent.

2.     Be loyal to your men as well as to your country and Army.

3.     Know your men, understand them, love them and be proud of them.

4.     Accept responsibility and give clear, decisive orders.

5.     Teach your men by putting them through the necessary action.

6.     Give necessary orders only, but —

7.     Get things done.

8.     Be fair.

9.     Work hard.

10.     Remember that a leader is a symbol. Men need to respect and trust you — don't let them down.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Winter on the Somme
Topic: The Field of Battle

Winter on the Somme

The Roses of No Man's Land, Lyn MacDonald, 1980

In that winter's [1916-17] lull in the fighting along the vast frozen length of the line, the elements were the real enemy. It was worst of all on the Somme. After the Germans retired to the Hindenburg Line they left behind a frozen tundra—pock-marked with shellholes, scarred by a network of now-useless trenches, and devoid of any shelter but the concrete chill of old dugouts, which were swiftly occupied by squeaking packs of the outsize, blood-bloated rats that preyed on the corpses of long-dead soldiers. The few dreary encampments that marked the staging posts of the long haul through the wilderness to the new front line offered little in the way of comfort to the half-frozen infantry who trudged up to man it.

Although there was little fighting in the winter wastes, and little was expected before the spring, it was not possible to withdraw large numbers of men to the comparative comfort of billets in the rear and to garrison the line with a skeleton force. Forty-eight hours were as much as a battalion could be expected to remain in the open trenches, and large numbers of troops had to be frequently rotated if the fighting force was not to succumb en masse to exposure, pneumonia or trench-feet. As it was, the large numbers of men sent down the line suffering from trench-feet caused the army such anxiety that special orders were issued. Every man must carry a spare pair of dry socks at all times. At least once a day every man must remove boots and stockings and rub his feet with whale-oil, and every platoon officer was to be held responsible for seeing that this was done.

But it was not easy to persuade a shivering soldier to divest his icy feet of what little protection they had. When the trenches were merely frozen hard the problem w as less acute. When the sun came out or when the thermometer rose a degree or two above zero and the icy ground began to thaw, the soldiers sank up to their knees into a layer of icy slush. In such conditions it was physically impossible to carry out the whale-oil-rubbing, foot-inspection drill. Frozen and wet, stiff and numb, with no means of exercising to restore the circulation already impeded by tightly-bound wet puttees, the feet of the unfortunate infantrymen turned into one vast and excruciating chilblain. In the worst cases, men were literally unable to walk. In the face of mounting casualties, GHQ grumbled and roared, threatened and sent demands for explanations to corps, to brigades, to battalions and to companies in the line, warning dire consequences if the situation did not improve.

The exasperated CO of the 16th Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry, driven to distraction by the continuous badgering, eventually wrote to Brigade, 'I have given you every explanation that is humanly possible. If you are not satisfied, I must refer you to God Almighty.' He heard no more.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 2 February 2015

Keeping Up Soldierly Appearances
Topic: Discipline

Keeping Up Soldierly Appearances

The Miracle of Dunkirk, Walter Lord, 1982

Nineteen-year-old 2nd Lieutenant William Lawson of the Royal Artillery knew that appearances were important, but he felt he had a good excuse for looking a little scruffy. His artillery unit had been badly mauled on the Dyle, again at Arras, and had barely made it back to the perimeter—two rough weeks almost always on the run.

Now at last he was at La Panne, and it was the Navy's turn to worry. Wandering down the beach, he suddenly spied a familiar face. It was his own father, Brigadier the Honorable E.F. Lawson, temporarily serving on General Adam's staff. Young Lawson had no idea his father was even in northern France. He rushed up and saluted.

"What do you mean looking like that!" the old Brigadier thundered. "You're bringing dishonor to the family! Get a haircut and shave at once!"

The son pointed out that at the moment he couldn't possibly comply. Lawson brushed this aside, announcing that his own batman, a family servant in prewar days, would do the job. And so he did—a haircut and shave right on the sands of Dunkirk.

At the mole Commander Clouston had standards, too. Spotting one of the shore patrol with hair far longer than it could have grown in the last three or four days, he ordered the man to get it cut.

"All the barbers are shut, sir," came the unruffled reply. Clouston still insisted. Finally, the sailor drew his bayonet and hacked off a lock. "What do you want me to do with it now," he asked, "put it in a locket?"

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Value of a Tradition
Topic: Tradition

The Value of a Tradition

"Looks or use?," by Major E.L.M. Burns, M.C., p.s.c., Royal Canadian Engineers; Canadian Defence Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 1, October 1931

It may be said — "Oh, but the crowd likes the bright uniforms." Admitting for the moment that the crowd does like bright uniforms, let us ask ourselves whether that would be a sufficient reason for wearing them. It is always degrading to seek the approval of the witness. But it is by no means certain that the crowd is fooled. I quote from a recent popular song:

"The King's Horses and the King's Men!
They're in scarlet, they're in gold,
All dolled up, it's a joy to behold
The King's Horses and the King's Men!,
They're not out to fight the foe,
You might think so, but Oh! Dear No!
They're out because they've got to go
To put a little pep in the Lord Mayor's Show."

Popular songs, it may be said, are not made on themes which are contrary to popular beliefs.

The Frontenac Times

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 31 January 2015

Ceremonial Drill
Topic: Drill and Training

Ceremonial Drill

"Old Military Customs Still Extant," by Major C.T. Tomes, D.S.O., M.C., Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. LXX, February to November, 1925

General Sir David Dundas, GCB
(1735 – 1820)

Ceremonial Drill is not merely a collection of movements designed for the improvement of discipline and to test the steadiness of the men in the ranks. Our modern "Infantry Training" deserves a little study.

There is the "Advance in Review Order," which is nothing more than a rehearsal of the attack for the benefit of the reviewing General. Arms are presented at the close as a sign that the movement is completed. It used to be the last of eighteen complicated manoeuvres performed by a battalion when tested as to its preparedness for war. In this process was included an advance in line, a volley fired obliquely to the right, another to the left, a further advance and two volleys to the front, officers and colours then took post, the whole moved forward fifty paces and the inspection concluded with a Royal Salute. The last movement is now all that remains.

(From a related note: The Chairman; The Hon. J.W. Fortescue, C.V.O.: —The eighteen manoeuvres did not come in till 1781, and were invented by David Dundas in the first drill-book issued for the whole Army written by a private individual and sanctioned by authority. Everybody had his own drill book before that and did what was right in his own eyes. The eighteen manoeuvres became famous because officers considered that they were the beginning and end of their duties. You remember the remark Sir John Moore made to Dundas: "Your drill book would have done a great deal of good if it had not been for those damned eighteen manoeuvres;" whereupon Dundas replied: "Blockheads do not understand. That is the danger of making a drill book.")

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 30 January 2015

A Calculated Risk
Topic: Officers

A Calculated Risk

Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection, Leonard F. Guttridge, 1992

According to the Time magazine article: "We all have a little of the Captain Queeg in us," admitted one officer. "But Arnheiter had more than his share."

(Quoted at Wikipedia.)

… regard for an objective appraisal of facts and implications was all but lost in the attention focused upon the captain himself as a bizarre figure hitherto encountered only in the pages of popular fiction or in television farce.

In February 1966, during naval operations off the South Vietnamese coast, … the destroyer escort Vance had repeatedly fouled [another] ship's gun range and had spent useless firepower by hurling shells at sand dunes and barren rocks. Superior intervention at this point, perhaps a stern warning to the captain of the allegedly offending vessel, might well have prevented the development of a public tragicomedy that did nothing to enhance the prestige of the American navy.

Career recommendations are sometimes founded as much on a person's aggressive zeal and powers of imagination as upon his or her academic attainments. An abundance of the former qualities can often make up for deficiencies in the latter. But when a selection board weighs these intangibles, its decision may amount to what a confidant in United States naval service told Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter had applied in his case: "Your assignment to command," wrote Capt. Richard Alexander, "was, quite frankly, a calculated risk."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 29 January 2015

CWGC; New Research Resources
Topic: CWGC

CWGC; New Research Resources

CWGC Disclaimer

This collection of documents relating to the First World War was assembled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and its predecessors as part of the processes involved in the commemoration of individuals. As a result, they contain many corrections and alterations which reflect their use as working documents. For further information concerning the history of the collection, please see the About Our Records page.

Please be advised that some of the documents, especially the burial returns and exhumation reports, may contain information which some people may find distressing. The original archive records and their digital copies remain the property of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, but are available for re-use for private and non-commercial purposes.

For genealogical and medal researchers who have been researching casualties, there have been some new additions to data available from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that you may not be aware of. The CWGC has added documents to many of their on line records for casualties of the world Wars.

These documents, which can be found linked from the CWGC casualty pages, might include any or all of the following (descriptions from the CWGC FAQ page):

Grave Registration Documents

Grave Registration Reports (Final)

Grave Registration Reports (GRRs) are standard forms which record details of all graves for which the CWGC is responsible. They provide basic details of the individuals, such as name, service number, rank, regiment, unit and date of death, and are listed in Plot, Row and Grave order. The CWGC used GRRs only for burials in countries where it was responsible for registering graves. Where the Army Graves Service was responsible for registration, the CWGC was supplied with a document called a Certified Comprehensive Report, which contained similar information to a GRR. GRRs contain a number of abbreviated words and phrases. Please consult our glossary for details.Grave Registration Reports (Working Copy)

These are draft working copies of the final Grave Registration Reports and are indicated as such by being completely struck through as 'Cancelled' or 'Removed'. Often these refer to graves that were either reorganised within a cemetery or removed (in particular the graves of foreign nationals). As a result, the grave details shown in these documents may differ from those shown in the final version.


After the end of the First World War, the CWGC compiled a full list of all of the war dead it was responsible for commemorating. These registers were produced on a cemetery-by-cemetery or memorial-by-memorial basis, and eventually ran to 1,500 volumes. They contain an entry for each individual, with details of their rank, regiment, unit and date of death. Many of the entries also include additional information such as next of kin details and, on occasion, some information about how they died. These register images are taken from a master set of registers kept by the CWGC which were used and revised by staff as new information came to light, hence they may contain many amendments.

Concentration Documents

Alternative Commemoration Documents

These are collections of grave registration documents for graves and cemeteries that have been lost or abandoned. Sites were abandoned for many reasons, but most commonly because the grave or cemetery could not be maintained due to restricted physical access to a site. As a result, the individuals were alternatively commemorated at a different location, usually on a memorial.

Burial Returns

These are lists of individuals who have been recovered or exhumed from their original burial location, and moved or concentrated to a particular cemetery. They provide basic details of the individual, but in addition may also include information as to their original location prior to burial (which in many cases is simply a trench map grid reference), and occasionally some details of how the individual war dead were identified. Exhumations occur when removing remains from a formal place of burial, whereas recoveries occur when remains are discovered but have not been formally buried.

Concentration Cemetery Documents

These are collections of grave registration documents which record details of individuals who were originally buried in smaller or isolated cemeteries, but who at a later date were exhumed and reburied (concentrated) in war cemeteries for ease of maintenance. An example of this would be individuals moved from Rosenberg Chateau to Berks Cemetery Extension.

Exhumation Documents

Exhumation Reports

These are documents which were produced when the war dead were exhumed in order to move them into a war cemetery or to confirm their identity. They generally include details of physique, dentistry, clothing, and equipment and can provide some location information about the initial burial. Examples are rare during the First World War and most of the exhumations occurred in the 1930s.

Final Verification Documents-

Verification Forms

These forms were posted by the CWGC to the next-of-kin listed by the service authorities following the end of the First World War. They contain the individual's basic details (name, rank, regiment, number and date of death), plus any further information provided by the next-of-kin, such as their chosen personal inscription, religious emblem, age and details of the next-of-kin. The CWGC used these documents to verify the information within its' own records, and to ensure the correct information was engraved on any headstones or memorials produced. Unfortunately, around 99% of the Final Verification forms for First World War were destroyed during the Second World War.

Headstone Documents

Headstone Schedule (Originals)

These documents provide details of what was actually inscribed on a headstone. Most headstones for the graves of Commonwealth forces conform to a basic layout of details:

  1. Regimental badge and layout code
  2. Service number and rank
  3. Initial(s), surname and military decorations
  4. Regiment or unit
  5. Date of death and age
  6. Religious emblem
  7. Personal inscription

Schedules for the First World War run to two pages in length, with the details of the individual on the first page and the personal inscription, if any, on the second. The CWGC used these documents to help manage the enormous programme of headstone production after the First World War.

Headstone Schedules (Appendices)

These records contain details of any special layouts that may have been required for CWGC headstones.

While most CWGC headstones conform to a standard layout, there are occasions when changes to this layout are required. For example, where an individual is known to be buried in a particular cemetery but the exact location of their grave is not known, a headstone would be erected with the superscript 'BURIED ELSEWHERE IN THIS CEMETERY'. Examples of inscription used include 'KNOWN TO BE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY' and 'BELIEVED TO BE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY'.

Panel List Documents

Panel Lists

These are lists of individuals commemorated on memorials, memorial stones or screen walls. They reflect the details that were inscribed on the individual memorial panels. Documents will normally list individuals under either regiment and rank sub-headings or individual entries which include rank, name, regiment and date of death.

Panel List Addenda

These documents refer to individuals who may have been added to a memorial at a later date, and who were therefore added to memorial addenda panels rather than the main memorial panels.

More CWGC Links

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Is the Pen Still Mightier Than the Sword?
Topic: Drill and Training

Is the Pen Still Mightier Than the Sword?

Is the Pen Still Mightier Than the Sword?, Major J.M. Walsh, M.C., R.A., The Army Quarterly, Volume LXIV, April and July 1952

The arts of military writing are taught principally, we suppose at the Staff College. Some of our readers will remember the neatly typed precis which urged students to write their writings in the same form as the writing written on the precis itself. We learned about unnumbered sideheadings in blocks and numbered sideheadings not in blocks; of first indents lettered and second indents in little roman numerals; of the correct use of abbreviations and capital letters. We were impressed by the importance of simplicity, of avoiding slang and journalese, and above all, of the virtues of brevity.

But we received a rude shock when we went out into the big military world outside, for we discovered that few people seemed to obey these rules. We found that practically every unit and formation in the British Army had its own particular ideas on how to compose and lay out its correspondence and memoranda (or so it seemed). We learned that the higher the headquarters the more verbose became the signals. We found that sometimes individuals introduced their own idiosyncrasies (we once joined a headquarters in which almost invariably every letter began with the phrase "It is advised that … "). It was all very disappointing to a keen young Staff College graduate anxious to practise his newly acquired skills to find that only lip-service was paid to many of the principles to which he had devoted so much effort to mastering.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 12 January 2015 7:35 PM EST
Tuesday, 27 January 2015

24-Hour Invasion Ration
Topic: Army Rations

Lots to Chew in 24-Hour Invasion Ration

The Maple Leaf; 13 May 1944
By Ross Munro, The Canadian Press

With the Canadian Army Invasion Forces—Canadian and British Assault troops in the invasion of Western Europe will carry with them special 24-hour ration packs of concentrated food.

Each man will carry a ration box which fits into his mess tin. It will be the first time Canadian and British soldiers had such a compact pack.

The new pack's contents include:—

  • 10 biscuits,
  • two seeped OXO blocks,
  • a powdered compound of tea, sugar and milk pressed into small blocks which makes a good brew of tea,
  • a block of meat which looks like pemmican,
  • three slabs of chocolate,
  • boiled candy,
  • chewing gum,
  • salt,
  • six meat extract tablets, and
  • four lumps of sugar.

Instructions in a cardboard box give suggested menus for breakfast and supper and tell the men how to prepare the food. A simple, compact canned hear cooker is carried by each soldier.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 12 January 2015 6:31 PM EST
Monday, 26 January 2015

Leadership Qualities
Topic: Leadership

Corporal T.C. Mackenzie [Loyal Edmonton Regiment], Sergeant R.W. Williams [Calgary Highlanders], Private N.E. Smith [North Nova Scotia Highlanders] and Gunner H.D. Gingell [13 Canadian Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery], who all received Military Medals, at Buckingham Palace, London, England, 27 June 1945. Photographer: Harold D. Robinson. Mikan Number: 3205673. From the Library and Archives Canada virtual exhibit "Faces of War."

Leadership Qualities

"Moral, Instruction and Leadership," Brevet Colonel J.F.C. Fuller, D.S.O., Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, Vol. LXV, February to November, 1920

Leadership presupposes two things: — A leader, and men capable of being led. A stag cannot lead an army of lions; a lion cannot persuade an army of stags to follow. What then is required? A lion leading lions. In other words, the qualities of leader and led are very similar. The chief of these qualities are: —

(1)     Knowledge.

(2)     Skill.

(3)     Determination.

(4)     Endurance.

(5)     Courage.

(6)     Cunning.

(7)     Imagination.

(8)     Confidence.

No one is greater than the other, but the first of all is knowledge.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 25 January 2015

Supporting the Troops
Topic: British Army

Army Service Corps troops - See full image.

Field Marshal William Joseph "Bill" Slim,
1st Viscount Slim,
(6 August 1891 – 14 December 1970)

Supporting the Troops

Unofficial History, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, K.G., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., 1960

…a lieutenant-colonel of the Supply and Transport Corps. … He looked very fierce and military … officers who dealt with bully-beef and biscuit in the back areas so often did … I was informed that his supplies were not for issue to any casual subaltern who cared to ask for them, and, if my detachment had not got everything that was necessary for its comfort, it was either because;

(1)     I was incompetent,

(2)     The staff at the Reinforcement Camp was incompetent, or

(3)     A combination of (1) and (2).

I gathered he rather favoured the first alternative. He ended with the final warning: 'And don't let your fellows come hanging round here. The British soldier is the biggest thief in Asia and his officers encourage him.'

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 January 2015 7:18 PM EST
Saturday, 24 January 2015

Old Bill at the Canadian Corps School
Topic: CEF

Old Bill at the Canadian Corps School

As much as soldiers enjoy learning new things; new weapon systems, new tactics and techniques to make them more effective on the field of battle, there is one timeless constant that survives all armies and eras. Soldiers dislike being in the school environment. Published in the school newsletter of the Canadian Corps Training School, 'Tchun, this cartoon not only shows the readiness of soldiers returned to training environments desiring a return to their "real work," but it also shows how effectively the cartoons of Bruce Bairnsfather had penetrated the familiar understanding of Canadian soldiers duting the First World War.

Old Bill and his trench-mate, still in their shapeless Gor-blimey hats and torn, patched greatcoats have come up against the well-groomed school instructor with his swagger stick and handle-bar mustache. It hasn't taken Old Bill long to assess that the hazards of the school environment outweigh those of his familiar trenches and dugouts. Old Bill would rather face whizz-bangs, trench rats and an occasional whiff of gas than the parade square prominence of a school sergeant-major, polishing brass, and the risks of Field Punishment No. 1 for righteous insubordintion.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2015 12:06 AM EST
Friday, 23 January 2015

Soldier's Load; North Africa
Topic: Soldiers' Load

Soldier's Load; North Africa

Notes From Theatres of War, No. 13, North Africa—Algeria and Tunisia November 1942–March 1943; The War Office, May, 1943

Equipment carried on the man

The following were carried on the man:…

  • 100 rounds S.A.A.
  • 3 grenades (one No. 36, two No. 69).
  • 2 sandbags each (tied on legs or haversack).
  • 1 pick or shovel per man.
  • Bren gun and magazines (spare magazines distributed amongst the section).
  • Sub machine gun and magazines (spare magazines distributed amongst the section).
  • Bangalore torpedoes (2 or 3 per company).
  • Gas-cape.
  • Shaving kit.
  • Water bottle.
  • Rations for following day together with one day's reserve and emergency (chocolate) ration.

As much ammunition as possible was carried on the man, and experience showed that the following could be carried in addition to reserve rations and personal equipment:…

  • .303 – 100 rounds per rifleman.
  • .303 – 8 magazines per LMG.
  • .303 – 4 belts (each of 250 rounds) per MMG.
  • .45 – 200 rounds per machine carbine.
  • 2-in mortar – 12 bombs per mortar.
  • 3-in mortar – 24 bombs per platoon.
  • Grenades – average of two per man throughout the unit.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 22 January 2015

Ribbon Creek: Remaking the USMC
Topic: Drill and Training

Ribbon Creek: Remaking the Corps

Marine; A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Tom Clancy, 1996

Ribbon Creek brought on a strong Congressional and public reaction. This came from genuine concern for the welfare of individual Marines and the Corps as a whole. Clearly, Americans wanted the Corps to be a reflection of their values and ideals.

The postwar years were busy for the Marines, as they were often called upon to support U.S. interests overseas. But with the coming of the Cold War, the Corps sought to make itself ready for its part in America's defense mission. Thus, Marines endured atomic battlefield tests in Nevada and began to absorb new equipment and tactics. All of this came from a general view that the Corps was remaking itself into a high-technology force that was ready to fight on the nuclear battlefield. Then came the tragedy at Ribbon Creek. In 1956, a drunken drill instructor at the recruiting depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, marched a group of seventy-four recruits into a tidal swamp called Ribbon Creek. Six of them died. The tragedy led to a total reform of Marine recruit training.

Ribbon Creek brought on a strong Congressional and public reaction. This came from genuine concern for the welfare of individual Marines and the Corps as a whole. Clearly, Americans wanted the Corps to be a reflection of their values and ideals. Several hundred instructors were relieved of duty as a result of investigations into their conduct in training Marines. In addition, Ribbon Creek led to a profound transformation in the way the Corps viewed and trained its recruits. The shift reinforced the attitude that all Marines are brothers or sisters to their fellow Marines. Even today, the memory of Ribbon Creek influences the way new recruits are handled—not with kid gloves, but with respect for their safety and dignity. This too is part of the Marine ethos: to take care of their brother and sister Marines.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Canada's War Dead To Rest Forever
Topic: Remembrance

Holten Canadian War Cemetery

Canada's War Dead To Rest Forever On or Near Fields Where They Fell

The Evening Citizen, Ottawa; 4 October 1945

"To give effect to even a moderate demand for repatriation would be a task of greater magnitude than in 1918; for though the numbers involved are happily fewer, the graves are far more widely scattered and shipping facilities are almost non-existent.

"On the other hand private repatriation by a few individuals who could afford the cost would be contrary to the equality of treatment which is the underlying principle of the commission's work and has appealed so strongly to the deepest sentiments of our peoples."

The Canadian dead of the Second World War will lie forever on or near the battlefields that brought them death.

Speaking for the Imperial War Graves Commission, the Department of External Affairs announced early today that no bodies would be brought home from Europe for the same reason that those of their fathers were not brought home after the war and the battles that took their lives.

The announcement, issued simultaneously in Britain and the dominions, said the decision had been made by the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland and India.

To explain its position, the War Graves Commission, accredited agent of all British Commonwealth governments, reiterated the policy laid down in 1918 which, as now, was issued in answer to requests from relatives wishing to bring their sons or brothers of fathers back to the soil of Canada.

Of Greater Magnitude

Said the commission:

"To give effect to even a moderate demand for repatriation would be a task of greater magnitude than in 1918; for though the numbers involved are happily fewer, the graves are far more widely scattered and shipping facilities are almost non-existent.

"On the other hand private repatriation by a few individuals who could afford the cost would be contrary to the equality of treatment which is the underlying principle of the commission's work and has appealed so strongly to the deepest sentiments of our peoples."

Therefore, repatriation would neither be undertaken nor allowed.

In the statement there was final information for relatives that their dead would sleep eternally in the earth of Sicily or Italy or France of The Netherlands. From the simple graves with the simple crosses that marked each battleground, they eventually all will be gathered into the major cemeteries that will make parts of Europe Canadian forever.

Already France has provided in perpetuity the land required for British cemeteries and by like generosities or by treaties the same will pertain in other countries where men of the Empire fell.

Gathered In

Already some of those cemeteries have gathered in Canadian dead, the first of them overlooking battlegrounds of Sicily. Another, south of Ortona, holds the dead of the Moro Valley and of other battles in Italy.

Possibly some day, somewhere in Europe, Canada will erect a single memorial to rank with that of Vimy in its excellence and in its meaning. Or possibly by some method she will add to the unscathed shaft on that immortal battleground of the First World War some mark or token that will bring it motherhood of the memory of the Second Great War.

But is anyone has thought those thoughts of decided those things they have not spoken.

Defence headquarters announced more than a year ago that all necessary steps had been taken to ensure that the land containing Canadian graves overseas would be held in perpetuity. They will remain permanent possessions of the Dominion.

Their "custodian in perpetuity" is the Imperial War Graves Commission, formed during the First Great War to operate under special powers conferred by royal charter. Its headquarters are in London and the Canadian member is Rt. Hon. Vincent Massey, high commissioner for Canada.

As a temporary measure during the war, many of the graves remained in their simplicity near the battlegrounds, the spots marked by wooden crosses with the names, the numbers and the regiments painted in black against the white of the wood.

Now the commission assumes the job of moving the bodies to the major cemeteries and erecting a standard headstone above them. Ample space is provided on the stones for a personal inscription and the engraving of a religious emblem if the next-of-kin desires. Next-of-kin will be written for such particulars.

In March, 1945, Maj.-Gen. J.H. Roberts, Canadian commander at Dieppe, was appointed chief administrative officer, central European district, with the War Graves commission.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 20 January 2015

If Patience is a Virtue
Topic: LAC

If Patience is a Virtue, then CEF Researchers are Headed for Sainthood

It is by a varying stroke of luck that one of the most valuable resources for researching Canadian soldiers of the First World War still exists. That resource is the collection of service records maintained by Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Held variously by the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs and the Archives over the past 100 years, the massive collection of files was, luckily, never purged of files after the deaths of veterans because no department ever had the money and manpower to do so.

The variety of people who have delved into this collection of files in recent decades has included genealogists, researchers of military units, and collectors of military medals, among others. They have accessed the files either by visiting LAC in Ottawa (the lucky few), by ordering photocopies of files from LAC (a slow process that added up in financial terms if regular requests were made), or by paying one of the local researchers to visit and photograph files (a highly convenient and somewhat more economical solution for serial researchers). But over the past year access has dwindled, and now has ceased completely.

Early in 2014, word got around that a project to scan the service records of the CEF was beginning. With the intent to place the results freely on line, this was heralded as an excellent step and welcomed with praise. As 2015 opens, over 100,000 of 640,000 files have been scanned, and the rate of completion — about 5000 files coming on line every two weeks, roughly in alphabetical order — anyone waiting for W–X–Y–Z will be well into 2016 before they see results.

Despite the wonderful concept and the huge, and hugely useful, resource about to be created and made available to everyone, the timing is a tragedy in itself. The centennial years of the First World War, 2014 to 2018, will likely create the biggest demand for these records. Unfortunately, we are looking at them being partly or completely unavailable for up to half that time period.

I'd like to suggest that perhaps LAC could throw researchers a bone to chew on while we wait.

I've always been impressed with an added utility offered by the Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM). The CVWM permits users to submit images to be added to a virtual record for any of the listed casualties. These may include photographs of the individual, copies of documents, or even images of text, which can range from newspaper clippings to items created by the submitter.

Example – Lieut.-Col. Henry Campbell Becher

The CVWM's ability to accept these submissions is limited to Canada's official casualties. If a similar utility were created by LAC as an addition to the Soldiers of the First World War database, then the collection of images and information could be extended to all soldiers who served in the Great War. And it might give interested and dedicated researchers something to work on while they wait for those service records.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 19 January 2015

Basic Philosophy of Soldiering
Topic: Leadership

Basic Philosophy of Soldiering

Col. Glover S. Johns Jr.
(1912 – 1976

Colonel Glover S. Johns — OBITUARY — Col. Glover S. Johns Jr.

Colonel Glover Johns

1.     Strive to do small things well.

2.     Be a doer and a self-starter-aggressiveness and initiative are two most admired qualities in a leader-but you must also put your feet up and THINK.

3.     Strive for self-improvement through constant self-evaluation.

4.     Never be satisfied. Ask of any project, How can it be done better?

5.     Don't over-inspect or over-supervise. Allow your leaders to make mistakes in training, so they can profit from the errors and not make them in combat.

6.     Keep the troops informed; telling them "what, how, and why" builds their confidence.

7.     The harder the training, the more troops will brag.

8.     Enthusiasm, fairness, and moral and physical courage - four of the most important aspects of leadership.

9.     Showmanship-a vital technique of leadership.

10.     The ability to speak and write well-two essential tools of leadership.

11.     There is a salient difference between profanity and obscenity; while a leader employs profanity (tempered with discretion), he never uses obscenities.

12.     Have consideration for others.

13.     Yelling detracts from your dignity; take men aside to counsel them.

14.     Understand and use judgement; know when to stop fighting for something you believe is right. Discuss and argue your point of view until a decision is made, and then support the decision wholeheartedly.

15.     Stay ahead of your boss.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 January 2015 3:00 PM EST
Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Defence of Canada 1935
Topic: Canadian Army

The Defence of Canada 1935

In Defence of Canada; From the Great War to the Great Depression, James Eayrs, 1964

McNaughton's paper was entitled "The Defence of Canada." In it he reviewed the changing background of Canadian defence policy since the Great War, and furnished illustrations of existing deficiencies in equipment and ammunition:

"As regards reserves of equipment and ammunition, the matter is shortly disposed of. Except as regards rifles and rifle ammunition, partial stocks of which were inherited from the Great War…there are none.

As regards equipment, the situation is almost equally serious, and to exemplify it I select a few items from the long lists of deficiencies on file at NDHQ:

(i)     There is not a single modern anti-aircraft gun of any sort in Canada.

(ii)     The stocks of field gun ammunition on hand represent 90 minutes' fire at normal rates for the field guns inherited from the Great War and which are now obsolescent.

(iii)     The coast defence armament is obsolete and, in some cases, defective in that a number of the major guns are not expected to be able to fire more than a dozen rounds. To keep some defence value in these guns, which are situated on the Pacific Coast, we have not dared for some years to indulge in any practice firing.

(iv) vAbout the only article of which stocks are is practically useless….

(v)     There are only 25 aircraft of service type in Canada, all of which are obsolescent for training purposes….

(vi)     Not one service air bomb is held in Canada.

The situation as generally outlined above with respect to equipment and ammunition is one that can be viewed only with the gravest concern. And with the rapidly deteriorating international situation the position is becoming more and more disquieting …" ["The Defence of Canada," Memorandum by MacNaughton, 5 April 1935 (revised 28 May 1935) Army Records (112.3M2009.D7).]

McNaughton's memorandum was circulated among members of the Cabinet on 28 May. On the following day he appeared before the Cabinet. It was his last act as Chief of the General Staff.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 17 January 2015

CEF Discharge Depot: Invaliding
Topic: CEF

Adjutant-General's Branch

CEF Discharge Depot: Invaliding

Report of the Ministry
Overseas Military Forces of Canada; 1918

As it became necessary, from time to time, to despatch to Canada parties of men, principally those being returned by the Allocation Board, i.e,, men in a low category whose services were not required, as well as men who were being returned for special reasons, such as instructional purposes, it was essential that these men should be uniformly prepared and held for embarkation at short notice. A Unit was, therefore, organised and known as No. 1 Canadian Discharge Depot, and, in view of the fact that the majority of sailings took place from Liverpool, it was located at Buxton. During the year ending December 31, 1918, the Buxton Discharge Depot handled 21,622 men returning to Canada, of which number 1,152 were proceeding on furlough.

In the early part of 1918 permanent Transatlantic Conducting Staffs, who were in charge of reinforcements from Canada, reported at the Discharge Depot, Buxton, on arrival. They were then detailed by the Officer Commanding the Depot to take charge of whatever party was returning to Canada and, in addition to this Staff, an officer was detailed by Headquarters, Overseas Military Forces of Canada, to take charge of each district party under the command of the Officer Commanding the Permanent Conducting Staff.

In addition to personnel returning to the Discharge Depot, Buxton, there were men who, on account of their wounds or sickness, had been marked by the Medical Authorities as soldiers who should be invalided to Canad for further treatment. These men were known as Invaliding Cases, and until June, 1918, such men were returned to Canada in regular hospital ships which had been taken over by the Canadian Government and were making periodical crossings from England to Canada. After the sinking of H.M.H.S. Llandovery Castle, the practice of using hospital ships was discontinued, and vessels known as Ambulance Transports were employed. These vessels travelled under escort up to the time of the Armistice.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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