The Minute Book
Saturday, 9 May 2015

Canadians Obtain Good Experience; Salisbury 1915
Topic: CEF

Canadians Obtain Good Experience

Bad Roads Help to Harden Men for Work in France
Finishing Touches
Disciplione Has Been the One Failure—Disobedience Well Punished

The Toronto World, 12 January 1915
By John A. MacLaren, one of The World's Staff Correspondents with the Canadian Expeditionary Force

Salisbury, Eng., Dec. 22.—To turn the raw material into the finished product, to make the recruit—with his woeful lack of knowledge of matter military, probably the most important of which is discipline—into a real soldier, authorities have said that nine months of hard training is necessary. In the British regular army a soldier is not supposed to know all the ropes in less than that period. The Canadians have now been drilling for four months, and they believe they are ready to meet the enemy at any time. Their work has been harder than that of a recruit in the British army in times of peace. They have been living under practically active service conditions in the rain and mud of Salisbury, and not in barracks, with two or three weeks in the autumn of manoeuvres, which is the only occasion when the British regulars get a taste of what war may be like. So after four months, on account of the great emergency, the Canadian volunteers, who have had to undergo untold hardships, may be almost as well equipped for genuine fighting as the man who spends nine months picking up the rudiments of the game in a barracks.

There is much talk of the force going to France in the latter part of January, or five months after the call to arms was sounded throughout Canada, and if this should occur it will not come as a surprise but as a relief. The long wait and surprise will be over.

Stand the Strain

There appears to be every indication that the finishing touches are being applied to the training course. It is recognized that as far as endurance, or ability to stand the strain of warfare is concerned, there are none better than the Canadians. The fact that so few men fall out of the ranks before the conclusion of a twenty-mile march is a revelation.

There is no doubt that the men are physically fit. Their muscles are hard, and working during such bad weather has placed then in splendid condition.

The old system of double company formations instead of platoons is now working smoothly, and officers who were rather green at first, are handling their men with greater confidence and success. The reason for discarding the platoon formation was because it did not work satisfactorily in France. Right here it may be said that the men in harness in England getting ready to fight are taught to a great extent, according to wrinkles found in the firing line. That platoon system would never had been dropped had it not been found unwieldy in France.

There is a certain soldier greatly admired in England. He wears a blue-and-white ribbon on his sleeve. This ais a sign that he has returned from the front on furlough. While he is in England his short vacation is nor one entirely of leisure. In many instances he is found teaching the young soldiers what he himself learned first hand. In the Canadian camp a few of these men have been giving instructions to those who are getting ready. For example, in the important matter of digging trenches they teach the Canadian the width and the depth of trenches and other valuable things in the use of the spade. It has been said that next to the gun the spade is winning this war. At all events the Canadians are taught how to dig trenches properly. These ditches zig-zag here and there across the downs, an indication of the industry of the men who may soon be performing similar work in France.

Leave Cut Off

As has been pointed out in a cable all leave will be cut off after January 1st. One would imagine that this order would disappoint the men. But not so. It has had the other effect. The Canadian believe that this means an early departure, and that is what they want.

Some new equipment has been added to the force. Four or eight new machine guns will be used in each battalion, and each officer of a machine gun squad has been taking instructions on their use. The quick-firers are somewhat different from those formerly used. This type of weapon has been recognized as a great factor in the war. Captain Mckessock, who practiced law in Sudbury for years, and Lieutenant MacDonald of the Queen's Own, are both officers in command of machine guns. This branch if the service has proved very fascinating, if the large waiting list is any criterion.

Poor Discipline

One of the most difficult tasks confronting commanding officers is teaching their men to obey. There has been a lack of discipline apparent and this undoubtedly is due principally to the fact that neither Canadian officers nor men are professional soldiers. But there has been a great tightening up, and the men are gradually learning that it pays to obey. The penalty for disobedience is strict. Not long ago a man received his pay and went over the the canteen. He didn't come back for a week, for, after visiting this little wooden hut where light beer is served, he journeyed to London. When he returned he got thirty days in a military prison. It was his second offence. When the contingent first arrived here overstaying leave was quite common. But this has all been changed.

The Canadians—many of them—salute only when necessary. They look upon this form of exercise as an inconvenience and unnecessary except when they meet their own officers. But, as in many other things, they are quickly learning to do the proper thing—to pay respect to the rank. British officers are sticklers for etiquette, consequently the British rankers are always very proper.

The other day General Pitcairn Campbell, commander of the Southern Command, while walking along a Salisbury street, passed a couple of westerners. They did not salute him. The general wheeled around and shouted, "Hey, hey, why the devil don't you salute me?"

No answer.

The Canadians immediately came to attention and saluted very briskly.

"You're not supposed to salute with one hand in your pocket," said the general to one of the offenders. "See that you salute an officer hereafter," and then the general and the two miscreants, whose nerves were greatly on edge, parted company. The Canadians were thankful that nothing further occurred.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 8 May 2015

A Short Talk With Chief Petty Officers (USN 1917)
Topic: Leadership

Summary of Points; from
"A Short Talk With Chief Petty Officers."

The Bluejacket's Manual, United States Navy, by Lieutenant Norman R. Van Der Veer, U.S. Navy, 1917

1.     You have a position in which you must have expert knowledge of every detail that applies to your branch of the profession.

2.     Your duties in training and instructing men of lower ratings are even more important than your duties in connection with the matériel.

3.     Your conduct must be entirely above reproach, and your daily life such as to set an example both from a personal as well as from a professional point of view.

4.     Whatever may be your special branch, always bear in mind the military side of the life. Comply strictly with the formalities of military life and require the same of your juniors.

5.     Yours is a position of honor and responsibility. Do your work from a sense of duty. Be thorough in all you do, and require of your subordinates thoroughness and military exactitude.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vietnam Sketchbook (Part 2)
Topic: The Field of Battle

Vietnam Sketchbook (Part 2)

War's Something More than Charts, Headlines

There's more. Much more, to the war in Vietnam than battle reports and casualty figures, statistics and strategy. Above all, there are the soldiers, the "GI Joes," each fighting for his life in a very personal way, in his own personal war. John Wheeler, who has been covering Vietnam for The Associated Press for years, recounts some of those personal experiences, funny and bitter, tragic and ironic, that make up the war in Vietnam.

Eugene Register-Guard, 18 August 1968
By John T. Wheeler, of Associated Press

For all the horror of war, there is still humor.

A reconnaissance team sat in its Army helicopter as it dived toward a landing zone deep in enemy territory. As the chopper leveled out, the door gunner panicked and pushed the first heavily laden recon man out while the chopper was still 25 feet in the air.

As the chopper dropped lower, the next man paused at the door, got a firm grip on the door gunner's arm and dragged him out when he jumped.

The door gunner, without adequate field gear, spent the next five days with the recon team. When the patrol was over, all the recon men were decorated. The door gunner got an official reprimand.

elipsis graphic

For a man on night ambush, there are many perils. Cpl. Jim Shepherd didn't know it that night, but he had one standing right beside him.

The Montpelier, Idaho, infantryman said later, "I felt something hit me on the arm. I thought it was the squad leader jabbing me.

Shepherd turned and faced not his squad leader but a grown tiger. The tiger, apparently satisfied that the 19-year-old corporal would make a satisfactory dinner, began dragging Shepherd away.

Shepherd pounded the tiger's face with his free right hand. He was afraid to try and jerk free for fear of losing his left arm. His buddies were afraid to shoot for fear of hitting him.

"He got me into the water and I guess he figured he couldn't get me across the creek. He probably didn't know what to do with me," Shepherd said.

What the tiger did do was drop Shepherd in the water and move majestically into the night in search of slightly smaller prey. Shepherd went to hospital for stitched and two weeks of antirabies shots.

elipsis graphic

The interdependence of men, especially in jungle warfare, has wrought what one officer called a revolutionary change in race relations in the military. Vietnam is the first war in which all U.S. units are thoroughly integrated.

A 25th Division battalion commander once said, "There is no room for bigotry in foxholes." The comment was made after a particularly bitter battle in "Hell's Half Acre" near the division's headquarters at Cu Chi.

During the fight, one U.S. squad was being systematically shot to pieces by Viet Cong snipers. Four bodies of white GIs lay deep in the snipers' kill zone. A powerfully built sergeant called out for volunteers to race out and pull the bodies and weapons in.

Spec. 4 Newman heard the call in the bottom of a trench where he was resting a hip wound. The Baltimore, Md., Negro was under no military compulsion to volunteer. There were enough unwounded men to do the job. But he scrambled painfully out of the trench and began running with a heavy limp into the kill zone.

The wound slowed him down. Everybody made it to protection in shell holes but Newman, whose side was opened up by a burst of enemy automatic weapons fire. Two men immediately leaped from the trench to rescue Newman. One was white, the other Negro.

Earlier in the war, a U.S. 101st Airborne company was commanded by a Negro captain from Atlanta, Ga. The captain was articulate, well;-educated and very much the commander of his men.

The company's first sergeant was the product of the Mississippi Delta, a white with little formal schooling.

The captain and the sergeant worked together in near perfect teamwork with frequent gusts of humor.

The battalion commander said that more of the company's men undoubtedly returned home alive that they would have if the relationship had been any different.

If race had been elbowed out of the foxholes, at least one chaplain says that the long-held belief that atheists are also absent is not true.

The chaplain, Navy Lt. Ray Stubble of Milwaukee, Wis., ministered to the 26th Marine Regiment during the worst days of the siege at Khe Sanh south of the DMZ.

Sitting in a bunker during one shelling, Stubbie said the proportion of atheists in foxholes and trenches was about the same as on any peaceful street in America.

What about the old saying, then, "There are no atheists in foxholes?"

"Maybe it was true once, but it isn't now. Perhaps the world has changed. I don't know. But the shelling isn't bringing in any more men for religious purposes," he said.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Vietnam Sketchbook (Part 1)
Topic: The Field of Battle

Vietnam Sketchbook (Part 1)

War's Something More than Charts, Headlines

Eugene Register-Guard, 18 August 1968
By John T. Wheeler, of Associated Press

There's more. Much more, to the war in Vietnam than battle reports and casualty figures, statistics and strategy. Above all, there are the soldiers, the "GI Joes," each fighting for his life in a very personal way, in his own personal war. John Wheeler, who has been covering Vietnam for The Associated Press for years, recounts some of those personal experiences, funny and bitter, tragic and ironic, that make up the war in Vietnam.

SAIGON—In the battlefield, where the killing is done, the chaos of war makes a mockery of the neat, mimeographed battle plans and colored symbols arranged on wall maps back at headquarters.

For in the field, an incautious step, a minute flaw in a howitzer's sights, a commander's mistake, fortune's whimsy—almost anything—can kill a man or cripple his body.

Most GIs learn to conquer or control their fear of the predictable dangers of combat. But many find dealing with chaos and the bitter ironies it spawns a much tougher proposition.

They find that life—and death in the rice paddies, swamps, jungle and mountains often is the direct opposite of their backgrounds in a well-ordered civilization where the question "Why?" usually has an answer.

For the combat infantryman here, the question often is not only unanswerable but unasked.

elipsis graphic

For one Marine sergeant, the ironies piled up one atop the other at the very end of his 13-month tour in Vietnam.

During the hectic days of the siege at a Khe Sanh, routine paperwork often was delayed. One piece of late paperwork contained the order for the leatherneck to go home.

A day after he should have left Khe Sanh, the sergeant finally got his orders. His friends congratulated him. Home, today he was starting home.

The sergeant joked with his comrades in the trenches until the morning fog lifted and it was time to go to the airstrip for the last ride out.

Looking toward a hill infested with hidden North Vietnamese troops, the Marine emptied his pistol in their general direction. "Well, those are the last shots I'll fire in Nam," he said and climbed out of the trench.

Moments later, one of the 800 shells that hit Khe Sanh that day exploded near the sergent, sending steel splinters into his body.

Later when he was being evacuated by helicopter, he could muse not only on the red tape, but that he had won a much undesired third Purple Heart.

Under Marine regulations the third Purple Heart automatically means a man is sent out of the war zone no matter how long or short a time he had spent in Vietnam.

elipsis graphic

GIs are deeply superstitious about being "short-timers," men who are near the end of their combat tours. There have been many cases where battlefield savvy, extreme care and an unbroken chain of luck have failed a man at the last moment.

The sergeant major of one Marine battalion in the demilitarized zone area was within 14 days of returning to the States after fighting in his third war. In two months he would leave the military for good and retire.

One of his men called the grizzled veteran "the mole" because of the way he stayed near his sandbagged bunker.

One day during a prolonged lull in the routine enemy shelling, the sergeant major crawled out of his bunker and headed rapidly for the foxhole of another oldtimer who had hot coffee.

The lull ended midway between the bunkers and the sergeant major was killed instantly.

A few hours later a Marine CH46 helicopter began spiraling down with a full load of replacements, men just starting their Vietnam tour.

As usual, Communist mortar and artillery shells began dropping around the off-loading area as soon as the chopper landed. An 18-year-old Marine who had been in Vietnam only two days sprinted out the back door of the chopper and raced toward the safety of a trench line 100 yards away.

An older man, cursing his age and slowness was clear of the blast from the shell that exploded virtually at the private's feet 40 yards ahead. The youngster had led the field, but lost the race. He was the only one of 25 men to be hit.

elipsis graphic

Although the war unquestionably brutalizes most men who fight it, GIs sometimes voice another side they see to the coin.

A young, sandy-haired corporal from St. Louis stared into his half-emptied can of cold C rations and said:

"Somehow we're both better and worse than we were before we were pushed into this war up to our necks.

"Half the things I've seen and done here I hope I never have to think about again. And I sure wouldn't want my wife or family to know some of the things I've had to do.

"But at the same time there are times when we are all better than we were. I've never known friendship like I've found here. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for the guys in my fire team. And I sleep better knowing most of them feel the same way. Yeah, that's it. Sometimes we are better."

elipsis graphic

The better side, as the corporal called it, is the wellspring for much of the positive side of the war—heroism, endurance, determination and sacrifice—sometimes the ultimate sacrifice of giving your life for your comrades.

Many in Vietnam have heard the thump of an anemy grenade landing near them and in the midst of their comrades. Sometimes the grenade is on a trail, sometimes in a shell hole, sometimes among men huddled behind trees or termite mounds firing at an enemy only yards away.

More than a score of men have reacted instinctively—there is no time to pause and consider—by throwing themselves on the grenade to save their friends. The results normally are fatal to the man who cared enough.

Some men welcome war as a personal proving ground. Because they are in some way unsure of themselves, they press harder than most, taking reckless chances that will put some nagging fear or uncertainty to rest. Often these men return to the United States with several rows of ribbons on their chest. Often they go home in caskets, the questions and proof no longer relevant.

"You know, I'm going to sign over for another tour when my 12 months is up," a beardless 24-year-old lieutenant nicknamed Buddy said one night in the central highlands.

"This is the life for me, I'm going to try to stay in Vietnam for as long as the Army'll let me."

The next day Buddy's company was caught in an ambush which killed or wounded half the unit. Buddy was killed early in the action, leading a counterattack at the head of his men.

Only later did a correspondent who was with the unit learn from a family friend that Buddy was the son of a much-decorated World War II Army officer who was killed in action.

"All through childhood Buddy tried to live up to the standards of a father he had never known," the friend said.

elipsis graphic

No one questions the courage of the American fighting man and not a few tributes have come from the enemy which sets some pretty high standards for its own men. But the idea that Americans always charge into the guns or are spoiling for a fight isn't true.

In one instance an American unit under heavy fire lay behind what cover it could find. They had been ordered to assault up the hill. The sergeant called out the order, "When I count three, everyone move out." the order was passed down the line without elaboration. Minutes later the sergeant called out loudly, "One. Two. Three. Go." Everyone, including the sergeant, began running toward the rear—away from the hill.

"Nobody is going to be interested in that hill in a couple of days," the sergeant explained later. "We would have taken two or three men killed for each one we got. Those are very bad odds."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Grange Tunnel to be Preserved
Topic: CEF

Famous Tunnel at Vimy Ridge Will Now Be Preserved

Grange Labyrinth Was Discovered by Canadian Engineers After Search
Bomb Dump Found
Names and Messages, Written on Chalk With Indelible Pencil, Are Well Preserved

The Montreal Gazette, 5 November 1927

London, November 4.—Canadian engineers have discovered at Vimy Ridge the only portion left intact of all the battlefields on the Western Front, reports the Daily Express. It is the famous Grange Tunnel. Everything is as it was in 1917, from scribbled names to unused bombs. The dugouts are being permanently preserved, and the place will become the most remarkable relic of the war.

The story is told by H.V. Morton, special correspondent of the Express, in a letter from Vimy Ridge. Mr. Morton's narrative follows.

Thousands of former soldiers are visiting the battlefields of France and Belgium in the hope of finding trenches, dugouts, or the exact spot where they received their "blighties."

In the Ypres Salient they see nothing but flourishing fields of corn, flax, oats and barley. There is not a trench left in Belgium except a few doubtful examples on Hill 60.

France the scars of war are more visible, but a strenuous peasantry has filled the shell holes and has rebuilt its farms on the front line. It is amazing how swiftly the plough and the building contractor have wiped out all traces of war.

I found today the only spot in France where a man can feel that he is back again in 1914-1919; where he can stand at a sniper's post and fit the rotted butt of a rusted rifle to his shoulder as he peeps out towards the German trenches. The wire is still up in "No Man's Land," duck-boards lie in the trenches, officers' beds, rotting and collapsed, still lie in the chalk dug-outs.

Hundreds of names and many messages are written on the chalk in indelible pencil, as fresh as when they were written ten years ago. Mills bombs with the pins in them repose on ledges, cans of bully beef, tin hats—all the familiar debris of those sad days—are to be seen as they were left in 1918.

This amazing spot in the famous Grange Tunnel, on Vimy Ridge, which has just been opened by the Canadian Battlefields Memorial Commission. It is to be preserved for the benefit of posterity as a kind of textbook on trench warfare, and is destined to become the most remarkable relic of the war.

General Pershing visited it recently and said it was the only living war memorial in France. Every soldier who has seen it wonders why no one ever thought of preserving a section of the front line.

The project began a year ago as a side-line to the Canadian memorial on Vimy Ridge, which will not be completed until 1931. The stone for this stupendous shrine comes from the ancient Roman quarries round the Bay of Spalato in Dalmatia. While waiting for supplies of this stone to arrive, it occurred to the Canadian engineers that it might be interesting to locate the famous Grange Labyrinth—the miles of underground passages which the Canadians pushed out to within a few yards of the enemy's lines.

Map references were taken, and the entrance to the tunnel was discovered choked up with brushwood. The work of clearing the tunnel has taken a year, and it is not yet completed.

To Preserve Trenches

So interesting were the discoveries that the commission decided to rebuild the trenches, preserve the dugouts and make the Grange Tunnel a permanent site. The trenches have been lined with concrete sandbags. The concrete is poured in wet, so that when the sandbags rot the marks of the mesh will remain; the duck-boards have been cast in concrete, all wood has been taken out of the dugouts, and the passages have been reinforced with concrete and metal. The Grange Tunnel has at least a century of life before it.

I was shown around the tunnel by Captain Unwin Simpson, Royal Canadian Engineers, who is in charge of the work. On the way down is a notice: "These walls are sacred to the names of soldiers who inscribed them during their occupation in the war of 1914-1918. Please omit yours."

We entered a dark tunnel and found ourselves in a labyrinth of passages, dugouts and battalion headquarters cut far below the ground level in the white chalk of Vimy Ridge. It was as though we had been switched back to April, 1917—that time when the Canadian divisions advanced to the conquest of Vimy Ridge. Nothing has changed.

The smoke from the candles once set in niches to light the passages was still black on the chalk. The dugouts and the walls of the communicating passages were covered with names carved in the chalk or written in pencil and as legible as when they were inscribed during the great battle of Arras. The maple leaf of Canada was carved with an original variety in a hundred different places, and on the walls I read at random such inscriptions as these:

I cannot describe the feelings with which a man in these days approaches the inscriptions written below the earth of the Arras sector. In their cheery naivety we who have survived and can look back on 1917 with the calm unconcern of historians, seem to touch hands once more with these Canadian boys, who, 10 years ago, crouched in these chalk dugouts, still "alive and kicking," still "untouched by whizz-bangs," joking, laughing, waiting, quite unconscious that they were carving not only their names, but also history.

We walked for about half a mile, going deeper into Grange subway, until we came to battalion headquarters. On the wall of a dark, deep, chalk chamber, which had been used as an officers' mess during the Canadian advance on Vimy, were carved the following names: Major McCaghey, Major Collins, Lieutenant Abbott, Lieutenant Jamieson, Lieutenant H. Cook, May 10, 1927, 52 Battalion Canadian, B. Company. In a little carved shield were the words "Dick Swift."

We stood there, lighting matches in the dark, wondering what had happened to these men, wondering whether they still live somewhere at home in Canada, or whether they fell on Vimy Ridge. No matter whether they are alive or dead, their personalities live beneath the soil of France so vividly that one expects to meet them round the next corner.

While we were going on towards Mine Shaft, which the Canadian drove beneath the enemy lines, my foot kicked a small object. It was a tin of bully beef! It had been opened, but it had not been eaten, and it was ten years old. I leave to the imagination of any man who knows what bully beef was like when comparatively young to judge how this specimen looked and smelled.

Found Bomb Dump

"See this?" said Captain Simpson, holding up a queer grey slab. It was gun cotton, stamped 1916.

"Down there, about 100 feet below our present level," he said, "we found a dump of Mills bombs and also sacks of T.N.T. We have removed them reverently."

In the amazing collection of names written on the walls I came across two which roused my curiosity. They were:

  • Ship No. 7129, 1st Section, 7th Division, U.S.M.C., Texas Leather Neck Corps
  • Ship No. 3112, G.M., 2nd Class, 3rd Division, Flagship, U.S.S. Saratoga, Asiatic Fleet.

What on earth were these two American sailors doing with the Canadian armies on Vimy Ridge? How did they get there? Were they deserters from the American navy who, becoming weary of America's indecision, had joined up with the Canadians? Or were they shipwrecked mariners who had gone to Vimy in search of life?

I prophesy that books will some day be written about Grange Tunnel and the names which it perpetuates. The Canadian Battlefields Memorial Commission has carved, perhaps unwittingly, a grater memorial even than that expensive shrine which the Canadian Government is now building on the crest of Vimy Ridge.

Here in this dark tunnel, and here only, do we seem to meet the men who fought and died. Here only do we seem to see gain in the long chalk passages those well-known faces; here only can we read their signatures—no doubt in many cases their last-written words—written with the indelible pencils with which they wrote their letters home.

Canada has, with splendid and characteristic foresight, carved a shrine which is sacred not only to her army, but also to all the Allies. Here British, French and Belgians will gather in years to come and say: "This is how our men lived during the Great War." The Grange Tunnel is, and always will be, the greatest and most touching sight on the western front.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 4 May 2015

2-inch Mortar Ammunition (1949)
Topic: Militaria

2-inch Mortar Ammunition (1949)

During and after the Second World War, the 2-inch mortar was carried as an infantry platoon support weapon in the British and Canadian armies (among others). A variety of ammunition types were available for the mortar, including high explosive, smoke, illuminating flares, and signal flares.. The following diagrams, taken from Infantry Training, Volume I, Infantry Support Weapons, Pamphlet No. 8, The 2-inch Mortar (1949) show the ammunition types, identifying markings and mechanisms.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 3 May 2015

An "Officers' Mess" in the Crimea
Topic: Officers

The Routine of Military Life

An "Officers' Mess" in the Crimea

The Newfoundlander, 25 January 1855

The correspondent of the Morning Post gives the following account of military life in the camp:—

"Let me briefly tell you how the day is passed. Early in the morning, generally at half-past four, there is a scraping at the tent door, and a voice is heard, "Signoir alzate, vi prego, in cafe a pronto," to which a lisping voice responds, "What Thpero, it ith'nt five, thurely?''Si, signoir, vbicino a'le cinque,' cries the faithful old idiot (our best servants have been in lunatic asylums), and the British officer is soon up and doing, his coffee is drunk, biscuit and pork are consumed, a wallet is thrown across the shoulder, containing provender for the day, and a flask of rum; the sword is girt on, and away goes out companion to the trenches, there to remain until 6 p.m., leaving us to snooze away until the sun has afforded us a cheering supply of light and heat, when we rise from our bed of blankets, and, having drunk in pure air during the night, rush to breakfast with ravenous appetites.

The breakfast table, made of two pieces of plank, nailed upon four stakes, is covered with tin spoons, tin pots, tin plates, tin canisters, and all those little tin articles for salt, pepper, &c., so well known to campaigners; and when we are seated, waiting anxiously, like hungry coach travellers of old, in comes a fine-faced finger-begrimed soldier, with a large supply of fried pork or beef frizzling from a black frying-pan in one hand, and in the other hand a cargo of soaked biscuit which, to give it flavour, has been baked in the fat of ration pork; this, with now and then a potato, or onion for a change, and a cup or two of coffee, forms our breakfast.

The pipe, that indispensable friend of the soldier in the field, follows every meal pour exciter la digestion; rud [sic] after it, should no duty (rare occurrence) call us away, each employs himself as inclination prompts; but the soldier can never be certain of a moment's quiet, for, not seldom when an affectionate son has settled himself expressly to soothe the anxiety of a worthy parent, an officer is seen pacing over from the commandant's tent. The scribe looks at him with awe, and, as he approaches, asks breathlessly, 'For whom are you looking?' to which the dreaded answer is given. 'You are the man for me, sir. The colonel wants you to take half a brigade of Sappers, and go to complete the cutting in the Inkerman road; it has not, he considers, been thoroughly done.' Of course, go the subaltern must and without a moment's delay, and at the road he is engaged until sunset, with his clothes drenched with rain, and rum and ration pork his best friends.

Our regular dinner hour is three, and as we have a mess of five, ours is strictly military time. As to what we get for dinner, that depends very much upon circumstances, but we generally have a good meal, as we go upon the principle that the best preserver of health under our sharp trials of constitution is good and regular food, and therefore that it is wiser to have a well-supported body rather than a richly supplied purse; and what laughing and joking is there over the reeking camp-kettle! One is accused of taking all the meat, another of forgetting that the delicacies of the season cost money; a third is placed under arrest for consuming more than his ration of grog; indeed, each in his turn is voted a robber of his neighbour and all that with such perfect good humour, that we are like the family in Trafalgar-square, for the slightest disagreement is unknown to us. When the dinner is over; and the ration coffee (far from bad) in tavola, a voice is heard in the distance, 'Thpero, puth the dinner ready, for I cannot thwait—I'm ravenous,' Spero knows well the voice and the order, and at once exclaims—'Momento, Signior, moment! Pranzo subito, subito!' and with lightning speed the pot reappears, and right good pranzo the man of the trencher makes. In truth, pure air works wonders upon the dyspeptic stomachs, and, with us even the hypochondriac finds himself hungry; imagine, then, how an officer just in from the open air, one who has never known a day's sickness, how he eats and drinks; yes, and as he enjoys his food, thanks God for his mercy. By the time the last dinner course is over, darkness has well set in; then it is that we all gather beneath the canvas and talk over the occurrences of the day—and very pleasant chats they are, save when the loss of some officer causes a damp to come over us all."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 2 May 2015

Inspection at Poona 1942
Topic: British Army

Inspection at Poona 1942

Troop Sergeant Clive Branson, Royal Armoured Corps RAC, quoted inThe Mammoth Book of War Diaries and Letters; Life on the battlefield in the words of the ordinary soldier, 1775-1991, Jon E. Lewis, 1998

Today a General paid us a visit. In one squadron they had many men change into PT kit, some ready to box, some to do PT, some to form two basket-ball teams, etc. They were kept sitting about doing nothing for ages until a scout saw the General's car. The scout signalled, and immediately everyone began boxing and playing basket-ball.

Gulunche
Nr Poona [Indial
20 June 1942

You have little idea how badly we need the news of the second front—it is the difference between a body of good, stolid-humoured Britishers and an inspired army of warriors. This morning we went out on a scheme on foot in units representing tanks. We covered ten or twelve miles or more over ploughed fields. It was magnificent exercise and although I felt pretty tired I enjoyed it no end. That sort of thing will make real soldiers of us.

But tonight I had a terrible set-back. On parade this morning we were asked who had seen active service. I said I had. When we came back from the scheme I was told that I was to go on an inspection by the Duke of Gloucester in a few days' time. This parade is purely bullshit. It will take several days to polish boots, brasses, etc. It will take days and nights for some eight Indian tailors to alter, clean, press, etc. clothes for the white sahibs to wear like bloody waxworks. The Indians, of course, will not be on parade, the lucky fools. I have often been asked, "Have we got a fifth column here?" Yes, we have! For nothing could help the enemy more by undermining morale, destroying enthusiasm and making us incompetent fighters than this kind of tomfoolery. The farce develops. This morning we had an inspection. The Duke's show is in five days' time. On the day we get up at 5 a.m. Our clothes will be packed in boxes and taken by lorry to the scene of battle, where we will get into them. Sebastopol is falling and our CO is disappointed at the lack of polish on the topee chin straps.

Well, the Duke's show is over, at immense expenditure of precious petrol, wear and tear of vehicles, deadening bullshit. The Duke merely shook hands with unit commanders and squadron leaders—the men just didn't exist. Today a General paid us a visit. In one squadron they had many men change into PT kit, some ready to box, some to do PT, some to form two basket-ball teams, etc. They were kept sitting about doing nothing for ages until a scout saw the General's car. The scout signalled, and immediately everyone began boxing and playing basket-ball. As soon as the General disappeared the men were marched back to their tents. This is how things are going on here.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 1 May 2015

Withdrawal of British Garrisons (1905)
Topic: Halifax

Withdrawal of British Garrisons

Deseret Evening News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 19 April 1905
By: Truman L. Elton

It is by no means likely, even after the departure of the regulars, that Halifax will be bereft of its title of the Garrison City. … Still, the regulars will be missed sadly. The social atmosphere of Halifax will be visibly disturbed. Many of the most famous regiments of the British Army have been stationed there, and at no time since its inception has the garrison been without a liberal infusion of the best blood in the empire. This has furnished the town with much social capital, and its removal will be a social hardship.

The recent determination of the British government to withdraw the regular troops from the remaining garrisons on the American continent has given rise to much speculation. In the absence of any more rational explanation of the action it is safe to accept the reasons which have been advanced by British naval experts and others who are qualified to speak.

 

The theory that Great Britain has only now made up her mind to accept unqualifiedly the American definition of the Monroe doctrine cannot be regarded as absolutely untenable. If it is the American contention—and it seems to be—that any spot on the continent now occupied by a foreign power cannot be suffered to fall into the hands of any other alien trespasser it would be inexcusably extravagant, from an American standpoint, for Great Britain to maintain a costly system of protection for something that is already safeguarded. It is by no means improbable that the time has come when Great Britain can afford to take that view.

However that may be, it has been apparent for a long time that British garrisons in North America were more ornamental than useful, that the reasons for their maintenance were more sentimental than urgent. It has been a costly demonstration too. Neither of Great Britain's remaining southern continental holdings—British Guiana and British Honduras—is self sustaining. For aught that her American insular colonies have yielded her during the last half century Great Britain would have been better off without them. The annual revenues from the West Indian islands have been falling off appreciably. The garrisons have added nothing to the prosperity of the regions in which they were placed. Canada has shown no signs of retrogression since the withdrawal of the garrisons. For some time Halifax and Esquimalt have been the only stations in the north of America supplied troops from British headquarters. Even at these distant posts of the empire only a handful of troops has been considered necessary since the forming of the confederation into the Dominion. The last large regular force in British America was in 1870, when Lord Wolseley made the Red River expedition into the north-west provinces. Immediately after that was completed the fiat went forth that Canada must thenceforth depend upon her militia for standing defence. A few months later the last battalion of regulars was withdrawn, leaving only the 2,000 provided as the garrison of Halifax. This number has remained stationary ever since, the small garrison at Esquimalt, on the other side of the continent, making the complement. During the past year there have been stationed at Halifax only 1,800 men of all arms and at Esquimalt only 369.

It is by no means likely, even after the departure of the regulars, that Halifax will be bereft of its title of the Garrison City. It will still be the most important of the twelve Military Districts of the Dominion. The Wellington barracks, erected at great expense, will be taken over by the Dominion government and set apart as quarters for the colonial military organizations. Still, the regulars will be missed sadly. The social atmosphere of Halifax will be visibly disturbed. Many of the most famous regiments of the British Army have been stationed there, and at no time since its inception has the garrison been without a liberal infusion of the best blood in the empire. This has furnished the town with much social capital, and its removal will be a social hardship.

Halifax dates from the earlier half of the eighteenth century. The Halifax Gazette, the oldest newspaper in British America, first appeared in 1752. The town was founded at least three years before that, and during the Revolutionary war it was made a strong military post by Cornwallis. The Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, was commandant of the garrison in his younger days and supervised the construction of the fortifications which gave the post the reputation of being the strongest fortress in the new world. On account of its situation and natural advantages it has a harbor which is extremely valuable as a naval base. Here it was that Boscawen's fleet collected to convey Wolfe and his troops to the conquest of Quebec.

As the headquarters of the British North American and West Indian squadron Halifax has seldom been without the presence of ships of war. Admiralty House, in Gottingen street, has long been the residence of flag officers. The dockyard, the property of the government, extends for half a mile along the harbor front and contains all the appliances and conveniences for a first class naval station. Its dry dock is the equal of any other on the continent, having a length of 613 feet and a width of seventy feet at the bottom. The city is defended by eleven forts and batteries, one of which, the citadel crowning the hill on which Halifax is built, is reputed to be, after Quebec, the strongest fortification in North America. The city itself extends along the slope of a hill and covers in area three miles in length by one in width. Its present population is not far from 50,000.

The headquarters of the British Pacific squadron were at Esquimalt, a little seaport on Vancouver Island, four miles from the city of Victoria. It has a magnificent harbor capable of accommodating the largest ships afloat. The garrison has for some time been reduced to a nominal basis, and the few remaining regulars will not regret the opportunity to return to the tight little isle. Next to Halifax, St. George and Ireland island, in the Bermudas, had been the most important naval and military stations of Great Britain in the North Atlantic. That Bermuda has been considered an important strategical point in the defence of the empire is shown by the size of the garrison maintained there. Until recently 7,950 men were quartered at that station. Jamaica has had 1,018, besides the colored West Indian regiments recruited there, and Barbados and St. Lucia. The total forms a considerable proportion of the 60,000 and odd soldiers of all ranks with which British colonies all over the world are garrisoned.

St. George, twelve miles from Hamilton, Bermuda, has had a somewhat peculiar history. Some years ago it has assigned as its garrison a battalion of the Grenadier guards which had manifested a disposition to mutiny. These men were sent to Bermuda as a disciplinary measure, and the remedy was most effectual. More recently St. George was a place of detention for Boer prisoners.

Barbados, the most windward of the Windward group, is the headquarters of the British forces in the West Indies, the commanding officer residing there having the rank of major general. St. Lucia, the largest and most picturesque island of the Windward group, possesses one of the finest harbors in the West Indies. It is the second naval station of the empire in the Caribbean region and is also a coaling station. Much treasure has been expended on its fortifications.

Bahama islands were formerly the headquarters of a rather formidable British garrison, but it has been greatly reduced in the last decade and consists now of a sorry remnant whose chief duty it seems to be to afford amusement to the numerous winter guests from the United States at the hotels. There are about 700 islets in the group, which lies east of Florida, the gulf stream intervening. Only twenty-five of these coral formations are inhabited, and most of the residents are descendants of Tories who fled thither for safety during the American Revolution and remained. One of these islands was the first land sighted by Columbus on his earliest voyage of discovery. Whether it was San Salvador or Watling Island is still a matter of dispute, but no one has had the temerity to deny that it was one of the 700.

Trinidad is the largest of the British West Indies except Jamaica. It is the southernmost of the Windward group, but it is not classed with those islands. It is a crown colony, the affairs of state being administered by a governor, assisted by executive and legislative councils. Port of Spain, the capital, is one of the finest towns in the West Indies. The garrison has long been reduced to a minimum. Trinidad is one of Great Britain's few self supporting American colonies. Her revenue is about equal to her expenditure. This island also has the distinction of having been discovered by Columbus.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Letters from our Soldier Boys - Cecil Meyer
Topic: CEF

Letters from our Soldier Boys

The Leader-Mail, Granby, 11 October 1918

 

From Cecil Meyer

Dear Mother:—

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the ring. I am writing this by candlelight in an old barn, sprawled out flat on the floor. No doubt you've heard of the Canadians good work on August 8th and 9th, and now you are reading of our good work on 2nd Sept.

Down south on the former drive we advanced about 9 miles and on this latest, seven miles. First our battalion went into the line on August 30th and we went over the top early in the morning at 5 a.m. Later the same day we went over again at 4 p.m. In two days we took all of Fritz's strong points and straightened the line for the big kick off which took place on the 2nd Sept.

For this work (although the cost was pretty heavy) Sir Douglas Haig congratulated us highly for straightening out the line and reducing the strong points for the big push. Of course a good number of our fellows were killed and wounded, but the enemy's losses must have far exceeded ours, exclusive of the prisoners we took. Open warfare is a very exciting sport, believe me.

Fritz fights a strong rear guard action, but we are the guys to put him to the fight and keep him on the run.

We had two tanks with us (this was three days later) the most of the way, and for artillery fire—well, hell was let loose. It was terrible.

It was great sport taking prisoners and at the beginning of the battle they came in in streams. I can't begin to tell you the whole story of the battle in this letter but this, together with what you've read in the papers will give you some idea of what your boy has been through.

For a fool stunt I pulled off on the 2nd I have been promoted and may hear more from it later. While out in no man's land I volunteered to deliver a message asking for more machine gun fire at a certain point, and got away with it alive. Our officer asked for a volunteer and it was several minutes before anyone would speak and really the hail of machine gun fire and bursting shells was enough to make anyone reluctant to leave our nice cosy shell hole that we occupied for the moment. Anyway, I guess I got hot-headed, so out I rushed back to our own lines and through some very hot fire from the Germans, and made it alright. When I arrived back to my shall hole I found my officer had been killed and a number of the poor fellows who had been with him had been wounded. I had nothing else to do but take cover myself and think things over, for two or three snipers had seen me make the run and were hot after me. I stayed with my officer about an hour, and while there collected his personal effects. That night, I with four men, under cover of the darkness, got his body and took it to battalion headquarters for burial.

Some of these days I may be able to tell you some hair-raising stories of my experiences. Nothing shocks me these days. What I have seen and gone through would make you shiver if you knew, but I hardly think you'll ever want to know the worst.

This last trip up the line was pretty hot and we lost quite a number of officers and men, but my luck was dead against me for a Blighty.

Here's a newspaper extract I picked up. "When the Canadian and British went into action on Monday (Sept. 2nd) morning, they were supported by what is said to be the greatest artillery barrage of the war. The start was at 5 a.m. and by 6 a.m. the enemy line was passed at several points." That is the day we made seven miles.

Here is what the 3rd Battalion (mine) was up against:— "Canadian Troops showed the greatest spirit and courage in storming the Drocourt-Queant lines, which had been perfected by the enemy during the past 18 months and which provided a most formidable obstacle furnished with every device of modern engineering. The enemy had reinforced his defences here in such a degree that on a front of 8,000 yards no fewer than 11 German Divisions were identified.

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France, September 11th

My Dear Father:—

Am writing just a few lines to catch to-day's post.

Have received your parcel, it was a dandy. Please keep up your good work, for home-made cooking is a great treat these days in the line. Tea and sugar, socks, a cake (cookies take too much room), a tin of maple butter and a little chocolate will be what I need and will be greatly appreciated.

Had a very hot time this time, on August 30th and September 2nd. We straightened out a very strong point. We pushed into Fritz's lines over seven miles.

I have been promoted Lance Corporal, and in charge of a section in the 4th Platoon. This is only a start but you just watch me climb!

Have heard that I will soon be taking over a job as Company Clerk. The present Company Clerk is figuring on going to England. It will not exactly be bomb proof, but it saves a good number of trips over the line.

Don't take too much stock in this for nothing is definite yet. My Company Officer was speaking to me yesterday and also the Clerk himself. They can't give me anything definite. He is pretty sure of going away and the officer was just finding out things.

I hope you can read this writing, I have only got a stub of a pencil.

Renmember me to the boys and tell them I am in all these big scraps these days. Love to all, as ever, your loving son,

Cecil.

P.S.—Have forgotten to mention that I saw Percy when coming out of the line last week. We were both terrible looking sights, he had a heavy moustache and I had a beard a foot long, and were dead tired. He was with his tractor hauling a heavy siege gun from the front and our battalion was coming out badly in need of a rest. Could not stop to talk, but both had a hearty handshake and were very glad to see each other. —Cecil

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Chillianwallah
Topic: The Field of Battle

Chillianwallah

Rorke's Drift, Michael Glover, 1997

If Chard had any qualms, they can scarcely have extended to the reliability of the Twenty-Fourth Foot. Their tradition of steadiness and bravery went back through Burgos, Alexandria and Malplaquet to Blenheim. No regiment of the line could excel them for reliability. On the other hand they had been a consistently unlucky regiment. Their first operation outside the British Isles had been a disastrous raid on Brest in 1694. In 1741 they were at the mismanaged, fever-ridden siege of Cartagena in what is now Colombia, an operation which cost them twelve officers and eight hundred men. Fifteen years later they were one of the regiments which had had to surrender when Admiral Byng failed to relieve Minorca. In 1777 they had had to capitulate again with Burgoyne at Saratoga. At Talavera they lost almost half their strength in extricating the Guards Brigade from the consequences of their uncontrollable ardour. A year later, in 1810, two shiploads of their 1st battalion had been captured by a French warship off Madagascar. The colours had been thrown overboard to keep them out of the enemy's hands. None of these misfortunes were of the regiment's own making but, taken together, they suggested that if there was any bad luck to be had the Twenty-Fourth would have it.

The officers of both battalions of the regiment had dined together at Helpmakaar two days before the advance into Zululand had started. It was a few days short of the thirtieth anniversary of Chillianwallah and Captain William Degacher, second-in-command of the 1st battalion, proposed the toast, "That we may not get into such a mess, and better luck next time"- Twenty-one of the officers present were to die in action within a fortnight.

Chillianwallah, a village near the Jhelum river sixty miles south of Rawalpindi, was the scene of a desperate battle in the second Sikh war. 12,000 British and Indian troops attacked 30,000 Sikhs in a naturally strong position. The Twenty-Fourth formed part of a division commanded by Colin Campbell, later the hero of the Indian Mutiny. Having given their brigadier his objective, Campbell rode away to supervise his other brigade pausing only to tell the Twenty-Fourth to make the attack without firing a shot. They advanced through thick jungle which broke them into small detachments before they came in sight of the enemy. Refusing them time to reform their brigadier urged them on to the attack. Under a storm of grapeshot, which killed the impetuous brigadier, they advanced 850 yards, reached the Sikh guns and spiked them. They suffered heavily and had no semblance of regular order. Their flanks were in the air, as the sepoy battalions ordered to support them had not come forward. A Sikh counter-attack overwhelmed them. They had gone into action with 31 officers and 1,065 other ranks. 13 officers and 225 men were killed, 9 officers and 278 men were wounded. The Queen's Colour was lost. [Footnoted: The Colour was not captured by the Sikhs. When the ensign carrying it was killed, it was rescued by a private soldier who wrapped it round his body under his tunic for safety. He was killed soon after and, unwittingly, the colour was buried with him.] Five years later one of the consolations offered to a survivor of the charge of the Light Brigade was 'It is nothing to Chillianwallah'.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Lewis Gun; 1915
Topic: Militaria

Lewis Gun Fires 400 Per Minute

Weapon Which Ontario Government Will Supply to the Forces

The Montreal Gazette, 23 July 1915

The machine guns which the Ontario Government will supply to the Canadian forces at the front at a cost of $200,000 might rather be termed rifles. The official name of the weapon is "The Lewis Automatic Machine Gun," but it weighs only 25 pounds without its tripod support, which is four and a half pounds in weight. Thus the whole gun may be carried about by one man, and operated by one man, without difficulty. A powerful man may even use the weapon from the shoulder, as though it were an ordinary rifle.

The gun can fire 400 rounds a minute, including the time necessary to change magazines, each of which contains 47 rounds. It is in operation in the French and Belgian trenches at the present time, and is somewhat similar to a Hotchkiss automatic rifle, employed by the French.

The Lewis gun is designed in such a manner that the only tool necessary to dismantle it completely is an ordinary service cartridge, the point of whose bullet is used to disconnect every portion of the mechanism, and this operation is a such a simple matter that the gun can be dismantled, and any small damaged part replaced, well within five minutes. The weapon takes the service ammunition, and its range is similar to that of the service rifles. When used on a fixed mount, the butt stock may be removed and a "spade handle" substituted.

The gun is of very ingenious construction. A detachable magazine loaded with 47 cartridges is attached to a suitable fixing on the barrel near its after end, the first cartridge being fed from the magazine into the firing chamber by the first forward movement of the firing pin, which is, however, arrested before the striker reaches the cartridge unless the trigger is held back. When the trigger is pressed, the striker, carried forward by the mainspring, explodes the cartridge in position in the firing chamber. Before the bullet leaves the barrel, under the influence of the gas pressure, it uncovers a hole connecting the barrel with a cylinder below, lying parallel with it, and a portion of the gas passes into the lower cylinder driving back this piston, and, with it, the rod against the pressure of the mainspring. The movement of the rod recocks the gun, throws out the expended cartridge case, and during the early stage of its return journey, under the mainspring's influence, transfers a live cartridge from the magazine to the chamber.

If the gunner lets go of the trigger firing ceases, and the gun remains cocked until the trigger is again pressed. If, however, he keeps a continuous pressure on the trigger, the weapon continues to fire until all the cartridges in the magazine are exhausted, the rate of continuous fire being as high as 440 rounds per minute, including the interval occupied by replacing empty magazines with loaded ones.

The dissipation of the intense heat developed by the almost continuous combustion of explosive charges in the barrel of the machine gun presents a somewhat difficult problem, and failure to accomplish this efficiently causes the barrel to become red hot and prematurely to explode the incoming cartridge. The barrels of the Lewis gun and the Hotchkiss gun are both cooled by means of ribs which radiate the heat into the atmosphere, those of the Lewis gun being placed longitudinally and contained in a steel casing, through which cook air is drawn by the "exhausting" effect of the powder blast in the muzzle end of the casing, in the same way that air is drawn through the fire-box of a locomotive by the blast of the exhaust steam in the chimney.

The recoil on the Lewis gun is counter-balanced in a very simple and ingenious manner, the gas from the discharge being directed by means of a cone attached to the muzzle of the barrel proper, on to the inner surface of the casing, so that the friction between the gas and the metal casing tends to carry the gun forward with the stream of gas, and so counter-balance the force of the recoil acting in the opposite direction. The mainspring of the Hotchkiss gun takes the form of an ordinary coil-spring acting in compression situated in the cylinder underneath the barrel; whilst the same unit in the Lewis is a spring of the type used for the mainspring of a watch, but naturally of a much greater power. This spring is coiled up in a circular case attached to the gun just in front of the trigger, in a position sufficiently far from the barrel to be unaffected by the heat, and, consequently, in no danger of losing its temper from overheating. The Hotchkiss mainspring acts directly on the piston rod, which it surrounds; whilst the Lewis is coupled to its rod by a rack and pinion.

The magazine of the Lewis gun is circular in shape, the forty-seven cartridges with which it is loaded being radially in two layers with their bullets pointing toward the centre.

ALTTEXT ALTTEXT

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 27 April 2015

Ragging in the British Army
Topic: Officers

Ragging in the British Army

1903

Ragging a Colonial

Court Martial in Dublin Against Certain Officers of the 21st Lancers

Ottawa Citizen, 14 May 1903

London, May 12.—A court-martial is in progress at Dublin against certain officers of the 21st Lancers. They are accused of "ragging" a brother officer, Lieutenant Willows. Lord Roberts is in Dublin today and is especially interesting himself in the trial. Williams is a colonial ranker who gained his commission through heroism displayed in the South African war. He takes his profession seriously. His brother officers ragged him first because he had risen from the ranks, and secondly because he is a colonial. This kind of a scandal is common in many regiments where commissions are held by colonial rankers. The ordinary English soldier considers the army a social preserve and not a public service.

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1904

"Ragging" in the Army

A Threat of Cashiering

The Age, Melbourne, 9 May 1904

London, 7th May.—The disclosures made some months ago in connection with the occurrences of serious "ragging" scandals amongst the officers in certain British regiments have led the Army Council to issue a strong memorandum on the subject, in which it threatens that if there is any repetition of "ragging" the names of the perpetrators will be submitted to His Majesty the King, with a view to their removal from the army.

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Rites of the Military "Rag"

A Cure for Ambition

The Age, Melbourne, 17 March 1903
(From Our Correspondent)

London, 13th February.—The whole absurd story of how the fashionable young bloods of the Grenadier Guards maintain what they conceive to be "good form" is now public property. It is a present to the comic playwrights. They will not be able to make use of it in London, for London has a mysterious reverence for bear skins and pipeclay and a not very robust sense of humor, but some travesty of the affair may be expected to find its way on to the stage of Paris or new York before long. Hitherto we have depended mainly upon the gossip of West End clubs for accounts of the mock inquisition, the arrests, farcical charges, and disciplinary flagellations practiced in the regiment. Fuller details have now been collected, drawn up in deliberate form and circulated among the members of both Houses of Parliament and the press.

The most astonishing narrative is that supplied by Rear Admiral Basil Cochrane, whose nephew, Mr. J.H. Leveson-Gower, and exceptionally promising young officer, has been compelled to resign from the regiment in consequence of the tyrannies inflicted upon him—partly, it would seem, because, like Lieutenant Gregson, the victim of the Life Guards' "rag" at Windsor, he showed an unseemly desire to attend to his work. Rear Admiral Cochrane explains that his story has been most carefully written; every important statement it contains can be sworn to, if necessary. When "ragging" in the Brigade of Guards (in which the Grenadiers are included) has come under public notice, it has been the custom of those who try to excuse it—for it has its apologists in certain newspapers which cater to the old fogeydom of the military profession—to allege that the commanding officers were not aware of the practice. The bulk of the evidence produced in these recent cases, however, disposes of that assertion pretty conclusively. Indeed, it now appears that it has been the habit of the senior officers—at least of those in the Grenadiers—to encourage "ragging." Subalterns' court-martials have existed for some years for the trial of young officers on any charges brought against them, either of a social or military character.

The general procedure is described as follows:—"The court consists of a president (the senior subaltern) and two members, the attendance of all other subalterns being exacted. They were held much more frequently in the 1st battalion than in the others, and in the 1st battalion the colonel was in the habit to use the consecrated term, of 'handing over' young officers to be dealt with by the senior subaltern, which nearly invariably resulted in their being sentenced by this irregular tribunal to be flogged. This flogging was administered over the lower part of the back, which was bared for punishment by the removal of their nether garments, and blows of great severity applied with a cane or stick in numbers varying from six to forty. A young officer last year who received the latter number fainted under the cruel severity of the punishment; but even six blows with the instrument employed were sufficient to make blood flow, as was constantly the case. What greatly added to the inhumanity of these proceedings was that all officers present were compelled to administer their share of the strokes if numbers permitted, and comrades were obliged to apply blows to their own personal friends under threats of receiving similar punishment themselves. If a young officer, in commiseration of his friend, applied a stroke considered too light by the president, he was called upon to repeat the blow."

On entering the army, fresh from Oxford, about two years ago, Mr. Leveson-Gower threw himself with ardor into his work. He read military history, took up the study of the Russian language, and went through a special course of signalling. A battalion trained by him obtained the highest position as signallers in England. Presently he became himself acting signalling officer for the Home District, and in this capacity took a large share in the management of last year's royal processions in London. In the midst of his work he tripped simply, yet grievously, from the red tape and pipeclay point of view. Wishing to go up to Scotland for a few days he asked and obtained leave from the chief staff officer under whose immediate orders he was then serving. But he omitted to obtain leave also from Colonel Kinloch, the commanding officer of his battalion. When he had been two days absent the colonel recalled him by telegram, reprimanded him for being "absent without leave" and finally (his uncle states) "told him he would be handed over to the senior subaltern." Knowing that this meant a flogging, Gower asked to see General Sir Harry Trotter, on whose staff he was serving. Kinloch, it is stated, then put him under arrest.

The next stage of this farce may be given in Rear Admiral Cochrane's own language:—"Brought before the subalterns' court-martial, the president told him that he had been handed over to him by the commanding officer. Evidence on oath as to this can be obtained from many of the officers present. He was found guilty of causing trouble to his commanding officer, and sentenced to be beaten. Whether the members of the court disapproved of flogging for military offences and considered the colonel's punishments already quite sufficiently severe, or whether they were influenced by the character of my nephew as a good comrade, it is a fact that unusual consideration was displayed in his case. He was not subjected to the degrading removal of his dress, and the blows which he received were of no excessive severity." A "knotted cane" was used in inflicting the punishment. Gower's real troubles, however, began after this incident. He tried to get redress from Kinloch's superiors, but they stood by the colonel to a man on grounds of etiquette and for the protection of then "ragging" machine. The senior subalterns appear to have been emboldened by this support, for a little later they warned Gower and two other juniors that "unless they rode with the brigade 'drag' at Windsor, they would be flogged." It will be seen that the statements made in this case put an entirely different aspect on Colonel Kinloch's position from that which it bore when the announcement was first made of his compulsory retirement from the regiment. It was said then, and by most people believed, that he was not aware of the practices of the subalterns' court-martial. Evidently Lord Roberts knew better; hence his peremptory punishment of the colonel. This punishment, and what it implies—coming from a man who is by no means a martinet—will doubtless remain, whatever may be said on the subject in Parliament. Possibly Gower broke regimental rules in one way or another, though this is not admitted by his uncle. At least it is clear that nothing was conceded to him by any of his superiors on the score of youth and inexperience. The regiment became intolerable to him, as his persecutors probably intended that it should, and he accordingly sent in his papers.

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1906

Army "Ragging" Case

Six Officers Punished

The Age, Melbourne, 24 April 1906

London, 22nd April.— In conformity with the instructions given by Mr. Haldane, Secretary of State for War, a strict investigation has been made into the circumstances of the case of "ragging" which occurred last month in consequence with the First Battalion of the Scots Guards, stationed at Aldershot. A young lieutenant was seized by other officers and smeared with motor oil, while his hair was covered with jam, and he was otherwise so maltreated as to cause a nervous breakdown.

As a result of a court martial, Colonel C.J. Cuthbert has been relieved of his command, and Captain R.G. Stracey of his adjutancy. Four lieutenants who were arrested at the time of the discovery of the outrage will each lose a year's seniority.

The lieutenant who was "ragged" has left the regiment. It is now evident that the treatment to which he was subjected was not, as was first reported, owing to his being unable to live in the same expensive manner as his colleagues, but was provoked in consequence of a doctor's report that the young officer was suffering from an unpleasant disease, due to his personal habits.

There is a consensus of opinion on the part of the newspapers in discussing the Scots Guards scandal, that the judgment given by the court-martial will operate effectively in the suppression of "ragging."

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"Ragging" in the British Army

The Age, Melbourne, 29 May 1906
(From Our Correspondent)

London, 27th April.— Caste influence in the army has always been, either tacitly or openly, on the side of ragging as a means of inculcating the gospel of good form, including the good form which consists in avoiding hard work. That is why it seemed natural to Colonel Cuthbert to hand over Lieutenant Clark Kennedy "to be dealt with by his brother subalterns" in the Scots Guards, in spite of an order issued some time ago by the Army Council (which has found that it cannot afford to represent society feeling in such matters), making it clear that commanding officers would be held to strict account for the maintenance of discipline in their regiments. The colonel should have reported the case to headquarters. Had he done so the offence alleged against Kennedy, which was not clearly proved, and was not a breach of military discipline, might have been visited only with a reproof, and in that case the other lieutenants whose over-refined susceptibilities he had ruffled might have been obliged to tolerate his society for a further period. At the official inquiry the colonel professed surprise at what had happened, but naturally this did not much impress anyone. He had practically sanctioned the degrading attack on Kennedy, and it took the form rendered familiar by scores of previous examples of private punishment and coercion in fashionable regiments.

There is an obvious relation between ragging and the petty tyrannies practiced by juvenile despots (and permitted by their teachers) at Eton, Harrow and other schools through which many youths of the upper class pass before entering the army. The imposition of fagging and the birching of sturdy boys who have passed the age of sixteen seem opposed to the development of self-respect, manly spirit and a sense of fair play. If this were not so it would be hard to suggest any explanation of the extraordinarily tame fashion in which young military officers have so often submitted to organized assaults so brutal and disgusting that the victims would have been justified in shooting their tormenters.

Probably no man in the country has acquired a more intimate knowledge of such practices that Dr. Miller Macguire, the noted army coach, who is also a barrister and expert in military law. He has told Mr. Haldane that ragging is primarily an outcome of "the incredible depravity of fashionable public schools and the luxurious and base environment in which the wealthier English people waste their lives." he calls the military code "a piece of low ruffianism" and states that many of the young officers have received no proper education, have no mental curiosity, and "can only talk about sport, games and fashionable women much older and more frivolous than themselves." In support of his assertion as to their ignorance, he quotes reports written by Lord Roberts and generals Hutchinson, Smith-Dorrien and Buller. Further evidence is supplied by Mr. A.C. Benson, a former master at Eton, who states that "the intellectual standard maintained at the English public schools is low"; that it is not tending to become higher; that the indoor life of such places is a series of tedious hours beguiled with billiards, bridge or with anticipations or recollections of open-air amusements; and that unless a boy happened to have a naturally very keen intellectual bent "his interest is not likely to survive in an atmosphere where intellectual things are, to put it frankly, unfashionable."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 26 April 2015

Rules Regarding Saluting, US Navy (1917)
Topic: Discipline

Rules Regarding Saluting

The Bluejacket's Manual, United States Navy, by Lieutenant Norman R. Van Der Veer, U.S. Navy, 1917

1.     Nothing gives a better indication of the state of discipline than the observance of the forms of military courtesy.

2.     From time immemorial the salute has been a form of military courtesy that has been strictly and conscientiously observed by men of every nationality who followed the profession of arms.

3.     In falling in with ships of foreign nations, or in entering foreign ports, the National Salute of 21 Guns is fired. and, in turn, answered by the foreign ships or batteries.

4.     In regard to personal salutes, a junior always salutes a senior. An enlisted man salutes an officer, and the very officer saluted is called to account if he fails to salute another officer, his senior.

5.     Enlisted men are often lax in the matter of saluting. This laxity is usually due to ignorance of how properly to salute, or to uncertainty as to when the salute is required.

6.     If uncertainty exists in regard to the necessity for saluting. the only rule to follow is to render the salute. It is far better to salute, even if in doubt as to the necessity for so doing, than to expose yourself to the chance of censure and reprimand. and to be thought ignorant of the rules of one of the most essential and elementary requirements of your profession.

7.     Unfortunately there are some men who deliberately fail to salute an officer, and then, when called to account, rely upon giving some babyish excuse about their having failed to see him, or something equally foolish and untrue. By observing the petty officers and seamen, recruits will learn that the higher a man's rating the better he realizes the necessity for saluting, and the more pride he takes in rendering the salute properly.

8.     How properly to render the salute, and the few simple rules regarding salutes should be amongst the first things learned by a recruit.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Real Trench Spirit
Topic: Remembrance

France, December 1916. Unidentified members of the Australian 5th Division, enjoying a "smoko" near Mametz, on the Somme. Some are wearing slouch hats, steel helmets, sheepskin jackets and woollen gloves, demonstrating both the variety of official battledress, and how it was modified and augmented, for local conditions. (AWM E00019 5th Div 1916)

Those War Books

The Real Trench Spirit

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1930
(By F.M.C.)

Ian Hay and the author of the article on war books in Wednesday's "Herald" are quite right. The gloom and the horrors of many of those recent war books are overdone; the beastliness too often disfiguring them did not, thank God, degrade active service as the British Army (which included the A.I.F.) saw it; and the depicting of soldiers as beasts (in the words of Ian Hay) is an insult to a gallant generation of our race. Most ex-soldiers, serene at heart in the test they survived, uplifted by the comradeship which they learned in war and cherish still beyond, perhaps, any expression which civilians can understand, regard such travesties of themselves and their fellow soldiers with contempt. "The late unmentionable war," indeed! The ex-soldier of the A.I.F. who does not laugh derisively of it brands himself at once. Not long ago one of the old Diggers, long cut off by some fate from intercourse with his former comrades, met several of them at a Digger's funeral in Sydney. When the emotional ceremony was over, and he found himself returning with two or three in a cab, they made it a long drive back to the Central Station and separation, talking for an hour or more of old war memories. As the lonely one said good-bye, he remarked to the others" "Well it's a ---- of a thing to say, but I have not had such a good day for a long time."

For the last ten years, wherever two or three of "the old mob" are gathered together, the old stories (and by increasingly rare good chance some new ones) have never failed to turn back Diggers' hearts to the war days. You may turn over the pages of the war-time "Aussie," the monthly magazine written by the soldiers in the field (and edited by little Phil Harris), and awaken a host of memories of the Bairnsfatheresque sort. It may be that in other armies soldiers never knew the wit and drollery which redeemed much of the horrors of war for the British soldier; yet if that were so, how did other armies, too, endure four years of such a war?

"Years and Years."

The soldier is grateful still to J.B. Dalley for the sketches of "My Batman" and "The Neuve Eglise Drag Hunt" which he wrote from France for "The Bulletin." Turn over the pages of "Aussie." Here is "The Corporal Story" by H.T.P., of the First Division:

I was a corporal in the A.I.F. for years and years and years,
And I did me bit on the Western Front with the Aussie Pioneers;
And I sometimes think that the roughest job as ever we 'ad in the war,
Was when they sent us up the line to build a camp for Corps.

The unseeing civilian will wonder why the Digger is already grinning. It is a narrative poem worth preserving, rather long for full reproduction here, but these lines reflect its general strain:

My oath, that camp was a roughie—a terrible windy job.
We 'ad casualties every day; I was losin' me bloomin' nob.
Bill and Joe Smith got scabies, and poor old Jock Mackey
'It 'is foot with a 'ammer and got marked down "S.I."

"S.I.," abbreviation, of course, for S.I.W. or self-inflicted wound.

Young Ern stood under a sheet of iron that cracked 'is skull like an egg,
And another chap fell in a borrer-pit and broke 'is bleedin' leg …

And so on, concluding with the quite extraordinary interview with the General, who asks him for advice. Then there is a letter from "sumware in France" after the Armistice from Digger Jim Mulga to his already repatriated brother in Australia:

Dere Steve,

Seein' theres and Armistice on I thort I'd give yer the oil. There ain't no more news as all the stoughin's done in; you will get orl that in the "Bullanganbudgery Herald," as I spose yer still take it. I'm getting' on orlright and still hold me old rank of privit tho' I neely got redooced the other day when I was up for office for workin me nut orf a fatigue party. The boss seems to have me anouted becos I pout the ard word on him for the lend of ten franks when I joyned the unit. … Seein' you've ben over here yer no a bit about q blokes, but we've got a fair cow. I went to him for a peace of soap the other day, and he told me I'd have to bring him back the old peace first. Dinkum. I went to Blighty on leaf a few months ago and looked just it in a bonzer tunick I sooveneered off a salvage dump. I neely did me block on a bonzer tabby I met over there, and was going to put it up to her to get spliced and go to Aussie after the wore. But its orf. I was tellin' her about a hop-over we had, and she sed Yes I suppose them barridges are pritty unpleasant, but you ort to be in an airrade its simply orful. Well I took a tumble that a chap would never get no credit for what he done, and as she coodn't milk I backed out …

How could the civilians at home understand? As "Primus" writes on "Going Home"—

"They wait for us. God, how well their letters have been camouflaged. But now and then just a wee small voice had cried out from between the lines, and we knew it all. We have never had the battles, the hardships, the mud, the ever-present comrades to keep our minds busy in France. They were lonely and could only read the papers, and our poor epistles, and their hearts were brought here, too. Yes, Digger, it's been a long, hard fight … but now we're going Home."

Leave and "Nut-Working."

Sergeant-majors, "quarter blokes," the M.O., and the pay clerk—the stories of them are legion. "Lance Jack's" description of a rifle—"A combination of steel and wood, with a hole bored through the centre for officers to look down to see if the soldier's thumb-nail is clean." Butler-Gye's story of "How Curley worked his ticket," by pretending to be off his head; he was discharged to Australia, and within a month of getting his freedom there he re-enlisted and returned to France with reinforcements to his old "Divvy." The divisional concert companies organised in the field became famous. The King commanded one of them to "do their stuff" in front of him at Buckingham Palace. One of the hits of the 2nd Division troupe, "The Sentimental Blokes," was the "aeroplane trip around the world for thirty bob." Among the passengers was an aged, long-bearded Digger. He explains that he wants to go back to his father's prickly pear farm in Australia. "You're a very old man," says the conductor as he hands him a ticket, "Ah. Yes," says the ancient Digger in quaking voice; "I'm very old now. In fact, I;'m due for my first leave. I'm No. 9—I've been through everything." Or again, the kind old lady visiting the Digger in hospital: "Do you ever get leave?" "Yes, ma'am, once a war—at the end of the war." Does any gunner still remember the classic "revised gun drill?" So, too, at every reunion still may be heard the hymn-tune choruses first composed to the tramp of route-marching feet, when the padres diligently tried to encourage the troops to forget monotony in song. The genius who composed "We are the rag-time army" to the tune of "The Church's one foundation" has secured immortality.

In one issue of "Aussie," Driver Baldwin composed his lyric to his "donks:"

I've scratch'd me 'ead an' bit me nails an' kept me brains a-rackin',
Athinkin' of another game to beat the one called packin'
It sorter gets yer thinkin' when the night's as dark as pitch,
And yer donks get mad and stubborn, and yer packs they want a 'itch.
They maybe "snap" goes some blame strap, and yer wondrin'if it'll holt,
And while yer tries to fix things up yer orf-donk does a bolt
An' Fritz don't stop his bloody fire to let yer fix things well.
And tho' yer cold—yes, freezin'—'e shoots as 'ard as 'ell.
Yer swear an' fix the flamin' strap inter a travellin' state,
Then kicks you donk an' in the dark yer grops round for 'is mate;
Yer find 'im freezin' meek an' calm with 'is front leg through the rein,
Yer cuss at him and fix 'im too, then orf you go again.
But it ain't no use yer grumblin', it don't make things no better,
Just 'ump yer kit and do yer bit accordin' to the letter.
Yer wants to know 'oo gives these tips—till now 'e's a survivor.
'E knows a bit about the donks—'e ought to; 'e's their driver.

These are only some samples of the current history of the Australian soldiers in the line in France, as recorded by themselves for relief of individual feelings, a relaxation from the demands of military discipline, and the amusement of their cobbers. The men who accomplish such efforts were neither demoralised or degraded by the horrors od war; rather they uplifted themselves above such a fate by virtue of their combined high hearts and courage. It is a great loss of Australia that she never saw her wonderful war army in being.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 24 April 2015

Principles of Employment of Cyclists (1914)
Topic: CEF

Principles of Employment of Cyclists

Cyclist Training (Provisional), 1914

Characteristics and Functions of Cyclists

The value of their firepower is enhanced by their mobility, not the value of their mobility by their firepower…

1.     The principal characteristic of cyclists is their power to move rapidly, and if necessary for long distances, in a country well supplied with roads of fair surface.

Compared with mounted troops, they can travel more silently, are less conspicuous, and can conceal themselves with greater facility; they can develop greater power in proportion to their numbers since they require no horse holders, and are more easily billeted, supplied, and transported by rail or boat. On the other hand their inability to move rapidly across country (and at times to move at all without leaving their cycles behind) renders it more difficult for them than for mounted troops to carry out the services of protection and reconnaissance during a march, and except when the roads are very favourable, to change position rapidly when engaged with the enemy.

In any case, when acting independently, the difficulties cyclists experience in protecting themselves will frequently reduce their pace almost to that of infantry. Rapid movement under such circumstances means dangerously little reconnaissance and renders cyclists a likely prey to hostile cavalry. The employment of cyclist bodies in country which has not been previously reconnoitred, unaccompanied by a due proportion of mounted men for the service of exploration should therefore be resorted to in exceptional cases only.

2.     The power of infantry lies in its firepower, which in the case of cyclists can be carried to greater distance in relatively less time, therefore the tactics of cyclists are the same as those of infantry supplemented by greater mobility.

The value of their firepower is enhanced by their mobility, not the value of their mobility by their firepower, or, in other words, their mobility should not be used for an indefinite purpose, but rather to move them for a definite object, to gain which it is essential that they should adopt a vigorous offensive action in order to defeat the enemy.

3.     Cyclists are not a separate arm, but a body of troops whose role is subordinate to, but a complement of, that of cavalry and infantry.

Their sphere of action lies between the main body and the outer line of protection of the force with which they are acting. Within these limits their employment is formed bodies on special missions, such as the rapid seizure of points of importance, the destruction of railways or bridges, and the interception of the enemy's movements will often be invaluable to a body of cavalry or a detachment of all arms.

4.     Cyclists will frequently be of use in assisting other troops to perform their protective duties, by their employment as standing patrols for instance (see Field Service Regulations, Part I, Sec 89.) or as a temporary relief for cavalry whilst the latter are withdrawn for purposes of watering, feeding, &c., or before they are sent out, or to act as a pivot round which cavalry can manoeuvre. At night their movements, owing to the silence in which they can be carried out, are difficult to detect. Formed bodies of cyclists should not carry out any independent movement at night beyond the protective line, owing to their greater vulnerability and liability to be thrown into confusion by an ambush or temporary obstacle during darkness than in daylight.

5.     In the battle, by reason of their mobility, cyclists are best suited for employment on the flanks of the force, either for the purpose of prolonging their own line or for enveloping that of the enemy, or as a local reserve, for reinforcing weak points.

6.     In a pursuit, a vigorous use of their mobility may enable cyclists to occupy tactical points or defiles along the enemy's line of retreat, and thus materially assist in turning the pursuit into a rout.

7.     In a retreat, they should be especially valuable on the flanks prolonging the front, and thus compelling the enemy to make a wide turning movement. By a stubborn resistance, and by a full use of their mobility and fire power they can delay the advancing columns, and assist their own troops to withdraw without being harassed.

8.     The defence of the coast is one of the principal and most important roles of cyclists in Great Britain, and in carrying out this duty they will frequently have to act for a time without the assistance of the other arms. A vigilant look-out, and a rapid concentration, based on early and accurate information, will enable them to adopt a vigorous offensive the moment an opportunity for action occurs.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 23 April 2015

Training Replacements for the Army
Topic: Drill and Training

Training Replacements for the Army

Army Information Digest (U.S.)

Supervision over replacement training by Army Ground Forces [in World War II] was guided by five basic principles, established early and adhered to throughout World War II. In general, these principles are applicable to the Army's training today:

1.     The individual must learn to work and fight as a member of a team. Throughout all aspects and levels of training this concept of teamwork is constantly emphasized.

2.     The troop commander himself is responsible for training, rather than the specialist who might actually conduct it. This reflects the basic military principle of personal leadership.

3.     General military proficiency is stressed. Create the soldier first, the technician later.

4.     Rigid performance tests are given to insure uniformity, adjustment to exacting standards and the earliest efficient completion of the training mission.

5.     Realism characterizes all training whenever possible. Live ammunition and rugged training areas are concrete expressions of this fundamental requirement.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Queen's Scarves
Topic: Militaria

The Queen's Scarf presented to Private Richard Roland Thompson of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, on display in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

(A replica of this scarf can be viewed at The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum, London, Ontario.)

The Queen's Scarves

(From our Special Correspondent.)
London. June 20, 1902.

The Advertiser; Adelaide, SA

Last Tuesday's "Gazette" contained dispatches addressed to the Secretary of State for War by both Earl Roberts and Lord Kitchener. Earl Roberts' communication is dated March 1 last, and is in continuation of his dispatch dated London, September 4, 1001, in which he brought to notice the services rendered by the various arms and departments of the army in South Africa during the time he was in chief command there, up to November 29, 1900. He submits names of additional officers, non-commissioned officers, men, nurses, and civilians, who also rendered meritorious service. The delay in completing the list was partly caused by the pressure of work at the War Office as well as by the necessity for repeated references to South Africa. Apart from these reasons, however, Earl Roberts thought it desirable to allow such a period to elapse before forwarding his final recommendations as would enable him to receive representations from general and commanding officers in the held on behalf of those whose names might have been overlooked in the previous dispatches. Earl Roberts desires that all the mentions now made may be considered as bearing the same date, November 29, 1900, as those in the previous dispatch.

In conclusion he says:—

"I desire to place on record that in April, 1900. Her Majesty Queen Victoria was graciously pleased to send me four woollen scarves, worked by herself, for distribution to the four most distinguished private soldiers in the colonial forces of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa then serving under my command. The selection for these gifts of honor waa made by the officers commanding the contingents concerned, it being understood that gallant conduct in the field was to be considered the primary qualification."

The names of those to whom the scarves were presented are:—

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:52 AM EDT
Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Modernization of Armies
Topic: Military Theory

The Modernization of Armies

Thoughts on War, Liddell-Hart, 1944

The modernization of armies is likely to take two forms, which are to some extent successive stages. The first is motorization; the second is true mechanization—the use of armoured fighting vehicles instead of unprotected men fighting on foot or horseback.

As the transformation proceeds, an army, having become as a whole strategically mobile, will re-group itself into two fighting parts with separate tactical functions: one a close-fighting part, composed of semi-mechanized infantry, and the other a mobile-fighting part, composed entirely of armoured-fighting vehicles. The close-fighting units would be employed to clear hilly and wooded country, to gain river-crossings, to evict the enemy from villages or trench systems, to occupy strategic points, an to act as general handymen. The mobile-fighting units would manoeuvre widely to turn the enemy's flanks and attack his lines of supply. If they encounter an enemy in a well-prepared position bristling with anti-tank guns, their tactics will probably be to harass the inert foe by fire while they cut off his supplies of food, petrol, and ammunition--until he is driven either to surrender or to expose himself in an attempt to get away. When acting in direct combination, the close-fighting part of an army would be used to pin and paralyse the opponent while the mobile-fighting part would carry out a decisive manoeuvre against his rear. (April 1930.)

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 20 April 2015

Redvers Buller
Topic: Officers

Redvers Buller

The Washing of the Spears; The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation, Donald R. Morris, 1965

[Redvers] Buller was archetypical of the British field grade officer of the second half of the nineteenth century. It was a time when a career officer still needed few qualifications to follow the military trade beyond outstanding personal courage and the ability to conform with the contemporary concept of a gentleman. Buller was pre-eminent on both counts, and his courage verged on sheer rashness. He may have known the meaning of the word fear, but there is no evidence that he ever let it influence his conduct and he had no tolerance for it in others. His horsemanship was superb and his magnificent endurance let him ride most men into the ground.

He also possessed a very high order of personal leadership. He based his command on the pure force of his personality; he was stern without unjust harshness, and his demands were high but never more than he was giving himself. His enthusiasm was infectious, and he was one of the few Imperial officers who could squeeze out of irregular volunteers the performance and reliability expected of professional troops. He was, in fact, one of that small and fabled band of leaders men cheerfully follow to hell.

There were, unfortunately, serious flaws in his talents, and although the authorities were vouchsafed a glimpse of them at a critical moment in 1879, they passed unnoticed and their full import did not become apparent for another twenty years. His drinking was not yet a problem, but he had a terrible temper and his treatment of civilians was even brusquer than Wolseley's. He had threatened to horsewhip correspondents on the Gold Coast who filed copy that displeased him, and he once rose and kicked out of a mess tent a reporter who said he would read personal mail in search of a story. His leadership, moreover, so bright and sure when he rode at the head of a troop, simply did not extend beyond the range of his own voice. His powers of administration and organization were low, his grasp of strategy even lower. He was vociferous rather than articulate, and his positive manner masked the fact that what he said and wrote was not always what he actually had in mind. He was also indecisive. He made a superb major, a mediocre colonel, and an abysmally poor general.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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