The Minute Book
Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Few Armies Are So Unlike
Topic: European Armies

Few Armies Are So Unlike as Those of France and Germany

Soldiers of the Fatherland Form Force of Greater Strength and Strict Discipline—French Somewhat Lax, But Almost as Efficient

The Milwaukee Journal, 18 October 1914
By the Journal's Military Expert

The world war undoubtedly is the most gigantic struggle in history. To understand the situation one must compare the armies. It would be difficult to find two armies more unlike in every detail than those of France and Germany. The German army is a force of great strength and strict discipline. In France the discipline is less strict. Officers and men are closer, but efficiency is almost as great.

The largest military formation in Germany is an army corps, in time of peace about 22,000 men and in war about 45,000 men. Several army corps, generally four, form in time of peace an army inspection and in war time, a field army under a field marshal.

Has 25 Army Corps

The German army has twenty-five army corps. Each army corps has two or three divisions. The commanding general is a general of infantry, cavalry or artillery. A division commanded by a lieutenant general has two or three brigades of infantry, one brigade of cavalry and one brigade of artillery. A brigade is commanded by a major general and has two regiments, each regiment commanded by a colonel.

A regiment of infantry consists of three battalions. In time of war each battalion is 1,000 strong and is commanded by a major. A battalion has four companies, commanded by captains. A company has in war time 250 men and consists of three platoons. Each platoon, under a lieutenant, has in time of war eighty men. A platoon has five sections, each sixteen men under a sergeant. Eight men form a squad under a corporal.

A regiment of cavalry has five squadrons in time of peace, but only four during war. Each squadron is commanded by a captain and has two hundred men. A squadron has four platoons commanded by lieutenants.

A regiment of artillery has two battalions, each having three batteries. A battery has four guns in peace, six in war. A battalion is in charge of a major, each battery commanded by a captain. Two guns are a platoon in charge of a lieutenant. Besides these troops, an army corps has one battalion of sharpshooters, one of engineers, a supply train, rapid fire gun detachment, signal corps, hospital corps, ammunition and special supply detachment, aeroplabe detachment, and automobile corps.

Carry Full Knapsack

What is the field equipment of the German infantry man?

1.     In his knapsack each man has: One shirt, one suit or underwear, four pairs of socks, a pair of lace shoes, a clothes and hand brush, a bottle of oil, cord and waste for cleaning his rifle, three little poles for his tent, three tent cords, three poles with iron tops, a prayer book, thirty rounds of ammunition and the "iron portion," consisting of a box of canned meat, three boxes of coffee, a package of canned vegetables, a package of biscuits, and a slt and pepper box.

2.     On the knapsack each man carries an overcoat (rolled), a tent folded (used also as a waterproof wrap) and a tin kettle with drinking cup.

3.     In the belt a bayonet knife, two cartridge boxes with 90 rounds of ammunition, a small shovel or hatchet, or crow-bar, or scissors to cut wire, a waterproof bag for bread and thirty rounds of ammunition. Each squad has a large waterbag.

4.     Inside of the coat, a small package or dressings and bandages, with a description how to use them.

The entire outfit, including helmet and rifle, weighs seventy pounds. The uniform is made out of the best cloth. All material is stamped with the regimental, battalion and company number and has the name of the man inside. Every man has a metal shield for identification.

Service Begins at 20

The liability to serve begins at 17 and ends at 45. Actual service commences as 20. With the active army the term of service is seven years, two in the ranks and five in the reserve, for the infantry, five in the ranks and four in the reserve for the cavalry and horse artillery. The soldier is permanently attached to some corps and during his reserve service is twice summoned for training for eight weeks. From the active service the soldier passes into the landwehr. Landwehr I., five years for the infantry and three for mounted troops. Landwehr II., six to seven years for the infantry, eight and nine for mounted troops. The reserve is the landsturm, a force purely for home defence, in which the men remain until they have reached 45. Landsturm I is composed of all men between 17 and 39, who for any reason have received no military training. Landsturm II is composed of all men between 39 and 45.

The French Field Army

The French field army is composed of twenty army corps. Each army corps has two divisions, each division two brigades, and each brigade seven or eight battalions. Every division has a regiment of artillery of nine batteries of four guns each. The corps artillery directly under the command of the commanding general, includes nine field and three howitzer batteries, to which six reinforcing batteries are added upon mobilization.

Furthermore an army corps in the field includes a cavalry brigade of two regiments, one chasseur (cavalry) battalion, engineers companies, sanitary and service troops, etc.

The cavalry divisions are composed of three brigades of two regiments each, together with three batteries of horse artillery.

Military Service Compulsory

When mobilized the strength of an army corps is 33,000 men. The reserve army has two divisions, corresponding to the active army. Upon mobilization, the thirty-six reserve divisions contain virtually the same organization and strength as the troops of the first line. The territorial army has thirty-six divisions. Military service is compulsory from 20 to 48, the only exemptions being physical disability. After three years in the active army, the soldier passes to the reserve for eleven years, followed by seven years in the territorial army and seven in the territorial reserve. The troops stationed along the German fronteir are kept at a considerably higher strength than the others.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 19 July 2016

An Officers' Mess on Active Service
Topic: Army Rations

An Officers' Mess on Active Service

The Age, Melbourne , Australia, 31 January 1900

Mr. W.C. Hannah, a son of the Vicar of Brighton, went to Ladysmith to secure from officers of the Leicestershire Regiment details of the death of his brother, Lieutenant Hannah, who was the first officer killed at Dundee. Mr. Hannah, in the course of his letter, dated 3rd November, says:—

"I dined with the Dundee column last night. I will give you a description of this dinner as showing how Burns's "gilded popinjays" fare when times are warlike. To begin with, there was no sign of furniture either in the mess-room or the ante-room. If you wanted to sit down you did so on the floor. We each got hold of a large tin mug, and dipped it into a large tin saucepan of soup and drank it, spoons not existing. A large lump of salt was passed round, and every one broke off a piece with his fingers. Next you clawed hold of a piece of bread and a chunk of tongue, and gnawed one and then the other—knives and forks there were none. This finished the dinner. Add to this two or three tallow candles stuck on a cocoa tin, and the fact that none of the officers had shaved, or had their clothes off for a week, and had walked some 45 miles through rivers and mud, and you will have some idea of how the officers' mess of one of the smartest of her Majesty's foot regiments do for themselves in times of war. Not a murmur of complaint was to be heard."

elipsis graphic

The "Gilded Popinjays" Reference

John Burns, M.P., on Militarism

The following extract from a speeh by Burns was published in The Herald of Peace and International Arbitration, Volumes 23-24, 1st February, 1895:

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 18 July 2016

Soldiers to be Taught New Ways of Warfare (US Army, 1917)
Topic: US Armed Forces

Soldiers to be Taught New Ways of Warfare

Trench Life Will be Lived by Men
Artillery Training is Arduous Branch

The Milwaukee Journal, 14 October 1917
By Arthur D. Howden Smith (Staff Correspondent of The Milwaukee Journal and The New York Evening Post.)

Washington.—The first stage of the training of the men of the national army will not be nearly so interesting as the later stages. This first stage will be devoted largely to making them physically capable of standing the driving routine of real soldier work. To march fifteen and twenty miles a day, with sixty-pound pack, ammunition, and rifle, requires a degree of fitness that few men in civil life possess. You must be hard. Every muscle in your body must be toughened and freed. There is no room for superfluous flesh on a man in hiking condition. It is excess baggage and has to be cast off.

After a few weeks of Swedish drill, of twirling the army Springfield and marching and counter-marching, in close and extended order, the conscript should be prepared for higher instruction. By the time the companies have begun to achieve solidarity in maneuver and can even combine into battalions with some degree of order, the brigadiers will begin holding confidential sessions with the regimental commanders and surveying the countryside around the cantonments for good sites for mimic warfare. By this time, too, delegations of expert British and French exponents of the modern art of trench sighting should be on hand, and the advance-guard of the reserve officers , sent over-seas for instruction close to the fighting front, will be returning to lend the value of their experience to the partially trained men of the national army.

A World Achievement

Just when this time will come nobody can say. The regular officers in charge of training may have ideas of their own, but if they have any they are keeping the knowledge to themselves. And rightly. For the national army is the most ambitious experiment in constructing military forces that any country ever attempted. It presents innumerable problems to which there are no answers in the available textbooks. The general scheme for development of the drafted men will be something like this, however.:

First phase, physical training and elementary military drill.
Second phase, advanced military drill.
Third phase, specialized warfare, as taught abroad.

Naturally, the training will vary at different cantonments, according to the ideas of the commanding officers, climatic conditions, and the adaptability of the men. Also, physical training will continue throughout the entire period of development, but it will not be stressed in the later phases. It might be said that the physical benefit the average man derives from military routine is little short of astounding.

Learning Trench Warfare

Once the drafted men have been welded into coherent units, able to obey promptly and in unison the spoken word of command, they will have ceased to be rookies in the opprobrious sense of the word, and may be called soldiers. Before the present war scrapped pre-existing ideas of military tactics their training in essentials would have just begun. Ahead of them would have stretched a long series of lessons in out-post duty, guard duty, flank and rear-guard duty, and so forth. Trench warfare has simplified all of this, and, if regular army officers are to be believed, it is this simplification which makes possible the intensive training of utterly raw troops in the mass. Their training will embrace instructions in fighting from trenches and in attacking trenches. That sums it up.

A tradition of the American Army that will be adhered to is target practice. Regular army officer hold that one of the secrets of the remarkable success British troops have always had when opposed to the Germans under anything like equal conditions has been the individually better marksmanship of their men.

This war has shown a weird tendency to develop terrible new engines of destruction and to revive the use of primitive weapons. The theory of twenty years ago following the perfection of the magazine rifle and the machine gun, that close-order fighting would be barred has been thrown into the discard. The arme blanche, as the French call it, the cold steel of the Anglo-Saxons, still reigns supreme as close quarters.

Thorough Bayonet Drill

Bayonet-fighting, as developed on the western front, mainly through British initiative, has become almost a new science. The old-time rigmarole of the bayonet manual, with its elaborate parries, guards, cuts, and thrusts, has been almost entirely done away with. In its place has been substituted a murderously simple and effective set of movements. It is horrible, almost terrifying, to the uninitiated. For bayonet-fighting represents a complete relapse to the primitive. Many sensitive, tensely strung men cannot stand it. At the training camps for officers, several men were gien discharges because of the nausea that mastered them at the idea of knife-fighting—which is all the bayonet-fighting is.

The men of the national army will receive thorough instruction in the use of this dreadful little tool. And the instruction will be as lifelike as ingenuity can make it. They will be taught to fight in every position—standing up, face to face; from the side, when caught off guard; thrusting downward, from the lip of a trench; upward, at an enemy climbing the parapet; on the run, as when a counter-attack meets a charge. The training will embrace the use of dummies and trenches and every conceivable kind of terrain. It requires good wind to end a quarter-mile sprint, loaded down with equipment, with enough energy to indulge in a bayonet duel.

Bomb Work Important

Perhaps the most important new tactics brought our during this war center around bomb-fighting. The grenadiers of the eighteenth century were what their name implies—men picked for their height and strength, and each carrying two bags of cast-iron grenades, which they ignited with a slow match and hurled at close quarters at the enemy. There was a grenadier company in each regiment of the old British line. But long before the Peninsular war the name had become almost meaningless. The improvement in field artillery made grenadiers useless, except for siege work. In recent wars grenades have been practically unknown, although the Japanese used some in the siege of Port Arthur.

But the continuous close fighting on the western front, with the establishment of trench warfare, brought the grenade back into high favor again. At first the opposing troops manufactured their own grenades out of food tins. The effectiveness of these improvised weapons proved a revelation, and first the Germans, and then the French and British, undertook the production of several standardized types of hand-bombs. Now the bombers that accompany every attack form the first wave, and it is to them that is entrusted the task of cleaning out garrisons of dugouts and machine-gun nests.

Bombing has developed into a separate department of military science. There are recognized ways of throwing the different bombs, and different types of bombs for different uses. The men of the national army will learn all about them in time. Bomb practice is dangerous, and has cost many lives in Great Britain and Canada.

Work in the Trenches

Instead of the open country maneuvers that used to be employed to accustom troops to actual warfare, the men of the national army will be taught the life of the trenches. On the hillsides and plains close to the training cantonments huge systems of field fortifications will be dug, complete to the last detail, with barbed wire entanglements, artillery and machine gun emplacements, bomb-proofs, dugouts, communication trenches, support trenches, listening posts, everything that the ingenuity of the battling nations has evolved from three years of fighting on a stupendous scale. They will be taught how to enter and leave a trench, how to repel attacks, how to make raids, how to attack by surprise under cover of the night and by day behind the protection of barrage fire.

Of course, the instruction will not be identical for all men. This is an age of military specialization. The artilleryman has not the time to spend on infantry tactics, nor has the bomber leisure to acquire the tricks of the machine gun. It is understood that the new system of regimental organization adapted by our army from the French calls for companies of approximately 250 men. Each of these companies consists of four platoons. One platoon is made up of bombers or grenadiers, two are made up of magazine riflemen, and the fourth is armed with automatic rifles or machine guns. In addition, there is an extra machine gun battalion attached to every regiment and to every brigade and division headquarters. But all of these men will have to learn trench tactics, because all will fight from trenches.

On the other hand men who elect the artillery will receive radically different training after they have emerged from the embryonic stage, where they are taught to stand and walk and the A B C of military ways. At each cantonment there will be a brigade of field artillery as a component part of the tactical division formed there. A field artillery brigade consists of three regiments, two of 3-inch batteries and one of heavier guns, 4.7 or 6-inch generally. When men report they are given the opportunity of selecting the arm they wish to serve in so far as is possible.

Artillery training is probably the biggest of all the training camp problems. The biggest obstacle is equipment. The country was woefully short of field artillery equipment even for the regular army and national guard, when we entered the war.

The men are first taught just what a modern field-piece is. They are shown how to take it apart and assemble it again, and they are drilled until they know every part of it by name and by feel. The mechanism of shells is illustrated practically and demonstrations are given in how and why a shell explodes. They are taught to ride and care for horses and the simpler elements of hippology. Range-finding and the plotting of targets is a much more difficult work, and yet perfectly tangible, once the guiding rules are comprehended. The use of the azimuth, the theory of indirect fire, triangulation and probably, too, the most modern development of all, co-operation between airplane observers and batteries, will form the bulk of the drafted artilleryman's studies. By the time he has finished such a course, he may not be quite ready for the battlefront, but at least he should be able to go to the finishing schools immediately behind the front.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 18 July 2016 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 17 July 2016

Fancy Religions
Topic: Humour

Fancy Religions

Ottawa Citizen, 19 April 1916

The anxiety of Dr. J.W. Edwards, M.P., to learn officially the different varieties of church faith among the Canadian recruits would hardly be satisfactorily answered by the hard-bitten sergeant in the Submarine Miners. There were only two churches within marching distance of the camp: Anglican and Roman, and there seemed to be rather a large number of men with conscientious scruples about attending either. So when the squad paraded on Sunday morning, old Bob, the sergeant-major, exclaimed, "Catholics, one pace forward! Church of England, one pace to the rear! Fancy religions, fall out for fatigue."

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 17 June 2016 7:26 PM EDT
Saturday, 16 July 2016

Tommy Well Fed in the Field
Topic: Army Rations

Tommy Well Fed in the Field

Army Rations Displayed for Inspection at the Front

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 4 April 1915
(Correspondence of Associated Press)

British General Headquarters in France, March 23.—A picture that will linger in the memory of the newspapermen who visited the front as guests of the British staff, was the sight of the army rations, in all their variety or lack of variety, laid out for inspection on a hotel table, and looking not unlike a study of the contents of a larder of a Dutch painter.

There was beef and mutton, a pound of each (the fresh meat ration is one pound). There were large tins of pressed beef which vary the fresh meat or are taken when fresh meat can not be got. There was a two-pound loaf of excellent bread and the alternative ration of biscuit. The biscuits, according to the soldiers, are a vast improvement on the South African war biscuit. There are fresh vegetables, including onions; there was tea, sugar and jam, of which the English soldier in inordinately fond, and by way of luxuries 50 cigarettes and two ounces of tobacco. This quantity of cigarettes and tobacco is served out weekly.

There is besides a ration of super-excellent bacon, cheese, butter, where possible, and a bottle of army rum. The rum ration is two ounces daily, a rather large wine glassful. Apart from the daily issue of rations, every man carries his "iron" or emergency ration, of beef and biscuit, which he must not touch till he has been 24 hours without food.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 15 July 2016

The Way They have It In the Army (1917)
Topic: Drill and Training

The Way They have It In the Army (1917)

The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February 1917
(Angus and Robertson.)

One does not as a rule look for literary excellence in a military manual, but there is some uncommonly good writing in "Citizen to Subaltern," by Captain A.W. Hutchin, of the Australian General Staff. In the old professional armies commissioned rank was usually the preserve of a class if not of a caste. But in the new national armies there is an open career for talent; In the Australian army in particular every "marmalade" has a Field Marshal's baton concealed somewhere in his dungarees; officers are now chosen for ability shown in the ranks, and some whom left here as privates are already majors.

What does a young officer need? Chiefly self-confidence, because if he is not certain of himself his men will not be certain of him.

Captain Hutchin's book is designed to guide the ambitious, and to stimulate the diffident. It deals with what may be termed the philosophy of junior command. It has nothing to say about the technicalities of traininf, for these may be learned from other books; it is concerned with the things that a young officer should feel and imitate rather than matters of tangible knowledge. The subaltern is paid more than the sergeant; receives more show of respect; has a more comfortable time all round. The advantages are his because his responsibilities are greater. Everyone would agree to this off hand, but if the average man were asked to define precisely the nature of those responsibilities and the psychological factors that contribute to their successful assumption he would require a volume. Captain Hutchin does it in a few score of short pages.

What does a young officer need? Chiefly self-confidence, because if he is not certain of himself his men will not be certain of him. It is not necessary that he should be perfect in the art of strategy; that is the business of generals and suchlike potentates. Indeed, the lesson of this war has been that in modern conditions the platoon commander is the man that counts. War has become a thing of sudden, deadly melees, in which it is every unit for itself. "If a leader understands the action of his own unit, and has a proper conception of its functions in regard to the next higher formation of which it is part, he will know a great deal, and can be a valuable leader." he would do better to spend his scanty leisure in the study of his men's feet than in the study of major operations. He will have ample time for the latter before his time comes to conduct them. The ablest theorist is of little value as an officer unless he has character, and this must be of the positive and not the negative quality. "No person can hope to lead Australians effectively if he does not bristle with character. The civil life of the population is of the freest type. Nobody is of any account in this country unless he has made good by personal exertion, it matter not is what walk of life. The good boxer is more thought of than the mediocre divine." And the zealous officer, despite all imperfections, is more thought of than the one who betrays the least sign of slackness.

The Australian officer as a neophyte is exposed to a trying ordeal. His platoon watch him with knowing eyes; all are conscious of each other's infirmities. Many are militant unionists, who have surrendered the eight-hour principle for the way they have in the army, where there are no "hours." But if they find that their immediate officer grudges a moment of his time from a duty that may seem trivial of superfluous, but is nevertheless a duty, they will at once take their cue from him. Therefore, the officer must always be "all-in." Courage is required also but there is no reason to be afraid of being afraid. There are tow kinds of fear, says Captain Hutchin, that which prompts a woman to take an umbrella on a wet day, and that which throws her into a panic at the sight of a mouse. The one is a sensible precaution; the other, a matter of nerves. Fear, or its absence, is largely a question of physical condition (for which the Army provides) and discipline, of which the author says much hereafter. On the other hand, daring, unless controlled, may be as disastrous as cowardice. He mentions an episode of which we have already heard whispers. An Australian unit on the Western front was appointed to take two lines of trenches. It did so at a canter. "This is too easy," it said, and proceeded to take the third line. Then the tragedy began. On either side the Germans appeared, and enfiladed our men; there were no supports because the plan was only to take two lines; the artillery could not help because we and the Germans were indistinguishably mixed up. The survivors who cut their way out were too few and too exhausted to hold even the second trench.

With units, so with officers. Gallantry is presupposed, but a live subaltern is more useful than a dead hero. To put it brutally, officers are not paid to win posthumous glory; they are paid to lead their men, to do a job for which they are specially chosen and trained. They will find sufficient risks in this job without going out of their way to invite them. Still, Captain Hutchin, the stern utilitarian, ever concerned to remind the officer that neither his soul or his body is his own, but belongs to his country, unbends to some extent. Speaking of the traditions among British subalterns that they must despise danger to the point of folly, he observes, "This utter recklessness in the absence of necessity has only it picturesqueness to recommend it. Otherwise it is a waste of good material; but perhaps it is better that it should go on so than that there should grow up a type of leader who shows even the slightest hesitation to sacrifice himself. Much better to die a reckless hero than to survive a 'Dugout King.'"

The aspirant officer may have courage, character, assiduity, and many other excellent qualities, but they will avail him nothing unless he grasps what discipline means. This is more important in the Australian army than in any other, for we, as a people, are said to be rather antipathetic to discipline. If we knew what it was we would be less recalcitrant. For it is nothing more or less than training, the shaping of a weapon to its particular object. One has seldom seen the idea of discipline explained so compactly, Captain Hutchin begins with the general principal that it is the primal instinct of self-preservation organised and controlled for the purpose of fighting. Man took long to learn this; those who were quickest to realise it made history. It is a mistake to think that discipline means merely efficiency in formal drill or smartness in saluting. These are simply the outward and visible signs of the informing spirit. It is equally a mistake to think that discipline is a burden to be borne by the rank and file. The higher the officer the more arduous his discipline. The drill an observances paid to superior rank are all part of a scheme which had proved its usefulness long before Rome conquered Britain. When Private Jones is made to slope arms in precise time with his company it is not because ceremonial will beat the Germans. When Private Jones salutes Lieutenant Smith, his own subordinate in civil life, there is nothing servile in it. It is impersonal. He may be a batter man in every way than his lieutenant; he is saluting not the man, but the flag and the army. We may belittle tradition, but it counts. A hundred, a thousand small things, handed down by tradition, have come to make discipline. When a man feels that the habit of going forward in obedience to orders conquers the shrinking of the flesh; when he knows that his safety lies in obedience to orders; when, without understanding what may be happening around, he goes on with his appointed task; when he realizes that himself, his lieutenant, his captain, aye, and his brigadier are but persons in a great game; when he can experience defeat without demoralisation, the victory without excess, then you will have the ideally disciplined soldier.

In the meantime, Australia will be glad of recruits. The scheme of training has ceased to be formal and monotonous. Everyone is told why they are learning what they are learning. Even if their task is not very exciting they are shown the reason of it.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 14 July 2016

Stolen Valour, 1931; Imposter Fined
Topic: Stolen Valour

Imposter Fined

Military Rank Assumed

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 19 September 1931

Adelaide, Friday.—James Gilbert Low admitted in Adelaide Police Court to-day that he had unlawfully made use of the military decorations M.V.O. and M.C., and had assumed the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was fined £10 on each of two charges, with £2/10/ costs.

The assistant police prosecutor (Mr. J.P. Walsh) informed the court that two police officers told Low that the military records did not show the name of Lieutenant-Colonel J.G. Low. He denied that he had ever told anyone that he was a lieutenant-colonel or a major. He admitted that he might have allowed others to introduce him as a lieutenant-colonel after he had a few drinks, and said "It was just for swank." He said he was a captain.

The police showed him a prospectus of a company in which he was described as Captain J. Gilbert Low, M.C., D.C.M., R.E., and asked him what was his motive. He replied, "Nothing."

The police found in Low's rooms a photograph of the Governor of Queensland shaking hands with Low and bearing the words, "Governor of Queensland greeting an old comrade, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Gilbert Low, M.V.O., M.C., D.C.M., R.E., one of the survivors who held Delville Wood with the South African Brigade for 13 days against 14 German divisions.'

There was also a framed letter from the pricate secretary, Government House, Brisbane, which stated:—"The Duchess of York has read your letter with the greatest interest, and regrets that she did not have an opportunity of seeing you. The Duchess sends you her warmest regards for your welfare."

Low admitted to the police that he had been introduced to Lord Baden Powell as a lieutenant-colonel.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Why of the Trenches
Topic: CEF

The Why of the Trenches

Practical Points from a Practical Soldier on the Use of Front Line Positions, with Some Suggestions to the Men Who Are New at the War Game on the Routine and Life at the Extreme Front

The Milwaukee Sentinel, 29 September, 1917
By Captain David Fallon, M.C. (Late of the British and Australian Forces)

Although this article isn't specifically about the CEF, it has been tagged as such to keep it with other First World War material.

To those who have never interested themselves in military matters the trench fighting on the western front in Europe seems to be very new tactics, but to the student of military history it is more than two thousand years old. Never before, however, has it been so perfectly organized.

The first time in history field fortifications and obstacles in the field were used to keep back the attacking forces they were constructed in China. They were built by the then emporer of China to keep away marauding Tartarsand wild men of Northern Asia. The remains of this fortification system we know as the Great Wall of China, about 1,500 miles long, 300 feet high, and 50 feet in width.

Before the Romans attacked any position they would dig themselves in and build fortifications to hide their forces from their opponents. The American civil war developed much trench fighting, and a good example of this kind of warfare was seen in the Russo-Turkish War of 1878. At the battle of Plevne the Turks, under Osman Pacha, were seriously outnumbered in men and munitions. Osman Pacha, remembering an old axiom which says, "When a force is outnumbered in men and munitions they must build fortifications to be able to hold their own territory, for a trained man strongly intrenched is equal to forty of the opposing forces," told his army to "dig in." This maxim has proved still good, for at the battle of the Marne and the Aisne the British and french troops dug themselves in so quickly that the Prussians thought that they had literally disappeared.

One of the great defensive incidents of the war occurred in Belgium when General Leman, commanding the Leige defences, with only thirty hours' start made such fortifications that he was able for ten days to withstand the constant onslaught of five of the best trained and equipped corps of German forces.

elipsis graphic

Although the intensive kind of fighting now in progress abroad is new to America, yet you possess, as I have learned, "the art of adaptation which seems to grow with you" and comes natural to many. You will, therefore, have no difficulty in adapting yourselves to the present kind of fighting, which you soon will be called upon to wage.

Trenches are systems of openings in the ground and fortified in such a way as to permit a soldier to reist an attacking force. The purpose of trenches is to protect men in them from fire and thus enable them to fight against more than their number of the enemy. There are three kinds of trenches, each for an entirely different purpose:—

  • First—Front line fire trenches, in which men fight.
  • Second—Sheltered trenches, in which the supports and reserves rest, protected from fire and also from the weather.
  • Third—Communicating trenches, which act as safe paths from the sheltered trenches to the fire trenches.

If you would become acquainted with trench life in winter dig a hole in the ground six feet deep and two feet wide, fill it three-fourths full with water and stand in it. Carry sixty pounds on your back and eight pounds on your head and get some one to throw water continuously over you. Your supply of food must first of all be dropped into the hole; then get the assistance fo two of your friends and tell them to keep up a continuous bombardment with bombs, which can be improvised by filling a jam tin with needles, old nails, and amonal—or any such explosive will do—then set the fuse, which should be lighted and thrown on the ground surrounding your position.

In summer dig the same hole at an abattoir an "carry on" as in winter.

This ought to give even the unimaginative some conception of trench life.

elipsis graphic

Trenches serve the same purpose as armor used to against men without armor. In making armor, its shape, and thickness depended upon the sort of blows it would have to withstand, whether from swords or arrows. In the making of trenches in the same way the sorts of fire which they will have to guard against are the thing that decides what their shape will be. The sorts of fire which the Allies are subjected to are, first, rifles and machine guns, in which are used the same bullets, and therefore can be regarded as the same weapon; second, artillery fire.

In order to make trenches suitable for protecting men from these two kinds of weapons we must consider what the effects of their fire is in each case. Rifle bullets in this war are always fired at trenches from very short range, normally fifty to three hundred yards. The skim over the ground in a flat, level course and may be regarded at this short range as travelling in as direct a line as the rays of a searchlight. Therefore, as long as a man has any kind of bullet proof cover which hides him from the front he is safe.

A man during his first appearance in the trenches will be eager to look over the top of the parapet and see what all it means. Periscopes are provided for this purpose to obviate any chance of the man being hit. One day one of my men, after doing duty in the trenches for ten days without a wash or shave, looked into the periscope through the wrong mirror, and instead of seeing what was going on in No Man's Land he saw his own reflection in the mirror, but, not having seen his own reflection for some time, he dropped the periscope, rushed for his rifle and remarked, "There's a damned ugly Boche looking into my periscope.

Every night the front part of the trench should be inspected for breaches, which may be caused by regular sniping from the from the front. This is a regular practice of snipers, and many a man has paid with his life for this neglect. One day I took over some trenches, and the officer explained that they had lost one officer and six men before they tumbled to the game.

elipsis graphic

Artillery shells fired from a distance of, say, two miles are fired upward in the air in order to carry such a distance, much as a baseball player throws the ball if he wishes it to reach a long distance. As a result of this, artillery shells as the approach a trench are falling as well as moving forward. They slant then somewhat like the rays of the sun. If the sun is high in the sky a man to get shelter behind a wall from its heat must crouch down and sit very close to it. To give protection from a shell the trench must be deep and have a steep side, under which a man can crouch. A shell may fall into a trench although it safely passes over the head of the man in it. It will then burst and probably will kill or wound the men in that length of trench. The war has produced many incidents where men have picked up a shell and have thrown it over the parapet, thus saving the lives of their comrades. It is necessary to prevent shells from falling into the mouth of the trench. To do this a trench must be short and narrow, so as to make the mouth of it as small as possible. A rule which you must remember is this:—

"The shorter and narrower a trench is the safer it is."

Again, "The lower a man can crouch in a trench the safer he will be from pieces of a shell which bursts close to the trench.' This brings another rule which must be remembered:—

"The deeper the trench the safer it is."

The continuous bombardment of these trenches levels them to the ground and keeps the men perpetually busy rebuilding them. Even when one is dog tired there must be no slackness or indifference in the reconstruction, otherwise men will pay the penalty for their lethargy. It is obvious that a trench not easily visible is less likely to be shelled than one which is conspicuous. From this can be formulated:—

"The better hidden a trench the safer it is."

elipsis graphic

Artists, painters, and decorators are used to make screens with which to hide the artillery. If this were not done no battery could escape the eagle eye of the aviator. Dummy trenches are often made to amuse the boys in the trenches. A man is sent along with plenty of black powder, and during one of the bombardments he is told to light the powder. The thick black smoke which ensues catches the Boche's eye and he thinks that is where the guns are, so they train all the guns on the dummy trenches, much to the amusement of the boys.

In taking over a line of trenches the men are formed up and receive their food, water and ammunition. The are led by guides and are marched through the communicating trenches in single file to the front line trenches, some going to the support and others to the reserve lines. Units should not move along the trenches more than sixty strong, and men should not be too close together, for any shell that might drop into the communicator would kill or wound more than is absolutely necessary. This gives us another rule:—

"Don't crowd the communicator [trench]."

Officers, non-commissioned officers and men, on handing over their particular posts, should explain to the incomers the extent of the trench, who are on the flanks, dumps, continuity, bombs, ammunition, &c.

The usual routine in the trenches provides for the inspection of rifles twice daily—morning and evening, and every precaution must be taken to keep all other equipment in good order. The chief problem to be faced in the ordinary routine of trench work is to insure the maximum amount of work daily toward the subjection and annoyance of the enemy and the improvement of the trenches consistent with the necessity for every man to get the proper amount of rest and sleep. This can be done only by a good system. A definite programme and time tables of work must be arranged and adhered to as far as possible. A simple system by which a unit in the trenches obtains the material required for the construction and repair of the trenches has been worked out.

elipsis graphic

In every regiment a "regimental workshop" is usually formed, the necessary personnel (from twelve to twenty men) being found in the battalions who are carpenters and artificers by trade. This establishment is as near to the trench line as possible consistent with the men being able to work in reasonable safety. Its functions are to make up the material obtained from the engineers into shapes and sizes suitable for carrying up to the trenches and to construct any simple device required for use in the trenches, such as barbed wire, knife rests, box loop holes, rifle rests, floor gratings, grenade boxes and sign boards for communicating trenches with which to guide one where to go.

The importance of working on a definite system and with a definite programme has already been emphasized. The essential requirements for a front line trench are:—

(a)     The parapet must be bullet proof.
(b)     Every man must be able to fire OVER the parapet with proper effect (that is, so that he can hit the bottom of his own wire).
(c)     Traverses must be adequate.
(d)     A parados must be provided to give protection against the back blast of high explosives.
(e)     The trace of the trench should be irregular to provide flanking fire and if the trench is to be held for any length of time:—
(f)     The sides must be revetted.
(g)     The bottom of the trench must be floored.

The following points come next in order of importance:—

(a)     The provision of good loopholes for snipers, at least one for each section of men in the trench.
(b)     The construction or improvement of communication trenches; there should be one for each platoon from the from the support line to the front line trench, if possible.
(c)     Listening posts, one for each platoon, pushed well ahead of the front line trench.

elipsis graphic

A good system of observation and sniping is of the utmost importance in trench warfare. Usually every battalion has a special detachment of trained snipers working under selective officers or non-commissioned officers. Their duties are to keep the enemy lines under constant observation, note any changes in the line, any new work undertaken by the enemy, keep the enemy snaipers in check and to inflict casualties on the enemy whenever opportunity offers.

During a reconnaissance patrol I stumbled across a sap, which, coming from the Boche lines, made me suspicious that there was something doing at the forward end. I followed the sap until I spotted a Boche sniper, who was luxuriously entrenched in a bullet proof cage. Coming from the rear, the sniper did not hear my approach, so he fell an easy victim. On searching the post I discovered a telescopic rifle, plenty of ammunition, food, beer and German literature.

Communications in the trench line are established by telephone, but it must be realized that in the event of heavy shelling all telephone communications is likely to be interrupted, and an efficient alternative system of orderlies—runners—must be arranged and tested.

Most of the honors fall to the lot of the runners, and I recall one of my own orderlies who for forty hours carried messages to and from a heavily shelled position where my men and I were fighting for our lives. The position in question had been captured and retaken about ten times.

It must be clearly understood that trench fighting is only a phase of operations and that the instruction in this subject, essential as it is, is only one branch of the training of troops. To gain a decisive success the enemy must be driven out of his defences and his armies crushed in the open. The aim of trench fighting, therefore, is to create a favourable situation for field operations, which the troops must be capable of turning to account.

Although life in the trenches becomes very monotonous and dreary there is plenty of ground for humor, which relieves the nervous tension.

During these momentous times the thought of the soldier is:—"God for us all and every man for the side." the make audacity their battle cry, and these usually are the ones who return to relate the experiences of trench life.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Victoria Cross in Pawn (1907)
Topic: Medals

Victoria Cross in Pawn (1907)

Hero Who Won It Found Dying Before It Is Sold

The Carp Review, Carp, Ontario, 3 January 1907
(From the London Mirror.)

After a brief spell of fame it seems to be the predestined fate of the Victoria Cross hero to sink into a position so reduced that it is impossible to find his whereabouts.

Many are the romances, which rate has woven around men who, after a daring feat of arms, have been rewarded by a grateful sovereign with the proudest possession of a soldier. But none of them is more pathetic than that of a distinguished officer whose Victoria Cross was to have been sold next week in a London auction room.

Fifty years ago he performed such feats of heroism in the Crimea that he received a nation's praise and a grateful Queen pinned on his breast the bronze cross that is worth so little and yet is worth so much.

Afterwards he rose to high rank in the army and retired. Ten years ago misfortune overtook him, and as a last resource he raised a few pounds by leaving his beloved cross in a pawn broker's frawer. Then he departed and nothing more was heard of him.

A Victoria Cross is never sold until after the death of the man to whom it has been awarded.

The auctioneers searched the Somerset house registers for days, but the gallant officer's name was not to be found. At last, three days ago, his death was presumed and the cross was advertised for sale. It was to have been sold nest week, but yesterday afternoon, quite by accident, the auctioneers heard that the officer was still alive, although seriously ill.

And so the cross will not be sold. Possibly a friend will recompense the pawn-broker to the extent of its value and send it along to the officer in order that he may see it again before he dies.

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 11 July 2016

The Woods Recognition Cards; The Tens
Topic: Cold War

The Woods Recognition Cards; The Tens

Playing cards marked with silhouettes to practice recognition of armoured fighting vehicles and aircraft were a novelty given or sold to soldiers during the Cold War. A late edition of such cards was produced by Woods Manufacturing, of Ottawa, Ontario, (now Guthrie Woods).

The four tens for this deck, pictured above, featured the following:

 
   

See also, the Jokers, the Aces, and the Kings.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2016 6:46 PM EDT
Sunday, 10 July 2016

Vimy Pilgrimage Bands (1936)
Topic: Vimy Pilgrimage

Vimy Pilgrimage Bands (1936)

Bands to be Inspected
Hon. Ian Mackenzie to Review Vimy Pilgrimage Bands

The Montreal Gazette, 10 July 1936

Hon. Ian Mackenzie, Minister of National Defence, accompanied by Brigadier R.O. Alexander, D.S.O., District Officer Commanding, M.D. 4, and other local staff officers, will inspect three bands this morning prior to their departure to participate in the Vimy Pilgrimage to France. The inspection will he held at 9 o'clock on Dominion Square.

The band of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and a composite bugle and drum band from various Canadian units will sail today from Montreal on the Duchess of Richmond, under command of Lt.-Col. A.T. MacLean, of Victoria, B.C. The third band, a composite pipe band, leaves Quebec tomorrow on the Empress of Britain under the command of Lt.-Col. G.E.A. Dupuis, of the Royal 22nd Regiment of Quebec.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 9 July 2016

Sam Hughes Gets Schooled
Topic: Canadian Militia

Sam Hughes Gets Schooled

"My own idea is that the Militia Force of Canada is like one of those big-hatted, hobble-skirted girls one sees walking along the sidewalks—all feathers and top."

From archived Governor General's office documents held by Library and Archives Canada comes this critical observation by Sir Sam Hughes after visiting the Militia Camps in 1912. Following is the reply from the Chief of the General Staff.

July 9, 1912

Memorandum

To:—The Chief of the General Staff
Department of Militia and Defence

It is my desire to consider thoroughly the whole question of the training of the militia.

As judged by their actions, there is scarcely a trained Officer in the Force, scarcely an Officer that has the master spirit developed; even the subordinate Officers seem to lack initiative.

It is my wish to greatly extend the provisional Schools of Instruction, and the Sergeant Instructors for Battalion Headquarters, and the sooner we get together and get out plans all considered, the more it will be to the benefit of the Force.

In nearly every Camp visited, there seemed to be an absence of the master mind in Divisions, in Brigades, in Regiments and in Companies.

Colonel Smart was, by all odds, the best Camp Commandant I met. There were a number of good Brigade Commanders, a few Regimental Commanders and not very many Company Commanders. The men were splendid, all they wanted was a chance.

Please think over remedies and see if, when we all meet together, we can get something devised to bring about a change.

My own idea is that the Militia Force of Canada is like one of those big-hatted, hobble-skirted girls one sees walking along the sidewalks—all feathers and top.

To my mind, we must lay foundations good and solid.

Sam. Hughes

elipsis graphic

The Chief of the General Staff's less than accomodating reply:

"Units will be found to vary in efficiency in direct proportion to the efficiency of their officers.

The Hon. The Minister of Militia and Defence.

I have received your memorandum giving the conclusions you have arrived at as a result of your recent visit to various Camps. They do not surprise me. The conditions you have found should be well known to any one who is conversant with the facts. I believe the same conditions have existed for some years.

If you expect, with your present inadequate military system, that the Militia will obtain any high degree of efficiency you will be disappointed; though no doubt an improvement can be effected.

It is as well to be clear as to certain points. You specifically mention "training and provisional schols of instruction." What do you mean by these terms? The intention of the instructions for training in camp for 1911 and 1912 was that units should learn drill sufficient, and no more, to allow of their being moved about for manoeuvre purposes without disorder; apart from this that all attention should be directed to teaching them the duties that they would have to carry out in war. That the same idea should be kept in view at other than camp training. Does this accord with your conceptions on the subject?

A "Provisional School of Instruction" is intended to provide officers and N.C,.Os. Who are unable to go to the Regular Schools of Instruction with a convenient local means of qualifying for their positions, and of obtaining the same instruction, and going through the same courses, as if they were attending a regular school of instruction. The existing regulations on the subject recently approved by the Militia Council provide for this, and were specially brought in to prevent irregularities and to prevent officers and others getting a qualifying certificate which in most cases had not in the past been worth the paper it was written on. Is this your idea of what provisional schools should be?

What is your machinery for carrying on training, provisional or other schools, and instruction generally? You have the Permanent Force and the Active Militia. It is not probable you will obtain Militia officers to give up their civil vocations and follow the somewhat thankless task of teaching their fellows. You say you wish to extend the system of provisional schools and increase the number of sergeant instructors, but on the other hand you have, since coming into office, reduced the Permanent Force, and it is a matter of common knowledge that you held that force in very little esteem. This has had a bad effect. The Permanent Force of Canada has had no chance under the existing system of learning their work, I refer particularly to their field duties, they are, like most men, what their environment has made them, but whether good or bad, they are the only instrument you have for carrying out instructional work, and the better you make them the better will the Militia be, and its is as well, if they are to be your instructional medium, that this fact should be recognized. If you are going to rely on other instruments the matter is of less account.

The establishment of sergeant instructors (The Instructional Cadre) is now just complete. Thirty cavalry and seventy one infantry. This is the proportion of one instructor to two regiments. There is no insuperable difficulty in increasing this to make it one per regiment—in fact that was the initial intention. It is, however, a big demand on 4 weak squadrons of cavalry and 1 battalion of infantry to provide respectively 60 cavalry and 142 infantry instructors. Do you think the present meagre establishment of the Permanent Force can do it?

While on the subject of training, instruction and provisional schools it may be pointed out that though a sergeant instructor is capable of teaching N.C.Os. There is not one in twenty who is capable of instructing officers in the duties, and especially the field duties, which fall to an officer's lot in war, knowledge of tactics, etc. This being so, it is necessary that such instruction should be imparted by competent officers. What officers are available for this purpose?

You have found some Militia officers in camp more efficient than others. Units will be found to vary in efficiency in direct proportion to the efficiency of their officers. You probably noticed a difference between the two cavalry brigades you saw at Petawawa. One was in command of a competent officer who knew what to do and he had a competent regular officer as brigade major, the other brigade had neither of these advantages. The obvious immediate remedy is to remove incompetent officers. You perhaps do not care to do this. A further necessary step is to avoid making officers Brigade Commanders, etc., who are known to be unfit for such positions. Are you prepared to act on these lines? It may be remembered that the policy of trying to make Brigade Commanders something more than figure heads, and of bringing home to them their duties and responsibilities is of very recent origin.

The general inefficiency of Militia officers of which you complain is in my opinion largely attributable to the purely nominal courses of instruction which, up to 1911-12, they went through when obtaining certificates qualifying them for the several ranks. I have returns showing that about 90% of the courses are "special 7 day courses." Officers of all ranks attended at the same time, no syllabus was laid down and the result, as far as learning anything useful is concerned, was practically nil. Your kindly but as I consider mistaken efforts to provide provisional schools and individual instruction in cases when it was not feasible to put officers and N.C.Os. through the course that is now authorised has been one of the many difficulties in the endeavour to try and ensure that a qualifying certificate should be a reality and not a farce.

A good system of command and administration, discipline, suitable terms of service and ground for field exercises are also closely connected with any general improvement in training. Since your advent into office you have completely changed the system at Militia Headquarters in that you are exercising executive command as well as administrative control. You issue executive orders direct from your office on various matters intimately affecting different military branches at Headquarters. This is not in accordance with the military constitution of the country as laid down in the Militia Act. I mention the fact but do not presume to comment on it. I have been at Militia Headquarters long enough to be able to observe the results of this change of system. One result is that the heads of the military branches of the department are ceasing to carry on their work on their own initiative and responsibility, nor does the matter end here. Commanders of Divisions and Districts are exercising little initiative and accept no responsibility they can avoid. Officer in Canada having no opportunity of developing their character for command and responsibility in field exercises and manoeuvres, it is all the more important they should be trained to exercise their judgment and accept responsibility in every other direction.

The present tendency at Headquarters is no help to that end. A military system in which each individual does not take his own responsibility and do his own work will not produce any good result.

You told the Militia Council of some professorial experiences of your own, when, after some months of hard work, you discovered that those you were instructing had learn't nothing, because you had, on the blackboard, been doing the whole work yourself. Are you sure that you are not again repeating that procedure? If training, etc., is to improve, the entire system is involved, and the question arises whether a big department and a military system embracing a large country can be controlled on its administrative and on its executive side, and in all its details, by one man. I think the results will prove disappointing.

The weakness of a Militia Force when first embodied for service is admittedly lack of discipline. You have at a large meeting of Militia officers stated your views on this subject. I doubt if you would find any support for those views from professional soldiers of experience in any army in Europe. They may all be wrong. The broad results at present are that an individual who has failed, or thinks he will fail if he asks, to obtain from a properly constituted military authority something that he wants, turns to some gentleman of influence, usually political influence, or addresses you direct. Men of the permanent Force complain to you direct. I have been observing with anxiety the spread of this new doctrine. It is very damaging to military authority. I do not think it will make easier the observance of regulations for improved training and efficiency.

What degree of military efficiency can be expected from a man who does between eight and twelve days training in his life time? Yet that is the general condition to-day, as from 30 to 80% of the Militia serve only for one year. Sir John French in his report laid special stress on the necessity of making men fulfill their obligation, undertaken on enlistment, or serving three years. A captain recently applied the law and took proceedings against some men who failed to attend camp. The barrister for the accused took the ground that your remarks on then case, communicated to the press, constituted an official repudiation of the captain's action. If service is to be for one year no marked improvement in the general efficiency of the rank and file, beyond that now prevailing, can be anticipated, unless the period of annual training is increased.

Having decided on the nature of training to be given, ground is required for practical experiences. Drill and simple movements can be carried out on the Farnham field, at Niagara and at Sussex, but little else.

Ottawa,
15th July 1912.

Maj. General,
Chief of the General Staff.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 8 July 2016

Food for an Army (Germany, 1914)
Topic: Army Rations

Food for an Army (Germany, 1914)

German Soldiers Carry "Iron" Ration in Haversack

Hard Black Bread, Meat or Bacon, Onions and Coffee Their Fare Aside From What They Can Forage

The Victoria Daily Advocate, Victoria, Texas, 17 September 1914

The German soldier is eating black bread baked two months ago. It crust is so hard that a bayonet or sabre must be used to break it.

Washington.—Every German soldier carried 27 ounces of hard bread, 21 pounces of preserved meat or bacon, ten and one-half ounces of vegetables, mostly onions, and two and five-eighths ounces of coffee in his haversack when he started for Belgium. Every uhlan or other cavalryman carried just one-third of that amount.

The foot soldiers had enough food for three days and the cavalryman for just one day. The cavalryman is supposed to be able to get back to a base of supplies oftener and easier than a foot soldier. Besides, his work being usually in advance of the foot soldiers the food supplies of the country are not depleted when he appears, and he is expected to help himself.

An army officer on duty with the general staff in Washington says:

"The German soldiers are living on soup and hard bread. If the supply of meat and onions is good the soup is thick. If it is small the soup is thin. The fewer utensils an army carries the better it is fed. Big cauldrons packed with meat and vegetables mean more sustenance than pots and pans and bake ovens. The motive power that would be required to carry frying pans, broiling irons, and baking dishes can be better used in hauling meat, potatoes and onions. Stew every day is better than planked steak and mashed potatoes very other day.

Since 1809 the Prussians have been working on the machine with which the Kaiser is confronting the alliance of great and little powers today. The call the ration weighing four pounds their "iron" ration. It must last three days. Six hundred carloads of food must leave Coblentz, Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle, or whatever for the time being is the commissary depot, daily for the men operating in Belgium, Luxembourg and France, that is the minimum. The chances are that 900 cars are being used for the conveyance of one day's "iron" ration. For ammunition there must be a minimum of 300 cars. For forage and other quartermaster stores there must be a minimum of at least 1,000 cars, although the probabilities are that a much larger number are being used.

If the army is being kept supplied by less than The German soldier is eating black bread baked two months ago. It crust is so hard that a bayonet or sabre must be used to break it.3,500 carloads of material every day the statisticians and others who have worked on the machine and its handling have achieved a great victory. Probably 200 locomotives are in use.

All these things are being used to start the supplies from the great depots at the base or bases to the temporary distributing depots.

The German soldier is eating black bread baked two months ago. It crust is so hard that a bayonet or sabre must be used to break it. Hard baking preserves it and reduces the moisture to be carried to a minimum. As to how the soldiers shall eat it that is his affair.

These estimates as to the number of wagons and animals are based on a campaign ten-day march from the base, or, roughly speaking, from one hundred to on hundred fifty miles from the point to which the railroads bring the food, ammunition, forage and other material.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 7 July 2016

Machine Guns Will Displace Infantry (1927)
Topic: Military Theory

Machine Guns Will Displace Infantry

The Florence Times Daily, Florence, Alabama, 20 March 1927

London (UP)—Conclusions drawn by military experts based on the most advanced practice in British and continental army maneuvres in 1926 indicate that the next war is likely to be almost entirely a matter of machine guns, aircraft and tanks. The role of the infantryman seems to be taken over by the machine gunner.

The present trend of the French and German armies to have one machine-gun company to every three of ordinary infantry—a far bigger proportion of machine guns to rifles than was used in the Great War—is expected during 1927 to continue to progress in favor of the machine-gun. Some experts prophesy that within the next ten years the proportional figures will be reversed, and that 1937 will see three companies of machine-gunners to every company of infantry in an efficiently organized army.

Increasing reliance of the machine gun as a weapon of offence and defence, is due to marked improvements that have been made since the war, both in increasing the reliability of the machine-gun and decreasing its weight. For readily mobile forces the Browning machine-gun, it is said, seems likely to entirely replace both the Lewis and the Hotchkiss machine-guns.


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 6 July 2016

WAACs and Nurses Arrive in Africa (1942)
Topic: Officers

WAACs and Nurses Arrive in Africa

Officers' Mess Undergoes Quick Change

St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Florida, 24 December 1942
By Harold V. Boyle

Allied Headquarters in North Africa—(AP)—The arrival of 31 American Army nurses and five WAAC officers has created a feminine oasis at Allied headquarters, where until now the art of war has been practices on a strictly masculine basis.

The appearance at the officers' mess of the young women had immediate repercussions.

When they first entered the long private dining room, looking as neat and fresh in their military garb as a Monday morning wash, all conversation halted momentarily. Heads of generals and second lieutenants alike turned as if they were on the same pivot to watch the women march a little self consciously to their table.

Grey haired colonels who usually gnaw their rations in grumpy austerity dusted off their military gallantry and shamelessly sabotaged officers of lesser rank to get seats near the newcomers.

"You know," said a major, "I never knew before how much it can mean to a man just to sit across the table from a young woman who speaks his own language.

"After six weeks of Army life in Africa you forget there is another world with women in it as well as men."

The major's reaction was typical, but one elderly general merely gazed dourly at the feminine contingent and remarked:

"I don't know what's happening to war anyway. We never had anything like this before. Petticoat soldiers! Pass the potatoes."

The WAACs have one privilege denied male officers. They can eat with their military caps on, and they do.

How to introduce them has been something of a problem in Social-military etiquette. Fellow officers the first time usually burble out something like "Miss Smith, this is General Jones, er, er, I mean General Jones, uh, uh, meet Lt. Smith."

Both the nurses and the WAACs have been besieged with dinner invitations and offers of assistance.

The alert American press scored an initial scoop when two foreign correspondents took all five WAACs for their first dinner at a French restaurant. Army Air corps officers also were taken along after they begged to join the party and pledged they would pay for the food, buy the wine and get the correspondents a free airplane ride home after the war.

"Listen, if you fix me up with a date with that pretty little blond—the lieutenant with the dimples—I'll wrap you up a bomber right now," said one flier, "and what's more, I'll give you a private hangar to keep it in."

The WAACs will be assigned to headquarters duty, thus relieving male officers for combat duty.

The nurses, like the WAACs, already have sent out advance patrols to scour the city for stockings, which are as scarce as one-legged penguins.

"I'll never be happy again until we invade Japan," sighed one young nurse. "Then I'm going to buy a big box of silk worms and grow my own stockings."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Paying "Tommy" is Big Job
Topic: Pay; the Queen's shilling

Paying "Tommy" is Big Job

Soldier Gets His Money in Trenches If He Wants It

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 4 April 1915
(Correspondence of Associated Press.)

London, March 23.—The pay department of the British army now employs nearly 700 officers and about 7000 clerks. This is nearly 10 times as many people as were required for the work in times of peace.

The housing of the constantly growing staff of the paymaster's office was one of the first difficulties, and the London main office has moved twice since the war began. Lately it has taken to adding private homes to its office area. Much of the time since the 1st of August the whole army pay organization has worked day and night.

The soldier receives his pay, if he wishes it, not only at the front, but even in the trenches. The cash, in French treasury notes, is issued by his company officer in the field, and is accounted for on the so-called 'acquittance rolls." Every soldier carries his paybook right through the war. As far as possible he is paid weekly. Men in the advanced trenches draw their pay almost as if they were in the barracks at home.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 25 June 2016 3:03 PM EDT
Monday, 4 July 2016

Heaviest Laden Pack Animal in American Army
Topic: Soldiers' Load

Doughboy is Heaviest Laden Pack Animal in American Army

Lewiston Evening Journal, Lewiston, Maine, 22 February 1923

Washington, Feb. 22. (By the Associated Press)—The heaviest laden pack animal of the army is the doughboy himself. Inch for inch or pound for pound of his own weight, the buck private of infantry carries on his back into battle double the burden handled by horses or mules or motor trucks.

And he is expected to jog cheerfully along through the ooze beside the road, leaving the good going to the gas and animal transport.

Army experts are racking their brains for ways to cut down the doughboy's load. Exhaustive study has been given to war experience for that purpose. Through the American legion and similar organizations, efforts have been made to get the men who carried the infantry packs in France to suggest changes. But as yet it has been possible, it was said today at the war department, to get only a few ounces of weight off the backs of the trudging infantry.

Carry 133 Pounds

Experts figure that the average load for a foot soldier should not exceed 61 pounds. Yet under the present organization tables, "No. 3 rear rank" (who is the automatic rifleman in the infantry) must stagger along under about 133 pounds when fully equipped. All of the machine gun personnel is burdened almost as heavily, carrying from 115 to 123 pounds per man; and the machine gunners since the war make up about one-fourth of the strength of an infantry outfit.

The bulk of the doughboy's load is fighting equipment. What he carries for his own bodily comfort has always been stripped down to the absolute minimum. Aside from his "iron rations," his blanket, overcoat, extra shoes, mess kit, canteen and his few essential toilet articles, the weight the infantryman packs has a grim purpose/ The whole intricate business of war revolves around the doughboy and his rifle and bayonet.

The American army rifle is still about the last word in efficient, light weight fighting tools. There is no prospect that its weight can be further reduced. So the experts are wondering over each other article in the infantry pack to see what can be eliminated or sent back to the wagon trains until needed.

Lighten Rations

Since the war ended, plans have been worked out to lighten the emergency rations, the two days' supply each hiking soldier carries with him. Several ounces can be taken out of the container weights and a few more out of the mess kits, and ounces feel like tons towards the end of a forced march. It now seems probable, also, that the "pup" tents carried heretofore may be abandoned or at least greatly reduced in weight, and that the extra shoes will go back to the escort wagons. Still another development is in experiments with new water proofing methods to make rain coats and, perhaps, overcoats, unnecessary and also to save the doughboy from having to carry pounds of water in his soaking equipment after a march in the rain.

If all of the individual fighting and defensive equipment that is provided for him was loaded on the doughboy's back, he probably would not be able to lift his feet off the ground and if he did succeed in moving, he would clatter and rattle like an old cook stove. In addition to his arms, ammunition, food and clothing, modern war requires that the infantryman should have available as he comes to grips with the enemy hand grenades, rifle bombs, trench knife, day and night fire works for signalling his position, sandbags for quick entrenching, picks and shovels for digging himself in, gas mask, helmet, first aid kit, and a dozen other things he might need. But there is no possibility that he could carry it all and move, so the experts are weighing the probabilities and article by article reasoning out just how far back it would be safe to send it along the supply line so that it could be brought up when the call came.

Mule Close at Heels

An army mule is a mighty weight carrier and in rough going 'cross country, the long eared friend of the soldier probably always will be closer at the doughboy's heels than any other element of the army. But the maximum load for an 800 pound pack mule is 250 pounds and the lighter the mule, the lighter the load under army regulations. Loads for wagons and artillery teams are similarly distributed according to the weight and capacity of the animals.

There is no such adjustment of burden possible for the doughboy, however. He carries the same weight whether he is a six-foot, 200 pounder from the first squad or a five-foot-four, hundred and forty pound runt from the "pickaninny" squad at the left of the company. And that weight will more often than not be more than half of his own heft.

There has been a lot of experimenting, both in the army and the marine Corps since the war, with types of hand carts to carry part of the doughboy's load. They are still at it, but results thus far are not promising except where the March is over good roads. Off the roads, the doughboys, after due trial, show a tendency to prefer taking the load on their own shoulders.

Down at Fort Benning, the infantry school of the army, the carts were tried out scientifically. Student officers volunteered for the tests, trudging all day 'cross country hauling carts after them. Each night they underwent a minute physical examination in comparison with comrades who had packed similar loads on their shoulders over the same route. In each case the doctors noted a distinctly greater degree of exhaustion among the men who hauled the carts.

The possibility of light motor wheel carts are still to be explored. Various types are to be used, particularly to take some of the machine gun load. But it is now the judgment of experienced officers that the brawny back of the doughboy will continue to be the main reliance of armies for front line operations.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 3 July 2016

Unruly American in CEF Wins Honors
Topic: CEF

Unruly American Fighting in Canadian Forces Wins Honors

"Black Marks" Erased by Unusually Daring Feats in Battle

1220 Pte G.F. Clark, D.C.M.

Citation for the D.C.M.

(8th Cdn. Inf. Bn.) "For conspicuous gallantry; he brought in a wounded man, under heavy fire, from close in front of the enemy fire. In doing this he was shot through the cap, but immediately went out again, and with great bravery, succeeded in recovering a machine-gun, which had been abandoned close to the enemy lines."

Citation for Bar

(Can. Cav.) "For conspicuous gallantry in action. He showed great determination and gallantry on patrols. Later with a corporal, he captured an enemy officer and shot an enemy soldier. He displayed greay courage and initiative."

The Milwaukee Sentinel, 28 February, 1918
By Lowell Mellett; Correspondence to The Sentinel from the United Press

London—According to my authentic friend, Ray Hay of Sunnyside, Wash., there's nobody in all the armies quite like Nobby Clark of the Fort Garry Horse. Nobby comes from somewhere in the U.S.A., but enlisted in the Canadian cavalry at Winnipeg.

His activities on various French fronts have won him the D.C.M. with the bar, the Military Medal with bar, the Croix de Guerre, the Legion of Honour, and the Cross of St George, the last named from the Russian government. He'd undoubtedly have the Victoria Cross for which he has been recommended, were it not for his "crime" record. Nobby is unruly. The penalties he has had to pay for his blindness toward discipline make up a long list.

But the other day he managed to have one black remark completely erased. It seems ninety days' field punishment had been ordered for him and he had only undergone four days of his term. The officer commanding—to make this sound technical one should say O.C.—observing changes taking place in the German trenches opposite, expressed a desire to know who his new enemies were. Nobby overheard him express it.

"Beg pardon, sir," said Nobby; "will you trade those papers you've got against me for a German soldier?"

"Yes," said the O.C.

Nobby disappeared and presently reappeared.

"Beg pardon, sir, gimme the papers."

"First show me your German," said the O.C.

"I've got him stacked outside the trench," said Nobby, "and if you don't give me the papers, I'll take him back."

elipsis graphic

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

1220 Private George Frederick Clark
8th Canadian Infantry Battalion, and Canadian Cavalry

Library and Archives Canada
Soldiers of the First World War

Clark, George Frederick

Service Record

Honours and Awards

A check of "Canadian Army; Honours–Decorations–Medals; 1902-1968," by Commander John Blatherwick (1993), identifies the following likely candidate for Nobby Clark:

DCM and Bar: Clark, G.F., Private, Cdn Cav

Clark's service record also notes the receipt of the Croix de Guerre, but there's no inditation he received the Military Medal, the Legion of Honour, or the Cross of St George.

"Black Marks"

Clark's service record does show that he was not the most disciplined soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It should be noted that although the maximum term of punishment for Field Punishment No. 1 was, in fact, 90 days, this could only be awarded by Court Martial. A unit commanding officer was only permitted to sentence a guilty man to a maximum of 28 days Field Punishment.

"Nobby" Clark can be found in the Library and Archives Canada database of Courts Martial of the First World War, having been charged and tried for the following offence:

  • Name: Clarke, George Frederick
  • Date: 1916/05/16-1918/09/21
  • Rank: Private
  • Regimental number: 1220
  • Unit: 1st Canadian Divisional Mounted Troops
  • Date: 1916/05/16-1918/09/21
  • Offence: AA Section 8, 40, 41
  • Remarks: Threatening a superior officer / Conduct to prejudice of good order and military discipline / Murder Reference: RG150 - Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, Series 8, File 649-C-5438, Microfilm Reel Number T-8653, Finding Aid Number 150-5

The related note in Clark's file reads as follows:—

"In confinement awating trial 13 May 1916. Tried and convicted by Field General Court Martial of (1) When on Active Service using threatening language to his Superior Officer, (2) Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline in that he said to Sergt. C.A. Martin "This is where I do 14 or 28 days or anything at all for you, will you take your licking now or after Stables<" and sentenced to 56 days Field Punishment No. 1, 16 May 1916. Confirmed by Lt. Col. Godson Godson, Camp Commandant, Canadian Corps, 1 June 1916.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 2 July 2016

Keeping Soldier in Irons is Abolished
Topic: Discipline

Keeping Soldier in Irons is Abolished

The Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas, 10 June 1923

London.—Lieut. Col. Walter Guinness announced in the [UK] house of commons recently that the army council has decided to abolish Field Punishment No. 1.

Corporal punishment in the army was abolished in peace time in 1868 for the reason that some commanding officers were discovered to be introducing many illegal punishments to avoid having to resort to the lash. Then, in 1881, flogging was finally done away with, and two forms of field punishment, known as No. 1 and No. 2, were introduced, it having been found necessary to employ some form of punishment in the field which should cause the offender no injury and which should not prevent the performance of his active military duties.

Under field punishment No. 1 the offender could be kept in irons—fetters, or handcuffs, or both—and attached for certain periods of time to a fixed object. He could be subjected to any labour, employment, or restraint as though he had been sentenced to imprisonment. Field punishment No. 2 was precisely similar, except that the offender could not be attached to a fixed object.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 1 July 2016

Infantry Company Command (2016)
Topic: Leadership

Infantry Company Command

The following was written by an officer leaving company command in a Canadian regiment in 2016. Shared with the author's permission.

What follows are a few notes of what I felt were the salient points on rifle company command. These were things that I learned on the job—I may have applied them well throughout, or poorly at first and better and better as time went on. Some of these are things I grappled with right to the end, and may still not have the answer. Here they are:

Command

1.     The Level of the Fight. A rifle company commander is a tactical leader, first and foremost. You are concerned with everything in a roughly 2km bubble. You take up about half of the bubble physically, (a good rule of thumb is that in open ground, a dismounted company fits in a grid square) and own the rest of it with the effects of your weapons. It was important to learn how to move in this bubble and I spent many days on a whiteboard with my leaders discussing how we would move as a company. It was important to visualize how to move a company to find, fix and strike an enemy platoon/company, either moving or dug in, as this is the fundamental task. Since a company commander operates at this level of the fight, you need to know it inside and out. A company commander should know crew served weapons thoroughly—refreshing oneself on the ranges and beaten zones of my machine guns and other weapons was essential. It is also valuable to go out and do drills with your soldiers on these weapons (I didn't do it as much as I should have, though).

2.     Aggregate/Disperse. As a platoon commander, you can't really disperse too much—everything is generally within line of sight except for patrols. As a company commander, it was critical to understand when to come together and when to disperse. This is related to point (1) above, but requires some thinking. Sending out scouting parties forward under a platoon commander, especially in close terrain, was an SOP to develop. So was massing the right elements in a company firebase. How much of your force to you bring together for an assault (evidence suggests not much) while how much to preserve to push past to infiltrate/disrupt is a balance to consider. This takes practice—if all you want to do as a company commander is line up with 2 up, 1 back, you are going to fail.

3.     Massing Fires. This is where the company commander earns his pay. He has (or should have) and OP Det with a FOO. He should control the employment of crew-served weapons (for the most part). We teach this to platoon commanders on phase training, but I think it is a bit unrealistic (although I recognize its training value) as I would never, as a company commander, have a platoon commander try to sit there and figure out when he needed arty shut off as that was my job as I launched him on to an objective. As well, in discussing fire plans and fire bases, I came to the realization that, while platoon commanders are busy with "gutful men" leading assaults, the company commander should be looking to move fire support elements—its a pipedream to think that supporting fires are from a single firebase on a hill that can support the entire fight. First off, if that hill exists, the enemy has a DF on it; second of all, the enemy has depth, and as the company commander, you need to think how to mass fires from different areas at different points of the battle.

4.     Know Your Commanders 2 Levels Down. As a platoon commander, I could know everyone in the platoon. I couldn't really do this as a company commander, and it took time to know all the faces in what was, for a time, a 100+ man rifle company (numbers ebbed and flowed). I read somewhere that a commander at any level should know his commanders two levels down; I think this is a good universal principle to strive for. So, as a company commander, I took the time to know my section commanders. I interviewed each of them, knew their family situations, their career histories and aspirations and got their thoughts on what they felt their section, platoon and company needed to work on. I found this was valuable.

Training

5.     Routine Training. Company command is where the rubber meets the road for the training of soldiers. It taught me to look at training requirements as a "mileage book", like that book you get in a new car that tells you what maintenance is required at what intervals. Good organizations do routine things routinely (that's from a former CO), and I like to think I developed a good understanding of what "routinely" meant for different essential tasks. I used the analogy of athletes. A good baseball player isn't good because he did a course on batting, he's good because he practices batting every day. Even the great hockey players practice every day (it's part of what makes them great), and will shoot pucks at the net for hours. At first, when I designed training, I just kind of threw things up that sounded interesting ("well, we haven't done this in a while"). I learned that I needed to be more systematic than this, and that metrics should be set for performance—it's great if we go to the range or conduct medical refreshers, but what was the standard to achieve and did we achieve it? This "mileage book" concept is not something I had nailed down, but it would be very useful for a battalion to issue and guide company commanders in the training of their soldiers.

6.     Quarterly Training Plans. Based on the "mileage book", quarterly training plans were built for the company and posted. Although they were living documents, the company found them useful. Soldiers could plan their lives, and tasks were assigned to platoons and other leaders for specific training events that I tasked them to lead. A battalion lives year to year on its Operating Plan, while a company lives in three month blocks with training plans that it builds off the Operating Plan. The quarterly training plans also helped Bn HQ, as they saw what training we were intending to conduct and could start getting resources lined up—I found I often got what I wanted because I planned and requested stuff early on.

7.     Train to Failure. Train to failure is something I got from a previous Bde Comd. It's great to plan an exercise where everyone shoots up the targets, wins the battle and has beers back in the biv, but you learn more from failure. Have a defence overrun, or an attack stalled or just put enough friction into events that subordinates learn the hard way. One of the best training events I observed is where commanders failed during force-on-force training due to situating the estimate against a live enemy, who planned a simple delaying action. Those commanders learned more on that AAR than on anything else, because everything went pear shaped.

8.     Do it Twice or Don't Do it at All (and try to do it until you can't get it wrong). I always thought opportunities were missed when a range was conducted, then the soldiers sat in the AAR and heard what everyone could have done better only to then go back to the hide to get ready for something else. As I started to run more and more ranges, I endevoured to build the time around doing it twice whenever possible (sometimes, friction intervened, but you can't win them all). A successful section range had every section getting six iterations, and the progression showed. Yeah, the soldiers "know" what the scenario is after the first go around, but there is genuine value in watching them chalk talk the application of the lessons observed and turning them in to lessons learned. Same for force-on-force training. Attack a positions, figure out how to do it better and let them attack the same position again. This goes back to batting practice and a great saying a former CO of mine—don't do things until you get them right, do them until you can't get them wrong. When designing training, I'd argue that doing a short range three times is far better in terms of learning than doing one range that lasts six hours.

9.     NCOs and Whitespace. This was something to stay on top of throughout. I told my NCOs that they should never waste a chance to train their troops and doing an hour refresh on a radio or a compass is better than just going home at 1500 because there is nothing to do. All NCOs were tasked to have a lesson plan in their pocket and to be prepared to grab soldiers to lead routine training (the CSM followed up and managed this well). Soldiers sitting on the stairs is unacceptable, and this is in the hands of the Master Corporals and Sergeants. Yet, it was frustrating to see it happen from time to time. Part of it is that some NCOs were unsure of how/when to take the lead on designing training. They got better as Sergeants were tasked to take the lead in more training ("Sergeants X, Y and Z, you will lead the next urban ops training session. Tell me what you need"). Part of it is just that there are some weak NCOs. Some were great, and carried a lot of the weight, but some were not. I don't think we, as an Army, have as tight of a venturi on who gets a Leaf and I think it behooves the company commander to consider how to engage his NCOs, especially his weaker ones, and to make them get off their butts, get in front of their soldiers and train them. The CSM will be able to help drive this, but he is usually pretty busy as well, so it will take a team effort. It behooves you to take a personal interest in your NCOs, how good they are, and how they get better.

Standards

10.     Inspect, Inspect, Inspect. This is the only way you prevent those stupid foul ups from happening—a funny line I saw was that soldiers don't do what you expect, they do what you inspect. Inspect became an ugly word in our Army for some reason—I think it may be a bit of an Afghan War thing? There is too much "you good to go?" "yeah, we're good to go!" in the Army. I've seen weapons not function, batteries die, equipment missing and soldiers deploying without basic items because leaders didn't inspect. It was useful to schedule monthly inspections on the quarterly training calendar. It was also useful to announce what was being inspected and what the standard was so that soldiers could focus on preparing properly (I think "surprise inspections" may not be very useful). Vehicles were inspected monthly—it's amazing how much garbage piles up in vehicles but, after a few inspections, they were swept out and cleaned regularly. The company would be formed up in fighting order and every soldier's weapon and kit inspected by he company commander and CSM while the platoon commander and 2IC were taking notes (they'd be inspected first). Yeah, platoon and section leadership could do this (and I expected them to conduct their own inspections), but the boss has to be seen enforcing the standard. It is an obvious statement that the company commander also has to set and meet that standard with his gear as well, and it was important not to let up on the leadership either. Early on, after announcing an inspection of the weapons vault, all the troops worked hard so I knew their stuff would be clean. So we inspected the weapons of every Sergeant, Warrant Officer and Officer, and many of them weren't up to standard. After that, when weapons maintenance was conducted, leaders were vigilantly cleaning their stuff too. Inspections apply to the field as well, in the form of Pre-Combat Checks (PCCs). We laugh at that old "Section Battle Drill No 1—Form Up for Battle", but it is right (minus all the goofy yelling). I never got a standardized PCC card hammered into my leaders, which was my own failure. It should be a battalion SOP, and NCOs should live by it in the field. To me, inspections and the willingness of leaders at each level to embrace them are what separate real good infantry outfits from mediocre ones.

11.     PT—Lead by Example, From the Start. Our military has a fitness problem, straight up. I was lucky to be in a battalion with a fitness culture. However, some soldiers aren't very fit, and only leadership will move this yardstick forward. Company PT is good, and I'd try to lead it every Friday if possible (generally a forced march in fighting order or marching order) but it wasn't always possible. I'm a firm believer that PT is best executed at the platoon level as the group size is about right, but the Platoon Commanders need some support, especially if they have sub-par Platoon 2ICs or NCOs not pulling their weight—some times, young officers have trouble imposing their will on their leadership. I should have hopped in with Platoon PT more often, as it's actually pretty fun, as you can just be a troop and not have to lead anything and it's a great way to get a view of your soldiers. There seemed to be, in every company, a gaggle of soldiers that seemed to use their rank or their "time in" to scam out of PT. I'd see a young platoon commander take off with his soldiers and a few of his NCOs. The CSM and I would then walk the lines (before we went and did our PT) and sure enough, there are these "middle management" type guys, hanging around in the office. It was a problem in every company. A solution which seemed to help was to make PT a company activity, at least to start. Hold a PT parade in the morning and lead the entire company in a quick warm up (a real warm up, not just a silly calf stretch). The platoon commanders would then break off with their platoons and the CSM and I would get to see who wasn't going. Once we put the eye on the shirkers, things started to tighten up. PT is probably the most important thing we do in the day, as it prepares our bodies and minds for the physical and mental challenges of campaigning, so the company commander needs to take the lead in ensuring that time is used wisely and by all.

12.     Discipline in Public. Military justice is supposed to be public—thankfully I only conducted a couple of summary trials, but they were set up in the company lines and the entire company was there to observe. After the trial, I'd have a quick PD session with the company and talk about the military justice system, the nature of the offense, and why it is important to handle things the way we do. It was educational for the troops, and I felt it was a worthwhile way of doing things.

13.     Commander's Notebooks. A Platoon Commander will be better if he has a good commander's notebook. It means he's tracking his soldiers, their families, their careers, his platoon's equipment and his training plan. Provide guidance on what these needed to contain and inspect their notebooks. I think they were better commander's for it. My notebook was a little less focused on personnel (I kept files on section commanders and above) but I still had a series of documents on equipment, ORBAT, qualifications that allowed me to make timely decisions regarding the company. Very rarely, in meetings with the CO, did I have to say "I'll have to get back to you sir" because my notebook armed me with the right info.

14.     Make the Hard Decisions. This one is kind of a cliche, but it is important to be said and I never really started to feel it until assuming company command. The right decision is, in many cases, not the easy one, and at times it won't be the popular one, but you have to make it. Platoon commanders are young guys and gals, trying to figure stuff out and trying to be popular a lot of the times so you need to be vigilant with them. Make the decision to make training harder, to push it out during PT, to stay the extra time to get things done right, and to use the downtime to do something productive. Make the difficult decision to be hard on guys, even if they are "good guys", that aren't meeting the standard. I was too nice sometimes, and I regret this. There is a balance, and figuring out how to be hard without being an a**hole is an important skill, as it will separate those who are respected and those who are disliked—the weak, soft leaders are the ones who are despised. There is also balance on determining when "letting off the gas" is useful—you'll just break guys if you go 110% all the time. But never accept "this is good enough for now and we'll get it right next time" if the standard is not achieved. There were times, after making the hard decision, that I think that the soldiers hated me that day, but it was the right thing to do and I learned not to care about being liked (I found solace with the CSM, who was the ultimate sounding board). Company commanders have a lot of manoeuvre space and a lot of opportunities to take the easy road, but they will only fail their subordinates during the most critical time, the unforgiving minute, if they do that.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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