The Minute Book
Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Failed to Register
Topic: CEF

Failed to Register

Toronto Militia Officer is Rounded-Up

The Montreal Gazette, 4 April 1918

Toronto, April 3.—A Toronto Militia officer was a compulsory addition to the army today, through the agency of the Dominion Police, because he had failed to comply with the regulations of the Military Service Act. The officer had neglected to register and, apparently, thinking he was not liable to be drafted, did not heed the warnings of the Dominion Police. As a result he was taken into custody on Monday and was turned over to the military authorities.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Severe Arraignment of the Management of the Militia (1903)
Topic: Canadian Militia

Severe Arraignment of the Management of the Militia

In the Ontario camp this year no battalion mustered more than 180 men out of 253. In the London district 1,248 men were in camp out of 3,611 men and this occurred everywhere.


St. John Daily Sun, St. John, New Brunswick, 1 July 1903

At the evening session [of the 9th Canadian Parliament] Mr. Thompson of Haldimand, on going into supply, spoke at length on the militia. He quoted the promise made by the ministers at the colonial conference to improve the forces. He declared that the rural militia, which constituted three-fifths of the whole force, was far worse off to day than two years ago, and if the decline continued in a few years the battalions would be demoralized. He credited this to the small pay, and urged that the allowance should be increased from 50 cents to a dollar a day. In the Ontario camp this year no battalion mustered more than 180 men out of 253. In the London district 1,248 men were in camp out of 3,611 men and this occurred everywhere. Old men and babies now made up the regiments. An increase in pay would involve an expenditure of $221,673 a year. This was less than the cost of the Halifax garrison, now disbanded, and the money could be devoted to the militia, generally. If there was not sufficient money to go around, the city militia's pay could be kept as it is and if this were done increase in expenditure would amount to $134,658. Mr. Thompson also put in a word for camp chaplains, who should be given accommodations and paid at least $2 per day. He warned the government that if the militia were called out too often for strikes ill effects would follow, and he urged that the permanent force be used on such occasions.

Mr. Thompson also advocated further assistance to rifle clubs and school cadets and advocated sending out organizers to work up an interest in rifle clubs.

Mr. Gourley spoke in favour of giving every encouragement to the militia. He was glad to see the conservatives were more generous in opposition towards the militia than the liberals were. He declared that Laurier by raising the cry of militaryism (sic) stamped himself a demagogue.

Hon. Mr. Borden said he could not take such comfort as Thompson out of the remarks made by ministers at the colonial conference. If Thompson had painted a true picture of the condition of the militia it was a most severe arraignment of the government. In 1896 $1,000,000 was voted for the militia, and now with $1,750,000 devoted to the service, it was a serious matter to find the force in such a disorganized state. The government should take immediate steps to supply a remedy. If increase in pay would do what was claimed for it every member would support it.

Mr. Bourassa thought that if the militia was as represented the numbers should be reduced. He would not consent to any increase in expenditure.

Mr. Clarke made a vigorous speech, in which he declared that Canada was not here on sufferance, and he would never consent to allow the defences of the country to drift to decay. He urged the department to take action to correct the abuses complained of.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 22 August 2016

Characteristics of Incompetence
Topic: Officers

Characteristics of Incompetence

On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, Norman F. Dixon, 1976

After describing command failures in the Crimea and the Boer War, the author offers these characteristics of incompetence for the reader to keep in mind as they are explored in following chapters.

1.     An underestimation, sometimes bordering on the arrogant, of the enemy.

2.     An equating of war with sport.

3.     An inability to profit from past experience.

4.     A resistance to adopting and exploiting available technology and novel tactics.

5.     An aversion to reconnaissance, coupled with a dislike of intelligence (in both senses of the word).

6.     Great physical bravery but little moral courage.

7.     An apparent imperviousness by commanders to loss of life and human suffering amongst their rank and file, or (its converse) an irrational and incapacitating state of compassion.

8.     Passivity and indecisiveness in senior commanders.

9.     A tendency to lay blame on others.

10.     A love of the frontal assault.

11.     A love of 'bull', smartness, precision and strict preservation of 'the military pecking order.'

12.     A high regard for tradition and other aspects of conservatism.

13.     A lack of creativity, improvisation, inventiveness and openmindedness.

14.     A tendency to eschew moderate risks for tasks so difficult that failure might seem excusable.

15.     Procrastination.

elipsis graphic

Book Review: On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon

Available at Amazon

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 21 August 2016

Hand to Hand Encounters
Topic: Cold Steel

Hand to Hand Encounters

…but battle is a great leveler of distinctions, racial and other, and all men who will fight to the death are much alike when they get into action.

Yukon World, 22 September 1904

Among the surprises of the war in the east is the frequency with which the opposing forces come to close combat and kill each other with cold steel. It was generally thought by the military experts that the enormously increased range and accuracy of modern firearms had rendered such struggles almost or quite impossible, on account of the terribly numerous fatalities that would result from a charge of the old-fashioned kind upon any considerable number of intrenched troops, and it has been comfortably predicted that the bayonet would soon be, if it was not already, as useless as the sword. The Japanese, however, have repeatedly demonstrated that, in their hands at least, the bayonet need not yet be degraded to the humble purposes of the shovel—always. Again and again they have rushed through a zone of withering fire, and enough of them have reached the Russian trenches to engage in desperate fights with individual foes, sometimes successfully. And, of course, these attacks by the Japanese had to be met in the same way by the Russians so that the accounts of the battles have often read much as do those of the Franco-Prussian war, the American civil war and even of Napoleon's time. The peculiar qualities of the men now in conflict, with utterly reckless disregard for life on one side, and stolid valor of an antiquated type on the other, may account in part for the employment of a weapon especially suited to each, but battle is a great leveler of distinctions, racial and other, and all men who will fight to the death are much alike when they get into action. So it seems probable that the day of the bayonet is not so near its end as was supposed, and that for some time to come there will be hand-to-hand encounters as well as those in which the contestants use telescopes in aiming high-power guns at each other.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sergeant Boyd--V.C. Imposter--Gets His Due
Topic: Stolen Valour

Sergeant Boyd—V.C. Imposter—Gets His Due

On 26 June 2016, we shared the story of the arrest of "Sergt. Boyd" for masquerading as a Victoria Cross recipient. That story had been published in the Montreal Gazette on 23 March 1918. Here is the result of Boyd's court appearance, published in a Florida newspaper on 2 April 1918.

elipsis graphic

Boyd Gets Seven Years

The Evening Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida, 2 April 1918

Information has been received here that the man known in this city as "Sergeant Boyd," claiming to be of the Princess Pat Canadian Regiment, has been convicted in Canada of impersonating another and wearing army medals illegally, and has been sentenced at hard labor for seven years. Boyd lectured here and was arrested here as an imposter, but was released on condition that he leave this country. He is said to have tried to resume his operations in the United States and was nabbed by the Canadian officers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2016 8:45 AM EDT
Friday, 19 August 2016

New Barracks for Halifax (1902)
Topic: Halifax

Churchfield Barracks

New Barracks for Halifax (1902)

The Quebec Saturday Budget, 21 June 1902

The Imperial government have decided to erect new barracks and construct other works in and around Halifax this summer. A new brick barracks will be built also, married soldiers' barracks, these latter will be built on the site known as Churchfield which adjoins the Garrison chapel on Brunswick street.

The building will be of solid brick, two stories in height and faced with stone. A gymnasium which will be one of the finest in Canada, will also be erected on the site of the present gymnasium on Cogswell street, opposite the station hospital. The quarters at present occupied by the officers of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers will be razed and new and commodious buildings erected. The new quarters will consist of large mess rooms, parlors, reception rooms, library, servants' quarters, etc. The plans of a new fort are at present under way, and the proposed site is at Sambro. At present the defences of Halifax consist of the Citadel and the harbor forts.

The Citadel, which has only a few modern guns, was condemned some years ago, but is still capable of sheltering within its walls the greater portion of the population of Halifax.

Of the harbor forts York Reboubt is the greatest and most impreganble being armed with 12-inch quick-firing, disappearing guns. MacNab's Island is also well mounted with several disappearing guns of the most modern type.

George's Island

Amongst the other harbor forts may be mentioned George's island, which is strongly fortified, and which commands the entrance of the harbor, also Fort Clarence, Fort Ogilvie, Ives' Battery and Fort Cambridge.

These forts are situated in different parts of the harbor and all are mounted with modern weapons of the latest type and manned by men of the Royal Garrison Artillery, who in tests with the Atlantic fleet have demonstrated the utter impossibility of any vessel, no matter of what tonnage, to enter the harbor without being discovered and blown out of the water.

Besides the harbor forts, look out stations are situated at Camperdown and the Northwest Arm and vessels are sighted and signalled fully twenty miles out to sea.

Modern range finders are on all the forts, and the men of the Royal Artillery take special courses each year in the manipulation of these instruments.

The barrack accommodation for the past ten years has always been a source of complaint and the proposed new changes will be hailed with delight by both officers and men alike.

The officers' quarters of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers were not at all up to the standard called for by a naval and military station of the importance of Halifax and their proposed improvement will be eagerly looked forward to.

The barrack accommodation for the men, especially the married ones, has been very inadequate, and the new married quarters will fill the long felt want.

At present there is stationed at Halifax the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, a company of Royal Engineers, also detachments of the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Army Service Corps.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 18 August 2016

Australian Soldiers; The Question of Discipline (1916)
Topic: Discipline

Australian Soldiers; The Question of Discipline (1916)

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 February 1916
By Sergeant

The most heartbreaking part of an officer's or N.C.O.'s work during the period of recruit training is to educate Australians to submit to discipline. It is almost an impossibility to teach a new man to instantly obey and order, and to get him into the soldierly habit of coming to attention when addressing anyone of superior rank, or saluting when passing him in camp or elsewhere. It necessitates a very complex knowledge of the Australian character to account for this peculiarity in the men, and a study of his individuality, descent, and all the influences at work upon the man from infancy to adult life, before an officer may consider himself qualified to handle new recruits, and change their modes of thought.

The average Australian is in most cases descended from parents and grandparents who, by nature of their own bringing up, were free of all restraint. In the infant days of colonisation—going back beyond the date when the convict system was abolished—the conditions of life were hard and pitiless in the extreme. The gradual opening up of the back country called forth a type of men and women who had fearlessly and doggedly to face privations, loneliness, and hardships. From this class there descended and even more independent generation, which, inheriting all the pluck and endurance of their parents, had added to these qualities an unalterable love of freedom, inseparable from their mode of life. The "bush" had to be conquered. They were a law unto themselves, resenting interference; each endeavouring to carve out a path for himself; and with little aid from the Government. So strenuous was the existence, so bitter the disappointments, as obstacle after obstacle was attacked—often only to be found insurmountable—that the combative spirit, inherent be reason of descent from British stock, was increased in parents and transmitted to offspring. Each individual acted independently for his own ends. Children, from mere infancy, were allowed the utmost freedom, and taught to do each one for itself. They grew up strong in their belief in their own ability to conquer in the battle of life. Not trained in strict obedience even to their parents, they took orders from none, and never learnt discipline.

Another factor to be reckoned with in considering the influences at work in forming the character of the present generation is the absence, especially in the country, of class distinctions. Birth and education counted for next to nothing. Money and success alone talked. But the rick man knew better than to expect servility and obedience from his poorer countrymen. It was not in their nature to humble themselves to anyone. If work was offered, the labourers sold their knowledge and power alone for wages agreed upon, but did not feel called upon to treat their employers with the respect which is part of a similar bargain in older countries. The employer was called "boss" not "sir."

As the colonies grew in importance, and education became compulsory, the literature eagerly devoured on all sides dealt with the operations of bushrangers and convictism, the minds of the young people turning naturally to deeds of daring and unlawfulness, there being more excitement in such reading than in the books which a differently descended and trained people would choose. Besides, the parents in many cases had come into personal conflict or friendly communication with the outlaws, and the tales of the doings of these desperate men appealed to the readers as touching on acts perpetrated at their doors. All of this had a tremendous effect upon the rising generation, and is reflected in the character of our soldiers, as may be witnessed in their behaviour in camp, and their utterly fearless conduct when facing the enemy in the present war.

To such a bold, independent people the idea of discipline is accounted a sign of weakness. It is this feeling which makes the recruit shuffle up to an officer and salute in a half-hearted way. He thinks his mates will twit him for it. For this reason saluting is not popular. The recruit cannot get the idea out of his head that he is acknowledging in public his inferiority. It is no use telling him to salute his superior officer is merely discipline. He knows not the word. It is "double Dutch" to him. All he see in front of him is a fellow-man. Nothing more. Why should he salute him? You have to take these recruits in hand just as a school-master does new boys. First study their disposition. No two are alike. One may be dull but good-tempered so long as you don't rub him the wrong way. Another is smart and quick to learn. Yet another is conceited, and with ignorance added is the most difficult to deal with. All are fearless. They must be taught as you would teach children the A B C. Gradually and firmly, taking care not to tire either mind or body, making the work interesting, and watching for inattention which must be nipped in the bud. Finding fault with individuals in the presence of their mates should never be permitted; but insubordination must not be allowed. Instruction and example, or detail and demonstration, cannot be carried too far. Recruits are very imitative. They mostly all want to learn, and are attracted more by what they observe than most officers think. This is very noticeable when the men first get into uniforms after a period in dungarees. The change is sometimes marvelous. From slow, slouching fellows, they blossom out into smart, upright soldiers eager for further training, but never altering in their dislike for discipline.

All this, it is said, alters after going to the front. Hourly association with British troops effects a change. It is not the severity of the English officers. It is imitation! They face into line with the British "Tommies" simply because they do not want to behind in anything. The spirit to conquer asserts itself. If discipline added to their other good qualities will place them first in the eyes of the world, then discipline it is!

If officers and N.C.Os. would give some consideration to the foregoing remarks, and endeavour to study the recruits individually, much better results would accrue. You can lead Australians, but you cannot drive them. Properly handled, they are the finest men in the world. But those who would lead them must understand and know that, and become acquainted with all the influences which are and have been at work for a hundred years in forming their characters, otherwise the labour of teaching and training is lost.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Militia Camps (1889)
Topic: Canadian Militia

It is stated, for example, that at Niagara last year eighty per cent. of the men had never before handled a rifle.

The Militia Camps (1889)

The Toronto Daily Mail, 27 May 1889

In a few weeks the town and rural militia corps ordered to perform drill will be under arms. Though the city regiments would have liked to have participated in the exercises at the coming camps the militia authorities have not seen their way clear to admit them. It is understood that the expense involved stands in the way, and that the regular training the men receive throughout the year at headquarters is regarded as ample to ensure their efficiency.

Altogether 19,225 officers and men will receive training at the camps. This number is 1,464 less than last year. In every province a decrease in the strength for drill has been effected. There is, for example, a decrease of 521 in Ontario, of 265 in Quebec, and of 372 in Manitoba. It is noted as a curious circumstance that while in each province there is a reduction in the number ordered for drill, there is in one district in Quebec an actual increase of 120 men. This district is No. 7 — that in which the Minister of Militia himself is most interested, his associations all being there.

These camps cost us annually just upon $300,000. Last year the figure was $281,000. That they do good it would be impossible to deny. They afford the men at least an insight into the business of soldiering, and teach them that, regardless of social distinctions, they must obey their officers. In this country, where in civil life the men are sometimes the superiors of the officers, the strict idea of military duty is somewhat difficult to enforce. It must, however, be impressed upon all concerned, or in the time of service the militia will be unmanageable. In the matter of actual military work the camps have a good purpose, but it is feared they do not invariably fill it. They give the men a brief drill and they afford them the opportunity of firing twenty rounds at a target. The drill is frequently of no permanent value, owing to the circumstance that many rank and file arrive at the camp completely innocent of military orders. This results in part from the failure to drill men at headquarters during the interval between the former and the present camp, and in part from the practice of filling up the regiments at the last moment with recruits who have not received, as the candidates for camp life should receive, elementary instruction in their duties.

In the use of the rifle the firing of twenty rounds at a camp is no guarantee of proficiency, and very little assistance in that direction. Some of the musketry instructors speak in their annual reports very dolefully of their pupils. It is stated, for example, that at Niagara last year eighty per cent. of the men had never before handled a rifle. To march these men to the targets and to suppose, after allowing them to fire five rounds at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards, that they really know anything about the use of the weapons, is to practice the grossest self-deception. The instruction is altogether insufficient. It is gratifying to observe that the department had made an endeavour to improve matters by ordering that this year men shall not be advanced from one target to another until they should have made at least four points at the shorter distance. This will do good, in that it will cause the men to demonstrate that they can hit a barn at a hundred yards before they are allowed to try the same experiment at two hundred yards; but it will not afford all the instruction necessary. At best, twenty rounds shot by a man in two years—for two years elapse before the militiaman returns to camp, if he has not tired of glory in the meantime—is but poor practice. It should be supplemented by training at the local headquarters in the interval.

While a small reform is to be effected in the musketry business, no change, though it has been earnestly petitioned for, is to be made with respect to the equipment of the men. On of the hardships of camp life is the sleeping accommodation. Allowed but one blanket, the volunteer is compelled to wrap this as a martial cloak around him, and to seek repose on the bosom of mother-earth with his clothes on. This might be a very necessary experience during actual service, but it is not essential at the camps. As the country has bales of blankets in store, the men have urged the allotment to them of two blankets instead of one. The Government, however, holds that they are warm and dry enough with one blanket, so no inroads are to be made upon the stores. The path of glory must therefore be pursued in the face of hardships, some of which are altogether uncalled for.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Jugoslav Military Etiquette
Topic: Discipline

Jugoslav Military Etiquette

The Stanstead Journal, Rock Island, (Stanstead) Quebec, 13 August 1925

In the Jugoslav army there is to be observed an interesting difference in military manners. The army is composed of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The traditions of the Serbs favour the spirit of comradeship between officers and men. Off duty the two regard each other as equals. The Croats and Slovenes have been accustomed to the Austrian etiquette, which is modeled on the Prussian, under which the men are regarded as inferior creatures.

A major in a Slovene cavalry regiment has just resigned his commission. He could not tolerate the sight of his Serb colonel sitting in a restaurant engaged in friendly conversation with one of his soldiers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 15 August 2016

The Battle of Kiska
Topic: Canadian Army

The Battle of Kiska

In an Aleutians Islands operation in 1943, U.S. and Canadian troops found themselves pitted against three Japanese dogs.

Ottawa Citizen, 3 January 1956
By Warren Baldwin, Southam News Services

On August 15, 1953, an assault force of 29,000 Americans and 5,300 Canadians was dispatched to attack a force of three Japanese dogs.

The story of the Aleutian Island of Kiska, gleaned for the first time from both Japanese and Canadian military records, is included in the first volume of the official history of the Canadian army in the Second World War. The author, C.P. Stacey, Director of the Historical Section, General Staff, labels it "Fiasco at Kiska."

The story confirms finally the fact that the last Japanese had been evacuated from Kiska under cover of fog 18 days before the Canadian-American operation was scheduled to start. The decision to evacuate was not taken because of any knowledge of the assault but because the Japanese believed the forces occupying the island could be employed more usefully in the Kuriles, nearer home. It also strengthens Colonel Stacey's conclusion that at no time during the war did the Japanese have any plans for a full scale assault on Canada's west coast.

Political Motive

The Aleutian campaign to get the Japanese off Attu and Kiska, Colonel Stacey says, was more political than military. On the map, he points out, the Aleutians seem to form a natural bridge from Asia to North America, but appearances are deceptive. From the most westerly island, Attu, to Dutch Harbour is 800 miles and from Dutch harbour to Vancouver 1,650 miles. It might have been better, he suggests, to "leave the Japanese to freeze in their own juice on Kiska and Attu, where they were at most a nuisance to American operations in the Pacific."

But the people of Alaska and British Columbia were alarmed and critical and both Ottawa and Washington were concerned. Stacey reports elsewhere that by February, 1942, "public opinion of Canada's pacific Coast was in a state approaching panic." The Vancouver Sun was prosecuted under Defence of Canada Regulations in March for suggesting that Ottawa was treating British Columbia as expendable.

Attu was occupied in May, 1943, by the American 7th Division after "a nasty little campaign in which the Japanese fought to be killed and the Americans obliged them."

Canadian participation in the Kiska expedition of one brigade group was requested formally in a letter from Secretary of War Stimson to Defence Minister Ralston on May 31, 1943. The 13th infantry brigade formed for the purpose under the command of Brigadier H.W. Foster consisted of the Canadian Fusiliers, the Winnipeg Grenadiers (reformed after Hong Kong), the Rocky Mountain Rangers and Le Regiment de Hull. In addition, the first battalion of the U.S.-Canadian Special Service Force was brought up from a United States training base to join the expedition.

There was plenty of evidence Colonel Stacey points out, to indicate that the Japanese had evacuated previously. RCAF planes on August 11 reported no sign of life. But trickery was suspected. Major-General G.R. Pearkes, the Commander-in-Chief of Pacific Command, who had set up advance headquarters at Adak, wrote afterwards that it was thought the enemy had evacuated main camps and moved to battle positions on the beaches and hills.

Island Empty

It took four days for the troops to realize they had landed on an empty island. Japanese records state that nothing had been left on the island but three dogs.

One reason behind Ottawa's decision to participate was the opportunity to use draftees under the National Resources Mobilization Act on active service in order to break down the hostile attitude of the public towards "zombies." The Kiska affair, Stacey comments, had no such result, which was "particularly regrettable as the NMRA men had behaved admirably."

There had been some suggestion of a reconnaissance of the island by boat to check on air force reports, but this was not done.

"In the light of hindsight," he says, "this decision seems unfortunate. It was a pity to give the enemy the satisfaction of laughing at us."

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 14 August 2016

Russian Heavy in Fire Power (1941)
Topic: Russia

Russian Heavy in Fire Power; Have Modern Rifles, Machineguns

There might be some psychological reason for teaching a soldier the use of cold steel, but in two years in Spain I never saw a bayonet used in the front line, except for opening bully beef or sardine cans, or for shoving into the side of a dugout as a candle stick.

The Montreal Gazette, 5 July 1941
(This is one of a Canadian Press series on Soviet Army strategy and tactics by a Canadian who commanded the Mackenzie-Papineau battalion of Canadian volunteers in the Spanish Republican Army.)
Written for The Canadian Press, by E. Cecil-Smith

Armament and fire power of a Russian infantry battalion is enough to astound anyone whose ideas of infantry units are still based on 1914-18 models. Even the 1941 Canadian army does not begin to come up to it.

My ideas in this respect are based on two things. Personal knowledge of many of the actual infantry weapons in use in Russia, and a great mass of information I was able to pry loose from various Red Army officers over a two-year period.

Not all of these men would answer a direct question involving too many details, but when you are curious, have plenty of time, and a common ground of actual battle on which to meet for discussion, a great deal of information can be gained.

Often I used to sit around in the evening, smoking and yarning with Russian instructors who were sent to Spain to teach the Republican soldiers how to use the weapons sold to their government by the Soviet Union. Or in the quiet of the afternoon we would lie on the reverse slope of some hill and discuss recent actions.

How would such a town have been attacked by the Red Army? Or, what were the different functions of the light and heavy mortar in Russia? How many light machine guns were there to a Red Army company? Many such questions could be raised quite naturally by a group of officers anxious to learn their trade, and readily answered by an instructor who knew his stuff.

Russian Equipment

We often used to compare the firepower of our battalion in Spain to the 1914-18 Canadian unit, patting ourselves on the back that we could deliver as heavy a blast as a Great War brigade, but when we heard of the normal equipment of the Red Army in 1937-39 we were astounded. Today it may be even higher in some instances.

Take the lowest fire unit, comparable to a Canadian infantry section, or a squad as it would be called in most other armies. This has the firepower of one of our platoons, and is commanded by a sergeant with a corporal as second in command, competent to take over the squad.

Its main fire power lies in various automatic weapons, of course. First among these is the light machine gun called a Diktorovna. We used both this gun and the Bren in Spain and can therefore make a comparison.

The two guns are about on a par. True, the Bren gun barrel can be changed more rapidly, but this we found to be a delusion, for in quick-moving action, when the gun may only be fired a few bursts from any one position, the man with the spare barrel is never there when most needed. He is either dead, wounded, or so far to one side that the barrel has cooled off by the time he arrives anyway.

Of the breech blocks the Diktarovna has the simpler one. It also has a magazine holding 47 rounds (50 at a pinch) compared with 30 on the Bren. The Russian magazine is disc-shaped, thin like a phonograph record, not heavy and clumsy like the Lewis gun drum. It can be loaded direct from chargers and requires no loading tool, though we found a three inch length of string helped protect your finger.

In weight, size and firepower the two are about the same, perhaps the Russian gun has a more comfortable stock and grip, but that is a matter of opinion.

In the heat of action two discs can be fired in a minute, though this rate of fire cannot be maintained for long as the weapon will heat up. There are absolutely no stoppages except from defective ammunition. A gunner who looks after his weapon and replaces worn striker pins has no problem.

Automatic Rifle

The Red Army squad has an automatic rifle, which we did not see in Spain. We did have the Skeda automatic and, from discussion with Russian officers, I gathered the Soviet automatic rifle was somewhat similar. With this weapon a rifleman can fire with ease up to 40 aimed shots a minute. It is loaded, I believe, from below like an automatic pistol, with a clip of 20 rounds.

Either the two-inch mortar or a rifle grenade thrower is included with each squad. The latter is older equipment and gradually being replaced, I gathered. The Russian rifle grenade thrower is streamlined and had a range of nearly 1,000 yards.

The sergeant, the corporal who acts as observer, and numbers one and two on each of the fire weapons, carry automatic pistols or revolvers. These automatic pistols hold from 20 to 36 rounds according to the types of magazine. I have shot with them and found them to equal if not surpass German Lugers or the beautiful Spanish Parabellum artillery pistol. The holster fits as a rifle stock and when fired from the shoulder these pistols are remarkably accurate up to nearly 200 yards as they have a nine-inch barrel. For close work they are deadly spraying a goodly number of nine-mm. Slugs around in a hurry.

Only two men in the squad are armed primarily with rifles. Both of these have telescopic sights and their users are trained as snipers. Their job is to pick off opposing officers and key men.

The modern Russian rifle is very light, weighing no more than seven pounds, compared with about nine pounds for the Lee-Enfield. This has been achieved by constructing the stock of very light tough wood, and because the extra length of barrel and the use of a slower burning powder the metal at the chamber is not nearly so thick. The rear sight is placed far back, giving about six inches extra distance between sights, making for greater accuracy of aiming.

Of course, the lighter rifle heats up quickly, and is hardly suited to long periods of rapid fire. A few rounds, however, can be fired very rapidly, as the bold can be worked back and forth with two fingers without lowering the butt from the shoulder or taking the sights off the target. It is ideally suited for sharpshooting, and that is what it is used for.

Use of Bayonet

Bayonet fighting is still included in the Russian manual, but I only heard of one Russian instructor in Spain wasting time of his men by teaching it. There might be some psychological reason for teaching a soldier the use of cold steel, but in two years in Spain I never saw a bayonet used in the front line, except for opening bully beef or sardine cans, or for shoving into the side of a dugout as a candle stick. For digging yourself in without a spade, a tin hat or trench knife is superior to the bayonet.

Hand grenades of various types are in use by the Russians. Some are merely detonating and stunning, while others, like the Mills bomb, explode into vicious little fragments. Stick grenades are also in use.

Small arms ammunition is of 7.35 mm., almost exactly similar in size and shape to British ammunition. In Spain more than one machine gun was jammed because, in the hurry of loading the belt, a round of wrong ammunition was included.

Each Russian infantry company, I was told, has a platoon of machine guns. The Russian maxim is similar to the Vickers, but the lock is ever so much simpler. Most of these weapons, instead of being mounted on a tripod are on a low-wheeled carriage, with a fairly long tubular trail, which includes a seat for the gunner.

In emergencies each gun can be turned into an anti-aircraft weapon by folding the trail under the wheels, which elevates the barrel at nearly 60 degrees. The guns are fitted with armor-plate shields and break down into three loads, the tool and spar part kit being carried by the same man as the shield. For short distances the gun can be picked up as is, or trundled on its wheels.

The infantry battalion also includes a support company armed with heavy .50 calibre machine guns for use against tanks, and with large three-inch mortars, something like the Stokes. These heavier guns are on pneumatic wheels. Special platoons also operate anti-tank rifles and anti-aircraft machine guns.

Section of Tanks

But that is not all. I was assured by several Red Army officers that attached to each Red Army battalion in action is a section of tanks, each armed with a 45-mm. cannon and a machine gun. One of these vehicles is used as a movable command post by the battalion commanding officer, who is thus in constant radio communication with his superiors.

In Spain we had a battery of 45 mm. anti-tank guns in the brigade. This was obviously insufficient and the Soviet officers agreed with us in this, stating that the Red Army had such a battery atteched to each front line battalion.

Seventy-five mm. cannon are also considered infantry weapons, a four-gun battery being assigned among the special arms of the brigade.

It is clear that a battalion of such fire power must be almost the equivalent of a brigade in many other armies. Discussion of the artillery and armored regiment equipment would be lengthy and involved, so I will avoid it. In any event, we had experience only with a few types of tanks and guns, which were certainly superior to those supplied to Franco by Hitler and Mussolini. Unfortunately they were not equal in numbers.

We did have the use of a limited number of Russian trucks. They were heavily built and stood up well under the strain.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 13 August 2016

Rating Officers of Army (US Army, 1918)
Topic: Officers

Rules for Rating Officers of Army (US Army, 1918)

Officers Will Be Rated Every Three Months Hereafter, and Promotions Will Be Made Accordingly, Points Considered

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina, 17 October 1918

Officers here are much interested in the new plan of rating officers, which has just been announced by the war department. The new scheme, which is to go into effect, provides that every officer in the army below the grade of brigadier-general, will hereafter be re-rated every three months. The ratings will be made by immediate superior officers and will be subject to review.

Officers will be judged by five standards, physical qualities, intelligence, leadership, personal qualities and value to the service, the latter counting for 40 per cent of the whole. According to the instructions which have been received here, the rules for making ratings may be based upon the following points.

1.     Physical qualities, including physique, bearing, neatness, voice, energy, endurance. An officer will be rated by the manner in which he impresses his command in these respects. The highest rating in this will be 15 points out of 100.

2.     Intelligence. Accuracy, ease in learning; ability to grasp quickly the point of view of a commanding officer, to issue clear and intelligent orders, to estimate a new situation, and to arrive at a sensible decision in a crisis. Highest rating to be given, 15 points.

3.     Leadership. Initiative, force, self-reliance, decisiveness, tact, ability to inspire men and to command their obedience, loyalty and co-operation. Highest rating, 15 points.

4.     Personal qualities. Industry, dependability, loyalty; readiness to shoulder responsibility for his own acts; freedom from conceit and selfishness; readiness and ability to co-operate. Highest rating, 15 points.

5.     General value to the service. Professional knowledge, skill and experience; success as administrator and instructor; ability to get results. Highest rating, 40 points.

The war department has announced that promotions in the future will be made upon these ratings, and officers are being urged to have the ratings made as accurate as possible.

The Senior Subaltern

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

Food is Vital (US Army, 1945)
Topic: Army Rations

Food is Vital

US War Department Pamphlet 35-3, WAC Life, May 1945

In the Army the needs of the vigorously exercised body become matters of primary urgency and concern. A well-balanced diet is essential to sustained efficiency.

You can count on being provided with an abundance of nourishing foods. All means are carefully planned to provide a diet with all the necessary vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates necessary to keep you in good physical condition.

If you eat a little of everything that is placed before you, you will not suffer from "hidden hunger." Don't take a finicky dislike to unfamiliar foods. You need stamina to see you through your job.

Rations Vary

In the Army, "mess" means a meal, or in broader terms, all meals.

"Ration" was originally defined as the money value of a person's food for 1 day. Today it has come to mean the allowance of actual food for one person for 1 day. When money is paid in lieu of rations it is spoken of as a "ration allowance"

"Garrison rations" are the food issued to troops in camps and stations in peacetime.

"Field Ration A" is the wartime equivalent of the garrison ration. It includes perishable items such as fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. It represents the healthiest, best-balanced three square meals possible. It is served in mess halls in the United States.

"Field Ration B" is the ration normally issued for troops overseas. In nutritive content it approximately equals Field Ration A, but does not include any foods which require refrigeration or which cannot be stored and shipped. Most of the foods are canned or dehydrated. When properly cooked, this ration provides palatable, filling, and nourishing meals.

There are various, other field rations intended for specific situations, and others are being introduced, tested, and considered. The ones you may hear mentioned frequently are the following:

"Field Ration C" is composed of canned foods issued to individuals when it is not practical for a unit to carry bulk supplies.

"Field Ration D" consists of very highly concentrated chocolate bars for use by individuals in emergencies.

"Field Ration K" consists of paraffin-coated boxes of foods for use by individuals in combat situations.

The Army also provides specialized rations for life boats, for stranded pilots and parachutists, etc. For a description of types of rations, see AR 30-2210.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 11 August 2016

Permanent Force Made Royal (1893)
Topic: Canadian Militia

Permanent Force Made Royal (1893)

Militia General Orders

Ottawa, 11th August, 1893

Special General Order

General Order 34 of 2nd June, 1893, is cancelled.

The following Special General Order is issued in lieu thereof, and is dated the 2nd May, 1893:—

On the occasion of Her Majesty's birthday, the Queen has been graciously pleased to signify her approval, that the Regiments now comprising the Permanent Militia of Canada be henceforth designated as follows viz.:—

Her Majesty has been further graciously pleased to authorize the above named Royal Regiments to wear on their equipment Her Imperial cypher V.R.I., surmounted by the Imperial crown.

By Command, Walker Powell, Colonel Adjutant General of Militia, Canada

elipsis graphic

The superseded General Order 34 of 2nd June, 1893, read as follows:—

Permanent Corps

Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify Her approval of the several corps of the Permanent Force, being designated "Royal."

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2016 11:32 PM EDT
Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Impressions of Foreign Armies (1911)
Topic: European Armies

Impressions of Foreign Armies (1911)

Lieut.-Col. Morrison Has Good Words For the British

Ottawa Citizen, 20 April 1911

An address of very much interest and benefit was given by Lieut.-Col. Morrison, D.S.O., before the officers of the Governor General's Foot Guards last night in their mess room. The lecture was on the impressions he had received in visiting the armies of the different European countries in his recent three-month' tour abroad. During the tour he had an opportunity of studying the armies of France, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain. It was, indeed, very interesting and not only all the Guards' officers were present, but as well many officers of other city units and among the visitors was Lieut.-Col. Grant, P.M.O., of the Toronto District.

Lieut.-Col. Morrison toured most of France in an auto and during his visit there, which lasted a month, he had an opportunity of seeing the regular soldiers there in all kinds of work. He saw them in ceremonial work in connection with the funeral of General Brun, late minister of war. He saw them in field work and on the march. The French soldiers do a tremendous amount of marching, day in, day out. They specialize in this and are claimed to be the best marchers in Europe. The French soldiers are conscripts and altogether he was now favourably impressed with them. They did not have much snap, they were poorly dressed on the streets, the horses were not nearly so good as the British horses, and their equipment and rifles he did nor consider could class with the British or Canadian equipment at all. On the street a member of the Canadian rural militia would well compare with them in appearance. Their method of training he did not consider was very up-to-date. While the artillery is considered about the best in Europe, he did not think it as good as the British. The staff work of the French army seemed good.

The Belgian army, while small, about 50,000 strong, was better in nearly every particular. The militia was exceptionally interesting. Every man has to serve in the militia and they have to drill every Sunday night, and therefore get the name of Sunday soldiers.

In England he visited Woolwich and Aldershot. In the latter General Smith-Dorrien, who commanded the Canadians in South Africa, was in command. He was much impressed with the great amount of work the regular soldiers in Great Britain sis. They were trained physically to a very high standard and every morning were out on the drill grounds at six o'clock, whether cold or warm. The go out winter nights and bivouac in the open, either in a regiment, a brigade or a division. They are roughed all over the country and are ready for active service at any time, hardened and prepared for a campaign in any part of the world. "The British Tommy is without doubt the best soldier I saw." He pointed out that all the regiments, Guards included, were put through this severe discipline and the officers worked exceedingly hard.

The equipment was also the best. Since the British standing army was comparatively small, Britain can afford to equip it better. They, he believed, made up in quality what the others had in quantity.

He spoke of getting special permission from the German Kaiser to visit certain German fortifications. He gave and interesting account of their methods of musketry instruction. There were no fixed ranges, no bulls-eye targets. He considered that the Germans produced the nearest to active service conditions in their musketry of any nation he visited. He remarked on the great precision for which the German army is noted and spoke of the economical way in which everything was done, particularly the musketry instruction.

His tour had nevertheless impressed him more and more with the efficiency of the Canadian militiaman. Many of these countries have not seen war for many years and the Canadian militia had shone up well in seven fights in the past 100 years. They are eager to learn and are naturally military. He gave instances to prove how efficient they had shown themselves to be. He went away from Canada slightly in favour of a limited form of conscription, but on seeing the British soldier who volunteered and the European armies who did not, he came back strong in the belief that the volunteer soldier was far the better.

Lieut.-Col. Woods expressed appreciation for the lecture and said that his impressions of the British soldier were exactly the same as Col. Morrison's.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Soldier's Kit in South Africa
Topic: Soldiers' Load

Soldier's Kit in South Africa

The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment, from 1684 to 1902, By Lieut.-Col. G. le M. Gretton, Late 3rd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, 1911

Extract from Regimental Orders of 4th of January 1900:—

S.S. Gascon.

"The valise equipment will be drawn to-morrow. The valises will be packed with the following articles: Clothes' brush; field cap (to be carried in haversack on moving); hold-all, with knife, fork, spoon, shaving brush, razor and case, and comb; Housewife; flannel shirt; socks (2 pair); one suit drab serge; towel and soap; worsted cap; canvas shoes; boot-laces (spare); small-book; tin of grease; flannel belt.

Articles worn or carried by the Soldier:

"Full dress: head dress and cover; frock; flannel shirt; trousers; braces; socks; flannel belt; ankle boots; putties; haversack, with balance of day's ration; valise packed, straps and braces; waistbelt and frog; pouches; pocket-knife and lanyard; water-bottle (full), with strap; mess tin and strap; Field dressing and description (i.e., identity) card; rifle, with sling, pull-through, full oil-bottle, and sight protector; bayonet and scabbard; greatcoat and straps; entrenching tools (if in possession, 16 picks and 33 shovels in each company).

Articles to be packed in the sea kit-bags:

"1 frock (H.P.); 1 pair ankle boots; 1 pair trousers (H.P.); 1 black kit-bag."

By Regimental Order dated April 19, 1900, the weight was reduced:—

"The following articles only will be carried on the person of the soldier when the battalion moves (viz.): Khaki serge (trousers and jacket); flannel shirt; flannel belt; putties; socks and boots; helmet; drawers (if in possession); waistbelt; braces; two pouches with 50 rounds of ammunition in each; bayonet and frog; rifle and sling; haver-sack on back; mess tin; water-bottle; one blanket rolled on belt; jersey, either worn on person or rolled on the blanket; woollen cap (if in possession) in the haversack.

"If rations are carried, meat in mess tins, biscuit in haversack.

"All small kit must be carried in the haversack.

"In company waggon the following will be carried, viz.: greatcoat with one shirt and one pair of socks in the pockets; one blanket; one waterproof sheet."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 8 August 2016

Sexual Factors (1942)
Topic: Morale

Sexual Factors (1942)

Morale-Building Activities In Foreign Armies, United States War Department, 1942

a.     General

The venereal rate is one of the recognized indices of morale. Training manuals of foreign armies contain information on the dangers of venereal diseases. In some few instances, controlled houses of prostitution have been set up with the approval, of the military.

b.     Germany

Soldiers are specifically warned in the Training Manual against contact with commercial prostitutes, the prime consideration being the maintenance of health. Space voted to the dangers of venereal disease, with symptoms described in detail and explicit directions given for treatment. Unmarried soldiers on furloughs are provided with protective devices.

It has been reported that, in Poland, houses of prostitution are provided under the direct control of the military. The general plan followed is to provide girls who are young and attractive, and are volunteers. One of these houses has been described as follows: the lower floor is the quarters of the guard; the second floor is a soldier's canteen and reading room; the third floor is fixed up for the girls, who are encouraged to provide an attractive, home like atmosphere. They are on duty between 1600 and 2200 and keep all of their fee of 5 reichsmarks (about $2). Before a soldier goes to the third floor, he is given a medical examination. He must not be under the influence of liquor in any degree, nor are the girls permitted to drink or to have liquor in their rooms. The girl initials the soldier's service record, and the guard makes an appropriate entry for control purposes.

c.     Japan

Among the officers there are infrequent occasions for geisha parties which may be followed by a night spent with the geisha. The conscripts, having but little money, cannot afford this, and so must be content with the prostitutes of some cheap brothel in the locality. The physical aspects of sex are thus provided for, but romanticism is discouraged. Soldiers are not allowed to have of pretty girls in the barracks, as such pictures, it is thought, might distract from military duties.

An Italian military manual devotes two pages to a factual discussion of venereal diseases and prophylaxis. No effort is made in the manual to consider the "moral" aspect of the matter, or to intimidate the soldiers.

The following is reported in connection with the Ethiopian Campaign. Describing Asmara, headquarters of the northern Italian Army in Eritrea, which included 200,000 men, 1 eyewitness says: "A house of prostitution with 26 inmates was provided. Regulations provided for its use by enlisted men during the forenoon, price 10 lire (about 50 cents) ; non-commissioned officers during the afternoon, 20 lire (about $1) ; officers during the evening and night, 30 lire (about $1.50).

e.     Russia

The location of most army barracks in or near cities rather than at points isolated from the civilian population means that the men in the army have opportunities for feminine companionship usually available to civilians in the USSR. Further specific information is not available.

f.     Great Britain

The task of settling the men's sexual problems is turned over to the commanding officer of each unit. Suggestions in the army manuals to officers handling sex behavior are:

(1)     set a good example;
(2)     encourage men to keep in touch with their wives and families (married men in camps near their homes are provided with "sleeping out" passes whenever possible);
(3)     make sure that the men know the location of the prophylactic treatment room, and understand how to use it;
(4)     see that your men's evenings are filled with plenty of healthy interests and amusements.

Men are required to report for physical inspection not later than the morning following their return from leave. Cases of venereal diseases an immediately segregated and sent to base hospitals for treatment.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Victoria Cross for Heroes Only (1900)
Topic: Medals

The Victoria Cross for Heroes Only (1900)

How the Most Coveted Decoration in England is Won and How it is Bestowed

The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 26 January 1900
By Curtis Brown in the St. Louis Globe*#8211;Democrat.

London, Jan. 11.—Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who will arrive at the Cape in a few days to take charge of the biggest British army that ever took the field, is a little man, as everyone knows, and there is not much room left on his coat for additional medals. You can see that for yourself by studying the accompanying picture of him, taken only a few weeks ago. But of all the honors betokened there, and all the others which a genuinely fond public has given him and will shower upon him later if he fulfils their hopes in the Transvaal, the simplest, the least expensive intrinsically, and by far the most democratic, is the one for which, if necessary, you may be sure he would sacrifice all others.

It is the Victoria Cross, the first in the row upon his breast.

Some of the humblest men, socially and financially, in the empire have decorations just like it. But general and private, white man and black, each had the proudest moment of his life when that little bronze cross was laid upon his breast. And Lord Roberts, sailing away to fight on the field where his only son had just been slain, probably was supported in his sense of loss by the consensus of opinion that the action in which the young man lost his life would would have won for him also the Victoria Cross if he had lived.

Lord Roberts won his V.C. in the Indian Mutiny, when only a lieutenant, forty-one years ago, in the course of an action that was unpleasant enough to be named Khodagunge. While the fighting was going on, he saw two of the enemy—Sepoys—making off with the British colors. He was on horseback, and started after them, when they turned on him and aimed their muskets at him. One missed him, the other's gun missed fire, and by that time he was on them, slashing away with his sword. He killed one. The other took to his heels, and the standard was safe. Only a few minutes before the lieutenant had saved the life of one of his men by cutting down a Sepoy who was about to kill him with a bayonet.

Lord Roberts wears nine decorations on his breast on dress occasions, as the illustration shows, and how many more he may have no one feels sure; even the religiously exact army list contents itself with naming five, and then says, breathlessly, "etc., etc."

In the picture one sees the general's six medals in a row, and three others beneath them. Of the medals, following from left to right, the first is the Victoria Cross; the second, the India Mutiny decoration, with three bars, one for Delhi, one for Lucknow, and one for the relief of Lucknow; the third is the Indian medal for 1854, with three claps for Burmah, Umbeylah and Looshai, meaning that this officer has distinguished himself afresh in each of these; the fourth is the Abyssinian medal; the fifth, the Afghan, and the sixth that of Kabul-Kandahar, in recognition of his remarkable march and victorious battle with Ayub Khan. The large decorations beneath are orders—two above and one below. Those above again from left to right, are the Order of the Bath and the Star of India, that below, the Order of the Indian Empire.

Gen. Sir Redvers Buller is another Victoria Cross man. His decoration was granted to him for saving three lives in a retreat after a battle with the Zulus. He was then a captain and a brevet lieutenant colonel. The Zulus were pressing the British troops hard, when an officer's horse was killed and its rider left in fearful danger. Buller galloped back, took the officer up behind him and carried him to a place of safety. Returning, he found a young lieutenant in precisely the same fix, and he did the trick over again. When he got back a trooper's animal had just fallen, exhausted, and for a third time Buller's horse carried a double load, and Buller exposed himself to the enemy to save a comrade although the Zulus were not a hundred yards away.

Sir George White, so long "bottled up" in Ladysmith, won the Victoria Cross under Lord Roberts in Afghanistan, by charging a fortified hill and taking it, backed by only a few men, at this time he was only a major in the famous Gordon Highlanders. They advanced under a racking fire, and on reaching the top of the slope found themselves outnumbered ten to one. Quick as a wink White grabbed a rifle from one of his men and shot the Afghan chief. His followers became demoralized, and the Gordons routed them. Later in the same campaign, on the march to Kandahar Roberts named White a second time in his despatches for having rushed on ahead of his men and captured a gun. He ended by succeeding his superior officer in becoming commander-in-chief in India.

I asked the officer in charge of the medal branch of the war office how a Victoria Cross was obtained after it had been won.

"Why, there isn't as much red tape about it as you would fancy," he said. "The action as a reward for which the cross is given must be performed 'in the presence of the enemy,' and it is desirable that the superior officer of the man who distinguishes himself should have witnessed it. It happens sometimes, however, that no officer is present, and in a case like that the candidate must prove by his companions that he really did do what he asserts that he did. When his immediate superior is satisfied that he ought to be rewarded he writes an account of the business and hands it to the officer in command of the forces and he indorses the papers and sends them on to the war office. Here they are laid before Lord Wolseley, the commander-in-chief, who passes upon them and decides to which applicants the cross shall be given.

"Of course, the cross goes most often to a soldier, sailor or marine, and when it happens that the fortunate man is in England he receives hi medal from the hand of the Queen herself. If he is in the field, however, or on ship board, he receives his decoration from the general or admiral in chief command on the semi-annual inspection day and in the presence of the men who were at the scene of the exploit."

"Then the men who have done brave things do apply personally?"

"Certainly they do. That is in keeping with the spirit of the warrant which the queen first issued in 1856, and which says that he majesty desires that the new decoration should be 'highly prized and eagerly sought after.' In that warrant she said that as the third class Order of the Bath was limited to officers in the higher branches of the service, and as no way then existed to reward heroes adequately for meritorious actions—for army medals of the ordinary kind are given only for long service and exceptional conduct—the Victoria Cross was instituted.

"Sometimes it has happened that several men have done a deed deserving of the cross, without any one of them having distinguished himself above his comrades. In that case the several officers meet and select one officer to be decorated; the non-commissioned officer to be decorated, and the soldiers, marines or seamen also gather an appoint two of their number to receive the crosses.

"Besides the ceremony of presentation in the presence of his comrades," he went on, "the Victoria Cross man has his name mentioned in a general order from the war office, with the particulars of his heroism, and his name also appears in the London Gazette, likewise with an account of what he did, and the original papers are kept sacredly forever afterward. That register is probably the most democratic roll in Great Britain, for upon it the names of nobles and highly placed officers precede and follow those of lowly privates and drummer boys, the one as much honored as the other.

"There have been erasures from that roll, but they can only be made by direct order of the queen, who decides personally all cases where charges are made against V.C. men. Treason, cowardice, felony or other infamous crime are the causes for which a former hero can lose his place in the register. The queen says in her warrant: "We, our heirs and successors shall be the judges of expulsion or restoration."

"Winning a Victoria Cross means a pension of $50 a year from the date of the act for which the cross is bestowed. Then, in cases where the holders of the cross become deserving of it once more, a clasp is added, and each clasp means an increase of $20 a year in the pension. Of course, dishonorable conduct on the part of a V.C. man deprives him of his pension, as well as his place on the register."

The number of crosses bestowed is kept down by a strict observance of the specification which the queen made in her original warrant in 1856, and made emphatic by another in 1881, that the cross should be given not on account of "rank, long service, nor wounds, nor any other service, circumstance or condition save the merit of conspicuous bravery." Politics, said the officer, never is allowed to play a part in the matter.

The queen arranged for the establishment of the cross in 1856, the nineteenth year of her reign, and signified in another royal warrant in 1867 that crosses would be distributed to officers and men who had distinguished themselves in the insurgent wars in New Zealand. In 1857 a second royal warrant had made members of the East India service eligible, and in 1881 came a third warrant, making stronger the phrase "conspicuous bravery," and stating that the warrant was issued as "some doubts had arisen" as to the exact qualification for the cross.

Although no official statement has been made on the subject, it is fair to assume that Lord Wolseley has already decided on a few, at least, of the V.C. winners of the Transvaal war. Winston Churchill has been declared by the public to be deserving of one for his efforts in behalf of the wounded when the armored train was attacked. Trumpeter Sherlock, the boy who shot three Boers with a revolver, and whose example every English boy is dying to emulate—some of them having run away from school with that project in mind—has established a clear claim to one.

More people than he himself will be disappointed if the "bugler boy of Elandslaagte" is not made a V.C. the story of his deed has travelled faster than his name, but he is true to the type of Napoleon's drummer boy who "didn't know how to beat a retreat." Attached to the Gordon Highlanders, who seem always to be prowling around when there is any storming of heights to be done, be it in Europe, Asia or Africa, he and they mounted the slope—at the crest of which the Boers had their stronghold—all cheering lustily and dribing everything before them until they reached the summit, with the Devons, Manchesters and Imperial light horse at their heels, when suddenly a bugle call rang out, "Cease firing! Retreat!" True, it was a Boer trick and a Boer trumpet that was being winded to demoralize the "redcoats," but they didn't know it. The British soldier is a machine, who obeys without thinking, and he did cease firing and was about to retreat when this pint-measure chap jumped into the breach.

"Retreat be damned!" he screamed, and then, lifting his bugle and putting his whole heart into one blow, he sent the "Charge!" rocketing over the hill. Some of the men hear the "swear" and all heard the bugle. They charged, and the Boer line was split and shattered.

It was a drummer who had the honor of being the youngest man who ever wore the Victoria Cross. His name was Michael Magnar, and his chance came at the storming of Magdala, under Lord Napier, in Abyssinia. The path leading to the gate of the fortress was filled with obstacles, and the defenders of the gate were pouring a withering fire over it. Led by the drummer boy, a small party climbed the hill by a circuitous path, forced their way through a breastwork of thorns and engaged the enemy, beating them back. Then the main body of the army advanced and the works were taken. The drummer boy was one of the first to enter.

Then there is Corp. Farmer, whom everyone knows as "Farmer, of Majuba Hill." He was a member of the army hospital corps, and, of course, it was his business to look after Colley's men in that ghastly massacre. Corp. Farmer and his comrades had gathered the wounded men together in a little hollow of the hill, for shelter, but the Boers were pouring bullets in everywhere, and the wounded soldiers were being wounded a second time. Farmer found a white flag and waved it over the little group, when a ball passed through his flag arm. He said, "Never mind, I've got another,"and lifted the flag again in his left hand, when that was shot through, too. Then he fell, only a few yards away from Gen. Colley.

"I've got tired telling the story," he said to me last night, when I asked if he would put it in his own words. He is assistant doorkeeper at the Criterion theatre, and after helping to for the long "cue" (sic) of people that wait outside the pit entrance every night he guards one of the exits.

"It was in February when I was shot," he said, "and I got my cross in August. I was sick in the hospital at Newcastle, though, until the last of May. Yes the queen herself gave me the cross, at Osborne House, in the Isle of Wight. My general went with me, and when we came in the queen said 'This is one of the bravest men I have, isn't he, general?' The general just nodded his head. The queen pinned the cross on my coat and said, 'I am proud of you, and I hope you'll have a long life.' My arm was all bandaged and in splints, and she laid her hand on it and caressed it. I left the cross where she put it until that coat was worn so's I couldn't wear it any longer.

"I'm a modest man," he went on. "Om one of the modestest of men, but I'll say this to you about what I did. Most of the who've won the cross have advanced on ambuscades or fought under a fire that came from they didn't know where. But I tell you I knew. I was shot through both arms by the same man, and I tell you it's hard to stand there and be potted, and then hold up ready to be potted again."

Farmer wears his cross all the time, but is inclined to be critical regarding the world's treatment of him. "I ain't one of the favored few of a wealthy nation," he said. "That Majuba Hill business was all right, and it got a lot of advertising; but there was no money in it. I've had my picture printed, no end of it, and I've got a whole book of newspaper clippings about me. A fellow is singing a song about 'Brave Corporal Farmer of Gory Majuba Hill' at one of the halls, and making money off it; but here I am working nights for 50 cents a night, and that precarious. One of my hands is half paralyzed too."

Everybody knows about him, however, and is more ready to tell his story than he is, and how he left a sweetheart at home in England when he went to the Transvaal, and how she was the proudest girl in the whole country. He married her the day after he came home, and she is his wife now, and cherishes every picture of him and newspaper reference to him even more than he does.

There is another V.C. man employed at the British Museum, and another at the Imperial Institute at Kensington. They won their crosses together, also in saving wounded men, this time from Zulus who surprised the hospital of which they were in charge.

There is only one case in which two brothers have won crosses, the men now being lieutenant generals, K.C.B. Gough is their name. The younger, Hugh Henry Gough, was in command of Hudson's Horse at Lucknow. He led a mighty charge across a swamp, resulting in the capture of two guns; his horse was twice wounded, and his turban cut almost from his head. He virtually won the cross again later on through another breakneck charge, and fought several duels in the course of the battle, finally being wounded by a shot just as he was charging down on the Sepoys armed with bayonets. Before he got the wound that downed him he had two horses shot under him and had been shot through the helmet.

His brother, Sir Charles, went through the Punjo campaign, as a boy of 17. Four times has he merited the cross, originally by saving the life of his fire-eating brother at Khurkowdah, when he killed the two men who were upon him. Three days afterward he led a cavalry charge and fount two men hand-to-hand, killing both of them. A year after, at Shumshabad, he engaged and sabered the leader of the enemy, and a month later he rescued still another officer and sent his opponent to kingdom come.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Discipline of Fear
Topic: Discipline

The Discipline of Fear

The Glasgow Herald, 19 April 1915

The last report of the British "Eye Witness" at the front contained some interesting allusions to certain methods current in the German Army for the purpose of maintaining its cast-iron rigidity and its mechanical, it not its spiritual, efficiency. "The discipline," he writes, "is principally that of fear, the men being in positive terror of their officers, who behave with a kind of studied truculence more befitting slave-drivers than leaders of men … This is borne out by the use of the cat-o'-nine tails, which is well established, one of these instruments having been captured by us near Neuve Chapelle … Such," he continues, "is the fear of the officers and the general mistrust that the men do not even speak to one another of their grievances for fear that their complaints should reach the ears of their seniors. Of the outward forms and restraints of discipline there is no relaxation even in the trenches. When an officer passes the men must spring to attention and must remain with shouldered arms, without moving a muscle, perhaps for a quarter of an hour., while the officer in question is near them. When they are relieved from the trenches every spare moment is devoted to drilling and training. The slightest fault is punished with extreme severity, the offenders often being tied to a tree for hours together."

Such evidence as this—and of course it could be greatly simplified if one took the trouble to quote from the many descriptions given of the War Lord' legions in the days of peace—indicates that the German system has not travelled in the direction of leniency since the days of Frederick II, when, as Macauley states, "Military offences were punished with such barbarous scourgings that to be shot was considered by the Prussian soldier as a secondary punishment." Probably in the eighteenth century Frederick's system did not differ greatly in principle from that to be found elsewhere. The difference nowadays is that, whereas every civilized country has imported into its methods of discipline, however inflexibly they may be maintained, the mitigating qualities of reason and humanity, Germany adheres to the brutal and brutalising formulas of the past, steadily refusing to countenance the idea that men can be as readily, perhaps more easily, led than drive.

"A thorough knowledge of the secrets of human nature," says von der Goltz, "is very essential to a general. An army is a very sensitive body, not a lifeless instrument, or a set of chessmen to be moved backwards and forwards, according to calculation, until the enemy is checkmated. An army is subjected to many psychological influences, and its value varied according to its general feeling." Again, "The general must understand how to look into the hearts of soldiers, in order to estimate rightly what may be required of them at a given moment." Yet this authority makes nothing of his own text. He is so ignorant of human nature that he regards the best army as being that in which submissiveness and uniformity have been most fully attained. The explanation is that the German officer, and not the German soldier, constitutes the German Army. "Non-commissioned officers and soldiers rapidly come and go in the Army; its officers alone are the constant element by which tradition is handed down." The British officer who a few months ago publishes that instructive volume "The German Army From Within," states that "the German axiom is that the greatness of an army lies with its men." Speaking with a knowledge derived from experience with both armies, he asserts the firm conviction that "one British Tommy is the equal of three Germans of the same rank." A system which operates to destroy personal initiative in the ranks is obviously inferior to one in which individuality is encouraged, even if stress were not laid on the fact that the human material to begin with starts in the one case from a slavish docility and in the other from what is usually and alert and independent intelligence. The German private is merely "cannon food," while the all-important officer is too often typified by that Colonel Nicolay who last August was the murderer of the unfortunate Englishman, Mr. Henry Hadley. Incidentally the hope may be expressed that, provided the arms of the Allies do not anticipate the work of justice, this specimen of German Kultur may be brought to a stern account. One can readily conceive of such men, the authors of countless infamies in Belgium and France, rallying their men in their trenches with blows and with words used by Frederick to his flying troops—"Scum of the earth, do you want to live forever?"

The contrast in methods carries us back to fundamentals. It is not, as some may suppose, a question of conscription versus voluntary service, although it may be granted that the regime of the Junker would have short shrift in any volunteer army that we can imagine. There is conscription in every Continental country, yet so far as we know the discipline obtaining in the German Army stands in inglorious isolation, bearing no resemblance either to the paternalism of Russia or the camaraderie encouraged by the democratic Gallic spirit. It is the something wrong with German human nature, the primitive brute lying so near to the surface of Germany's ingeniously organised national life, that we detect using the forms of discipline to express itself. It is Heine's "braggart with the capacious maw, carrying like a corporal's staff, which he first dips in holy water before bringing it down on one's head" that we perceive—the rude and savage Prussian, who has learned nothing from human progress but the means for augmenting his rudeness and equipping his savagery with the diabolical resources of science. Grant this native imperviousness to the gentler virtues of the race, transfer to a State which exalts itself above every human institution all the ruthlessness of individuals whose culture is only skin-deep, and you get the German Army, a marvellously efficient machine, whose efficiency up to a certain point is the greater by its suppression of the units of which it is composed, even at the cost of their degradation and bruitalisation as human being. But one is inclined to wonder what enormities mat be possible to such a machine if by sudden reversion to the human nature it outrages it should turn upon its authors and engineers. The German Government have only known it as a victorious force or, at all events as a force in which the belief in victory is still strong. What will it be in the hour of defeat.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 July 2016 10:34 AM EDT
Friday, 5 August 2016

Regimental Canteens
Topic: British Army

Regimental Canteens

The Quebec Saturday Budget, 6 October 1906


Broad Arrow says: "the regimental canteen to-day is cleaner, more sanitary, more respectable, and better conducted than any public-house in the United Kingdom, and is also directly responsible for a great decrease in drunkenness and immorality. Those who would do away with canteens can have no knowledge, and are powerless to form any conception of the conditions which prevail in the immediate neighbourhood of garrisons in the east, along the China coast, in the West Indies, in South Africa, or even nearer home in the Mediterranean. Abolish the regimental canteens and to what are our soldiers condemned who are not total abstainers? To the low dens where bad or native liquor is sold, where vice is rampant, and in regard to which there can be little or no supervision."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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