The Minute Book
Thursday, 1 September 2016

Presenting Colours to H.M. 81st Regiment (1826)
Topic: Battle Honours

Presenting Colours to H.M. 81st Regiment

Historical Record of the Eighty-first Regiment, or Loyal Lincoln Volunteers; containing an Account of the Formation of the Regiment in 1793, and of its Subsequent Services to 1872, by S. Rogers, Gibraltar, 1872

The Eighty-First Regiment or Lincoln Loyal Volunteers, bears on the Regimental Colour:

The word "MAIDA." in commemoration of its distinguished service at the Battale of Maida, in 1806.

The word "CORUNNA," in testimony of its "steady and gallant conduct" at the Battle of Corunna fought in 1809, where the regiment was one among the few on which "the brunt of the action fell."

The word "PENINSULA," in recognition of its intrepid and meritorious services in the Peninsula from 1808 to 1814.

On the fourteenth of June [1826] a new set of colours was presented to the Eighty-first by His Excellency Sir James Kempt, K.C.B., Lieutenant-Governor of Halifax, and Colonel of the regiment; upon which occasion the following ceremony took place:—

About noon the three Regiments (the Eighty-first, Seventy-fourth, and Rifle Brigade), were drawn up in line, and received His Excellency with a 'general salute'; they then formed three sides of a square, the area of which was occupied by His Excellency and Staff, Admiral Lake, &c.—The General's carriage, containing Mrs. Creagh whom he had been requested to present the Colours for him, was then drawn up in front of the Eighty-first; immediately afterwards the ceremony commenced by prayer, and, an appropriate address having being delivered by the Rev. T. Twining, chaplain to the forces, the Banners were placed in the hands of His Excellency, who immediately stepped up to the carriage and presented them to Mrs. Creagh, with the following words:—

"The Colours of the Eighty-first Regiment will come with peculiar propriety and grace from your hands; and I request you will do me the honour of presenting them."

Ensigns De Rottenburg and Creagh then stepped forward, and Mrs. Creagh delivered to them and to the Regiment, the handsome address which is given beneath:

"In having the flattering honour conferred on me of presenting Colours to a Regiment, in which my tenderest affections, and most friendly regards are centred, it is difficult for me to give expression to all the feelings, which a ceremony so imposing and so deeply interesting to my heart excites. I cannot pray for more than that, while serving under these new banners, you may display the same ardour and invincible bravery which so brightly shone forth under your old Colours at Maida, when the Eighty-first was so gloriously led to victory by its distinguished General. May Maida, Corunna, and the other glory commemorating inscriptions on your Colours, be always present to your minds, and, with the blessing of the Almighty, ever lead and preserve you in the path of honour and virtue."

"Into your hands, my young friend, I present your King's Colour; and into your charge, my beloved son, I give the Colour of your regiment" (at this part of the address Ensigns De Rottenburg and Creagh advanced, and each were presented with a banner). When your Country requires your defence, I, even as a Mother, can say they never should be abandoned, but in death. And may you, while fighting under them, and during your whole military lives, endeavour to pursue the splendid career of your illustrious General; and may you, like him, be distinguished with the well-merited rewards of a grateful Country."

The two Ensigns having retired to resume their usual station in front of the regiment, Lieut.-Colonel Creagh spoke in the following manner:—

"Those Colours, which, by the distinguished favour of His Excellency Sir James Kempt, have just been presented to the Eighty-first in a manner so truly gratifying to my feelings, shall, I can promise, never be sullied by the corps I have the honour and happiness to command. And in the day of battle, I trust, they will ever wave triumphantly as did our old colours, when the path of victory was pointed out to the Eighty-first, by the General under whom we now have the good fortune to be placed."

The Colours were then trooped, after which the various regiments marched past, and moved off to their respective barracks.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 31 August 2016

CEF Traffic Men
Topic: CEF

CEF Traffic Men

Story of Death in Village on Western Front

The Pittsburgh Press, 14 April 1918

With the Canadian Army in the Field, April 13.—If you should happen to wander into this village—either on duty or on pleasure—you will notice that many of its houses are roofless, that what were shops are in some instances nothing but demolished wall and broken beams, that numerous cottages are closed, and that many dwellings are marred by broken windows and lesser damage. If you are unlucky you will hear the warning whine of a shell, and you may be deafened by an explosion and smothered in dust while flying debris plays havoc around you. If not, you may meet the cure, and he will tell you the history of the slow demolition of a town which the enemy is slowly reducing to a ruin and a memory. It is a long story, covering a period of nearly two years. It was penetrated by shells and by death, and it is the history of many such a town and many a village throughout the war area in France and Belgium. It was in the middle of May, 1915, that the first four shells fell into the town. Then week by week bombardment followed bombardment, sometimes two and three a day. Some of the townspeople left, but courage runs high in France, and most of them stayed. Their homes were laid waste in a day. As the air war developed other homes were destroyed in the night, the horror of blackness adding to the horror of bombs and shells. Fathers lost daughter—mothers sons—the cure grew old because of broken hearts and the cemetery of the little church and filled before its time. But the day's work went on as it is going on now. And the fields were tilled as they are being tilled today, with the women working while the men fight. Such is the ordeal which is part of the tragedy of France, such is the spirit of her people which is her glory.

The Traffic Man

The cure will finish his story. You will leave on your way to the front or back to the base and, as you go, you will ask for directions at the first cross roads. You will be sent five miles out of your way and be bogged in a hopeless road, but you will swear respectively, for he who directed you wore the red arm band of the traffic control. His kind were at Vimy and on the Somme, at Ypres and Passchendaele. "Her Majesty's Jollies," you will remember, "stood still to the Birkenhead drill—a damn tough bullet to chew." From the middle of October to the middle of November when the Canadian corps was fighting the battle of Bellevue Farm, the Passchendaele spur, the Village and the Ridge—the traffic men stood at corners of roads that led in and out of Ypres. They stood there—that was their business. By day, enemy airmen bombed those roads, sometimes coming over in squadrons of 10, 15 and 20 machines. "Parti Tout Suite" was the popular pastime under such conditions and muddy, shell-torn fields were green and pleasant. The traffic men stood to their posts. Some of them died. You could count the shells—one by one they would creep up a road. The traffic men counted them and counting, stayed where they were, Horses were killed. Lorries were blown into bits of torn machinery and kindling wood. All who could made for less public places. The traffic men could not. At night the enemy bombed and shelled. Men hastened up the roads, hurriedly fixing their gas masks. It was black and dreary and desperately lonely on the highways. The traffic men stood on their corners. Many were wounded. Others died. At times when they are heavily shelling the village you just left you will find the extra traffic patrols on duty. They will tell you where not to go. They know where the worst shelling is. They can count the shells and see the damage. They cannot leave their posts. Some of them are wounded. Some of them died. Their work is called "bomb proof" save when there is hell around. Then their drill is not less than the Birkenhead drill.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Lesson For Our Army (1906)
Topic: Cold Steel

Lesson For Our Army (1906)

Russian Army's Notes Officially Distributed
Fire of Modern Infantry Wasteful of Ammunition
Practice in Estimating Distance Needed
Captain Soloviev's Views Regarded of Great Value

Boston Evening Transcript, 14 November 1906

Washington, Nov. 14—From the foreign officers who were attached to the opposing armies as observers in the Russo-Japanese War the world has received many valuable reports concerning the operations in Manchuria, the condition and conduct of the troops engaged and other subjects of general military interest. Several officers of the contending armies have also contributed to this fund of information, and one of these, Captain L.Z. Soloviev, of the Thirty-fourth East Siberian Rifle Regiment, has prepared a paper entitled "Actual Experiences in the War—Battle Action of the Infantry—Impressions of a Company Commander," which is of such importance that it has been translated into English by order of the general staff for distribution among the officers of the United States Army. "This officer," says the general staff, in an official memorandum, "has shown such a keen and appreciative observation in his description of great battles as seen from a company commander's point of view, and his remarks cover so many moot questions in regard to the battle tactics of today, that the little work has been deemed worthy of publication in English for distribution to the army."

What particularly impressed Captain Soloviev was the fact that many of the things he had to do in battle were not what he had been taught, and that much he had been taught was not applicable to combat, which may or may not be a blow to "military education" derived from the books. According to the regulations, the observer says, "effective rifle fire began at a range of from 1000 to 1400 paces," whereas rifle fire was found to be effective at a range of 2333 yards. Attention is called to the difficulty of keeping fire discipline well in hand during a battle, and of maintaining a reasonable and well sustained fire—difficulties which are increased during the fight. He says: "Sometimes a man will fire in his sleep and hundreds of shots follow, thus bringing about a useless loss of cartridges, a sleepless night, fatigue, nervous tension, wounded and killed by stray bullets, and there is before the men the prospect of days in battle."

Another thing that struck this observer was the extreme wastefulness of rapid fire. He states that one infantry regiment at Liao-Yang fired 1,200,000 cartridges, a vast expenditure that charred the stocks of the rifles and distorted the ends of the bayonets from the heat. Captain Soloviev asks if it would not be better to fire more slowly, with greater accuracy and better aim. The mass of fire takes place of accuracy while the short term of service tells upon the trueness of aim. It is difficult, too, to determine the distance of the objective, there remains as a principal means the eyesight, a mode of range finding that was used most frequently and by which the firing had to be guided. "This is why," adds the writer, "we deem it most important that during peace time frequent exercises should stake place in estimating distances by the eye, taking advantage of each favorable occasion, and not treating it as a tedious formality." One serious result observed during the campaign was the frequent deterioration of rifles caused by such intense fire, and it is observed there is only one means of replacing the disabled rifle in battle—the utilization of the pieces belonging to the killed and wounded. The local conditions of dust, rains and changes in temperature contribute top this disastrous end.

Captain Soloviev places a high estimate on the value of the bayonet as an infantry weapon, declaring that the late war "demonstrated most vividly all its power and moral importance, which, it is probable, it will maintain unaltered as long as there are wars." More than once there were fierce hand-to-hand fights, when the Russian depended upon their bayonets and used them with success, although there are no statistics to show the vital effect of such raids. There were instances where lines of intrenchments were taken with the bayonet as at Tumilin Pass. At another time "a bayonet fight was raging along the entire front of our enemy," when an entire corps fought with the bayonet. Captain Soloviev says the data on losses caused by the bayonet are very convincing, and that the losses "are almost as large as those caused by artillery fire, in spite of the enormous development of the latter."

Of the general characteristics of modern infantry combat, Captain Soloviev says: "Speaking of the characteristics of modern infantry combat, we note the following general traits:—

  • the deployment of large units as a skirmish line;
  • the absence of small partial reserves; the desire to develop at once the greatest intensity of fire;
  • the advance of skirmishers at a run, bent double, and sometimes creeping;
  • the advance under effective fire, one by one; the movement in the zone of fire in chain formation;
  • the difficulty of controlling fire discipline and the necessity of developing fire discipline in time of peace;
  • the unparalleled development of ammunition;
  • the necessity for an uninterrupted supply of cartridges to the fighting line, and a close touch of regiments to the artillery parks;
  • the deterioration of rifles and the necessity of replacing them frequently, as a rule;
  • enormous losses in infantry combat, and the tenacity and duration of infantry combats without decisive results."

Captain Soloviev speaks in praise of the Japanese infantry and artillery. Emphasis is laid on the fact that a new factor in artillery combat was the firing against invisible targets, for in battles the battery does not see its opponent. The Japanese had apparently adopted the rule of ceasing fire under well-aimed fire of the enemy. If the Russian battery found the range of the Japanese battery and aimed well the Japanese immediately sought to change its position unawares. Captain Soloviev pronounces the Japanese infantry as far behind the Japanese artillery in accuracy of aim. The Japanese rifleman is described as a veritable machine-gun, on account of the rapidity with which he loads and fires his rifle, but most of the shots go high, and there was dexterity without aim too often. The Russian rifle appears to have been a satisfactory weapon, but the revolver was useless beyond seven paces, while the infantry sword is of little value. The supply of food was sufficient, and much praise was bestowed upon the system of the wheeled field kitchen, a provision for furnishing hot food to the soldier wherever he may be and for which method the commissary general of our own army has been striving indefatigably. It is remarked that more than one of these kitchens bore the marks of bullets.

In view of the modern effort at invisibility in military dress and equipment, it is interesting to know that Captain Soloviev found that quality to be the principal characteristic of the field. His first experience in battle produced a sense of insecurity and irresolution. He heard the bullets, but he saw no trenches or fortifications or enemy. He found the soldier in battle of "astounding simple and everyday demeanor, with betrayal of nervousness only in his rapid firing," in which condition the officer in command comes to his great task of controlling the men. The tension is terrible with the protracted battles of the day, and the demand upon the mental and physical powers is unrelaxing.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 29 August 2016

Discipline and Mobility
Topic: Discipline

Discipline and Mobility

Lectures on Land Warfare, A Tactical Manual for the Use of Infantry Officers, Pub. William Clowes & Sons, Ltd., 1922

"…it is better to lose one man in marching than five in fighting."

The discipline, courage, and endurance of the troops, as well as the cause for which they are fighting, are at least of equal importance to their armament and numbers. "If their discipline and leading be defective, Providence seldom sides with the big battalions ... and troops that cannot march are untrustworthy auxiliaries ("The Science of War"). "An army which cannot march well is almost certain to be outmanoeuvred. A general whose strategy is based upon time calculations that are rendered inaccurate by the breakdown of the marching power of his troops runs grave risk of disaster. It is therefore necessary that the question of marching should be studied, not only by generals and staff officers, but by regimental officers and men. It is on the latter that the hardships and exertions fall, and their cheerful endurance can best be ensured by teaching them the great results attainable by an army which can move faster and further than its adversary, as well as the dangers incurred by an army which allows itself to be out-marched. Superior mobility alone enabled Frederick the Great to move 'like a panther round an ox' so as to place his army across the enemy's flank. The discipline of his troops enabled him to apply the "principles of combination" (General Sir E. B. Hamley). "Nothing compensates for absence of discipline; and the constant watchfulness that is necessary in war, even when danger seems remote, can only be secured by discipline, which makes of duty a habit." (General R. Taylor, C.S. Army). At the Battle of Hastings (Oct. 14, 1066) lack of discipline and disobedience of orders changed the fate of the English nation and brought about the Norman Conquest. Harold, the English king, had defeated the forces of Harold Hadraade, King of Norway, at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire (Sept. 25, 1066). Four days later, Duke William of Normandy landed in Pevensey Bay, with 60,000 horse and foot. Harold hastened south to meet him with troops exhausted by battle and marching. After King of Norway, halting six days in London to collect reinforcements, the English force entrenched itself on the hill of Sautlache and awaited attack. The Normans were unable to penetrate the abattis, but they gained the victory which changed the whole history of the English race by the stratagem of a feigned retreat. Harold's undisciplined auxiliaries, contrary to direct orders (which were obeyed by the regular troops in the centre), swarmed out of the palisades in pursuit of the fleeing Normans, who suddenly turned about and penetrated the English lines mingled with the discomfited auxiliaries. Had the "irregulars" shown the same sense of discipline as the regulars there had been no Norman Conquest.

With regard to marching, General T.J. Jackson once observed, in reply to an allusion to his severe marching, that "it is better to lose one man in marching than five in fighting."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 28 August 2016

Duties of Officers
Topic: Officers

Duties of Officers
(Section 1. General)

The Canadian Guards, Regimental Standing Orders, 1966

5.01     It is not possible to lay down rules for an officer's conduct in every suituation, but he should always bear in mind the three following principles:

a.     he is never relieved of responsibilities, whether on or off duty;

b.     he must always set the best possible example to his juniors; and

c.     he must never do anything which might bring the Regiment into disrepute, either with the general public or with other components of the Canadian Forces.

5.02     A officer should have a thorough knowledge of history, traditions and customs of the Regiment, and should take a continual interest in all matters affecting the Regiment and the unit in which he is serving.

5.03     He must take the greatest care to make the men he commands have confidence in him and must always be ready to assist them with their own personal problems, even if this may at times interfere with his own activities. He must take a keen interest in his men's sports and participate in as many as possible.

5.04     He must always set a high standard in his personal turnout, whether in uniform or plain clothes. In plain clothes, he is expected to dress in accordance with current practice in the Regiment. He is not to smoke in the streets or around barracks when dressed in uniform.

5.05     He must take great care to acknowledge salutes, whether he is in uniform or in plain clothes.

5.06     An officer is responsible to his immediate superior for the performance of his duties and for the efficiency and well being of the sub-unit he commands.

5.07     An officer will never overlook any irregularity or slackness on the part of a guard or sentry, nor will he fail to notice and correct any slovenly appearance, saluting, or unsoldierly conduct on the part of other ranks.

5.08     When an officer is taken ill and prevented from performing a duty, he will immediately report the fact to the Adjutant and make arrangements to see the Medical Officer. Company officers will also report their illness to their Company Commander.

5.09     Officers joining the unit or returning to the unit from detached duty, leave, etc., will report in person to the Adjutant. At the same time, they will acquaint themselves with all orders and instructions issued during their absence.

5.091     Officers ordered to proceed on duty outside the unit will be given the necessary instructions by the Adjutant.

5.10     Officers on special duties, e.g., institutes, and requiring reliefs while proceeding on course, etc., will make application to the Adjutant at least a week before their departure for an officer to relieve them.

5.11     Whenever an officer hands over an appointment to another officer, either temporarily or permanently, he and his successor will sign the prescribed certificates ... and submit them to the Commanding Officer.

5.12     An officer signing any certificate, correspondence, return, etc., will be responsible for the correctness of the document he has signed, irrespective of the fact that it may have been compiled and made out for signature by some other person.

5.13     An officer will notify the Orderly Room in writing of all personal casualties to be published in Unit Orders part 2.

5.14     It will be normal for all officers to make all requests to the Commanding Officer through the Adjutant.

5.15     Officers extra-regimentally employed will communicate directly with the Regimental Adjutant.

5.16     An officer leaving the unit area during duty hours, for a reason other than training, will notify the Adjutant.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 27 August 2016

Royal Canadians to be Disbanded (Halifax, 1902)
Topic: The RCR

Royal Canadians to be Disbanded

Will Be Replaced at Halifax by 5th Regiment Royal Garrison Artillery
The Official Notice Sent
On Service for Over Two years—Cost to Canada of Maintaining Garrison at Halifax

The Montreal Gazette, 27 August 1902

Ottawa, August 26.—(Special)—Official corroboration has been received of the report that the Canadian Regiment at Halifax is to be relieved from duty by a regiment of the Imperial army. The conformation has come in the form of a cablegram from the quartermaster-general in England to General Parsons, officer commanding the Imperial troops at Halifax, stating that the Fifth Regiment, Royal Garrison Artillery, has been ordered to embark for Halifax about the middle of next month, to replace the Third (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. A copy of the cablegram was sent on to Lord Aylmer, the adjutant-general.

To Be Disbanded

The Militia Department will probably have the regiment disbanded at once. The officers and men were originally enrolled for one year. At the termination of that period the regiment was re-enlisted for a year, with a provision that in case its services were not requested for the full twelve months the regiment might be disbanded at any time by allowing the officers and men a month's pay. The probability is that this will be done, but that most of the men will go into the permanent corps, the several schools of instruction being at present away below strength.

The regiment has been on service for about two and a half years, having been organized in March, 1900, to relieve the imperial garrison at Halifax, for duty in South Africa. The cost to Canada of maintaining the garrison at Halifax has been about $364,000 a year, so that Canada's contribution in this way to the expense of the South African campaign will be nearly a million dollars.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 26 August 2016

Buys Hero Medals to Win Girl; In Jail Now
Topic: Stolen Valour

Buys Hero Medals to Win Girl; In Jail Now

Reading Eagle, Reading, Pennsylvania 13 August 1930

Detroit, Aug. 13 (AP).—Benjamin Lee couldn't win his girl's love with his resplendent theatre usher's uniform, so he bought some medals, won the girl, and today he is in jail as a bogus hero.

Dined and honored by Detroit veterans' organizations as one of Michigan's war heroes, Benjamin, a theatre usher, appeared wearing the Croix de Guerre, the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He told lurid stories of his part in the war.

Some of the veterans became suspicious. They figured out that Benjamin would have been about 12 years old when the war started.

Department of Justice agents questioned Benjamin and he confessed that his tales of heroism were designed to win the love of a girl who is now his wife. He said he purchased the medals from veterans who were "short on cash," and that after his marriage his wife carried on the tales of heroism until the affair got out of his control.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 25 August 2016

Allied Forces Compared (China, 1900)
Topic: European Armies

Allied Forces Compared (China, 1900)

Americans and British for Uniform and Equipment, Germans for Drill, and Japanese for Discipline Are the Pick of the Experts, While All Are Good Fighting Men

Boston Evening Transcript, 5 November 1900

Tien-Tsin, Oct. 1.—With troops of eight nations and every branch of service, elbow to elbow, under actual field conditions, both Pekin and Tein-Tsin at present afford a rich field of comparative military observation. Of this the officers of the various forces are taking keen advantage. This is especially noticeable of the Continental forces, whose staffs are everywhere taking notes of equipment and methods.

There are now quartered in this big camp what are said to be representative contingents of every military Power. It is a military congress as complete as if devised only for display, and the contrast between the forces is very marked, in equipment, method and discipline; yet at the same time observing officers find little room for criticism of any particular contingent of the Chinese expeditionary force.

In equipment and uniform there is apparently little question that the American and British troops are superior. The sober business-like khaki is in strong contrast to the showy French and Italian uniforms, while the Germans, otherwise a magnificent and picked body of men, are handicapped in comparison by their ill-fitting clothing. The German uniform is a mustard yellow khaki, apparently of very inferior quality. The blouse is long and loose, without pockets; the trousers loose, and no leggings are worn by the infantry. This is completed with a wide-brimmed straw hat, such as is seen in the Southern part of the United States, turned up at the side and fastened with a corps badge. One almost overlooks the awkwardness of the uniform, however, in the splendid drill and discipline of the kaiser's Chinese army; while its field equipment, though a bit heavy, is well up to date and compares favourably with that of any other force.

By far the most picturesque troops here are the British native regiments from India. At present Great Britain has no white troops here except a part of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, known in England as the "Duke of Connaught's own," and a battalion of Australian Volunteer Naval Reserves. The show of Tien-Tsin is the Sixteenth Bengal Lancers, the "Gentlemen Regiment of India," out on parade. Magnificently mounted on country breds, superb riders, equipment as perfect as care can make it, with lance pennons fluttering, the Sixteenth is a regiment any nation could feel proud of. The Indian Cavalry are probably the heaviest armed mounted troops in the world. Each man carried the long, heavy lance, revolver, carbine, and heavy sabre. The uniform is khaki, the blouse tight at the belt; loose cord trousers, russet-leather leggings and the inevitable turban. The Bombay Lancers are not inferior, and the foot regiments, which include the Rajputs, the Punjabs, and the Belochistans, amke a splendid appearance, the men being tall and slender, and carrying themselves superbly.

The Japanese are, however, probably the most interesting studies for the military men here. One looses sight of the rather slouchy white canvas uniforms and French high-crowned caps in the machine-like drill and discipline of the mikado's men. In discipline they are easily ahead of all the other forces. The Japanese soldier works as none other does. He is always busy; he does not drink, and he is not in evidence on the streets. Detachments of the little white-clad chaps are always on the move. Wherever one goes in the surrounding countryside for many miles out he finds a Japanese outpost; their field topographical parties are always busy, and their commissary and quartermaster’s departments are wonderfully active and complete. Many officers have found much to admire in their transport system. There are no great bales or boxes in the Japanese supplies. Everything is put up in compact matting-bound bundles, none too heavy for one man to handle, and the result is expedition. It is the general opinion of observers that the Japanese soldier is the busiest, the quietest, the best disciplined man in the Chinese armies.

The big German camp, which occupies the grounds and buildings formerly used by the American troops, lying east of the foreign concession, is easily the model of all the camps about Tien-Tsin. It has attracted much attention, and nothing but favourable comment is heard. The Germans have a scheme for use of the shelter tent which is considered to be ideal for warm weather. The pieces of canvas of an entire company are lashed together and erected in the shape of a shed without partitions. It is practically a roof and rear wall, and is usually erected in the shape of two sides of a square, the walls being to the north and west. The German cooking equipment is complete in every detail, and they have a wonderful quantity of wagons and transport. There are new designs in field ambulances, very narrow and springy, wagonettes for general officers, field post wagons, and nearly every sort of vehicle an army can need. In variety and completeness of outfit the German representation is beyond comparison with any force here.

The question of transport is naturally most interesting to military observers and in this connection the British have come in for much praise. As organized, the British forces in China have the most effective field transport for the character of campaigning they are called upon to perform. Each company is complete with its own pack train, from which it is not separated. Stout little Indian mules, hardly larger than donkeys, carry all supplies, and so far the British troops here have not suffered for lack of supplies in any of the marches the allies have made. The same cannot be said of other armies. In common with the Japanese, the British employ large numbers of coolies. In fact, they have the largest non-combatant force here, each regiment having its own coolie gang, who perform all camp labor. This is made necessary, however, by the fact that the Indian regiments are composed of high caste men. The ranks of the cavalry regiments are filled with blood relatives of rajahs and princes, and these men are never called upon for camp labor. They are fighting men essentially, and it is almost safe to say that every enlisted man in the Sixteenth Bengals and the Bombays has his own servant and groom.

In size, rank and file, soldierly appearance and good marching there is nothing heard but praise for the American troops. The camps are well policed, the men well behaved, and ther been an absolute absence of rowdyism.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2016 12:04 AM EDT
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

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