The Minute Book
Thursday, 1 December 2016

German Soldiers and English Athletes
Topic: European Armies

German Soldiers and English Athletes

When we have put an idle loafer through two years of military service we cannot but notice what a self-respecting, well set up young fellow he has become. But we declare that we have found an alternative for military service in our national enthusiasm for athletes.

The Age, Melbourne, Australia, 26 February 1897

Despite our robust insularity, a wholesome fear of our German rivals has (says the British Review) grown throughout the country. Recent speeches by members of both political parties have not been calculated to allay the scare. Yet the average Englishman still finds consolation in two facts which he considers irrefutable. Nothing has shaken his belief in the unsurpassed physique of our working men; everything has pointed to the exhausting nature of the burden which compulsory military service imposes on a rising commercial nation such as Germany. With so heavy a handicap in the race for the trade of the world, she cannot, he thinks, do more than toil after us at a respectful distance.

Every year some 300,000 young Germans join the ranks. Not all their number receive the full military training, but the great majority pass through a military course offering exceptional advantages for developing the physique. From half-starved villages and from close suffocating courts the most miserable are rescued for a time. They are taught to square their shoulders and step out from the hips; to keep clean and know the meaning of discipline. They live in sanitary barracks and are clad in suitable clothing. They have already passed through a strict mental training, which renders their physical education all the more necessary. That the latter is successful is abundantly proved by the military statistics. For the last five or six years the average chest measurement has steadily increased, and the German soldier of the present is the German workman of the future. When we have put an idle loafer through two years of military service we cannot but notice what a self-respecting, well set up young fellow he has become. But we declare that we have found an alternative for military service in our national enthusiasm for athletes. Our athletes, we argue, obtain all the physical advantages of conscription without costing the country a single penny. But as regards any permanent physical benefit to our huge operative class, athleticism is but a broken reed for this country to lean upon. It is an unpleasant fact, which, however, must be faced. The German, on the contrary, is unathletic in his tastes. He objects to all violent and, as he considers it, unnecessary exercise. But his military training, with its physical drill and gymnastic course, saves him from himself. It is a military dictum that, all else being equal, the army which is the heaviest in pounds avoirdupois wins the battle. It will be an ill day for England when in the great commercial struggle the workers who boast the broadest backs as well as the best trained brains are "made in Germany."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
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, 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
Saturday, 30 July 2016

German and British Armies (1882)
Topic: European Armies

The German and British Armies (1882)

A Military Organ Contrasts the Two Forces—A Pair of Blue Spectacles

Montreal Daily Witness, 19 July 1882

The Big Battalions of Bismarck are a perpetual source of discomfort and irritation to the little battalions of Britain. The Army and Navy Gazette indulges in the following:

"We see by the German papers, says the Army and Navy Gazette, that the German Army are to manoeuvre this autumn with eight Army Corps, that is, 250,000 men, if the corps are brought out at war strength. Even on the peace establishment over 200,000 men will take the field. Moreover, many thousands, of the Reserve are to be called out to drill. Per contre, The Imperial Army of Great Britain—better known as the harmonious and territorial whole of the modern Army reformer—are also to take the field of mimic war at Aldershot, and the Grand Army is, we are told, already with much trumpeting, to consist of 35,000 men. But the effect is much marred when we find that the number is made up from the militia and volunteer armies—our gallant auxiliary forces. We hope Germany may not become alarmed and double her armies; but we think she is more likely to send some sharp officers to take a careful look at the army of England, as it now appears on parade before the Queen and the world in general. When the Queen reviewed the divisions at Aldershot a few days ago, there were only 10,000 out of 14,000 men and boys on parade—nearly one-third, in fact, were casuals. As the reserves cannot be called out until national danger or great emergency is manufactured, they are comparatively useless for ordinary war, and therefore quite unreliable. Moreover, as the Government have never ventured to call them out for drill, they will forget their discipline and taste for soldiering; and, eventually, they will become impressed with the notion that they cannot be called out—except in case of invasion—like the auxiliary forces. After the army has been tinkered for twelve years, under the short service system and divers and numerous reorganizations, the results of their first performance in public will be watched with most critical eyes. The hard strain of a European war can alone test the merits of all these reorganizations; and if the new army turns out to be a complete failure, the country will demand a heavy reckoning."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Few Armies Are So Unlike
Topic: European Armies

Few Armies Are So Unlike as Those of France and Germany

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

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

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

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

Has 25 Army Corps

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

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

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

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

Carry Full Knapsack

What is the field equipment of the German infantry man?

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

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

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

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

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

Service Begins at 20

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

The French Field Army

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

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

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

Military Service Compulsory

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

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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