Naval Toasts of the Day and other Military Quotes

The Canadian Navy announced that, effective Sunday, May 2, 1999, on the anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, that new naval toasts of the day would become effective:

(From the "Navy" pages of the Maple Leaf, Vol. 2, No. 8, 1999)

For the full lists of daily toasts (traditional and modern),
see the bottom of the page.

For more on the origins of toasts, see Toasts in the Army.

Other Military Quotes

I divide officers into four classes—the clever, the lazy, the stupid and the industrious. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the high staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy is fit for the very highest commands. He has the temperament and the requisite nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be removed immediately."

Attributed, circa 1933
General Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord (1878-1943)
German Chief of Army Command (1930-33)

And a corollary from an anonymous contributor: "It does not matter that you are intelligent, provided you are lazy, you have a future as an officer."

19 Jan 1899 You must aim at the Staff College, but for the love of God never become a professional Staff Officer. Never lose touch with the troops. Remember that you serve the troops and it is the troops who matter. They are the folk who win victories, take care of your men and they will never let you down. - Colonel R. Meinertzhagen, CBE, DSO, Army Diary 1899 - 1926, 1960

... he became an officer and a gentleman, which is an enviable thing; - Rudyard Kipling,Only a Subaltern, Wee Willie Winkie, Penguin Classics, 1988

See this fella, Bo Geesty? Aye, weel, him an' his mates, they was inna Foregn legion, inna fort, inna desert, an' the Wogs was gettin tore in at them. An' a' the fellas inna fort got killt, but when the releif colyum arrived a' the fells inna fort wis staundin' up at the wall, wi' their guns an' bonnets on, like they wis on guard. But they wis a' deid. The fellas in the relief colyum couldnae make it oot; they thought the place must be hauntit. So they did. It was a smashin' picture, but. --Private McAuslan, as critic, on the film of P.C. Wren's Beau Geste - opening quote to G.M. Fraser, Bo Geesty, McAuslan in the Rough and other stories, 1974

In war, while everything is simple, even the simplest thing is difficult. Difficulties accumulate and produce frictions which no one can comprehend who has not seen war. - Clausewitz, On War, bk 1, ch 7 November 3rd [1914]

We have been ordered to move off today; had our orders canceled; warned for an alarm; had our passes stopped; had our foreign orders canceled; had our passes and foreign orders renewed; and now have orders to move tomorrow. Great minds are at work. - Anon., A Soldier's Diary of the Great War, 1924

Of the 105,210 members of the British forces of the First World War who have no known graves, 19,660 were Canadian. The names of these men are inscribed on memorials in Canada and Europe, 11,285 are on the Vimy Memorial, and 6,994 on the Commonwealth Memorial at the Menin Gate in Ypres. On the Newfoundland memorial at Beaumont Hamel are the names of 814 Newfoundlanders who have no known grave. - VALOUR REMEMBERED; Canada and the First World War, Veterans Affairs Publication, 1982

The mere fact that [Tommy Atkins] saw himself as a hero, and not as the rough he was, enlisted, more probably, through hunger, and disciplined by fear, tended to make him behave like a hero, as he did on the Ridge of Delhi and in the fog at Inkermann. - Esme Wingfield-Stratford, D.SC., MA, THOSE EARNEST VICTORIANS, 1930

Military incompetence involves:

  1. A serious wastage of human resources and failure to observe one of the first principles of war - economy of force.
  2. A fundamental conservatism and clinging to outworn tradition, an inability to profit from past mistakes (owing in part to a refusal to admit past mistakes).
  3. A tendency to reject or ignore information which is unpalatable or which conflicts with preconceptions.
  4. A tendency to underestimate the enemy and overestimate the capabilities of one's own side.
  5. Indecisiveness and a tendency to abdicate from the role of decision-maker.
  6. An obstinate persistence in a given task despite strong contrary evidence.
  7. A failure to exploit a situation gained and a tendency to `pull punches' rather than push home an attack.
  8. A failure to make adequate reconnaissance.
  9. A predilection for frontal assaults, often against the enemy's strongest point.
  10. A belief in brute force, rather than the clever ruse.
  11. A failure to make use of surprise or deception.
  12. An undue readiness to find scapegoats for military set-backs.
  13. A suppression or distortion of news from the front, usually rationalized as necessary for morale or security.
  14. A belief in mystical forces - fate, bad luck, etc.

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

Don't grouse. However irksome the duty, remember that others have been put to the same inconvenience - and worse - scores of times before. Try to do what you have to do cheerfully. It is all in a day's work. - MGen D. O'Callaghan, CVO, The Young Officers `Don't' or Hints to Youngsters on Joining, 1907

My Lord, if I attempted to answer the mass of futile correspondence which surrounds me, I should be debarred from the serious business of campaigning…So long as I retain an independent position, I shall see no officer under my command is debarred by attending to the futile driveling of mere quill-driving from attending to his first duty, which is and always has been to train the private men under his command that they may without question beat any force opposed to them in the field. - The Duke of Wellington, to the Secretary of State for War during the Peninsular Campaign

Soldiering would be all right if it only consisted of the band and the Mess; no damned men or horses. - famous words of a British cavalry officer

Standing Orders: Roger's Rangers, 1756

  1. Don't forget nothing.
  2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchett scoured, 60 rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.
  3. When you're on the march act the way you would if you were sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
  4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on you for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the rangers, but don't never lie to a ranger.
  5. Don't never take a chance you don't have to.
  6. When we are on the march, we march single file far enough apart so one shot can't go through two men.
  7. If we strike swamps or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it's hard to track us.
  8. When we march we keep moving until dark, so as to give the enemy no chance at us.
  9. When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
  10. If we take prisoners, we keep 'em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can't cook up a story in between 'em.
  11. Don't ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won't be ambushed.
  12. No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to jeep a scout 30 yards on each flank and 20 yards in the rear so you won't be ambushed.
  13. Every night you will be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
  14. Don't sit to eat without posting sentries.

A Soldier of the Great War Known unto God. - Inscription on gravestones above unidentified bodies, chosen by Kipling as literary advisor for the Imperial War Graves Commission, 1919

The Strands of War are four in number,
I. The quality and capability of the commander.
II. The quality and capability of the troops.
III. Morale.
IV. Resources.
- Lt.-Col. A.H. Burne, DSO, RA (Ret'd), The Art of War on Land,1947

... far too staff-oriented at far too high a level and only remotely connected with the details of small-unit combat. Few officers genuinely comprehend the details and complexities of squad-, platoon-, or company-sized battle. With the emphasis on staff training, there has been a deemphasis of the true skills of the soldier. - Gabriel/Savage, Crisis in Command, as quoted in John A. English, A Perspective on Infantry, 1981

Officers and others making [military sketches of any unmapped portion of the command reconnaissance or road reports] must clearly understand that work of this nature, executed by them when serving on full pay, is public property; they are not entitled to compensation or remuneration for it, and they have no right to retain the originals or be given copies. - The King's Regulations and Orders for the Army, 1908

The traditional Naval Toasts of the Day:

Sunday - 'To Absent Friends'
Monday - 'To Our Ships at Sea'
Tuesday - 'To Our men'
Wednesday - 'To Ourselves'
Thursday - 'For A Bloody War on a Sickly Season'
Friday - 'For a Willing Foe and Sea Room'
Saturday - 'To Wives and Sweethearts'

The new politically correct Naval Toasts of the Day:

Sunday - 'Absent friends/Amis absents'
Monday - 'Our ships/Nos navires'
Tuesday - 'Our sailors/Nos marins'
Wednesday - 'Ourselves/Nous-memes'
Thursday - 'Our navy/Notre Marine'
Friday - 'Our nation/Notre nation'
Saturday - 'Our families/Nos familles'