Quotes - Officers (page 1)

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Private soldiers [of the early 1800s] tended to mistrust those officers who had been raised from their midst, because they knew too many of the tricks of the trade. - Turner, E.S., Gallant Gentlemen: a portrait of the British Officer, 1956

It is always the officer, not the State, who thinks of the soldier. - Sir John Fortescue, History of the British Army

Personal leadership exists only as the officers demonstrate it by superior courage, wider knowledge, quicker initiative, and a greater readiness to accept responsibility than those they lead. - Field Marshall Sir William Slim

"To possess authority over one's fellow man is no mean thing. The Queen's commission can make an officer but it cannot make a Gentleman." - 1RCR Guide for Young Officers, March 1972

The British regimental system was eccentric and, viewed by accountants' eyes, expensive; but it did create that spirit in its combatant services which won wars. The attitudes, beliefs and prejudices of the officer corps appear arrogant and ridiculous; yet these officers were among the bravest of the brave, and they won wars. - from the forward to Mr Kipling's Army by Byron Farwell

The German General Staff, the story goes, used to divide army officers into four categories: the clever and lazy, the clever and hard-working, the stupid and lazy, and the stupid and hard- working. The best Generals, the Germans found, came from the clever and lazy; the best staff officers emerged from the clever and hard-working; the stupid and lazy could be made useful as regimental officers; but the stupid and hard-working were a menace, to be disposed of as soon as possible.
"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)

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

I'm glad Sir, that you have no Staff College officers on your staff, I don't like Staff College officers. My experience of Staff College officers is that they are conceited, and they are dirty! Brains? I don't believe in brains...my Military Secretary, and a damned good one he is too, is the stoopidest man I ever came across. - The Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904) on the value of Staff College graduates (here speaking to the GOC of a district)

January 27, 1918 (Sunday) Ronssoy
"Am I Offensive enough?" is one of the questions laid down in a pamphlet that reaches us from an Army school some 30 miles behind the line. It is for the subaltern to ask himself each morning as he rises from his bed.
Most laudable! But, as the Lewis Gun Officer remarked to-day, it is one of the paradoxes of war that the further you get from the battle line the more 'offensive' are the people you meet. - Rowland Feilding, War Letters to a Wife, France and Flanders, 1915-1919, 1930

Unobtrusive indicators of the "good [combat] officer"

- Gabriel/Savage, Crisis in Command, 1978

And the platoon is the truly characteristic component of an army; it is the lowest unit habitually commanded by a commissioned officer; it is the real and essential fighting unit, whose action conditions that of the other arms and formations; it is a little world in which the relations between the led and the leader, the men and their commander, are immediate, actual, continuous, and entirely real? - Major M.K. Wardle, DSO, MC, Foundations of Soldiering, 1936

Army doctors, who in peacetime were not much respected by combatant officers, came into their own in East Africa. They had ample opportunity to exhibit their arrogance and they here commanded respect. Lieutenant R.C. Hill, commanding a Maxim gun section of the East African Mounted Rifles, was shot through the ankle while galloping his guns out of action under intense fire during the advance on Moshi. beside him rode Captain J.C. Wilson, the unit's doctor. Hill called out to him, "Can I see you sometime when you are not busy?" - Byron Farwell, The Great War in Africa, 1986

Articles of Dress, Equipment, &c., previously authorized, and now in the possession of Officers, may be continued in use until worn out, but are not to be replaced. This provision does not apply to articles whose use by these regulations is discontinued, e.g. sabretache, gold lace for trousers, &c. - Canadian Militia Dress Regulations 1907

By the time increasing numbers of the American officer corps took the field in Vietnam in 1964, The American military structure had already become permeated by a set of values, practices and policies that forced considerations of career advancement to figure more heavily in the behaviour of individual officers than the traditional ethics normally associated with military life. - Gabriel/Savage, Crisis in Command, 1978

Dining with the Camerons [Malta, 1902-5], some of us had been a little upset by the pipes being played around the table after 'the King' had been drunk. Pipe music, it is well known, drives port straight to the head; it certainly turned many of us dizzy. In retaliation we later invited some of the Camerons to dine with us, and at the close of dinner all of our drums marched in and forty strong proceeded to play round the table. Maltese messrooms are built of bare stone, so the reverberation drove everyone frantic. We found ourselves playing follow-my-leader and, at the end of a long run, the chase ended over the rocks and into the sea. The effect on our mess kit was disastrous. - Lt.-Col. W.F. Stirling, DSO, MC, Safety Last, 1953

Every officer is expected to obey certain unwritten laws. There are no regulations or written instructions to assist the newly commissioned officer in most of these matters. - Customs of the Service (Advise to those newly commissioned) by A.H.S., 1939

Everyone knows that enthusiasm amongst the junior officers is the most fundamental of all necessities for the well-being of a unit; with it, the worst defects can be righted; without it, even what seems to be right is of little value. - Major M.K. Wardle, DSO, MC, Foundations of Soldiering, 1936

Good officers are made through the exercise of discipline upon themselves and those under them, courtesy, tact, and, above all, experience in the handling of men. This means hard work, but the respect of men, so necessary to a successful officer, cannot be gained by social charm and good birth credentials. - Customs of the Service (Advise to those newly commissioned) by A.H.S., 1939

I have a burning desire to get home and fight in the trenches where all of my friends are falling fast - Capt. Richard Meinertzhagen, British forces, East Africa, 1915, quoted in Byron Farwell, The Great War in Africa, 1986

If the Army is to change, every officer must come to accept the responsibility of exposing himself to the dangers to which his men are exposed and, if necessary, to follow the dictum of the British NCO who, when asked where his officers were, replied, "When it comes time to die, they'll be with us." - Gabriel, Richard A. and Savage, Paul A., Crisis in Command, Mismanagement in the Army, 1978

If the exercise is subsequently talked about in the officers' mess, it is probably worthwhile; if there is argument over it in the sergeants' mess, it is a good exercise; while if it should be mentioned in the corporals' room, it is an undoubted success. - Sir AP Wavell, in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, May 1933

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