Quotes - Officers (page 2)

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We left that day for battalion headquarters, where we were met by the [PPCLI] commanding officer, Colonel Stone. 'Welcome gentlemen, to the battalion,' he said, 'I want you to understand a few things; in this battalion platoon leaders are expendable (can be replaced). Your job is to lead; you will supply the dash and daring and I will supply the brains. Any questions? No! Then good luck." - Robert Hepenstall, Find the Dragon, The Canadian Army in Korea 1950 - 1953, 1995

As was the custom, officers who had distinguished themselves were mentioned by name in the general's account of the battle. In Napier's dispatch after the battle of Miani [17 February, 1843] he, of course, gave credit to individual officers for their valour and energy, but he also mentioned the names of non-commissioned officers and even privates and drummers. Never before in the history of the British army had private soldiers been so distinguished. And not only did he single out Europeans such as Private James O'Neil and Drummer Martin Delaney, but he also listed the names of Asiatic soldiers who had performed outstanding services during the battle, and Havildar Thackur Ram and Sowar Motee Sing were also honoured by a 'mention in dispatches'. - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972

Even when an officer is not serving with his regiment - and he may be absent from it on staff duties for most of his career - he retains his identification with it, wears its uniform and takes pride in it. If his regiment goes on active duty, he often begs to return and serve in it. Positions on the staff were much sought for, but many felt like Lieutenant William Hargood of the 1st Madras Fusiliers who while serving as aide-de-camp to General Havelock during the Mutiny wrote home that 'I very often long to be back with the Regiment, for, after all, next to your home, there is no place like your Regiment'. - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972

As the new officers came streaming in [in 1915-16], there was a wave of astonishment among the survivors of the old regulars. Here were men who had never sat in a saddle (except that of a bicycle), who had never swung from the chandeliers (and were not ashamed of it), who had never given orders to servants (and looked uncomfortable doing it now); here were men who actually sat about and read. And here they were in the regimental mess. - R. B. Gardner, The Big Push, 1961

Discipline begins in the Wardroom. I dread not the seamen. It is the insdiscreet conversations of the officers and their presumptuous discussions of the orders they receive that produce our ills. - Earl St. Vincent, quoted in E.C. Russell, Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Armed Forces,1980

He was taught the three arts of war, so much more necessary than musketry, field engineering or tactics. Or were they, perhaps, part of tactics? Wangling, Scrounging, and Winning. ... Wangling was the art of obtaining one's just due by unfair means. For instance, every officer and man of the B.E.F. had his allotted daily rations, his camp or billet, his turn for leave. In practice, to get these necessities, it was well to know the man who provided them and do him some small service-a bottle of whiskey, the loan of transport (if you had any) or of a fatigue party. Wangling extended to the lowest ranks. Men wangled from the N.C.O.s the better sorts of jam and extra turns off duty. ... Scrounging could be defined as obtaining that which one had not a shadow of a claim by unfair means. It was more insidious that as the Wangle, but just as necessary-men scrounged the best dug-outs off one another, or off neighbouring sections. N.C.O.s scrounged rum by keeping a thumb in the dipper while doling it out, Officers scrounged the best horse lines from other units. Colonials scrounged telephone wire to snare rabbits ... the Art of Winning. It may be defined as Stealing. More fully, it was the Art of obtaining that which one had no right to, for the sake of obtaining it, for the joy of possession. ... Some say it was simply the primeval joy of loot, ... - R.H. Morrison; quoted in Guy Chapman, OBE, MC (Ed), Vain Glory; A miscellany of the Great War 1914-1918, 1937/1968

"Captain is such a dashing title. I've always thought." She gave him a bright, brittle smile. "I mean, colonels and so on are always so stuffy, majors are pompous, but one always feels somehow that there is something delightfully dangerous about a captain." - Terry Pratchet, Guards, Guards

We all pulled what strings we could get a grip on [to rejoin our Regiments in France], with a fair measure of success, since the War Office, in the last days of Kitchener's dictatorship, was in considerable chaos. One of my friends overcalled his hand by appealing to a great-uncle whom he had never met, a very elderly field marshal, and received this reply or words to this effect: 'Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood acknowledges receipt of a letter from 2nd Lieutenant So-and-So, and begs to inform him that he (the Field Marshal) spent many years at the War Office combating the baleful effects of private influence'. - Charles Carrington, Soldier From the Wars Returning, 1965

The officers of each battalion were a close-knit band, who messed together, played together, and fought together. With rare exceptions the company grades were bachelors, and frequently only the colonel was married. Such a group might stay together for years with few changes occurring. There was little room for friction, and strife was rare. The only outcasts were the men with honorary commissions like Quartermasters James Pullen of the 1st Battalion and Edward Bloomfield of the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment. Essentially supply clerks, they had, like the riding masters in cavalry squadrons, been raised to their present positions after long service in the ranks of other regiments. They might look forward to promotion to honorary lieutenant, and even honorary major, but like the lieutenants of hospital orderlies they were not full members of the regimental messes and only dined with their colleagues on Guest Night. - Donald R. Morris, The Washing of the Spears; The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation, 1965

The battle didn't begin till Friday at dawn, so on Thursday Durley and I were free and we went up to look at the old Front Line. We agreed that it felt queer to be walking along no-man's-land and inspecting the old German trenches in a half-holiday mood. The ground was littered with unused ammunition, and a spirit of mischievous destruction possessed us. Pitching Stokes mortar shells down the dark and forbidding stairs of German dug-outs, we revelled in the boom of subterranean explosions. For a few minutes we felt as if we were getting a bit of our own back for what we'd endured opposite those trenches, and we chanced to be near the mine craters where the raid had failed. But soon we were being shouted at by an indignant Salvage Corps Officer, and we decamped before he could identify us. - Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, 1930

There had been an incident on the march that could have had tragic results. Two British officers had seen Private A.W. Belyea of D Company [of the Second (Special Service) Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment] grab a stray chicken that crossed his path. Looting was anathema to the army, and Belyea was court-martialled. To set an example for the troops the brigade was formed up in a hollow square to hear the verdict. For poor Belyea the ordeal was terrifying as he stood alone, head bowed, awaiting the decision of the court. The verdict was hardly in doubt, and the offence could draw the death penalty. The officers who made up the court realized the maximum punishment did not fit the crime. Belyea was confined to barracks for 56 days, a meaningless punishment on the veldt. (From a related footnote - ...Capt S.M. Rogers, who commanded D Company, told his men, "Now listen, boys, it wasn't for stealing the chicken that [Belyea] was going to be hung, it was for getting caught at it, so watch yourself.") - Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field; The Canadians in South Africa 1899-1902, 1996

Never allow yourself to become absorbed in the task you have assigned to a subordinate. If you assume the direction of a detachment, you lose your grasp of the proceedings as a whole. The business of the responsible officer is to control the entire concern so that the general combination of efforts shall be concentrated upon the particular object in view. Always command the whole of your company when you can, but never take executive command of any platoon of it. Your business is to give orders to your subordinates, but never to usurp their duties. You cannot direct the whole and at the same time command a part. By all means, being present at the critical juncture and seeing the opportunity, take care that it is seized upon; but let such things be incidents, interfering in no way with your general attitude. Tell Mr. Blank or Sergeant Atkins what to do and be content to see that he does it. - Lieut.-Colonel A.W.A. Pollock, Elementary Military Training, 1915

Officers are responsible, not only for the conduct of their men in battle, but also for their health and contentment when not fighting. An officer must be the last man to take shelter from fire, and the first to move forward. Similarly, he must be the last man to look after his own comfort at the close of a march. He must see that his men are cared for. The officer must constantly interest himself in the rations of the men. He should know his men so well that any sign of sickness or nervous strain will be apparent to him, and he can take such action as may be necessary. - George S. Patton, Jr., War as I Knew It, 1947

Speaking of Surprise, the Commandant said that the achievement of surprise involves taking risks; and the important thing is to take them with your eyes wide open. An officer must have the military knowledge which enables him to judge the extent of the risk. Sometimes big administrative risks are involved, as in the recent campaign in Libya. The enemy can usually see the sound safe course which is open to you: to surprise him, it may be necessary to do something which is "a little unsound." - Address by Lt.-Col. Simonds, Commandant, Canadian Junior War Staff Course, 12 April 1941 (as related by Major C.P Stacey, Hisorical Officer, C.M.H.Q.)

To square training with the reality of war it becomes a necessary part of the young officer's mental equipment for training to instill in him the full realization that in combat many things can and will go wrong without it being anyone's fault in particular. - S.L.A. Marshall, Colonel, AUS, Men against Fire; the Problem of Battle Command in Future War, 1947

The test of fitness to command is the ability to think clearly in the face of unexpected contingency or opportunity. Improvisation is of the essence of initiative in all combat just as initiative is the outward showing of the power of decision. It is a necessary cushion to give all young combat officers a profound understanding of this fact, for it is the first step toward endowing them with the kind of self-confidence which will make them fully communicative with their superiors when they engage the enemy. - S.L.A. Marshall, Colonel, AUS, Men against Fire; the Problem of Battle Command in Future War, 1947

"To-day I'm the poor devil of an Orderly Officer, all alone up here by myself, and responsible for 900 horses and 700 men. My first duties commenced this morning - I had to see that the fodder and oats were alright. Then I had to see that the 900 horses were properly watered and fed. Then I had to inspect the Canteen and men's dinner. Then the sentries and guard. Then I had to place the new picquet and guard and dismount the old one, I will soon have to attend Tattoo and again inspect the sentries, guard and prisoners and tomorrow morning I again have Stables, inspect the Huts and wash houses and also the Latrines. Then I'm off duty ..." - Hamilton Gault, in a letter from South Africa quoted in: Jeffery Williams, First in the Field; Gault of the Patricias, 1995


  1. Never do other people's work unless you are driven to it if you do, you will get an evil reputation for liking it.
  2. Always ask for leave at al times and in all places. In the end, you will acquire a kind of right to it.
  3. Remember that there is a time to work and a time to play. The time to work is when you are being watched.
  4. Abandon every hope of individuality. In the Service it is considered indecent, and verges on insubordination. Most young officers join with a distressing amount of "originality," and it is only on reaching the status of member of the Army Council that an officer can be said to be completely purged of it.

Study the fads of your superiors. If the General is looking on, be assiduously practising his little hobby. It does not matter how foolish it is - in fact the sillier it is the more he will like it, as he fully appreciates the fact that you are making a fool of yourself for his benefit. The same rule applies to the C.O.. Only in a lesser degree. The higher the rank, the more abandoned your antics should become. This is why so much leave is required in the Army, the mental strain on the zealous officer being excessive. - The Young Officer's Guide to Knowledge, by Senior Major, Fourth Edition, 1915

The Staff College has been devised to restrain and curb officers who are unable to remain at the official level of proficiency. - The Young Officer's Guide to Knowledge, by Senior Major, Fourth Edition, 1915

Thompson also saw the need for soldiers to be flexible on this idea: "Too much, however, has been claimed for theoretic discipline--not enough for intelligent individual action. No remark was oftener on the lips of officers during the war than this: 'Obey orders! I do your thinking for you.' But that soldier is best whose good sense tells him when to be merely a part of a machine and when not." - Gregory A. Coco, The Civil War Infantryman; In camp, on the march, and in battle., 1996

Such was the case in the story of two mounted officers during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. A Confederate from Tennessee found his regiment positioned directly across the battle lines from a New England unit. John Stevens, 5th Texas, who was stationed nearby, wrote that in the Federal regiment (both units were posted at Hamilton's Crossing about one-and-a-half miles below the town), was an officer who had attended the same school up north and was an intimate friend of the Tennesseean. They recognized each other from afar and began to taunt and menace each other until one charged toward the other and was met with a counter charge. Each was armed with a revolver and "begun circling and maneuvering, each shooting; and cursing.... This lasted for only a minute or two, but to the troops...it seemed as many hours. Finally the Confederate hit the horse of his antagonist a death shot, and then dispatched the rider. The Federal's horse--a large gray--lay there all during the winter. I saw it once every week for two months, as I went on picket duty. A member of the 7th Tennessee regiment,...told me that it was the most exciting scene one could possibly imagine, and such as he hoped would never be seen again. He said his entire command felt sympathy for the slain antagonist, but--such is Civil War." - Gregory A. Coco, The Civil War Infantryman; In camp, on the march, and in battle., 1996

Leaders create command climate. Positive leadership can eliminate micro-management, careerism, integrity violations and the zero defects mind-set. These attitudes are an unfortunate side effect of the turmoil created by the downsizing of our Army. These attitudes have appeared in the past-but we defeated them. We will do so again. - General Dennis J. Reimer, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, "Leadership for the 21st Century: Empowerment, Environment and the Golden Rule" - 1996 Military Review Article

The officers congregate about the pretentious building of the club, and here I find acquaintances gathered together from all the sentry beats of the Empire. - Winston S. Churchill, Ian Hamilton's March, 1900, as presented in Frontiers and Wars, 1962

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