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Title: The British Army From Within
Author: Vivian, Evelyn Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE BRITISH ARMY FROM WITHIN



    THE BRITISH ARMY
    FROM WITHIN

    BY
    E. CHARLES VIVIAN

    AUTHOR OF
    “PASSION FRUIT,” “DIVIDED WAYS,” ETC.


    HODDER AND STOUGHTON
    LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO
    MCMXIV



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER I
                                         PAGE
    “UBIQUE”: THE ARMY AS A WHOLE           9


    CHAPTER II

    THE WAY OF THE RECRUIT                 25


    CHAPTER III

    OFFICERS AND NON-COMS.                 46


    CHAPTER IV

    INFANTRY                               60


    CHAPTER V

    CAVALRY                                76


    CHAPTER VI

    ARTILLERY AND ENGINEERS                92


    CHAPTER VII

    IN CAMP                               106


    CHAPTER VIII

    MUSKETRY                              120


    CHAPTER IX

    THE INTERNAL ECONOMY OF THE ARMY      136


    CHAPTER X

    THE NEW ARMY                          158


    CHAPTER XI

    ACTIVE SERVICE                        169



CHAPTER I

“UBIQUE”: THE ARMY AS A WHOLE


On the badges of the corps of Engineers, and also on those of the Royal
Artillery, will be found the word “Ubique,” but it is a word that might
just as well be used with regard to the whole of the British Army,
which serves everywhere, does everything, undergoes every kind of
climate, and gains contact with every class of people. In this respect,
the British soldier enjoys a distinct advantage over the soldiers of
continental armies; he has a chance of seeing the world. India, Africa,
Egypt, the West Indies, Mauritius, and the Mediterranean stations are
open to him, and by the time he leaves the service he has at least had
the opportunity of becoming cosmopolitan in his tastes and ways--of
becoming a man of larger ideas and better grasp on the problems of life
than were his at the time when he took the oath and passed the doctor.
Of that phase, more anon.

It is of little use, in the present state of the British Army, to
attempt to define its extent or composition, for it is in such a
state of flux that the numbers of battalions, regiments, and batteries
of a year ago are as obsolete as the Snider rifle. There used to
be 157 battalions of infantry, 31 regiments of cavalry, and about
180 batteries of horse and field artillery, together with about 100
companies and 9 mountain batteries of Royal Garrison Artillery, forming
the principal strength of the British Army. To these must be added the
Royal Engineers, the Army Service Corps, the Royal Ordnance Department,
the R.A.M.C., the Army Pay Corps, and other non-combatant units
necessary to the domestic and general internal working of an army.
To-day these various forces are increased to such an extent that no man
outside the War Office can tell the strength of infantry, cavalry, and
artillery; no man, either, can tell what will be the permanent strength
of the Army on a peace footing, when the present urgent need for men no
longer exists, and there is only to be considered the maintenance of a
force sufficient for the garrisoning of colonial and foreign stations
and for ordinary defensive needs at home.

Generally speaking, the soldier at home, no matter to what arm or
branch of the service he belongs, undergoes a continuous training. It
takes three years to make an infantryman fully efficient, five years
to make a cavalryman thoroughly conversant with his many duties, and
five years or more to teach a gunner his business. The raw material
from which the Army is recruited is mixed and sometimes uneducated
stuff, and, in addition to this, recruits are enlisted at an age when
they must be taught everything--they are past the age of the schoolboy
who absorbs tuition readily and with little trouble to his instructors,
and they have not attained to such an age as will permit them to take
their work really seriously. This, of course, does not apply to a time
of great national emergency, when the men coming to the colours are
actuated by the highest possible motives, eager to fit themselves for
the work in hand, and bent on getting fit for active service in the
shortest possible time. In times of peace, recruits join the colours
from many motives--pure patriotism is not a common one--and, in
consequence, the hard realities of soldiering in peace time disillusion
them to such an extent that they are difficult to teach, and thus need
the full term of training for full efficiency. Half the work of their
instructors consists in getting them into the proper frame of mind
and giving them that _esprit de corps_ which is essential to the war
fitness of a voluntary army.

At the best, there is much in the work that a soldier is called on
to do which is beyond his understanding, in the first years of his
service. One consequence of this is that he learns to do things without
questioning their meaning, and thus acquires a habit of obeying;
this, up to a few years ago, was the object of military training--to
instil into the soldier unquestioning obedience to orders, and the
sentence--“obedience is the first duty of the soldier,” gained currency
and labelled the soldier as a mere cog in a great machine, one whose
duty lay in obeying as did that Roman sentinel at Pompeii. One of
the chief lessons of the South African war, however, was that such
obedience was no longer the first duty of the soldier; he must obey,
no less than before, but scientific warfare demands an understanding
obedience, and not the unquestioning, die-at-his-post fidelity of old
time. The recruit of to-day must be taught not only to obey, but to
understand, and by that fact the work of his instructors, and his own
work as well, are largely increased. “Obedience” was the watchword of
yesterday. “Obedience and initiative” is the phrase of to-day.

To come down to concrete facts as regards the actual composition
and general duties of the Army. The main station in England is
Aldershot, headquarters of the first Army Corps. Theoretically, in
all cases of national emergency, the Aldershot Command is first to
move, and the units composing it are expected to be able to mobilise
for active service at twenty-four hours’ notice. Next in importance
are Colchester, Shorncliffe, York, and Bulford--the centre of the
Salisbury Plain area under military control. In Ireland the principal
stations are Dublin and the Curragh. In these stations, under normal
circumstances, the furlough season begins at Christmas time and lasts
up to the following March; for this period men are granted leave in
batches, and drill and training for those who remain in barracks while
the others take their holidays is somewhat relaxed. Serious training
begins in March, when the corporals, sergeants, and troop and section
officers begin to lick their squads, sections, and troops into shape.
Following on this comes company training for the infantry, squadron
training for the cavalry, and battery training for the artillery,
and this in turn is followed by battalion training for infantry,
regimental training for cavalry, and brigade training for artillery.
Somewhere during the period taken up before the beginning of regimental
and battalion training, musketry has to be fitted in, and, as the
ranges cannot accommodate all the men at once, this has to be done
by squadrons and companies, while those not engaged in perfecting
their shooting continue with their other training. At the conclusion
of the training of units--regiments, battalions, and brigades of
artillery--brigade and divisional training is begun, and then manœuvres
follow, in which the troops are given opportunities of learning the
working of an army corps, as well as getting practical experience of
camp life under conditions as near those obtaining on active service as
circumstances will admit. By the time all this has been completed, the
furlough season starts again, and the round begins once more with a few
more recruits to train, a few old soldiers missing from the ranks.

In addition to the regular course of training that lasts through the
year and goes on from year to year, there are various “courses” to be
undergone in order to keep the departmental staff of each unit up to
strength. Thus, in the infantry, signallers must be specially trained,
and pioneers, who do all the sanitary work of their units, must be
taught their duties, while musketry instructors and drill instructors
have to be selected and taught their duties. Each unit, except as
regards medical service and a few things totally out of its range
of activity, is self-contained and self-supporting, and thus it is
necessary that it should train its own instructors and its own special
men for special work, together with understudies to take their places
in case of casualties. The cavalry trains its own signallers, scouts,
shoeing smiths, cooks, pioneers, and to a certain extent medical
orderlies. The artillery does likewise, and in addition keeps up a
staff of artificers to attend to minor needs of the guns--men capable
of repairing breakages in the field, as far as this is possible.
Wherever horses are concerned, too, saddlers must be trained to keep
leather work in repair.

The Engineers, a body of men who seldom get the recognition their work
deserves, have to train in telegraphy, bridge-building, construction
and demolition of all things, from a regular defensive fortification
to a field kitchen, and many other things incidental to the smooth
working of an army in the field. Departmental corps, such as the Army
Service, Army Ordnance, and R.A.M.C., not only train but exercise their
functions in a practical way, for in peace time an army must be fed,
equipped, and doctored, just the same as in war--except that in the
latter case its requirements are more strenuous. The ancient belief
entertained by civilians to the effect that the Army is a profession
of laziness is thoroughly exploded as soon as one passes through the
barrack gates, for the Army as a whole works as hard as, if not harder
than the average man in equivalent stations of civilian life.

In foreign and colonial stations, the work goes on just the same, as
far as limitations of climate will permit. In “plains” stations in
India, the heat of the summer months renders training during the day
impossible, and men get their work over, for the most part, in the
very early morning, or in the cool of the evening. Malta and Gibraltar
are subject to the same limitations in a lesser degree, as is South
Africa, while Mauritius and minor colonial stations have their own
ways. But, no matter where the unit concerned may be, it works--fitness
is dependent on work, and no unit is allowed to get rusty, while the
variety of work involved prevents men from getting stale.

At the same time, there is plenty of relaxation and sport as well as
work in the routine of military life. Set a battalion down in a new
station, and the chances are ten to one that on the evening of their
arrival the men will be kicking a football about. Each company and
squadron, and each battery of artillery as well, has its own sports
fund and sports club, which keeps going the national games in the unit
concerned. Men work hard and play hard, and their play is made to help
their work. Infantry units organise cross-country races which help
enormously in maintaining the men in fit marching condition; cavalry
units get up scouting competitions and other sporting fixtures based on
work--to say nothing of tent pegging, lemon cutting, and other forms of
military sport of which the Royal Military Tournament annually affords
examples, while shooting ranges form fields for weekly competitions at
such times as they are not in use for annual musketry courses.

The actual composition of the various units composing the British Army
differs from that of continental armies, the only units of strength
which are identical being those of the army corps, and the division,
which is half an army corps. The next unit in the scale is the
brigade, which is composed of three batteries of field or two of horse
artillery, three regiments of cavalry, or four battalions of infantry.
A division is made up of brigades, which vary in number and composition
according to the work which that particular division will be expected
to accomplish--there is a standard for the composition of the division,
but changes now in process of taking place in the composition of the
whole army render it unsafe to quote any standard as definite. A normal
division, certainly, is composed of cavalry, artillery, and infantry in
certain strengths, together with non-combatants and supply units making
up its total strength to anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 men.

The unit of strength in which figures become definite is the brigade of
artillery, the regiment of cavalry, and the battalion of infantry. The
peace strength of each of these units may be regarded, as a rule, as
from 10 to 20 per cent. over the war strength, and the war strength is
as follows:

For cavalry, a regiment consists of about 620 officers and men of all
ranks; this body is divided into three service squadrons, each of an
approximate strength of 160 officers, non-commissioned officers, and
men, the remainder of the strength of the unit forming the “reserve
squadron,” devoted to the headquarters staff--the commanding officer
and administrative staff of the regiment, as well as the “pom-pom” or
one-pounder quick-firer, of which one is included in the establishment
of every cavalry regiment. In this connection it is probable that the
experiences of the present European war will lead to the adoption of
a greater number of these quick-firers, and in future each cavalry
regiment will probably have at least two “pom-poms” as part of its
regular equipment. The possession of these, of course, involves the
training of a gun crew for each weapon--a full complement of gunners
and drivers.

For artillery, a brigade is divided into three batteries, each of an
approximate strength of 150 men and six guns (the artillery battery
corresponds to the cavalry squadron and to the infantry company)
and, in addition, one ammunition column, together with transport
and auxiliary staff, making up a total of about 600 officers,
non-commissioned officers, and men. This refers to the field artillery,
which forms the bulk of the British artillery strength, and is armed
with 18½-pounder quick-firing guns. The Royal Horse Artillery is
armed with a lighter gun, and is used mainly as support to cavalry
in single batteries. It is so constituted as to be more mobile and
capable of rendering quicker service than the R.F.A. Horse artillery
is hardly ever constituted into brigades, as is the field artillery.
Horse artillery, again, has no counterpart in the armies of Continental
nations, so far as mobility and quality of armament are in question.

Infantry reckons its numbers by battalions, of which the war strength
is approximately 1010 officers, non-commissioned officers, and men
per battalion. Each battalion is divided into four double companies,
the “double-company system” having been adopted in order to compensate
for a certain shortage of officers. The double company may be reckoned
at 240 officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, roughly, and
the remainder of the total is taken up by two maxim-gun sections and
the headquarters staff of the unit. As in the case of the cavalry
“pom-pom,” it is more than likely that the number of maxims or
machine-guns per battalion will be increased, as a result of the
experiences gained in the present Continental war.

Engineers and departmental units are divided into companies of varying
strengths, according to the part they are called on to play when the
division is constituted. Thus it is self-evident that an average
division will require more Engineers, who do all the field work of
construction and demolition, than it will Army Ordnance men, who attend
to the equipment of the division--fitting out with clothing, provision
of transport vehicles, etc. The number of men of departmental corps
allotted to each division in the field varies with the strength of the
division and with its distance from its base of supplies.

There is a permanent and outstanding difference between the British
Army as a whole and any Continental army as a whole. In the case of
the Continental army--no matter which one is chosen for purposes of
comparison, the conscript system renders it a part of the nation
concerned, identifies the army with the nation, and incidentally takes
out the element of freedom. A man in a conscript army is serving
because he must, and, no matter how patriotic he may be, there are
times when this is brought home to him very forcibly by the discipline
without which no army could exist. In the British Army, on the other
hand, the men serving are there by their own choice; this fact gives
them a sense that the discipline, no matter how distasteful it may be,
is a necessity to their training--by their enlistment they chose to
undergo it. But the British Army, until the present war linked it on
to the man in the street, was not a part of the nation, but a thing
distinct from the nation; it was a profession apart, and none too
enviable a profession, in the opinion of many, but something to be
avoided by men in equivalent walks of civilian life.

There are advantages as well as disadvantages in the voluntary system
by which our Army is raised and maintained. As an advantage may be
set first the spirit of the men; having enlisted voluntarily, and
ascertained by experience that they must make the best of it or be
considered utterly worthless, men in a voluntary army gain a spirit
that conscripts can never attain. They are soldiers of their own
free will, with regimental traditions to maintain, and practice has
demonstrated that they form the finest fighting body, as a whole, among
all the armies of the world. On the other hand, they have no political
significance, and are but little understood, as regards their needs
and the constitution of the force to which they belong. In France, for
instance, the rule is “every citizen a soldier,” and it is a rule which
is observed with but very few exceptions. The result is that every
citizen who has been a soldier is also a voter, and in the matter of
army requirements he votes in an understanding way, while the British
voter, with the exception of the small percentage who have served in
the Army, is as a rule unmoved by Army needs and questions. To this
extent the Army suffers from the voluntary system, though the quality
of the Army itself under present voluntary conditions may be held to
compensate for this. It is doubtful whether it does compensate.

Further, the voluntary system makes of life in the ranks a totally
different thing from civilian life. In conscript armies the discipline
to which men are subjected makes their life different from that of
their civilian days, but not to such an extent as in the voluntary
British Army. The civilian can never quite understand the soldier;
Kipling came nearer than any other civilian in his understanding, but
even he failed altogether to appreciate the soldier of to-day--perhaps
he had a better understanding of the soldier of the ’eighties and
’nineties, before the South African war had come to awaken the Army to
the need for individual training and the development of initiative.
However that may be, no man has yet written of the soldier as he really
is, because the task has been usually attempted by civilians, to whom
the soldier rarely shows his real self. Soldiers have themselves given
us glimpses of their real life, but usually they have specialised
on the dramatic and the picturesque. It is necessary, if one would
understand the soldier and his inner life, that one should have a
grasp of the monotony of soldiering, the drill and riding school, the
barrack-room routine, and all that makes up the daily life, as well as
the exceptional and picturesque.

In the following chapters, showing as far as possible the inner life
of the Army from the point of view of the soldier, an attempt has
been made to show the average of life in each branch of the service.
Exceptions occur: the quality of the commanding officer makes all the
difference in the life of the unit which he commands; again, apart
from the influence exercised by the personality of the commanding
officer, that of the company or squadron officer is a very potent
factor in the lives of the men under his command. The British Army,
fine fighting machine though it is, is not perfect, and there are
instances of bad commanding officers, bad squadron and company
officers, just as there are instances of superlatively good ones.
Between these is the influence exerted by the mass on the mass, from
which an average picture may be drawn.

That picture is the portrait of the British soldier, second to none.



CHAPTER II

THE WAY OF THE RECRUIT


The way of the recruit, though still a hard one, is not so hard as
it used to be, for, especially in the cavalry and artillery, various
modifications have been introduced by which the youngster is broken in
gradually to his work. This is not all to the good, for under the new
way of working the training which precedes “dismissal” from recruit’s
training to the standing of a trained soldier takes longer, and,
submitting the recruit to a less strenuous form of life for the period
through which it lasts, does not produce quite so handy and quick a
man as the one who was kept at it from dawn till dark, with liberty at
the end of his official day’s work to clean up equipment for the next
day. Still, the annual training of the “dismissed” soldier is a more
strenuous business now than in old time, so probably the final result
is about the same.

The recruit’s first requirements, after he has interviewed the
recruiting sergeant on the subject of enlistment is to take the
oath--a very quick and simple matter--and then to pass the doctor,
which is not so simple. The recruit is stripped, sounded, tested for
full physical efficiency, and made to pass tests in eyesight and
breathing which, if he emerges satisfactorily, proclaim him as near
physical perfection as humanity can get without a course of physical
culture--and that course is administered during his first year of
service. Kept under the wing of the recruiting sergeant for a matter of
hours or days, as the case may be, the recruit is at last drafted off
to his depot, or direct to his unit, where his real training begins in
earnest.

We may take the case of a recruit who had enlisted from mixed motives,
arrived at a station whence he had to make his way to barracks in the
evening, in order to begin his new life; here are his impressions of
beginning life in the Army.

He went up a hill, and along a muddy lane, and, arriving at
the barracks, inquired, as he had been told to do, for the
quartermaster-sergeant of “C” Squadron. He was directed to the
quartermaster-sergeant’s office, and, on arrival there, was asked
his name and the nature of his business by a young corporal who took
life as a joke and regarded recruits as a special form of food for
amusement. Having ascertained the name of the recruit, the corporal,
who was a kindly fellow at heart, took him down to the regimental
coffee bar and provided him with a meal of cold meat, bread, and
coffee--at the squadron’s expense, of course, for the provision of the
meal was a matter of duty. The corporal then indicated the room in
which the recruit was to sleep, and left him.

The recruit opened the door of the room, and looked in. It was a long
room, with a row of narrow beds down each side, and in the middle two
tables on iron trestles, whereon were several basins. On almost every
bed sat a man, busily engaged in cleaning some article of clothing or
equipment; some were cleaning buttons, some were pipeclaying belts,
some were engaged with sword-hilts and brick-dust, some were cleaning
boots--all were cleaning up as if their lives depended on it, for
“lights out” would be sounded at a quarter-past ten, and it was already
past nine o’clock. When they saw the recruit, they gave him greeting.
“Here’s another one!” they cried. “Here’s another victim!” and other
phrases which led this particular recruit to think, quite erroneously,
that he had come to something very bad indeed. Two or three were
singing, with more noise than melody, a song which was very old when
Queen Anne died--it was one of the ditties of the regiment, sung by its
men on all possible and most impossible occasions. One man shouted to
the recruit that he had “better flap before he drew his issue,” and
that he could not understand at all. Translated into civilian language,
it meant that he had better desert before he exchanged his civilian
clothing for regimental attire, but this he learned later. They seemed
a jolly crowd, very fond of flavouring their language with words which,
in civilian estimation, were terms of abuse, but passed as common
currency here.

The recruit stood wondering--out of all these beds, there seemed to
be no bed for him. After a minute or two, however, the corporal in
charge of the room came up to him, and pointed out to him a bed in one
corner of the room; its usual occupant was on guard for twenty-four
hours, and the recruit was informed that he could occupy that bed for
the night. In the morning he could go to the quartermaster’s store and
draw blankets, sheets, a pillow, and “biscuits” for his own use. After
that, he would be allotted a bed-cot to himself. Biscuits, it must be
explained, are square mattresses of coir, of which three, placed end to
end, form a full-sized mattress for a military bed-cot.

Sitting on the borrowed bed-cot, the recruit was able to take a good
look round. The ways of these men, their quickness in cleaning and
polishing articles of equipment, were worth watching, he decided. They
joked and chaffed each other, they sang scraps of songs, allegedly
pathetic and allegedly humorous; they shouted from one end of the room
to the other in order to carry on conversations; they called the Army
names, they called each other names, and they called individuals who
were evidently absent yet more names, none of them complimentary. They
made a lot of noise, and in that noise one of them, having finished his
cleaning, slept; when he snored, one of his comrades threw a boot at
him, and, since the boot hit him, he woke up and looked round, but in
vain. Therefore he calmly went to sleep again, but this time he did not
snore. The recruit, who had come out of an ordinary civilian home, and
hitherto had had only the vaguest of notions as to what the Army was
really like, wondered if he were dreaming, and then realised that he
himself was one of these men, since he had voluntarily given up certain
years of his life to their business. With that reflection he undressed
and got into bed. After “lights-out” had sounded and been promptly
obeyed, he went to sleep....

His impressions are typical, and his introduction to the barrack-room
may serve to record the view gained by the majority of those who
enlist: that first glimpse of military life is something utterly
strange and incomprehensible, and the recruit sleeps his first
night in barracks--or stays awake--bewildered by the novelty of his
surroundings, and a little afraid.

In a few days the recruit begins to feel a little more at home in his
new surroundings. One of his first ordeals is that of being fitted with
clothing, and with few exceptions, all his clothing is ready-made,
for the quartermaster’s store of a unit contains a variety of sizes
and fittings of every article required, and from among these a man
must be fitted out from head to foot. The regimental master-tailor
attends at the clothes’ fitting, and makes notes of alterations
required--shortening or lengthening sleeves, letting out here, and
taking in there. When clothes and boots have been fitted, the recruit
is issued a “small kit,” consisting of brushes and cleaning materials
for himself and his clothes and equipment, even unto a toothbrush and
a comb. As a rule, he omits the ceremony of locking these things away
in his box when he returns to the barrack-room, with the result that
most of them are missing when he looks on the shelf or in the box where
he placed them. For, in a barrack-room, although all things are not
common, the property of the recruit is fair game, and he catches who
can.

Gradually, as the recruit learns the need for taking care of such
property as he wishes to retain, he also learns barrack-room slang and
phrasing. In the Army, one is never late: one is “pushed.” One does
not eat, but one “scoffs.” A man who dodges work is said to “swing
the lead,” and there is no such thing as work, for it is “graft,” or
“kom.” Practically every man, too, has his nickname: all Clarkes are
“Nobby,” all Palmers are “Pedlar,” all Welshmen in other than Welsh
regiments are “Taffy,” all Robinsons are “Jack,” and every surname in
like fashion has its regular nickname. But, contrary to the belief
entertained by the average civilian, the soldier does not readily take
to nicknames for his superiors. For his own officers he sometimes finds
equivalents to their names through their personal peculiarities, but
if one spoke to a soldier of “K. of K.,” the soldier would request an
explanation, while “Bobs” for Lord Roberts might be understood, but
would not be appreciated. The general officer and the superior worthy
of respect gets his full title from the soldier at all times, and
nicknames, except for comrades of the same company or squadron, form a
mark of contempt, especially when applied to commissioned officers.
Sometimes the soldier finds a nickname for a comrade out of a personal
peculiarity, as when one is particularly mean he gets the name of
“Shonk,” or “Shonkie,” which is equivalent to “Jew,” with a reference
to usury and extortion.

If a regimental officer gets a nickname, it may be generally assumed
that he is not held in very great respect by his men. “Bulgy,” of whom
more anon, was a very fat young lieutenant with more bulk than brains;
“Duffer” was another lieutenant, and his title explains itself--it was
always used in conjunction with his surname; “Bouncer” was a major who
had attained his rank by accident, and left the service because he
knew it was hopeless to anticipate further promotion. The officer who
commands the respect of his men does not get nicknamed, and the recruit
very soon learns to call his superiors by their proper names when he
has occasion to mention superior officers in course of conversation
with his comrades.

As a rule, the recruit is subjected to one or more practical jokes by
his comrades in his early days as a soldier. In cavalry regiments, a
favourite form of joke is to get the recruit to go to the farrier-major
for his “shoeing-money,” a mythical allowance which, it is alleged,
every recruit receives at the beginning of his service. The pretext
might appear a bit thin if only one man were concerned in the
deception, but the recruit is assured by a whole barrack-roomful of
soldiers that “it’s a fact, and no hank,” and in about five cases out
of ten he goes to the farrier-major, who, entering into the spirit of
the thing, sends the victim in to the orderly-room sergeant or the
provost-sergeant, and from here the recruit goes to the next official
chosen, until he finds out the hoax. If a non-commissioned officer can
be found with the same sense of humour as induced the shoeing-money
hoax, he--usually a lance-corporal--orders the recruit to go to the
sergeant-major or some other highly placed non-com. for “the key of
the square.” As a rule, this request from the recruit provokes the
sergeant-major to wrath, and the poor recruit gets a hot time. There
is a legend of a recruit having been sent to the quartermaster’s store
to get his mouth measured for a spoon, but it may be regarded as
legend pure and simple, for there are limits to the credulity, even,
of recruits, though authenticated instances of hoaxes which have been
practised show that much may be done by means of an earnest manner and
the thorough preservation of gravity in giving recommendations to the
victim. Many a man has gone to the armourer to get his spurs fitted,
and probably more will go yet.

If a civilian takes a thorough dislike to his work, he has always the
opportunity of quitting it; if he fails to satisfy his employers, he
is either warned or dismissed. In the Army, the man who dislikes his
work has to pocket the dislike and go on with the work, while if his
employers, the regimental authorities, have any fault to find with him,
they do not express it by dismissal until various forms and quantities
of punishment for slackness have been resorted to. The recruit gets
far more punishments than the old soldier, for the latter has learned
what to do and what to avoid, in order to make life simple for himself;
his punishments usually arise out of looking on the beer when it is
brown to an extent incompatible with the fulfilment of his duties, and,
when sober, he generally manages to evade “office” and its results.
But the recruit finds that the corporal in charge of his room, the
drill instructor in charge of him at drill, the sergeant in charge
of his section or troop, the non-commissioned officer under whose
supervision he does his fatigues, and a host of other superiors, are
all capable of either placing him in the guard-room to await trial or
of informing him that he is under open arrest, and equally liable for
trial--and this for offences which would not count as such in civilian
life, for three-quarters of the military “crimes” are not crimes at all
in the civil code. Being late on parade, a dirty button--that is, a
button not sufficiently brilliant in its polish--the need of a shave,
a hasty word to one in authority, and half a hundred other apparent
trivialities, form grounds for “wheeling a man up” or “running him in.”
And the guard-room to which he retires is the “clink,” while, if he
is so persistent in the commission of offences as to merit detention,
the military form of imprisonment, he is said to go to the “glass
house”--that is, he is sent to the detention barracks for the term to
which he is sentenced--and his punishment is spoken of as “cells,”
and never anything else. A minor form of punishment, “confined to
barracks,” or “defaulters’,” involves the doing of the regiment’s dirty
work in the few hours usually devoted to relaxation, with drill in full
marching order for an hour every night, and answering one’s name at the
guard-room at stated intervals throughout the afternoon and evening, in
order to prevent the delinquent from leaving barracks. This the soldier
calls “doing jankers,” and the bugle or trumpet call which orders him
out on the defaulters’ parade is known as “Paddy Doyle”--heaven only
knows for what reason, unless one Paddy Doyle was a notorious offender
against military discipline in far-back times, and his reputation has
survived his personal characteristics in the memory of the soldier.

The accused, whoever he may be, is paraded first before his company,
squadron, or battery officer, and the charge against him is read out.
First evidence is taken from the superior officer who makes the charge,
and second evidence from anyone who may have been witness to the
occurrence which has caused the trouble. Then the accused is asked what
he has to say in mitigation of his offence, and if he is wise, unless
the accusation is very unjust indeed, he answers--“Nothing, sir.” Then,
if the case is a minor one, the company or squadron or battery officer
delivers sentence. If, however, the crime is one meriting a punishment
exceeding “seven days confined to barracks,” the case is beyond the
jurisdiction of the junior officer, and must be sent to the officer
commanding the regiment or battalion or artillery brigade for trial. In
that case, the offender is paraded with an escort of a non-commissioned
officer and man, and marched on to the verandah of the regimental
orderly room when “office” sounds--almost always at eleven o’clock
in the morning. When the colonel commanding the unit--or, in case of
his absence, his deputy--decrees, the offender is marched into the
presence of his judge; the adjutant of the regiment reads the charge,
the evidence is stated as in the case of trial by a company or squadron
officer, and the colonel pronounces his verdict.

Acquittals are rare; not that there is any injustice, but it is
assumed, and usually with good reason, that if a man is “wheeled up”
he has been doing something he ought not to have done. Then, too, the
soldier’s explanations of how he came to get into trouble are far too
plausible; officers with experience of the soldier and his ways come
to understand that he can explain away anything and find an excuse
for everything. It is safe, in the majority of cases, to take a harsh
view. However, the punishments inflicted are, in the majority of
cases, light: “jankers,” though uncomfortable, is not degrading to any
great extent, and the man who has had a taste or two of this wholesome
corrective will usually be a more careful if not a better soldier in
future.

“Cells” is a different matter. Not that it lowers a man to any extent
in the estimation of his comrades, but it is a painful experience,
practically corresponding to the imprisonment with hard labour to
which a civilian misdemeanant is subjected. It involves also total loss
of pay from the time of arrest to the end of the period of punishment,
while confinement to barracks involves only the actual punishment, and,
unless the crime is “absence,” there is no loss of pay. Drunkenness
is punished by an officially graded system of fines, as well as by
“jankers” or “cells.”

The average man, however, performs work of average quality, avoids
drunkenness, and keeps to time, the result being that he does not
undergo punishment. Barrack-room life, for the recruit, is a fairly
simple matter. He makes his own bed, and sweeps the floor round it.
He folds his blankets and sheets to the prescribed pattern; the way
in which he folds his kit and clothing, also, is regulated for him by
the company or squadron authorities, and, for the rest, he is kept too
busy throughout the day at drill, and too busy throughout the evening
in preparing for the next day’s drill, to get into mischief to any
appreciable extent. The recruit who involves himself in “crime” is,
more often than not, looking for trouble.

It has already been stated that a full day’s work for the recruit is a
strenuous business. If we take the average day of a recruit in, say, a
cavalry regiment, and follow him from réveillé to “lights out,” it will
be seen that he is kept quite sufficiently busy.

Réveillé sounds anywhere between 4.30 and 6.30 a.m., according to the
season of the year, and, before the sound of the trumpet has ceased
the corporal in charge of the room will be heard inviting his men to
“Show a leg, there!” The invitation is promptly complied with, for in
a space of fifteen minutes all the men in the room have to dress, wash
if they feel inclined to, and get out on early morning stable parade to
answer their names. They are then marched down to stables, where they
turn out the stable bedding and groom their horses for about an hour.
The horses are then taken out to water, returned to stables, and fed,
and the men file back to their rooms to get breakfast and prepare for
the morning’s drill. This latter involves a complete change of clothing
from the rough canvas stable outfit to clean service dress and putties
for riding-school use. The riding-school lesson is usually over by
half-past ten, and after this the recruit takes his horse back to the
stables, off-saddles, and returns to the barrack-room to change into
canvas clothing once more, and enjoy the ten minutes, more or less, of
relaxation that falls to him before the trumpeter sounds “stables.”
Going to stables again, the men groom their horses, and when these
have been passed as clean by the troop sergeant or troop officer the
troopers set to work and clean steel work and leather. The way in which
this is done in the Army may be judged from the fact that, after a
morning’s parade, it takes a full hour to clean saddle and head dress
and render them fit for inspection. It is one o’clock before midday
stables is finished with, and then of course it is time for dinner.

For this principal meal of the day one hour is allowed; but that hour
includes the getting ready for the afternoon parade for foot drill,
in which the cavalry recruit is taught the use of the sword and all
movements that he will have to perform dismounted. This lasts an
hour or thereabouts, and is followed by a return to the barrack-room
and another change of clothing, this time into gymnasium outfit. The
recruit is then marched to the gymnasium, where, for the space of
another hour, the gymnastic instructor has his turn at licking the raw
material into shape. Marched back to the barrack-room once more, the
recruit is free to devote what remains to him of the minutes before
five o’clock to cleaning the spurs, sword, etc., which have become
soiled by the morning’s riding-school work. At five “stables” sounds
again; the orders for the day are read out on parade, and the men march
to stables to groom, bed down, water, and feed their horses, a business
to which an hour is devoted. Tea follows, and then, unless the recruit
has been warned for night guard, he is free to complete the preparation
of his equipment for the next day’s work, and use what little spare
time is left in such relaxation as may please him.

In the infantry the number of parades done during the day is about
the same; there is, of course, no “stables,” but the time which the
cavalryman devotes to this is taken up by musketry instruction, foot
drill, and fatigues. In the artillery there is more to learn than in
the cavalry, for a driver has to learn to drive the horse he rides,
and lead another one as well, while the gunner has plenty to keep him
busy in the mechanism of his gun, its cleaning, and the various duties
connected with it.

To the recruit the perpetual cleaning, polishing, burnishing, and
scouring are naturally somewhat irksome; and it is not until a man has
undergone the whole of his recruits’ training that he begins dimly to
understand the extreme delicacy and fineness of the instruments of
his trade--or profession. He comes gradually to realise that a rifle
is a very delicate piece of mechanism; a spot of rust on a sword may
impair the efficiency of the blade, if allowed to remain and eat in;
while a big gun is a complicated piece of machinery needing as much
care as a repeater watch, if it is to work efficiently, and a horse
is as helpless and needs as much care as a baby. At first sight there
seems no need for the eternal cleaning of buttons, polishing of spurs,
and other trivial items of work which enter into the daily life of a
soldier, but all these things are directed to the one end of making the
man careful of trifles and thoroughly efficient in every detail of his
work.

Old soldiers, having finished with foot drill (known in the
barrack-room as “square”) and with riding school (which is allowed
to keep its name), have a way of looking down on recruits; the chief
aim of the recruit, if he be a normal man, is to get “dismissed” from
riding school, square, and gymnasium, and the attitude of the old
soldier encourages this ambition. Usually a recruit is placed under
an old soldier for tuition in his work, and it depends very much on
the quality of the old hands in a barrack-room as to what quality of
trained man is turned out therefrom. Service counts more than personal
worth, and in fact more than anything else in barrack-room life. The
man with two years’ service will get into trouble sooner or later if
he ventures to dictate to the man of three years’ or more service,
whatever the relative mental qualifications of the two men concerned
may be. “Before you came up,” or “before you enlisted,” are the most
crushing phrases that can be applied to a fellow soldier, and no amount
of efficiency atones for lack of years to count toward transfer to the
Reserve or discharge from the service to pension.

So far as the infantry recruit is concerned, foot drill and musketry,
together with a certain amount of fatigues, comprise the day’s routine.
With foot drill may be bracketed bayonet drill, in which the recruit
is taught the various thrusts and parries which can be made with that
weapon for which the British infantryman has been famed since before
Wellington’s time. Both in the cavalry and infantry, every man has to
fire a musketry course once a year; the recruit’s course of musketry,
however, is a more detailed and, in a way, a more instructive business
than the course which the trained man has to undergo. The recruit has
to be taught that squeezing motion for the trigger which does not
disturb the aim of the rifle; he has to be taught, also, the extreme
care with which a rifle must be handled, cleaned, and kept. It may be
said that the recruits’ course is designed to lay the foundation on
which the trained man’s course of musketry is built, and at the end of
the recruits’ course the men who have undergone it are graded off into
first, second, and third class shots, while “marksmen” are super-firsts.

On the whole the first year of a man’s service is the hardest of any,
so far as peace soldiering is concerned. There is more reason in this
than appears on the surface. A recruit joins the army somewhere about
the age of twenty--the official limit is from eighteen to twenty-five;
it is evident that in his first year of service a man is at such a
stage of muscular and mental growth as to render him capable of being
moulded much more readily than in the later military years. It is best
that he should be shaped, as far as possible, while he is yet not quite
formed and set, and, though the process of shaping may involve what
looks like an undue amount of physical exertion, it is, in reality, not
beyond the capabilities of such men as doctors pass into the service.
It is true that the percentage of cases of heart disease occurring
in the British Army is rather a high one, but this is due not to the
strenuous training, but in many cases to excessive cigarette-smoking
and in others to the strained posture of “attention,” combined with
predisposition to the disease. The recruit has a hard time, certainly,
but many men work harder, and the years of service which follow on the
strenuous period of recruits’ training are more enjoyable by contrast.



CHAPTER III

OFFICERS AND NON-COMS.


The higher ranks of officers have very little to do with the daily
life of the soldier. Two or three times a year the general officer
commanding the station comes round on a tour of inspection, while other
general officers and inspecting officers pay visits at times. The
highest rank, however, with which the soldier is brought in frequent
contact is the commanding officer of his own regiment or battalion.
This post is usually held by a lieutenant-colonel, as by the time an
officer has attained to a full colonelcy he is either posted to the
staff or passed out from the service to half-pay under the age limit.

By the time a man has reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel he is, as
a rule, far more conversant with the ways and habits of the soldier
than the soldier himself is willing to admit. It would surprise men, in
the majority of cases, if they could be made to realise how intimately
the “old man” knows his regiment. The “old man” is responsible for the
efficiency of the regiment in every detail, since, as its head, he is
responsible for the efficiency of the officers controlling the various
departments. He is assisted in his work by the second-in-command, who
is usually a major, and is not attached to any particular squadron
or company, but is responsible for the internal working and domestic
arrangements incidental to the life of his unit. These two are assisted
in their work by the adjutant, a junior officer, sometimes captain
and sometimes lieutenant, who holds his post for a stated term, and
during his adjutancy is expected to qualify fully in the headquarters
staff work which the conduct of a military unit involves. So far as
commissioned officers are concerned, these three form the headquarters
staff; it must not be overlooked, however, that the quartermaster,
who is either a lieutenant or a captain, and has won his commission
from the ranks in the majority of cases, is also unattached to any
particular squadron or company. He is, or should be, under the control
of the second-in-command, since, as his title indicates, he is
concerned with the quarters of the regiment, and with all that pertains
to its domestic economy. He cannot, however, be regarded as a part of
the headquarters staff; his position is unique, somewhere between
commissioned and non-commissioned rank, and it is very rarely that he
is accorded the position of the officer who has come to the service
through Sandhurst.

The colonel and the second-in-command, as a rule, know their regiment
thoroughly; they know the special weaknesses of the company or squadron
officers; they are conversant with the virtues and the failings of
Captain Blank and Lieutenant Dash; they know all about the troubles in
the married quarters, and they are fully informed of the happenings in
the sergeants’ mess. Not that there is any system of espionage in the
Army, but the man who reaches the rank of colonel is, under the present
conditions governing promotion, keen-witted, and in the dissemination
of all kinds of news, from matter for legitimate comment to rank
scandal, a military unit is about equivalent to a ladies’ sewing
meeting. The colonel and the second-in-command know all about things
because, being observant men, they cannot help knowing.

To each squadron of cavalry, battery of artillery, or company of
infantry is allotted a captain or major as officer commanding, and,
in the same way as a colonel is responsible for the efficiency of his
regiment, so the captain or major is responsible for the efficiency
of the squadron, battery, or company under his charge. The squadron
or company officer is usually not quite so conversant with the more
intimate details of his work as is the lieutenant-colonel. For one
thing, he has not had so much experience; for another, he may not have
the mental capacity required in a lieutenant-colonel; the squadron or
company officer is usually a jolly good fellow, mindful of discipline
and careful of the comfort of his men, but there are cases--exceptions,
certainly--of utter incompetency. A battery officer, on the other hand,
is of a different stamp. Of the three arms, the artillery demands
most in the way of efficiency and knowledge; the mechanism of the
guns creates an atmosphere in which officers study and train to a far
greater extent than cavalry and infantry officers. The battery officer,
in nine cases out of ten, is quite as competent to take charge of an
artillery brigade as the cavalry or infantry lieutenant-colonel is to
take charge of his regiment or battalion.

Next in order of rank are the lieutenants and subalterns, youngsters
learning the business. The lieutenant, having won his second star, is
a reasonable being; the subaltern, fresh from Sandhurst or Woolwich,
and oppressed by the weight of his own importance, is occasionally
“too big for his boots,” a bumptious individual whom his superiors
endeavour to restrain, but whom his inferiors in rank must obey, though
they have little belief in his judgment or in his capability to command
them intelligently. This may appear harsh judgment on the subaltern,
but experience of things military confirms it; Sandhurst turns out
its pupils in a raw state; they have the theory of their work, but,
just as it takes years to make a soldier, so it takes years of actual
military work to make an efficient officer, and the trained man in
the ranks generally views with extreme disfavour the introduction
of a raw subaltern from Sandhurst into the company or squadron to
which he belongs, though very often the young officer shapes to his
work quickly, wins the respect and confidence of his men, and adds
materially to the efficiency and well-being of his troop or section.
Again, a young officer may not be popular among his men in time of
peace, but may win all their respect and confidence on the field, where
values alter and are frequently reversed from peace equivalents.

Lieutenants and subalterns are given charge of a troop in the
cavalry, a gun or section--according to the number of young officers
available--in a battery and of a section of men in an infantry
company. Nominally in command of their men, they are in practice
largely dependent on their senior non-commissioned officers for
the efficiency of the men under their command. An officer’s real
efficiency, in peace service, does not begin until he “gets his
company” or squadron: in other words, until he is promoted to the rank
of captain.

Next in grade of rank to the commissioned officers stands the
regimental sergeant-major, who is termed a warrant-officer, since
the “warrant” which he holds, in virtue of his rank, distinguishes
him from non-commissioned officers. He has, usually, sixteen years
or more of service; he has even more knowledge of the ways of the
regiment than the commanding officer himself, and his place is with the
headquarters staff, while his duties lie in the supervision and control
of the non-commissioned officers and their messes and training. His
position is peculiar; the etiquette of the service prevents him from
making close friends among non-commissioned officers, while that same
etiquette prevents commissioned officers from making a close friend of
him. The only non-commissioned officer who stands near him in rank is
the quartermaster-sergeant, who is directly under the control of the
quartermaster, and is also a member of the headquarters staff.

From this point of rank downward the ways of the different arms of the
service diverge. In the infantry, the chief non-commissioned officer of
a company is the colour-sergeant, who is responsible both for internal
economy and efficiency at drill. In the cavalry and artillery the
presence of horses and the far greater amount of equipment involved
divide the work that is done in the infantry by the colour-sergeant
into two parts. In the cavalry each squadron, and in the artillery each
battery, is controlled, so far as drill and efficiency in the field is
concerned, by a squadron sergeant-major and a battery sergeant-major,
respectively, while the domestic economy of the squadron or
battery is managed by squadron quartermaster-sergeant or battery
quartermaster-sergeant.

Next in order of rank come the sergeants, the non-commissioned
equivalent to troop and section officers, but of far more actual
importance than these, since parades frequently take place in the
absence of the troop or section officer, while the troop or section
sergeant is at all times responsible to his superiors for the
efficiency of his men. The rank of sergeant is seldom attained in less
than seven years, and thus the man of three stripes whom Kipling
justly described in his famous phrase “as the backbone of the Army” is
a man of experience and fully entitled to his post.

Next in order of rank to the sergeant is the corporal, whose duties
lie principally in the maintenance of barrack-room discipline, though
he is largely responsible for the training of squads and sections of
men in field work. Often in the cavalry he is given charge of a troop
temporarily, and in the artillery, though each gun is supposed to be
in charge of a sergeant, it happens at times that the corporal has
charge of the gun. The lowest rank of all is that of lance-corporal,
aptly termed “half of nothing.” Men resent, as a rule, any assumption
of authority by a lance-corporal--and yet the lance-corporal has to
exercise his authority at the risk of being told he was a private
only five minutes ago. Bearing in mind the material from which the
Army is recruited, it is not surprising that a large percentage of
lance-corporals, having tried for themselves what non-commissioned
rank feels like, give it up and revert to the rank of private. There
are certain advantages in being a lance-corporal; there is a distinct
advantage, for instance, in being “in charge of the guard” instead
of having to do sentry go; another advantage arises in the matter of
fatigues: the lance-corporal--so long as he behaves himself--merely
takes his turn on the roll after the full corporals in charge of a
fatigue party; he is a superintendent, not a worker, so far as fatigues
are concerned. The chief disadvantage consists in the way in which his
former comrades regard him. As one concerned in their training and
discipline he is no longer to be considered as a comrade and equal by
the privates; in many infantry units, lance-corporals are definitely
ordered not to fraternise with the men, although they perforce sleep in
the same rooms and share the same meals.

The sergeants of each unit--taking the regiment or battalion as a
unit--have their own mess, in the same way that the officers have
theirs. They take all their meals in the mess, and they sleep in
“bunks”; their separateness from the rank and file is thus emphasised
and their control over the men rendered more definite and easy by this
separateness. In each unit there is also established a corporals’ mess,
but this is merely a recreation room in the same way that the canteen
forms a recreation room for the privates. Corporals and lance-corporals
take their meals with the men and sleep in the same rooms as the men.
This, especially in the case of lance-corporals, diminishes authority,
but at the same time it renders easier the maintenance of barrack-room
discipline and the control of barrack-room life, for which corporals
and lance-corporals are held responsible.

Mainly in connection with the development of initiative which arose
out of the experience gained from the South African war, a system of
understudies has been created among non-commissioned officers and
senior privates. Each rank in turn is expected to be able to assume the
duties of the rank immediately above it, in case of necessity, and all
are trained to this end. It may be remarked that certain certificates
of education must be obtained by non-commissioned officers; as soon as
a lance-corporal gets his stripe he is expected to go to a military
school in the evenings until he has obtained a second-class certificate
of education, the qualifications for this being equivalent to those
evidenced by the possession of an ordinary fourth-standard school
certificate. The higher ranks of non-commissioned officer--that is, all
above the rank of sergeant--are expected to qualify for a first-class
Army certificate of education, which is quite equivalent to an ex-7th
standard council-school certificate.

Further, every non-commissioned officer must obtain certificates of
proficiency in drill and musketry, showing that he is a capable
instructor as well as fully conversant with drill on his own account.
The way to promotion is paved with certificates of various kinds.
There are courses in signalling, scouting, musketry, drill, and the
hundred and one items of a soldier’s work; these courses qualify for
instructorship, and some of them are open only to non-commissioned
officers. The passing of such courses, increasing the efficiency of the
non-commissioned officers concerned, is evidence of fitness for further
promotion, and is rewarded accordingly.

Technically speaking, the post of lance-corporal is an appointment, not
a promotion, and therefore the lance-corporal can be deprived of his
stripe on the word of his commanding officer. With the exception of
the rank of lance-sergeant, which admits a corporal to the sergeants’
mess and takes him out of the barrack-room without a corresponding
increase of pay, all ranks from corporal upward count as promotions,
and can only be reduced by way of punishment by the sentence of a
court martial. A regimental court martial, which has power to reduce
a corporal to the ranks and inflict certain limited punishments on
a private, is composed of three officers of the unit concerned. A
district court martial, with wider powers, including the reduction of
a sergeant to the ranks, is composed of three officers; the president
must not in any case be below the rank of captain, and usually is
a major, and he and the two junior officers who form the tribunal
usually belong to other regiments than that of the accused. Military
law differs in many respects from civil law; there is, of course, no
such thing as a trial by jury; the adjutant of the regiment to which
the accused belongs is always the nominal prosecutor, but in actual
practice the witnesses for the prosecution are of far more importance
than is he. Evidence for the prosecution is taken first, then the
evidence for the defence; the accused, if he wishes, can speak in his
own defence; if the court is satisfied of the innocence of the accused,
he is at once discharged; if, on the other hand, there is any doubt
of his innocence, he is marched out while the court consider their
finding and sentence, and the latter is not announced until the two or
three days necessary for confirmation of the proceedings by the general
officer commanding the station have elapsed.

The promulgation of a court-martial sentence is an impressive ceremony.
The regiment or battalion to which the accused belongs is formed up
to occupy three sides of a square, facing inwards. The accused,
under armed escort, together with the regimental sergeant-major and
the adjutant of the unit, occupy the fourth side of the square, and
the adjutant reads a summary of the proceedings concluding with a
recital of the sentence on the accused. In the case of a private the
ceremony is then at an end, and the regiment is marched away, while
the accused returns to the guard-room under escort. In the case of a
non-commissioned officer the regimental sergeant-major formally cuts
the stripes from off the arm of the accused. It is to be hoped that in
the near future this court-martial parade, degrading to the accused
man, and not by any means an edifying spectacle for his comrades, will
be abolished, for a record of the court martial and of the punishment
inflicted is always inserted in the regimental orders of the day.

Fortunately, however, court martials are infrequent occurrences, and,
so far as the non-commissioned officer is concerned, life is a fairly
pleasant business. There is plenty of hard work to keep him in good
health, but there are also many hours that can be spent in pleasant
recreation, and the man who takes his profession seriously may now hope
to attain to higher rank. Promotions to commissions from the ranks
have, in the past, been infrequent; but the prospect is now much
more hopeful, and, in any case, the non-commissioned officer can look
forward to a pension which will serve as a perpetual reminder that his
time has not been wasted.



CHAPTER IV

INFANTRY


The old-time term, light infantry, has little meaning at present as far
as difference in the stamp of man and the weight of equipment carried
is concerned; one infantry battalion is equal to another in respect
of “lightness,” except that some Highland battalions, recruiting from
districts which provide exceptionally brawny specimens of humanity,
obtain a taller and weightier average of men. Varieties of equipment
in the old days made infantry “heavy” and “light,” but the modern
infantryman is kept as light as possible in the matter of equipment in
all units.

Certain battalions possess and are very proud of distinctions awarded
them for feats on the field of battle. Thus it is permitted to one
infantry regiment, including all its battalions, to wear the regimental
badge both on the front and the back of the helmet in review order,
also on their field-service caps, to commemorate an action in which
the men were surrounded and fought back to back until they had
extricated themselves from their perilous position--or rather, until
the survivors had extricated themselves. In another regiment, the
sergeants are permitted to wear the sash over the same shoulder as the
officers, in view of the fact that on one occasion all the officers
were killed, and the non-commissioned officers took command, with
noteworthy results. Yet another distinction, but of a different kind,
is the concession made to Irish regiments in allowing them to wear
sprigs of shamrock on St. Patrick’s days.

In the “review order” or full dress of modern infantrymen--and in fact
of all British soldiers--there are certain buttons and fittings which
serve no useful purpose, and soldiers themselves, even, sometimes
wonder why these things are worn. The reason is that, in old time,
all these fittings had a use; the buttons on the back of the tunic
supported belts which are no longer worn, or covered pockets which no
longer exist. There is a reason also in the officer wearing his sash on
one shoulder and the sergeant his on another, and in the same way there
is a reason for every seemingly useless fitting in a soldier’s review
uniform--it perpetuates a tradition of the particular battalion or
regiment concerned, or it keeps alive a tradition of the service as a
whole. To the outsider, these may appear useless formalities, but they
are not so in reality; the soldier is intensely proud of these things,
which make for _esprit de corps_ and maintain the spirit of the Army
quite as much as material advantages.

The actual spirit in which the infantryman views his work is a
difficult thing to assess. One noteworthy example of that spirit is
the case of Piper Findlater, who, wounded beyond the power of movement
at Dargai, sat up and piped--an amazing piece of courage and coolness
under fire. Yet that same Piper Findlater, invalided home and out of
the service, could display himself on a music-hall stage, an action
which was incomprehensible to the civilian mind. But, to the average
infantryman, there was nothing incongruous in the two actions--one
was as much the right of the man as the other was to his credit, and
Findlater was typical of the British infantryman.

Under the present system, each infantry regiment is divided into two or
more battalions. Under the old system, each battalion was distinguished
by a number, but the numbers have been abolished in favour of names of
counties or districts, and two or more battalions form the regiment of
a county or division of a county. It is very seldom that these two or
more portions of the same regiment meet each other, for, in the case of
a two-battalion regiment, one battalion is usually on foreign service
while the other is domiciled in England, and the home battalion feeds
the one on foreign service with recruits as needed to keep the latter
up to strength. A notable exception to this rule occurred in the case
of the Norfolk Regiment a few years ago, when the first and second
battalions met at Bloemfontein, one outward bound at the beginning of
its term of foreign service, and the other about to start for home.

The infantryman is fitted for what constitutes the greater part of
his work, when the season’s “training” is over, by what is known as
“route marching.” In this, a battalion is started out at the beginning
of the route-marching season on a march of a few miles, in light
order--carrying rifles and bayonets only, perhaps. The distance covered
is gradually increased, and the weight of equipment carried by the men
is also increased, until the men concerned are carrying their full
packs and marching twelve or fourteen miles a day. Service conditions
are maintained as far as possible, so as to make the men fit for long
marches at any time; by this means the men’s feet are hardened and the
men themselves brought thoroughly into condition, while weaklings are
picked out and marked down for future reference. “Falling out” on a
route march without good and sufficient reason means days to barracks
for the offender, at the least, and “cells” is a possibility.

The work of the infantryman is less complex than that of any other
branch of the service: he has to be trained to march well and to know
how to use his rifle and bayonet. Principally, given the physical
endurance for the marching part of the business, he has to learn to
shoot, and the simplicity of his duties is compensated for by the
thoroughness with which he is taught. Then, again, discipline is of
necessity stricter in infantry units than in other branches of the
service; the cavalryman, with a horse to care for as well as himself
and his arms and equipment, and the driver or gunner of artillery, with
“two horses and two sets” (of saddlery) or his gun or limber to mind,
is kept busy most of the time without an excess of discipline, but
the infantryman in time of peace is concerned only with himself, his
arms and equipment, and his barrack-room--a small total when compared
with the cares of the man in the cavalry or artillery. By way of
compensation, the infantryman is made to give more attention to his
barrack-room; he is restricted, in a way that would not be possible in
the cavalry or artillery, in the way in which he employs his leisure
hours, and parades are made to keep his hands out of mischief, as well
as to train him to thorough efficiency.

A brigade of infantry, consisting of four battalions, looks a perfectly
uniform mass of men on, say, a service, dress parade, but intimate
knowledge of the characteristics of the men in each battalion reveals
a world of difference; each regiment has its own traditions, and each
battalion differs widely from the rest in its methods of working,
its way of issuing commands, and its internal arrangements. There is
a standard of bugle calls for the whole Army, but practically every
infantry battalion infuses a certain amount of individuality into
the method of sounding the call. The buglers of the Rifle Brigade,
for instance, would scorn to sound their calls in the way that the
East Surreys or the York and Lancaster battalions sound theirs, and
conversely a York and Lancaster or an East Surrey man would smile at
the bugle call of the Rifle Brigade battalion. The districts from
which men are recruited, too, account for many little peculiarities
in the ways of different battalions. There is obviously a world of
difference between the way in which a man of the King’s Own Yorkshire
Light Infantry will view a given situation, and the view adopted by a
man of the East Surreys, for one is “reet Yorkshire,” while the other
is Cockney all through. Dialects and regimental slang combined make
the language of the one almost unintelligible to the other, and, while
each arrives at precisely the same end by slightly varying means, each
claims superiority over the other.

The spirit of the British infantryman, with very few exceptions,
consists mainly in his belief that he is a member of the best company
in the very best battalion of infantry in the service. As for his
particular arm of the service, he points with pride to the fact that he
comes in from a march and gets to his food while the poor cavalryman is
still fretting about in the horse lines, and _he_ has no two sets of
harness to bother about after a field day. He slings his equipment on
the shelf and goes off to his meal when the field day is over, while
the poor gunner is busy with an oil rag, keeping the rust from eating
into his gun and its fittings until the time comes to clean it. Thus
the infantryman on his advantages, and with some justice, too.

But in the barrack-room the cavalryman and artilleryman have the
advantage. They can make down their beds and snooze when work is done,
secure from interruption until “stables” shall sound and turn them out
to care for their “long-faced chums.” The infantryman, on the other
hand, has to prepare for barrack-room and kit inspections at all times;
he has to wet-scrub and dry-scrub the floors, blacklead the table
trestles and legs of forms, whitewash himself tired on articles which,
to the civilian eye, appear already sufficiently coated with whitewash,
pick grass off the drill ground, and carry out a host of orders which
seem designed for his especial irritation, though in reality they are
designed to keep him at work and prevent him from being utterly idle.
In certain hours, the infantryman must be made to work to keep him in
condition, and if the work of a necessary nature is not sufficient to
keep him employed, then work is made for him. It must be said that,
owing to the existence of undiscerning commanding and other officers,
a lot of this work, although undoubtedly it fulfils its purpose, is
irritating to the last degree, and might with advantage be exchanged
for tasks which would exercise the intelligence of the men instead of
rousing their disgust. Grass-picking is an especially detested form
of labour which is common in some battalions of the infantry. In most
units, however, men are put to useful occupations; in some stations
where available ground admits, gardens are allotted to the men, who
cultivate creditable supplies of vegetables for the use of their messes
and flowers for decorative purposes.

Another favourite form of exercise, in which the infantryman is
indulged with what appears to him unnecessary frequency, is kit
inspection. At first sight, it would seem that the circumstance of an
officer inspecting the kit and equipment of his men is not one which
would cause an undue amount of trouble, but the reverse of this is the
case in practice. Each man has to lay down his kit to a regulation
pattern; at the head of the bed, on which the clothing and equipment
is laid out, the reds and blues and khaki-coloured squares represent
much time spent by the man in folding each article of clothing to the
last half-inch of size and form, prescribed by the regulation affecting
the way in which kit must be laid down for inspection. Then come the
underclothing, knife and fork, razor, Prayer Book and Bible, brushes,
and other odds and ends with which every man must be provided. If any
article is deficient from the official list, the man is promptly “put
down” for a new article to replace the deficiency--and for this he has
to pay. The upkeep of a full kit is most strictly enforced, and, in
addition to the completeness of the kit, the amount of polish on the
various articles calls for much attention on the part of the inspecting
officer. A knife or fork not sufficiently bright, boots not quite as
well cleaned and polished as they might be, or brass buttons displaying
a suspicion of dullness, lead at the least to an order to show again
at a stated hour--not the single article, but the whole kit--while
repeated deficiencies, either in the quantity of the articles or in the
evident amount of care bestowed on them, will lead to defaulters’ drill
or even cells.

Kit inspection counts as a “parade,” and not as a “fatigue.” The latter
term is used to imply all kinds of actual work in connection with the
maintenance of order in the battalion, and varies from washing up in
the sergeants’ mess to carrying coals for the barrack-room or married
quarters. To each unit, as a rule, there is a coal-yard attached, and
from this a certain amount of coal is issued free each week for cooking
purposes, while in the winter months a further amount is allotted
to the men to burn in the barrack-room stoves. If the allowance is
exceeded--and since it is a small one it is usually exceeded--the men
club round among themselves to purchase more, at the rate of a penny or
twopence a man. The fetching of this extra coal does not count as a
“fatigue” in the official sense.

A roll is kept of all men liable for fatigue duty, and each man takes
his turn in alphabetical order in the performance of the various tasks
that have to be done. As these tasks differ considerably in nature and
extent, it follows that the alphabetical way of ordering the roll is
as fair as any, though artful dodgers, getting wind of a stiff fatigue
ahead, will get out of doing it by exchanging their turns with those
men who would otherwise get an easier task. As a rule, sergeants’ mess
fatigue is one of the least liked, except on Sunday mornings, when it
releases the man who does it from church parade--of which more later.

For the actual housemaid work of the barrack-room, a roll is usually
kept in each room, and the men of the room take turns at “orderly man,”
as it is called. This involves the final sweeping out of the room after
each man has swept under his own bed and round the little bit of floor
which is his own particular territory. It involves the care of and
responsibility for all the kits in the room while the remainder of the
men are out at drill, and also the fetching of all meals and washing
up of the plates and basins after each meal. The orderly man of the
day is not supposed to leave the room during parade hours, except to
fetch meals for the rest; it is his duty, after all have gone out, to
put the boxes at the foot of the beds in an exact line, that there may
be nothing to disturb the symmetry of things when the orderly officer
or the colour-sergeant comes round on a morning visit of inspection.
In a home station, as far as infantry is concerned, practically all
barrack-room inspections take place before one o’clock in the day,
and in the afternoons such men as are in the barrack-room have it to
themselves. It is the rule in some battalions, however, that no beds
may be “made down” before six o’clock--a harsh rule, and one which
serves no useful purpose, unless it be considered useful to keep a man
from lying down to rest.

While guard duty is kept as light as possible in mounted branches
of the service, it is allowed to assume large proportions in the
infantry. In a cavalry regiment, the “main guard,” which mounts duty
for twenty-four hours and has charge of the regimental guard-room and
prisoners confined therein, is composed at the most of a corporal and
three men, but in the infantry the main guard of a battalion consists
of a sergeant, a corporal or lance-corporal, and six men, providing
three reliefs of two sentries apiece. Guard duty is done in “review
order.” That is to say, the men dress up in their best clothes, with
the last possible polish on metal-work and the best possible pipeclay
on all belts and equipment that permit of it; and the inspection to
which the guard is submitted before taking over its duties is the most
searching form of inspection which the soldier has to undergo after he
has been dismissed from recruits’ training. The men of the guard do
turns of two hours sentry-go apiece, and then get four hours’ rest,
except in very inclement weather, when the periods are reduced to one
hour of duty and two hours of rest. Experience has placed it beyond
doubt that the “two hours on and four hours off” is the best way of
doing duty in reliefs; it imposes less strain on the men, who have to
keep up their duty for a day and a night, than any other form in which
it could be arranged.

Certain men in infantry units--and in fact in all units--are excused
from the regular routine of duty in order to fill special posts.
Noteworthy among these are the “flag-waggers” or regimental signallers,
a body of men maintained at a certain strength for the purpose of
signalling messages with flags, heliograph, or lamps, by means of
the Morse telegraphic code, and also with flags at short distances
by semaphore. Bearing in mind the average education among the rank
and file, it is remarkable with what facility men learn the use of
the Morse code. Against this must be set the fact that only selected
men are employed as signallers; these are taught the alphabet, and
the various signs employed for special purposes, by being grouped in
squads, and, after their preliminary instruction is completed, they are
sent out to various points from which they send messages to each other,
under conditions approximating as nearly as possible to those which
obtain on active service.

In order to maintain the signallers of a unit in full practice and
efficiency, the men are excused from all ordinary parades for a
certain part of the year; during manœuvres they are attached to the
headquarters staff of their unit and carry on their work as signallers,
not as ordinary duty-men. The wagging of flags is only a part of their
duty, for they have to learn the mechanism and use of the heliograph,
since, when sunlight permits of its use, this instrument can be
employed for the transmission of messages to a far greater distance
than is possible even with large flags. Lamps for signalling by night
are operated by a button which alternately obscures and exhibits the
light of a lamp placed behind a concentrating lens. The practised
signaller is as efficient in the use of flags, lamps, and heliograph
as is the post-office operator in the use of the ordinary telegraph
instrument, though the exigencies of field service render military
signalling a considerably slower business than ordinary wire telegraphy.

Another course of instruction which carries with it a certain amount
of exemption from duty in the infantry is that of scout. The practised
scout is capable of plotting a way across country at night, marching
by the compass or by the stars, making a watch serve as a compass,
military map-reading--which is not as simple a matter as might be
supposed--and of making sketches in conventional military signs of
areas of ground, natural defensive positions, and all points likely to
be of interest and advantage from a military point of view. The work
of the signaller has been going on for many years, but the training of
scouts is a movement which has come about and developed almost entirely
during the last twelve years, which, as the Army reckons time, is but a
very short period. It may be anticipated that the practice of scouting
and the training of scouts will develop considerably as time goes on.

Needless to say, the orderly-man is excused all parades during his day
of duty as such. Only in exceptional circumstances are cooks taken for
parades, and such men as the regimental shoemaker, the armourer and his
assistants, and other men employed in various capacities, attend the
regular duty parades very seldom. On field days occasionally, and also
on certain commanding-officers’ drill parades, the orders of the day
announce that the battalion will parade “as strong as possible.” This
means a general sweep up and turning out of men employed in various
ways and excused from parades as a rule, and their unhandiness owing to
lack of practice sometimes results in their being relieved from their
posts and returned to duty, while frequently it involves their doing
extra drills in addition to their regular work.

The duty-man affects to despise the man on the staff, but this
affectation is more often a cloak for envy. “Staff jobs,” as the
various forms of employment in a unit are called, generally mean extra
pay; in nineteen cases out of twenty they mean exemption from most
ordinary parades and from a good deal of the ordinary routine work of
the unit concerned; in almost all cases they mean total exemption from
fatigues. Under these circumstances it is not to be wondered at that
the secret ambition of the average infantryman at duty, when he has
relinquished all hope of promotion, is to get on the staff.



CHAPTER V

CAVALRY


Practically any man of the twenty-eight cavalry regiments of the line
will announce with pride that he belongs to the “right of the line.” By
this claim is meant that if the British Army were formed up in line,
the regiment for which the claim is made will be on the right of all
the rest. As a matter of fact this claim on the part of the cavalryman
is incorrect, for when the Royal Horse Artillery parade with their
guns, they take precedence of all other units, except the Household
Cavalry.

British cavalry is divided normally into three regiments of Household
Cavalry and twenty-eight cavalry regiments of the line. These latter
are subdivided into seven regiments of Dragoon Guards, three of
Dragoons, and eighteen regiments of Lancers and Hussars. Theoretically,
Lancers take precedence over Hussars, but in actual practice the two
classes of cavalry are about equal. Dragoon Guards and Dragoons rank
as heavy cavalry; Lancers are supposed to be of medium weight, and
Hussars light cavalry. In reality Dragoon Guards and Dragoons are
slightly heavier than other corps--except the Household Cavalry, who
are heaviest of all--but Lancers and Hussars are of about equal weight,
both as regards horses and men.

The possession of a horse and the duties involved thereby render the
work of a cavalryman vastly different from that of an infantryman. In
the matter of guard duties, for instance, it would be possible in time
of peace to abolish all infantry guard duties without affecting the
well-being of the units concerned. In cavalry regiments, on the other
hand, it is absolutely necessary that a certain number of men should
be placed on night guard over the stables, since horses are capable
of doing themselves a good deal of harm in the course of a night, if
left to themselves. This is only one instance of the difference between
cavalry and infantry, but it must be apparent to the most superficial
observer that a vast difference exists between the two arms of the
service.

Cavalrymen affect to despise the infantry, whom they term “foot
sloggers” and “beetle crushers,” while various other uncomplimentary
epithets are also applied at times to the men who walk while the
cavalry ride. Each section of the cavalry has its own particular
prides and prejudices. The Household Cavalry, for instance, consider
themselves entitled to look down on the regiments of the line; line
cavalrymen, conversely, affect to despise the men of the Household
Brigade, who, they say, count it a hardship to go to Windsor and never
get nearer to foreign service than Aldershot. Further, a Dragoon Guard
considers himself immensely superior to a mere Dragoon; both look
down--a long way down--on the thought of service in the Lancers, and
all three affect to despise the idea of serving as Hussars. In the
meantime the Hussars declare that Dragoons are big, heavy, and useless,
while Lancers are not much better, and the Hussar is the only perfect
cavalryman. All this, however, is a matter of good-humoured chaff,
and in reality Dragoons and Lancers, or Dragoons and Hussars, or any
two regiments belonging to different branches of the cavalry, when
placed side by side in the same station, respect each other’s qualities
without undue regard to their particular designations.

Among the many little legends and traditions of the cavalry, that
attaching to the Carabiniers (Sixth Dragoon Guards) is as interesting
as any, though not a particularly creditable one. It is alleged that
some time during the Peninsular Campaign this regiment misbehaved
itself in some way, and the sentence passed on it was to the effect
that officers and men alike should no longer wear the red tunic common
to Dragoon and Dragoon Guard regiments. Thenceforth a blue tunic was
substituted for the more brilliant red, and in addition a mocking
tune was substituted for the ordinary cavalry réveillé, while the
band was ordered to play before réveillé each morning--possibly the
band was guilty of exceptionally bad behaviour in order to merit this
extra-special punishment. In any case the blue tunic, the réveillé
and the band-playing have persisted unto this day, and even yet it is
unsafe to inquire too closely of a Carabinier into the reason of his
wearing a blue tunic while all others of his kind wear red, although
the regiment elected to retain the blue tunic when a further change of
colour was proposed.

Another tradition is that of the 11th Hussars, who on one historical
occasion were supposed to have covered themselves in gore and glory
to such an extent that the original colour of their uniforms, and
especially that of their riding-breeches, was no longer visible. For
this meritorious feat, which is more or less authentic, the regiment
was granted the privilege of wearing cherry-coloured riding-breeches
and overalls, and this privilege, like the Carabiniers’ blue jacket,
still survives. It is hardly necessary to add that the “Cherry-picker,”
as the 11th Hussar names himself, is considerably prouder of his
cherry-coloured pants than is the Carabinier of his jacket. A different
explanation of the colour is that it was adopted in honour of the
Prince Consort, and since the regiment still retains as its title “The
Prince Consort’s Own,” the latter is more probably correct.

From the beginning to the end of his service the cavalryman never
gets quite clear of riding school. Riding-school work forms the chief
portion of his training as a recruit, when he is taught to ride both
with and without stirrups, to take jumps with folded arms, to vault
on to a horse’s back, and, in brief, to do all that can be done with
a horse. Supposing him to be an average horseman, he comes back to
riding school annually, at least, to refresh his memory with the old
riding-school lessons, while, if he is a really good horseman, he
is set to training remounts, in the course of which he has to train
practically unbroken horses to do their part in the work which he
himself has learned on the back of a horse already trained. The best
riders of all in a regiment are singled out as “rough riders” or
riding-school instructors, and their duty is to take charge of rides
of remounts, to instruct men and horses too, and to pay particular
attention to the breaking in of especially unmanageable young horses.

The riding-school training adopted in the British cavalry is based on
the system inaugurated by Baucher, the famous French riding-master
who came over to England and revolutionised all ideas with regard to
horsemastership in the early part of the nineteenth century. Under
this system a horse is taught to obey pressure of leg and rein to the
fullest possible extent, and the bit mouthpiece forms only a part of
the rider’s means of control. By this means the horse is saved a good
deal of unnecessary exertion, which is an important thing as far as
cavalry riding is concerned, since the object of the cavalryman on
active service is to save his horse as far as possible against the need
for speed or effective striking power.

Following on the work of the riding school the cavalryman is taught on
the drill ground to ride in line of troop at close order. Theoretically
the interval between men is “six inches from knee to knee,” but in
practice the knees of the men are touching. When a troop of men can
keep line perfectly at a gallop, a squadron line is formed; the
culminating point of cavalry training is perfection of line in the
charge, of which the rate of progression is the fastest pace of the
slowest horse. A charge produces its greatest effect when the men ride
close together and keep in line, the object being to effect a definite
shock by throwing as much weight as possible against a given point
at as great a pace as possible. The impact of the charge, in theory,
carries the men who make it through and beyond the enemy against whom
they have charged, when they are expected to break up their formation
and re-form, facing in the direction from whence they have come.

The training which a man has to undergo in order to fit him for
participating in these shock tactics is necessarily long and severe. In
addition to this, cavalry training is directed toward a multiplicity of
ends. In any military action infantry have their definite place, which
involves bearing the full brunt of attack, maintaining the defensive,
or in exceptional circumstances assuming the offensive and charging
with the bayonet. Cavalry, however, very rarely bear the full brunt of
a sustained attack, as their organisation and equipment render them
unfit for prolonged defensive operations. They are used, generally on
the flanks of a field force, for making flank attacks and pursuing
retreating enemies; they are also used in small bodies, known as
patrols, as the eyes and ears of an army. Preceding other arms of the
service in the advance, they spy out and bring back information of the
position and strength of the enemy, avoiding actual contact as far as
possible. Work of this kind calls for such initiative and self-reliance
on the part of the rank and file as infantrymen are seldom called on to
exercise.

Further, all cavalrymen are expected to be as proficient in the use
of the rifle as are infantrymen, while they have also to learn the
use of the sword, and Lancers still carry and use the lance, which,
carried by a certain proportion of the men in the ranks of the Dragoon
Guards and Dragoons at the end of the last and beginning of the present
century, is no longer used by them. It will be seen from the foregoing
that a properly trained cavalryman must be a thoroughly intelligent
individual, and must be capable of greater initiative and possessed of
more resource than his brother on foot. In many directions, also, he
is required to exercise more initiative than the artilleryman, who is
always protected by an escort either of cavalry or infantry, and is
called on to think for himself and work the gun himself only when all
his officers and non-commissioned officers have been shot to stillness.

At first sight it would appear that the Lancer has an immense advantage
over the man armed only with a sword, but in actual practice the man
with the sword is slightly better off; the Lancer gets one effective
thrust, but, if this is parried or misses its object, the man with the
sword can get in two or three thrusts before the Lancer has the chance
for another blow. Thus Dragoons and Dragoon Guards lose little by the
absence of the lance, since they, in common with all other cavalry
regiments, still carry the sword. The American Army, by the way, is the
only one so far which has tried the experiment of arming the rank and
file of its mounted units with revolvers or pistols; in the British
Army revolvers are carried only by sergeants and those of higher rank,
and the rank and file trust to cold steel for mounted work, reserving
the rifles which they carry for use on foot.

The bane of the cavalryman’s life in his own opinion is stables, where
he spends about four hours each day in grooming, cleaning, sweeping
out, taking out bedding and bringing it in, and various other duties.
Grooming in a cavalry regiment is a meticulous business; the writer
has personal knowledge of and acquaintance with a troop officer who
used to make his morning inspection of the troop horses with white kid
gloves on, and the horses were supposed to be groomed to such a state
of cleanliness that when the officer rubbed the skin the wrong way
his gloves remained unsoiled. Such a state of perfection as this, of
course, is possible only in barracks, and it is hardly necessary to say
that the officer in question was not exactly idolised by his men. Like
most youths fresh from Sandhurst, he was incapable of making allowances.

On manœuvres and under canvas generally, grooming is not expected
to be carried to such a fine point as this; on active service it
frequently happens that there is no time at all for grooming; but the
general rule is to keep horses in such a state of cleanliness as will
avert disease and assist in keeping the animals in condition. During
the South African war it was found that grey and white horses were
dangerously conspicuous, and animals of this colour were consequently
painted khaki. It is not many years since a proposal was made that
the 2nd Dragoons, known in the service as the Scots Greys, from the
nationality of the men and the colour of the horses, should have their
grey horses taken from them and darker coloured animals substituted.
From the time of the founding of this regiment its men have been proud
of their greys, and the order necessitating their disappearance caused
a certain amount of outcry, in spite of the fact that modern military
conditions rendered the substitution desirable. Regimental traditions
die hard, and the Scots Greys elected to remain “Greys” in reality,
while they will retain their name as long as the regiment exists.

The cavalryman, far more than the infantryman, makes a point of wearing
“posh” clothing on every possible occasion--“posh” being a term used
to designate superior clothing, or articles of attire other than those
issued by and strictly conforming to the regulations. For walking out
in town, a business commonly known as “square-pushing,” the cavalryman
who fancies himself will be found in superfine cloth overalls, wearing
nickel spurs instead of the regulation steel pair, and with light,
thin-soled boots instead of the Wellingtons with which he is issued.
It is a commonplace among the infantry that a cavalryman spends half
his pay and more on “posh” clothing, but probably the accusation is a
little unjust.

There is in the cavalry a greater percentage of gentleman rankers than
in any other branch of the service, and there are more queer histories
attaching to men in cavalry regiments than in units of the other arms.
The gentleman ranker usually shakes down to a level with the rest of
the regiment. It has never yet come within the writer’s knowledge that
any officer accorded to a gentleman ranker different treatment from
that enjoyed by the majority of the men, in spite of the assertions of
melodrama writers on the subject. Favouritism in the cavalry, as in
any branch of the service, is fatal to discipline, and is not indulged
in to any great extent, certainly not to the benefit of gentlemen
rankers as a whole. Work and efficiency stand first; social position in
civilian life counts for nothing, and the gentleman ranker who joins
the service with a view to a commission must prove himself fitted to
hold it from a military point of view.

The gentleman ranker is frequently a remittance man, and in that case
he is certain of many friends, for the frequenters of the canteen are
usually short of money a day or two before pay-day comes round, and
thus the man with a well-lined pocket is of material use to them.
Disinterested friendships, however, are too common in the Army to call
for comment, and many and many a case occurs of one cavalryman, quick
at his work, helping another at cleaning saddlery or equipment after he
has finished his own, without thought or hope of reward.

The mention of saddlery takes us back to stables, where the cavalryman
goes far too often for his own peace of mind, although, as a matter
of fact, the three stable parades per day which he has to undergo are
absolutely necessary for the well-being of the horses. The really
smart cavalryman is conspicuous not only for keeping his horse in
exceptionally good condition, but also for the way in which he keeps
the leather and steel-work of his saddle and head-dress. Regulations
enact that all steel-work in the stables shall be kept free from rust,
and slightly oiled, and leather-work shall be cleaned and kept in
condition with soft soap and dubbin only. This regulation, however, is
honoured in the breach rather than in the observance, for by the use
of brick-dust followed by the application of a steel-link burnisher
steel-work is given the appearance of brilliantly polished silver, and
various patent compositions are used on leather to give it a glossy
surface, this latter with very little regard for the preservation of
the leather. All this means a lot of extra work in the stable for the
cavalryman; it is induced in the first place by one man desiring to
give his outfit a better appearance than the rest. The squadron officer
approves of the polish and brilliance--or perhaps the troop officer
is responsible--and as a result all the men take up what is merely
extra work with no real resulting advantage. In some extra-smart
units the men are even required by their superiors to scrub the stable
wheelbarrows and burnish the forks used for turning over the bedding,
but this, it must be confessed, is not a general practice. At the same
time, the fetish of polish and burnish is worshipped far too well in
cavalry units, with the occasional result that efficiency takes second
place in time of peace to mere surface smartness.

As has already been stated in a different connection, the barrack-room
life of the cavalryman is easier than that of the infantryman. Kit
inspections and arms inspections take place at stated intervals, and
barrack-rooms are kept clean, though not kept with such fussy exactness
as in infantry units. The trained cavalryman in normal times finishes
the main part of his work at midday. He then has his dinner, and after
this makes down his bed as it will be for the night. Unless it is his
turn for fatigue, he generally snoozes through the afternoon until
about half-past four, when it is time to get ready for stable parade.
In India especially a cavalryman has a light time of it, for there
is allotted to each squadron a definite number of syces, or native
grooms, who assist the men as well as the non-commissioned officers
in the care of their horses, and who do a good deal of the necessary
saddle-cleaning. Cavalry serving in Egypt also get a certain amount of
assistance in their work, and, on the whole, a cavalryman is far better
off on foreign service than he is in a home station. The advantages of
the home station consist mainly in the presence of congenial society
among the civilians of the station. The soldier abroad is a being
apart, and for the most part civilians leave him very much alone. There
remains, however, the ever-present football by way of consolation.

As in infantry units, bodies of signallers and scouts are necessary
to the establishment of every cavalry regiment. Signallers, for the
period of their training, are excused from all duties connected with
horses and stable work. Cavalry scouts, on the other hand, have to use
their horses in the course of their training, and thus attend stables
like the rest of the men, although stable discipline in their case is
somewhat relaxed. The cavalry scout requires more training than the
infantry scout; with his horse he is able to go farther afield, and
his work is more definitely that of reconnaissance and the obtaining
of information which may be of more use to a brigade or divisional
commander than that any infantryman is capable of obtaining without a
horse to carry him.

To his other accomplishments the cavalryman is expected to add some
slight knowledge of veterinary matters, in order that, when forced
to depend on himself and his horse, he can find remedies for simple
ailments, and keep the horse in a state of fitness. The shoeing-smith
and farriers who form a special department of every cavalry regiment
are under the control of the veterinary officer included in the
establishment of each cavalry unit, and the veterinary officer
constitutes the final court of appeal when anything affecting a
“long-faced chum” is in question.

Sufficient has been said about the cavalryman on duty to show that
his tasks are legion. His fitness to perform them has been attested
on recent battlefields as well as on earlier historic occasions. Off
duty and in time of peace he is, in the main, a fairly pleasant fellow,
often a very shy one, and usually capable of using the King’s English
in reasonable fashion. The average cavalryman has a sufficiency of
aspirates, and, in the matter of intelligence, the nature of the duties
he is called upon to perform voices his claims quite sufficiently.



CHAPTER VI

ARTILLERY AND ENGINEERS


The Royal Artillery of the British Army is divided into three branches,
known respectively as Horse, Field, and Garrison Artillery. In
normal times the Royal Horse Artillery consists of some twenty-eight
batteries, distinguished by the letters of the alphabet, together with
a depot and a riding establishment. On parade the Horse Artillery
batteries take precedence of all other units, with the exception of
Household Cavalry. The Royal Field Artillery consists of 150 batteries
and four depots, and the Royal Garrison Artillery consists of 100
companies and nine mountain batteries.

“A” Battery of the Royal Horse is officially designated the “Chestnut”
troop, from the colour of its horses, and the Horse Artillery as a
whole is one of the few corps of the service which retains the stable
jacket for parade use. In the case of the R.H.A. this garment is of
dark blue with yellow braid, and the head-dress of the horse gunner is
a busby with white plume and scarlet busby-bag, similar to that of the
Hussars. The Field and Garrison Artillery wear tunics in full dress,
and their helmets are surmounted by a ball instead of a spike.

While the weapon of the Field Artillery is the 18½-pounder quick-firing
gun, and gunners ride on the gun and limber, the R.H.A. is armed
with the 13-pounder quick-firing gun, and its gunners are mounted
on horseback. The object of this is to obtain extreme mobility. The
Royal Horse are expected to be able to execute all their manœuvres
at a gallop, and to get into and out of action more quickly than the
Field Artillery. They are designed specially to accompany cavalry in
flying-column work; their mobility is only achieved by a sacrifice
of weight in the projectile which the gun throws, and they are only
expected to hold a position supported by cavalry until the heavier guns
come into play. The horse gunners may be regarded as the scouts of the
artillery, in the sense in which the cavalry are the scouts of the
whole army.

Since, in the Royal Horse, gunners as well as drivers are mounted,
the number of horses to a battery is greater than in the Field
Artillery, and work is consequently harder. Officers of the Royal
Horse are specially selected from the R.F.A., to which they return on
promotion, and the rank and file are picked men, chosen for physique
and smartness. It is a maxim of the service that the work of the R.H.A.
is never done, and when one takes into account the fact that gunners
have a horse and saddle apiece to care for as well as their gun, while
drivers have two horses and two sets of harness apiece to keep in
condition, it will be seen that there is a certain amount of truth in
the statement. In old times, when field-day and manœuvre parades were
carried through in review order, the horse gunner was eternally in
debt over the matter of the yellow braid with which his stable jacket
is adorned, for these jackets are particularly difficult to keep
clean. The general adoption of service dress for working parade has
neutralised this disability. The horse gunner of to-day is a very good
soldier indeed in every respect, both by real aptitude for his work and
by compulsion.

Not that the men of the Field Artillery are not equally good soldiers,
for they are. The Field Artillery, however, divides itself naturally
into two branches, drivers and gunners. Each driver has two horses
and two sets of harness to manage, and, if the cavalryman has reason
to grouse at the length of time he spends at stables, the driver
of the “Field” has more than four times as much reason to grouse.
Moreover, the cavalryman is permitted to clean his saddlery during
the official stable hour, but drivers of the R.F.A. are expected to
concentrate their attention on their horses during the time that they
are officially at stables; they can stay in the stables and get their
sets of harness cleaned and fit for inspection in their own time. They
are then at liberty to clean up their own personal equipment, and,
until the turn for guard comes round, have the rest of their time to
themselves.

Gunners of the R.F.A. have all their time taken up by the care of the
gun, its fittings and appointments, as well as by the various separate
instruments connected with the use of a gun. For instance, all arms of
the service possess and make use of range-finding instruments, known
as mekometers, but in the artillery the mekometer is a larger and more
complicated affair, for the range of the gun is several times greater
than that of the rifle, and range finding is consequently a far more
complex business. The simple gunner must understand this, just as he
must understand the business of “laying” or adjusting the sights of the
gun to the required range, the use of telescopic sights, the delicate
mechanism of the breech-block, the method of putting the gun out of
action or rendering it useless in ease of emergency, and a hundred and
one other things which involve really complicated technical knowledge,
and lie in the province of the commissioned officer rather than in
that of a private soldier. The reason for teaching these things to the
private soldier lies in the accumulated experience which shows that
on many occasions all the officers and non-commissioned officers of a
battery have been blown to pieces by the enemy’s fire, and there have
remained only a few private soldiers to do their own work and that of
their officers as well. It is to the eternal credit of the Army, and
especially to that of the artillery, that men thus placed have never
once failed to do their duty nobly, and the present war has already
afforded more than one instance of single men sticking to their guns
to the last. Desertion of the guns has never yet been charged against
British artillery, nor is it ever likely to be.

Field-guns are always accompanied by an escort, sometimes of cavalry,
but more often of infantry, for the gunner is admittedly helpless
against infantry at close range or against charging cavalry. The charge
of the Light Brigade at Balaclava forms an instance of what cavalry can
do against unescorted guns, and, though the pattern of gun in use has
changed for the better, the projectile being far more powerful, and
the number of shells per minute far greater, such feats as that of the
immortal Light Brigade are still within the range of possibility.

The business of the gunner in an army assuming the offensive is to
open the attack. The fuse of the shrapnel shell is so timed that the
missile, which contains a quantity of bullets and a bursting charge
of powder, shall explode immediately over the position held by the
enemy. When a sufficient number of shells have been fired to weaken
resistance, the infantry advance in order to drive the enemy from
the chosen position. In defensive action the use of the gun lies in
retarding the advance of the enemy, and inflicting as much damage as
possible before rifles and machine-guns can come into play.

For this business ranges must be taken swiftly and accurately. Loading
must be performed expeditiously, and, though the pneumatic recoil of
the modern field-gun renders it far less liable to shift in action,
the sights must be correctly aligned after each shot. A gun crew must
work swiftly and without confusion, and peace training is devoted
to attaining that quickness and thorough efficiency which renders a
battery formidable in war.

There is, perhaps, less show about the work of a gunner than in that of
any other arm of the service with the exception of the Royal Engineers.
A good bit of his work is extremely dirty; cleaning a gun, for
instance, after firing practice with smokeless powder, is a hopelessly
messy business, and the infantryman, who pulls his rifle through and
extracts the fouling in about five minutes, would feel sorry for
himself if he were called on to share in the work of cleaning the
bore of an 18½-pounder after firing practice. There is a considerable
amount of drill of a complicated nature which the field-gunner has to
learn in addition to ordinary foot-drill; there is all the mechanism
of the gun to be understood; there are courses in range-finding,
gun-laying, signalling, and other things, and on the whole it is not
surprising that it takes at least five years to render a field gunner
thoroughly conversant with his work. The finished article is rather a
business-like man, quieter as a rule in his ways than his fellows in
the cavalry and infantry, rather serious, and little given to boasting
about the excellence of service in the Royal Field Artillery. He knows
his worth and that of his arm too well to waste breath in declaring
them.

The driver of the Field Artillery has even more of riding-school work
to do than the average cavalryman. It would be idle to say that he is
a better rider, for the average cavalryman is as good a rider as it
is possible for a man to be. Artillery horses, however, are heavy and
unhandy compared with cavalry mounts, and the driver has not only to
drive the horse he rides, but has also to lead and control the horse
abreast of his own. The principal responsibility for the path which the
gun takes lies with the lead or foremost driver, though almost as much
responsibility is entailed on the man controlling the wheel or rearmost
horses, and, compared with these two, the centre driver has an easy
time of it in mounted drill and field work.

Notwithstanding the extremely hard work to which drivers of artillery
are subjected, the same trouble over harness as obtains over cavalry
saddlery is experienced in some batteries. “Soft soap and oil” are the
cleaning materials prescribed by the regulations, but certain battery
commanders enforce the use of steel-link burnishers on steel-work, and
brilliant polish on leather, the last-named polish being obtained by
the use of a mysterious combination of heel-ball, turpentine, harness
composition, and, according to legend, old soldiers’ breath. The
mixture is known among the drivers as “fake,” and “fake and burnish”
is synonymous with unending work in the stables. It is the fetish of
smartness, a misdirected enthusiasm, which brings things like this to
pass and inflicts extra work on men whose energies should be devoted
solely to the attaining of fitness for active service, where “fake and
burnish” have no place.

The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery are the only branches of the
service in which substantial prizes are given annually to encourage
men in their work. In each battery three money prizes are offered for
competition among the drivers; the amounts offered are substantial,
and the general result is a spirit of healthy emulation, though far
too often, and with the full sanction of the battery officer, this
degenerates into the “fake and burnish” craze. This, however, is not
the fault of the prize-giving system, but of the officers who not only
permit, but encourage and even order this unnecessary work, which,
while entailing added labour on the men, assists in the deterioration
of the leather-work in harness. For all leatherwork requires constant
feeding with oil in order to keep it fit and pliant, while the “fake”
dries the fibres of the leather and starves it, rendering it liable to
cracking and perishing.

The branch of the Artillery of which least is heard is that of the
Royal Garrison Artillery, whose hundred companies are scattered about
the British Empire in obscure corners, engaged in the work of coast
defence and the management of siege guns. It is fortunate for the
garrison gunners that they have no “long-faced chums” to worry about,
for they are admittedly the hardest-worked branch of the service as
it is. Gibraltar houses several companies; you will find some of them
managing the big guns at Dover, and at every protected port. They are
big men, all; strong men, and lithe and active, for their work involves
the hauling about of heavy weights, combined with cat-like quickness
in loading and firing their many-patterned charges. The horse and
field gunner have each to learn one pattern of gun thoroughly, but the
garrison gunner, employed almost entirely in garrisoning defensive
fortifications, has to learn the use of half a hundred patterns, from
the little one-pounder quick-firer to the big gun on its disappearing
platform, and the 13·4-inch siege-gun. The horse and field gunner may
complete their education some day, for the pattern of field-gun changes
but seldom, and the present pattern is not likely to be improved on
for some years to come. The garrison gunner, however, is the victim of
experiment, for every new gun that comes out, after being tested and
passed either at Lydd or Shoeburyness, is handed on to the garrison
gunners for use, and there is a new set of equipment and mechanism
to be mastered. In order to ascertain the quality of their work, one
has only to get permission to visit the nearest fort, when it will be
seen that the guns are cared for like babies, nursed and polished and
covered away with full appreciation of their power and value.

Garrison gunners suffer from worse stations than any other branch of
the service. They are planted away on lonely coast stations for two
or three years at a time, and Aden, the bane of foreign service in
the infantryman’s estimation, is a pleasant place compared with some
which garrison gunners are compelled to inhabit for a period. Lonely
islands in the West Indies, isolated places on the Indian and African
coast, forts placed far away from contact with civilians in the British
Isles--all these fall to the lot of the garrison gunner, and the nature
of his work is such that, unlike his fellows in the field and horse
artillery, he gets neither infantry nor cavalry escort.

Reckoned in with the Garrison Artillery are the nine Mountain
Batteries, which, organised for service on such hilly country as is
provided by the Indian frontier, form a not inconspicuous part of the
British Army. In these batteries the guns are carried in sections on
pack animals; Kipling has immortalised the Mountain Batteries in his
verses on “The Screw Guns,” a title which conveys an allusion to the
fact that the guns of the Mountain Batteries screw and fit together
for use. The use of these guns can be but local, for they are not
sufficiently mobile to oppose to ordinary field-guns on level ground,
nor is the projectile that they throw of sufficient weight to give
them a chance in a duel with field-guns. They are, however, extremely
useful things for the purpose for which they are intended; they form a
necessary factor in the maintenance of order on the north-west frontier
of India, and, together with their gun crews, they instil a certain
measure of respect into the turbulent tribes of that uneasy land.

A consideration of the various branches of the service would be
incomplete if mention of the Royal Engineers were omitted. The
Engineers are looked on as a sister service to the Royal Artillery,
and consist of various troops, companies, and sections, according
to the technical work they are called on to perform. Thus there are
field troops of mounted engineers for service with cavalry, field
companies for duty with the field army, fortress companies for service
in conjunction with the garrison gunners, balloon sections and
telegraph sections for the use of the intelligence department, and
pontoon companies for field bridging work. Every engineer of full age
is expected to be a trained tradesman when he enlists, and the special
qualifications demanded of this branch of the service are acknowledged
by a higher rate of pay than that accorded to any other arm. The motto
of the Engineers, “Ubique,” is fully justified, for they are not only
expected to be, but are, capable of every class of work, from making a
pepper-caster out of a condensed-milk tin to throwing across a river
a bridge capable of conveying siege-guns. There is no end to their
activities, and no end to their enterprise, and in the opinion of
many the Engineers, officers and men alike, are the most capable and
efficient body of men in any branch of the Government service.

Their work is little seen; to their lot falls the task of constructing
the barbed-wire entanglements with the assistance of which infantry
battalions can put up a magnificent defence against any kind of attack;
the Engineers are responsible for the construction of the bridge by
means of which the cavalry arrive unexpectedly on the other side of
the river and spoil the enemy’s plans by getting round his flank; it
is the Engineers, again, who repair the blown-up railway line and
permit of the transport of trainloads of troops to an unexpected point
of vantage, thus again upsetting the plans of the enemy. One hears of
the magnificent defence maintained by the infantry; one hears of the
brilliant exploits of the cavalry on the flank of the enemy; one hears
also of the skill of the commander who moved the troops with such
suddenness and disconcerted his enemy; but the work of the Engineers,
who made these things possible, generally goes unrecognised outside
military circles, and the Engineers themselves have to reap their
satisfaction out of the knowledge of work well done.



CHAPTER VII

IN CAMP


In going to camp, transferring from the solid shelter of barracks to
the more doubtful comfort of crowding under a canvas roof, the soldier
feels that he is getting somewhere near the conditions under which he
will be placed on active service. The pitching of camp, especially
by an infantry battalion, is a parade movement, and as such is an
interesting business. It begins with the laying out of the tents in
their bags, and the tent poles beside them, near the positions which
the erected tents will occupy. The bags are emptied of their contents;
men are told off to poles, guy ropes, mallets and pegs; the tents are
fully unfolded, and, at a given word of command, every tent goes up
to be pegged into place in the shortest possible space of time. At
the beginning of a given ten minutes there will be lying on otherwise
unoccupied ground rows of bags and poles; at the end of that same ten
minutes a canvas town is in being, and the men who are to occupy that
town are thinking of fetching in their kits.

Under ordinary circumstances, from four to eight men are told off
to occupy each tent, but on manœuvres and on active service these
numbers are exceeded more often than not. During the South African
war the present writer once had the doubtful pleasure of being the
twenty-fourth man in an ordinary military bell-tent. The next night
and thereafter, wet or fine, half the men allotted to that tent made a
point of sleeping in the open air. It was preferable.

Life in camp is an enjoyable business so long as the weather continues
fine and not too boisterous; discipline is relaxed to a certain extent
while under canvas, open-air life renders the appetite keener, and
one’s enjoyment of life is more thorough than is the case in barracks.
Wet weather, however, changes all this. The luxury of floor-boards is a
rare one even in a standing camp, and, no matter what one may do in the
way of digging trenches round the tent and draining off surplus water
by all possible means, a moist unpleasantness renders life a burden and
causes equipment and arms to need about twice as much cleaning as under
normal circumstances.

Camp life breeds yarns unending, and in wet weather, or in the hours
after dark, men sit and tell hirsute chestnuts to each other for lack
of better occupation. If the weather is fine there are plenty of
varieties of sport, including the ubiquitous football to occupy spare
minutes, but yarns and tobacco form the principal solace of hours which
cannot be filled in more active ways. There is one yarn which, like all
yarns, has the merit of being perfectly true, but, unlike most, is not
nearly so well known as it ought to be. It concerns a cavalry regiment
which settled down for a brief space at Potchefstroom after the signing
of peace in South Africa.

Some months previous to the signing of peace, a certain lieutenant of
this regiment, known to his men and his fellow officers as “Bulgy,”
became possessed of a young baboon, which grew and throve exceedingly
at the end of a stout chain that secured the captive to one of the
transport wagons of the regiment. Bulgy’s servant was entrusted with
the care of the monkey, which, after the manner of baboons, was a
competent thief from infancy, and inclined to be savage if thwarted.
On one occasion, in particular, Bulgy’s monkey got loose, and got at
the officers’ mess wagon; it had a good feed of biscuits and other
delicacies, and retired at length, followed by the mess caterer, who
expostulated violently both with Bulgy’s servant and with Bulgy’s
monkey, until a tin of ox-tongues skilfully aimed by the monkey caught
him below the belt and winded him. After that, as Bret Harte says, the
subsequent proceedings interested him no more.

Well, the regiment arrived at Potchefstroom and settled down under
canvas, with an average of eight men to a tent and the horse lines of
each troop placed at right-angles to the lines of tents. Bulgy’s monkey
was given a place away on the outside of the lines, with the other
end of his chain attached to a tree-stump, and there, for a time, he
rested, fed sparingly and abused plentifully by Bulgy’s servant. In the
regiment itself money was plentiful at the time, and it was the custom
in the tents which housed drinking men for the eight tent-mates to get
in a can of beer before the canteen closed. Over the beer they would
sit and yarn and play cards until “lights out” sounded.

One night, eight men sat round their can of beer in a tent of “A”
Squadron, to which, by the way, Bulgy belonged. These eight had nearly
reached the bottom of the can. They had blown out all the candles in
the tent save one, which would remain for illumination until “lights
out” sounded. The last man to unroll his blankets and get to bed
had just finished, and was sitting up in order to blow out the last
remaining candle, when the flap of the tent was raised from the back,
and a hairy, grinning, evil face, which might have been that of the
devil himself, looked in on the sleepy warriors. They, for their part,
were too startled to investigate the occurrence, and the sight of that
face prevented them from stopping to unfasten the tent flap in order
to get out. They simply went out, under the flies, anyhow; one man
tried to climb the tent pole, possibly with a vague idea of getting
out through the ventilating holes at the top, but he finally went out
under the fly of the tent like the rest, taking with him the sting of
a vicious whack which the hairy devil aimed at him with a chain that
it carried. While these eight men were fleeing through the night, the
devil with the chain came out from the tent, and, seeing a line of
startled horses before it, leaped upon the back of the nearest horse,
gave the animal a thundering blow with its chain, and hopped lightly
on to the back of the next horse in the row, repeating the performance
there. In almost as little time as it takes to tell, a squadron of
stampeding horses followed the eight men of the tent on their journey
toward the skyline, and in the black and windy dark the remaining
men of “A” Squadron turned out to fetch their terrified horses back
to camp, and, when they knew the cause of the disturbance, to curse
Bulgy’s monkey even more fervently than Bulgy’s servant had cursed it.
The end of it all was that eight men of “A” Squadron signed the pledge,
and Bulgy left off keeping the monkey; it was too expensive a form of
amusement.

This is a typical camp yarn, and a military camp is full of yarns, some
better than this, and some worse.

In camp, more than anywhere else, the soldier learns to be handy. The
South African war taught men to kill and cut up their own meat, to
make a cooking fire out of nothing, to cook for themselves, to wash
up--though most of them had learned this in barracks--to wash their own
underclothing, darn their own socks, and do all necessary mending to
their clothes. It taught cavalrymen the value of a horse, in addition
to giving them an insight to the foregoing list of accomplishments. It
was, for the first year or so, a strenuous business of fighting, but
the last twelve months of the war consisted for many men far more of
marching and camp experience than actual war service. It was an ideal
training school and gave an insight into camp life under the best
possible circumstances; its lessons were invaluable, and much of the
practice of the Army of to-day is derived from experience obtained
during that campaign.

One failing to which men--and especially young soldiers--are liable
in camp life consists in that when they return to camp, thoroughly
tired after a long day’s manœuvring or marching, they will not take
the trouble to cook and get ready for themselves the food without
which they ought not to be allowed to retire to rest. In the French
Army, officers make a point of urging their men to prepare food for
themselves immediately on their return to camp, but in the English Army
this matter is left to the discretion of the men themselves, with the
result that some of them frequently go to bed for the night without
being properly fed. This course, if persisted in, almost invariably
leads to illness, and it is important that men under canvas should be
properly fed at the end of the day as well as at the beginning and
during the course of their work.

When under canvas in time of peace, the authorities of most units
reduce their demands on their men in comparison with barrack
life. It is generally understood that a man cannot turn out in
review order, or in “burnish and fake,” with the restrictions of
a canvas town about him. In some units, however, this point is
not sufficiently considered, and as much is asked of men as when
they have the conveniences of barracks all about them. The result
of this is sullenness and bad working on the part of the men; the
short-sightedness of officers leads them to press their demands
while men are in the bad temper caused by too much being put upon
them, and the final result is what is known technically in the Army
as an excess of “crime.” A string of men far in excess of the usual
number is wheeled up in front of the company or commanding officer
to be “weighed off,” and the number of men on defaulters’ parade, or
undergoing punishment fatigues, steadily increases. Although in theory
the soldier has the right of complaint, if he feels himself aggrieved,
to successive officers, even up to the general officer commanding
the brigade or division in which he is serving, in practice he finds
these complaints of so little real use to him that he expresses his
discontent by means of incurring “crime,” or, in other words, by
getting into trouble in some way. There is no accounting for this
habit; it is the way of the soldier, and no further explanation can
be given. Squadrons of cavalry have been known to cut all their
saddlery to pieces, and companies of infantry to render their belts and
equipment useless, by way of expressing their discontent or disgust
at undue harshness. The relaxation of discipline and the absence of
barrack-room soldiering when under canvas is a privilege which the
soldier values highly, and it ought not to be curtailed in any way.

A pleasant form of camping which many units on home service enjoy is
the annual musketry camp. It happens often that there is no musketry
range within convenient marching distance of the place in which a
unit is stationed, and, in that case, the unit sends its men, one
or two companies or squadrons at a time, to camp in the vicinity of
the musketry range allotted to their use. The firing of the actual
musketry course is in itself an interesting business, and it brings
out a pleasant spirit of emulation among the men concerned. Keenness
is always displayed in the attempt to attain the coveted score which
entitles a man to wear crossed guns on his sleeve for the ensuing
twelve months, and proclaims him a “marksman.” In addition to this
there is the pleasant sense of freedom engendered by life under canvas,
and the access of health induced thereby. The soldier, in common with
most healthy men, enjoys roughing it up to a point, and life in a
musketry camp seldom takes him beyond the point at which enjoyment
ceases.

Infantry units serving in foreign and colonial stations are frequently
split up into detachments consisting of one or more companies, and
serving each at a different place. This detachment duty, as it is
called, as often as not involves life under canvas, and it may be
understood that life under the tropical or sub-tropical conditions
of foreign and colonial stations can be a very pleasant thing. Here,
as in home stations, sufficient work is provided to keep the soldier
from overmuch meditation. Time is allowed, however, for sport and
recreation, and, even when thrown entirely on their own resources for
amusement, troops are capable of making the time pass quickly and
easily.

While on the subject of camping there is one more yarn of South Africa
and the war which merits telling, although it only concerns a bad case
of “nerves.” It happened during the last year of the war that a column
crossed the Modder River from south to north, going in the direction of
Brandfort, and camp was pitched for the night just to the north of the
Glen Drift. At this point in its course the Modder runs between steep,
cliff-like banks, from which a belt of mimosa scrub stretches out for
nearly a quarter of a mile on each side of the river. After camp had
been pitched for the night, the sentries round about the camp were
finally posted with a special view to guarding the drift, the northward
front of the column, and its flanks. Only two or three sentries,
however, were considered necessary to protect the rear, which rested on
the impenetrable belt of mimosa scrub along the river bank.

One of these sentries along the scrub came on duty at midnight, just
after the moon had gone down. He “took over” from the sentry who
preceded him on the post, and started to keep watch according to
orders, though in his particular position there was little enough to
watch. Quite suddenly he grew terribly afraid, not with a natural
kind of fear, but with the nightmarish kind of terror that children
are known to experience in the dark. His reason told him that in the
position that he occupied there was nothing which could possibly
harm him, for behind him was the bush, through which a man could not
even crawl, while before him and to either side was the chain of
sentries, of which he formed a part, surrounding his sleeping comrades.
His imagination, however, or possibly his instinct, insisted that
something uncanny and evil was watching him from the darkness of the
tangled mimosa bushes, and was waiting a chance to strike at him
in some horrible fashion. He tried to shake off this childish fear,
to assure himself that it could not possibly be other than a trick
of “nerves” brought on by darkness and the need for keeping watch,
when--crash!--something struck him with tremendous force in the back
and sent him forward on his face.

Half stunned, he picked himself up from the ground, and the pain in his
back was sufficient to assure him that he had not merely fallen asleep
and imagined the whole business. With his loaded rifle at the ready
he searched the edge of the mimosa bush as closely as he was able,
but could discover nothing; he had an idea of communicating with the
sentry next in the line to himself, but, since there was no further
disturbance, and nothing to show, he decided to say nothing, but simply
to stick to his post until the next relief came round.

Suddenly the uncanny sense of terror returned to him, intensified. He
felt certain this time that the evil thing which had struck him before
would strike again, and he felt certain that he was being watched by
unseen eyes. He was new to the country; as an irregular he was new
to military ways, and he promised himself that if ever he got safely
home he would not volunteer for active service again. The sense of
something unseen and watching him grew, and with it grew also the
nightmarish terror, until he was actually afraid to move. Then, by
means of the same mysterious agency, he was struck again to the ground,
and this time he lay only partially conscious and quite helpless until
the reliefs came round. The sergeant in charge of the reliefs had an
idea at first of making the man a close prisoner for lying down and
sleeping at his post, but after a little investigation he changed his
mind and sent one of his men for the doctor instead.

The doctor announced, after examination, that if the blow which felled
the man had struck him a few inches higher up in the back he would not
have been alive to remember it, and the man himself was taken into
hospital for a few days to recover from the injuries so mysteriously
inflicted. In the morning the column moved off on its way, and no
satisfactory reason could be adduced for the midnight occurrence.

But residents in that district will tell you, unto this day, that one
who has the patience to keep quiet and watch in the moonlight can see
baboons come up from the mimosa scrub and amuse themselves by throwing
clods of earth and rocks at each other.

It is a good camp story, and I tell it as it was told to me, without
vouching for its truth. Any man who cares to go into a military
camp--by permission of the officer commanding, of course--and has the
tact and patience to win the confidence of the soldiers in the camp,
can hear stories equally good, and plenty of them. For, as previously
remarked, camp life breeds yarns.



CHAPTER VIII

MUSKETRY


Although the musket of old time became obsolete before the memory
of living man, the term “musketry” survives yet, and probably will
always survive for laconic description of the art and practice of
military rifle-shooting. Musketry is the primary business of the
infantry soldier, and it also enters largely into the training of the
cavalryman, who is expected to be able to dismount and hold a desired
position until infantry arrive to relieve him.

So far as the recruit is concerned, by far the greater part of the
necessary instruction in musketry takes place not on the rifle range,
but on the regimental or battalion drill-ground, where the beginner is
taught the correct positions for shooting while standing, kneeling,
and lying. He is taught the various parts of his weapon and their
peculiar uses; he is taught that when a wind gauge is adjusted one
division to either side, it makes a lateral difference of a foot for
every hundred yards in the ultimate destination of the bullet. He is
taught the business of fine adjustment of sights, taught with clips of
dummy cartridges how to charge the magazine of his rifle. The extreme
effectiveness of the weapon is impressed on him, and the instructor not
only tells him that he must not point a loaded rifle at a pal, but also
explains the reason for this, and usually draws attention to accidents
that have occurred through disregard of elementary rules of caution.
For long experience has demonstrated that the unpractised man is liable
to be careless in the way in which he handles a rifle, and the recruit,
being at a careless age, and often coming from a careless class, is
especially prone to make mistakes unless the need for caution is well
hammered home.

At first glance, a rifle is an extremely simple thing. You pull back
the bolt, insert a cartridge, and close the bolt. Then you put the
rifle to your shoulder and pull the trigger--and the trick is done. But
first impressions are misleading, and the recruit has to be trained
in the use of the rifle until he understands that he has been given
charge of a very delicate and complex piece of mechanism, of which the
parts are so finely adjusted that it will send its bullet accurately
for a distance of 2800 yards--considerably over a mile and a half.
In order to maintain the accuracy of the instrument the recruit is
taught by means of a series of lessons, which seem to him insufferably
long and tedious, how to clean, care for, and handle his rifle. An
immense amount of time and care is given to the business of teaching
him exactly how to press the trigger, for on the method of pressing the
quality of the shot depends very largely. The musketry instructor gives
individual instruction to each man in this, and the man is made to
undergo “snapping practice”--that is, repeatedly pressing the trigger
of the empty rifle until he has gained sufficient experience to have
some idea of what will happen when the trigger is pressed with a live
cartridge in front of the bolt.

When the recruit has been well grounded in the theory of using a
rifle, he is taken to the rifle range for actual practice with real
ammunition. He starts off at the 200 yards’ range with a large target
before him, and, in all probability, the first shot that he fires
scores a bull’s-eye. He feels at once that he knows a good bit more
about the use of a rifle than the man who is instructing him, and
at the given word he aims and fires again. This time he is lucky if
he scores an outer; more often than not the bullet either strikes
the ground half-way up the range, or goes sailing over the back of
the butts, and the recruit, with a nasty painful feeling about his
shoulder, has an idea that rifle-shooting is a tricky business,
after all. The fact was that, with his experience of “snapping,” he
had learned to pull the trigger--or rather, to press it--without
experiencing the kick of the rifle; that kick, felt with the first real
firing, caused an instinctive recoil on his part in firing the second
time. Later on he learns to stand the kick, and to mitigate its effects
by holding the rifle firmly in to his shoulder, and from that time
onward he begins to improve in the art of rifle-shooting and to make
consistent practice.

For the recruits’ course, the targets are naturally larger and the
conditions easier than when the trained man fires. At the conclusion of
the recruits’ course, the men are graded into “marksmen,” who are the
best shots of all, first-class, second-class, and third-class shots,
and they have to qualify in each annual “duty-man’s” course of firing
in order to retain or improve their positions as shots. Before the new
regulations, which made pay dependent on proficiency on the range, came
into force, there was a good deal of juggling with scores in the butts;
one company or squadron of a unit would provide “markers” for another,
and since the men at the firing point shot in regular order, it was a
comparatively easy matter to “square the marker” and get him to mark
up a better score than was actually obtained. Under the present rules
governing proficiency pay, however, a man’s rate of pay is dependent on
his musketry, and third-class shots suffer to the extent of twopence
per day for failing to make the requisite number of points for second
class. In consequence of this, supervision in the butts is much more
severe, and there is little opportunity of putting on a score that is
not actually obtained. A case occurred two or three years ago, the
5th Dragoon Guards being the regiment concerned, in which the men of
a whole squadron made such an abnormally good score as a whole that,
when the returns came to be inspected, it was suspected that the
markers had had a hand in compiling what was practically a record. The
squadron in question was ordered to fire its course over again, and the
markers were carefully chosen with a view to the prevention of fraud
in the butts. After two or three days of firing, however, the repeat
course was stopped, for the men of the squadron were making even better
scores than before. The incident goes to show that there is little
likelihood of frauds occurring at the butts under the present system of
supervision, and incidentally demonstrates the shooting capabilities
of that particular squadron of men.

Bad shots are the trial of instructors, who are held more or less
responsible for the musketry standard of their units--certainly more,
if there are too many bad shots in any particular unit. The bad shot
is usually a nervous man, who cannot keep himself and his rifle steady
at the moment of firing, though drink--too much of it--plays a large
part in the reduction of musketry scores. At any rifle range used by
regular troops, during the carrying out of the annual course, one may
see the musketry instructor lying beside some man at the firing point,
instructing him where to aim, pointing out the error of the last shot,
and telling the soldier how to correct his aim for the next--generally
helping to keep up the average of the regiment or battalion. As a rule,
there is no man more keen on his work than the musketry instructor,
who is usually a very good shot himself, as well as being capable of
imparting the art of shooting to others.

The great musketry school of the British Army, so far as home service
goes, is at Hythe, where all instructors have to attend a class to
qualify for instructorship. Here the theory and practice of shooting
are fully taught; a man at Hythe thinks shooting, dreams shooting,
talks shooting, and shoots, all the time of his course. He is initiated
into the mysteries of trajectory and wind pressure, taught all about
muzzle velocity and danger zone, while the depth of grooving in a rifle
barrel is mere child’s play to him. He is taught the minutiæ of the
rifle, and comes back to his unit knowing exactly why men shoot well
and why they shoot badly. He is then expected to impart his knowledge,
or some of it, to the recruits of the unit, and to supervise the
shooting of the trained men as well. In course of time, constantly
living in an atmosphere of rifle-shooting, and spending more time and
ammunition on the range than any other man of his unit, he becomes one
of the best shots, though seldom the very best. For rifle-shooting
is largely a matter of aptitude, and some men, after their recruits’
training and a duty-man’s course on the range, can very nearly equal
the scores compiled by the musketry instructor.

Since shooting is a matter of aptitude to a great extent, it follows
that the present system, punishing men for bad shooting by deprivation
of pay and in other ways, is not a good one. It has not increased the
standard of shooting to any appreciable extent; men do not shoot better
because they know their rate of pay depends on it, for they were
shooting as well as they could before. Certainly the man who can shoot
well is of greater value in the firing line than the one who shoots
badly, but, apart from this, all men are called on to do the same duty,
and the third-class shot, if normally treated, has as much to do, does
it just as well, and is entitled to as much pay for it as the marksman.
There can be no objection to a system which rewards good shooting, but
that is an entirely different matter from penalising bad shooting, as
is done at present.

The penalties do not always stop at deprivation of pay. In some
infantry units a third-class shot is regarded as little better than a
defaulter; he has extra drill piled on him--drill which has nothing
at all to do with the business of learning to shoot; he is liable for
fatigues from which other men are excused, and altogether is regarded
to a certain extent as incompetent in other things beside marksmanship.
This, naturally, does not improve his shooting capabilities; he gets
disgusted with things as they are, knows that, since his commanding
officer has determined things shall be no better for him, it is no use
hoping for a change, and with a feeling of disgust resolves that, since
in his next annual course he cannot possibly put up a better score, he
will put up a worse. It is the way in which the soldier reasons, and
there is no altering it; the way in which men are disciplined makes
them reason so, and the determination to make a worse score since a
better is impossible is on a par with the action of a cavalry squadron
in cutting its saddlery to pieces because the men are disgusted with
the ways of an officer or non-commissioned officer. Thus, in the case
of unduly severe action on the part of commanding officers, the pay
regulations, which make musketry a factor in the rate of pay, have done
little good to shooting among the men.

When actually at the firing point, a soldier is taught that he must
“keep his rifle pointing up the range,” for accidents happen easily,
and, in spite of the extreme caution of officers and instructors,
hardly a year goes by without some accidental shooting to record. The
wonder is not that this sort of thing happens, but that it does not
happen more often, for, until a soldier has undergone active service
and seen how easily fatal results are produced with a rifle, it seems
impossible to make him understand the danger attaching to careless use
of the weapon. One may find a man, so long as he is not being watched,
calmly loading a rifle and closing the bolt with the muzzle pointed at
the ear of a comrade; it is not a frequent occurrence, but it happens,
all the same. And, in consequence, accidents happen.

The range and the annual course are productive of a good deal of
amusement, at times. There is a story of an officer who pointed out
to a man that every shot he was firing was going three feet to the
right of the target, and who, after having pointed this out several
times, at last ordered the man to stop firing while he telephoned up
to the butts and ordered that that particular target should be moved
three feet to the right. Whether the result justified the change is
not recorded. Cases are not uncommon in which a man fires on the wrong
target by mistake, especially at the long ranges, and there is at least
one well-authenticated case of a man who put all his seven shots on to
the next man’s target, and of course scored nothing for himself. For
the law of the range is that if a man plants a shot on another man’s
target, the other man gets the benefit of the points scored by that
shot. The markers in the butts must mark up what they see, for if they
were compelled to go by instructions from the firing point and had to
disregard the evidence of the targets, a musketry course would be an
extremely complicated business, and would last for ever.

One oft-told story is that of the recruit who sent shot after shot
over the back of the butts, in spite of the repeated instructions of
the musketry instructor to take a lower aim. At last, probably being
tired of being told to aim low, the recruit dropped his rifle muzzle to
such an extent that the bullet struck the ground about half-way up the
range and went on its course as a whizzing ricochet. “Missed again!”
said the instructor in disgust.

“Yes,” said the recruit, “but I reckon the target felt a draught that
time, anyhow.”

The recruits’ course of musketry ends on the short ranges, but when
the duty-man comes to fire for the year he is taken back, a hundred
yards at a time, until he is distant 1000 yards from the target. This
distance, 1000 yards, is considered the limit of effective rifle fire,
though a good shot can do a considerable amount of damage at 2000
yards, and the limit of range of the Lee-Enfield magazine rifle, the
one in use in the British Army, extends to 2800 yards. The weight of
the bullet is so small, however, that at the long distances atmospheric
conditions, and especially wind, have a great influence on the course
of its flight, while the power of human sight is also a factor in
limiting the effective range. Even at 1000 yards a man looks a very
small thing, while at 2000 yards he is a mere dot, and it is impossible
to take more than a general aim. More might be accomplished with more
delicately adjusted sights and wind-gauges, but those at present in
use are quite sufficiently delicate for purposes of campaigning, and
telescopic sights, or appliances of a delicate nature for bettering
shooting, are quite out of the question for use by the rank and file.
Most of the shooting of the Army is done at ranges between 500 and 1000
yards, and, whatever weapon science may produce for the use of the
soldier, it is unlikely that these distances will be greatly increased,
since even science cannot overcome the limitations to which humanity is
subject.

Up to a few years ago, the old-fashioned “bull’s-eye” targets were
employed at all ranges and for all purposes, but they have been
practically discarded now in favour of targets which reproduce, as
accurately as possible, the actual targets at which men have to aim
in war. The modern target is made up of a white portion representing
the sky, and a shot on this portion counts for nothing at all; the
lower part of the target is dull mud-coloured, and in the middle,
projecting a little way into the white portion, is a black area
corresponding roughly in shape and size to the head and shoulders of
a man. Shots on this black portion, which may be considered as a man
looking over a bank of earth, count as “bull’s-eyes,” and shots on the
mud-coloured portion of the target have also a certain value, for it is
considered that if a shot goes sufficiently near the figure of the man
to penetrate the earth that the target represents, such a shot under
actual conditions would possibly ricochet and kill the man, and in any
case would fling up such a cloud of dust or shower of mud and stones
as to wound him in some way, or at least put him out of action for a
few minutes. Further, rapid individual fire plays a far greater part in
modern rifle-shooting than it did a few years ago. The “volleys,” which
used to be so tremendously effective in the days of muzzle loading
and slow fire at short ranges, are little considered under present
conditions; with the development of initiative, and the introduction of
open order in the firing line, men are taught to fire rapidly by means
of exposing the targets for a second or two at a time, two shots or
more to be got on the target at each exposure. In the musketry course
of ten years ago there was very little rapid firing, but now it takes
up more than half of the total of exercises on the range.

Apart from the annual course of musketry which men are compelled to
undergo, they are encouraged to practise shooting throughout the
year by means of competitions, financed out of regimental funds,
and offering prizes to be won in open competition. Competitors are
graded into the respective classes in which their last course left
them, and prizes are offered in each class, though why silver spoons
should be offered to such an extent as they are is one of the mysteries
that no man can explain. Certain it is that in nearly every shooting
competition held, silver spoons are offered as prizes--and a soldier
has little use for an ordinary teaspoon, silver or otherwise.

The scores put on by men of the Army, taken in the average, go to
prove that British soldiers have little to learn from those of other
nations in the matter of shooting. The “marksman,” in order to win
the right to wear crossed guns on his sleeve, has to put up a score
which even a Bisley crack shot would not despise, and yet the number
of men to be seen walking out with crossed guns on their sleeves is no
inconsiderable one, while first-class shots are plentiful in all units
of the cavalry and infantry. Artillerymen, of course, know little about
the rifle and its use; their weapon both of offence and defence is the
big gun, and in the matter of rifle-shooting they trust to their escort
of cavalry or infantry--usually the latter, except in the case of Horse
Artillery. Taken in the mass, the British soldier has every reason to
congratulate himself on the way in which he uses his rifle, and the
present Continental war has proved that he is every whit as good at
using the rifle in the field as he is on the range, though, in shooting
on active service, the range of the object has to be found, while in
all shooting practice in time of peace it is known and the sights
correctly adjusted before the man begins to fire.

An adjunct to the course of musketry is that of judging distance, in
which men are taken out and asked to estimate distances of various
objects. Even for this there is a system of training, and men are
instructed to consider how many times a hundred yards will fit into the
space between them and the given object. They are taught how conditions
of light and shade affect the apparent distance; how, with the sun
shining from behind the observer on to the object, the distance appears
less than when the sun is shining from behind the object on to the
observer. They are taught at first to estimate short distances, and the
range of objects chosen for experiment is gradually increased. In this,
again, aptitude plays a considerable part; some men can judge distance
from observation only with marvellous accuracy, while others never get
the habit of making correct estimates.

An interesting method practised in order to ascertain distance consists
in taking the estimates of a number of men, and then striking an
average. With any number of men over ten from whom to obtain the
average, a correct estimate of the distance is usually obtained.
Another method consists in observing how much of an object of known
dimensions can be seen when looking through a rifle barrel, after the
bolt of the rifle has been withdrawn for the purpose. Since, however,
the object of training in judging distance is to enable a man to make
an individual estimate, neither of these methods is permitted to be
used in the judging when points are awarded. The award of points,
by the way, counts toward the total number of points in the annual
musketry course.



CHAPTER IX

THE INTERNAL ECONOMY OF THE ARMY


Given such a conscript army as can be seen in working in any
Continental nation, there is a very good reason for keeping the rate
of pay for the rank and file down to as low a standard as possible,
for the State concerned in the upkeep of a conscript army puts all,
or in any case the greater part, of its male citizens through the
mill of military service, and not only puts them through, but compels
them to go through. It thus stands to reason that, as the men serve
by compulsion, there is no need to offer good rates of pay as an
inducement to serve; further, it is to the interest of the State
concerned to keep down the expense attendant on the maintenance of its
army as much as possible, and for these two reasons, if for no other,
the rate of pay in Continental armies is remarkably small.

With a volunteer army, however, the matter must be looked at in a
different light. It is in the interest of the State, of course,
that expenses in connection with its army should be kept as low as
possible, but there the analogy between conscript and volunteer rates
of pay ends. If the right class of man is to be induced to volunteer
for service, he must be offered a sufficient rate of pay to make
military service worth his while--in time of peace, at any rate. The
ideal rate of pay would be attained if the State would consider itself,
so far as its army is in question, in competition with all other
employers of labour, and would offer a rate of pay commensurate with
the services demanded of its employees. By that method the right class
of man would be persuaded to come forward in sufficient numbers, and
the Army could be maintained at strength without trouble.

The British Army is the only voluntary one among the armies of the
Western world, and for some time past it has experienced difficulty
in obtaining a sufficiency of recruits to keep it up to strength, as
was evidenced by the series of recruiting advertisements in nearly
all daily papers of the kingdom with which the year 1914 opened.
Statistics go to prove that recruiting is not altogether a matter of
arousing patriotism, but is dependent on the state of the labour market
to a very great extent. In the years following on the South African
war, there was a larger percentage of unemployed in the kingdom than
at normal times, and consequently recruiting flourished; men of the
stamp that the Army wants, finding nothing better to do, and often
being uncertain where the next meal was to come from, enlisted, and
the Army had no trouble in maintaining itself at strength, although
the rate of pay that it offered was lower than that earned, in many
cases, by the ordinary unskilled labourer. Gradually, however,
commercial conditions began to improve, and for the past year or two,
in consequence of a very small percentage of unemployment among the
labouring classes, recruiting has suffered--the Army does not offer as
much as the ordinary civilian employer, either in wages or conditions
of life, and consequently men will not enlist as long as they can get
something to do in a regular way. Hence the War Office advertisements,
which had very little effect on the recruiting statistics, and were
wrongly conceived so far as appealing to the right class of man was in
question. It was not till Lord Kitchener had assumed control of the War
Office that the advertisements emanating from that establishment made
a real personal appeal to the recruit; the two events may have been
coincidence, for the war has pushed up recruiting as a war always does;
again, there may have been something in the fact that Kitchener, as
well as being an ideal organiser of men, is a great psychologist.

However this may be, the fact remains that, although the War Office
by the mere fact of its advertising has entered the labour market
as a competitor with civilian employers, it has not yet offered any
inducement equal to that offered by civilian employers. The rate of
pay for the rank and file is still under two shillings a day, with
lodging and partial board, for in time of peace the rations issued to
the soldier do not form a complete allowance of food, and even the
messing allowance is in many cases insufficient to provide sufficient
meals--the soldier has to supplement both rations and messing out of
his pay. When all allowances and needs have been accounted for, the
amount of pay that a private soldier can fairly call his own, to spend
as he likes, is about a shilling a day--and civilian employment, as a
rule, offers more than that. Moreover, modern methods of warfare call
for a more intelligent and better educated man than was the case fifty
years ago; the soldier of to-day, as has already been remarked, has
not only to be able to obey, but also to exercise initiative; a better
class of man is required, and though the factor of numbers is still
the greatest factor in any action that may be fought between opposing
armies, the factor of intelligence and elementary scientific knowledge
is one that grows in importance year by year. The mass of recruits, in
time of peace, is drawn from among the unemployed unskilled labourers
of the country; though, by the rate of pay given, the country effects
a certain saving, this is more than balanced by the difficulty of
educating and training these men--to say nothing of the expense of it.
A higher rate of pay would attract a better class of man and provide
a more intelligent army, one of greater value to the State. And, even
assuming that the class of man obtained at present is as good as need
be, still the rate of pay is insufficient; the work men are called
on to perform, the responsibilities that are entailed on them in the
course of their work, deserve a higher rate of pay than these men
obtain at present.

An illustration of this will serve far better than mere statement
of the fact. It is well known that for years past there has been
some difficulty in obtaining a sufficiency of officers for cavalry
regiments, but what is not so well known is that, when a troop of
cavalry is short of a lieutenant to lead it at drill and assume
responsibility for its working, the troop-sergeant takes command and
control of the troop. At the best, the pay of the troop-sergeant
cannot be reckoned at more than four shillings a day, and on that
amount of salary--twenty-eight shillings a week--he is given charge
and control of somewhere about thirty men, together with horses,
saddlery, and other Government property to the value of not less than
£1800. For the safety and good order of this amount of property he
is almost entirely responsible, as well as being charged with the
superintendence, instruction, and control of the thirty men or more who
comprise the troop under his command.

The fact is that the world has moved forward tremendously during the
past thirty or forty years, while, except for small and inadequate
changes in the rates of pay, the Army has stood still. Labour
conditions have altered in every way, and the cost of living has
increased, forcing up the wage rate. The Army has taken note of none
of these things, but has gone on, as regards pay and allowances, in
the way of forty years ago. The necessity for an advertising campaign
proved that the old ways were beginning to fail, and efforts were being
made to overcome the shortage of men without increasing the rates of
pay--vain efforts, if statistics of the amount of recruiting done
before and after the beginning of the advertising campaign count for
anything.

We may leave these larger considerations to come down to a view of
the interior working of a unit, its pay, feeding, and general life.
All arrangements as regards pay for infantrymen are managed by the
colour-sergeants of the companies, while in the cavalry and artillery
the squadron or battery quartermaster-sergeants have control of
the pay-sheets. These non-commissioned officers are charged with
the business of drawing weekly the amount of pay required by their
respective companies, squadrons, or batteries, and paying out the same
to the men under the supervision of the company, squadron, or battery
officers. The presence of the officer at the pay-table is a nominal
business in most cases, and the non-commissioned officer does all the
work, while in every case he is held responsible for any errors that
may occur. Each man is given a stated weekly rate of pay, and at the
end of each month there is a general settling up, at which the accounts
of each man are explained to him; he is told what debts he has incurred
to the regimental tailor, the bootmaker, or for new clothing that he
has been compelled to purchase to make good deficiencies; in every unit
each man is charged two or three pence a month--and sometimes more--by
way of barrack damages, which includes the repair of broken windows,
etc., and altogether the compulsory stoppages from pay generally
amount to not less than two shillings per man per month.

The system of pay is a complicated one. As a bed-rock minimum there
is a regular rate of pay of a shilling and a penny a day for an
infantryman, and a penny or twopence a day more for the other arms of
the service. On to this is added the messing allowance of threepence a
day, which is spent for the men in supplementing their ration allowance
of food, and never reaches them in coin at all; there is a clothing
allowance, which goes to defray the expense attendant on the renewal
of articles of attire; there is yet another allowance for the upkeep
of clothing and kit; there is the proficiency pay to which each man
becomes entitled after a certain amount of service, and which consists
of varying grades according to the musketry standard and character
of the man; this ranges from fourpence to sixpence a day; and then
there is badge pay, which adds a penny or twopence a day to old
soldiers’ pay so long as they behave themselves. The colour-sergeant
or quartermaster-sergeant has to keep account of all these small
items, and it is small matter for wonder that many a worried officer
or non-com., puzzling his brains over the intricacies of a pay-sheet,
expresses an earnest wish that the whole complicated system may be
swept away, and a straightforward rate of pay for each man substituted.

The Army Pay Corps, a non-combatant branch of the service, is charged
with the business of auditing and keeping accounts straight, and this
corps forms the final court of appeal for all matters connected with
the pay of the soldier. The Royal Warrant for Pay, a bulky volume
published annually, is the manual by which the Pay Corps is guided
to its decisions, and from which the harassed colour-sergeant or
quartermaster-sergeant derives inspiration for his work.

In all units serving at home, and in most of those serving abroad,
a system of messing is established regimentally to supplement the
ration allowance. Rations for the soldier, by the way, consist in
England of one pound of bread and three-quarters of a pound of meat
with bone per day, and all else must be bought out of pay and messing
allowance. In colonial stations the ration allowance is enlarged to
include certain vegetables, and in India the scale is still more
liberal, but it is obvious that the English ration of bread and meat
is not sufficient for the needs of the soldier, nor will the official
messing allowance of threepence per day per man altogether compensate
for ration deficiencies. Beyond doubt, however, the provision of
necessaries has been brought to a very fine art in the Army, and, with
an efficient cook-sergeant in charge of the regimental cookhouses, and
capable caterers to supervise purchases for the messing account, with
an allowance of fourpence a day per man the rank and file can have a
sufficiency of plain, wholesome food.

The sergeant-cook in charge of the cookhouses of each unit must have
passed through a course at the Aldershot school of cookery before
he can undertake the duties of his post, but he is the only trained
cook in each unit. Men are chosen as company cooks or squadron cooks
haphazard, and often with too little regard to their fitness for their
posts. In spite of all disadvantages, though, the average of cooking
in the Army is good, especially when one considers the unpromising
material with which the cooks have to deal. The contract price for Army
meat is not half that paid per pound by the civilian buyers; it is, of
course, all foreign meat that is supplied in normal times.

While the single men of the Army draw their meat supplies daily,
married quarters’ rations are drawn on stated days, and, as the
majority of the occupants of the married quarters are non-commissioned
officers and their wives, it follows naturally that, in getting their
exact ration with regard to weight, they are given every consideration
with regard to the quality of meat cut off from the lump. On married
quarters’ days the troops get a surprisingly small allowance of
meat and a surprisingly large allowance of bone, for the regulation
governing supply enacts that “three-quarters of a pound of meat _with
bone_” shall be allowed for each soldier. That “with bone” may mean
that two-thirds of the allowance or more is bone, though the soldier
has in this matter as well as in others the right of complaint if he
considers that he is being subjected to injustice in any way. The
quality of meat supplied, and its correct quantity, is supposed to
constitute one of the cares of the orderly officer of the day, for the
orderly officer, together with the quartermaster or the representative
of the latter, is supposed to attend at the issue of rations of both
bread and meat.

In this connection a word regarding the duties of the orderly
officer will not be out of place. These duties are undertaken by the
lieutenants and second lieutenants of each unit, who take turns of
a day apiece as “orderly officer of the day.” It has already been
remarked that an officer does not really begin to count in the life
of a unit until he has attained to the rank of captain and to the
experience gained by such length of service as makes him eligible for
captaincy. In no one thing does this fact become so clear as the way
in which the duty of orderly officer of the day is performed in the
majority of units. It happens as a rule that a lieutenant performs
his turn of orderly conscientiously and well; at times, however, it
happens that a subaltern, impatient at the fiddling duties involved
in the turn of orderly, regards complaints on the part of the men as
trivial and annoying, neglects to see that real causes of grievance are
properly remedied, and lays the foundations of deep dislike for himself
on the part of the men of the unit. One of the duties falling to the
orderly officer is that of visiting the dining-rooms of the regiment or
battalion and inquiring in each room if the men have any complaints to
make with regard to the quality or quantity of the food supplied. If
any complaint is made, it should be at once investigated, and, if found
justifiable, remedied.

But the subaltern doing orderly duty far too often does not
know--because he has not troubled to learn--the way to set about
remedying a just complaint; a very common form of reply to a complaint
by the men is, “I will see about it,” and that is all that the men
ever hear, while they are careful never to make a complaint to that
particular officer again, since they know he is not to be depended on.
The attitude of some junior officers towards the men making a complaint
is at times one of suspicion; the officer seems to imagine that the
man is doing it for amusement, and not until he has grown a little,
and incidentally passed out from the rank in which he takes his turn
as orderly officer, does he come to understand that men only make
complaints to their officers about things which are absolutely beyond
their own power to remedy. Frivolous or unjustifiable complaints, when
proved to be such, are very heavily punished, and consequently men
abstain as a rule from making them.

The orderly officer is not concerned alone with the food of the men;
he is supposed to visit the barrack-rooms and see that everything is
correct there; he has to visit the guard of his unit once by day and
once by night, and see that the guard is correct and the articles in
charge of the guard are complete according to the inventory on the
guard-board; he is supposed to visit all the regimental artificers’
establishments once during the day to see that work is being carried on
properly, and he is even concerned with the quality and issue of beer
in the canteen, while at the end of his day’s duty he has to fill in
and sign a report to the effect that he has performed all his duties
effectively--whether he has or no. His work, correctly carried through,
is no sinecure business.

Mention of the canteen takes us on to another point of military
economy, that of supplies of varying kinds apart from the actual ration
bread and meat. In each unit serving at home, a canteen is established
for the supply to the troops of articles of the best possible quality
at the lowest possible price “without limiting the right of the men
to purchase” in other markets, according to King’s Regulations on the
subject. In effect, however, the tenancy of a regimental canteen by a
contractor is a virtual monopoly, and, unfortunately for the troops
concerned, the monopoly is often made a rigid one. There is a “dry
bar,” or grocery establishment, at which men can purchase cleaning
materials for their kits and all articles of food that they require;
there is a “coffee bar,” where suppers are sold to the men and cooked
food generally is sold; and there is the “wet canteen,” whose sales are
limited to beer alone, and where the boozers of the unit congregate
nightly to drink and yarn. In old time the wet canteen used to be a
fruitful source of crime--as crime goes in the Army--and general
trouble, but moderation is the rule of to-day, and excessive drinking
is rare in comparison with the ways of twenty years or so ago. The wet
canteen of to-day is a cheerful place where men get their pints and
sit over them, forming “schools,” as the various groups of chums are
called, and drinking not so much as they talk, for they seek company
rather than alcohol.

For the teetotallers of each unit, the society known as the Royal Army
Temperance Association has established a “room” in practically every
unit of the service; at a cost of fourpence a month a man is given the
freedom of this room, and at the same time invited to sign the pledge,
which he generally does. In any case, if an A.T.A. man is caught
drinking to excess, he forfeits his membership of the Association and
the right to use its room. In the room itself a bar is set up at which
all kinds of temperance drinks are sold, together with buns and light
eatables. In the Army, a man refraining from the use of intoxicants
is said to be “on the tack,” and is known as a “tack-wallah.” Members
of the R.A.T.A. are designated “wad-wallahs,” or “bun-scramblers,” by
the frequenters of the canteen, who are known as “canteen-wallahs.”
The word “wallah” is a Hindustani one which has passed into currency
in the Army, its original meaning being the follower of any branch of
trade or employment. In the same way, numbers of Hindustani terms are
in general use; “roti” is almost invariably used in place of “bread,”
“char” for “tea,” and “pani” for “water,” all being correct Hindustani
equivalents. “Kampti,” meaning small, and “bus,” equivalent to “enough”
or “stop,” come from the same language, while “scoff” in place of “eat”
is derived from South Africa, where it is common currency even among
civilian white folks.

Married “on the strength” in the Army carries with it a number of
advantages for the married man. It is a little galling, in the
first place, to have to satisfy one’s commanding officer as to the
respectability of the intended wife before marriage, but it is not so
many years ago that there was good reason for this. Once married, the
soldier is granted free quarters for himself and wife, and the wife is
allowed fuel and light up to a certain amount, together with rations,
and an additional allowance is made in the event of children being
born. Curiously enough, however, the size of the quarters allotted to
the married men and their families is not determined by the number of
children in the family, but by the rank of the married man; not many
private soldiers venture to marry, for their rate of pay is so low as
to make the experiment an extremely risky one, although the wife of the
soldier gets--if she wishes it--a certain amount of the single men’s
washing to do, by way of supplementing her husband’s pay.

Married “off the strength”--that is, without the permission of the
officer commanding the unit--is doubly risky, for the wife of the man
who marries thus gets no official recognition; her husband has to
occupy a place in the barrack-room, for no separate quarters can be
allotted to him; he has at the same time to find lodgings somewhere
among the civilian inhabitants of the station for his wife--and
children, if there are any--and, if he is a good character, he may be
granted a sleeping-out pass, which confers on him the privilege of
sleeping out of barracks--and this is a privilege that he must beg, not
a right that he can claim. As the married establishment of a regiment
or battalion is necessarily small, men frequently get married “off
the strength,” though how they manage to exist and at the same time
provide for their wives on military pay is a mystery. The most common
explanation is that the wife, whatever work she has been engaged in
before her marriage, continues it after; the hardest part of the
business is that neither wife nor husband, in these circumstances, can
count on the possession of a home as those married “on the strength”
understand it.

The private soldier married “on the strength” usually has entered on
his second period of service--that is, he has finished the twelve years
for which he first contracted to serve, and has re-enlisted to complete
twenty-one years with a view to a pension. Generally he manages to get
a staff job of some sort, from employment on the regimental police to
barrack sweeper, or anything else that will get him out of attending
early morning parades as a rule--though all staff men have to attend
early parades when the orders of the day say “strong as possible.”
The rule in most units is that the staff jobs are distributed among
the older soldiers, for these are supposed, and with justice, to be
better able to dispense with perpetual training than the younger
men. As a rule, the appointment of any young soldier to a staff
appointment--except such posts as that of orderly-room clerk, for which
special aptitude counts before length of service--is the cause of
considerable bitterness among the older soldiers who are still at duty,
and is usually attributed to rank favouritism, whether it is due to
that or no.

In cavalry regiments especially, the ordinary duty-men look for
amusement when the staff men are “dug out” to undergo the ordinary
routine of duty, either by way of annual training or on the occasion
of a “strong as possible” parade. The duty-man has his horse every
day, and horse and man get to know each other, but the staff-man,
attending stables only on the occasion of his being warned to attend a
duty parade, has as a rule to take any horse that is “going spare,” as
they call it, and usually the horse that nobody else has taken up for
riding is not a pleasant beast. And the staff-man may be a bit rusty
as regards drill and riding, so that the two things combined produce
the effect of involuntary dismounting in the field or at riding school
occasionally--or, as the soldier would say, “dismounting by order from
hind-quarters.” Taken on the whole, the staff-man’s day at duty is
not a pleasant one, while, if he ventures to complain to his comrades
or grumble in any way, he gets more ridicule than sympathy. Usually
the duty-man affects to consider the staff-man an encumbrance, and in
the cavalry even signallers, during the time that they are excused
riding and attending stables, are told that it is “easy enough to wag a
little bit of stick about--why don’t you come down to stables and do a
bit?” The reply generally makes up in forcibility for a deficiency in
elegance, for the trooper is capable of maintaining his reputation as
regards the use of language--of sorts.

A form of staff employment which calls for a particular class of man
is the post of officer’s servant; it amounts to the regular work of a
valet for “first servant,” and that of a groom for “second servant,”
and is not always an enviable post, especially if the officer in
question is short-tempered or “bad to get on with.” Officers’ servants
occupy quarters away from the duty-men, and in the vicinity of the
officers’ mess in the case of single officers; married officers’
servants are provided with quarters in their masters’ houses. In
addition to the officers’ servants, there is in each unit a regular
staff of mess waiters both for officers’ and sergeants’ messes, while
all non-commissioned officers from the rank of sergeant upward are
permitted to employ a “bâtman” from among the men serving under them.
The sergeant’s bâtman, though, is not excused from duty as is the
officer’s servant, but has to get through all his own work, and then
clean the sergeant’s equipment, keep his bunk in order, groom his
horse, and clean his saddle (in cavalry and artillery units), as well
as attend all parades from which the sergeant has no power to excuse
him. Every staff job carries with it a certain amount of extra-duty
pay, and this, in addition to the fact of being excused from at least
some of the ordinary parades of the duty soldier, causes a post on
the staff to be sought after by most men. There are some, though,
who prefer to be at ordinary duty, and the man who is going in for
promotion usually avoids staff employ, for the two do not go together.

Among non-commissioned officers as well as among the rank and file
there is a certain amount of staff employment, but it is a smaller
amount, and a good deal of it is unenviable business. The post of
provost-sergeant, for instance, although it carries extra-duty pay, is
naturally not a popular business, for having control of the regimental
police and being responsible for the punishments of delinquents on
defaulters’ drill and punishment fatigues does not tend to increase the
popularity of a non-commissioned officer. The business of postman in
a regiment is usually entrusted to a corporal; as a rule, the oldest
corporal is chosen to fill this berth, and one just concluding his term
of military service is practically certain to get it as soon as it
falls vacant. But staff jobs for non-coms. are far fewer, relatively,
than for the rank and file, and, outside the artificers’ shops, the
regimental orderly room and quartermaster’s store, practically every
non-com. is at duty.



CHAPTER X

THE NEW ARMY


In the course of these pages the remark has already been made that the
British Army is in a state of flux; this is true mainly as regards
numbers and organisation, but with regard to discipline and training
no very great changes are possible. Methods of training may alter, and
do alter for the better from time to time, but the basic principles
remain, since an army can be trained only in one way: by the use of
strict discipline and of means calculated to impart to men the greatest
possible amount of instruction in the shortest space of time. The more
quickly a man absorbs the main points of his training, the better for
him and for the army whose effectiveness he is intended to increase.

In the new army of to-day, from which it is intended to draft effective
men into the firing line at the earliest possible moment, rapidity of
training is a prime essential. At the outset, owing to the enormous
numbers of men who flocked to the colours, training was no easy
matter, and for some time to come instructors will be scarce when
compared with the multitude of men who require training. In order
to combat this, instructors have been asked to re-enlist from among
ex-soldiers who, past fighting age themselves, are yet quite capable
of drilling the new men. A minor drawback arises here, however, in
that such of the instructors as left the colours before a certain date
are out of touch as regards modern weapons and drill. For instance,
the field gun at present in use in the British Army was not generally
adopted until after the conclusion of the South African campaign; in
the case of the cavalry, again, important modifications have been
brought about in drill and formations during the last ten years,
while the charger loading rifle with wind gauge is comparatively an
innovation both as regards cavalry and infantry. It is not intended
to imply that drill instructors who finished their colour service ten
or twelve years ago are of no use, for, in the matters of imparting
elementary drill and the first principles of discipline to the
recruits, they are invaluable and far too few. But, in more advanced
matters, it must be conceded that the sooner the new army can instruct
itself the better, for the proverb about an old dog and new tricks
may be applied to re-enlisted instructors and the new army, which is a
whole bag of new tricks.

It is essential that the new army should train itself at the earliest
possible moment, and for this reason there are endless opportunities
for the man with brains who enlists at the present time. The
re-enlisted drill instructor will not accompany the men of the new army
into the field, and, as an army increases, a relative increase must
be made in the number of its non-commissioned officers, while there
are also vacancies by the hundred for commissioned officers. For the
average man, however, it is useless at the present time to depend on
influence and back-door methods for promotion. Worth is all that will
count, and an ounce of enlistment to-day is worth a ton of influence
that might have been exercised yesterday. It is as true of the new
army as of any other profession that there is plenty of room at the
top. The way to get there is by enlistment to-day and hard and patient
application to one’s work for a matter of weeks or months.

No man can tell how long the new army will last, or what will be the
conditions of service and strength of the army after the proclamation
of peace. One thing, however, is certain. Not while a first-class
power remains on the continent of Europe will conscription cease
altogether between the Urals and the Atlantic, or between Archangel and
Brindisi. It is quite probable that when peace comes again, universal
conscription will cease, for there will no longer be an embodied threat
in central Europe--the Powers will have no more of that, and the
burden of armaments on the old scale must cease. On the other hand,
however, nations will maintain sufficient forces to enable them to
insist on international justice; the threat of the sword will always
form the final court of appeal from the decisions of any arbitration
body, and, while this is so, a British army must always be maintained.
The existence of primal human instinct is fatal to the idea of total
disarmament; war may not come again, for that is a contingency with
regard to which none can prophesy, but the fact remains that the best
provision for peace is ample preparation against the chances of war.

Thus the man who looks for a career out of the British Army need not
look in vain, for there will always be sufficient of an army, if only
for colonial and foreign service, to furnish capable men with all the
careers that they may desire. The other reason for enlistment, less
selfish and more vital, has been expressed by many voices and by
means of many pens; the country has called, and there are ugly names
for those who, without sufficient claims of kin to form cause for
exemption, refuse to answer the call.

With regard to the composition of the new army it may be said that
the standing of the men has altered materially since the outbreak
of hostilities, though this is in keeping with the trend of thought
and feeling that has been evident since the end of the South African
campaign. Up to the end of the nineteenth century there still remained
obscure provincial centres in which it was supposed that only wastrels
would enlist, with a view to getting an easy means of livelihood;
farther back, this conception of the Army was a very common one. It
is hard to say at what period of British history such an idea gained
currency, unless the employment of mercenaries previous to the time
of the French Revolution may have given it birth. For, long before
Waterloo, the British soldier gave ample proof of the stuff of which
he is made, and there is not a battlefield of history from which there
has not come some instance of self-denial or devotion to a comrade
which attests among the ranks of the British Army the existence of the
highest principles by which humanity is actuated.

But, up to the end of the nineteenth century, civilians could not
understand the Army. Kipling taught them a little, but Kipling’s
soldiers are all hard drinkers with a tendency to the slaughter of
aspirates, and various other linguistic eccentricities. As character
studies, Kipling’s soldiers are masterly works, but they bear little
relation to the soldier of to-day, who, even as an infantryman, is
required to be an educated man in certain directions, since he lives in
a welter of wind gauges and trajectory, decimal points and mathematical
calculations with regard to the accomplishment of his duties. The
public as a whole has been waking up to these facts slowly--very
slowly--but it has taken the world-catastrophe of a general European
war to shake the public entirely from its apathy, and cause it to
realise that the Army is an agglomeration of men in the highest sense
of that little three-lettered word. There is to-day among all ranks
and classes a realisation of the good that is, and always has been in
the Army; there is a new interest in soldiers, in military movements,
and in all that pertains to the theory and practice of war, and this
augurs well for the future of members of the new army, both on duty and
among their friends. Counting from the day that the nation wakened to
the good that is in the Army, and the possibility of soldiers being
at root like other men, military uniform has become a matter for pride
to its wearer, and respect from those who from any cause are unable
to assume the uniform. As this war has knit together motherland and
colonies, so, by means of this war, the soldier has come to his own.
The new army is not a thing apart from the nation: it is the nation.

The new army means an increase not in numbers alone, for we may accept
as a principle that the best will rule in a mass composed of all
sorts from best to worst--that is, if we grant relative equality in
the numbers of best and worst, and of each intervening grade. Periods
of commercial prosperity have left the Army dependent mainly on the
unemployed for its recruits, with a corresponding loss in education and
moral tone, but the new army is composed of men of all grades, actuated
for the most part by the highest possible impulses, and asking only
to be allowed to give of their best. Enlisting in this spirit, it is
inevitable that these men should look upward, and thus the best will
rule. For purposes of rule the Army needs the very best, for its own
sake and that of the future of the nation’s manhood. In gaining the
best and their influence, the Army will increase in social standing
and moral tone as well as in numbers.

No man comes out from the Army as he went in; there are many types, and
with the enormous increase in numbers at the present time, the number
of types will increase as well as the number of representatives of
each type. Country youths, town dwellers, agricultural labourers--who
often make the best and keenest soldiers--men who know nothing of
what labour is like, skilled artisans, and men from the office--all
come to the ranks of the Army, which, shaping them to compliance with
discipline, still leaves the stamp of individuality. The soldiers of
the new army will come back to their ordinary avocations bearing the
stamp of military training, stronger physically, and different in many
ways--mainly improved ways. But the metal on which the stamp of the
Army is impressed will remain the same, for one is first a man and then
a soldier. The instances of Prussian brutality evident to-day, and an
eternal disgrace to the German nation, do not prove anything against
the Prussian military system, but afford evidence that brutality is
ingrained in the Prussian before he goes up as a conscript to begin
his training. So, whatever the characteristics of a man may be, the
Army cannot make a brave soldier out of a cowardly civilian, and it
cannot make a good man into a bad one; it accentuates certain traits
of character and drives others into the background, but it neither
destroys nor creates. It is a training school which, taken in the
right way, brings out all that is best in a man, stiffens him to face
the battle of life as well as the battles of military service, and
strengthens self-confidence and self-respect. The men who are seen
to have suffered in character during their military training are by
no means examples from which one can cite the result of discipline
and army work, for it is not the training that is at fault, but the
inherent weakness of the men themselves. The social standing of the
majority of recruits joining the new army renders it ten times more
true of the Army of to-day than of the Army of yesterday, that military
training gives more than it demands, inculcates habits which, followed
in after life, are invaluable, and makes a man--in the best sense of
the word--of each one who joins its ranks.

One thing that officers and men alike in the new army should be made to
realise is that the possession of a good kit carries one half of the
way on active service--the things that carry the other half of the way
are not to be purchased. But the man who has undergone the rigours of
active service understands the value of good boots, good field-glasses,
well-fitting and suitable clothing, and really portable accessories to
personal comfort. These things, and an intelligent choice of them, go
far to make up the difference between the man successful at his work
and the failure, for although a bad workman is said to quarrel with
his tools a good workman cannot do good work with bad tools. In the
peculiarly exacting conditions entailed on men by active service, kit
and equipment should be of the best quality obtainable, and the choice
of what to take and what to leave behind is evidence, to some extent,
of the fitness of the man for his work. The most important item of all
is boots, and in fitting boots for active service one should be careful
to select a size that will admit of the wearer enjoying a night’s sleep
without removing his footwear. Care of the feet, and retention of the
ability to march, are quite as important as shooting abilities, for the
man who cannot march with the rest will not be in it when the shooting
begins. For the rest, it is wise to try, if not to follow, as often
as possible the tips given, by men who have been on active service,
with regard to the choice of kit and the little things that make for
comfort--that is, as far as compliance with these “tips” is compatible
with keeping the size of one’s outfit down. The seasoned man, when
talking of such subjects as kit and comfort, usually speaks out of his
own experience, and his advice is worth following. The golden rule in
the choice of an outfit for service is simply “as little as possible,
and that little good.”

This rule, by the way, used to be applied to the British Army in
another way: the new army, however, makes a difference in the matter of
size.



CHAPTER XI

ACTIVE SERVICE


The popular conception of active service is of a succession of
encounters with the enemy. Desperate deeds of valour, brilliant charges
by bodies of troops, men saving other men under fire, the storming
of positions, and the flush of victory after strenuous action enter
largely into the civilian conception of war.

The reality is a sombre business of marching and watching, nights
without sleep and days without food; retracing one’s steps in order to
execute the plan of the brain to which a man is but one effective rifle
out of many thousands, marching for days and days, seeing nothing more
exciting than a burnt-out house and the marching men on either side and
to front and rear--and then the contact with the enemy. A vicious crack
from somewhere, or the solid boom of a piece of artillery; somewhere
away to the front or flank is the enemy, and his pieces do damage in
the ranks; there is a searching for cover, some orders are given,
perhaps a comrade lies utterly still, and one knows that that man will
not move any more; there is a desperate sense of ineffectiveness, of
anger at this cowardly (as it seems) trick of hitting when one cannot
hit back. There is the satisfaction of getting the range and firing,
with results that may be guessed but cannot be known accurately by the
man who fires; there is the curious thrill that comes when an angrily
singing bullet passes near, and one realises that one is under fire
from the enemy. In a normal action, there is the sense of disaster,
even of defeat when one’s side may in reality be winning, for one sees
men dying, wounded, lying dead--one knows the damage the enemy has
inflicted, but has no idea of the damage ones own force has inflicted
in return. Often, when it begins to be apparent that the enemy is
nearly beaten, there comes the order to retire; one does not understand
the order, but, with a sullen sense of resentment at it, retires,
ducking at the whizzing of a shell, though not all the ducking in the
world would avail if the shell were truly aimed at the one who ducks,
or starting back to avoid a bullet that whizzed by--as if by starting
back one could get out of the way of a bullet!

After a day of action, or after the chance has come to rest for a
while after days of action, one gets a sense of the horror of the whole
business--the tragedy of lives laid down, in a good cause certainly,
but the men are dead, and one questions almost with despair if it is
worth while. So many good men with whom one has joked and worked and
played in time of peace have gone under--and there are probably more
battles yet to fight. It is not until a war has concluded, and men who
have served are able to get some idea of the operations as a whole,
that they are able to understand what has been done and why it has been
done. Men who came back wounded from Mons and Charleroi, away from
the magnificent three weeks’ retreat that was then in progress for
the British and French armies, were, in many cases, fully convinced
that they had been defeated--that their armies were beaten, and had
to retreat to save themselves from destruction. The man in the ranks
cannot understand the plan of the staff who control him, for he sees so
very little of the whole; at the most, he knows what is happening to a
division of men, while engaged in the retreat to the position of the
Marne were, at the least, twenty divisions on the side of the Allies.
Had one of these been utterly shattered in a set battle, the other
nineteen might still have won a decisive victory, and, if news of
that victory had not come through for a day or two, the survivors from
the shattered division would have spread tidings of a defeat--which it
would have been, to them. The man in the ranks sees so little of the
whole.

Here the war correspondent makes the most egregious mistakes, for,
untrained in military service himself, he takes the word of the man
in the ranks--the man on the staff of army headquarters is far too
busy and far too discreet to talk to war correspondents--and out of
what the man in the ranks has to say the war correspondent makes up
his story. Though the man in the ranks may believe his own story to be
true, though he may tell of the operations as he conceives them, he may
be giving an utterly false impression of what is actually happening.
The man in the ranks is one cog in a machine, and he cannot tell what
all the machine is doing at any time, least of all when a battle is in
progress.

Every battle fought differs from all other battles, for no opposing
forces ever meet under precisely identical conditions twice. Thus it
is useless to speak of a typical battle except in the broadest general
sense, and useless to attempt to describe a typical battle, or action
of any kind. Usually, the artillery get into action after cavalry have
reconnoitred the enemy’s position; the guns shell the enemy until he
is considered sufficiently weakened to permit of infantry attack, and
then the infantry go forward, even up to the rarely occurring bayonet
charge. If their advance dislodges the enemy, the cavalry are set on
to turn retreat into rout; if, on the other hand, the attacking force
is compelled to retire, the cavalry cover the retreat, and, in order
to make good in a retreat, a part of a force is taken back while
the remainder hold the enemy in check. In modern actions, artillery
fire their shells over the heads of their own infantry at the enemy,
distance and trajectory permitting of this. By trajectory is meant the
curve that a projectile describes in its flight; both rifles and big
guns are so constructed and sighted that they throw their projectiles
upward to counteract the pull of gravity, and the missile eventually
drops down toward its object--it does not travel in a perfectly
straight line. But it is bad for infantry to be in front of their
own guns, with their own artillery shells passing over them, for too
long--_morale_ suffers from this after a time, since a man cannot
distinguish in such a case between his own artillery’s shells and those
of the enemy. Whenever possible, the artillery in rear of an infantry
force are posted slightly to either flank; circumstances, however, do
not always admit of this.

On mobilisation for active service, the first thing that happens in
the British Army is the calling up of the reserves. All men enlist, in
the first case, for a certain number of years with the colours and a
further period “on the reserve.” In this latter force, they are free
to follow any civilian avocation, but on mobilisation must immediately
report themselves at headquarters--wherever their headquarters may
be--and take the place appointed to them in the mobilised army. Then
comes the business of drawing war kit and equipment from stores. As a
battleship clears for action, so the Army rids itself for the time of
all things not absolutely necessary on active service, exchanges blank
ammunition for ball, sharpens swords and bayonets, and in every way
prepares for stern business. Each man is issued with a little aluminium
plate which he is compelled to wear, and on which are inscribed such
particulars as his name, regimental number, unit, etc., so that in case
of his being killed on the field he can be identified and the news of
his death transmitted to his next of kin. Each man, too, is issued
with an “emergency ration,” which is a compressed supply of food amply
sufficient for one day’s meals, so that in any tight corner, where
provisions are not obtainable, he may be able to hold out for at least
one day without being reduced to starvation. The opening and use of
this ration, except by permission of an officer, counts as a crime in
the Army, unless a man is placed in such a position that no officer
is at hand to sanction the opening of the package, when the matter is
perforce left to the man’s discretion.

Marching on service is a different matter from marching in time of
peace. Not only is there the strain of ever-possible attack, but there
is also, for cavalry and infantry, the weight of service armament and
equipment to be considered. Every man carries in his bandoliers 150
rounds of ammunition for his rifle--not a bit too much, when the rate
of fire possible with the modern rifle is taken into account. But 150
rounds of ball cartridge is a serious matter when one has to carry
it throughout the day, and, when active service opens, it is easy to
understand why only really fit men are passed by doctors into the Army.
So far as the rank and file are concerned, it is power to endure that
makes the soldier on active service; bravery is needed, initiative is
needed, but staying power is needed most of all.

There may be days of solid marching without a sight of the enemy.
One may form part of a flanking force whose business is to march from
point to point, fighting but seldom, but always presenting a threat to
the enemy or his lines of communication, and thus ever on the move,
with very little time for sleep or eating; again, one may be placed
with a force which has to march half a day to come in contact with the
enemy, and to fight the other half of the day; or yet again, it may be
necessary to march all night in order to take a position--or be shot
in the attempt--at dawn. In time of peace and on manœuvres, officers
take care that compensating time is allowed to men, so as to give them
the normal amount of rest; on active service, the officer commanding
a force spares his men as much as he can, and gives them all the rest
possible, but he has to be guided by circumstances, or to rise superior
to circumstances and cause himself and his men to undergo far more than
normal exertions. War, as carried out to-day, requires all that every
man has to give in the way of staying power, and now, as in the days of
the battle-axe and long-bow, physical endurance is the greatest asset
a man can have on active service. The hard drinker in time of peace
and the man who has been looking for “soft jobs” all the time of his
peace service soon “go sick” and become ineffective; they may be just
as brave as the rest, but they lack the staying power requisite to the
carrying on of war.

Men’s impressions of being under fire vary so much that every account
is of interest. “My principal impression was that I’d like to run away,
but there was nowhere to run to, so I stuck on, and got used to it
after a bit.” “I felt cold, and horribly thirsty--I never thought to be
afraid till afterwards.” “It was interesting, till I saw the man next
to me rolled over with a bullet in his head, and then I wanted to get
up and go for the devils who had done that.” Thus spoke three men when
asked how they felt about it. My own impression was chiefly a fear that
I was going to be afraid--I did not want to disgrace myself, but to be
as good as the rest.

One man, who came back wounded after the day of Mons, described how
he felt at first shooting a man and knowing that his bullet had taken
effect--for in the majority of cases, with a whole body of men firing,
it is difficult to tell which of the bullets take effect. This,
however, was a clear case, and the man could not but know that he was
responsible for the shot.

“I had four men with me on rear-guard,” he said, “and we were holding
the end of a village street to let our chaps get away as far as
possible before we mounted and caught up with them. We could see German
infantry coming on, masses of them, but they couldn’t tell whether the
village street held five men or a couple of squadrons, so they held
back a bit. At last I could see we were in danger of being outflanked,
so I got my men to get mounted, and just as they were doing so a German
officer put his head round the corner of the house at the end of the
street--not ten yards away from me. I raised my rifle, shut both eyes,
and pulled the trigger--it was point-blank range, and when I opened my
eyes and looked it seemed as if I’d blown half his face away. I felt
scared at what I had done--it seemed wrong to have shot a man like
that, though he and his kind drive women and children in front of their
firing lines. It seemed to make such a horrible mess, somehow. I got
mounted, and just as I swung my leg over the horse, a fool of a German
infantryman aimed a blow at me with the butt end of his rifle--I don’t
know where he sprung from--and damaged my arm like this. If he’d had
the sense he could have run me through with a bayonet or shot me, but
I suppose he was too flurried. But that officer’s face after I’d shot
him stuck to me, and I still dream of it, and shall for some time,
probably.”

He who told this story is a boy of twenty-two or three, and he has
gone back to the front to rejoin his regiment, now--with three stripes
on his arm, instead of the two that were his at the beginning of the
campaign.

On forced marches, and often on normal marches as well, all the things
that one considers necessities--with the exception of sufficient
food to keep one in condition--go by the board. One sleeps under the
stars, with no other covering than a coat and blanket; one lies out
to sleep in pouring rain, with no more covering; tents are out of the
question, for there is no time to pitch and strike them. One goes for
days without a wash, and for days, too, without undressing. There were
two scamps in the South African campaign who promised each other, for
some mysterious reason, that they would not take their boots off for
a month, and they ran into such a series of marches and actions that,
even if they had not made the compact, they would only have been able
to remove their boots three times in the course of that month. The
smart soldier of peace service goes unshaven, unwashed, careless of all
except getting enough of food and sleep at times; and when a lull comes
in the operations, so that he gets a day or even an hour or two to
himself, a bath is a luxury undreamed of by the man who can have one
every morning and consider it a mere usual thing.

If in time of peace the soldier considers a rifle carelessly, and even
resents having to carry it about with him, he looks on it differently
on service, knowing as he does that his life may depend on the quality
of the weapon and his ability to use it at almost any minute of the day
or night. The confirmed “grouser” of peace time, who will make a fuss
over having to put twenty rounds of blank ammunition in his bandolier
to go out on a field-day, will swing his three bandoliers of ball
cartridges on to his person without a word of complaint, for he knows
that he may need every round. Values alter amazingly on service; the
man with a box of matches, when one has been away from the base for
a few days, is a person of importance, and a mere cigarette is worth
far more than its weight in gold. In General Rundle’s column during
the South African war, half a biscuit was something to fight for, and
the men who thought it such had many a time thrown away the same sort
of unpalatable biscuits and bought bread to eat instead. An ant-heap
acquired a new significance, for it might be the means of saving a
man’s life at any time, and among mounted men a “fresh” horse, which
might give its rider some trouble at the time of mounting, was no
longer to be avoided, for by its freshness it showed that it had plenty
of spirit and go about it, spirit that might take a man out of rifle
range at a critical moment, when the slower class of mount might come
out of action without its rider.

This reversal of the circumstances of ordinary life produces lasting
effect on men; no man who has undergone the realities of active service
comes back to the average of life unchanged. The difference in him may
not be apparent at a casual glance, but it is there, for the rest of
his life. He has looked on death at close quarters, and, whatever his
intelligence may be--whether he be gutter-snipe or ’Varsity man, sage
or fool--he has a clearer realisation of the ultimate values of things.
One may count the Army in peace time as a great training school out of
which men come moulded to a definite pattern, and yet retaining their
individuality. But active service is a fire through which men pass,
emerging on the far side purified of little aims to a greater or less
extent, according to the material on which the fire has to work. For
many--all honour to them and to those who mourn their loss--it is a
destroying fire.

So far as the limits of space will permit, there is set down in these
pages a record of what military service amounts to for the rank and
file, in peace and war. It is necessarily incomplete, for the story of
the British Army of to-day, apart from its history of great yesterdays,
is not to be told in any one book--there is too much of it for that.
There are those who belittle the Army and its ways and influence on the
men who serve, but one who has served, with the perspective of time to
give him clearness of vision, can always look back on the Army and be
glad that he has learned its lessons, accomplished its tasks; the men
who would belittle it are themselves very little men, too little to be
worthy of serious notice. The British Army is a gathering of brave men,
fighting in this year of grace 1914 in a noble cause, and fighting, as
the British Army has always fought, bravely and well.


    WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD.
    PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained. Inconsistent
hyphenation was not changed.

Page 173: _morale_ was printed as _moral_; changed here.





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