The Minute Book
Wednesday, 27 July 2016

"Knew Their Trademark"
Topic: Humour

"Knew Their Trademark"

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 29 April 1915
From the Omaha World-Herald

A sentry was giving closest attention to his post in the neighborhood of a British army camp in England, challenging returning stragglers late after dark. The following is reported as an incident of his vigil:

"Who goes there?" called the sentry at the sound of approaching footsteps.

"Coldstream Guards!" was the response.

"Pass, Coldstream Guards!" rejoined the sentry.

"Who goes there?" again challenged the sentry.

"Forty-nine Highlanders!" returned the unseen pedestrian.

"Pass, Forty-nine Highlanders!"

"Who goes there?" sounded a third challenge.

"None of your damned business!" was the husky reply.

"Pass, Canadians!" acquiesced the sentry.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 17 July 2016

Fancy Religions
Topic: Humour

Fancy Religions

Ottawa Citizen, 19 April 1916

The anxiety of Dr. J.W. Edwards, M.P., to learn officially the different varieties of church faith among the Canadian recruits would hardly be satisfactorily answered by the hard-bitten sergeant in the Submarine Miners. There were only two churches within marching distance of the camp: Anglican and Roman, and there seemed to be rather a large number of men with conscientious scruples about attending either. So when the squad paraded on Sunday morning, old Bob, the sergeant-major, exclaimed, "Catholics, one pace forward! Church of England, one pace to the rear! Fancy religions, fall out for fatigue."

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 17 June 2016 7:26 PM EDT
Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Forbidden Word
Topic: Humour

The n.c.o.s tried hard to be an example by not using the forbidden word, although some of them were hard put to find substitutes for it.

The Forbidden Word

Glasgow Herald, 16 April 1956
(An Editorial Diary)

In this new spirit of rapprochement with the older campaigners we now welcome the reminiscences of a colleague who was with the 52nd (Lowland) Division 40 years ago on the Gaza Strip, and whose memories are stirred when he reads such place-names as Khan Yunius and Deir el Belah.

He remembers the divisional pipe band standing near the boundary pillar at Rafa, playing the Scots into Palestine to the tune of "Blue Bonnets over the Border," and adds:—

"I tried with my entrenching tool to get a chip off the pillar as a memento, but I was rudely and officially told that looting was a crime."

In those days, it will be noticed, it was possible to be both rude and official, although even then, it appears, a hint of refinement was creeping into the Service. This is confirmed by his account of the occasion when the troops were rebuked for their language, particularly in the use of one word, which in variations could be noun, adjective, or verb. The superior critical authorities did not mention the word in orders, but decreed that the use of it was to stop, and an instruction to that effect was to be read on three successive parades.

Our colleague's company officer more than obeyed the instruction. He gave his men a short talk, using the word and its many variations as it was to be heard among the troops. He concluded by stating that the order had now been read on the first of three successive parades.

The instruction was given to dismiss, but not a man got away more than a yard when the command came, "Fall in." The order was read a second time, and again the sergeant-major dismissed the parade. However, some of the men, old-soldier-like, held their ground—and they were not disappointed—for "Fall in" bawled the sergeant-major. So the order was read for the third and last time.

This was contrary to practice. The official intention was that the troops, in between each parade, should have time to reflect on the terms of the order. But the company officer earned the gratitude of his company, every man of whom wanted to get back to the first round of a bridge tournament they were playing.

elipsis graphic

The n.c.o.s tried hard to be an example by not using the forbidden word, although some of them were hard put to find substitutes for it.

Then came a night march, which was to be undertaken in strict silence. Before the company moved off a sergeant insisted, "No talking."

Up spoke a voice, "Can we whistle, serg.?"

"No," he bawled.

"Can we smoke, serg.?"asked another.

"No," he commanded.

"Can we breath, serg.?"

The sergeant could not spot the speakers in the darkness, and he freely used the word. Then they marched off.

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 25 June 2016 12:07 AM EDT
Thursday, 12 May 2016

Using the Bayonet
Topic: Humour

Using the Bayonet

The Toronto World, 2 May 1915

Of all the weapons employed in modern warfare, the most useful is undoubtedly the bayonet. The rifle may be more effective at 100 yards; the heavy artillery more adaptable for knocking down a Dardenelle the Maxim gun for shooting small game for the pot. But, for general utility, give my kind regards to the bayonet, says Ashley Stern in London Opinion.

In order to fully appreciate its manifold beauties, the best plan is to procure one and gaze long and earnestly at it. This may be done in two ways: by enlisting, and thus obtaining the loan of one for the period of the war or three years; or by asking the sentry outside Buckingham Palace to lend you his rifle.

For argument's sake, I will assume that you have failed to pass the censor for the army, and have had perforce to adopt the second method. A close examination of the rifle will now reveal to you that at the end of the barrel there is affixed a long spike made of steel. In this spike there is a groove, and if you run your finger—any finger will do—along this groove in an upward direction you will come to the end of it. This end is called the point, and is very sharp. It will go through anything. I once saw one that had gone through the entire South African war. The point broadens downwards into edges, which are also very sharp, and will cut through a slab of unadulterated margarine as if it were so much fresh butter as per contract. This, then, is the bayonet.

Contrary to what you may expect it is not fired from the rifle. Neither is it hurled through the air like a javelin, nor yet detached and used as a dagger. When required for action it remains indelibly fixed to the end of the barrel, and is manipulated by grasping the rifle in both hands and jabbing the sharp point into whatever it may be into which you desire to jab it. I am told by those who have experienced a bayonet jab that it is exceedingly uncomfortable; and one doughty warrior of my acquaintance, who is at present engaged in growing a moustache—if not exactly for England and home, at any rate for beauty—and whose fatter calf was punctured at bayonet practice by the energetic gentleman immediately behind him, has informed me that on future occasions, unless he be permitted to rehearse alone in the centre of the parade ground, he will pay an extra half-crown and have gas.

So much for the bayonet from the offensive point of view. As such you will probably have observed that its scope is somewhat limited. In short, it can merely be jabbed in and pulled out. But it is an article of general utility, rather than as a weapon, that its remarkable versatility is displayed. It makes, for example, an excellent toasting fork. Practically any sort of provender may be thus treated at the bayonet's point. A notable exception is the domestically constructed crumpet of the kind that Cousin Connie's constantly cooking for corporals. More bayonets have been blunted by attempts to impale these delicacies than by any other means, and there is a large staff at Woolwich Arsenal ceaselessly employed with their noses to the grindstone in repointing them.

As a tin-opener the value if the bayonet would be hard to over-estimate. Anybody who has had experience of the elusive and untrustworthy habits of tin-openers can testify to their inability to cope with anything made of more robust material than cigaret-paper. This has long been a national disgrace; but the war office, I am happy to say, has now recognized the inefficiency of the ordinary implement, and had approved the appointment of the bayonet to the honorary post of official tin-opener to the army. Thus there is no longer any fear that when Sister Sarah's sending sardines off to sergeants there will be any reluctance on the part of the tin to disgorge its oleaginous contents.

Then, too, as a pencil sharpener, a letter-opener, a hat-peg, a croquet-stick, a meat-skewer, and (when heated to red-heat) a salamander, the bayonet has been known to do yeoman service. A couple of them affixed to the heels of a cavalryman's boots will even—at a pinch—make very effective emergency spurs. But probably the most unique office ever filled by a bayonet is that shown in the following incident.

When the Honorary Infantry Company (known as the H.I.C., and not to be confused with the H.O.C. or H.A.C.) acted as a guard of honor on the occasion of the unveiling of a new section of the Tube, a strong wind was blowing, causing one unfortunate man's busby (which only fitted his head at rare intervals) to assume and angle of 45 degrees to the horizon. Twice had the officer in command threatened to mention his in dispatches for slovenliness of headgear, and a third caution he knew would means his being led out in front of the ranks, deprived of his watch and chain and loose cash, and riddled with blank cartridges as per King's Regulations, Vol. 3, Act 2, Scene 4. However, when the officer had gone to lunch, the owner of the recalcitrant busby was seized with a bright idea. Snatching his bayonet from its socket, he thrust it through his busby in such a manner as to gather up with it a quantity of his hair, which fortunately chanced to be standing on end through fright. The result was that his busby remained for the whole of the performance in a state of stable equilibrium, and although this is the only recorded instance of the use of the bayonet as a hatpin, the incident serves, I think, to show that its uses are not yet exhausted. Indeed, I quite expect to hear before very long that some ingenious soldier at the front has split the point of his and converted it, with the aid of a set of bagpipes, into a fountain pen.

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 6 March 2016

A Problem in Army Discipline
Topic: Humour

A Problem in Army Discipline

Eugene Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, 15 September 1902
By F.A. Mitchel

"Corporal," said the colonel, "I see Private Stokes strutting around the post as if he were the prime favourite of the secretary of war. It's not ten minutes since he was tied up by the thumbs. What does it mean?"

"Private Clarkson cut him down, sir."

"Cut him down!" exclaimed the colonel, aghast at such defiance of military authority. "Why, this is mutiny."

The corporal stood straight as a ramrod and said nothing.

"Arrest Stokes and tie him up again. Send Clarkson under guard to me."

In a few minutes private Clarkson came marching between two soldiers to the colonel's quarters. He was a rosy cheeked boy of eighteen, with flaxen hair, cut close, and blue eyes, in which were a defiant look."

"Are you aware, my man," asked the colonel, "that you have committed an act of mutiny?"

"Yes, colonel."

"And that mutiny is an offence punishable with death?"

No answer.

"Corporal, what was Private Stokes tied up for?"

"Fightin', sir."

"Whom did he fight?"

"Private Clarkson."

"What—this boy?"

"Yes, sir."

"He deserves to be tied up. What did you cut him down for, Private Clarkson?"

"He wasn't fightin' me, I was fightin' him. I hit him on the head with a scabbard."

"How long have you been in the service?"

"I enlisted last week."

"H'm—a recruit. You haven't had much time to learn discipline, but if you have no more idea of it than to interfere with a man under punishment you're not likely to make much of a soldier. Considering you're green, I'll let you off this time, but I warn you that if ever you mutiny again while under my command I'll have you shot."

The corporal marched the two guards away, and Private Clarkson turned and walked across the parade ground. The colonel watched him and saw him draw his sleeve across his eyes.

"Not much more than a kid," muttered the stern commander. "These innocent boys, ignorant of army discipline, are harder to break in than jailbirds. They don't know what they are doing."

Half an hour later as the colonel was leaving his headquarters he met the corporal of the guard at the door.

"Well, what is it, corporal?" he asked uneasily.

"Private Stokes has been cut down again, sir."

"What?"

"Cut down again."

"Who did it this time?"

"Private Clarkson, sir."

The colonel was nonplussed. How to handle such a case seemed to him an insoluble problem. He thought the matter over while the corporal was standing like a graven image and determined to give this beardless boy who was defying him a scare that would teach him the nature of army discipline.

"Corporal," said the colonel, "tell the sergeant of the guard to bring private Clarkson here with eight men."

When Clarkson and the men arrived, the colonel ordered the sergeant to have the muskets loaded with blank cartridges without Clarkson's knowledge. This was done, the men were drawn up in line, and the colonel himself took Clarkson, placing him thirty paces from and in front of the firing party.

"Now, my man," said the officer, "I'm going to show you what it means to defy my authority. I'm going to have you shot."

Private Clarkson turned pale, but said nothing. The colonel spent some time adjusting him before the line of soldiers in order to give him time to collapse. Clarkson stood silent, with a sullen pout on his lips.

"Ready!" said the colonel. ("By Jove, he's the biggest fool I ever knew. I believe I'll have to pretend to shoot him.) "Aim!"

Clarkson not only failed to wilt, but cast a scornful look at the colonel. This was more than the commander had bargained for.

"Are you aware," he said to the prisoner, "that when I give the next order you will be a dead man?"

There was a twitching of the muscles of the private's face, but he said nothing.

"If I let you off once more, do you think you will have sense enough not to cut Private Stokes down again?"

"No!"

The colonel stood grim for a moment, then gave the order:

"Fire!"

Eight muskets exploded. Clarkson fell.

The colonel, frightened lest some of the pieces had been loaded by mistake or the prisoner had died of shock, rushed to him, raised him, fanned him with his hat and tore open his coat at the neck that he might breathe more freely.

"Great heaven! It's a woman!"

Clarkson opened her eyes, saw the colonel bending over her in terror and—laughed.

"Who are you?" exclaimed the colonel.

"Private Stokes' wife."

the colonel gave a low whistle, then went to his quarters and countermanded an order excluding soldiers' wives from the post. It was plain to him that he could not keep them out.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 6 March 2016 12:03 AM EST
Thursday, 25 February 2016

Ice Cream Lumpy
Topic: Humour

Ice Cream Lumpy

Recruits Had to Smooth It—in Their Pockets

The Milwaukee Journal, 31 August 1955

Calgary, Alt.—(CP)—The regimental sergeant major of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry now is Capt. Owen Gardner. He was commissioned and named captain without going through the intermediate ranks of second and first lieutenant.

As regimental sergeant major, Warrant Officer Gardner was an army institution. He was the most respected—and most feared—man in his famous regiment. Stories of army life always followed him. One tells how he encountered two recruits blissfully licking ice cream cones, a sight he cannot stand.

"Get rid of them!" he bellowed. "Put them in your pockets."

The petrified pair obeyed meekly.

"Now smooth out the bumps," he ordered.

Gardner joined the Princess pats 32 years ago as a 16 year old drummer. He was promoted regimental sergeant major two days before the outbreak of World War II. He served through the war first in a training and then in a fighting capacity. He was in the first Canadian unit to go to Korea in 1950.

Soldiers who have felt the lash of Gardner's tongue claim his parade square holler was the best in the army. They say it could be heard in the center of Calgary, six miles away. If the wind was right.

elipsis graphic

The following is a brief biography of Owen Gardner, published in the September, 1955, edition of The Patrician, the regimental journal of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Playful Army
Topic: Humour

A Playful Army

Games at the Front
Sense of Humour the Secret of Courage

The Glasgow Herald, 18 September 1915
(From "The Glasgow Herald" and "The Daily Chronicle" Special Correspondent, Philip Gibbs.)

General Headquarters.

Heaven knows there is enough pain out here to make a little sport nor only permissible behind the fighting lines, but a necessity for the sanity and normal-mindedness of our soldiers. Our men's instinct for this will not be thwarted, and is rightly encouraged by their officers, who make a duty of stamping out incipient pessimism. So, very close to death in the war zone, one finds a spirit of playfulness and startling contrasts of suffering and gaiety separated by no more than a field or two. I remember, a long ago as last March, watching the edge of a battle which began with a concentrated bombardment and ended with an infantry attack on some enemy trenches. Men were undergoing a great ordeal of fire through that haze of smoke, and below the incessant flash of bursting shell, but amidst all the din of guns I heard the shouts and cheers of some Royal Scots in a field less than a mile away from where I stood, and a shrill whistle blowing. They were playing a game of football, careless of the deadly game so close to them.

An Australian officer out here saw the same contrast of comedy and tragedy in close juxtaposition only a few days ago, and in a speech to some troops who had been enjoying a concert behind the lines he praised them for the spirit revealed by such incidents. "Some people," he said "may think it callous that men should play while their comrades are being killed. But our here we know that those who do so are ready to finish their games and go into battle when the time comes, and fight as gallantly as those who went before. It's the game that keeps their spirit up." Some kind of game the British soldier must have, however near the risk of death may be, and he is ingenious in his devices to find a little sport. A week or two ago a regatta was organised on a canal which is justly regarded as a most "unhealthy" place for pleasure parties. Between the tug-of-war in boats, the swimming races, and water-tilts there was a scamper to the dug-outs, as the enemy's shells began their afternoon's "hate," but though the programme was interrupted it continued to the end.

A Good Tonic

The spirits of the men have been for a long spell in the trenches are wonderfully revived by the sports which are now organised in the camps, and a week or two ago when I went to one of these meetings it was a splendid thing to see the keenness and zest with which a body of London territorials competed in the various events. A band was playing, and there were refreshment tents under the cover of the woods, and for a little while the grim side of war was forgotten. Last night again I went into a camp where a field ambulance is established, and where in a barn lay a number of wounded men who were the victims of that daily list of casualties which are brought down from the trenches with horrible regularity, although there is "nothing doing" at the front. They lay here on their stretchers, very quiet under two blankets, and in another barn the men who had carried them down at the risk of their own lives were playing cards, laughing at the freaks of luck. Overhead came a British aeroplane promptly shells by German "Archibalds." In the field across the hedge was an enormous crater which had been scooped out by a 12-inch shell, whose base weighing 150 lbs., had hurtled backwards for 200 yards and burst very close to the wounded men. While I stood watching the card players some shrapnel shells were bursting over a neighbouring wood, but did not spoil the laughter over the game in the barn, nor the meditations of the literary corporal on a biscuit box who was editing the next week's number of "The Lead-Slinger" and composing his editorial notes.

"A future subscriber," he was writing, "hopes it will be a Hooge success." He explained that the title of the paper had nothing to do with plumbing, "although many of the staff had water on the brain, and are light-headed, and full of gas." There might be shells overhead, but the comic poet of the West Riding Field Ambulance was in a playful mood and not to be put off his parody of "There is a tavern in the town." His first lines were a good beginning.

"There is a cavern in the ground,
In the ground.
Where in the winter I am drowned,
I am drowned."

There are many of these literary publications in the trenches and behind the lines. One day perhaps many of them will find their way into the British Museum as historical relics of the great world war. If so posterity will acknowledge the sense of humour of those men who fought in 1915. It is a humour which jests at death and finds the spirit of mirth in the discomforts and dangers of the trenches and the dug-outs. It is this sense of humour which is the secret of courage. If it were not encouraged out men would lose their nerve or become dull and dazed and spiritless. Trench life has that effect, and a general to whom I was speaking yesterday told me that when his men come out of the trenches he insists upon a very punctilious discipline with regard to saluting a reporting small incidents of their sentry duty and other little tests of observation and intelligence. But the best stimulant of the brain and heart is the gift of laughter, and for this purpose theatricals and concerts are found to be most effective.

Dramatic Entertainments

Most divisions now have their dramatic entertainments, and draw upon the wealth of talent in their ranks. Some weeks ago I went to one of them only a few miles from the German lines. It was held in an old sugar factory, and I shall long remember the impressions of the place, with 700 or 800 men sitting in the gloom of that big, broken, barn-like building, where strange bits of machinery loomed through the darkness, and where through gashes in the walls stars twinkled. There was a smell of clay and moist sugar and tarpaulin and damp khaki, and chloride of lime, very pungent in one's nostrils, and when the "Follies" begun their performance the curtain went up on a well-fitted stage and the squalor of the place did not matter. What mattered was the enormous whimsicality of Bombardier Williams at the piano, and the outrageous comicality of a tousled-haired soldier with a red nose who described how he had run away from Mons "with the best of you," and the light-heartedness of a performance which could have gone straight to a London music hall and brought down the house with jokes and songs made up in dug-out and front-line trenches. From the great audience of soldiers there were yells of laughter, though the effect of shells arriving at unexpected moments in untoward circumstances was a favourite theme of the jesters. Many of the men there were going into the trenches that night again, and there would be no fun in the noise of the shells, but they went more gily and with stronger hearts, I am sure, because of the laughter which had roared through the old sugar factory.

And a night or two ago I went to another concert and heard the same gaiety of men who have been through a year of war. It was in an open field under a velvety sky studded with innumerable stars. Nearly 1000 soldiers trooped through the gates and massed before the little canvas theatre. In front a small crowd of Flemish children squatted on the grass, not understanding a word of the jokes, but laughing in shrill delight at the antics of the soldier-Pierrots. The corner-man was a funny fellow, and his by-play with a stout Flemish woman round the flap of the canvas screen, to whom he made amorous advances while his comrades were singing sentimental ballads, was truly comic. The hit of the evening was when an Australian behind the stage gave an unexpected imitation of a laughing jackass. There was something incredibly weird and wild and grotesque in that prolonged cry of cackling unnatural mirth. An Australian by my side said, "Well done! Exactly right!" and the Flemish children shrieked with joy, without understanding the meaning of the noise. Old, old songs belonging to the early Victorian age were given by soldiers who had great emotion and broke down sometimes in the middle of a verse. There were funny men dressed in the Mother Twankey style or in burlesque uniforms who were greeted with veils of laughter by their comrades. An Australian giant played some clever card tricks, and another Australian recited Kipling's "Gunga Din" with splendid fire. And between every "turn" the soldiers in the fiels roared out a chorus:—

"Jolly good song,
Jolly well sung,
If you can think of a better you're welcome to try,
But don't forget the singer is dry,
Give the poor beggar some beer!"

A touring company of mouth organ musicians is having a great success in the war zone. But apart from all these organised methods of mirth, there is a funny man in very billet who plays the part of the court jester, and shows it whatever the state of the weather or the risks of war. The British soldier will have his game of "House" or "Crown and Anchor" even on the edge of the shell storm, and his little bit of sport wherever there is room to stretch his legs. It is a playful army, and those who see it, as I am seeing, the daily tragedy of war, never ceasing, always adding to the sum of human suffering, are not likely to discourage that playfulness.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 3 December 2015

Officers' Orderlies: Napoleons, Every One
Topic: Humour

Officers' Orderlies: Napoleons, Every One

The Good Soldier Schwiek, Jaroslav Hasek, 1930

Officers' orderlies are of very ancient origin. It would appear that Alexander the Great had his batman. I am surprised that nobody has yet written a history of batmen. It would probably contain an account of how Fernando, Duke of Armavir, during the siege of Toledo, ate his batman without salt. The duke himself has described the episode in his Memoirs and he adds that the flesh of his batman was tender, though rather stringy, and the taste of it was something between that of chicken and donkey.

Among the present generation of batmen there are few so self-sacrificing that they would let their masters eat them without salt. And there are cases where officers, engaged in a regular life-and-death struggle with the modern type of orderly, have to use all possible means to maintain their authority. Thus, in 1912, a captain was tried at Graz for kicking his batman to death. He was acquitted, however, because it was only the second time he had done such a thing. On the other hand, a batman sometimes manages to get into an officer's good graces, and then he becomes the terror of the battalion. All the N.C.O.'s try to bribe him. He has the last say about leave, and by putting in a good word for anyone who has been crimed he can get him off. During the war, it was such batmen as these who gained medals for bravery. I knew several in the 91st Regiment. There was one who got the large silver medal because he was an adept at roasting geese which he stole. And his master worded the proposal in support of the decoration as follows:

"He manifested exceptional bravery in the field, showing a complete disregard for his own life and not budging an inch from his officer while under the heavy fire of the advancing enemy."

Today these batman are scattered far and wide throughout our republic, and tell the tale of their heroic exploits. It was they who stormed Sokal, Dubno, Nish, the Piave. All of them are Napoleons: "So I up and tells our colonel as how he ought to telephone to brigade headquarters that it was high time to get a move on."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 31 October 2015 12:59 PM EDT
Friday, 27 November 2015

It Was Not Mice
Topic: Humour

It Was Not Mice

Generals and Generalship, General Sir Archibald Wavell, 1941

Yet the British soldier himself is one of the world's greatest humourists. That unglamourous race, the Germans, held an investigation after the late War into the causes of moral, and attributed much of the British soldier's staying power to his sense of humour. They therefore decided to instil this sense into their own soldiers, and included in their manuals an order to cultivate it. They gave as an illustration in the manual one of Bairnsfather's pictures of "Old Bill" sitting in a building with an enormous shell-hole in the wall. A new chum asks: "What made that hole?" "Mice," replies "Old Bill." In the German manual a solemn footnote of explanation is added: "It was not mice, it was a shell."

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 23 November 2015

The White Feather Brigade
Topic: Humour

The White Feather Brigade

A Brass Hat in No Man's Land, Brig.-Gen., F.P. Crozier, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., 1930

The memorable year of 1914 closes with the hope that we shall soon be 'in it.'

We have the usual Christmas dinners, leave, festivities and rejoicing. I go to London for ten days and become a civilian in mufti.

I find the ladies are very pressing in the metropolis, with white feathers for men unwilling to fight. Going to the Alhambra to book seats I meet one in Coventry Street. She presents her feather and smiles. I do likewise.

'Why are you not in uniform?' she asks. 'Afraid to fight!' And so on. 'A visit to the recruiting officer?' she suggests.

'Certainly, if you wish,' I reply.

Off we toddle together to Trafalgar Square. The recruiting officer smiles at Miss Busybody and looks at me.

'A bit on the short side! However, times are hard!' he says condescendingly.

Many questions are asked me. 'Well, I haven't actually served before, I am serving,' I state.

'What the hell are you doing here then!' asks the great man.

'I don't know, I'm sure. Better ask the lady,' I reply.

Both look blankly at each other and then at me.

'Who are you, what are you?' she asks.

'A Major in The Royal Irish Rifles,' I reply.

I hope, if she is alive to-day, this well-meaning and patriotic lady will work as hard in the cause of Peace as she did in the cause of War. She may, if she completes the patriotic circle, find opportunity of making fewer mistakes!

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 23 November 2015 12:08 AM EST
Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Careful in the Use of the Liquor
Topic: Humour

Careful in the Use of the Liquor

The Last Full Measure; The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers, Richard Moe, 1993

King [the regimental sutler] also provided liquor for the officers, a service that understandably rankled many of the enlisted men. One night several of them decided to liberate a keg of whiskey from King's tent. Without detection they carried it to a nearby field, where it was tapped, half emptied—into the men's canteens—it is not recorded how much disappeared on its way from the keg to the canteen—and then buried for future retrieval. The theft was soon discovered, and the lieutenant of the guard was dispatched to apprehend the guilty parties. Alarmed, the perpetrators sought the help of their sergeant, who had not been part of the plot. He reproved them for the act, but he was not about to let them down. He observed that the lieutenant was making his way down the row of tents, determining the number of occupants in each, and then calling for that number of canteens.

Returning to his own tent, the sergeant discovered that only two canteens besides his own were empty, so he had to think fast. According to Lochren, the lieutenant "soon approached and called for him. 'Sergeant, how many men have you?' 'Fourteen.' 'Pass out their canteens.' With a peremptory order from the sergeant to the men to pass up their canteens rapidly, an empty canteen was passed to the officer, smelled of, and dropped at his feet as a second one was handed him, while a man, lying down where he could reach safely in the darkness, passed the dropped canteen back to the sergeant, to be presented to the officer again, and thus the three canteens were each examined five times and nothing found. The culprits were never discovered, although the experience "frightened the boys, and made them careful in the use of the liquor."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 November 2015 12:07 AM EST
Thursday, 29 October 2015

Marching Like Majors
Topic: Humour

Marching Like Majors

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 25 September 1897

In a certain New York regiment that was disbanded not many years ago were two field officers—the lieutenant-colonel and major—who, while they really thought a great deal of each other, never let an opportunity pass to give each other a sly dig. And, as under Upton's tactics, each field officer posted the guides or markers in successive formations, our two friends invariably insisted upon posting the other's guides, which naturally led to a great many hot disputes after the drill was over. While the posting of guides has no bearing on the point of the story it is simply cited to show the weak points of two otherwise excellent officers.

One evening at dress parade, while the regiment was in State camp, at the conclusion of the ceremony, and while the 1st sergeants were marching their respective companies off in the old echelon order, and the officers were, as usual, grouped in rear of the colonel, a lieutenant remarked to his captain:—"See, Co. H., coming up? They march like majors."

The major overhead this remark, and, turning to the lieutenant-colonel, who stood near-by, said:—"You hear that, colonel? Majors are the standard by which everything good is measured. You never hear anyone say they march like lieutenant-colonels; it is always like majors."

"My dear major," said the lieutenant-colonel "if a man is drunk, you never hear anyone say that he is drunk as a lieutenant-colonel. He is always drunk as a major."

It is needless to say the major subsided.

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 23 October 2015

Checking the State of the Rations
Topic: Humour

Checking the State of the Rations

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 18 September 1897

The following story, related by Sir Evelyn Wood, in the English Illustrated, is thought to be quite too delicious:—

"I have said," remarks the distinguished writer, "that soldiers are much better behaved than they were when I entered the service. They are certainly more intelligent, with the increase of education, but nevertheless they are still sufficiently drilled into automation-like procedure and rigid obedience as occasionally to produce a comical situation. Four years ago, when in command of the Aldershot Division, I was riding past a regimental cook-house. I had been taking considerable interest in the preparation of the men's rations, and, seeing a soldier coming out of a cook-house with his mess-tin and what appeared to be very thin soup a few minutes before one o'clock, when the dinner bugle had only just sounded, I ordered the man to halt, and another man to bring me a spoon from the cook-house. 'Hand me up that tin,' said I, and the man obeyed and stood motionless while I tasted the liquid. Getting rid of it as rapidly as possible, I said, 'It appears to me to be nothing but dirty water,' when the man answered, with the most stolid gravity, 'Please, sir, that's what it is; I am washing the tin out.'"

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 29 July 2015

8645 Pte Corbally
Topic: Humour

8645 Pte Corbally

"Stand To" A Diary of the Trenches, 1915-18, Captain F.C. Hitchcock, M.C., F.R.Hist.S., 1937

General Headquarters decided that it was advisable to have pass-words for fighting troops, so every twenty-four hours a pass-word was issued from Brigade, who selected it. The new word commenced from the evening "Stand to," and our Brigade, the 73rd, chose the names of the officers commanding battalions at first—Greene, Mobbs, Murphy, etc. On the fifth and following nights, ordinary words such as "Rabbit," "Apple," etc., were introduced.

Some of the "old toughs," however, found some difficulty in remembering the absurd words which followed, and on one of the dark nights of this tour, seeing a man approaching me, I called out, "Halt, who goes there?" only to get the following unusual reply, "Begad, I was a rabbit last night, a spud the night afore, and I'm damned if I know what I'm meant to be at all to-night."

It was 8645 Pte. Corbally. He apologised profusely when he recognised me. I told him the pass-word, and went on my tour laughing. Corbally was a treasure.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 23 May 2015

Subject: Are these in your lexicon?
Topic: Humour

Subject: Are these in your lexicon?

"Let me tell you about the benefits of being on a staff..." "This should be a short conversation." LtCol to Lt Col (EUCOM)

(From the internet)

  • "The 'L' in CENTCOM stands for leadership..."
  • "At this Command, we have written in large, black letters: DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) on the back of our security badges." Maj (CENTCOM)
  • "'Leaning forward' is really just the first phase of 'falling on your face.'" Marine Col (MARFOREUR)
  • "I am so far down the food chain that I've got plankton bites on my butt."
  • "None of us is as dumb as all of us." Excerpted from a brief (EUCOM)
  • "We're from the nuke shop, sir. We're the crazy aunt in the closet that nobody likes to talk about ..." Lt Col (EUCOM) in briefings
  • "Things are looking up for us here. In fact, Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of Infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any Iraqis they kill. We've got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it." LTC (JS) on OIF coalition-building
  • "The chance of success in these talks is the same as the number of "R's" in "fat chance..."" GS-15 (SHAPE)
  • "His knowledge on that topic is only power point deep..." MAJ (JS)
  • "Ya know, in this Command, if the world were supposed to end tomorrow, it would still happen behind schedule." CWO4 (EUCOM)
  • "We are condemned men who are chained and will row in place until we rot." LtCol (CENTCOM) on life at his Command
  • "If we wait until the last minute to do it, it'll only take a minute." MAJ (EUCOM)
  • "The only reason that anything ever gets done is because there are pockets of competence in every command. The key is to find them...and then exploit the hell out of 'em." CDR (CENTCOM)
  • "I may be slow, but I do poor work..." MAJ (USAREUR)
  • "Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams." Maj (CENTCOM) on the daily thrashings delivered to AOs at his Command
  • "Working with Hungary is like watching a bad comedy set on auto repeat..." LCDR (EUCOM)
  • "I finally figured out that when a Turkish officer tells you, "It's no problem," he means, for him." Maj (EUCOM)
  • "Never in the history of the US Armed Forces have so many done so much for so few..." MAJ (Task Force Warrior) on the "success" of the Free Iraqi Forces (FIF) Training Program, where 1100 Army troops trained 77 Iraqi exiles at the cost of, ...well, ...way too much...
  • "Our days are spent trying to get some poor, unsuspecting third world country to pony up to spending a year in a sweltering desert, full of pissed off Arabs who would rather shave the back of their legs with a cheese grater than submit to foreign occupation by a country for whom they have nothing but contempt." LTC (JS) on the joys of coalition building
  • "I guess the next thing they'll ask for is 300 US citizens with Hungarian last names to send to Iraq..." MAJ (JS) on the often-frustrating process of building the Iraqi coalition for Phase IV
  • "Between us girls, would it help to clarify the issue if you knew that Hungary is land-locked?" CDR to MAJ (EUCOM) on why a deployment from Hungary is likely to proceed by air vice sea
  • "So, what do you wanna do?"..."I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?"..."I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?," etc. COL (DIA) describing the way Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Strategy) develops and implements their strategies
  • "I'll be right back. I have to go pound my nuts flat..." Lt Col (EUCOM) after being assigned a difficult tasker
  • "I guess this is the wrong power cord for the computer, huh?" LtCol (EUCOM) after the smoke cleared from plugging his 110V computer into a 220V outlet.
  • "OK, this is too stupid for words." LTC (JS)
  • "When you get right up to the line that you're not supposed to cross, the only person in front of you will be me!" CDR (CENTCOM) on his view of the value of being politically correct in today's military
  • "There's nothing wrong with crossing that line a little bit, it's jumping over it buck naked that will probably get you in trouble..." Lt Col (EUCOM) responding to the above
  • "Never pet a burning dog." LTC (Tennessee National Guard)
  • "Ah, the joys of Paris: a unique chance to swill warm wine and be mesmerized by the dank ambrosia of unkempt armpits..." LCDR (NAVEUR)
  • "We are now past the good idea cutoff point..." MAJ (JS) on the fact that somebody always tries to "fine tune" a COA with more "good ideas"
  • "Nobody ever said you had to be smart to make 0-6." Col (EUCOM)
  • "I haven't complied with a darn thing and nothing bad has happened to me yet."
  • "Whatever happened to good old-fashioned military leadership? Just task the first two people you see."
  • "Accuracy and attention to detail take a certain amount of time."
  • "I seem to be rapidly approaching the apex of my mediocre career." MAJ (JS)
  • "Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress."
  • "It's not a lot of work unless you have to do it." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "Creating smoking holes (with bombs) gives our lives meaning and enhances our manliness." LTC (EUCOM) at a CT conference
  • "Eventually, we have to 'make nice' with the French, although, since I'm new in my job, I have every expectation that I'll be contradicted." DOS rep at a Counter Terrorism Conference
  • "You can get drunk enough to do most anything, but you have to realize going in that there are some things that, once you sober up and realize what you have done, will lead you to either grab a 12-gauge or stay drunk for the rest of your life."
  • "Once you accept that a dog is a dog, you can't get upset when it barks." Lt Col (USSOCOM), excerpts
  • "That guy just won't take 'yes' for an answer." MAJ (EUCOM)
  • "Let's just call Lessons Learned what they really are: institutionalized scab picking."
  • "I can describe what it feels like being a Staff Officer in two words: distilled pain." CDR (NAVEUR)
  • "When all else fails, simply revel in the absurdity of it all." LCDR (CENTCOM)
  • "Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer stupidity." LTC (CENTCOM)
  • "I hear so much about Ft. Bragg. Where is it?" "It's in the western part of southeastern North Carolina." LCDR and CPT (EUCOM)
  • "I've become the master of nodding my head and acting like I give a sh_t, and then instantly forgetting what the hell a person was saying the moment they walk away." Flag-level Executive A$$istant
  • "Mark my words, this internet thing is gonna catch on someday." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "You're not a loser. You're just not my kind of winner..." GS-14 (OSD)
  • "He who strives for the minimum rarely attains it." GS-12 (DOS)
  • "If I'd had more time, I'da written a shorter brief..." Maj (EUCOM)
  • "I work at EUCOM. I know bullsh_t when I see it." LTC (EUCOM) in a game of office poker
  • "You only know as much as you don't know." GO (EUCOM)
  • "I'm just livin' the dream..." EUCOM staffer response to the question, "How's it going?" or, "What are you doing?"
  • "I'm just ranting...I have nothing useful to say." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "Why would an enemy want to bomb this place and end all the confusion?" GS-14 (EUCOM)
  • "Other than the fact that there's no beer, an early curfew and women that wear face coverings for a very good reason, Kabul is really a wonderful place to visit." LTC (CENTCOM)
  • "It was seen, ...visually." LTC (EUCOM) during a Reconnaissance briefing
  • "Let me tell you about the benefits of being on a staff..." "This should be a short conversation." LtCol to Lt Col (EUCOM)
  • "Hello gentlemen. Are we in today or are you just ignoring my request?" GS-15 (DSCA) in an email to EUCOM staffers
  • "After seeing the way this place works, I bet that Mickey Mouse wears a EUCOM watch." Maj (EUCOM)
  • "Your Key Issues are so 2003..." CPT (CJTF-180) in January 2004
  • "USCENTCOM commanders announced today that they intend to maintain their presence in Qatar "until the sun runs out of hydrogen," thus committing the US to the longest duration deployment in human history.
  • When asked how they planned to maintain the presence in Qatar for a projected length of 4 to 5 billion years, planners said "we're working on a plan for that. We don't have one yet, but not having a plan or an intelligent reason to do something has never been much of an impediment for us in the past; we don't foresee it being a big show stopper for us in the future either."
  • Among the options that were being discussed was an innovative program to "interbreed" the deployed personnel. "We are going to actively encourage the military members in Qatar to intermarry and raise children that will replace them in the future. Sure, it may be a little hard on some of our female service members, since there currently are about 8 men for every woman over there, but we expect that to be OBE as the sex ratios will even out in a generation or two.
  • In any case the key to the plan is to make these assignments not only permanent, but inheritable and hereditary. For example, if you currently work the JOC weather desk, so will your children, and their children, and their children, ad infinitum. We like to think of it as job security." CPT (CJTF-180)
  • "That's FUBIJAR." COL (CENTCOM), Fu--ed Up, But I'm Just a Reservist...
  • "I keep myself confused on purpose, just in case I am captured and fall into enemy hands!" GO/FO (CENTCOM)
  • "Does anybody around here remember if I did anything this year?" LTC (EUCOM) preparing his Officer Evaluation Report support form
  • "I'd be happy to classify this document for you. Could you tell me its classification?" GS11 (EUCOM) in an email from the Foreign Disclosure office
  • "Nothing is too good for you guys...and that's exactly what you're gonna get..." LTC (EUCOM) describing the way Army policy is formulated
  • "The only thing that sucks worse than being me is being you..." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "I have to know what I don't know..." Col (CENTCOM) during a shift changeover briefing
  • "No. Now I'm simply confused at a higher level..." Foreign GO/FO when asked if he had any questions following a transformation brief at JFCOM
  • "I'm planning on taking the weekend off...notionally..." LT (EUCOM) midway through a huge, simulated command exercise
  • "I've heard of 'buzzwords' before but I have never experienced a 'buzz sentence' or a 'buzz paragraph' until today." Maj (EUCOM) after listening to a JFCOM trainer/mentor
  • "We've got to start collaborating between the collaboration systems."
  • "Our plan for the Olympics is to take all the ops and put it in the special room we have developed for ops." GO/FO (EUCOM)
  • "Did you hear that NPR is canning Bob Edwards?" "Why? Did they catch him standing up for the National Anthem or something??" COL to CDR (EUCOM)
  • "Not to be uncooperative, but we're just being uncooperative." CDR (EUCOM) in an email response to a request for information
  • "He cloaked himself in an impenetrable veneer of terminology." Lt Col JFCOM describing the Jiffiecom alpha male
  • "Transformation has long been the buzzword for those that are dispossessed, dispirited and disillusioned..." Chaplain (EUCOM), allegedly.
  • "There are more disconnects on this issue than CENTCOM has staff officers." GO/FO (EUCOM)

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:46 AM EDT
Saturday, 18 April 2015

Too Good Not to Share: Seals vs. Rangers
Topic: Humour

I'll bet they didn't see *that* coming.

Posted here on the reddit.com message board Military Stories by member roman_fyseek (2014)

Operation Agile Provider, 1994(?). I'm TDY from Fort Drum, NY to Little Creek in Virginia Beach where we've spent the last 5 months planning a major joint-forces exercise on humanitarian relief in hostile environments. This is likely the result of the disaster that came out of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. I say "we've planned." That's a lie. I'm a secretary to O-6s and an O-7. I'm not planning shit. I'm typing.

So, here it is, month 6 and exercise kick-off. We've moved from Little Creek to Cherry Point, North Carolina. We're calling it Oceana or some crap. We have maps that look like the North Carolina coastline except for this massive land-mass jutting out into the Atlantic like a very straight erection. I wish I'd kept that map but, I didn't.

The exercise kicks off with Navy elements delivering supplies to Army elements for distribution among the local skinnies who are played by linguists and other spooks. Some operations are disrupted by hostiles. Let the games begin.

Now, in a former life, I was a radio operator for 4 years. As such, I'm a willing volunteer to keep radio watch over all of the networks. I have 4 radios, each tuned to a different frequency and each with a different crypto-tape. One is the humanitarian relief network. One is Navy SEALs. One is Army Rangers. One is the command-and-control.

Most of the radio-watch involves me making log entries documenting what time certain events occur so that we have a good time-line. Sometimes, somebody will come into my office and have me transmit "Intel" on one net or another to move the game along. Sometimes, I have to play the role of REMF and take SPOT reports that should coincide with the documentation in a binder.

Like, if somebody calls in a report of 50 hostile armored personnel carriers and my list says they should see 6, they get dinged on shitty intel.

So, late, one evening, the SEAL net is buzzing with activity so, I call one of our staff SEALs on his cell phone (back when cell-phones weighed 11 pounds) and ask him if he wants to come in to monitor. He says that he'll be there in about 10 minutes and I should also call the Army Ranger guy because something big is supposed to happen tonight. I call and the Ranger guy spontaneously appears in my office. Pretty sure he was asleep in his car outside.

Together, we all huddle around the radios. The SEAL has taken the handset for his network, the Ranger has the handset for his.

I have the log form thingy and a pen.

The SEALs have the enemy camp in sight. I glance at the clock, it is 23:30. I make a note. The C&C net tells me to inform them that the operation is a go. I make a note. The staff SEAL relays the information to his network. I casually mention that I'm the radio operator. He waves his shiny O-3 collar at me. I weep.

Jerk. (actually, he was a hell of a nice guy)

23:55. SEAL net says that they're in position. Now, something weird about this whole operation. The Ranger net is completely silent. I have inside information that the SEALs are attacking the Rangers. I suspect that the Ranger E-7 knows this, too but, in the interest of good wargames, he's not keying the mic to warn them. It's still very strange that they don't seem to be aware of the SEAL element sneaking up on them. In my mind, I can either picture them right up against the perimeter of the Ranger camp or 18 miles away. I guess SEALs are super fast and will cover the 18 miles in the 5 minutes remaining before midnight.

By the way, if you ever hear gunfire commence at exactly midnight? That's the U.S. Military. You should be okay to go back to sleep. You hear that shit start at 9:37 in the evening? Be afraid.

Midnight strikes and the SEAL net comes alive with SPOT reports and the sound of blank rounds being fired.

Then, complete and utter silence.

For 15 minutes.

Lieutenant SEAL, SFC Ranger, and I sit watching four completely silent radios and each other for the entire 15 minutes.

Radio silence is broken, "Headquarters, Headquarters, this is SEAL team."

I snatch the handset from the LT. "SEAL team, this is headquarters."

"Headquarters, we're going to need a bus."

Shit. Injuries. I've seen exactly enough cop shows to know that "bus" is code for "ambulance."

"SEAL, this is headquarters, how many wounded?"

"Wounded? No. I... I don't think there are wounded. We just need a bus to these coordinates (he throws an 8 digit grid at me)."

At this point, SFC Ranger stands up and starts walking toward the window. LT SEAL stares at me.

"SEAL, this is headquarters. What do you mean by 'bus'?"

"A bus! A schoolbus or a freaking greyhound! I don't really care which. We've got some 30 boy scouts out here all screaming for their mommies and the scout leader is demanding a bus and a hotel!"

Over the next 3 hours, SFC Ranger laughed so hard that I thought he was going to puke. LT SEAL spent most of this time screaming into the radio that the team needed to get their shit together and get the situation resolved with the boy scout troupe.

During this time, we learn that the boy scouts had asked for a site to do a camp-out and they were about 2 miles away from where they were supposed to be. The Army had donated a GP Medium tent and 30 cots and fart-bags. The SEALs had noticed an extreme lack of perimeter around the 'Ranger' camp and the big-assed GP medium tent didn't tip them off that they were also a couple of miles off course.

The Ranger net called in a report at 0600, their scheduled time, with "Nothing Significant to Report" and that started another wild laughing fit from SFC Ranger.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Story Without a Moral
Topic: Humour

A Story Without a Moral

The B.E.F. Times; with which are incorporated the Wipers Times, the "New Church" Times, The Kemmel times & The Somme-Times, No 5. Vol 1., Tuesday, April 10th, 1917

  • A.A. & Q.M.G. – Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General
  • C.R.O. – Corps Routine Orders
  • D.A. Q.M.G. – Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General
  • D.A.A. Q.M.G. – Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General

And it came to pass that upon a certain day the General Officer Commanding a Division said unto his A.A. and Q.M.G.: "Oh, A.A. and Q.M.G., tender unto me by the first day of next month a Return showing the names of the number of men of this Division who have even refused to undergo the hardships of INOCULATION, in order that I may send forward this Return unto Corps., in accordance with C.R.O. 758."

And it came to pass that the A.A. and Q.M.C. said certain things unto his D.A.A. and Q.M.G. and unto his D.A. Q.M.G., the result of which was a Return of names to the number of fifty of men of the Division who had refused to be INOCULATED.

And it came to pass that the Return aforementioned was in due course sent forward unto Corps, in which place it became labelled with the mystic sign "P.A.," which, being interpreted, means "put aside."

And it came to pass that upon a much later date this same General Officer Commanding a Division said unto his A.A., and Q.M.G.: "Oh, A.A. and Q.M.G. render unto me by the first day of next month a Return showing the names of the number of men of this Division who have done deeds such as are worthy of reward in the form of the Medal Military, in order that I may send forward this return unto Corps., in accordance with C.R.O. 869."

And it came to pass that this Return also was duly obtained, and in due course sent forward unto Corps. in which place it became labelled with the mystic sign "P.A.," which, being interpreted, means "put aside."

And it came to pass that in due course those men who had refused to be INOCULATED were duly awarded with the MILITARY MEDAL.

Oh! great is the Corps.

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 11 February 2015

BATMEN
Topic: Humour

BATMEN

Canada in Warpaint, Capt. Ralph W. Bell, 1917

No man is a hero in the eyes of his own batman. He knows everything about you, even to the times when your banking account is nil. He knows when you last had a bath, and when you last changed your underwear.

This war has produced a new breed of mankind, something that the army has never seen before, although they have formed a part of it, under the same name, since Noah was a boy. They are alike in name only. Batmen, the regular army type, are professionals. What they don't know about cleaning brass, leather, steel, and general valeting simply isn't worth knowing. They are super-servants, and they respect their position as reverently as an English butler respects his. With the new batman it is different. Usually the difficulty is not so much to discover what they do not know, as what they do! A new officer arrives at the front, or elsewhere, and he has to have a batman. It is a rather coveted job, and applicants are not slow in coming forward. Some man who is tired of doing sentry duty gets the position, and his "boss" spends anxious weeks bringing him up in the way he should go, losing, in the interval, socks, handkerchiefs, underwear, gloves, ties, shirts, and collars galore! What can be said to the wretched man when in answer to "Where the is my new pair of socks?" he looks faint and replies: "I've lost them, sir!" Verily, as the "professional" scornfully remarks, are these "Saturday night batmen!"

Yet even batmen are born, not made. Lucky is he who strikes on one of the former; only the man is sure to get killed, or wounded, or go sick! There is always a fly in the ointment somewhere. The best kind of batman to have is a kleptomaniac. Treat him well and he will never touch a thing of your own, but he will, equally, never leave a thing belonging to any one else!

"Cozens, where did you get this pair of pants?"

"Found them, sir!"

"Where did you find them?"

"Lying on the floor, sir," with an air of injured surprise.

"Where!"

"I don't justly remember, sir."

Voice from right rear: "The Major's compliments, sir, and have you seen his new pants?"

"Cozens!"

"Yessir."

"Give me those pants … Are those the Major's …"

"Yes, sir, them's them."

Cozens watches the pants disappear with a sad, retrospective air of gloom.

"You ain't got but the one pair now, sir." This with reproach.

"How many times have I got to tell you to leave other people's clothes alone … The other day it was pyjamas, now it's pants. You'll be taking somebody's boots next. Confound it. I'll—I'll return you to duty if you do it again! … How about all those handkerchiefs? Where did they come from?"

"All yours, sir, back from the wash!" With a sigh, one is forced to give up the unequal contest.

Albeit as valets the batmen of the present day compare feebly with the old type, in certain other ways they are head and shoulders above them. The old "pro" refuses to do a single thing beyond looking after the clothing and accoutrements of his master. The new kind of batman can be impressed to do almost anything. He will turn into a runner, wait at table, or seize a rifle with gusto and help get Fritz's wind up. Go long journeys to find souvenirs, and make himself generally useful. He will even "bat" for the odd officer, when occasion arises, as well as for his own particular boss.

No man is a hero in the eyes of his own batman. He knows everything about you, even to the times when your banking account is nil. He knows when you last had a bath, and when you last changed your underwear. He knows how much you eat, and also how much you drink; he knows all your friends with whom you correspond, and most of your family affairs as revealed by that correspondence, and nothing can hide from his eagle eye the fact that you are—lousy! Yet he is a pretty good sort, after all; he never tells. We once had a rather aged subaltern in the Company whose teeth were not his own, not a single one of them. One night, after a somewhat heavy soiree and general meeting of friends, he went to bed—or, to be more accurate, was tucked in by his faithful henchman—and lost both the upper and lower sets in the silent watches. The following morning he had a fearfully worried look, and spake not at all, except in whispers to his batman. Finally, the O.C. Company asked him a question, and he had to say something. It sounded like "A out mo," so we all instantly realised something was lacking. He refused to eat anything at all, but took a little nourishment in the form of tea. His batman was to be observed crawling round the floor, perspiring at every pore, searching with his ears aslant and his mouth wide open for hidden ivory. We all knew it; poor old Gerrard knew we knew it, but the batman was faithful to the last, even when he pounced on the quarry with the light of triumph in his eye. He came to his master after breakfast was over and asked if he could speak to him. Poor Gerrard moved into the other room, and you could have heard a pin drop. "Please, sir," in a stage whisper from his batman, "please, sir, I've got hold of them TEETH, sir! But the front ones is habsent, sir, 'aving bin trod on!"

The biggest nuisance on God's earth is a batman who spends all his spare moments getting drunk! Usually, however, he is a first-class batman during his sober moments! He will come in "plastered to the eyes" about eleven o'clock, and begin to hone your razors by the pallid rays of a candle, or else clean your revolver and see if the cartridges fit! In his cups he is equal to anything at all. Unless the case is really grave the man wins every time, for no one hates the idea of changing his servant more than an officer who has had the same man for a month or so and found him efficient.

Not infrequently batmen are touchingly faithful. They will do anything on earth for their "boss" at any time of the day or night, and never desert him in the direst extremity. More than one batman has fallen side by side with his officer, whom he had followed into the fray, close on his heels.

Once, after a charge, a conversation ensued between the sergeant of a certain officer's platoon and that officer's batman, in this fashion:

"What were you doin' out there, Tommy?"

"Follerin'."

"And why was you close up on his heels, so clost I could 'ardly see 'im?"

"Follerin' 'im up."

"And why wasn't you back somewhere safe?" (This with a touch of sarcasm.)

"Lord, Sargint, you couldn't expect me to let 'im go out by 'isself! 'E might ha' got hurt!"

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 6 February 2015

Right Out of Joint
Topic: Humour

Right Out of Joint

By "RACOON"

Racoon, Right Out of Joint, The Army Quarterly and Defence Journal, Volume XCVII, October 1968 and January 1969

The Major cleared his throat, stroked his luxuriant moustache and spoke. "Good morning, gentlemen. As Chairman it is my pleasure to welcome you two representatives from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to this joint planning conference for Operation SOAK AWAY. My name is Major Largeboot and perhaps I may be permitted to say at this point that, although a Brown Job, I did attend the Royal Air Force Staff College, so I have a keen inter-Service outlook."

"Well, that is rather strange, in fact," said the Lieutenant-Commander. "My name is Anchorage, but I too have external connections, so to speak, since I did in fact attend the Staff College at Camberley."

"Shiver my timbers!" exclaimed the other. "Strange indeed. My name is Wingspan and though, of course, you have no way of guessing it, I attended the Staff Course at Greenwich."

"Bang on!" said Largeboot. "I'm sure it will make the world of difference to our joint work here today. Now to business. Operation SOAK AWAY."

"I think it might save a lot of time, in fact," said Anchorage, briskly, "if I tell you chaps now that I have in fact already worked out the problem. It's quite simple, actually. Two up, bags of smoke, regulation pause of two three and hit them for six right in the F.D.Ls. Then neutralize, harass and destroy them with the 105s and finish up by dominating no man's land."

"Belay there!" said Squadron Leader Wingspan. "Don't you feel that is perhaps a bit excessive? I rather favoured a landing party from H.M.S. Dockworthy. Nothing quite like twenty pairs of bell-bottoms to quieten the place down. Pick-helves, of course, and then if that doesn't work, a platoon of Royals with a string band, followed by a football match against the locals in the afternoon."

"Wizard, old chap!" said Major Largeboot. "But both of you have forgotten the ground support. Now I was thinking in terms of a squadron of Hunters Mark 6, 12 U.E., with Decca Nav-Attack Head-Up Displays to do the trick. With a bit of top cover and flak suppression thrown in, I reckon that, using S.N.E.B. from 1,200 feet, there's a 17% probability of causing 50% casualties to a platoon of infantry dug in with 0% overhead cover."

Wingspan looked interested. "Really"' he said. "Never knew that."

"Let's cut out the frills and get down to details," said Anchorage impatiently. "First of all, morale must be high and admin good there's no point in our discussing high-flown mathematics if Private Snooks on his flat feet hasn't got his blankets and overcoats. How are they going to be brought?"

"L.P.D. of course," said Squadron Leader Wingspan. "It so happens that I've got the charts here with me — we can get to within 5 miles of the coast when the monsoon is from the Nor-Nor-West and chopprr them in."

"Just not cost-effective enough, old boy," exclaimed Major Largeboot. "You can get 931,723 greatcoats in a C5A. Land on a football field. Twenty-eight landing wheels, you know."

"Look," said Lieutenant-Commander Anchorage sharply. "I'm not interested in your technicalities when my soldiers are cold and hungry. You B1ue Jobs are all the same. No doubt the first thing you'll want to do when you land is crash into your bunks and rest for 19 hours."

"You're adopting a very single-Service viewpoint on this, old boy," said Major Largeboot. "Typical of the Army. All gummed up with tradition and gaiters. I suppose you'll be wanting the Mess Silver flown in next. You're a disgrace to the colour of your uniform."

Lieutenant-Commander Anchorage flushed, picked up his papers and moved towards the door.

"I shall deem it my duty to report your non-cooperative attitude to my General — Rear-Admiral Gannet," he said, and walked out of the room.

There was a moment's silence. "Well, there's a thing!" said the Squadron Leader. "Terrible how blinkered some chaps can get. Suppose we'd better adjourn, Largeboot. How about a rum below decks?"

The Frontenac Times


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Farrier Sergeant's Whiskey
Topic: Humour

Officers of the Governor-General's Body Guard. Humboldt, Saskatchewan. [1885] "L. to r. standing: Maj. Dunn, Lt. Col. G.T. Denison, Capt. Denison, Lt. Merritt. Seated: Quartermaster Charles Mair, Lt. Fleming, Surgeon Baldwin." (1972-270; LAC; C-002594)

The Farrier Sergeant's Whiskey

Soldiering in Canada; Lt.-Col George T. Denison, 1900

[The farrier sergeant] came to me one day [during the 1885 campaign] with a requisition for some horse medicines, for I had no veterinary surgeon, as ours had left Canada just before we started. I looked over the list of things ordered, and forwarded it to Colonel Jackson at Winnipeg. The farrier sergeant told me to mention a particular druggist in Winnipeg, who had furnished us supplies before we left; I did so. Before the box, or large case of medicines, arrived I had a slight suspicion in my mind that he might send a little liquor with the medicines.

When the box arrived, addressed to me and marked veterinary supplies, I said: "Put that in my tent." Major Dunn was with me. I opened it and found some dirty-looking bottles marked colic drenches, regular horse medicine to all appearance. I drew the cork of one bottle, poured a little of the contents into a tin cup, smelt it, tasted it very carefully and passed it to Major Dunn. He tasted it, looked at me and said: "The d—:—d thief." I ordered a parade of all the men, put the farrier sergeant under arrest and the box in front of the line of men. I took the bottles one by one, opened them, generally by knocking the necks off, poured a little into a tin cup and called out the men whom I thought were experts and would know whiskey and not object to it, and would hand them the cup and ask them what it contained. They would say "That is whiskey, sir," and I would empty the bottle out upon the ground. I went on for a number of the bottles, calling up different men and giving them about a glass each, so as to have evidence that it was whiskey. Among others I called Sergeant Patrick Macgregor, who had been in the 13th Hussars, and was a splendid swords-man, and an equally good judge of whiskey, from an experience gained by drinking all he could get.

I poured out a fairly good glass for him, he drank it solemnly and I said "Well, Macgregor, what is it?" "Colonel," he replied, "if I am to take my solemn oath before a court, I would not feel safe to do it on such a small taste as that." I poured out another good glass and he drank it slowly, looking up now and again and taking sips and evidently enjoying it, and everyone laughing at his wise and solemn expression, until he finished it. He then felt himself over the waist, straightened himself up with an air of satisfaction and said very seriously: "Yes, Colonel, that is whiskey, Iam ready to go before any court and swear to it. And what is more, it is devilish good whiskey."

I poured out eighteen bottles in this way and also a gallon or two of alcohol which was in a tin case, and when all that was out, all the medicines left in the box could have been put into a teacup. The farrier sergeant begged me to let him leave the corps and not to have him tried for the fraud. I thought the simplest way todeal with him was let him go, so we got him into plain clothes and started him back to the East.

The fame of this incident spread all through the North-West. Such a thing as spilling liquor was unheard of, except by the Mounted Police, and they were not keen to do it, and I am afraid my reputation in all that country was not improved by the story. I telegraphed to Colonel Jackson to stop the payment to the druggist, and wrote a full report. I am afraid that this sort of thing was done a good deal in ihe campaign, and that I only let in one little ray of light. The result of this was that I got the reputation of being very severe, and one who would destroy liquor like a fanatic id I heard of it.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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