The Minute Book
Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Military Horse (1855)
Topic: British Army

The Military Horse (1855)

Troop horses are not altogether teetotallers. They find a wineglass of spirits in half a pint of water a very refreshing cordial. They are very fond of sweets also.

From: Field Service; The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 11 May 1855
(From the Household Words)

When carrying a non-commissioned officer, the weight of the man and his appointments is reckoned at two hundred and forty pounds. This is less than for a heavy dragoon-horse; which, on ordinary occasions, carried two hundred and sixty-three pounds, exclusive of six pounds ration for the man, and twenty pounds ration for the beast. Troop horses are not altogether teetotallers. They find a wineglass of spirits in half a pint of water a very refreshing cordial. They are very fond of sweets also. In the Peninsular war, they throve remarkably well on a daily ration of eight pounds of sugar and seven pounds of hay, with no corn. When their drinking water is hard, a knob of clay mixed with it softens it.

Six horses with a nine-pounder can march four miles in one hour and a half, or sixteen miles in ten hours, allowing for periodical rests. The trot is put at the rate of seven miles, and the gallop at eleven miles an hour.

Captain Lefroy gives, in his hand Book for Field Service, some good rules for choosing a military horse, followed by useful chapters on the diseases to which he is subject, and rules of age. The latter beginning with, "As a horse never dies of old age," sounds like a cruel doom; but it is true that he generally dies by the hand of the executioner, either in the battle-field or in the knacker's yard. The formidable list of equine infirmities will remind the reader of the practical knowledge Shakespeare displays in his description of the steed rode by that mad wag, Petruchio:—"His horse hipped with am old motley saddle, the stirrups of no kindred: besides possessed with the glanders, and like to mose in the clime; troubled with the lampass, infected with the fashions, full of windgalls, sped with spavins, raled with the yellows, past cure of the fives, stark spoiled with the staggers, begnawn with the bots; swayed in the back, and shoulder-shotten."

Inferior horses are useful in the baggage-train; for which mules and oxen are also found useful; the latter, especially, for heavy draught in a rugged country. The ox is welcome for a more substantial reason, as he yields, when the time comes to cut him up, three hundred and seventy-five to five hundred rations of beef of one pound and a quarter to each man; while a sheep furnishes only forty to fifty rations. Although the camel, in a sandy soil, goes only two miles an hour, he will keep it up for twenty hours, and carry six to ten hundred-weight. Camels are important assistants in Indian warfare, and they have been found of great use in the Crimea. Cattle employed for the conveyance of baggage are technically called bat (sounded "baw") animals, just as officers' servants are styled "baw" men.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Horse Artillery (1855)
Topic: British Army

The Horse Artillery (1855)

On one occasion, we are told, a troop advanced five hundred yards (more than a quarter of a mile), fired two rounds, retired five hundred yards, and fired one round, in three minutes and four seconds.

From: Field Service; The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 11 May 1855
(From the Household Words)

A practical work has just been compiled by the joint labours of several experienced artillery officers, from which we glean a variety of facts, that may prove interesting in reference to the great events of the last few weeks.

The most destructive and scientific arm of the service is the horse, or flying artillery; the performances of a troops of which are sometimes astonishing. A battery of horse artillery is in fact a beautiful machine, composed of a great number and variety of parts. Say it is a battery of six nine-pounder guns with their concomitants. It is waited upon by one hundred and ninety men and one hundred seventy horses,—augmented during the present war, to one hundred and eighty-two horses.

Among the men we find six officers; that is, the captain of the troops, a second captain, three lieutenants and one assistant-surgeon—there being no want of medical aid for such an important arm. Then there are two experienced staff-sergeants, and thirteen other non-commissioned officers. The gunners and drivers form the greater portion of the privates, amounting to about one hundred and sixty men. The residue is made up of two trumpeters, to transit the signals which are given to them by word of mouth from the officers; a farrier, four shoeing-smiths, (each horse requires twelve sets of shoes a year), two wheelwrights, and two collar-makers, with some others.

Of the horses, two each are allowed to the officers; there are four to spare; and the rest are attached, with their riders, to the nine-pounder guns for firing solid shot; the twenty-four-pounder howitzer for firing shells, which accompanies them; the ammunition waggon, the store limber waggon, the store cart, the forge waggon, and the rocket and spare gun carriages.

The list of the articles carried with the guns and waggons is a long one. Round the gun and limber (the limber is the hinder part of the gun-carriage, containing ammunition for immediate use, and which, like the tender to a locomotive, can be detached from the trail of the gun-carriage) are placed felling-axes, bill-hooks, grease-pots, ropes, spades, pickaxes, buckets, lifting-jacks, swingle trees to which the traces are fastened, a prolonge or drag rope, port-fire, spare sets of horseshoes, tent-poles, pegs, picket-posts, reaping hooks for cutting forage, mauls, camp kettles, blankets, and corn-sacks—all of course packed in the most perfect apple-pie order. Among the contents of the various boxes attached to each gun-carriage—near-box, off-box, middle box, and so on—are cork-screws, files, funnels, fuse-boxes, knives, linch-pins, wallets, pincers, saws and a setter, scissors, needles, and a homely bale of worsted; accompanied by solid shot, cartridges, shrapnel shells, bursters, quick-match, and fuse-bags, with other inflammables. Close to the gun are boxes containing a slow match, a set of priming irons, a tin primer—a gun-lock, ten flints, two punches, two spikes, a sponger-head for the gun cleaner, and thumb-stalls; which are flanked by a wadhook, spare sponge, hammers, handspikes, wrenches and pincers. So much for the gun-carriage and limber. Upon looking at the ammunition waggon we see a little magazine with duplicate supplies of every sort of munition—seventy or eighty solid shot, abundance of cartridges, port-fires, tubes, shrapnel shells, fuses, and other scientific appliances for mowing down "good tall fellows" in the most decisive manner. The very sight of these would have utterly extinguished the dandy lord who tried the patience of Hotspur, when "dry with rage and extreme toil," after a hard fight. All are carefully stowed away, according to the homely Teresa Tidy maxim, which is the soul of military arrangements—a place for everything, and everything in its place. To these are added store cart and store lumber waggon carrying supplies of rough iron, wood, and leather, for repairs; also light baggage. The forge waggon carries smith's tools, bellows, iron, shoes, and coal. There is besides a spare gun-carriage with stores, besides a rocket-waggon. Twelve-pounder rockets are destruction against troops at eight hundred to a thousand yards range, and against buildings at six hundred yards. They are especially useful to frighten horses; but they require careful management; without which they are as destructive to friend as to foe. In this train the heaviest load is a twenty-four pounder, on carriage complete, for which ten or twelve horses are required.

The wonderfully rapid evolutions of this expert corps ought to be witnessed on a review-day at their headquarters, Woolwich. On one occasion, we are told, a troop advanced five hundred yards (more than a quarter of a mile), fired two rounds, retired five hundred yards, and fired one round, in three minutes and four seconds. To appreciate this feat it is necessary to remember that, besides getting over the ground, at each halt the guns have to be unlimbered, loaded, pointed, fixed and limbered up again.

A ricoshet fire should be tried as much as possible; that is, the shot should be made to graze the surface at a ground—hop, then fly off again—like a boy, playing at ducks and drakes in the water. It will sometimes hit the ground ten, fifteen, twenty times, and more. The most elevated positions are not the best for artillery, for the greatest effects are produced at a height equal to one-hundredth part of the range of the shot.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Regimental Organization and Tactics (1855)
Topic: British Army

Regimental Organization and Tactics (1855)

It is only "devils dressed in red and white" who go up—as the gallant light division of infantry at the Alma did—and, contrary to all the rules of strategy, take a battery of artillery in the face of an astonished foe.

From: Field Service; The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 11 May 1855
(From the Household Words)

Popularly, a regiment is said to consist of a thousand men, but at present the actual strength of an infantry regiment is a battalion of thirteen hundred and thirty-seven men of all ranks. One third of this number, or four companies (each company being composed of a captain, two subalterns, five sergeants, five corporals, ninety-five privates), form the depôt or reserve at home; while the other eight, amounting to eight hundred and ninety-five men, are the service companies on duty abroad.

A regiment of cavalry numbers two hundred and seventy-one horses, or three hundred and sixty-one in the dragoons, and as many as seven hundred and three in the East Indies.

What is called a division of an army is a force of from five to ten thousand men, in command of a general, and made of of two or three brigades of three or four regiments each of infantry, two or three gun batteries of six pieces each, and a proportion of cavalry. In reckoning their number, it is customary to deduct ten per cent, sick or disabled; so that five regiments of say eight hundred each would represent three thousand six hundred fighting men actually in the field.

A division in line of battle is posted in two lines, one in rear of the other with cavalry behind, and a reserve of guns and one or two regiments behind these, to be kept fresh in case of need. Some idea of the extant of a line may be gathered from these numbers; a regiment of eight hundred stretches two hundred and fifty yards; a division of three brigades, seven hundred and thirty-five yards, allowing for spaces between; and a regiment of cavalry, four hundred yards. The guns are posted in front, or at the flanks, at each end of the line; the right flank and wing being at your right hand as you face the enemy, the left flank at your left hand. Generally, the artillery have the honour to begin the encounter, supported by the fire of infantry. When the former have done sufficient execution, the latter advance with the bayonet to complete the business; and when the enemy is disorganised, or in flight, cavalry follow up the blow and dart off in pursuit. Artillery are usually employed opposite artillery, cavalry against cavalry, and so on, according to circumstances. It is only "devils dressed in red and white" who go up—as the gallant light division of infantry at the Alma did—and, contrary to all the rules of strategy, take a battery of artillery in the face of an astonished foe.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 12 September 2016

First Canadian Rifle Brigade (1946)
Topic: British Army

First Canadian Rifle Brigade Began and Ended in Aurich

 

Historical Section, Canadian Military Headquarters

Report No. 174,

The Canadian Army Occupation Force in Germany, May 1945 to June 1946 (PDF)

The Maple Leaf, 11 April 1946

Aurich, Germany—(Special)—This town was the formation of the first rifle brigade in Canadian army history, and with the recent departure of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Aurich was also the scene of its breakup.

A rifle brigade in the Canadian army had long been the hope of many military men in the various rifle regiments, but efforts to form one in England during pre-invasion days were unsuccessful.

Brig. T.G. Gibson, peacetime commander of the Queen's Own Rifles, who led the Winnipegs during battle and who commanded them and the Royal Regina Rifles at the start of the occupation of Germany, pushed the formation of a rifle brigade.

He succeeded in having the QOR transferred to 2/7 Brigade to replace the Canadian Scottish, thus completing the first rifle brigade in the Canadian army.

All rifle regiments originated in Canada, their lightness, speed and mobility fitting them admirably to Canadian conditions. Present-day rifle regiments carry on the tradition, with their fast pace of 140 comparing with 110 for Scottish and 120 for infantry in the line. They also fall in at the double.

As the RWRs prepared to leave for Canada, the last brigade parade was held at Aurich, each unit with its newly-formed bugle and drum band.

The three bands, on their first appearance together on a parade square countermarched as a massed band in front of the brigade. Lt.-Col. J.N. Medhurst, of Toronto, brigade commander, took the salute.

Following the parade, the QOR, RRR and Brigade HQ moved off first and lined the roads to say goodbye to the RWR, whose departure signified the end, overseas, of Canada's first rifle brigade.

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 5 August 2016

Regimental Canteens
Topic: British Army

Regimental Canteens

The Quebec Saturday Budget, 6 October 1906

 

Broad Arrow says: "the regimental canteen to-day is cleaner, more sanitary, more respectable, and better conducted than any public-house in the United Kingdom, and is also directly responsible for a great decrease in drunkenness and immorality. Those who would do away with canteens can have no knowledge, and are powerless to form any conception of the conditions which prevail in the immediate neighbourhood of garrisons in the east, along the China coast, in the West Indies, in South Africa, or even nearer home in the Mediterranean. Abolish the regimental canteens and to what are our soldiers condemned who are not total abstainers? To the low dens where bad or native liquor is sold, where vice is rampant, and in regard to which there can be little or no supervision."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Ineffective British Army (1903)
Topic: British Army

The Ineffective British Army (1903)

Boston Evening Transcript, 7 February 1903
By Jack J. Hart, Late of the Grenadier Guards

It is notable that reforms effected in the British naval and military services have always been the result of outside agitation. In England the war office and admiralty are only nominally the executive powers of the services of which they are at the head. The real executive in both cases is the voice of the country. Particularly of the war office it may be said that not until the press has been spoken in a voice so loud that it cannot be disregarded will it take action in anything more important than selecting the pattern on a soldier's button. Perhaps it is because the war office believes that a task which is now before it is peculiarly difficult of accomplishment that not even the voice of public opinion can move it; and that instead of beginning the work, it appears to be engaged in solving the, often for it, momentous problem: "how not to do it" by making various changes in ceremonial drill. When the improved weapons of warfare were—for the first time—put to test on South African battlefields, military experts were confounded and it was clearly proven to the world that in military tactics a new era had begun, numbers, discipline, and even generalship, took a second place, and individual intelligence of the soldier was proven to be of first importance.

There was a time when warfare was the clashing together and wrestling of great masses of men. But it has gone forever. By the invention of gunpowder the medieval art of war was changed into the modern. With the improvement of firearms, gradually individual intelligence of the combatants became more essential to their efficiency united; albeit commanders were very slow in recognizing the fact. On the advent of quick-firing guns, unknown to the doctrinaires who fought battles on paper, numbers, discipline, and even generalship, took a second place, but it was not until the highly organized regiments of Britain were led against South African farmers that the world realized the fact, then clearly demonstrated, that in the battle of the future the individual intelligence of the soldier would be first in insuring victory.

It might be expected that Great Britain, having learned the lessons of the South African War by experience and to her cost, would, for that reason, be the first to profit by them and to adapt herself to the new order of things. Such, however, is not the case. Although reforms have been mooted, her military system, in its constitution as in its government, is still wedded to conservatism and old traditions. Practically nothing has been done that would tend to develop the individual intelligence of the soldiers, and so render him capable of acting judiciously in dangerous situations on his own initiative. The slavish respect for his superiors which is inculcated into the British soldier in his daily life is not well calculated to teach him self-reliance; and the fact that British officers are drawn from the titled classes, which Englishmen almost worship, makes this slavish respect, in English regiments at least, particularly difficult of elimination. The officer is the ruling intelligence. His authority must never be questioned. His judgment is infallible. If a private soldier criticises him adversely, the private is guilty of, in the language of military law, "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline." In the ranks of the old British army, blind obedience to superiors on all occasions is the erroneous principle that guides. Concatenation is the necessary consequence. The subordinate is dependent on his superior. He is slow, because unaccustomed to act without his superior's commands; and, in situations where quick and decisive action is of prime importance, he is easily outwitted by the versatility of a self-reliant opponent.

Concatenation and lack of self-reliance among the rank and file of the British army may be said to constitute its greatest weakness, inasmuch as both hamper its operations in the field. If the number of drilled troops in South Africa at the outbreak of the last war had been so many undisciplined rough-riders knowing no more of military tactics than how to "sight" a rifle and press the trigger, I do not hesitate to say, the long and bitter struggle which cost England dear in blood and money and turned a fertile country into a "howling wilderness" would (with all respect to the Boer as a fighter) have ended before three months in the defeat of the republican armies. The undisciplined rough-rider would have fought the Boer with the Boer's own weapons, and numbers would have prevailed. The instinct of self-preservation would have taught the undrilled soldier to take advantage of available cover on all occasions; and if he found himself standing before a fusillade so deadly that common sense told him it would be suicide to remain, he would not have waited the command of a superior to advance, or retreat. It might at first sight be thought that concatenation in an army is desirable inasmuch as it secures uniformity of action, for if each part of a whole is dependent on another part none will act alone and the strength of concerted action is the result. But modern warfare, especially that carried on in a hilly country, has become a game of hide-and-seek, developing fresh surprises at every turn, that quick, independent and decisive action, suiting itself to the exigencies of occasions; is, for the different units of a division and for individual composing them, a matter of paramount importance. Concerted attack, by which a force is directed against one point in an enemy's line, is a thing of the past.

The system of training followed in the British army does not contribute much to rendering it more efficient as a fighting machine under the conditions of modern warfare. The greater part of the soldier's time during the first three months of his service as a recruit is spent in useless ceremonial drill. Almost the entire time at the depot from which he derives any benefit is the daily hour spent in the gymnasium. Up to the time of joining his battalion, he has not once used his rifle at the target. A few months after leaving the depot he is exercised in a recruit's course of musketry, and is then called a trained soldier. After this, he is allowed forty-two rounds of ball ammunition annually, and by the practice thus afforded is expected to become a marksman. Rivalry, however, often exists between the different companies of a battalion, and this induces captains of companies to purchase ammunition at their own expense—in the hope that by extra practice their companies may become more proficient and win the shooting trophies that are so greatly prized.

During autumn manoeuvres, the soldier would learn much that would be of use to him were it not for the indifference of his officers. Hostile forces oppose each other and fight, day by day, among hills, woods and valleys; but ask a soldier what it all means and he will reply that he does not know. He only knows that he obeys orders. He cannot even tell whether the division to which he belongs is attacking or defending, advancing or retiring. His officers will not take the trouble to tell him; some of them do not know. Yet, if the whole plan of the manoeuvres were intelligently explained to the soldier and maps of the country placed in his hands, the benefits he would derive from this annual exercise are incalculable.

In its constitution, the British army has many defects; the principal being the paucity of numbers of the medical corps and the commissariat. Even in a country easy of transport as South Africa, the latter proved itself wholly incapable of performing the work that devolved on it. The medical corps would there have been a still greater failure were it not for the voluntary service by which it was supplemented. The regimental constitution is, in some of its effects, detrimental to the efficiency of the soldier. For from the private to the colonel, each must unquestionably obey the will of his superior and it will be admitted that there is little room for initiative, or development of intelligence in the ranks.

Of the war office, as the governing authority, little need be said. In England it has become a synonym of stupidity. Its actions are often incomprehensible. One instance will suffice: During the South African War Canada raised a regiment to garrison Halifax, and maintained it at the expense of the Dominion until after the declaration of peace. The Imperial Conference in London followed, and it was proposed that Canada should contribute to the maintenance of the British navy. The Dominion dissented, but offered to permanently garrison Halifax and Esquimalt, thus to relieve the Imperial Government of the expense of maintaining troops at those places. After the conference, Canada's policy was severely crticised in England, and the cry was again raised that she was unwilling to bear her fair share of the expense of imperial defence. Then the war office, instead of allowing the Dominion to maintain its own garrisons, caused the Royal Canadian Regiment at Halifax to be disbanded, and incurred the expense of sending troops from England and maintaining them in its place. Various pleas have been urged in defence of this action. Among them, that imperial troops in Canada constitute a visible tie between that country and England which it would be dangerous to sever; but this, on the face of it, is little short of an insult to the loyalty of the Canadian people.

Though last to be considered here, the morale of an army is hardly last in importance in estimating the probabilities of its success in the field. It is a fact, though some are slow to admit it, that professional soldiers are not, as a rule, patriots. To the civilian, the defence of his country is a sacred duty. To the professional soldier it is the ordinary humdrum business of everyday life. Composed of three distinct nationalities as the British army is, it is only natural that a common patriotism should not be its pervading spirit. Irishmen, Englishmen, and Scotchmen have not blended into one race in the past and the probabilities are that they never will. There are many Irishmen in the British army today who are hostile to the very name of England. The gallant charges of Irish regiments on South African battlefields prove nothing to the contrary. Irishmen—because it is in their nature—will fight hard when facing any foe, merely for the glory of a "scrap."

It is on account of this diversity of race that the regular army of Britain can never become a body animated by a common spirit. Whatever may have been the talisman, patriotism did not win its victories of the past. I would rather attribute them to the caution of the Scotchman, the dogged persistence of the Englishman, and the dashing bravery of the Irishman.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 16 June 2016

"Tommy Atkins's" Career (Part 3 of 3)
Topic: British Army

It has been well said that a soldier's best qualities are displayed in the field; his worst in quarters.

"Tommy Atkins's" Career

Part III - (Vide illustrations)

The Sydney Mail, New South Wales Advertiser, 25 March 1882
By P.L.M.

In India the soldier is drilled chiefly in the early morning, for the intense heat will not allow of military exercises during the day; and he not only escapes these, but is allowed a noon-day sleep. In illustration 12 we see him enjoying this, and we observe that his object now is to reduce his coverings to a minimum; doubtless he sighs for dear old England with its ice and snow, sludge and fogs. The barrack-room is rather more commodious than that of the old country, and it is ventilated by means of punkahs (wooden frames with curtains attached) one of which is slung over each bed, and they are kept in constant motion by native labourers, or "coolies." The temperature of the room has been further reduced by means of "latties" hung over the open apertures of the barrack-room on the windward side. These are lattice frames, filled in with a soft substance called kus-kus, which is constantly kept wet. Altogether Tommy's comforts are attended to upon a much more liberal scale than that which prevails in Europe "and still he is not happy."

It has been well said that a soldier's best qualities are displayed in the field; his worst in quarters. In a former picture we have seen him a drunken lout; an intoxicated ruffian, assaulting the police, and carried off to durance vile, like an insensate brute. In illustration 13 we see him as a hero; the impersonator and embodiment of the British bull-dog. War has broken out, and Tommy Atkins with a small party finds himself on some wild hill-side surrounded by a horde of howling gesticulating savages, as well versed in the use of the rifle as he is himself, and of dauntless courage. Private Atkins and his comrade are covering a wounded officer, who is prostrate upon the sward, but continuing to protect himself and assail the dusky foe with his six-shooter. Let us hope that Tommy and his friends will prove victorious. We wish that in all our recent galling little wars, he had always displayed himself as valourously; but, alas! The heights of Isandula, and other scenes of conflict are hard and stubborn facts to the contrary, and raise in the minds of military scientists grave doubts as to the policy of short service. In the days of Welling soldier enlisted for "unlimited service," in other words to be the slave of the pipe clay for the period of his natural life, or until shot, maimed, discharged worthless, or sent about his business with a penny-a-day pension, when unfit physically for further duty. Then afterwards he joined for 21 years, which practically amounted to nearly the same thing; for after a man has been so long a soldier, the meridian of his life is past, and it were useless for him to seek to turn to other employments, Now a days, a man may enlist for "short service," which means (in the infantry) six years with the colours, and six in the reserve, so that fresh blood is constantly being infused into the army; but the iron man of former days, the "hero of a hundred fights," the fellow who "soldiered" all over the world, the trustworthy, skilled, and experienced non-commissioned officer, where are they? The former almost extinct, the latter but little more numerous.

In illustration 14 we see Tommy Atkins in the pride of his manhood off to join the reserve, his six years' service having expired. In the stalwart, sturdy, moustached soldier of this picture is presented a marked contrast to the awkward lad first introduced to the reader, and it certainly seems a pity that his country should lose practically the benefit of his services just as they have become most valuable. The day may yet arise when the British Government will bitterly regret haiving infused into our army so large an element of young lads, untutored, and unswayed by association and the examples of veterans in their own ranks.

Having thus briefly sketched the career of the British private soldier as depicted by the artist, possibly a few words on the subject of the colonial "Tommy Atkins" may not prove unacceptable to our readers.

The only regular military force in this colony is that popularly, though erroneously, known as the "Permanent" Artillery; the proper designation of this corps being "The New South Wales Artillery," such being the title bestowed upon it in the various Government Gazettes under which the three batteries of which it is composed were raised. One battery of Artillery and two companies of Infantry were originally established under a statute known as the "Naval and Military Forces Act," of 1871. By this enactment authority was given to the Government to raise regular Naval and Military forces; and it was provided that the latter should be subject to the Imperial Mutiny Act and Articles of War for the time being, as well as the "Queen's Regulations" for the control of the army. When the Mutiny Act and Articles of War were superseded two years ago by the "Army Discipline Act," that also was adopted in the colony. Our little "army" is therefore in all respects a "regular" one, and in point of drill and efficiency, may challenge competition with any regiment in the Imperial Service. Indeed such distinguished officers as Sir William Jervais, R.A., Colonel Scratchley, R.A., Colonel Dounes, R.A., General Michel, R.A., and many others visiting the colony have expressed surprise at finding in this remote quarter of the globe, three batteries established upon a basis so perfectly akin to that of the Royal Artillery. The training of the men and the establishment of a system of interior economy conducive to this end, has been especially the object of the commanding officer, Colonel C.F. Roberts (late Major R.A.). The first officers appointed were Captains Airey and Spalding (both late R.M.). The first and only officers of the Infantry were Captain (Brevet Major) Fitzsimmons, Captain Heathcote, V.C., and Lieutenants Wilson, Strong, Underwood, and Chatfield. The two splendid companies of which this corps was comprised ceased to exist on December 31st, 1872, having been disbanded by Legislative action. The Artillery, however, were spared, and in 1876 a second battery was added; a third in 1877. At that strength the force has since remained.

The Colonial "Tommy Atkins" enlists for five years' service in almost exactly the same style as his Imperial prototype, save that it has not been found necessary to beat up for recruits with a recruiting-sergeant. He therefore applies to the adjutant at the brigade office, Dawes Battery, and if the responses to the questions addressed him prove satisfactory, he is sent to the medical officer (Surgeon-Major W.G. Redford) for examination touching his physical fitness. Care is taken to obtain none but men of good antecedents, and "sound wind and limb," and it is no exaggeration to state that half the candidates for the force are rejected by the adjutant, and two-thirds the remaining half by the medical officer. The limit of age is between 17 and 35, but exceptions are occasionally made in the case of old soldiers having good discharges. It may readily be conceived that with such precautions the forces comprises a fine stalwart body of young men; and indeed this is absolutely necessary, for our artillerymen have occasionally to "rough it" pretty considerably and perform some very hard work.

Having passed the ordeals alluded to, Tommy Atkins is regularly attested before an officer, and usually granted a 24 hours' pass to make his arrangements prior to joining. He is in many respects much better off than the Imperial soldier. His pay is 2s. 3d. per diem, or double that of the British mine-man; his rations include a liberal allowance of meat, bread, vegetables, tea, coffee, butter and groceries; and he receives "a free kit" comprising his uniforms, greatcoat, boots, and underclothing, besides such necessaries as brushes, knife, fork and spoon, haversack, hold-all, &c. In fact he receives everything that a soldier can require; and his tunic and trousers are composed of a cloth superior to that issued to the British private. In return for this, however, the scale of fines for drunkenness is exactly double that of the Imperial service; and stoppages for articles lost by neglect, &c., are made having the same consideration in view.

Space does not admit or our giving a detailed account of the general routine of an artillery soldier's life; to do that we might well issue a special number. Suffice to say that as soon as Gunner Atkins joins, his work begins. He first goes through the routine of squad and setting-up drill, manual and firing exercises, and guard-mounting; he then proceeds to learn gunnery, and he is not considered dismissed in this until he has acquired a fairly competent knowledge of the drills appertaining to the 10 inch, 9 inch, and 80 pound M.L.R. guns, the 40 pound B.L. Armstrong, and the field gun, besides repository drill, comprising the mounting and dismounting and shifting of ordnance, &c. It may readily be imagined that this involves some time, and so it does; for it is rare than an average gunner can be made under about 18 months even with assiduous training. Whilst his military education is going on, he is of course becoming indoctrinated into the interior economy of a soldier's life, and taught habits of order, cleanliness, and discipline. If he be fond of soldiering and attentive, his life is a happy one enough; he need never be in trouble if he choose to abide by the regulations, which are not needlessly stringent, and his duty will become a pleasure. The lazy, unprincipled, or insubordinate, or those given to excess in liquor, however, will find their lines by no means cast in pleasant places if they join the N.S.W. Artillery. For them remain the guard-room, the defaulter-drill (of which we have already seen an illustration), the cells, and the Provost prison; besides fines, stoppages of pay, and minor punishments ad libitum. By a very wise provision also the Governor has been empowered, upon the recommendation of the commanding officer, to dismiss summarily as "worthless and incorrigible characters," any black sheep whom it may be deem undesirable to retain in the force. By this means the "bad character men" may be said to have been extirpated; and serious misconduct is a thing of rare occurrence.

That our N.S.W. Artillerists are well versed in their profession, the harbour guns they have mounted, the military works they have executed, and their well-known proficiency in drill are the best witnesses. Certainly in point of physique, intelligence, and conduct, it may well be doubted whether there are any three Imperial batteries to equal them; and whilst it may be conceded that 300 odd men are withdrawn from industrial pursuits, it is equally true that many a young man has found himself immensely improved at the end of his five years' service; and incalculably better fitted for civil life. Many of those taking their discharges with good characters are received into the police, or become warders in gaol, tram-guards, &c.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 15 June 2016

"Tommy Atkins's" Career (Part 2 of 3)
Topic: British Army

"Tommy Atkins's" Career

Part II - (Vide illustrations)

The Sydney Mail, New South Wales Advertiser, 18 March 1882
By P.L.M.

Tommy Atkins's bedroom is rather estimable in point of commodiousness and simplicity, than noteworthy for any ostentatious elegance, either of design or garniture. In a barrack the rank and file are told off to various rooms, each of which is under the immediate charge of a non-commissioned officer; usually (in the infantry) a corporal, for that superior being the sergeant is allowed the dignity of a separate establishment. He enjoys the privilege of being a member of the Sergeant's Mess," where, by payment of a small monthly subscription, he obtains many little comforts; superior quality of food, spirituous and fermented liquors, recreation in the shape of games of chance and skill, newspapers, &c., besides the benefit of the exclusion from the vulgar herd of rank and file. He also usually has a diminutive apartment allotted to him for his own separate behoof as a bedroom.

Those, however, who have not attained a rank entitling them to these privileges, have to share the large barrack-rooms—there being generally from 15 to 20 men in one dormitory. This also has to serve as Tommy Atkins's dining-room. There is a row of trestle-tables running parallel with the lengthier walls; and benches or forms, similar to those used at schools, are ranged alongside them. The soldier's couch consists of an iron-bedstead capable of being turned up in the daytime, with palliase, bolster-pillow, coarse sheets, blankets and a sort of rug-counterpane. In this re reposes comfortably enough, and illustration 8 conveys a good idea of Tommy's "bedroom at home." It will be perceived that in view of the chilliness of the season he has converted his tunic into a feet-warmer; and we in Australia, at this time of year, are rather disposed to envy him the temperature which demands such a luxury. At reveille in the morning, which varies, according to the season, from 5.30 to 6.30 a.m. every man has to turn out, dress himself, and clear up the room generally, besides his own individual share of it, under the watchful superintendence of the non-commissioned officers. The bedding has to be neatly folded, and the bed irons doubled back. When this has been accomplished, the blankets, etc., are placed where in the picture the head of the sleeper is represented, and held together by a leather strap; and the rug is laid so as to cover the projecting portion of the bed irons, thus forming a seat for the soldier. Over his head, upon the shelf depicted, his uniforms are placed accurately folded; his rifle and accoutrements are upon large hooks fastened into the wall; and his box containing the smaller articles of his kit, his brushes, &c., is under the bed-irons. So that all Tommy Atkins possessions are stowed away together, compactly, neatly, and (above all), "according to regulation."

Not content with clothing, feeding, and disciplining our private soldiers, a paternal Government now-a-days refines their manners by the soothing influence of education. Every soldier who cannot read and write, and keep simple accounts has to go to school; and he is expected to obtain at least "a fourth class certificate," implying that he has grappled more or less successfully with the elementary rudiments of literature. Having obtained this he is at liberty to demand his emancipation from the pedagogic thrall. No doubt some of the recruits are pretty tough subjects; and illustration 9 represents the schoolmaster demonstrating to his class the subtleties of the proposition that "2 plus 2 = 4" with the assistance of blackboard and chalk. The scholar on the extreme right seems profoundly impressed, and those on the left somewhat inclined to levity. Probably they are all under the impression that it is rather late in the day for them to go to school; but there can be no doubt, that in thus affording education, however limited, to Tommy Atkins the Government is really acting paternally towards him. It is possible for a man to attain a very fair degree of education at these army schools if he chose to persevere and gain a first-class certificate; but very few do, and when we consider the tedious nature of the private soldier's duties, and the class from which as a rule he emanates, there can be little cause for wonder at this. Mr. Punch, as usual, contrives to evoke a good-humoured jest out of our military schools. He represents Private Atkins, brought a prisoner before his irate colonel, to whom he has had the cold-blooded audacity to write a letter—addressing an officer in writing being strictly forbidden. "What do you mean by this familiarity, sir?" demands the enraged commander, reading from the letter "My dear Colonel," "Please, sir," pleads the witness culprit, "I didn't write that letter at all, and I didn't do it out of no respect—" "here Sergeant-major," interrupts the disgusted colonel, "take this man away, and get him a fourth-class certificate."—i.e., capacity to read and write.

Tommy Atkins having passed his musketry course, is due for service abroad; and accordingly on morning we find him, knapsack on back, and rifle on shoulder, trudging along to inspiring strains of "The girl I left behind me" to the troop-ship which is to convey his humble fortunes to India; that gorgeous jewel of the Imperial diadem, wrested by guile, and maintained by blood. Troopships now-a-days are splendid roomy steamships, such as the "Crocodile," the "Serapis," &c. Illustration 10 represents the embarkation. The picture speaks for itself. The men are proceeding singly along the gangway, at the foot of which stands an officer, who is saluted by each as he passes. A number already on board are peering from the portholes; and a group of officers occupies the foreground. On the passage the men are divided into watches, which they keep with the sailors; and such drills, &c., are maintained as are compatible with ship discipline, including a general muster every morning. After Tommy Atkins has obtained his sea-legs, and his sea-stomach, he is not badly off; certainly not worse than the denizen of the average immigrant vessel.

Arrived in India he naturally proceeds to join his regiment. Illustration 11 represents him in the Barrack-square with his comrades of the new detachment, being inspected by the Commanding Officer and Adjutant. Very well drilled and proportionately sheepish most of the gallant fellows appear, for India is, of course, the them a terra incognita, and many a good story they will hear in the barrack-room during the first week or two of their sojourn. In the background a group of old soldiers may be observed "taking stock" of their comrades, with critical eyes, whilst on the right a syce, or native groom, is in attendance with the horse of one of the field officers.

(To be continued.)

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 14 May 2016

British Army; Personnel Statistics, 1882
Topic: British Army

British Army; Personnel Statistics, 1882

"Military Matters," The Toronto Daily Mail, 28 January 1882

Thus the average British soldier is about 23 years of age, about 5 ft. 7 in. in height, and about 37 in. round the chest.

The last general annual return of the British Army has been issued, and contains a great deal of interesting information on many points affecting the military efficiency of the Empire. It shows that the average strength of the regular forces, officers and men, during the year was 188,986, of whom 7,817 were officers, 12,431 sergeants and farriers, 3,472 trumpeters, drummers, and buglers, and 165,266 rank and file.

On the 1st of January, 1880, the number of the rank and files was 167,909, or 3,794 over the establishment; while on the corresponding day of the present year it was 165,320, or 397 over the establishment. The numbers voted (rank and file) of each arm of the service on the latter day were: —

  • Household Cavalry, 1,029
  • Cavalry of the Line, 13,592
  • Royal Horse Artillery, 4,827
  • Royal Artillery, 25,473
  • Royal Engineers, 4,053
  • Foot Guards, 5,250
  • Infantry of the Line, 104,460
  • Colonial Corps, 2,146

– the remainder being the Departmental Army Service and Army Hospital Corps.

Regarding the question of the age of men joining the army, it appears that 1,021 were under 17 and 156 between 17 and 18 years of age. In both cases they were probably for the bands. Those joining: —

  • from 18 to 19 years numbered 6,611;
  • from 19 to 20, 5,510;
  • from 20 to 21, 3,667;
  • from 21 to 22, 2,525;
  • from 22 to 23, 2,081;
  • from 23 to 24, 1,785;
  • from 24 to 25, 1,968;

– while a few — 289 — were enlisted over 25.

Regarding the height of the men, the numbers are: —

  • Under 5 ft. 5 in., 9,360;
  • 5 ft., 6 in., 24,756;
  • 5 ft., 7 in., 37,033;
  • 5 ft., 8 in., 37,389;
  • 5 ft., 9 in., 29,806;

Then the numbers fall off considerably, until only 3,502 are left at 6 ft. and upwards.

In the point of chest measurement in inches there are: —

  • 3,192 under 33 in.;
  • 5,819 from that to 34 in.;
  • 20,082 from that to 35 in.;
  • 32,599 from that to 36 in.;
  • 40,348 from that to 37 in.;

– after which a progressive fall takes place and only 7,373 are described as over 40 in.

Thus the average British soldier is about 23 years of age, about 5 ft. 7 in. in height, and about 37 in. round the chest.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 23 April 2016

Extracts from An Old Order Book
Topic: British Army

Extracts from An Old Order Book

The Toronto Daily Mail, 31 May 1884

Amongst some interesting relics in the possession of Col. Denison, D.A.G. of this district, is an old order book of the 21st Regiment of Foot or Royal North British Fusiliers, which dates from the last century. The book is yellow with age, but still in a good state of preservation, and the writing almost as distinct as the day it was penned. The fly-leaf bears the inscription Lieut. William Cox, Acting Adjutant 21st Regiment: Granard, April, 1783. The book contains all the important parts of the King's Regulations, and opens with the "Form to be made use of by officers when they apply to their respective commanding officers for leave to sell their commissions." Next came the "Rules to be observed by the several regiments of infantry in Ireland." After this comes an order dates "Adjutant-General's office, Dublin, 27th April, 1784," just a century ago. It states that:—

"The waist belts of the infantry are to be worn over the right shoulder and not round the waist as formerly.
"By order of the Commander-in-Chief
"H. Pigot, Adjutant-General"

The orders date from as far back as 1751, the last being in 1785.

Another order, and one that no doubt gladdened the heart of many a poor private, is given a prominence not alloted to the ordinary rules and regulations. It is entitled:—

The King's Order.

In the margin is the date April 2nd, 1773, and the words "His Majesty's most gracious annual allowance to the dragoons and foot in Ireland." This order begins by stating that "His majesty having taken into consideration the increased prices of provisions and or every other necessity of life, and the great distress which must accrue themselves therefrom to the non-commissioned officers and private men of his regiments of infantry and dragoons, His Majesty, in his gracious goodness, has been pleased to direct, &c." then follows the sums allowed to each rank.

Another interesting order is that dates September 8th, 1783, giving the "regulated prices of commissions in the foot." It is as follows:— "Lieut.-Colonel, full price, £3,657; major, £2,698; captain, £1,548; captain-lieutenant and captain, £988; lieutenant, £560; ensign, £405."

Following the King's orders and regulations as above are the "Standing orders of the 21st Regiment, given out by Col. Hamilton, 20th April, 1774." These are fifty-five in number. The next important order is dated two years later, and is entitled:—

"Canada Campaign, 1776."

It refers principally to routine work and the duties of officers and men when in the field.

There is also a memorial "To the Right Honourable William Augustus Pitt, commander-in-chief of his Majesty's forces in Ireland," praying for the promotion of William Cox, acting-adjutant to the regiment. It bears the date 6th October, 1787. the memorial states that Lieut. Cox served with Lieut.-Burgoyne during six years in the campaign in North America, 1777."

"The opinions of different members passed on John Williamson, soldier, in the 28th Regiment tried for desertion by a general court martial, etc.," is an interesting page. The court consisted of seven members, four of whom recommended that the prisoner should serve abroad for life, one for fourteen years, and two recommending 1,000 lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails. Truly a soldier's life was not a happy one a century ago.

A general order dated Quebec, 18th March, 1814, is of particular interest to Canadians. It reads as follows:—

"His Excellency the Commander of the Forces has received from Lieut.-General Drummond the report of captain Stewart, of the Royal Scots, of an affair which took place between the detachment under the orders of that officer and a body of the enemy on the 4th inst. At Longwood in advance of Delaware town. Captain Stewart reports that receiving a report late on the night of the 3rd instant from Captain Caldwell that a party of the enemy was discovered in very superior force posted on a commanding eminence, strongly entrenched with long breastworks. This post was instantly attacked in the most gallant manner by the flank companies in front, while Captain Caldwell's company of rangers and a detachment of the Royal Kent Militia made a flank movement on the right, and a small band of Indians to the left, with a view of gaining the rear of the position, and after repeated attempts to dislodge the enemy in an arduous and spirited contest for an hour and a half's duration, which terminated with the daylight, the troops were reluctantly withdrawn, having suffered severely, principally in officers":— "The enemy has since abandoned his position in Longwood."

Then follows as usual a list of the killed, wounded and missing. It has been stated that the Canadian militia are not entitled to the word "Royal." That they are not "Royal Canadian Militia," but such is not the case. An order was issued to the effect that considering the gallantry displayed by the Canadian militia when in the field with his Majesty's regular troops the militia of Canada should henceforth be termed "Royal Militia of Canada." In the official order as given above it will be seen that the Kent militia was as early as 1814 termed "Royal Kent Militia."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 27 March 2016

Who Shot the Cheese?
Topic: British Army

Who Shot the Cheese?

By George Fraser
The Glasgow Herald, 23 May 1968

Who shot the Cheese? Who stole the wire? What soldiers were permitted to take a woman into barracks? Why should it be contentious and even dangerous, in certain company to call for "a pint of broken squares"?

Why should the men of the Border Regiment have enjoyed a particular reputation for kleptomania? And why should soldiers of Highland regiments, against common sense and nature, wear their bonnets puller down over their eyes?

And so on; one could compile this type of military quiz ad infinitum. The questions are asked here, not for the sake of their answers, which may be of passing interest, but because within both questions and answers there may lie matter of importance to the historian and the sociologist (and, who knows, the anthropologist). They are bound into British regimental traditions; their investigation could tell more about the British soldier than is to be found in standard military histories. These are things that the military historian seldom touches.

elipsis graphic

Of course, military history is a long way out of date. To paraphrase Adlai Stephenson, it has not yet been marched, strutted and puffing, out of the nineteenth century. It remains, unfortunately, at Establishment level; official accounts of campaigns, memoirs of generals, regimental histories almost invariably written by ex-officers whose manly lump in the throat sometimes threatens to obscure the reader's vision. Not that there's anything wrong with manly lumps, but there is more to the history of a regiment than that, and more than battle honours and campaigns and well-worn legends.

It does not tell us much about the men to know that they were cut to bits at Maiwand or that they shot hordes of Zulus at Rorke's Drift. It has been said that to every official war history or general's memoir there should be a companion version giving the private soldier's account; they might even occasionally be recognisably about the same thing. But unfortunately privates seldom wrote their memoirs, and those who did were not trivial men. Yet it is out of the trivia that one can build a picture of reality.

elipsis graphic

Thus: Who shot the cheese? This question, asked of an ex-Gordon Highlander (they also stole the wire), will elicit more of the essence of his regiment, of its spirit, and of those qualities and characteristics that distinguish it from all others, than any amount of reading in its official history.

Highland soldiers may appear to be ordinary soldiers, but with big chests and kilts; only experience can bring home the great gulf in attitude that exists between them and, say, English North Country soldiers. It is much more than national difference, and far stronger; the phenomenon of the Englishman who turns into a Highlander simply by serving in a Highland regiment is well known; the same thing doesn't happen to him if he simply lives or works in Scotland, but it happens in a regiment.

To define these regimental influences, to discover why they operate so powerfully, is not easy. But most people who have experience of them would probably agree that whereas the Gordons were lighthearted and easygoing The Cameronians were undeniably stern and hard, and so on. The King's Liverpool have always been downright rough, and of the Border Regiment I can speak with personal experience.

As a young soldier in their 9th Battalion I was in a party detached to collect rations dropped on a Burmese airstrip. Parties had come from various units, British and Indian, but when the officer in charge saw the Border badges his face fell. He took us aside and addressed us confidentially.

"Look," he said, "I know you lot. Don't, please, pinch anything, I'll see you get buckshees after. Just don't half-inch the stuff; it throws my calculations out. All right?"

elipsis graphic

I was astonished, and rather hurt. Why, I wondered, should he single us out? Only afterwards, when I discovered that every man in my party had left the airstrip with his trouser-legs stuffed with stolen sugar, with bush hats crammed with cigarettes, and water-skins packed with dry tea—only then did I understand what that officer had been talking about. Nothing was too hot or too heavy for the Borders; they would have solen the Shwe Dagon pagoda if there had been transport available.

The point is that the men were not light-fingered or dishonest in themselves—not more than anyone else in XIVth Army, anyway. But as Border Regiment soldiers they were continuing a regimental tradition which you will not find in any regimental history. Retired senior officers may deny it, but everyone knows it to be true.

Now it may seem fanciful to associate this kind of thing with military history. But the men make the history, and there is no question that regimental spirit, tradition, ethos, call it what you like, profoundly influenced the men. And it seems that there is a useful field of study here for military historians. It is not impossible that one may understand what caused the stirrup charge at Waterloo a little better, if one knows who shot the cheese.

elipsis graphic

These thoughts are prompted by the publication of a new series of regimental histories under the editorship of Sir Brian Horrocks. As histories go they are extremely competent, good to look at, and no doubt as accurate and balanced as research can make them. And some of them, notably Michael Foss's "Royal Fusiliers" and Philip Howard's "Black Watch," show signs of leaning towards the less stereotyped kind of history which, I suggest, is as important as the rolls of battle honours and serving officers.

>Just for interest the regiment which can take a woman into barracks is the Royal Norfolks, because they carry Britannia's image on their badges (this is the kind of Army joke that once set the corporals' mess in a roar); the pint of broken squares is too painful to discuss here, and no-one knows why Highlanders wear their bonnets down their foreheads. Gravity, possibly, and sheer blind contrariness.

Hamish Hamilton's "Famous Regiments" series so far includes the Gordons, Black Watch, K.R.R.C., Royal Fusiliers, Royal Flying Corps, the Queen's Royal berks, Somerset L.I., and Royal Norfolks. Prices are from 21s to 25s.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 12 February 2016

British Regiments Fight
Topic: British Army

British Regiments Fight—Two Men Seriously Injured

The Glasgow Herald, 17 October 1901
Press Association Telegram

Aldershot, October 16

The long-standing feud that had existed between the Durham Light Infantry and the Worcester Regiment came to a head last night at the North Camp, Aldershot, with a free fight, in which the bayonet was freely used and ball cartridge fired. Details of the Durham Light Infantry are quartered in Blenheim Barracks, and recently a company of Worcester Mounted Infantry were also sent to the barracks, pending embarkation on the 24th inst, for South Africa.

From what can be ascertained, a quarrel in the canteen was the forerunner of a determined attack after lights-out on one of the Durhams' barrack rooms by the Worcesters, who came armed with rifles, fixed bayonets and other weapons. Every window in the barracks was smashed, and for a time the fighting was severe, during which five of the Durhams were seriously injured.

Picquets were turned out from all parts, and the combatants were separated and confined to their barrack rooms, but the picquets and special squads of military police paraded all night. The injured men were taken to the Commaught Hospital, the most serious cses being those if Private Kelly, who received a bayonet wound in the stomach, and Private Hunter, wounds in the head. A Court of Inquiry is assembling to investigate the matter.

elipsis graphic

From late inquiries it transpires four men were admitted to hospital as a result of the riot. Kelly's condition is causing great anxiety. Private Gully, Worcester Regiment, is suffering from a bayonet stab in the back, and Lance-Corporal Berry and Private Hunter, both of the Durham Light Infantry, have serious wounds in the head caused either by bullets or stones. To-day the Worcesters were removed from Blenheim Barracks to another part of the camp.

elipsis graphic

The Aldershot Disturbance

The Glasgow Herald, 18 October 1901

From inquiries made by the representative of the Central news, it appears that the squabble in the North Camp, Aldershot, between the men of the Durham Light Infantry and the Worcestershire Regiment is grossly exaggerated by the earlier reports. The disturbance lasted only 20 minutes, and most of the damage was the result of stone-throwing at the barrack windows. It was not necessary to call out the extra picquets, and all the men in the two battalions concerned were in bed shortly after 10 o'clock. The officers in authority deny that there is any regimental feud between the Durham and Worcester men, and complain that a mere barrack squabble should have been exaggerated into a serious riot. The mere handful of military police at Farnborough easily restored order without thinking it necessary even to ask for assistance from the headquarters in Aldershot Camp. The military view of the importance of the affair is shown by the fact that the investigation is being conducted, not by the General Officer Commanding, but by a regimental Court of Inquiry. The injured men in hospital are progressing favourably.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 6 February 2016

Impressions of Scots at the Front (1945)
Topic: British Army

Impressions of Scots at the Front (1945)

Battlefield Humour and Realism

The Glasgow Herald, 9 January 1945
From Our Own Correspondent in Holland

During a visit to the Western front in Holland and Belgium I have covered many hundreds of miles and encountered many Scottish soldiers. Here are some impressions.

In modern war only one per cent is excitement and the remaining 99 per cent is routine. The Scot at war does everything to defeat the inevitable boredom. He lives in the moment for the most part, with little thought of the passage of time, but sometimes looking back regretfully to the piping times of peace, with a particular thought for those he loves back at home.

On the whole, I did not find the ordinary "Jock" talkative on the subject of his return to civil life. Perhaps social insurance has eased his mind somewhat on that score, for his impression is that the Government intends at least to avoid making the mistakes of the last post-war period.

Men Well Cared For

Our soldiers are amazingly well cared for; no British Army has ever been served so well by its supply organizations. There are even cinemas operating regularly and showing recently released films within four miles of the Germans. I saw two comedies which were showing in London when I left it the week before.

There are inescapable hardships, long hours of standing-to in split trenched far out into no man's land, when the ground is either iron hard from frost or deep in clammy mud. But half a mile away the troops can be found in sheltered farmhouses in deep cellars, snug as the proverbial bug in a rug.

Their food is good and well-cooked, and they are remarkably fit. Disease and illness in this war have been cut near to the absolute minimum. Lice and bugs are rare indeed, and any man so infected is whisked off for treatment. Venereal disease is much rarer still; not a single case had been reported in one Glasgow regiment I visited. "Crime," most frequently absenteeism and drunkenness, is seldom reported.

Sense of Fun

The Scottish rank and file have an irrepressible sense of fun, which finds its outlet in strange ways. For instance, they will go to considerable trouble to paint up signs derogatory to the enemy—making a dummy of Hitler garbed in a German corporal's uniform.

There is an element of fantasy about driving through such a place as a ruined town and meeting a soldier nonchalantly strolling along with a gaily painted parasol poised above his steel helmet to shield him from the driving sleet. I once met a Cameronian leading a white goat by a piece of string. The animal, which had been found wandering, was following quite calmly at his heels, blissfully unaware of the fate awaiting it.

On another occasion an H.L.I. captain said he discovered that one of his men has "scrounged" a cow somewhere and brought it along to maintain the platoon's fresh milk.

But the humour of the rank and file is sometimes more brutally realistic. Thus, in the fields near the line one occasionally comes across such a notice as "Lousy with mines," Livestock does not browse over these fields any more, and here and there a horse blown into fragments or the carcass of a dead cow can be seen as graphic illustration of the hidden danger. Men who have stepped only inches off the road have done so with fatal results.

As a class, the junior officers are young and tough. I was particularly impressed by the tall, lean type of leader to be found in the West of Scotland units. These young men are almost frighteningly efficient. Only boys before the war, to-day they are men—and men of resource and initiative.

As for the ordinary soldier, in this mechanised, individualised war he has found himself. Officers and men seem never at a loss for the correct course of action to be taken.

A Warning Note

A typical case is that of a major deputy assistant quartermaster general of his brigade who was a law student in his first year at Glasgow University when he joined up. To-day he is the complete executive, and the only uncertainty in his mind appears to be whether he will return to the comparative placidity of a legal career or seek a more venturesome path when peace is won.

Officers as a class are thoughtful about their post-war plans, although many of them have not made up their minds fully. Like their men, they are so intent on the big job at present on hand that they cannot give complete concentration to post-war prospects. But I think that it is opportune to sound a warning note—that is Scotland cannot provide such men as these with the opportunities which their obvious abilities have earned, she will suffer a grevious loss.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 24 January 2016 7:16 PM EST
Wednesday, 21 October 2015

"Tommy Atkins"
Topic: British Army

"Tommy Atkins"

The best and strongest argument against "Tommy Atkins" is that, for some reason, from Commander-in-Chief to private, nobody likes the name.

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 25 September 1897
(From the Broad Arrow)

Many people share Lord Wolseley's opinion that it is a piece of impertinence to call the private soldier "Tommy Atkins." It is a mistake to suppose that it is equally applied to the non-commissioned officer, rather it is a distinguishing mark between the two. Yet that opinion is far from universal, for when the term is used it is rarely, if ever, in an offensive sense. It runs through Barrack Room Ballads and in this month's issue of the United Service Magazine five different writers on military subjects employ the alleged opprobrious appellation, viz., a military critic, a civilian, an old colonel of the Sutlej days, and two army chaplains. It cannot therefore be supposed for one instant that the five are guilty of intentional insult. In what then does the offence consist? We have in the sister service the "Jack Tar," shortened to "Jack" for daily use, and the song says, "They all love Jack." The corresponding name for the soldier—taking Thomas as the starting point—would be "Tom Pipe-clay," but there is no rule in this manner of nicknames. They crop up like mushrooms without ever having been sown, although "Tommy" is clearly the outcome of the Thomas Atkins of officialdom, the invention of the War Office itself. The public made it "Tommy," not "Tom"; it is conceivable they might have made the "John" of the navy into "Jacky," but "Jack," being more euphonious, was adopted. If we have "Blue Jackets" we should also have "Red Coats" and "Blue Coats," but we have not got beyond "Tommies." At the same time there is nothing sacred about the name; apparently it is out of fashion and opposed to the conspicuous refinement of the fast-vanishing days of the nineteenth century, and therefore the sooner it is dropped the better. But who can say what will follow? Not a reversion, it is to be hoped, to "sodger," which was current before the more familiar and friendly "Tommy" came into general use. Once upon a time it used to be "Gentlemen of the First Life Guards, draw your swords," Are we coming to that form of command once more? Perhaps the phonetic " ‘Tshun" may be replaced by "Soldiers of the First Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders, Ross-shire Buffs, the Duke of Albany's, have the kindness to come to attention." The best and strongest argument against "Tommy Atkins" is that, for some reason, from Commander-in-Chief to private, nobody likes the name. It is only popular outside the service; whilst in the navy "Jack" is popular throughout, afloat and ashore, with the poet and the writer of prose, and with the public generally. Once there is a suspicion that "tommy" is an intentionally uncomplimentary mode of referring to our soldiers, soldiers, at all events, should drop it.

[In a brief piece on sailors' nicknames for naval things, in the same issue of this paper, it is noted that: "Jack Tar" is a creation of the landsman, and is never used in the naval service.]

elipsis graphic

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

Military Editor, Mail and Empire:

Sir,— In your column today you reproduce an article from the Broad Arrow advising all, particularly soldiers, to drop the name "Tommy Atkins," as applied to British infantry men. If the origin of the name was as it is given by a writer in the Navy and Army Illustrated of September 3rd in an article on "Zeal in the Army," then it is a name to be proud of. The following extract may interest your readers:—

"In 1857, when the Sepoys at Lucknow mutinied, some Europeans fled to the Residency, pursued by the rebels. On their way they encountered a private of the 32nd (now 1st Batt., Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry), on sentry duty at an outpost, and told him to fly. He stoutly refused to quit his post until properly relieved. Before that time he was numbered among those who fell on that memorable day. That gallant man's name was Thomas Atkins. All through the terrible mutiny if at any time a man especially distinguished himself by any deed of bravery his comrades used to call him "a regular Tommy Atkins,"

and it was thus the name of the hero was handed down to posterity.

Yours, etc., Veteran

Peterborough, Sept. 18.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 18 September 2015

Selfless Commitment
Topic: British Army

Selfless Commitment

Values and Standards of the British Army, January 2008

The British Army is structured and trained for operations, not for the convenience of administration in barracks. On joining the Army soldiers accept a commitment to serve whenever and wherever they are needed, whatever the difficulties or dangers may be. Such commitment imposes certain limitations on individual freedom, and requires a degree of self-sacrifice. Ultimately it may require soldiers to lay down their lives. Implicitly it requires those in positions of authority to discharge in full their moral responsibilities to subordinates. Selfless commitment is reflected in the wording of the Oath of Allegiance which is taken on attestation. In it, soldiers agree to subordinate their own interests to those of the unit, Army and Nation, as represented by the Crown:

"I swear by almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me."

(Those who do not believe in God "Solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm.")

Irrespective of private beliefs, this Oath embodies the context within which the British Army fights and operates. It expresses the loyalty of every soldier to the Sovereign as Head of State. These relationships find expression in the Colours, Standards and other emblems of Regimental and Corps spirit, which derive from the Sovereign. Personal commitment is the foundation of military service. Soldiers must be prepared to serve whenever and wherever required and to do their best at all times. This means putting the needs of the mission and of the team before personal interests.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 23 August 2015

Leather Medals
Topic: British Army

Leather Medals

Sergeant-Major Timothy Gowing, Voice from the Ranks; A Personal Narrative of the Crimean Campaign by a Sergeant of the Royal Fusiliers, edited by Kenneth Fenwick, 1954

October 29th

Well, I've got back to camp again. We have had a rough twenty-four hours of it; it rained nearly the whole time. The enemy kept pitching shell into us nearly all night, and it took us all our time to dodge their Whistling Dicks (huge shell), as our men have named them. We were standing nearly up to our knees in mud and water, like a lot of drowned rats, nearly all night; the cold, bleak wind cutting through our thin clothing (that now is getting very thin and full of holes, and nothing to mend it with). This is ten times worse than all the fighting.

We have not one ounce too much to eat and, altogether, there is a dull prospect before us. But our men keep their spirits up well, although we are nearly worked to death night and day. We cannot move without sinking nearly to our ankles in mud. The tents we have to sleep in are full of holes, and there is nothing but mud to lie down in, or scrape it away with our hands the best we can—and soaked to the skin from morning to night (so much for honour and glory)! I suppose we shall have leather medals for this one day—I mean those who have the good fortune to escape the shot and shell of the enemy and the pestilence that surrounds us.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ordinary day in billets
Topic: British Army

Ordinary day in billets

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

1st November.

Ordinary day in billets. Orders circulated to companies for the relief of the 1st North Staffords in the front line at the "Mound of Death" on the morrow. Company commanders went off on reconnaissance and returned at night with a bad account of our new line. For the past month the area round the ruins of St. Eloi had witnessed much fighting. Three mines had been exploded, and there was the usual scrapping for possession of the craters.

Our Division expected an attack, and we were detailed to hold the position. Platoon commanders were given maps, and were told to explain the situation to the men. It was during this so-called rest, which was in reality one long endless fatigue, that Headquarters issued orders that owing to the unsavoury tone in the word "fatigue" in future the term "working party" must be used.

It was pointed out that these working parties performed most important work, and that there was as much honour and glory in a "fatigue" party as there was in being the attacking troops. We were ordered to read this out on parade. I did so, and when I had finished one "old tough" was overheard to remark: "Begorra, ye can change the bloody name but the fatigue is still there."

The word "mine" was also scrapped, "sap" being substituted, owing, they said, to the Huns getting to know about our mining activity. There was a rumour afloat that it was the intention of the Higher Command to stop the rum issue and give hot coffee in lieu. Fortunately nothing materialised in this direction and we all breathed in peace once more.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 2 May 2015

Inspection at Poona 1942
Topic: British Army

Inspection at Poona 1942

Troop Sergeant Clive Branson, Royal Armoured Corps RAC, quoted inThe Mammoth Book of War Diaries and Letters; Life on the battlefield in the words of the ordinary soldier, 1775-1991, Jon E. Lewis, 1998

Today a General paid us a visit. In one squadron they had many men change into PT kit, some ready to box, some to do PT, some to form two basket-ball teams, etc. They were kept sitting about doing nothing for ages until a scout saw the General's car. The scout signalled, and immediately everyone began boxing and playing basket-ball.

Gulunche
Nr Poona [Indial
20 June 1942

You have little idea how badly we need the news of the second front—it is the difference between a body of good, stolid-humoured Britishers and an inspired army of warriors. This morning we went out on a scheme on foot in units representing tanks. We covered ten or twelve miles or more over ploughed fields. It was magnificent exercise and although I felt pretty tired I enjoyed it no end. That sort of thing will make real soldiers of us.

But tonight I had a terrible set-back. On parade this morning we were asked who had seen active service. I said I had. When we came back from the scheme I was told that I was to go on an inspection by the Duke of Gloucester in a few days' time. This parade is purely bullshit. It will take several days to polish boots, brasses, etc. It will take days and nights for some eight Indian tailors to alter, clean, press, etc. clothes for the white sahibs to wear like bloody waxworks. The Indians, of course, will not be on parade, the lucky fools. I have often been asked, "Have we got a fifth column here?" Yes, we have! For nothing could help the enemy more by undermining morale, destroying enthusiasm and making us incompetent fighters than this kind of tomfoolery. The farce develops. This morning we had an inspection. The Duke's show is in five days' time. On the day we get up at 5 a.m. Our clothes will be packed in boxes and taken by lorry to the scene of battle, where we will get into them. Sebastopol is falling and our CO is disappointed at the lack of polish on the topee chin straps.

Well, the Duke's show is over, at immense expenditure of precious petrol, wear and tear of vehicles, deadening bullshit. The Duke merely shook hands with unit commanders and squadron leaders—the men just didn't exist. Today a General paid us a visit. In one squadron they had many men change into PT kit, some ready to box, some to do PT, some to form two basket-ball teams, etc. They were kept sitting about doing nothing for ages until a scout saw the General's car. The scout signalled, and immediately everyone began boxing and playing basket-ball. As soon as the General disappeared the men were marched back to their tents. This is how things are going on here.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 25 January 2015

Supporting the Troops
Topic: British Army

Army Service Corps troops - See full image.

Field Marshal William Joseph "Bill" Slim,
1st Viscount Slim,
KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC, KStJ
(6 August 1891 – 14 December 1970)

Supporting the Troops

Unofficial History, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, K.G., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., 1960

…a lieutenant-colonel of the Supply and Transport Corps. … He looked very fierce and military … officers who dealt with bully-beef and biscuit in the back areas so often did … I was informed that his supplies were not for issue to any casual subaltern who cared to ask for them, and, if my detachment had not got everything that was necessary for its comfort, it was either because;

(1)     I was incompetent,

(2)     The staff at the Reinforcement Camp was incompetent, or

(3)     A combination of (1) and (2).

I gathered he rather favoured the first alternative. He ended with the final warning: 'And don't let your fellows come hanging round here. The British soldier is the biggest thief in Asia and his officers encourage him.'

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 January 2015 7:18 PM EST
Saturday, 27 December 2014

Paris Leave, 1918
Topic: British Army

Paris Leave, 1918

Scarlet Fever; A Lifetime with Horses, John Cusack, MM, and Ivor Herbert, 1972

On December 27 [1918], just as the regiment was going forward into Germany, the Squadron Leader said to me, 'Your leave has just come through.'

I was flabbergasted. 'What leave?'

He said, 'Your Paris leave, of course.'

I'd put in for this leave two years previously, when I was with the Royals and before I was married. I'd never heard of anyone getting Paris leave throughout the whole war! I went to the paymaster and asked, 'How about some money ?' The paymaster said he had no francs at all, but he said, 'There's the deposit on those beer kegs you bought in Liege. Take 'em back and use that 300 francs.' I'd had a new uniform made, beautifully tailored and I'd been issued with a new set of underwear. I set off like a gay dog for the railway station in company with the Canadian staff sergeant, with whom I had shared the night out with the two sisters. There were no timetables for the trains, and all were crowded. They arrived and left without anybody knowing where or when. I heard I should get some tickets, but as soon as I went off, the train left, bearing away my valuable underwear. We finally reached Paris at half-past two in the morning. We were taken into an office by the Military Police, told when we would be returning, given a package of prophylactics and a lecture about behaving ourselves. We were warned that our return from Paris might be delayed by American soldiers who had gone absent without leave, but had kept their rifles and who held up returning leave trains as they went slowly over broken bridges and robbed them of all the spirits on board.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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