The Minute Book
Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Orders and Morale
Topic: Leadership

Confidence and pride in leaders must be bred by the leaders themselves.

Orders and Morale

"Morale," by Lieut.-Colonel J.G. Shillington, D.S.O., Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. XCV, February to November, 1950

Confidence and pride in leaders must be bred by the leaders themselves. All leaders from the lowest to the highest should consider the effect their orders will have on those who have to carry them out. In this connection the following principles are applicable:—

(a)     Never give an order which cannot be obeyed, and be prepared to represent your subordinate's case to your superior if such an order comes from above.

(b)     Always ensure that an order once given is obeyed. Give ample time for it to be carried out, but make sure that in due course you see for yourself with your own eyes that you have been obeyed, i.e., practise "the eye of the Master" Do not suspect disobedience or irregularities, but always exercise normal supervision and be prepared to help, i.e., "act as a watchdog not a bloodhound."

(c)     Never put your men into battle without adequate support, and let them know this. It will be remembered that Field-Marshal Montgomery stressed this particularly when he made his many addresses to the 21st Army Group before the invasion of Normandy.

(d)     Ensure that your men know the object of everything they are called on to do, be it in peace or war. A man will carry out orders more willingly, however irksome they may be, if he knows why they are given. If there is not a good reason an order should not be given.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 July 2015 12:11 AM EDT
Monday, 6 July 2015

Regimental Tradition
Topic: Tradition

Regimental Tradition

… the command of infantry in action is far more closely allied to an art than to a technique…

"Regimental Tradition in the Infantry of the Line," Major C.E. Hawes, Honorable Artillery Company (late 1st King George V's Own Gurkha Rifles), Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. XCVI, February to November 1951

The value of regimental tradition also appears in its effects upon leadership. Here again the commander of the more technical arms has an advantage; the most important part of his task is the application of principles, scientifically established and agreed upon, to a given situation which may indeed be affected by the fact that it occurs in time of war but is not radically altered thereby. Thus, in peace or war, it takes very little time for a seaman with any experience at all to sum up a new Captain: simply by observing the way he shapes he will very soon gain confidence that his commander is among those who can claim with truth, "I never run a ship ashore." Similarly it is very soon clear whether a commander of artillery or engineers is technically competent. But the command of infantry in action is far more closely allied to an art than to a technique: it consists of the application of principles, it is true, but these principles are profoundly modified by the individual commander's view of the way to apply them, in fact, by his personal character. Thus a thrusting Irishman may attack with three companies up, while a cautious Scot may prefer to commit only one company at the outset: both may succeed admirably, but it is probable that neither will have much success at all unless he has somehow gained the confidence of his men before the battle, so that every soldier will go "all out" without anxious fears of something going wrong. Such confidence is based on knowledge, and knowledge is more easily and quickly acquired if both leader and led are on the same metaphorical "wavelength" as the result of a common military culture and upbringing based on shared traditions. A commander of outstanding personality can "get himself across" in any event, but even he will have to overcome that feeling of hostility and mistrust which always meets a stranger: the existence of this time-lag may be of vital importance when a commander takes over just before or even during a battle.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 July 2015 12:04 AM EDT
Sunday, 5 July 2015

If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops
Topic: Commentary

If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops…

The messaging of the image above, whether in a facebook feed, on a bumper sticker, or plastered somewhere else has always raised my hackles. It's in keeping with the rhetoric that comes of veteran outrage syndrome and the trend that continues to propagate the same sense of entitlement is well described in this article; The Death of the Quiet Professional.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

Really? If you've ever spouted this, did you actually pause and think about what it's actually saying? No, I didn't think so?

I'm sure some soldiers and veterans, and supporters of same, picture this (if they picture it at all) in the context of an armed force in all-round protection. Soldiers in a tight circle (proportional to the force size, of course, for the pedants out there), all facing outwards, sheltering a select deserving few inside, and everything outside defined as potential targets, where everything in front of the muzzle is the enemy. But life's never really that simple, is it?

First off, it's not the soldier's choice who might be under his (yes, or her) protection. That decision falls to the political masters, the ones who decided if we'd be at war, and with whom. And the soldier certainly doesn't get to decide that someone no longer deserves protection. The mere thought of that undermines the whole context of being a soldier in a democratic society. Soldiers can't claim to be defending the rights and freedoms of our country's populace, if they don't accept and allow them having an contrary or adversarial opinion. That, quite specifically, is one of those rights and freedoms.

"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication… – Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom

That freedom includes being able to disagree with how the elected officials running the country decide to employ the military. even if they, directly or indirectly, benefit from the military's existence in some other way. Those citizens are still entitled to express their opinion. We should be glad that they are, for they maintain that right even as some soldiers evolve from ardent supporters of their employer, the Government, to ardent veteran critics of every thing that same Government does in support (or perceived lack thereof) of soldiers and veterans.

Soldiers protect, both persons and materiel, and defend the rights and freedoms of their society, in ways chosen by the Government (that's part of the deal, the Government chooses the missions), and they protect individuals, very directly, when they happen to be inside one of those protective circles soldiers form on operations. No serving soldier on an operational mission would turn to a sheltered civilian (of any status) and declare that they no longer deserved protection. No soldier who dutifully embraces their responsibilities would cast a civilian from that protective circle.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

You cannot hide behind suggested contexts and declare that the lack of a physical intent to cast someone out excuses the thought. The declaration itself offers to withdraw the protection that it is a duty of a serving soldier to provide. The soldier does not have the authority to withdraw it, because that authority has not, and never will be, delegated. To make such an declaration doesn't display a strong validation of one's support of soldiers and mission, it antagonistically shows a careless disregard for duty and loyalty to the nation's rights and freedoms. It doesn't reinforce the support it attempts to proclaim, it undermines it.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

It's not simply a cute rhetorical quotation, it's an offer of violence, directly or indirectly. Parsed by the military mind, it says to the receivers that if they doesn't wholly support the soldier and his purpose (or support the soldier separate from mission, as some angry veterans might allow), than the receiver is welcome to walk into the danger zone. The citizen who does not agree with the Government's use of the military does not deserve to be sent into the crossfire. That citizen's opinions are just as valuable, and just as worthy to be expressed, in a democratic society. If anything, their right to express that opinion deserves to be openly recognized, and protected, from those who might try to muzzle it.

Soldiers like the analogy of sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. Soldiers are the sheepdogs, protecting the populace (the sheep) from the bad guys (the wolves). The sheep can rest peacefully, because the sheepdogs remain awake, alert, and ready to counter the wolves. But the analogy always leaves out one important player … the shepherd … the Government. The sheepdog obeys the shepherd, and no true sheepdog abandons a sheep to the wolves, no matter how recalcitrant that sheep might be. It's not the sheepdog's choice, to do so is counter to the sheepdog's duty.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

It's time for this facile expression to die and disappear. Those who express it are certainly entitled to their opinion, but perhaps they need to think a little harder about that opinion first and how it can be interpreted. It's not just a reprehensible expression, it's directly in contradiction to the soldier's duty.

In its place, I offer this quote, which thoughtful soldiers have seldom hesitated to express:

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." – Voltaire

Pro Patria


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 July 2015 8:42 PM EDT
Saturday, 4 July 2015

Discipline as Combat Motivation
Topic: Discipline

Discipline as Combat Motivation

Soldiers in Revolt; The American Military Today, David Cortright, 1975

Our first task is to probe the justifications for the traditionally accepted mode of military discipline. The basic explanation seems simple, at least on the surface: The organizational efficiency required on the battlefield demands total compliance with command decisions. It is assumed that men will not advance under fire without the impetus of inflexible authority, which must be instilled through rigid indoctrination and the threat of punishment. Colonel Heinl fervently argued this point in a recent attack on reform of military law: "Nothing save deeply inculcated discipline can drive soldiers or Marines to cross a fire-swept beach, storm a pill-box, or advance into the next house in street-fighting." In a similar vein, retired Army General Hamilton Howze argued in Army magazine in 1971 that traditional discipline must be maintained as the backbone of military efficiency: "In the last analysis it is the authority of the commander which gets the job done …". General Westmoreland repeated the same argument in describing the primary purpose of military justice: "Discipline is an attitude of respect for authority which is developed by leadership, precept and training … which leads to a willingness to obey an order no matter how unpleasant or dangerous.…"

Despite such claims, the available evidence casts considerable doubt on the value of military discipline. A number of scholarly studies suggest that men are not motivated in combat by command authority or training, but by simple personal concerns such as the desire to retum home safely, mutual bonds with a buddy, and the basic drive of self-preservation. During World War II, Samuel Stouffer and a team of social scientists conducted a pioneering survey of the attitudes and experiences of enlisted men and officers, later published in the two-volume report The American Soldier. Concentrating on a veteran infantry unit that had fought through two Mediterranean campaigns, the scientists asked the men what motivated them under fire. They found a marked difference between officers and enlisted men in the value attached to military authority. When asked to select the factor "most important to you in making you want to keep going," enlisted men identified "leadership and discipline" least of all the incentives listed; only 1 per cent considered it their primary motivation. When officers were asked to name what they thought was most important to the troops, however, discipline was selected most frequently, by 19 per cent. The GIs were concerned not with military authority but with returning home safely and protecting their buddies. The research also indicated that the threat of punishment under military law had little impact on the battlefield, that men in the infantry were generally unmoved by potential disciplinary sanctions. Less thorough but similarly directed studies were conducted during Korea and Vietnam, with results confirming the seeming irrelevance of military discipline. Sociologist Roger Little observed Army units in Korea and concluded that solidarity among small groups was the most important factor in explaining the behavior of enlisted men in combat. Charles Moskos, studying GIs in Vietnam, saw combat troops as concerned only with their own personal survival. None of these studies found military discipline or authority important to combat motivation. The basic drive to return home safely and the intimacy of buddy groups seem sufficient to convince soldiers to co-operate and to sustain them under fire. There is no evidence that the strictures of military discipline contribute to combat effectiveness.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 3 July 2015

Company and Platoon Commanders
Topic: Officers

Company and Platoon Commanders

Canadian Army Training Memorandum, No 28, July 1943

1.     Do you want to know what one high Commander in a theatre of war thinks the most vital things for his junior officers to know ?

2.     Here they are:—

(a)     Speedy decision and aggressive action. Automatic decision and action without waiting to be told, without wasting time, waiting for orders from the next higher commander.

(b)     Manoeuvre—how to put on a quick flanking attack when it is needed how not to throw troops away by pounding straight ahead against well organized resistance.

(c)     Map reading—especially foreign maps that may be the only ones available in that particular theatre of operations.

(d)     Handling your command at night—the approach march-marching to the assembly and forming up positions-night attacks-keeping direction-accurate use of the compass-the silent approach and the bayonet attack.

(e)     Re-organization—replenishment of ammunition, food and water, when you have captured your objective.

3.     Are any of these new? Are any of these special? Are not they the common sense of battle-the things in the book-the things every small unit commander with any common sense and imagination knows are going to be vital later on?

4.     Are there any of these things that any Commander of any rank does not recognize as of utmost importance in training?

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 21 June 2015 6:08 PM EDT
The Most Essential Condition of Service is Danger
Topic: The Field of Battle

The Most Essential Condition of Service is Danger

Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791-94, John A. Lynn, 1996

American troops in World War II definitely felt that their efforts were appreciated. Of 3,754 troops who were surveyed in the European theater, 82 percent answered that one half or more of the American people appreciated the soldiers' efforts. The last word has yet to be written concerning the American experience in Vietnam, but it is clear that the young men who fought in its jungles and rice paddies felt no such confidence in the folks back home. Some of the troops even went so far as to express their disillusionment by chalking "UUUU" on their helmets, that is "the unwilling led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful." There are indications that the young American in Vietnam was no less patriotic, tough, and capable than was his father in World War II. The great difference was that by the late 1960s a profoundly divided America could not applaud the soldier's actions. War resistance may have affected combat troops not so much by winning them over as political converts but by telling them that their suffering, endurance, and bravery would go unappreciated and unrewarded. The soldier could be left with the conviction that no one cared about him. He was a victim or sucker, fighting the war no one wanted.

Another aspect of wartime opinion is the status awarded to the wartime soldier. A nation that holds the peacetime soldier in contempt may glorify him at war. Perhaps it is only because an army swelled to wartime proportions contains a broad cross-section of society, so to look down on men in uniform is to look down on your own neighbors and sons. A last element of wartime opinion worth mention is the respect and aid given to soldiers' families. The knowledge that those at home are being honored and cared for not only frees a soldier's mind, but also tells him that he is respected and valued.

Reactions to conditions of service include opinions and feelings generated by the realities of the soldier's daily life. Some observers go so far as to say that good food, sufficient rest, efficient equipment, proper medical care, and frequent mail guarantee high morale. Experience does not always bear out this view, but such conditions are unquestionably important. Without doubt, good weapons give troops confidence while poor weapons sap it. Conditions of service also include less tangible, but very important elements, such as the character of discipline, the concern shown by company grade officers, and the competence of commanders. The momentum of victory or defeat is also a determinant of morale. An army marching from success to success has fewer morale problems than does the army it is defeating. Ultimately, troop reactions to all the elements of what will be called the military system become part of morale.

For the combat soldier, the most essential condition of service is danger and the fear it engenders. This point cannot be overstressed. Experience—time on the line—can teach a man to learn how to fight effectively, how to depend on his fellows, and how to deal with fear. Yet at the same time studies have demonstrated that courage has its season; men can only bear the burden of fear for a given amount of time before they collapse under its weight.' But fear is not the only condition that undermines morale after long periods at the front; boredom, too, takes its toll.

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 8:26 PM EDT
Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Mainguy Report: Canadian Traditions
Topic: RCN

"The Mainguy Report"

Absence of Canadian Traditions in Navy

Report on certain "Incidents" which occurred on board H.M.C. Ships ATHABASKAN, CRESCENT and MAGNIFICENT and on other matters concerning THE Royal Canadian Navy (i.e., "The Mainguy Report"), Ottawa, October 1949.

The following note on the perceived absence of uniquely Canadian traditions in the Royal Canadian navy was recorded in the Mainguy Report:

As collateral to the complaints referred to in the above paragraph, there was a general insistence also on the necessity of building up whenever possible Canadian traditions. Stephen Leacock once said, "Leave the Ukrainians alone, and in ten years they will think that they won the Battle of Trafalgar". Unfortunately this genial prophecy has not been fulfilled, and however regrettable it may seem to some people, an opinion is widely held amongst many ratings and some officers that the "Nelson tradition" is overdone, and there is still too great an attempt to make the Canadian navy a pallid imitation and reflection of the British Navy. This is in no sense a criticism of the magnificent traditions of the Royal Navy, but it is natural outcome of the growth of a healthy Canadian national consciousness. A few suggestions in the matter will be found amongst our recommendations.

Although Canadian traditions for the Navy were not separately addressed in the Report's recommendations, these remarks are to be found throughout the recommendations section:

We would like to see a greater emphasis placed, in the training given on the traditions of Naval Service, the customs of the Navy and the Navy's place as a weapon of democratic defences. There are so many things in Naval history to interest young men, and on the lips or pen of a skilled narrator their recital could hold the fascinated attention of new entries. Even in the matter of general education, we were not impressed by the literature prescribed for reading and examination. There is a fine literature of the sea which might very well be drawn upon for the instruction and enjoyment of new recruits. It would be far better for the new entries to read one or two great sea stories like "Moby Dick" or "The Ship" than to busy themselves as they now do with a string of unrelated "snippets" by a variety of authors.

We feel, too, that a far greater effort should be made to develop in the recruit an understanding of his own importance to the Navy, however humble his task may be. He should be made to understand what patriotism and service to one's country means.

elipsis graphic

We are most anxious also to encourage in the new recruit, and in fact throughout the Service, a greater appreciation, not only of the short but glorious history of the Canadian Navy, but also of Naval customs still surviving, of the picturesque Naval terms and their meaning, and of the conditions under which men live at sea. A booklet should be published in addition to the Seamanship manual, which is usually available to new trainees.

The United States Navy, with its usual thoroughness and desire to "Americanize" the men of many racial strains who compose its personnel, has issued a publication entitled "Your Navy". Its manner and matter would not suit our Canadian character, but it does appear to us that a publication dealing with the great traditions of bravery and chivalry at sea that belong to all seagoing peoples, would suit our Canadian pattern.

Our men also belong to many races. Very many of them are of the class and type and sometimes referred to as "New Canadians". They may not all respond to the inspiration of memories such as this:—

"The spirit of your fathers
Shall start from every wave
The deck it was their field of fame
And ocean was their grave.
Where Blake and mighty Nelson fell,
Your manly hearts shall glow
As ye sweep through the deep
While the stormy winds do blow."

but they would all be interested in the recorded traditions of the British Navy, the American Navy, the French Navy, the Dutch Navy and, in fact, of any Navy in which the deeds of the brave have been immortalized. Our own annals may be short and not as rich as those of other nations, but the history of the Canadian Navy in the last war is something to make young men proud, especially if it is interwoven with a recital of the stark deeds at sea which, in the words of Mr. Churchill, "warm the cockles of men's hearts".

elipsis graphic

It is also obvious that the improved training of men in seamanship, in conditions of life at sea, and not least, in Naval history and traditions, is of equal importance. No country has available for its service a finer, stronger young manhood than Canada. In order that part of it may be welded together in a happy and efficient Naval community of officers and men, we wish to repeat the discipline is the most important element in the whole fabric. Perhaps we may use here a sentence which we have included at an earlier stage in this report: The only discipline which in the final analysis is worth while is one that is based upon pride in a great service, a belief in essential justice, and the willing obedience that is given to superior character, skill, education and knowledge. Any other form of discipline is bound to break down under stress.

elipsis graphic

We have also sought to interpret the wishes of the great majority of men by stressing the need to "Canadianize" our navy. In so doing, we wish to record that in common with most thoughtful Canadians, we have an abiding admiration and respect for the grand traditions and institutions of the Royal Navy and for their continuing beneficient and steadying force wherever British and Canadian ships may sail. We hope that all that is good in these shared traditions will remain with us and that only what is inefficient and inconsistent with our national need, character, dignity and special conditions will disappear from the Navy of Canada.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Company and Platoon Commanders
Topic: Officers

Company and Platoon Commanders

Canadian Army Training Memorandum, No 28, July 1943

1.     Do you want to know what one high Commander in a theatre of war thinks the most vital things for his junior officers to know ?

2.     Here they are:—

(a)     Speedy decision and aggressive action. Automatic decision and action without waiting to be told, without wasting time, waiting for orders from the next higher commander.

(b)     Manoeuvre—how to put on a quick flanking attack when it is needed how not to throw troops away by pounding straight ahead against well organized resistance.

(c)     Map reading—especially foreign maps that may be the only ones available in that particular theatre of operations.

(d)     Handling your command at night—the approach march-marching to the assembly and forming up positions-night attacks-keeping direction-accurate use of the compass-the silent approach and the bayonet attack.

(e)     Re-organization—replenishment of ammunition, food and water, when you have captured your objective.

3.     Are any of these new? Are any of these special? Are not they the common sense of battle-the things in the book-the things every small unit commander with any common sense and imagination knows are going to be vital later on?

4.     Are there any of these things that any Commander of any rank does not recognize as of utmost importance in training?

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:12 AM EDT
Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Marching
Topic: The Field of Battle

A good traveler will make his forty miles a day without any great effort. But a march of an army is quite a different affair. An unskilled general will manage to make a march of five miles in one day by an army corps a very exhausting day's work for the men.

Marching

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

After a series of false starts, the First Minnesota began its march back down the Peninsula on 16 August. An account of just how tedious the trek was came from a member of Company B, who sent the following description of the march to the Stillwater Messenger under the pen name "Saint Croix." It could have described almost any march any time:

Our first orders came to be ready to move in light marching order on Monday, August 11, but owing to change of programme, or some other cause, we were kept in camp constantly on the qui vive until Saturday the 16th, when we finally got under way and dragged our slow length along out of the fortifications and over about four miles of road, and encampt for the night within a mile or two of Charles City Court House. In civil life we do not regard a walk of ten or twenty miles in one day as anything very arduous. A good traveler will make his forty miles a day without any great effort. But a march of an army is quite a different affair. An unskilled general will manage to make a march of five miles in one day by an army corps a very exhausting day's work for the men. The reveille will sound at half past two in the morning, and every man must get his coffee and gird on his armor. One hour later the bugles sound "attention" and the men fall in, all strapped up and loaded down. Here they wait under arms right in their tracks one hour and a half—this a moderate statement—when the welcome "forward" is sounded, and your regiment marches off promptly for ten or twenty rods and halts to let by a long column of cavalry, or infantry, or a wagon train. This occupies from fifteen minutes to three hours, according to the brilliancy and magnitude of the movement. By this time the sun is high and the heat is great. Dust ditto. Finally the regiment will get out of sight of camp, and it is time to take a lunch. No sooner has the whole corps got stretched out on the road, than the hateful, but inevitable order comes to "closeup," and the poor devils toward the rear are compelled to take up a sort of double quick step until some obstruction delays the head of the column, and they come slap up against their file leaders. Then a long halt and another weary stand-up ensues, to be followed by another double quick to make up for the accumulated time and distance lost by all the men and trains in front. And thus we march and stand. No matter how great the heat, how thick the dust, or how heavy the loads on our shoulders … By this style of marching, when five miles are made, the men are very much fatigued, while a march of ten or twelve miles is a serious affair.'

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 29 June 2015

Of Rice And Leadership
Topic: Leadership

Of Rice And Leadership;
Orde Wingate Trains His Cbindits

Men at War; True Stories of Heroism and Honor, Robert Barr Smith, 1997

Brigadier Mike Calvert was a Chindit, fabulous commander of one of the British long-range penetration brigades inserted deep behind Japanese lines in Burma and supplied entirely by air. He was also a disciple of Orde Wingate, the charismatic leader whose brainchild the Chindits were.

Wingate insisted on using ordinary British and Indian battalions in his Chindit units; he wanted no elite forces because he believed these rank-and-file soldiers, properly trained and led, could beat the Japanese in their own jungle. Wingate was right, as his Chindits proved, but implementing his ideas sometimes took some doing. Here is one such case, just as Mike Calvert told it to me one pleasant day in London:

The Indian companies were based around the cooking pot. They carried a huge cooking pot, which would take two and a half hours to cook the rice. So sometime midday everything had to stop while they cooked this rice. I'd seen this on the retreat from Burma. And I told Wingate this, and so he had us…we had the 3/2 Gurkhas with us, and they were pretty junior. In my column I only had one Gurkha officer who was over the age of twenty-two. I remember meeting them, and they were all twenty-one, nineteen, eighteen, so on.

And so Wingate called the battalion around, young Gurkhas sitting around the bottom, then the older Gurkhas, then the British officers were around the sides. They were shaking their heads; they didn't think Wingate could teach them anything. And Wingate took some dried sticks from out of his pack. And he showed us…this was Boy Scout stuff…after you made a fire you picked up a sufficient number of sticks for the next fire. He was ready.

And he put these sticks on the ground and he lit them with a match. He measured out some water in a normal can, waited till the water boiled, and then he took a sock out of his pocket, measured out some rice and put it in. Then he set his alarm clock for twenty minutes and he just sat there on his haunches and everybody else watched in absolute silence and then after twenty minutes he took it off and showed it to them, and then sifted it and put some salt on it.

And he took a spoon and…I was looking at the Gurkhas' faces…and he got a spoonful of rice and munched it, and a terrific smile spread across his face, and they all smiled and then he handed the can around. According to their religious customs they're not supposed to do that kind of thing, but they all took a bite. And it was all right.

So in less than an hour he had converted the whole battalion to how to move and then of course you cook your own rice and that makes all the difference in your movement and maneuver-ability. You couldn't send out small parties before. It converted the whole battalion so they could be self-reliant.

And that is what good officers call leadership.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 28 June 2015

Rations on the Western Front
Topic: CEF

Rations on the Western Front

Trench Life; Canada's Part in the Present War; Empire Day, May 23rd, Ontario Department of Education, 1918

"An army marches on its stomach," said Napoleon; he might have added with even more truth that it also fights on its stomach. Put a soldier in the front line, cold, wet, covered in mud, his stomach empty, and he becomes indifferent—nay, he even "looks for" a wound which will take him to "Blighty." But if the same soldier has a warm feeling in the region of his stomach, and has to let out a couple holes in his belt, he feels that the people at home can't be blamed for the mud and the wet, and it is his business to give Fritz "what is coming to him." Hence he "carries on" to the last ounce of his strength and the last drop of his blood.

The rationing of the British army is practically perfect, and rarely or never breaks down. Every twenty-four hours the Army Service Corps brings up rations to the brigade quartermaster. This officer divides them into lots, according to the numerical strength of the units to which they will be issued. By a further process of division, the supplies reach the company or battery stores. In each platoon a non-commissioned officer, usually a corporal, is detailed to draw and issue the rations for his platoon. Such supplies as fresh meats, tea, coffee, and flour are turned over to the company cooks by the quartermaster-sergeants, the individual soldiers handling only "dry rations" like bread, canned goods, jam, biscuits, and pickles. Tommy spends much spare time cooking, and, for originality if not for delicacy, his dishes would put a French chef to shame.

Here is a favourite recipe: Cut fine a half a pound of cheese, mix with a tin of canned beef, add bread crumbs and all the bacon grease available. Fry over a candle in a mess-tin and eat quickly, because, if the odour spreads, a crowd will gather, and you will either be lynched or forced to divide, according to the humour of the spectators.

Fearful and wonderful puddings are made from "plum and apple" jam, bread crumbs, and tea, and any other ingredients which come handy. Hot tea is usually the solvent for shaving soap. It may be a trifle sticky, but it has a wonderful softening effect on the stiffest whiskers, and is said to be a most beneficial demulcent.

When a soldier is in the front line, his menu will "take a tumble," because great difficulty will be experienced in bringing up hot food, especially if the Germans are bombarding. Under cover of darkness, usually about nine o'clock, the company transport—fifty men with mules and limbers—brings the rations to the entrances of the communication trenches. Here they are turned over to the company-sergeant-major, and through his distribution to the individual men. Each soldier carries what is called emergency, or "iron," rations, not to be used "except in dire necessity." These consist of a tin of corned beef, four hardtacks, oxo cubes, dry tea, and a little sugar. All fire and smoke must be very carefully screened, so as to not draw enemy artillery fire.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Ranger Creed

Ranger Creed

Ranger Handbook, Ranger Training Brigade, United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, February 2011

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other Soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 26 June 2015

The VC Centenary
Topic: Medals

The VC Centenary

Canadian Army Journal, Vol 10, No 4, Oct 1956
Written Specially for the Journal by Captain J. H. Golding, Public Relations Officer, Canadian Army Liaison Establishment, London, England

Early in the Crimean War, Queen Victoria wrote: "I regret exceedingly not to be a man and be able to fight." On January 29, 1856, Queen Victoria approved a warrant for a new decoration to be called the Victoria Cross—which could only be won by conspicuous bravery or devotion to the country in the presence of the enemy. From that day, the decoration became the most sought-after and it took precedence over all other orders and decorations. It ranks before the Order of the Garter which is some 600 years old. In Hyde Park, London, on June 26, 1856, the first presentation of the new medal was made when a representative parade of 9000 of the Armed Services, 7000 guests and hundreds of thousands of onlookers paid tribute while the Queen presented 61 Victoria Crosses. She was dressed as a Field Marshal and leaned from her horse to pin each medal on the left breast of the 61 heroes. One hundred years later, her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, reviewed 300 living holders of the Victoria Cross from many parts of the world. There were 36 from Canada, the oldest being 85-year-old Lieut.-General Sir Richard Turner, VC, KCB, KCMG, DSO, VD, of Quebec, leader of the Canadian VC party, who won his medal in the Boer War. A total of 1347 Victoria Crosses has been awarded since 1856: 118 to the Royal Navy, 867 to the Army, 31 to the RAF and 331 to the Commonwealth and Colonies. Today, anyone serving with the Commonwealth Forces, regardless of nationality, and whether a civilian or a member of the services, is eligible for the award. A VC has never been awarded to a woman. The Victoria Cross is fashioned from the bronze barrels of Russian guns captured at Sevastapol during the Crimean War. Supplies of the Russian bronze are unlikely to run out, since the award is rarely bestowed and scores of the massive guns are in museums. VC's are collectors' items, and it is said that while winning one is difficult, forfeiting one is impossible. Before the reign of George V, eight VC winners lost their medals for various contraventions of the law. But George V ruled that it was never to be taken from a winner—in fact, he could wear it on the gallows. A London publication noted: "The VC has been won by an American in The Canadian Army (Metcalfe), a Russian-born Canadian soldier (Konowal), a Dane serving with The Black Watch of Canada (Dinesen) and a German serving with the British in The Crimean War." Three men have won the Victoria Cross twice. Only one is living. He is Captain Upham of the New Zealand Military Forces. The other two were Captain Martin-Leake and Captain Chevasse of the Royal Army Medical Corps. While five padres wore VC's during the centenary celebrations, two assumed Holy Orders after the War, so that one of the three who won the medal as a chaplain was Major John Weir Foote, Minister of Reform Institutions, Ontario Government, Toronto.

Medal for Valour

In the Hyde Park parade of June 26, 1956, The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and other members of The Royal Family stood on a canopied dais from which Her Majesty took the salute of the gallant 300 who marched as though they had been marching regularly. Those who could not walk were wheeled past the reviewing stand by soldiers of their own corps. There were 36 VC's from Canada and 98 wives and representatives of dead VC's. Australia produced 39 VC's and 111 relatives. From New Zealand came 12 VC's and 120 relatives. India was represented by 11 VC's, South Africa by six, Pakistan by two. There were three Ghurkas and others from Tanganyika, Cyprus and Fiji. The largest contingent, consisting of nearly 200 VC's and more than 700 relatives, naturally, came from The United Kingdom. Lord Freyberg, VC, commanded the parade. The Department of Veterans Affairs organized the Canadian VC party and after six months of arduous work had various groups from many parts of Canada ready to sail or fly to Britain. On the United Kingdom side of the Atlantic, Mr. Fred Jacques, Ottawa, conducting official of the main group, was assisted by the DVA Chief in London, Lieut.-Colonel Allan Chambers, Major Fred Clarke, also of DVA, and Captain Dugal Martin, Canadian Provost Corps, Canadian Army Liaison Establishment, London. A generous programme had been arranged by Whitehall and was executed with typical British thoroughness and that extraordinary flair the English have for dignified pageantry.

At 3 p.m. on June 25 there was a Service of Commemoration in Westminster Abbey when His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered an address. It was the quintessence of solemnity and launched a week of tribute to those recognized as the bravest servicemen in the Commonwealth. Following the Abbey service a tea party was given at the House of Commons by Sir Alfred Bossom, Bt., MP, on behalf of The Royal Society of St. George at which the VC's met members of the British Cabinet and members of Parliament. The big day, however, was Tuesday, June 26, when the grand review was held in Hyde Park. The VC's gathered in the forecourt of Wellington Barracks opposite Buckingham Palace. It was a glorious day with sun washing the newly-painted buildings which momentarily house The 1st Battalion, The Scots Guards. Asiatics came in uniform and national dress. The British wore uniform and bowlers—to a man. Canadians wore western-style summer clothing with the occasional ten-gallon hat offering contrast to the conservative bowler. They formed a colourful group. Hyde Park was a magnificent sight with the services on parade and the royal dais regally filled. Thousands of official guests sat in stands and the perimeter of the park, within sight, was jammed with eager Londoners and tourists. The sun was broiling but not a VC faltered—even the men who were wheeled past the Queen. The bands played. Hymns were sung. The radiant young Queen was most moving in her remarks, and she spoke to many of the heroes. After Her Majesty had moved off, the bands broke the noon air with martial music and the parade marched off the greensward with verve. Queen Victoria would have been extremely proud. That afternoon The Queen Mother was hostess at a garden party in the grounds of Marlborough House, former home of Queen Mary, to which the entire group of VC's and relatives was invited. The Queen Mother, accompanied by The Princess Royal and The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, moved among the guests with grace and warmth. Among those in her entourage were Earl, The Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and Countess Mountbatten, Anthony Head, the Minister for War, and General Sir Gerald Templar, Chief of The Imperial General Staff. The following day the VC party was taken to Windsor Castle to visit the State Apartments, followed by tea in St. George's Hall. That evening they were guests of The Lord Mayor of London when Aldermen and host were in ceremonial robes and moved among the guests to welcome them to London officially.

On Thursday, June 28, there was a Solemn High Mass in Westminster Cathedral at which His Eminence, Cardinal Griffin, presided. In the afternoon, The High Commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Norman A. Robertson, held a reception in Canada House on Trafalgar Square. Among the distinguished guests was Prime Minister St. Laurent, in London attending the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, and Minister for External Affairs, the Honourable Lester B. Pearson. The same evening the British Empire Service League held a reception for the VC party at Church House.

On Friday, June 29, the VC's were guests of the Canadian joint Staff at the London Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Defence Research. The host for the occasion was Air Vice Marshal D. M. Smith, Chairman, Canadian joint Staff. Assisting him were Captain Ralph Hennessey, RCN, representing Commodore J. V. Brock, Naval Member; Brigadier J. E. C. Pangman, Army Member, Air Commodore Dwight Ross, Air Member, and Mr. E. L. Davies, Chief of Defence Research, and their officers. On July 1, Canada Day, the Canadian VC party went to Brookwood Cemetery near Woking to attend the annual memorial service for the several thousand Canadian dead buried there. On July 2, 24 of the VC's were special guests at a dinner of the Canada Club at the Savoy Hotel. Brigadier the Honourable Milton Gregg, VC, Minister of Labour in the Canadian Government, was guest of honour and he spoke optimistically of Canada and her future. So ended, officially, a strenuous whirl of official engagements which formed the salute to The Centenary of the Victoria Cross. Britain had done handsomely by her gallant guests. It was the first time that living VC holders had met together in one place.

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 25 June 2015

Trench Warfare
Topic: CEF

Trench Warfare

Soldier Writes That Sometimes Months Pass Without Seeing Enemy

The Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 17 September 1916

In this trench warfare perhaps months pass without our men seeing one of the enemy. Their artillery bombards our trenches daily (we call it our ration) and rifles' and machine guns' fire goes on in a desultory fashion; every day brings its quota of casualties, and the communiques say that "everything is quiet on the western front."

That sounds most uninteresting. It simply means that no big action has taken place, but for those who are there it has been lively enough, with the constant toll of digging and repairing trenches, the carrying up of stores and rations, etc., all under enemy fire, writes William J. Adie in National Magazine. In these "quiet" times all the work is done under cover of darkness. During the day, if you could overlook the opposing lines of trenches, you would see not a sign of life—all you would see would be a few lines of earth all jumbled up and nothing would suggest war or danger to you. For everyone is underground, and no living thing could move above ground safely.

On approaching the trenches, sometimes when still over a mile away, you enter a communications trench which twists its way up to the front, passing through lines after line of support trenches until you reach the front trench, which may be only 30 yards from the enemy. Here you may move about freely unseen and perfectly safe, except when the enemy sends over his shells and rifle grenades and trench mortar bombs and other unpleasant things, in hope of hitting someone by chance.

elipsis graphic

To get under ground in this way means much labor. Someone with a fondness for figures has calculated that, considering that each side has about five lines of trenches stretching from Switzerland to the sea, that the trenches are of a certain width and depth, etc., more earth has been moved by soldiers with pick and shovel than was moved to make the Panama Canal.

And it is not as if trenches once made were permanent; shell and frost and rain combine to destroy them, and the labor of keeping them in repair never ceases. The fight against water and mud is another that never ceases. Neglect a trench for 24 hours, and in this awful land of Flanders you are up to your waist in water, so that draining and pumping work goes on all the time.

I have said that in the daytime no one moves above ground, but as soon as night falls the whole countryside swarms with men. Rations must be carried up and stores and ammunition.

elipsis graphic

All relief of troops are done at night, and at night the severely wounded are brought down, for the trenches are too narrow for a stretcher, so that the night time is my busiest time, as well as everybody else's. It is a weird business, stumbling about in the dark without lights, with odd shells and stray bullets constantly reminding you of the danger which is ever-present.

It is interesting to see th careless way in which all ranks go about their work without, you would think, any thought of the enemy or his bullets. A few months out here has one of two effects' either a man's nerves go to pieces and he is sent home for a rest, or he settles down to the work and takes everything as it comes without turning a hair.

On the whole, this regiment has been fortunate in keeping out of bad places, although we have been in some fairly big actions, and have experienced most of the horrors of war, including poison gas. At present we are well protected against gas and no one fears it, although it is very likely that the Germans will use it again.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Predicting the Next World War
Topic: Military Theory

Predicting the Next World War

An extract from War, Gwynne Dyer, 1985

We normally count only the two great wars of our own century as "world wars," but what this phrase means in practice is a war in which all the great powers of the time are involved. By that criterion, there have been six world wars in modern history: the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, the War of the Spanish Succession 1702-1714, the Seven Years War of 1756-63, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of 1791-1814 and the two World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

This is not a catalogue of random disasters. The list has an alarmingly cyclical character. Apart from the long nineteenth-century gap, the great powers have all gone to war with each other about every fifty years throughout modern history. Even the "long peace" of the last century is deceptive. Right on schedule, between 1854 and 1870, practically every great power fought one or several others. …

So why do the great powers all go to war about every fifty years? It is almost certainly because the most important international facts in any interwar period are determined by the peace treaty that ended the last war.

… At the instant it is signed, the peace settlement is generally an exact description of the true power relationships in the world. … [Once these relationships change] some frustrated power whose allotted role in the international system is too confining, or some frightened nation in decline that sees its power slipping away, kicks over the apple cart and initiates the next reshuffle of the deck. … It is easy to list the key changes that would violate or undermine the 1945 settlement in dangerous ways: the reunification of Germany, the rearmament of Japan to a level commensurate with its economic strength, or the relative economic decline of the Soviet Union to the point where it could no longer credibly sustain its role as a superpower and a guardian of the status quo.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 23 June 2015

"At No Expense to the Public"
Topic: Canadian Militia

"At No Expense to the Public"

In Defence of Canada; From the Great War to the Great Depression, James Eayrs, 1964

… powerful arguments … played their part in causing the government to provide the N.P.A.M. with an additional million dollars, bringing the available funds for 1931-32 to $2,600,000. Even so, the reserve militia had no more than about $15 to spend on each man of its authorized strength.

Militia life under such conditions was hard and it was earnest. The Canadian Scottish Regiment's experience was typical. "Am having a bit of difficulty with the Department at Ottawa," one of its officers wrote privately in September 1932. "They refuse to take over our Courtenay [B.C.] drill hall, and as a matter of fact refuse to consider any other obligation even though it is only $20 a month. The Agricultural Society there refuse to come down in their price, so I am between the devil and the sea. We cannot afford to eliminate 'C' Company and cannot afford to carry on with the rent." In the event the officers paid the rent themselves. [Quoted in R.H. Roy, Ready for the Fray: The History of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, 1920-1958, 1958] What they got for it was another matter. "I find that it is nearly impossible for us to carry on with our Parades owing to the condition of the … building," another officer wrote to its owners in January 1933. "Windows broken from the outside, doors broken off hinges and the front doors being opened allowing children to play there, leaving it in a filthy condition which necessitates our cleaning it up before using it on drill nights." [Ibid.]

There being no heat, one of the officers gave his lectures on "Tactics and Section-leading" in the dining room of his own home. Trainees were introduced to short-wave radio, but "at no expense to the public"—a phrase, the Regiment's historian records, "so common in the 1930's that it was frequently referred to as the motto of N.D.H.Q." [Ibid.]

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 22 June 2015

Capt (A/Major) Joseph Hemelryk, M.C.
Topic: Remembrance

Capt (A/Major) Joseph Hemelryk, M.C.

The Highland Light Infantry

53rd (Welsh) Division

When we think of Canadians at war, we tend to focus on a narrow set of well recognized names; among them Vimy and the Somme, D-Day, and more recently Afghanistan. But in our popular memory of Canada at War, there are so many other places, dates and people—soldiers, sailors and airmen(women) who served around the world— we overlook. Their stories have been easily forgotten because they do not coincide with one of Veterans Affairs Canada selected commemoration dates, or because the unit(s) involved may no longer exist or have a perpetuating active regiment. In many cases, such instances that do get mentioned can be either well-known, because of a family or personal research connection, to a listener or be completely unknown, in part because they have not entered the repetitious stream of media coverage of our country's past conflicts.

One of those lesser known contributions is the CANLOAN, Canadian officers and non-commissioned officers who joined the British Army in North Africa. On 5 January, 1943, it was announced that a detachment of Canadian officers and non-commissioned officers had landed in North Africa. These soldiers, the first of the CANLOAN program, would receive battle experience with the British forces, after which many would return to serve in their parent Canadian regiments, while a few would continue to serve in the British Army. Captain Joseph Hemelryk was one of these.

Hemelryuk was the younger son, out of two boys and five girls, of the children of Lt.Col. George Edward Hemelryk, OBE, JP (1881-1967), and Elizabeth Mary Smith (?-1943), of Dyserth, Flintshire, Wales. Having emigrated to Canada, he would join the Canadian Militia, being commissioned into the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps and serving with the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles before the Second World War. Joseph Hemelryk shows up twice in newspaper accounts discovered by Google archives searches. In one, published in the Ottawa Citizen on 4 September 1943, we are informed that among thousands of Canadian proceeding overseas, Captain J. Hemelryk of Brantford, Ontario, is "returning to Britain for the second time in this War."

The second newspaper mention is more sombre. Again in the Ottawa Citizen, with a publication date of 10 May, 1945 (two days after V-E Day), the sad news is presented in black and white: "Major Joseph Hemelryk, brother of Mrs. June Iley, Perth," listed as Killed in Action. This notice is listed immediately under a photograph of Lieutenant General Charles Foulkes accepting the German surrender in the Netherlands.

Capt Joseph Hemelryk, at the time of his death, was serving with the 1st Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry in the 71st Infantry Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, 30 (British) Corps. His death on 14 April 1945 came one month and ten days after the actions for which he was awarded the Military Cross.

As a Canadian, the citation for Hemelryk's Military Cross (Citation card PDF) can be found in the online holdings maintained by the Canadian Armed Forces' Directorate of History and Heritage.

Capt (A/Major) Joseph Hemelryk (Can Loan)
Recommendation for the Immediate Award of the Military Cross.

1st Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry
71st Infantry Brigade
53rd (Welsh) Division
30 Corps

This officer was in command of the right forward company of 1st HLI when the battalion was ordered on the night of March 4th to gain part of a bridgehead astride the main roads in the woods N.E. of ISSUM (1926) in order to cover a bridging operation to allow the armour to advance toward the RHINE. In order to reach this objective he had to advance uphill over open ground swept by MG fire from spandau posts in the forward edge of the wood. In spite of the fact that both flanks of his Company were exposed to heavy and accurate MG fire, the Company on the left having been held up short of the wood, he put in a well organized assault on the enemy positions in the wood and succeeded in breaking through to his objective. Although this position became almost untenable by daylight as a result of an enemy counter attack astride the road on his left, Major HEMELRYK kept his company in good heart by his personal coolness and disregard for his own safety. Throughout the day of 5 Mar from exposed position under continuous mortar and small arms fire he accurately directed artillery and S.A. fire on enemy SP guns, MG posts and a tank which was little more than 200 yards from where he was.

It was largely due to his tenacity in holding such an isolated position, fine leadership and skill in directing fire under most difficult and dangerous conditions, that the bridgehead achieved its purpose and the armour was able to get through.

Joseph Hemelryk makes a case in point for how easily the memory of Canadians soldiers, including those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, can slip from our societal memory. He served in a Canadian Militia regiment that was converted to artillery in 1945 and its name lost in an amalgamation in the 1950s. He served overseas with the British Army and remained in the CANLOAN program, thus no Canadian regiment records his service and sacrifice among their rolls or remembers his service.

Joseph Hemelryk served his new country with as much dedication and commitment as any more popularly recognized soldier. He too, deserves to be remembered, as a Canadian, as a soldier, and as a fallen hero decorated for his actions in the face of the enemy.

Pervias Rectus — Always Alert
(motto of the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles of Canada)

Montis insignia Calpe — Badge of the Rock of Gibraltar
(motto of the Highland Light Infantry)

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 22 June 2015 12:10 AM EDT
Sunday, 21 June 2015

L'Initiative des Militaires
Topic: Leadership

L'Initiative des Militaires

"L'Initiative des Militaires," Colonel F. Gory, 1909

"For the ambitious, initiative consists in seizing every opportunity to increase notoriety."

"For disciplinarians, initiative on the part of subordinates is a misconception of their duties."

"For imaginative people, initiative is the right to do anything which suddenly strikes them."

"For lazy people initiative is the right to pass all irksome duty on to their subordinates."

"For the easy-going, initiative consists in modifying to their liking any order thay may receive."

"For the timid, initiative is the right to shirk responsibility."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 20 June 2015

Writes From Somme of the Big Fight
Topic: CEF

Writes From Somme of the Big Fight

Dawson Daily News, 5 February 1917

Harold Jukes Marshall, assayer of B.N.A. of this city, has received the following interesting letter from his brother, Major W.A.J. Marshall, of the Seventy-second Highlanders, who were recruited at Vancouver, and who have done some of the heavy fighting at the Somme:

"Guernsey, December 6, 1917—When we first went to France, we landed at La Havre, and after two days' wait went on trains to Ypres, where we had a couple of days in the trenches, and then moved on to Kimmelle, where we spent a month and thought the trench life, with the rats and other discomforts, very hard, but find it was nothing compared to where we were going.

"Near to the end of September we moved back to a little place near St. Omer. It was a very hard march of about fifty miles, which we covered in three days.

"There we went into training for the special kind of warfare in use on the Somme, and after a week there were moved down to the well-known Somme.

"On arriving there we were camped first outside Albert, in a sea of mud. The men had tarpaulins and the officers tents. We did not go into action for some time, though. Our work consisted of supplying working parties at night to fig new trenches when advances had been made, and carry up all kinds of material to the men in the trenches.

"This was particularly nasty work, because we were not fighting, but were always under fire and were continually losing men. Even in camp we were not free from shells, as the Boche often dropped a few close to us, and once in the middle of the camp, but no one was hurt.

"After that we went to the trenches to hold them, and, unfortunately, it was a new trench and when it rained the sides fell in and for three days out of seven we stood in mud up to and above our knees. The men we relieved had to dig out and when our men came out they were absolutely all in.

"It is impossible to imagine what it was like, and no matter how well it is told to you, you cannot realize what it was like, but you can think it was bad when I say the man and officers after the trip looked like walking ghosts—thin and weak. The trenches were in such a bad condition that it was hard to get food up to them, and water was scarce, too.

"The next time we went in was for forty-eight hours and the weather conditions were much better. I had then taken command of C Company and my job at that time was to go up and dig a new trench and occupy it, which we did. This had to be done under fire, and until the men had dug down to a depth sufficient to give them some cover we had quite a lively time, and never saw anything like the way they dug. The Boche was about 500 yards away. On the second morning, the thirteenth, I was hit in the arm.

"The day opened with our artillery starting a 'Hymn of Morning Hate,' as we call it, which is nothing but a heavy bombardment lasting about one hour. The Germans came back on our line with the same, as they probably thought we were coming over, and I got a piece of their shell.

"After things had become quiet and breakfast was over I went to the dressing station, and would have gone from there to the hospital only I saw the colonel, who told me we were to go over the top and take the German trench beyond Regina, which we held. So after being dressed I went back to the line and arranged everything for the attack in the afternoon.

"However, about noon it was all called off and we were relieved that night.

"After another rest of about five days we went back for a trips of forty-eight hours at most and had another trench to dig, but we did not come out for six days, the relief being postponed each day. You cannot imagine the strain of sitting in the trench with then Boche pounding you all the time with his artillery. The only thing we could do was a little sniping to help break the monotony, and we got many of his men at this game. The last day we were in it rained and we were over our knees in no time and were all soaked to the skin before we came out.

"That was our last trip on the Somme and after we started away from this area leave opened, and, being the senior married officer outside the colonel, I was first on the list, and very glad to get it.

"I will probably get back about the 15th and spend Christmas in the trench.

"I had my wound examined here yesterday and find the bone was cracked, but will be O K soon.

"I think I have covered most of my trip and all I can add would be horrors, and if you see the Somme pictures you will have a small idea of what goes on there nearly every day. Wishing you both a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 19 June 2015

Patronage and Appointments
Topic: Officers

Patronage and Appointments

Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British Officer 1600-1956, E.S. Turner, 1956 (Footnoted as from: Captain F. Duncan: History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery)

This tale may be apocryphal, as no Governor of Vew York named "James Pattison" appears to have existed. The major-general may be James Pattison Cockburn, who was an artillery officer appointed to conmmmand the artillery in Canada 1826 to 1832. Most information avauilble on line regarding this officer covers his work as a painter rather than his military career in detail.

The Governor of New York at that period was Major-General James Pattison, a Gunner. One day he received a letter from a subaltern in Florida who had married without asking permission, and, feeling the pinch, had plucked up enough courage to ask for a quartermastership. How Frederick the Great's Staff would have dealt with this situation is not difficult to imagine. General Pattison was an English gentleman, and his reply, ironic though it is, shows the degree of personal, paternal interest displayed by general officers of those days in the domestic affairs of younger gentlemen, however misguided:

"The letter you favoured me with gives me, at last, an opportunity of congratulating you on your marriage. I am very sensible that it is a state which must be attended by extraordinary expenses, and wish it was in my power to enable you, with perfect ease, to defray them. I would even adopt the mode you propose, of appointing you quartermaster, if I thought the good of the service required it, but as it does not appear to me necessary for every detached company to have a staff annexed to it, I am sure you will have the goodness to excuse my incurring any extra charges upon Government which I could not properly justify."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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