Good young officers who become good old generals are made by good sergeants, ... a combination of ill-founded self-confidence, bluff and outstanding support and guidance from a series of unforgettable sergeants allowed me to create an impression of competence. - Major- General Lewis MacKenzie, Peacekeeper, 1993
And now a little anecdote in connection with an officer of my regiment by the name of McCabe. This was one of the most indefatigable officers in the Garrison and one in whom the Brigadier placed great confidence, and indeed which was well deserved. This officer was an Irishman and who was promoted from Sergeant to a commission for bravery displayed at a former campaign.
Well, this officer was continually bobbing about, as the soldiers termed it, and one night he went outside a certain post and it so happened that an Irishman was on sentry on this particular post, and for fear of another mishap he was made acquainted with the officer being out and likely to pay this man a visit. Well, this soldier was rather hot-tempered, but a good soldier. Nevertheless, the officer was a little hasty also. Well, in came the officer right enough without being challenged, and the spirit of discipline being uppermost, he held forth in the following manner. Officer:- "Are you the sentry?" Sentry answered, "I am, Sir." Officer- "And why the d . . . didn't you challenge me ?" Sentry- "Because I knew it was you Sir, and that you would be coming this way." Officer, very severely, "You should have fired, sir. You are not supposed to know anyone outside of your post, especially at night, sir." Sentry- "Then by J.... Ct... the next time you will come the same way at night I will accommodate you. I will shoot you right enough." The officer took no further notice, and did not trouble the same sentry again. - The Chronicle of Private Henry Metcalfe, H.M. 32nd Regiment of Foot, edited by Lieut.- General Sir francis Tuker, K.C.I.E., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., 1953
Where a lance-sergeant benefitted most was in the matter of society for he could always get the choice of an upper servant in one of the tip-top families or a tradesman's daughter; being now in a position to give invitations to the frequent dances given by the mess. In return for this the young ladies would look after the sergeants out of barracks and lacked no liberality in returning our hospitality. Civilians can hardly understand the vast social difference that exists between the sergeant and the private soldier. The former is always expected to act as a gentleman, and treated as such, whereas the latter is often looked down upon as if he belonged to a lower caste altogether, although both originally came from the same class; nor is it always the really best man of the two who wears the stripe. - A King's Hussar: being the Military Memoirs for Twenty-five years of a Troop-Sergeant-Major of the 14th (King's) Hussars (E. Mole), Collected and condensed by Herbert Compton, London 1893, quoted in T.H. McGuffie, M.A., F.R.Hist.S., Rank and File; the Common Soldier at Peace and War 1642-1914, 1964
On the 27th July, 1888, I passed out of the profession into civilian life, feeling I might fairly claim I had worked out the Queen's shilling. With the record of a sergeant's and sergeant-major's rank for seventeen years; with a discharge bearing against the word character the description 'very good'; with a good-conduct medal on my breast, a pension of upwards of forty pounds a year to draw, and a balance of several hundred pounds in the savings bank, in perfect health and strength, and indeed feeling fit to do another quarter of a century of soldiering, I left the army. And I thought that day, and think still, that had I my life in front of me instead of behind, I would start again, just as I did when I was a lad of eighteen, and desire nothing better than to live those happy twenty five years over again in the ranks of the Old 14th as a King's Hussar. - A King's Hussar: being the Military Memoirs for Twenty-five years of a Troop- Sergeant-Major of the 14th (King's) Hussars (E. Mole), Collected and condensed by Herbert Compton, London 1893, quoted in T.H. McGuffie, M.A., F.R.Hist.S., Rank and File; the Common Soldier at Peace and War 1642-1914, 1964
...decisions are often taken with an eye as to how they will be viewed by reporting officers and thus help or hinder the decision makers future promotion. Often inactivity is the safest course, hoping that "things will sort themselves out". Even in 1944 one eminent British psychologist believed that this was still the rule rather than the exception within the British Army:
NCOs and officers... still do the same stupid things . . . there is a reluctance amongst most officers to delegate responsibility. NCOs and men are very rarely asked to do things on their own initiative. If they are, they hesitate to do anything lest they should do wrong. I think this is largely due to a system which wants to tie down an individual should anything not go according to plan. - Captain R.A.D. Applegate, RA, Why Armies Lose in Battle: An Organic Approach to Military Analysis, Royal United Services Institute, Vol 132, No 4, Dec 87
In those days our brigadier was Lord Brooks. One night he was paying a call to see for himself the devastation in the forward area. Along the front-line trench waded my old chum, Sergeant Herb Somerville of Elk Lake, and adorning Herb's shoulder was a whole jar-full of S.R.D. ("Soldiers' Real Delight.") He stopped at each bay--they were all crowded, for there was nowhere for the boys to sleep-- and the rum ration was doled out to the shivering soldiery.
Coming to one shelter that was in bad shape, Herb stumbled over the rear end of someone who, bent down, was peering into the place. It being dark as pitch, Herb had no idea who the bloke was; and, what's more, he was past caring a hoot. Lifting his squelching boot, Herb planted a beaut.
"Come on, you. Git yer rum," he roared. "Think I can stand here all night?"
A muffled protest issued from the depths of the shelter and the dark figure began to worm his way backward.
"Make it snappy," growled Herb. "Where's yer messtin?"
"No, thank you," grunted the unknown.
"What, don't want yer rum? What kind of a guy are you, anyway?" asked Herb politely.
The dark mass had by then recovered.
"Sergeant," was the courteous observation, "I don't really think it would be proper for the Brigadier to drink the men's rum." - "The Orderly Sergeant," Five Nines and Whiz Bangs, 1937
He ignored me and all other insects.
How to attract his attention ?
I coughed gently and apologetically. I coughed appealingly. I coughed upbraidingly, sorrowfully, suggestively, authoritatively, meekly, imperiously, agreeably, hopefully, hopelessly, despairingly, and quite vainly. Evidently I should not cough my way to glory.
'Monsieur le Capitaine,' I murmured ingratiatingly.
The man looked up. I liked him better when looking down.
'Monsieur would appear to have a throat-trouble,' he observed.
'And Monsieur an ear-trouble,' I replied? in my young ignorance and folly.
'What is Monsieur's business?' he inquired sharply.
'I wish to join the Légion Étrangère,' I said.
The man smiled, a little unpleasantly, I thought.
'Eh, bien,' he remarked, 'doubtless Monsieur will have much innocent amusement at the expense of the Sergeant-Major there too,' and I was quite sure that his smile was unpleasant this time.
'Is Monsieur only a Sergeant-Major then ?' I inquired innocently.
'I am a Sergeant-Major,' was the reply, 'and let me tell Monsieur, it is the most important rank in the French army.'
'No ?' said I, and lived to learn that this piece of information was very little short of the simple truth. - Percival Christopher Wren, Beau Geste, 1927
The First Minnesota, as it would be known, may have been deemed "ready for active service" but it was a regiment in name only. The men began their training immediately, performing squad, company, and regimental drills daily. Joseph Spencer, the orderly sergeant of Company G, summarized his daily routine: "My duties . . . are such that I have no time to spare. I have to get the boys all up every morning to call the roll at 6 am, have to make my report at the Colonel's office at 7 am. Drill from 9 to 12 and from 2 to 5. The balance of my time is occupied in keeping the boys strait and asking ten thousand questions that I don't know any more about than they do themselves." - Richard Moe, The Last Full Measure; The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers, 1993
King [the regimental sutler] also provided liquor for the officers, a service that understandably rankled many of the enlisted men. One night several of them decided to liberate a keg of whiskey from King's tent. Without detection they carried it to a nearby field, where it was tapped, half emptied -into the men's canteens--it is not recorded how much disappeared on its way from the keg to the canteen--and then buried for future retrieval. The theft was soon discovered, and the lieutenant of the guard was dispatched to apprehend the guilty parties. Alarmed, the perpetrators sought the help of their sergeant, who had not been part of the plot. He reproved them for the act, but he was not about to let them down. He observed that the lieutenant was making his way down the row of tents, determining the number of occupants in each, and then calling for that number of canteens.
Returning to his own tent, the sergeant discovered that only two canteens besides his own were empty, so he had to think fast. According to Lochren, the lieutenant "soon approached and called for him. 'Sergeant, how many men have you?' 'Fourteen.' 'Pass out their canteens.' With a peremptory order from the sergeant to the men to pass up their canteens rapidly, an empty canteen was passed to the officer, smelled of, and dropped at his feet as a second one was handed him, while a man, lying down where he could reach safely in the darkness, passed the dropped canteen back to the sergeant, to be presented to the officer again, and thus the three canteens were each examined five times and nothing found." The culprits were never discovered, although the experience "frightened the boys, and made them careful in the use of the liquor." - Richard Moe, The Last Full Measure; The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers, 1993
The choice of noncommissioned officers is an object of greatest importance. The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much upon their behavior, that too much care can not be taken in preferring none to that trust but those who by their merit and good conduct are entitled to it. Honesty, sobriety, and a remarkable attention to every point of duty, with a neatness in their dress, are indispensable requisites. A spirit to command respect and obedience from the men, to teach it, are also absolutely necessary. Nor can a sergeant or corporal be said to be qualified who does not write and read in a tolerable manner. - Baron Von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of The United States, 1778
It being on the noncommissioned officers that the discipline and order of a company in a great measure depend, they cannot be too circumspect in their behavior towards the men, be treating them with mildness, and at the same time obliging every one to do his duty. By avoiding too great familiarity with the men, they will not only gain their love and confidence, but be treated with proper respect; whereas by a contrary conduct they forfeit all regard, and their authority becomes despised. - Baron Von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of The United States, 1778
Each sergeant and corporal will be in a particular manner answerable for the squad committed to his care. He must pay particular attention to their conduct in every respect; that they keep themselves and their arms always clean; that they have their effects always ready; and put where they can get at them immediately and even in the dark, without confusion; and on every fine day he must oblige them to air their effects. - Baron Von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of The United States, 1778
When a man of his squad is warned of duty, [the NCO] must examine him before he carries him to the parade, obliging him to take all his effects with him, unless when specially ordered to the contrary. - Baron Von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of The United States, 1778