Those who appreciate true valour should in their daily intercourse set gentleness first and aim to win the love and esteem of others. If you affect valour and act with violence, the world will in the end detest you and look upon you as wild beasts. Of this you should take heed.
--- Emperor Meiji: Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, 4 January 1883
The ignorant or unwary, if asked whether they would rather be guests of an officers' mess or sergeants', would probably choose the officers'. They might be motivated by snobbery, but probably also by the notion that that the standards of cuisine, comfort, and general atmosphere would be higher. They would be dead wrong. - opening paragraph to G.M. Fraser, The Whiskey and the Music, The General Danced at Dawn, 1970
The life of the very young officer is full of surprises, and perhaps the most shaking is the moment when he comes face to face with his men for the very first time. His new sergeant stamps to a halt in front of him, salutes, and barks: "Platoon-presnready-frinspeckshun-sah!", and as he clears his throat and regards the thirty still figures, each looking to its front with frozen intensity, the young subaltern realises that this is it, at last; this is what he draws his meagre pay for. - opening paragraph to G.M. Fraser, Silence in the Ranks, The General Danced at Dawn, 1970
The tricks of improving one's turn-out came hard, and Bert went through hell before he mastered the art of smoothing the toe-caps with a hot spoon, and brushing the muddy blanco on to his webbing in just the right way to give a smooth, caked finish. The drill square became an asphalt Calvary, stalked by instructors who glared under the near-vertical peaks of their caps and howled at him in the weird mock-genteel accents of the British drill sergeant.
'Ho my GAWD ! H'I ain't nevah SEEN nuthink laike you lot ! 'Ow am I h'ever 3goin' to turn this SHOWAH into SOLJAHS!... Squa-a-a-d SHUN! H'as'y' WERE ! Sufferin' CHRAIST 'ow many taimes do you need TELLIN'... THAT man there, yes YOU, you long streak o' piss, GET them h'elbows IN ! ' On and on, in a terrible sing-song rhythm, the voice rising to a falsetto screech ... 'Lef'ri'lef'ri'lef'ri ... Squa-a-a-a-d ... HALT! Orda-a-a-h ... HIPE! down two three across two three CUTAWAY ! Well that was bloody 'ORRIBLE Fishah, so the 'ole squad will now do it again for YOUR benefit ... ' Sweat pouring down the back, arms and legs shaking with fatigue, the rough serge rasping the neck raw above the collarless flannel shirt, rigid and impotent while the contorted face bellowed and writhed inches from his own ... 'Y'know what h'Im goin' to do, Fishah? H'Im goin' to CLAIMB up your front by the button'oles, FORCE your nostrils open with me pace-stick, CRAWL up into your pointy little 'ead, AND KICK SOME MUCKIN' SENSE INTO IT!' And when it was over for another day they would collapse on their beds for a full half-hour before finding the strength to take off their equipment. The food was adequate but drably institutional-soggy boiled spuds, greasy, evil-looking bully beef, grey, unidentifiable mush of root vegetables, doughy puddings. In the evenings there was nothing but the N.A.A.F.I.-tepid beer and torn copies of Reveille or Blighty. - Albert Arthur Fisher by Martin Windrow; from M. Windrow and F. Wilkinson, The Universal Soldier, Fourteen studies in campaign life A.D. 43-1944, 1971
'Sergeant Transom,' I said. 'We're not observing proper anti-gas precautions. The leading man has no litmus paper on his bayonet.'
He looked down at the thick, white dust puffing over our boots.
'Nor he hasn't, sir,' he said in surprise. 'And this is a dead likely place to meet mustard gas, and all. I'll see to it right away.'
He moved forward and spiked a sheet of paper on Private Drogue's bayonet.
'What we do now,' asked the gas sentry. 'Flag day?'
The litmus paper did not look of standard size to me and so I went up to inspect. It was a square of toilet paper. Quite useless, I assure you, for detecting mustard gas deposits. I was about to remonstrate with the sergeant when I noticed that no one in the platoon but myself still had a gas mask. They'd all thrown them away. This was too grave a matter to be dealt with on the line of march. We would have to have a kit inspection on the objective. - Patrick Ryan, How I Won the War; the memoirs of a heavily armed civilian by Lieut Ernest Goodbody (as told to), 1963
'What's it all about, Sergeant?'
'Don't let on I told you, sir, because it's supposed to be top secret, but we're off next week.'
'North Africa, for a quid.'
'How do you know?'
'The quartermaster's just received about five hundred pairs of snowboots and the M.O.'s lumbered up with fourteen crates of frostbite ointment. It's us for the desert sands, sure as drainholes.'
And he was just about right.
- Patrick Ryan, How I Won the War; the memoirs of a heavily armed civilian by Lieut Ernest Goodbody (as told to), 1963
Of all [the] "do's" and "do not's" the only one that appears in my correspondence at this time is the one touching on head gear. I told Ellen, "It must be some love of sartorial elegance which compels some gunners to pick up unusual head gear belonging to some Italian grandee and then, of all things, to wear it when it can be seen by the C.O. Hard as a top hat is, it's scarcely a substitute for a steel helmet." In the end I turned the problem over to the Troop Sergeant-Major who had a way of dealing with such theatrical display. - Alexander M. Ross, Slow March to a Regiment, 1993
About 11:30 p.m. the second of our Acks [artillery communicators] slithered down into our midst, drenched from head to foot. He had dug an oversized slit trench and built a make-shift shelter over it using his ground sheet and an arrangement of scrounged wood and his rifle to hold it in place. The rain had gradually filled his ground sheet, causing the underpinning to collapse so that he received the flood in bed. He was very disconsolate as he contemplated how he was ever going to get either his bedding or his uniform dried out.
His gloom eased when the next visitor, having lost his footing on the steps, arrived on his bottom in nothing but his undershirt and his white briefs, clutching his very wet uniform in his hands. Unlike the Ack, he had undressed before getting into his slit trench. What made for much hilarity was the intruder's rank; he was the Troop Sergeant Major. - Alexander M. Ross, Slow March to a Regiment, 1993
Sergeant referring to a Gunner who is standing before the Commandant "I do not know what to make of this man, sir! He goes out when he likes, comes in when he likes, gets drunk when he likes, in fact, he might be an officer, sir!" - Overheard in the Orderly Room of "A" Battery School of Gunnery, Gunner Newsletter, Vol 7, Spring 1976
As was the custom, officers who had distinguished themselves were mentioned by name in the general's account of the battle. In Napier's dispatch after the battle of Miani [17 February, 1843] he, of course, gave credit to individual officers for their valour and energy, but he also mentioned the names of non-commissioned officers and even privates and drummers. Never before in the history of the British army had private soldiers been so distinguished. And not only did he single out Europeans such as Private James O'Neil and Drummer Martin Delaney, but he also listed the names of Asiatic soldiers who had performed outstanding services during the battle, and Havildar Thackur Ram and Sowar Motee Sing were also honoured by a 'mention in dispatches'. - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972
With a decent troop officer, when we rode up to an outlying pub on the edge of a village, he'd say, 'It's all right to go in for a drink.' ...... After several grand days like this we'd ride back into Tidworth camp, and probably see the wretched infantry fellows staggering in off a route march to reach our horses' water-troughs. They'd dip their heads right inside the trough to get a drink and to get cool, and as I sat on my horse watching them struggling I thanked my lucky stars that I was a cavalryman. There was a saying then which was to be greatly used in the War when cavalry NCOs were offered commissions in the infantry: 'A third-class ride is better than a first-class walk any day.' - John Cusack, MM, and Ivor Herbert, Scarlet Fever; A Lifetime with Horses, 1972