On a special file was every detail of the battle of Camerone, which is the holiday of the Foreign Legion. Every 30th April since 1863 the anniversary of that day has been religiously kept by every unit of the Legion wherever they are.
It starts with a parade and the officer in charge of the unit reads details of the battle. I have seen old seasoned soldiers standing to attention whilst listening to the story of the battle being read for the twentieth time, and if you look well you will see tears gathering in their eyes. It is such things which make the strength of the Legion. - A.R. Cooper, March or Bust; Adventures in the Foreign Legion, 1972
The commanders of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Divisions objected strenuously [to a proposal to resort personnel according to physical and psychological testing profiles]. The Canadian Army was modeled on the British system of distinct regiments, raised in specific areas of the country. While functionally the same, each Canadian infantry or tank battalion was the active component of a regiment with a treasured historical tradition and battle honours dating back to at least World War I. Each regiment treasured its distinctive dress and customs and its regimental lore. The army sports program, a vital part of training, began with competition between the companies or squadrons, but the best men competed for the regiment and became local heroes. Group identity and loyalty were based on these traditions. - Terry Copp and Bill McAndrew, Battle Exhaustion; Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Canadian Army, 1939-1945, 1990
Battalions certainly differed in their character and their competence both from others and within themselves over time. Battalions are much like an organic family. They are held together by intangibles - leadership, comradeship, motivation, morale - that defy quantification or even easy description. In good units, soldiers feel - know - they are in the best section in the best company, in the best battalion. Many veterans cite the character and capability of the commanding officer as vital factors in shaping a battalion's collective character. - Terry Copp and Bill McAndrew, Battle Exhaustion; Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Canadian Army, 1939-1945, 1990
It requires an effort now to realize how distinct had been the life of the Army from that of the civilian world in the nineteenth century. The officers were an aristocratic caste, still linked with the Court rather than with the political administration, and the rank and file were recruits from the unemployed. Wellington's saying that his soldiers were the scum of the earth was still true of the Army of the eighteen-eighties. But, taking in men of very poor quality, a good regiment could make them the salt of the earth. Between the reorganization of 1881 and the War of 1914 there had been a reformation in the British Army, credited by the soldiers to one commander, Roberts of Kandahar, who had spent his long life promoting the soldiers' welfare by building up their self-respect. What had occasionally been done by a talented colonel in a good regiment became common form, so that the regular army that went to France in 1914 was a different body from the drunken, reckless ne'er-do-wells described in the early stories of Rudyard Kipling. - Charles Carrington, Soldier From the Wars Returning, 1965
In the evenings we dined in mess, paying rather more than the usual attention to the traditional rules about which we had read in little books of etiquette. No Regular regiment, I am sure, was as meticulous as we were on such momentous questions as never mentioning a lady's name at the mess-table or never bringing a sword into the ante-room (or whatever it was). We 'sirred' and 'saluted' a great deal more than the Brigade of Guards. It was also a revered custom that once a month there was a guest-night, which every officer must attend, when the King's health was drunk with honours (paid for by the Prince Regent, who had allowed every officer an additional sixpence a day for the purpose) after which the proceedings ended, when the senior officers had tactfully withdrawn, with a rough-house. Never again, I surmise, shall I climb round the room from mantelshelf to cornice to window-ledge, without touching the floor, or drink a pint of beer while standing on my head. - Charles Carrington, Soldier From the Wars Returning, 1965
Every trifle, every tag or ribbon that tradition may have associated with the former glories of a regiment should be retained, so long as its retention does not interfere with efficiency. - Colonel Cliford Walton, History of the British Standing Army, 1660-1700,1894
CANADIAN ARMY JOURNAL, VOL 1, NO 6, 1947/48
Field Marshal Montgomery
Regimental spirit and tradition can be a powerful factor in making for good morale, and must be constantly encouraged. But in the crisis of battle a man will not derive encouragement from the glories of the past; he will seek aid from his leaders and comrades of the present. Most men do not fight well because their ancestors fought well at the battle of Minden two centuries ago, but because their particular platoon or unit has good leaders, is well disciplined, and has developed the feelings of comradeship and self-respect among all ranks and on all levels. It is not devotion to some ancient regimental story that steels men in the crisis; it is devotion to the comrades who are with them and the leaders who are in front of them. Therefore, it is essential that in our training we select men who possess within them the potentialities of leadership and, secondly, we develop those potentialities. This is best accomplished by giving the leader responsibility. The mere fact of responsibility will increase the leader's powers of decision and make him confident of his ability to handle any crisis.
"The assignment of individuals as opposed to unit DEROS dates, plus the frequent rotation of officers, made it clear that the policy was virtually every man for himself." - Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army; 1978
"The British Army for centuries has been recognized as a highly successful socializing institution for recruits drawn from a wide array of social, racial, and thnic backgrounds. In the British case, this phenomenon appears related to the sense of belonging to the 'regiment'. Equally impressive is the proven capacity of British military units to resist and not break down under unusual pressures, which in turn reinforces regimental identity and group cohesion." - Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army; 1978
"The lesson here is that the prevailing method of recruit training in the American Army, the use of enormous identity-less replacement training centers judged 'cost effective' by military managers, does not contribute to combat-unit cohesion to the extent that a unit training system might." - Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army; 1978
"The first duty of any soldier is to master combat skills. More important, the soldier must be exposed to the atmosphere of the combat unit, not only to build and awareness of its social context, but to inculcate the ethos of the legion." - Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army; 1978
As the battalion had just returned from Korea I heard tales of the Imjin, Seoul, Pusan and the DMZ. I also started to learn the trade of subalterns. I struggled through my first guard mount under the critical eye of the adjutant and the regimental sergeant major. I learned how to be an orderly officer and how to inspect defaulters.
"Look in the pleats of the kilt, sir" the company sergeant major advised me with a twinkle in his eye. "Them folds is always got lint in 'em, you'll catch the buggers on that every time."
I inspected rifles, Bren guns, billets, and vehicles until I could do it in my sleep. 1 learned to behave myself in the mess, I struggled through endless hours of high land dancing, I kept my mess bill down and I became aware of the importance of always standing up when the commanding officer entered the anteroom. I looked at festered feet after route marches, and I watched my platoon drill under a gimlet eyed sergeant. I tried to help with the soldier's problems, motivated at first by the secure knowledge that the company commander would tear me to pieces if he heard about those problems before I did. Then I began to listen to them because I started to realize that this was my family and it was slowly becoming my regiment." - A.H. Matheson, Requiem for a Regiment, the Atlantic Advocate, June 1970
Command of a battalion of your regiment is a privilege desired by all infantry officers, and regrettably experienced by very few. Scores of deserving officers never get the chance, due to bad luck, poor timing or losing out in a very subjectively judged competition. - Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, Peacekeeper, 1993
I am going to relate to you something that happened to me which I think highlights this business. In my parachute battalion we had a Corporal Sheriff. He was a good corporal but he had his share of rockets and so on. He didn't make sergeant when there was plenty of promotion flying about but he was a good battalion and a good company man. He joined us in 41, fought with us in North Africa, Sicily and Italy and finally at Arnhem, and it was at Arnhem that he was wounded. We had been in the prison camp for I should think about three months with no knowledge of him at all when I was told that he was in the reception hut, and so I scrounged a few cigarettes which were available, because I was told he was in bad shape, and went up to the hut.
I shall never forget it. As I opened the door everything stopped: there was a deathly silence and everybody looked round as they do under those circumstances. The hut was full of foreigners of various nationalities, a smell of unwashed bodies and a strange atmosphere. I looked around and saw Corporal Sheriff in some strange uniform - if you could call it a uniform - which had been supplied to him. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, head hanging down, looking very dejected.
I walked across towards him and you could have heard a pin drop. I went up to him and I said something to the effect, "Hello Corporal Sheriff, how are you getting on?" And in front of all those foreigners he stood up. It was three months since we had seen one another and he had no particular cause to love me. In front of all those foreiegners he stood up and he stood to attention and you could almost hear their astonishment.
He turned his head towards me and said, "Hello Sir, it's good to hear your voice." He was blind. Even in those circumstances he was a member of the family, he felt he belonged again and he was back in the bosom of the family. Now that's soldiering, that's spirit, that's understanding. That's all the things I've been trying to say. - Sandhurst Academy Sergeant-Major J.C. Lord, MVO, MBF, in a speech to the British Staff College
Though I shall maintain that good soldiers are not bred from bad stock, I do not doubt that many unpromising specimens were transformed by training; in particular by that part of training which consists in inculcating esprit de corps. I remember men recruited at the street corner by starvation who came to act on the principle that if the Regiment lived it did not matter if they died, though they did not put it that way. This was their source of strength, their abiding faith, it was the last of all the creeds that in historical times have steeled men against death. - Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage, 2nd edition, 1966
The regimental basis of the British Army was unique, and the officers used it to build up an esprit de corps that no service in the world could match. The appeal was never for the sake of Empire or the Crown or the service; it was always for the sake of the regiment, and the men always met it. The badges, the facings and the buttons were important, as were the regimental marches, the nicknames and the traditions. As in the Zulu army, there were units in the British Army that were best not quartered too close together. The 1st and the 2nd Battalions of the 24th Regiment, for example, were barely on speaking terms, and certain regimental feuds were notorious. Other regiments were traditional friends, a condition which usually stemmed from shoulder-to-shoulder service in a long-ago battle, and the officers were honorary members of each other's messes. - Donald R. Morris, The Washing of the Spears; The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation, 1965
There was joyful chaos in the regimental mess rooms. None of the units was ready for overseas duty; there were families to resettle, debts to pay, equipment to purchase, and ranks to fill. Few of the junior officers had been on active service before, and the military outfitters did a thriving business on a cash basis. "When gentlemen are going out as you are, sir, it is always a case of ready money," said one tailor; and a bootmaker shook his head over Isandhlwana with: "Sad business, sir, very sad. We lost three customers by it." White's in Aldershot was filled with piles of freshly purchased buckets, pillows, canteens, valises, collapsible tubs, water filter bags, tables, chairs and bedsteads, all to be painted with the owner's name, rank and regiment and most of it perfectly useless on campaign. - Donald R. Morris, The Washing of the Spears; The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation, 1965
"Strangely enough the word [of our discharge] bad already passed around, but even stranger there was little cheering, little celebration. We had expected to be transported with joy. Perhaps soldiering in a splendid regiment is not so bad. Where would we find civilian friends to compare with soldier comrades?" - Gregory A. Coco, The Civil War Infantryman; In camp, on the march, and in battle., 1996
Major General James Utino once said that morale exists when "a soldier thinks that his army is the best in the world, his regiment is the best in the army, his company is the best in the regiment, his squad the best in the company, and that he himself is the best damned soldier in the outfit." Our job as leaders is to foster that attitude and morale. - General Dennis J. Reimer, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, "Leadership for the 21st Century: Empowerment, Environment and the Golden Rule" - 1996 Military Review Article