Quotes - Regimental System, (page 4)

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Regiments are not like houses. they cannot be pulled down and altered structurally to suit the convenience of the occupier or the caprice of the owner. They are more like plants; they grow slowly if they are to grow strong...and if they are blighted or transplanted they are apt to wither. - Winston Churchill, 1904


We must be very careful what we do with the British infantry. Their fighting spirit is based largely on morale and regimental esprit de corps. On no account must anyone tamper with this. - Lord Montgomery of Alamein


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 ethnic backgrounds. In the British case, this phenomenon appears to be related to the sense of belonging to the "regiment." - Gabriel, Richard A. and Savage, Paul A., Crisis in Command, Mismanagement in the Army, 1978


The soldierly qualities of the British officer have been learnt in the regimental mess. It is the only possible school, for tradition cannot be taught on the blackboard, no more than its spirit can be recorded by the historian. - Colonel W.N. Nicholson, C.M.G., D.S.O., Behind the Lines, 1939


To an officer, his regiment is home and family, and in it ties of friendship are formed that death alone can sever. Hardships undergone, battles fought side by side, wounds, sickness, and suffering, all the great and varied trials of a soldier's life, endured together, only strengthen the bonds that are thus formed. - Major-General Sir Thomas Seaton, K.C.B., Cadet to Colonel, Vol I, 1866, in two volumes


... the British soldier's morale was fed not only by patriotism (`Your Country needs you') but by the unique regimental spirit that has been the envy of other armies down to the present day: one cannot let the Regiment down. - J.M. Bereton, The British Soldier


... to perpetuate the glory of their achievements of their battalion in the Retreat to Corunna, the technique or the rearguard was taught to every squad of recruits, and practised regularly by every platoon and company. The result was that in the hour of need every man not only knew what to do, but he knew that, although in other matters prone to failures of common humanity, in a rearguard action it was impossible for the battalion to fail. - Major M.K. Wardle, DSO, MC, Foundations of Soldiering, 1936


The indefatigable controversialist, Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, claims that, thanks to the shortcomings of the high command in [the Boer] war, the regimental officers discovered a new faith in themselves, and even began to talk shop in the mess. He traces the failings of the leaders, in part, to the years they had wasted in sport, which was calculated to produce good team players but not leaders. - E.S. Turner, Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British Officer 1600- 1956, 1956


In a far-off Indian campaign a young officer, before the attack was due to be launched, took off his epaulettes and the plate and feather from his cap, so that, in Shipp's view, he looked like 'a discharged pensioner.' Asked why he had taken this 'imprudent and improper course' he replied that he hoped the enemy might be unable to distinguish him from a private. This young officer 'never re-established his former character' and had to leave the regiment.
        But in a day of increased fire-power and deadly sniping [WWI] the idea began to gain ground that an attack might be likelier to succeed if the officer in command of it had more than a two-seconds chance of survival. Hence the transfer of 'pips' from cuff to shoulder and the wearing of ordinary soldiers' tunics. Hence, also, the decline of the vogue for light riding breeches, which had singled out scores of subalterns for a priority death. The officer's courage was never higher, but any tradition which served to squander it deserved to go under, unregretted. - E.S. Turner, Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British Officer 1600-1956, 1956


In return for their privileges, what did officers actually do? The simple answer, at least for regimental officers, is that they gave leadership, took responsibility, and set an example, if necessary, by dying. ... Implicit was the assumption that the officer would be the first to die in battle. Officers were the first out of the trench in an assault or a night patrol, and the last out in a retreat. - Desmond Morton, When Your Number's Up, The Canadian Soldier in the First World War, 1993


For the British regiment, with its complex and highly individual accretion of traditions, local affinities, annual rituals, inter-company rivalries, fierce autonomy and distinctive name--King's Shropshire Light Infantry, Loyal North Lancashire, Duke of Wellington's, Royal Fusiliers --was an extension, indeed a creation of the Victorian public school system. Simply by being themselves, therefore, the first amateur officers provided their untrained soldiers both with an environment and a type of leadership almost identical to those found in a regular, peacetime regiment. They organized games for the men, and took part themselves, because that was the public school recipe for usefully occupying young males in their spare time. They organized competitions between platoons and companies--in cross-country running, rifle shooting, trench digging - because competition was the dynamic of public school life. They saw to the men's food, health, cleanliness, because as seniors they had been taught to do the same for junior boys. They administered automatically the military code of rewards and punishments, because it mirrored the system in which they had been brought up. And they took their men to church because it was there on Sundays that the school went en masse. - John Keegan, The Face of Battle, 1976


Even when an officer is not serving with his regiment - and he may be absent from it on staff duties for most of his career - he retains his identification with it, wears its uniform and takes pride in it. If his regiment goes on active duty, he often begs to return and serve in it. Positions on the staff were much sought for, but many felt like Lieutenant William Hargood of the 1st Madras Fusiliers who while serving as aide-de-camp to General Havelock during the Mutiny wrote home that 'I very often long to be back with the Regiment, for, after all, next to your home, there is no place like your Regiment'. - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972


As Wolseley, speaking of the 'uneducated private soldier', said: 'The Regiment is mother, sister and mistress.... It is a high, an admirable phase of patriotism, for, to the soldier, his regiment is his country.' Men died for the honour of their regiment. 'Forward the 53rd!' was a more potent cry than 'Forward for Britain!'- Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972


'Keep your hands off the regiment, ye iconoclastic civilian officials who meddle and muddle in Army matters' thundered Wolseley. - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972


Field-Marshal Montgomery has warned, 'We must be very careful what we do with British infantry. They are the people who do the hard fighting and the killing.... Their fighting spirit is based largely on morale and regimental esprit de corps. On no account must anyone tamper with this.' - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972


...monuments to regiments and to battles long forgotten by all but the members of the regiments who fought in them, and many a village church has its plaques and commemorative windows to local soldiers who died ... for the honour of their regiments. For a while the memories of the lost regiments will be preserved in associations of old soldiers and in little regimental museums, each carefully tended by some retired offlcer. But as the survivors die, so will the museums and the memories. Only the scattered monuments will remain (unless they are in the path of a new motorway) as reminders of what the ... army once was. - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972


Norman Pope ...had gone into Ortona to make a routine duty contact with the Seaforths. It had been a particularly stimulating journey from the brickyard in, with a picturesque fall of nebelwerfers following his approach with alarming accuracy At Battalion Headquarters, among other things, he had been told of the regimental Christmas dinner then proceeding in a parish church near the Piazza Vittoria. Since the whole town was a raging battleground of the most uncompromising close-quarter street fighting, he had been interested to know how it was being done. With some difficulty a guide had led him to the vestry door of the church and inside he had been confronted by a fantastic scene.
Over the crash and din of the surrounding battle came the skirl of bagpipes and the raised voices of men, singing Christmas carols. Through a smoky haze he saw men seated at tables covered with white napery. Three hundred yards away the enemy had active machine-gun posts, mortar bombs and shells of every calibre were creating a hellish dissonance, as cool young Subalterns served Canadian turkey with dressing and vegetables to the men in the traditional way. An extra close shellburst would give rise to wild, defiant shouts and renewed energy lavished on the carols. All rifle companies were being relieved at their fighting posts, a platoon at a time, guided back to the church, fed this impressive meal, and then back to the line again. Besides turkey, the men had beer to drink, plum pudding, oranges, and nuts.
        Everyone listened with silent intentness as Pope told the story. Unquestionably it was an inspiring Christmas story and through the minds of everyone must have passed the same proud thoughts. Rumour had it that the Edmontons were carrying out a similar ceremonial dinner in the very midst of battle, although the L.O.'s had not as yet heard the details. But the Seaforth story filled us with abounding hope and encouragement. With men such as these, come what may we were bound to win through. - Charles Comfort, Artist at War, 1956

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