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he must fix his gaze upon the practical exponents and representatives of the hardship which he suffers. To the soldier every court-martial
. is a Star Chamber; what wonder, then, if the officer and non-commissioned officer in turn assume the proportions of a Jefferies?
I must not be understood to insinuate that the soldier is so base as to harbour hatred in his breast towards all who inflict punishment upon him. I know the case to be otherwise, and could name the lieutenant-colonel of my own corps, in refutation of the supposition. He was loved by every man under him; and no less loved by those whom he severely punished than by those who had never been charged with crime before him. But I have heard him say to a brother officer on parade, “ Don't worry the men, So-and-so, for God's sake don't worry them.” The sound of his nervous footsteps across the barrack square was—and I doubt not still is—always welcome to the soldier.
I have given in another place many instances of the extent to which authority is abused in the army ; to do so here would be to extend the dimensions of this paper beyond reasonable limits. Let us pass on to the consideration of how far the commissioned officer conduces, by his acts, to the state of things which we deplore.
When a captain and adjutant encrusted with medals for services rendered, as it would seem, everywhere, and the son-in-law of a general, so far forgets himself as to shout to a recruit on parade, “D—- your soul, you stupid booby” (this because of a trifling mistake made in drill), it becomes a question whether that officer will have it in his power, at any subsequent period of his career, to undo the mischief which he so easily effected. I unhesitatingly assert that such an officer should be summarily dealt with, and degraded a step in his regiment, and that his sentence should be read with those of private soldiers, by the adjutant, on parade.
But the above is a tangible case; not so others quite as baneful. I know, for a fact, that another recruit—a jolly, light-hearted Jack Tar, who joined shortly after myself—was reproved by an officer for jocosely saluting a comrade across the square one evening after drill. The officer saw Jack from a window, and addressed him to the effect that for the future he had better keep the salute for the gentlemen above him, or that perhaps he might find himself in trouble. “Ax pardon, sir," said Jack," meant no offence." The result of the admonition was that Jack, on his return to the barrack-room, saluted us all round with evidences of profound respect, and with profuse ceremony; after which he related, word for word, his adventure for the amusement
The incident became Jack's serio-comical and conversational capital ever after: and he made much of it, by saluting every person and thing, including his regimentals, before putting them on in the morning. But his was a sailor's nature: there were other men in the room upon whom the anecdote left a bitter impression.
of his company.
I have known an officer, after having previously rubbed his gloved finger across the door-ledges in search of dust, which he did not find, reprimand an orderly because he had neglected to place the forms of his barrack-room on a line with the ends of the table. He has left that barrack-room without bestowing one word of general praise, to counteract the ill effects of needless and frivolous fault-finding. I have been myself taken to task for sitting down to dinner without my stock; though I could not, nor can most men, swallow with it on without difficulty, nay, in some instances, without absolute pain. Of course, the stock is again set aside on the disappearance of the officer, and he leaves the barrack-room, followed, perhaps, by curses, for having sown the seeds of discontent, and perhaps of crime. I was at mortal enmity with my stock, and accordingly cut it down to suit my comfort. One day the regiment was called out for inspection; stocks were shown, and I, in common with others, had to provide myself with a new one at my own expense. I had to deal with the same adjutant on this occasion, who once ordered me to stand to "attention ” in his presence; though I wore then a slipshod shoe, and had been several weeks in hospital, and could not stand regimentally erect without pain. I have known soldiers reprimanded for wearing non-regulation boots of their own purchase, instead of those served out to them, and in which some cannot march any distance with comfort to themselves or credit to the regiment. I I have seen an officer stand on tip-toe to examine the button of a cap, when the remainder of the soldier's appurtenances had passed muster. Any private seated, whether at his meals or off duty, in the barrack or out of it, must rise on the appearance of an officer. If he be enjoying a harmless smoke, outside the walls, in the company of a civilian, one hand immediately grasps the pipe and drops by his side, the other is raised to his forehead, and he rises to his feet; while his companion is left to draw conclusions favourable to the dignity and independence of a civil calling, however humble. If saluting an officer were not imperative, it is just possible that some clue might occasionally be obtained as to who were popular officers and who were not.
Again, there is no check upon an officer-I mean as far as regards his power over his soldier. If he requires any private business of a laborious nature performed, he has but to signify the same to a non
(1) Shortly after 1 had joined, I received a mysterious communication from one of the serjeants-major, to the effect that he wished to see mo at his quarters. He informed me that he could not allow me to keep civilian's clothes, but that he would be happy to purchase what I had. I had no alternative but to sell them—shoes, boots, and all; with the exception of under linen, which he kindly allowed me retain. Of course he named his own price-at about the rate of a shilling in the pound..
commissioned officer to insure its execution. There are always, in every company, men ready to undertake menial services for adequate remuneration. There should be no compulsion, eren towards defaulters or bad characters, to compel them to perform any tasks unconnected with the interests of the service, or incompatible with the purposes for which they have undertaken to serve the country. Those I have cited are but a few of the
instances which I could give of the extent to which the army suffers by the presence of the martinet. If such cases were isolated ones, it would be, perhaps, unwise to dwell upon them; they are not so, they form the majority. Of the numerous shortcomings of officers in the simple matter of courtesy, it is not easy to speak in detail; they are, to use a familiar phrase, “more easily imagined than described.” I will content myself by quoting on the same subject a sentence from “ Army Misrule : “No officer is disliked by his men without a cause, or precluded from winning their regard by the magnitude of the sacrifice requisite to obtain it; though he more frequently gives ground for the one than seeks to gain the other.”
I will now turn to the consideration of remedial measures which I deem necessary for the safety and stability of the service; and shall call the attention of the public to a few concessions which might be made with as much benefit to the soldier as ease to the authorities.
I am convinced that the hours of drill are much too long, and only serve to render men discontented with their lot, and to destroy all interest in the pursuit of their profession. This is eminently so in the case of the recruit; who should be led, as it were, by easy stages to a knowledge of his duties.
I would suggest the establishment of workshops for all trades—as has been done in India, I believe, by Lord Strathnairn-in which the men might work for Government at the same wage as recognised tradesmen, minus the shilling a day (or, more correctly speaking, the fourpence which they receive out of it). The nation would thus save the extra profits paid to contractors. I would go so far as to allow men who gained and maintained good characters to execute work for civilians during their leisure hours.
When men are told off to occupy certain rooms, they should be allowed to remain in them, and to form communities. It seems the custom to prevent this as much as possible. On occasions when there occurs a general cleaning up, re-filling of beds, &c., men are separated, and companions in whom they may take an interest are scattered over the barrack. This was my experience of the service; it may not be so generally the case, and I am willing to hope that it may have been exceptional in my own corps, though I don't believe it was.
Now, touching pack-drill. When a soldier rebels against this, and perpetrates a crime which brings him before a jury, the law is lost in
amazement at the enormity of the offence which, sometimes, apparently springs from so insignificant a cause; but I question whether one in any civil jury knows what pack-drill really is, or what is the daily round of a soldier's duties, to which it becomes so frequently an adjunct. If I remember rightly, the regimental hours for ordinary drill amount to eight or nine, and to these any number of extra hours of pack-drill may be added at the direction of a military court.
I cannot forego the conviction that all reforms must be inadequate to meet the end which the public has in view, until the unbiassed opinions of the common soldier have been heard and weighed. The praiseworthy efforts of his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge to meet and check crime in the army, and to raise the standard of morality in it, must, of necessity, prove futile, whilst they are in the aggregate but the reflex of what has been done before. He must step out of the beaten track if he would learn the truth. Government has repeatedly endeavoured to probe the mystery of insubordination in the army, which, like many other mysteries, will cease to be such when it is fully understood. It is self-evident that Bluebooks and inquiries have been found inadequate as a means of ascertaining what the soldier's grievances are; and it is equally plain that some means of learning them from his own lips must be resorted to. I hope, in summing up, to show how this desirable end is to be attained.
The soldier is, practically, in the hands of, and ruled by, middlemen -the non-commissioned officers. Now, if I can show that the noncommissioned officer is, in every respect, unfitted for the great and responsible duties he has to perform, I shall have taken a most important step in advance.
The first man with whom the embryo soldier comes in contact is the recruiting sergeant, who receives extra pay when on the recruiting staff, or is, at least, free from stoppages and deductions from his pay, which amounts to the same thing: he has an interest in the enlistment of men. This should not be; for its result upon himself must be demoralising, whilst its effect upon the service is baneful to a degree, and the most fruitful source of crime. He cares not whom he enlists. His most productive haunts are the purlieus of our great towns. The men he entraps are, generally speaking, depraved. They smoke with him, drink with him, and swallow with avidity the gilded pill, usually administered to them when in a state of intoxication. They awake, in sober moments, to a bitter reality, and find things the very reverse of what they had been led to expect.
One of the first reforms I would suggest, therefore, is that of the recruiting system. The non-commissioned officer should have no interest in obtaining recruits, over and above that resulting from esprit de corps, and should undertake the office solely as a duty
appertaining to his profession. If he reaped no pecuniary advantages, or advantages of position (such as that of being free from barrack drill), he might then fairly be trusted to use his discrimination in the selection of fitting candidates, who would be likely to reflect credit on his judgment and on his regiment. If it be objected that it is necessary to procure the raw material without special reference to character, since a sufficient number of reputable recruits are never forthcoming, I reply that the odium attaching to the service, and to the name of common soldier, may be fairly presumed the cause of the deficiency, until experiment has proved otherwise. When men of good character offer themselves, they should be honestly and openly dealt with ; their presence, under the existing state of things especially, is greatly to be desired, and of vast importance; some effort should be made to retain them in the ranks; this cannot be done by fraudulently enlisting them, and then placing them under the absolute control of non-commissioned officers who are incapable of governing their own propensities to keep their superiors under.
If the present system is to be retained, something should be done —and that speedily—to check its demoralising influence. The recruiting sergeant found guilty of falsehood should be severely punished. If he were liable to be convicted on the unsupported testimony of a disreputable recruit, so much the better; the evil would stand a fairer chance of working its own cure, since it would ensure some amount of caution in preliminary selection. But I would go even further than this, and would, on his demanding it within a stipulated time, give any soldier his unconditional discharge, who could satisfactorily prove before a civil tribunal, and by the production of witnesses, that he had been deceived by deliberate lies.
Of the power of the non-commissioned officer to annoy the soldier, after his entrance into the ranks; how far he avails himself of that power; and how far he is fitted to exercise authority at all, I shall now speak briefly.
These several questions will hinge upon the principle of selection which obtains in the army, and which arms the non-commissioned officer with power.
If it were found that, when a vacancy occurs, the best man in his company were chosen to fill it, nothing would remain to be said ; but when we learn that the mode of election is not only adverse to his advancement, but conducive to the advancement of another who is in every respect unfitted, the matter becomes of vital importance. I shall draw all my facts from actual experience, gained during my connection with the first corps in the service, and shall avoid all theorizing and speculation.
When a vacancy occurs, the stripes are given to the soldier most in favour; in other words, to him who is fortunate enough, or, rather, subservient enough, to obtain the strongest recommendation from the