Anthony M. Ludovici
The Nineteenth Century and After 91, 1922, pp. 349364
- p. 349 -
Not a word has been said concerning this aspect of the Great War. The catalogue of virtues it called forth has been closed aye! and almost learnt by heart by an admiring nation. Who has ever doubted that it is complete? In all great national upheavals, however, in which the stamina and heart of a people have been strained to breaking-point there must have been a certain dependence on great deeds and virtues many of which were never recorded, many of which worked too silently and too inconspicuously to be catalogued, and were therefore never made public. The rough and ready virtues, the practical and obvious qualities, of the sailor and the soldier filled the stage, and anything more subtle and of more delicate texture was lost in the background.
And yet, how many of you lawyers, you doctors, and you clergy, whose trade unions are so jealously protected and fenced in against pretenders and pirates, could have borne with calm and patience the flooding of your noble professions by a crowd of unqualified upstarts, however gallant, however eager, however ready to pick your brains? Ready to pick your brains? But this would surely have amounted to an aggravation, not a mitigation, of their crime!
Yes. Very well! The Old Army anticipated your retort. But perhaps you will do them the justice to admit how heartily grateful you, were for never having been called upon to make a similar sacrifice for Patriotism.
It hits a man where he is most vulnerable. It offends him where he is most susceptible to offence. It disheartens him Precisely there whereon his whole heart is concentrated his life-work, his traditions, his early struggles, and above all his prestige. It had to be a mighty danger, a stirring cause indeed, to stifle
Whichever of us of the New Army, however, happened to have sensibilities above the standard of a pack-mule was perfectly well aware of the fiery struggle which that cool, polished surface of graceful decorum was meant to mask.
These men had been called from peaceful retirement: captains, majors, colonels, most of them wearing khaki discoloured by the sun and the dust of the tropics, most of them a little grey, or quite white over the temples, many of them with ribbons ten to fifteen years older than the Boer War. They spoke of mysterious people whom they all seemed to know, as if they had been schoolboys together. Now it would be "young Powell of the Grenadiers," anon it would be "poor old Fortescue of the 16th," or "Rivers of the Royals." We of the New Army could only look on, secretly wishing that we, too, had some knowledge of these "young Powells," these "old Fortescues," and these "Rivers of the Royals," and bewailing the ignorance that kept us silent. We also wished we knew something of the 16th and of the Royals for the Grenadiers were at least familiar to us as a thought. But while we waited and listened, hoping every minute to glean something of the secret which made these men so different, fresh enigmas would fall upon our ears, each more arresting and more confusing than its predecessor. Pig-sticking! This was always mentioned in connection with India. Stellenbosched a term which, from the context, appeared to signify a form of fatal punishment inflicted in South Africa; for it was always pronounced with a mournful and comprehensive nod of the head: "Ah, poor fellow yes, he was stellenbosched after Maggersfontein, or Ladysmith, or Spion Kop." Then would come a string of such words as "kuchah," "pucka," "sahib," "bunderbuss," etc., all of which appeared to form an essential part of the intellectual equipment of the officer corps.
But why were we of the New Army listening to this conversation which we could not follow? These people were evidently privileged to speak in a language, and about individuals, that meant nothing to us. It was precisely this, however, that constituted the whole pathos of the situation. These delightful middle-aged gentlemen, united by a freemasonry the very spoken symbols of which were inscrutable to us, had not only been called from peaceful retirement - this in itself was trifling; it was nothing more than they had expected; it was the Great War which many of them had predicted. This was not the delicate, the critical
Curiouser and curiouser! We actually knew a few things that made us useful.
It was essential that these middle-aged gentlemen should be allowed some breathing space. True, it was a grave national crisis; but was this their Army the Army they had left some years previously? Was this the environment in which their tastes and outlook had been formed? Let anyone with a pride in his métier put himself in their place. Let him ask himself how he would have borne it. There are some things a soldier does not make a fuss about, and this was one of them. Very soon the opprobrious term "Temporary Gentleman" was coined, and acquired extraordinary popularity; but we of the New Army, who went out early in 1914, would have required some convincing that the term emanated from the courteous middle-aged warriors with whom we were thrown together in the first days of the war. Abashed these Old Army men certainly were; but the good grace with which they accepted a situation at once so difficult and provoking to their amour-propre makes it impossible to hold them, or anybody like them, responsible for the coming of that phrase.
At all events the mild retaliatory term "Dug-out", which we of the New Army applied to these returned veterans, with its implicit suggestion that a man would indeed require to be mobilised by the forcible process of excavation in order to become one of ourselves, reveals by its very inoffensiveness how little we suspected them of any malicious complicity in the coinage of our exclusive title "Temporary Gentleman."
Perhaps I was exceptionally fortunate from the start to find myself in October 1914 the member of a unit in which there was a particularly high percentage of these returned veterans. It is the first lessons that count, and throughout my subsequent career in the Army I had reasons to be thankful for having had as examples in these early days men who in 1900 must have been among the fairest ornaments of the British Army. There was an
We set off together one morning from Victoria Station, bound for a port on the Belgian coast, where it was to be our duty to land the 7th Division. In those days l did not even think it possible that I should ever become a gunner, and I was attached to this Advance Base simply as an interpreter knowing French and German. Twenty-four hours previously I had not known that I should be wanted. I had purchased uniform, kit-bag Sam-Browne, and everything else between tea and dinner time on the previous day. Some of us on that trip actually did not know the difference between a major and a general. We knew what a junior subaltern looked like only because we ourselves all happened to be junior subalterns. We reached the Belgian coast at midnight and were dismissed to billets, which we had to find for ourselves, with orders to parade before the Base Commandant at 9 a.m. on the following morning. Few of us who were tyros in that party will ever forget that first parade the first parade we had ever attended. Some of us actually appeared with our spur-buckles on the wrong side of our boots, our revolvers and ammunition pouches bearing down our loosely-slung Sam Brownes in great mournful festoons, and most of us wearing our puttees as only infantrymen are supposed to wear them.
The Regular Army confronted us. Among them, remember, was an officer who had once been adjutant of His Majesty's First Regiment of Foot Guards. But there was not a smile no, not even a whisper. I have said that we of the New Army knew things that were to make us useful. That was enough.
Slowly, and with much misgiving and heavy heart-beats on our part, we were allotted, like rural craftsmen at an ancient hiring, to our various masters. To each "Dug-out" one "Temporary Gentleman." A handshake, a note of your name and your languages in the note-book of the returned veteran to whom you had been allotted, a few encouraging compliments to which in your agitation you were unable to respond coherently, and business began.
I may say that I was given to the major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders a sad and dignified old Scot who, having already lost a son in the war in circumstances which had evidently been peculiarly horrible, was conspicuous among the rest of the veterans for the air of grim determination as of one engaged in a vendetta, with which he entered into his non-combatant duties. He informed me that he was the M.L.O. (Military
An hour previously I could have sworn that my French was perfect. I had always been assured by everyone who had heard me speak the language that I was the most completely bi-lingual Englishman they had ever met. I could change from French to English, and back again from English into French, with the ease of a native in each tongue, and I had frequently been taken for a Frenchman even in Paris.
All this I conveyed to my superior officer in terms as modest as I could select, and he waited with solemn courtesy until my assurances had come to an end.
"Tell me then," he said; "as M.L.O. I shall have to discuss these matters with the port officials; what is the French for ? And he proceeded to recite a number of words which he had carefully written down on a page of his note book, and which, though obviously vital to his duties as Military Landing Officer, I confess, to my horror at the time, I did not even recognise or understand in English: "Derrick, berth, horse-sling, stevedore, travelling-crane," etc.
I was aghast. These words, as I say conveyed no clear idea to my mind even in English. How could I be expected to know their French equivalents? My silence made him look up. I protested that these were all technical terms and that my knowledge of French, though good, was chiefly colloquial. He concluded quickly that he had happened to light upon a weak spot in my equipment, and proceeded to pronounce other words which, alas! were equally unfamiliar to me: "horse-brow, sheers, tackle, demurrage," etc.
It was in vain that I explained how, with a thorough knowledge of the language, these words, when once I should know their meaning in English, could easily be conveyed to the port officials by means of a circumlocution. He was disappointed. If only in my certainty about the quality of my French I had not from the start made such positive assurances, I should not even then have felt my position as desperately as I did. But having been guilty of boasts which now he could hardly regard as justified, it only remained for me to throw myself on his mercy, and to hope to be able to vindicate my position by some striking feat if he could be persuaded to give me another chance.
He evidently realised my condition of acute distress. I
I realised that he was prepared to give me the opportunity I coveted, and, knowing as I did that in a few moments I should be able to give him substantial proofs of the proud words I had uttered, I very naturally began to feel very grateful to the kindly old gentleman. There were other interpreters still waiting about to be allotted to senior officers. Had he cared to form a rigorous judgment of my qualifications he would have been entirely justified in substituting one of my fellow subalterns for myself there and then. But we had already exchanged a few friendly words, we had already contracted a kind of fellowship in a common task, and we had that moment shaken hands. The generous spirit that suggests the command "As you were!" was uppermost, and I remained with him as assistant M.L.O. until the defeat of Antwerp swept us all along the coast into French territory.
Nevertheless, to this day, I have always remembered the French words bigue, point d'accostage, ventrière, arrimeur, grue transportable, etc., nor should I be surprised, in view of the agony I suffered in this first interview with a returned veteran, if these words were not found written on my heart when I die.
Many anecdotes could be told about this Advance Base on the Belgian coast during the landing of the 7th Division, and the light which, as far as I was concerned, the operation threw upon these men of our Old Army; but none, perhaps, is quite as pathetic as that concerning the adventure in which the dear old major of the Scots Guards, already mentioned, caught the violent cold which almost put him out of action.
I have said that I was assistant M.L.O. But I filled this capacity only in so far as I was attached to the M.L.O.-in-Chief. He had, however, two other senior assistants, one of whom was this field officer of the Scots Guards, whom for the sake of convenience we shall call Major Y.
Now very early in our examination of the landing apparatus of the port it became apparent that there were not sufficient horse-brows (gangways for landing horses) to land the cavalry and artillery with the 7th Division in good time. There were slings (ventrières) in abundance; but disembarking horses by means of slings is a slow and complicated operation, and dependence on this means alone would have occasioned such serious delay in getting the mounted units ashore that it was not to be thought of. Major Y. was therefore detailed by my Chief for the immediate duty of designing horse-brows which were to be built by massed labour on the quays themselves, so that in twelve hours at the most there might be a sufficient number to land the
I was lent to Major Y. to help him collect carpenters, cabinet-makers and their labourers from all quarters of the town, and during the whole of one afternoon I did little else than deposit car-load upon car-load of these craftsmen, with their assistants and their tools, upon the quays of the Belgian port. In an hour or two, under Major Y.'s direction, these men were all hard at work carrying out the design which the Scots Guardsman had given them in numbers of replicas, and, seeing that what with the timber that had arrived meanwhile and the collected hands there were now raw material and labour enough to construct a small wooden village, horse-brows in a sufficient quantity seemed a mathematical certainty.
Leaving Major Y. and his vast personnel to their work, and not troubling to inquire into his methods, my Chief thought the moment opportune for snatching a little dinner, and he and I went to the hotel to partake of a hard earned meal. He did not breathe a word to me about the singular features of the situation. He did not point out how odd it seemed that we should have found the port denuded of horse-brows when we had been sent there by the War Office purposely to land the 7th Division with a number of cavalry units. All he did was to exclaim indignantly over his meal that there were dozens of horse-brows lying about at Southampton which we could have brought with us for the asking. I did not know enough then to realise what was troubling the eager old soldier. I only knew that there had been some unfortunate hitch, and that the delay it was causing might with caution have been avoided.
After our meal we set off in the dark to discover Major Y. and to learn his progress. My Chief grew more cheerful as we approached the quays, and when we actually descried in the remote distance the large bright flares by which Major Y.'s gangs were working, we both laughed triumphantly at the thought of how neatly we had circumvented a serious obstacle.
Suddenly, however, I heard my Chief utter an imprecation under his breath, but, being unable to connect it with the spectacle of feverish activity before us, I thought no more about it. In a minute or two, however, the otherwise reserved old veteran repeated his gloomy curse, and then followed the words: "God help the man! What on earth has he done!"
At last we were standing in the midst of the workmen. Major Y. was there, the picture of painstaking and zealous application. Everybody was hard at work. Several horse-brows were already completed.
For the lay reader's information I had perhaps better explain that a horse brow is simply an ordinary light gangway about three feet wide, flanked on cither side by a tall rail to prevent the horses from side-slipping while being disembarked.
But the horse-brows that were lying there finished, looking distinctly attractive in the light of the flares, were great, cumbersome wooden bridges from five to six feet in width, and Heaven knows how long, which would have been almost large enough to allow an artillery brigade to disembark in column of route.
"What are these things?" my Chief demanded with terrible calm, pointing to the finished horse-brows.
Major Y. looked up a little sheepishly. "The the new horse-brows," he stammered, conscious that there was something wrong.
"And who are you going to get to lift them?" inquired my Chief.
"The port hands," replied Major Y. more sheepishly.
"How many fifty?" asked my Chief curtly, with every sign of laboured self-control.
"They're rather heavy you think?" Major Y. rejoined.
"How many horses do you propose to run down them abreast?" my Chief continued drily.
Major Y. hesitated. He had expected to be praised and congratulated, or, more narrowly, to be called a "splendid fellow," and instead he was getting this! "They're too broad, you think?" he suggested meekly.
"They're impossible!" said my Chief conclusively.
He looked at his watch, and then, turning to me and taking no further notice of Major Y., explained what was wrong. "The head carpenter here must get the men to saw these horse-brows right down the middle, do you understand?" he said. "Not across the middle, but down the middle lengthwise, and make two out of one. Money's no object. It's the only thing to do. Right down the middle!"
"Mais c'est impossible, Monsieur! Ce que vous demandez là, c'est impossible!"
I raised a hand like a buffer. To the Continental this is sufficient to imply that, though he may continue to shout, his words, while certainly compressing buffer springs, will reach no central sensorium where their persuasive power can hope to take effect.
Although he continued to protest, therefore, he did so with less conviction.
I pointed out that the matter was so vital and so urgent that there was no time to start afresh. The horse-brows must therefore be cut down the middle. There was no other alternative.
He shrugged his shoulders, groaned, and in a moment succeeded in looking the picture of unresigned misery.
Seeing him still motionless, and his suspicions of the morning having been once again roused to feeble wakefulness, my Chief had begun to wonder whether it was perhaps my French that was failing. Coming up to us, therefore, he asked me whether I had succeeded in making the man understand. I assured him that I had, and that it only wanted a few more very determined words to reconcile him to the inevitable.
I spoke these words. I told him there was nothing to be done except to saw the new horse-brows through, and very soon afterwards, when I had given him time to overcome the indignation of his foreman, the sawing began.
As soon is Major Y. saw what was happening, without saying a word he crept quietly away. We did not see him again that night. But do not conclude too hastily, dear reader, that he returned to the hotel, to his bed and to comfort. No! He was too penitent for that. There was the remaining portion of a haystack on the quays. He sought and found a secret retreat in that, and curling himself up in the loose hay on that bleak October night caught the violent cold that deprived us of his pleasant company for many days. He was no longer young enough to give himself these heavy punishments for his mistakes. Besides, he was an infantry officer, and perhaps our Chief realised that it had been injudicious to entrust him with a task hardly suitable for a Guardsman. At all events, the horse brows were not mentioned again in our unit, and fortunately for Major Y. he was not able to witness the fury of the cavalry officers when their transports came alongside after many hours' delay. We all felt, however, that in refusing to show his face when once his error had been pointed out to him he had shown himself true to the best traditions of his calling, and we did not doubt that he would, like a Roman,
As I have hinted above, this same Major Y. was a pleasant companion, and it was always a great joy to me to be allowed to accompany him on any excursion. My constant association with him, however, particularly after the Antwerp rout had driven us back into France, led to a curious incident which throws a rather amusing light on the regimental pride of the Old Army, and especially upon the mentality of its returned veterans.
Early in the war the officers of the British Army received a strange order. It was to the effect that when two or more officers of different rank or seniority encountered any of the non-commissioned ranks of the French or Belgian Armies, all officers must return the salute. This was contrary to the practice then ruling in the British Army, where only the senior officer in any party of officers returned salutes. The idea was, I believe, to approximate our own practice in this matter to that of the Continental armies, so that the French or Belgian soldier might not think that he was being deliberately slighted when only one officer of a group, as if actuated by a purely individual concern for courtesy, returned his compliment.
This rule meant that when I happened to be taking a walk with Major Y. or with Major J. (the ex-adjutant of the Grenadier Guards already mentioned) I acknowledged with them all salutes from Belgian and French soldiers.
Now I was always most anxious to learn and to do the right thing. With the rest of the New Army in those days I was perhaps sequacious to a fault. I therefore watched my seniors, particularly the returned veterans of the Old Army, "with the most assiduous attention, and did not even shrink from attempting imitations of their most trifling mannerisms. Who was I, indeed, to draw dangerous distinctions between mere mannerisms or idiosyncrasies and the regular features of a military formality? How was I qualified to know how much of a given movement was individual and how much the precise gesture prescribed under severe discipline? When Major Y. returned the salute with a nourish of his stick I therefore proceeded to imitate him with the most painful exactitude. Aye, I even began to feel that to copy his action quite accurately I should need to possess a stick as long, as thick, and as heavy as his own. I was at this point in my meditations on the matter when I happened one day to be honoured by an invitation from Major J., the Grenadier Guardsman, and one of the only two officers who at Hâvre were entitled to wear golden spurs, to accompany him on a walk into the rural environs of the town. Gladly accepting, and yet feeling a little awed by the stiff, smart soldier at my side, I soon found that we
Gradually, however, I became aware that Major J. was beginning to show signs of impatience, which only increased with the length of the walk, and, wondering what could be disturbing him, I tried for a while to cease talking altogether. This manoeuvre also proving a failure, I had begun to wonder how I should again modify my behaviour to please him when, just after a couple of French soldiers had saluted and passed us, Major J. turned angrily round and disclosed the nature of the trouble.
"Why on earth do you return the salute in that way?" he demanded with a considerable effort at moderation. Then, imitating my action with his own stick, he said: "You didn't see those French soldiers doing that, did you?"
I admitted rather feebly that I did not.
"Then why do you do it? When people salute you properly it's your duty as a soldier to return the salute in a becoming manner not to flourish a stick of cherry-wood under their noses."
I confess that I was feeling a little crestfallen. And yet I realised that if anybody in the world ought to know, surely this ex-adjutant of His Majesty's First Regiment of Foot Guards was the man. It was in no spirit of tale-telling, therefore, but rather with an honest desire to get to the bottom of this vexed question of saluting, that I ventured to explain that it was only in my endeavour to emulate the best examples that I had sinned, and that in fact it was from Major Y. that I had learnt the habit of returning the salute with my stick. I added that nothing except his own remonstrance would have shaken my settled conviction that it must be the acme of correct style in the matter of giving and taking compliments.
Major J gave vent to an exclamation which was half indignant, half derisive. "Major Y.!" he cried. "Oh, yes, of course! But he's only Scots Guards!"
I had no notion of these nice distinctions. But Major J. was very far from gauging the full extent of my ignorance.
A man soon learns in such excellent company, and so quickly did I realise the importance which the Old Army generally, and the returned veterans in particular, attached to tradition and to a deep knowledge of military lore, that on more than one occasion I was able to use this knowledge to my advantage. One instance will suffice.
It was when I was in the gunners and had been left in charge of our wagon line. The ground allotted to us on this occasion (it was the summer of 1916) to park our limbers and wagons and
Now at a distance of thirty yards from where we were parked there was a nice fresh slope rising gradually to the hills at our back. Large tracts of this slope were still unoccupied, and it occurred to me that thither we should have to move if our lives as men and beasts were to be made in any way endurable. I expected difficulties. I realised that the ground we had been allotted by the authorities had been given to us for some very good reason, and that if I changed it without saying anything my action would stand but a small chance of being overlooked. Nevertheless I was determined to try; and when at last I heard from the battery sergeant-major that the cooks were finding it hard to keep the dirt out of the men's food I finally resolved to effect the migration.
The men were overjoyed. Never had I seen our battery appointments packed with such speed and efficiency; never had I known tents to be taken down and pitched again with so little fuss. In a trice we were in new quarters, on fresh, almost virgin, grass, with only the spectacle of the dust a hundred yards or so away at our feet. Now we could smile at the other units still battling with and groping in that fog of pulverised Somme mud and we could take our meals and our repose in peace. Above all, we were able to groom our horses to some purpose, and the battery breathed again.
For a day or two this went on and we were undisturbed. Infantry transport came to settle down on the right and left of us, in front of us and behind; but nobody in authority asked any question, and I began to feel that this once at least we had eluded the vigilance of the Staff with surprising success.
My peace of mind was, however, to receive a rude shock, and, although I was not very much surprised, I was certainly distressed when one afternoon the battery sergeant-major brought a Staff officer of field rank to the door of my tent. I had been up at three that morning delivering a supply of shells to the guns, and I was resting.
Quickly donning my cap and jumping off my camp bed, in a moment I was out in the glare of the sun facing the formidable
I knew it would be quite useless attempting to conceal what actually had happened. I acknowledged that I had been given no authority to move, but I painted as dark a picture as I could of the life we had led when we had been alongside of the busy highway.
The Staff major, however, was not to be moved by any ladylike pleas for comfort and cleanliness when other more important considerations were at stake; and he told me that we should have to go back to our former lines. Thereupon I held some conversation with him, and happening to notice that his buttons bore a device well known to me, consisting of a bugle surrounded by the Waterloo wave, I was glad, in the absence of all other regimental badges from his Staff kit, to be able to identify him as an officer of the old 43rd and 52nd, now known as the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. I was the more pleased to make this discovery seeing that I was already on terms of friendship with a retired captain of the regiment. Using the very words, therefore, which I had so often heard pronounced before me in the dark days of my ignorance, and knowing full well the secret power they could wield, I turned to him and said: "I wonder what old H. is doing. He belongs to your regiment, you know. And I've no doubt, although I do not happen to know your name, I must often have heard him speak about you."
He looked at me for a moment with an expression of mingled astonishment and inquiry.
"I happened to notice the Waterloo wave on your buttons," I explained hurriedly, feeling sure that this was the information he required.
His face and demeanour changed instantly. He smiled, and, turning eagerly to me, exclaimed: "Oh, do you know old H.? By Jove! Yes, we were in India together. The last I heard of him was that he'd got some sort of soft billet at home."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" I rejoined. "We were together for a year at Hâvre, and then he fell sick and we lost sight of each other."
We then proceeded to discuss the war record of the regiment, the number of battalions it had sent out, and the officers now commanding the 1st and 2nd Battalions all subjects on which I found I had been wonderfully well coached by my friend H. of Hâvre memory.
"Oh, Lord, yes!" he replied. "Why the fellow now commanding the 1st Battalion joined us as a junior sub. when H. and I were captains in India."
We laughed to think how times had changed, and by then I had escorted him to the end of our lines.
"Look here," he said, turning to me in most conciliatory tones now. "I don't suppose you'll be here many weeks longer. Let's leave it at that, and don't you shift back to the road unless you hear from me again."
I thanked him very heartily, of course, and hastened to inform a grateful and happy B.S.M. of my triumph.
But on the whole it required no such elaborate diplomacy on the part of the New Army to establish a happy relationship with the returned veterans. The question frequently put by the old soldier "Were you at a public school?" even when, as frequently happened, it was answered in the negative was not put in a disdainful manner. It was prompted more by a desire to discover some common ground of good-fellowship than by any wish to accentuate existing differences. Also it should be remembered that if the negative reply came as a shock its reverberations were in most cases softened by the old soldier's prompt recognition of compensating features in the civilian in khaki.
I remember one instance of this. A friend of mine, an author of wit and deep human understanding, happened to be among a number of New Army officers at a depot in England, the head of which was an Old Army colonel. Among the functions this officer had to perform was to select a draft of officers from his strength every week for service abroad. Now my friend was not a public school boy, nor, to the best of my knowledge, did he possess in any marked degree the qualities which stamp a man immediately as belonging to the true military type. This, however, did not prevent him from succeeding so admirably in winning the C.O.'s approval that, in spite of his desire to go to the front, he found it quite impossible to get himself included in one of the weekly drafts. The old colonel evidently found the savour of his conversation too much to his taste, or his skill at bridge for the colonel was an ardent bridge-player too valuable to be lost. At all events my friend was puzzled by his long sojourn at the depot and determined to discover what it meant. One evening at dinner, therefore, after waiting for a lull in the conversation, be turned to the colonel and said: "Without being indiscreet, might I ask, colonel, on what principle you select your drafts for the front do you discard from weakness or from strength?" This question so thoroughly delighted the returned veteran
But perhaps the most engaging feature that characterised the relationship between the Old and the New Army was the generosity and good cheer with which these middle-aged gentlemen parted with the knowledge that they had taken a lifetime to acquire in order to enrich and fortify us of the New Army in our difficult and unfamiliar activities. This will never cease to be an object of wonder to all those who had the advantage of their instruction. And if the complete submersion of personal egotism, professional pride, and class exclusiveness is the acid test of a patriotic spirit, then undoubtedly these returned veterans displayed a patriotism which has not its equal in any other sphere of life during the war.
True, a great cause was at stake, a great Empire lay in the balance; but how often in history have not these lofty considerations failed to weigh against the private animus of a caste or class defending its particular rights?
Perhaps it will be urged that the New Army generally behaved so well, and was so anxious to shoulder the burdens equally with the rest, that it amounts to gross exaggeration to claim that the happy relationship it established with its seniors was all due to the generous condescension and the cheerful plucking of its own choicest feathers on the part of the Old Army and its returned veterans. There is something to be said for this view, but not enough to reduce by one iota the honour that is due to a nob e profession which, in the hour of its country's need, scrapped its personal feelings in order to promote its country strength.
For it should be remembered that in all professions there are two kinds of knowledge. There is the knowledge that constitutes the common basis of education for all those who wish to qualify as professionals, and which is recorded in the scientific text-books of the schools, and there is also that knowledge which is even more valuable than the former kind, which consists in the science that each individual has acquired for himself in the daily practice of his calling. Now it was precisely the latter kind of knowledge the quintessence of a soldier's art, the short-cuts to important results, and the synthetic doctrines not to be found in books, but arrived at through years of individual application that the Old Army was most magnanimous and most disinterested in imparting; and if people at home sometimes marvelled at the speed with which young and raw undergraduates became efficient officers it was surely because they had at their disposal, not only the first principles, but also the ripe experience, upon which the Old Army worked.
Was there, then, nothing besides good feeling on the part of
Nevertheless, speaking as a member of the New Army, and allowing for all this, we still feel that we ought to honour with a little genuflexion a profession which, in dignified silence, allowed itself to be flooded by such hordes of unqualified pretenders and usurpers, and which, not satisfied with making them feel at home and welcome, also threw its accumulated learning unstintingly at their feet so that they might rise to the most coveted eminence of their new calling.