« April 2009 »
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in

Search the site:

powered by FreeFind
Volunteer with us.

Entries by Topic All topics  
A Latest Site News
A - Using the Site
AAA Volunteers
AAB-Education Centre
AAC-Film Clips
AAC-Photo Albums
AIF - Lighthorse
AIF - ALH - A to Z
AIF - DMC - Or Bat
AIF - DMC - Anzac MD
AIF - DMC - Aus MD
AIF - DMC - British
AIF - DMC - French
AIF - DMC - Indian
AIF - DMC - Italian
AIF - DMC - Medical
AIF - DMC - Remounts
AIF - DMC - Scouts
AIF - DMC - Sigs
AIF - DMC - Sigs AirlnS
AIF - DMC - 1 Sig Sqn
AIF - DMC - 2 Sig Sqn
AIF - DMC - Eng
AIF - DMC - Eng 1FSE
AIF - DMC - Eng 2FSE
AIF - 1B - 1 LHB
AIF - 1B - 6 MVS
AIF - 1B - 1 LHMGS
AIF - 1B - 1 Sig Trp
AIF - 1B - 1 LHFA
AIF - 1B - 1 LHR
AIF - 1B - 2 LHR
AIF - 1B - 3 LHR
AIF - 2B - 2 LHB
AIF - 2B - 7 MVS
AIF - 2B - 2 LHFA
AIF - 2B - 2 LHMGS
AIF - 2B - 2 Sig Trp
AIF - 2B - 5 LHR
AIF - 2B - 6 LHR
AIF - 2B - 7 LHR
AIF - 3B - 3 LHB
AIF - 3B - 8 MVS
AIF - 3B - 3 LHB Sigs
AIF - 3B - 3 LHFA
AIF - 3B - 3 LHMGS
AIF - 3B - 3 Sig Trp
AIF - 3B - 8 LHR
AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
AIF - 3B - 10 LHR
AIF - 4B - 4 LHB
AIF - 4B - 4 Sig Trp
AIF - 4B - 9 MVS
AIF - 4B - 4 LHFA
AIF - 4B - 4 LHMGS
AIF - 4B - 4 LHR
AIF - 4B - 11 LHR
AIF - 4B - 12 LHR
AIF - 5B - 5 LHB
AIF - 5B - 10 MVS
AIF - 5B - 5 LHFA
AIF - 5B - 5 Sig Trp
AIF - 5B - ICC
AIF - 5B - 14 LHR
AIF - 5B - 15 LHR
AIF - 5B - 1er Regt
AIF - 5B - 2 NZMGS
AIF - Aboriginal LH
AIF - Badges
AIF - Cars
AIF - Chinese LH
AIF - Double Sqns
AIF - Engineers
AIF - Fr - 22 Corps
AIF - Fr - 13 LHR
AIF - Honour Roll
AIF - HQ - 3rd Echelon
AIF - Marching Songs
AIF - Misc Topics
AIF - NZMRB - Sig-Trp
AIF - Ships
AIF - Ships - Encountr
AIF - Ships - Una
AIF - Wireless Sqn
BatzA - Australia
BatzA - Broken Hill
BatzA - Liverpool
BatzA - Merivale
BatzB - Boer War
BatzB - Bakenlaagte
BatzB - Belmont
BatzB - Bothaville
BatzB - Buffels Hoek
BatzB - Coetzees Drift
BatzB - Diamond Hill
BatzB - Driefontein
BatzB - Elands
BatzB - Graspan
BatzB - Grobelaar
BatzB - Grootvallier
BatzB - Hartebestfontn
BatzB - Houtnek
BatzB - Karee Siding
BatzB - Kimberley
BatzB - Koster River
BatzB - Leeuw Kop
BatzB - Mafeking
BatzB - Magersfontein
BatzB - Modder River
BatzB - Onverwacht
BatzB - Paardeberg
BatzB - Palmietfontein
BatzB - Pink Hill
BatzB - Poplar Grove
BatzB - Rhenoster
BatzB - Sannahs Post
BatzB - Slingersfontn
BatzB - Stinkhoutbm
BatzB - Sunnyside
BatzB - Wilmansrust
BatzB - Wolvekuil
BatzB - Zand River
BatzG - Gallipoli
BatzG - Anzac
BatzG - Aug 1915
BatzG - Baby 700
BatzG - Evacuation
BatzG - Hill 60
BatzG - Hill 971
BatzG - Krithia
BatzG - Lone Pine
BatzG - Nek
BatzJ - Jordan Valley
BatzJ - 1st Amman
BatzJ - 2nd Amman
BatzJ - Abu Tellul
BatzJ - Es Salt
BatzJ - JV Maps
BatzJ - Ziza
BatzM - Mespot
BatzM - Baghdad
BatzM - Ctesiphon
BatzM - Daur
BatzM - Kurna
BatzM - Kut el Amara
BatzM - Ramadi
BatzN - Naval
BatzN - AE1
BatzN - Cocos Is
BatzN - Heligoland
BatzN - Marmara
BatzN - Zeebrugge
BatzN - Zeppelin L43
BatzNG - Bitapaka
BatzO - Other
BatzO - Baku
BatzO - Egypt 1919
BatzO - Emptsa
BatzO - Karawaran
BatzO - Peitang
BatzO - Wassa
BatzP - Palestine
BatzP - 1st Gaza
BatzP - 2nd Gaza
BatzP - 3rd Gaza
BatzP - Aleppo
BatzP - Amwas
BatzP - Ayun Kara
BatzP - Bald Hill
BatzP - Balin
BatzP - Beersheba
BatzP - Berkusieh
BatzP - Damascus
BatzP - El Auja
BatzP - El Buggar
BatzP - El Burj
BatzP - Haifa
BatzP - Huj
BatzP - JB Yakub
BatzP - Kaukab
BatzP - Khan Kusseir
BatzP - Khuweilfe
BatzP - Kuneitra
BatzP - Megiddo
BatzP - Nablus
BatzP - Rafa
BatzP - Sasa
BatzP - Semakh
BatzP - Sheria
BatzP - Surafend
BatzP - Wadi Fara
BatzS - Sinai
BatzS - Bir el Abd
BatzS - El Arish
BatzS - El Mazar
BatzS - El Qatiya
BatzS - Jifjafa
BatzS - Magdhaba
BatzS - Maghara
BatzS - Romani
BatzS - Suez 1915
BatzSe - Senussi
BatzWF - Westn Front
BW - Boer War
BW - NSW - A Bty RAA
BW - NSW - Aust H
BW - NSW - Lancers
BW - NSW - NSW Inf
BW - Qld
BW - Qld - 1ACH
BW - Qld - 1QMI
BW - Qld - 2QMI
BW - Qld - 3ACH
BW - Qld - 3QMI
BW - Qld - 4QIB
BW - Qld - 5QIB
BW - Qld - 6QIB
BW - Qld - 7ACH
BW - SA - 2ACH
BW - SA - 4ACH
BW - SA - 8ACH
BW - Tas
BW - Tas - 1ACH
BW - Tas - 1TIB
BW - Tas - 1TMI
BW - Tas - 2TB
BW - Tas - 2TIB
BW - Tas - 3ACH
BW - Tas - 8ACH
BW - Vic
BW - Vic - 1VMI
BW - Vic - 2ACH
BW - Vic - 2VMR
BW - Vic - 3VB
BW - Vic - 4ACH
BW - Vic - 4VIB
BW - Vic - 5VMR
BW - Vic - 6ACH
BW - Vic - AAMC
BW - Vic - Scot H
BW - WA - 2ACH
BW - WA - 3WAB
BW - WA - 4ACH
BW - WA - 8ACH
BW Gen - Campaign
BW Gen - Soldiers
BW General
Cavalry - General
Diary - Schramm
Egypt - Heliopolis
Egypt - Mena
Gen - Ataturk Pk, CNB
Gen - Australia
Gen - Legends
Gen - Query Club
Gen - St - NSW
Gen - St - Qld
Gen - St - SA
Gen - St - Tas
Gen - St - Vic
Gen - St - WA
Gm - German Items
Gm - Bk - 605 MGC
GW - 11 Nov 1918
GW - Atrocities
GW - August 1914
GW - Biographies
GW - Propaganda
GW - Spies
GW - We forgot
Militia 1899-1920
Militia - Area Officers
Militia - Inf - Infantry
Militia - Inf - 1IB
Militia - Inf - 2IB
Militia - Inf - 3IB
Militia - Inf - NSW
Militia - Inf - Qld
Militia - Inf - SA
Militia - Inf - Tas
Militia - Inf - Vic
Militia - Inf - WA
Militia - K.E.Horse
Militia - LH
Militia - LH - Regts
Militia - LH - 1LHB
Militia - LH - 2LHB
Militia - LH - 3LHB
Militia - LH - 4LHB
Militia - LH - 5LHB
Militia - LH - 6LHB
Militia - LHN - NSW
Militia - LHN - 1/7/1
Militia - LHN - 2/9/6
Militia - LHN - 3/11/7
Militia - LHN - 4/6/16
Militia - LHN - 5/4/15
Militia - LHN - 6/5/12
Militia - LHN - 28
Militia - LHQ - Qld
Militia - LHQ - 13/2
Militia - LHQ - 14/3/11
Militia - LHQ - 15/1/5
Militia - LHQ - 27/14
Militia - LHS - SA
Militia - LHS - 16/22/3
Militia - LHS - 17/23/18
Militia - LHS - 24/9
Militia - LHT - Tas
Militia - LHT - 12/26
Militia - LHV - Vic
Militia - LHV - 7/15/20
Militia - LHV - 8/16/8
Militia - LHV - 9/19
Militia - LHV - 10/13
Militia - LHV - 11/20/4
Militia - LHV - 19/17
Militia - LHV - 29
Militia - LHW - WA
Militia - LHW-18/25/10
Militia - Military Orders
Militia - Misc
MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs
MilitiaRC - NSW
MilitiaRC - NT
MilitiaRC - Qld
MilitiaRC - SA
MilitiaRC - Tas
MilitiaRC - Vic
MilitiaRC - WA
Militiaz - New Zealand
Tk - Turkish Items
Tk - Army
Tk - Bks - Books
Tk - Bks - 1/33IR
Tk - Bks - 27th IR
Tk - Bks - Air Force
Tk - Bks - Yildirim
Tk - POWs
Wp - Weapons
Wp - Hotchkiss Cav
Wp - Hotchkiss PMG
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
Open Community
Post to this Blog
Site Index
Education Centre
LH Militia
Boer War
Transport Ships
LH Battles
ALH - Units
ALH - General
Aboriginal Light H
Ottoman Sources

"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

Desert Column Forum

WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009
The Nature of the British Army prior to 1914, Eight 'undred fightin' Englishmen, the Colonel, and the Band, Part 2
Topic: AIF - DMC - British

The Nature of the British Army prior to 1914

Part 2, Eight 'undred fightin' Englishmen, the Colonel, and the Band


An extract from Holmes, R., Riding the Retreat, London, 1995, pp. 42 - 49.


Eight 'undred fightin' Englishmen, the Colonel, and the Band

So much for the creature's physiology. Now let us look at its behaviour, and stand beside one of those endless poplar-lined roads of northern France to watch the infantry come by, trudging to a hundred destinations but a common fate: most of the soldiers we see will be dead or wounded before the year is over. At the head of the battalion column rides the commanding officer, a lieutenant-colonel in khaki barathea tunic, Bedford cord breeches and high, brown field-boots, the splash of medal ribbons marking him out as a man who smelt powder in South Africa over a decade before. He is already well into his middle years, and that thoughtful look may tell us that he already knows what others suspect: he is not quite the man he was, more worrier, now, than warrior, with late nights and early starts far more of a strain than when he was chasing de Wet or mounting bridge-guard in the Karroo.

The colonel has a little headquarters. His adjutant, a captain, rides with him; his second-in-command, a major, is enjoined by regulations to follow at the rear of the battalion as whipper-in, but do not be surprised if he escapes from the dust to trot forward for a pipe and a chat. The pioneers under their sergeant - the only man in the battalion allowed to wear a beard - stump along behind, on hand in case a gate needs taking off its hinges or a broken-down wagon has to be heaved onto the verge. Next comes the Corps of Drums, fighting soldiers as well as musicians, ready to strike up `The Young May Moon' or `It's a Long Way to Tipperary' if they are from an English regiment, or to set fingers to chanters for `Black Bear' or 'Hielan' Laddie' if they are Scots.

The buglers are both notice-board and public address system. Their calls regulate the day in barracks and camp, and even now we may hear them on the battlefield. Soldiers have memorised the calls by putting words to them. There is an official version, inevitably corrupted. `Come and do your guard, my boys! Come and do your guard! You've had fourteen nights in bed, so it won't be hard' suggests Trumpet and Bugle Sounds for the Army. `Come and do a picket, boys, come and do a guard! You think it's fucking easy but you'll find it's fucking hard' chant the irreverent soldiery. Such rudery was international. Russian cavalrymen remembered the call for `Mount' by giving it the words `The devil got hold of me, and I mounted a nun'.

The unmistakable figure of the Regimental Sergeant-Major, a warrant officer and the battalion's senior non-commissioned member, strides along ahead of the leading rifle company. Each of the four companies has a nominal strength of six officers and 221 men. A major or captain, mounted like the officers at the head of the column, commands each company, with a captain as his second-in-command. The subalterns - lieutenants and second-lieutenants - command the four platoons, each consisting of a sergeant and forty-six men, and subdivided into a small headquarters and four ten-man sections under a corporal.

This organisation is unfamiliar to many of the soldiers in its four-deep ranks. For although the British Army, unique amongst the combatant powers, has no conscripts, not all its soldiers are regulars. Many are reservists, snatched back from civil life. Frank Richards had served eight years with the colours and had become a timberman's assistant in a mine. He was enjoying a beer with his mates in the Castle Hotel at Blaina when somebody came in with the news that the police sergeant was hanging up a notice recalling reservists. Richards duly reported to his Regimental : Depot at Wrexham the following day, having stayed at a nearby pub till `stop tap' and arriving at-the barracks `in a jovial state.' He was posted to and Royal Welch Fusiliers, and recalled that his fellow reservists were `a little muddled' by the four-company organisation, having been used to the Pre-1913 eight-company system.

Not only has the new organisation robbed half the battalion's captains of their former status as company commanders - James Jack, junior captain in his Cameronian battalion, finds himself leading a platoon - but the company commander's erstwhile right-hand man, the colour-sergeant, has also declined in importance. With the change to, four companies, the four senior colour-sergeants in each battalion became company sergeant-majors, although it will not be until 1915 that they receive their own badge of rank - a crown on the cuff - and the status of Warrant Officer Class 2. The four juniors retain the rank of colour-sergeant and have. become company' quartermaster-sergeants, responsible for administration within their companies.

Toiling along at the rear come the odds and sods. Here is the medical officer, a lieutenant or captain attached from the Royal Army Medical Corps, with his sergeant and stretcher-bearers, the latter the regiment's bandsmen (serious musicians, these, not the fife and' drum boys at the head of the column) who have returned their instrument; to store on mobilisation. There are the signallers, encumbered with semaphore flags, heliographs, field telephones and cable. The machine-gun officer, his sergeant and twelve men accompany the battalion's two .303 belt-fed Maxim machine-guns. These are old models with brass cooling jackets round their barrels; the new Vickers gun has been introduced but few are to be seen. Each gun is carried on a two-wheeled wagon which tows a two-wheeled limber; there are 3,500 rounds with each and a reserve of 8,000 on a third wagon. Ammunition carts, five in all, carry some 100,000 rounds more, forming a regimental reserve of 100 rounds per man.

Last, but by his own practised reckoning anything but least, comes the quartermaster. He has been commissioned from the ranks; not too long ago he was the regimental sergeant-major. He is the colonel's logistic staff officer, though call him that and you will have your fortune told in a way no soothsayer would risk. The quartermaster is responsible for the receipt, safe-keeping and issue of food, clothing, ammunition and much else besides. His myrmidons, headed by the regimental' quartermaster-sergeant, have a cushioned and knowing look, for if you spend your life counting blankets you do not want for an extra one when the nights grow chilly. The quartermaster's impedimenta travels on the horse-drawn GS (general service) wagons that rumble along with the cookers and water-cart at the very end of this long and -martial snake.

The battalion is marching at ease. The men have undone the collars of their khaki tunics, rifles are carried anyhow, and stubby little pipes jut beneath many a-moustache. A few push their luck by smoking cigarettes; pipes are permitted on the line of march but cigarettes are not, though as Private Harry Beaumont, shouldering his pack with 1st Queen's Own Royal West Kent, remembered, `this rule was unfair, and died a natural death on the first day'. Marching at ease; but not an easy march. The road is high-cambered pave, made of four inch square granite blocks set half an inch apart. Some of the younger regulars find the going hard, and not a few of the reservists are in real difficulties. On 21 August Count Gleichen, commanding 15th Infantry Brigade, reported that there were many stragglers after a fifteen-mile march: `all of them reservists ... They had every intention of keeping up, of course, but simply could not.'

Packs are another problem. The men wear 1908 pattern webbing equipment, much better, as any old soldier will tell you, than the leather it replaced. Shoulder straps suspend ammunition pouches: five left; five right, with ten rounds in each. Another twenty rounds are carried in the haversack which is on the left hip, balancing the water-bottle, blue enamelled tin covered in khaki felt, on the right. The entrenching tool hangs at the base of the spine, its handle strapped to the bayonet scabbard beneath the haversack. The pack hangs squarely in the middle of the back. Crammed with spare clothing -- a 'worsted cardigan jacket', spare grey flannel shirt, socks, underwear, and here and there a board for the forbidden gambling game of Crown and Anchor - it brings the total weight carried, by Harry Beaumont's reckoning, to almost eighty pounds. Small wonder that as his battalion moved up on a scorching day: `within an hour [we] began to feel the effects of the intense heat. Some were more or less in a state of collapse, and had to be supported by their comrades, while others carried their rifles.'

His rifle was the infantry soldier's raison d'être. The .303 Short Magazine Lee-Enfield weighed 8lb 10½ oz and was 3ft 8½ ins long.

Its magazine held ten rounds, loaded by thumbing in two five-round dips. The British infantryman of 1914 Could dispose of these to good effect. He fired 250 rounds on his annual musketry course, which consisted of slow, rapid and snap practices at ranges up to 60o yards. In the `mad minute' he was expected to fire fifteen rounds at a target 300 yards away, and Major Frederick Myatt suggests that: `there were very few infantryman who could not put all their shots into a two-foot (6I-centimetre) circle in that time; many indeed could almost double that rate of fire with no appreciable loss of accuracy'. Field Service Regulations 1909 described ranges of 600 yards and under as being `close' as far as infantry was concerned; 600 to 1,400 was 'effective', 1,400 to 2,000 (the limit of the standard backsight) was `long', and only 2,000 to 2,800 was `distant'.

The soldiers who tramp past us take their musketry seriously. Proficiency brings extra pay: `How do I stand for, Marksman?' was the urgent question as butt-markers passed the scores down the range telephone. Officers fired the same course as their men, and were expected to do well. 'There is nothing so disgusting', said Major-General Thompson Capper, `as an officer who is a second class shot'. When young George Ashurst, who joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1913, scored nineteen points out of a possible twenty at 60o yards, his colonel gave him five shillings on the spot. Officers carry sword and pistol. Swords have been sharpened by the armourer on mobilisation, but few will kill Germans: Lieutenant George Roupell of the East Surreys will find that his comes in handy for beating prone soldiers on the backside and telling them to fire low.

The fact that the sword and magazine rifle - ancient and modem yet again - were carried in such close proximity emphasises the dilemma facing the armies of 1914. There was widespread recognition that the firepower revolution brought with it the risk of very heavy casualties. In 1912 General Friedrich von Bernhardi warned: `Anyone who thinks that great tactical successes can be achieved in modern war without staking a great deal of human life is, I believe, very much mistaken'. For his part, on mobilisation young Hanbury-Sparrow expected `a short war with heavy officer casualties. I warned my parents to prepare themselves not to see me again.'

Theorists and practitioners were unsure whether firepower favoured attack or defence. The Polish banker, Jan Bloch, author of the perceptive Future War, declared that it simply ruled out frontal attack, and British experience in South Africa seemed to prove that Bloch was right: both British and French infantry regulations were modified to reflect the reality of the fire-swept battlefield. But it was not that simple. The weight of military opinion believed that wars were won by offensive action, and it followed that an army which allowed itself to be paralysed by firepower –‘acute transvaalitis' - could not expect to win. Moreover, as Colonel Charles Ardant du Picq had acutely observed even before the Franco-Prussian War, on the new battlefield `cohesion is no longer ensured by mutual observation'. What would happen if these loose, flexible formations met the enemy's fire? Officers would be unable to lead effectively, and soldiers' courage would not be buttressed by the close physical proximity of comrades. Men - short-term conscripts, most of them - would go to ground and not get up again; impulsion would be gone and stalemate would result.

The reaction was predictable. If war was not to be mere sterile butchery, soldiers must be imbued with the desire to press to close quarters and win. This would prove costly in the short term, but it was preferable to have a short, bloody and victorious war than a long and inconclusive conflict. In Germany, von Bernhardi proclaimed that `those troops will prove superior who can bear greater losses than the others', and in France, General Joffre (chief of the general staff and commander-in-chief designate from 1911) demanded 'the spirit of the offensive'. All this, as its proponents recognised, called for more than merely the transformation of military training: it demanded the forging of a new national will.
This task was already well under way in Germany, where society was infused by a pervasive militarism that made `a young officer into a god, a reserve officer into a demi-god'. In France, the popular novelist Ernest Psichari demanded `a proud and violent army'. The philosopher Henri Bergson expounded to huge audiences his conviction that the creative urge, not natural selection, lay at the heart of evolution: what better way to show l’élan vital than to impose your will on an enemy in battle.

In Britain, the `unconquerable and determined offensive spirit' was championed by Thompson Capper, an infantry officer who had entered Staff College in 1896, and became inspector-general of infantry in February 1914. Capper believed that German tactical doctrine, which emphasised attacking the enemy's flanks and rear, was superior to French teaching. However, he argued that victory was essentially a matter of morale, of `determination to conquer or die'. Like continental theorists, he argued that `organised abnegation of self' was the basis of the offensive spirit, and felt that this must be reflected in the community at large, attributing Germany's success in 1870-71 to her schoolmasters who had imbued youth with national ethics.

Though Capper's position was more extreme than -that of many, of his colleagues, he was not exceptional in demanding a national revival. The National Service League argued vigorously in favour of national service rather than more restrictive professional soldiering. Popular culture radiated the new mood. Guy du Maurier's play, An Englishman's Castle, warned of invasion by a thinly-veiled Germanic enemy, and Erskine Childers' best-selling book, The Riddle of the Sands, was a spy story with the Germans as its villains.

In the decade before 194 military doctrine was recast on both sides of the Channel. Although the most extreme expression of offensive spirit was contained in the French Regulations Of 19113 which declared that: The French Army ... recognises no law save that of the offensive', the British were scarcely more measured. The 1909 edition of Field Service Regulations abandoned the cautious note which pervaded the 1905 edition, written while the Boer War was fresh in the collective memory. The new regulations proclaimed that-. `Success in war depends more on moral than on physical qualities', and added that `decisive success in battle can only be gained by a vigorous offensive'. This view was echoed in the regulations for the individual arms. Infantry Training 1914 was unequivocal, and made a rare excursion into bold type to lend emphasis to crucial points:

The main essential to success in battle is to dose with the enemy; cost what it may ... The object of infantry in attack is therefore to get to close quarters as quickly as possible, and the leading lines must not delay the advance by halting to fire until compelled by the enemy to do so ... The object of fire in the attack, whether of artillery, machine guns, or infantry, is to bring such a superiority of fire to bear on the enemy as to make the advance to close quarters possible.

A battalion might push a company or two forward to form a firing line and its immediate supports while the remaining companies waited in reserve. The forward companies, assisted by artillery and machine-guns, would set about winning the fire fight. The slackening of the enemy's fire and the sight of demoralised individuals sloping off to the rear would prompt the local commander to order his bugler to sound the charge. And now we slip back a century: `the call will be taken up by all buglers, and all neighbouring units will join in the charge as quickly as possible. During the delivery of the assault the men will cheer, bugles be sounded, and pipes played.' Successful assault would be followed by relentless pursuit: the enemy's army would be broken and the war won.

Defence, in contrast, could not in itself produce a decisive result and was acceptable only as an adjunct to offensive action: firepower would enable a commander to reduce the forces committed to a specific sector and thus free them for an attack elsewhere. `The choice of a position and its preparation must therefore be made with a view to economising the power expended on defence in order that the power of offence may be increased,' declared Infantry Training.

Our thoughtful colonel, then, has much on his mind. Experience has taught him just what damage his battalion's firepower can do, but his training emphasises the need to `demand the impossible and not think of sparing his men'. As the campaign develops he will find his resolve sorely tried, all the more because he is so close - physically and psychologically - to the battalion he commands. The first casualty will be his sense of perspective, his ability to balance his loyalty between the sweating column behind him and the chain of command stretching above him.
He answers to a brigadier-general, who commands four such battalions with the aid of a small staff headed by his brigade-major. Count Gleichen (soon to avoid his title's foreign ring by styling himself Lord Edward Gleichen) noted that his brigade numbered 127 officers, 3,958 men, 258 horses and 74 vehicles when it was ready to leave for France. It is not until we ascend to the next level of command, the division, that we see the beginnings of a combined arms force. The major-general commanding it has a colonel as his chief of staff - officially General Staff Officer Grade 1, abbreviated to GSO1. Full colonels are rare birds in the British army of 1914. In the French and German armies they command three-battalion infantry regiments, and have lieutenant-colonels as their second-in-commands and majors commanding their battalions. In the British army the word `regiment' has no tactical significance in the infantry: different battalions of the same regiment are seldom in the same brigade in 1914.


Previous: The Nature of the British Army prior to 1914, Something old, something new, Part 1

Next: The Nature of the British Army prior to 1914, Down in the lead with the wheel at the flog, Part 3


Further Reading:

British Army involvement with the Desert Mounted Corps


Citation: The Nature of the British Army prior to 1914, Eight 'undred fightin' Englishmen, the Colonel, and the Band, Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 1 May 2009 3:01 PM EADT

View Latest Entries

Full Site Index

powered by FreeFind
Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our forum.

Desert Column Forum

A note on copyright

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre is a not for profit and non profit group whose sole aim is to write the early history of the Australian Light Horse from 1900 - 1920. It is privately funded and the information is provided by the individuals within the group and while permission for the use of the material has been given for this site for these items by various donors, the residual and actual copyright for these items, should there be any, resides exclusively with the donors. The information on this site is freely available for private research use only and if used as such, should be appropriately acknowledged. To assist in this process, each item has a citation attached at the bottom for referencing purposes.

Please Note: No express or implied permission is given for commercial use of the information contained within this site.

A note to copyright holders

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has made every endeavour to contact copyright holders of material digitised for this blog and website and where appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where the permission is still being sought, the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has decided, in good faith, to proceed with digitisation and publication. Australian Light Horse Studies Centre would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of this item.


Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

eXTReMe Tracker