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"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

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Friday, 4 December 2009
The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Training by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse


Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier


Noel Murray Brazier


Every year, the Commonwealth Military Journal ran a "Gold Medal" essay competition on a nominated subject. Some of the best military minds in Australia responded to the challenges of these essays, Monash being one of the most celebrated winners. For 1914, the topic was on training within the CMF. The Second Prize Essay was provided by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier, Commanding Officer of the 25th Australian Light Horse, West Australian Mounted Infantry.

Brazier was a tireless worker in putting together the 25th ALH and on the outbreak of the Great War, the 10th Light Horse Regiment over which he was appointed the Commanding Officer. The 10th LHR was almost destroyed at the Nek and afterwhich Hill 60 where Brazier was wounded but never to return to his Regiment.

Brazier, NM, Training, Military Journal, July 1914, pp. 449 – 462.


"Training is the preparation of the officer and the man for the duties which each will carry out in war." - (Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, section 1(1)).

"In applying this principle, how can the best use be made of the limited time available for training the citizen forces of the Commonwealth of Australia?"



The more one looks at this question the more one feels inclined to ask a question in reply, "Can the citizen forces be efficiently trained during the limited time available?" Yet, had the Australian Parliament been asked to pass an Act compelling its youth to put in two or three years' continuous service as the only sure method of training an army, it is most certain to have rejected the measure; while it is more than probable that Lord Kitchener, in his Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, recognized this fact, and recommended the least possible amount of time that would suffice to begin the training of an array under Australian conditions. As the whole of our military system has been based on that memorandum, parts Of which can only come into force in some years, while some of the recommendations have not yet been given effect to, it may be necessary to refer to it to show that not till the whole scheme is fully endorsed can we expect to get even the efficiency anticipated, unless special efforts in that direction were put forth during this transition period. Again, it is a well-known fact that the British soldier, at the end of his third year of continuous training, is the test fighting material the world can produce. In Australia it is expected to train an army in roughly, from 130 to 200 days spread over eight years after a course of cadet training, and, during the first eight years, with a shortage of general staff officers, while regimental officers have not generally been taught to teach.

What material, then, have we to lay a foundation with, upon which an army may be trained, physically and morally fit, to fight for that great heritage we possess?

The answer is given in the Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, para. 67 -

"The Australian citizen soldier experiences much of military value in the every-day conditions of his civil life. He is generally a good rider, active, lithe, and intelligent."



The Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, para. 57, says:-

"While the staff corps will provide the trained instructor, the leadership of units of the citizen forces will depend on the citizen officer. Every opportunity must be taken to educate him in the spare moments of his civil business, and accordingly means of instruction should be available at or near his home."

The staff corps is only to be drawn from the Military College, now in its infancy; therefore, we have left only the officers of the administrative and instructional staff, partly derived from the citizen forces, and not all of whom have had much special instruction in the art of teaching. Their duties are principally, except during the annual training, administrative, and they have but little time to devote to the training of officers at other periods. This is one of the weakest spots in the military system. More staff officers should be available to teach regimental officers during the spare moments of their civil business. Nearly the whole of the Australian officers are volunteers, generally busy men, patriots to a man, and only likely to resign because they cannot see through the “fog of war." Once the drill and camp routine of their corps are mastered, the carrying out of “sealed pattern" advanced and rear guards and attacks becomes monotonous. The object-the real business end of the object-must be taught; they must be taught to think war; they must be taught that the object of every action taken is eventually to “kill or disable," so that their country may not be disgraced in war time. In every action taken, from the simplest forms of drill to the higher tactical exercises, every officer should be able to explain the connection of the exercise with “the desire to kill," and should explain it before carrying out any exercise or drill. To train the officer to think and talk thus, it is not necessary to have troops. It would be better if he were taught away from his troops. Only by staff and regimental tours, nearly every week of the year, can officers be rapidly taught to think "war," and even in the case of scattered country units like light horse, most useful instruction can be imparted during the drive home from the railway station, while walking about the farm, while riding about the station, or sitting on a verandah in a "defensive position," when, given certain conditions, he would be asked, "What action would you take?" After an officer has been taught to think in this way, during all his peregrinations lie can be marching with imaginary troops, create a practical tactical situation, rapidly corns to a conclusion, and give his orders. He must be taught to think first. All the reading of Field Service Regulations without practical application, however simple the exercise, although it may help to pass a theoretical examination can only end in limitless blunders.

Again, map reading may be easily learnt by all officers, town or country, if the habit be formed of each officer carrying a plan of his locality with him always, or, when going away from him, by taking any plan of the country it is intended to travel through and constantly making military notes upon it. In the daily train journey from suburb to city, look for prominent buildings and hill features, bends of rivers, &c., and put them on the map in pencil. In the country, hills, cleared fields, thick timber, and any special military features should be noted and put on the plan, and when the staff officer or commanding officer next comes round, discuss the map with him. It is often because we are not put in the way of these things that their beneficial results are not appreciated. A monotonous journey, the tired feeling, that “horrible ride," give place to interest and enjoyment in fulfilling a national duty at no cost.

Yet it is necessary to sink into oblivion one's private affairs at such times, whether it be convenient or not, to say nothing of the time lost attending schools of instruction-one of the most important features of an officer's tuition. In administrative duties to-day, more exactitude is demanded than formerly, and no officer can thoroughly fulfil his duties without making huge inroads into his time and pocket. If the volunteer officer finds the demand too much, will the officers derived from the universal training scheme carry on the enforced duty as an officer? Will he give the time required to qualify for the higher positions unless he can afford it? Shall we then get the best brains to train?



Although not part of the fighting unit, his early training becomes part of the preparation of the officer and the man for military duties. Time is the essence of the contract, and during each stage the last half-year or year should be specially devoted to preparing for the next step. Here we have the early stages of physical culture, but while physical culture should be taught to strengthen the body and mind, now is the time to plant the first seeds of national duty. Why are we training the youth? To become one of a physically strong nation; to strengthen our bodies and sharpen our wits to fight for the chastity of our women should occasion arise; to prepare ourselves to take our place in our army, full of life and patriotism, and defend our country from those foreign nations whose eyes are ever on our fertile shores. This should be part of the training. The object should be ever instilled into the soldier before the lesson is given, and, by so doing, create individualism.

During the last half-year of the junior cadet, training, and as part of the school curriculum sergeant-instructors should, by diagrams and practical illustrations, explain all parts of the rifle, its use and effect. When this is instilled into the lads, they will look forward to the next step.



Here we arrive at the first step when the youth must be told why he is being taught to drill and march and shoot, why he is compelled to learn to fight and to kill or disable. The nation can only be trained to take a solid stand upon the defence question, and train its soldiers in a limited time, by taking every opportunity of explaining to all ranks, in all stages of its training, the reasons why any action is being taken. This is just as essential as drill and shooting.

During the first year of their senior cadet training the youths should be treated as recruits, and physical exercises, squad drill, care and use of arms thoroughly grounded into them before they join the ranks of the older cadets. This becomes the foundation of a system - recruit training before joining the next higher rank.

Now comes the foundation of the training upon which the army must depend. Discipline must be strictly enforced; physical exercises, boxing, singlesticks, sword exercises, and gymnastics should be made a pleasure to look forward to. During fine weather, marches of from five to ten miles should be undertaken frequently, either in the afternoon or evening. Work never kills. Company and battalion drill and shooting should be thoroughly taught, but, again, we should always-ever-grind into the youth why such action is being taken. Automatism must give way to individualism if we are to succeed in our object.

During the seventeen to eighteen years, the lads should be issued with service rifles, which would be kept in the drill halls under strict supervision. They should be taught their parts, to shoot with them, care for them, and prize them as they carry them home on the 1st July, admitted to the fighting units.



The first year of life under canvas, the lad has been taught to drill, had preliminary instruction in shooting, been taught the care of arms, and is physically fit. As in the case of the junior cadet, so, on being transferred from the senior cadets, his first year, including his first period of eight days in camp, should be purely recruit training, and the work in camp should be done as a separate unit or units before being drafted to any regiment. The musketry course should be gone through, and a certificate should be issued that he is fit for field firing, before being allowed to join any regiment; pitching of tents, carrying of equipment, camp sanitation, and drill of the arm he is to be attached to, or such special preliminary instruction as may be necessary. Camp routine and explanation of simple tactical exercises would be best done collectively as recruits, rather than be left to the regimental officers and their staffs, whose time would be occupied on matters of more importance to them. It is here that we can save time, and it is now that no slipshod methods must be allowed to creep in. Therefore, the year of recruit training should be the hardest, and discipline kept at the highest point.

The present system of drafting recruits straight into regiments must weaken the efficiency of a regiment and become a drag on its training for war, in the fact that there will always be some untrained men in the ranks; nor does it seem that it was ever intended to draft recruits to regiments before their year of recruit training was completed.

Here, now, the regimental officer comes in. If he is a well-trained officer well and good, but lie cannot attend to recruits and his trained soldiers. If not well trained, will not the year's work be wasted? Will it not be wasted on recruits in either case? The officer has not been trained to teach. This difficulty will gradually be overcome; but, in the meantime, we want to get the best we can, and this is the first year that we have trained soldiers of last year's draft. Therefore, to save time, train all recruits separately under the best staff available before drafting to regiments.



A soldier and a man, he knows his drill or only wants a little brushing up; he is a good or fair shot with his rifle, understands camp discipline, routine, and sanitation; is prepared to create history if called on, with traditions to follow, and at all times uphold the prestige of his corps.

How, now, can we handle him to the best advantage in the few days annually at our disposal? The Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, para. 78, says:- "The training of the citizen soldier may be divided into two parts-the home training, which will take place all the year round ire the vicinity of the men's homes under the staff corps or the citizen officers of the area, and the camp training, which will be annually held in the neighbourhood."

Now, the rock upon which the home training splits is this, that unless the nation itself rises upon the wings of patriotism and demands from its youth every available hour for training, only those compulsory parades will be attended sufficient to comply with the law, and the home training becomes desultory-two days per quarter, in which it is possible to keep the drill just decent, and the day ended before the o>' lesson of the tactical exercise is learnt.

The rock upon which the camp training splits is, that the army has not learnt to move in masses to manoeuvre from masses, to get its supplies on the march, or to carry out almost war practices. It is fro"' the annual training must come, the incentive for home training. From the defects and deficiencies of the annual training, tile bungles over transport and supplies and the victualling of large bodies on the march, from the shortage of medical equipment and hospital and veterinary supplies in peace, must the nation learn of our unpreparedness for war. The training of the nation in its responsibilities is as essential a principle as the training of the soldier. That this was ever before Lord Kitchener is apparent from paras. 16 and 17 of his memorandum. "The first and essential principle for the enrolment and maintenance of an efficient citizen force is that the nation as a whole should take a pride in its defenders, insist upon the organization being real and designed for war purposes only and provide the means for properly educating, training, and equipping their officers and men. Unless these requirements be met, no military system can be devised which will be other than an illusion and a source of waste of public funds."

What, it may be urged, has this to do with the subject under discussion? Everything. It is because the time for training annually is so short, our unpreparedness for war so apparent, our people only half-hearted, our light horse regiments filled mostly by volunteers, our supply of suitable horses inadequate, and with no system inaugurated for their absorption in war time, that every factor must be discussed, every weakness exhibited, in order that we may arrive at the best general principles upon which to train our army in the short time available.

What are our weaknesses?

I. The want of staff officers trained in war methods.

II. The lack of well-trained regimental officers.

III. Non-commissioned officers not knowing and feeling their responsibilities and duties.

IV. Soldiers are drilled only in small bodies and not used to being manoeuvred in large forces.

V. All arms with little knowledge of the real co-operation used in war, and not trained to advance or shoot coolly while shot and shell burst over their heads.

VI. The want of suitable horses for all arms.

VII. Lack of transport for all arms.

VIII. A commissariat department acquainted only with the demands of standing camps at rail heads.

IX. Medical services and departments generally untrained to anything approaching war conditions.

An inadequate army, surely! But the nation generally is not aware of what constitutes all adequate army, and need we let history repeat itself when we have the lesson before us of at least the first eight months of the American Civil War in 1881, when, owing; to the want organization, of discipline, of training, and of a proper system of command on both sides, [Stonewall Jackson ] according to Lord Wolseley, " from first to last, the co-operation of even one army corps (35,000 men) of regular troops would have given complete victory to whichever side it fought on." Numbers, even if they amount to millions, are useless, and worse than useless, without training and organization. Of what avail were the enormous armies raised by the French Republic in 1870 and 1871, which, consisting of brave men led by not unskilled generals, were defeated again and again by numerically inferior forces of seasoned enemies?

Let us now look at our weaknesses and to the training of the citizen forces of Australia after the recruit year when every soldier is, or should be, classed as efficient in shooting:


The Military College could be of little use if war arose at an early date, therefore, more staff officers should be borrowed from the British Army to teach our own staff officers their duties in war, and how to teach regimental officers. More staff officers are needed for this latter work and to do practically nothing else, even if they have to go to the home of the citizen officer, whose time is his living, to give him the necessary instruction.


Regimental officers cannot train themselves, nor have all commanding officers the necessary time and ability to coach individually their officers who, in some regiments, are scattered over wide areas. Nor can it be expected that regimental officers will attend the many schools they would probably like to, as they interfere too much with their business. Their training is, however, essential, and must otherwise be done either by staff officers, staff and regimental tours in week-ends-continuous if possible or, if necessary, by correspondence. Every officer should feel that he is being individually cared for and taught to teach. In the cities lectures can be held, but in the country a great lack of efficient coaches is experienced by officers. The coaching of the regimental officer on sound lines demands the immediate attention, at any cost, of the nation. Men know only too well when they are serving under an officer in whom they have no faith, while often a good officer who can be taught practically in the field cannot pass an examination on paper. Therefore, we want more teachers to advance, rapidly the instruction of the officers.


Regimental officers are supposed to instruct their non-commissioned officers, but these matters take time-much time-and, again, all officers are not capable of teaching. In many cases of light horse regiments, non-commissioned officers are scattered far and wide, and are not available even to their troop leaders, who themselves have just joined the regiment, and have no knowledge of military matters. In time the-go matters will automatically adjust themselves. To-day we are untrained and must be trained rapidly. As in the case of officers, so in the case of non-commissioned officers, must we have trained teachers. 1 hose should be supplied from the non-commissioned officers of the administrative and instructional staff. Here again, we the short of teachers taught to teach. But it should be part of the organization that, as with staff officers for officers, so should the instructional staff non-commissioned officers be prepared to sit on a citizen non-commissioned officer's verandah, follow his plough, ride on his cart, and pour out the fruits of his own knowledge, talk of duties and responsibilities, and give problems for solution according to the advancement of the student. The non-commissioned officer is to be prepared to take his place as leader. He also must be taught to think and to act quickly. He must also be taught to teach, and, as his time is money, teachers must be sent to him if he is to be rapidly fitted for his position in the regiment in time of war. Too little attention in the past has been given to such matters, and if more money is necessary to pay teachers, so must the nation be prepared to find it.

(IV.) (V.)

The incentive for the home training must come from the annual continuous training. The minor parts each different unit has played during this period will show the absolute necessity for the careful instruction in drill, shooting, and tactical exercises, in order that it may be the more efficient in larger movements.

There is more marching than fighting in a Campaign, yet how little we practice marching, except to a church parade.

The annual training should be done in each State at the time most convenient to its inhabitants, and, for instructional purposes, at the most suitable time as regards weather. As the training of our troops is our object, each year every incident likely to occur in war must be thought out and touched upon. The recruits are being trained separately. Only trained soldiers, with certificates for shooting, are in the field. Why, then, go into camp? “Is not the wide earth best?" Let us try and depict the annual training of all arms.

A general idea has been issued, and the troops have been ordered to mobilize at any place within the State that may be deemed suitable. The artillery and engineers will do their preliminary work before joining in the general mobilization, and perhaps light horse regiments may do the tactical reconnaissance, scouting, &c., preliminary to the movement of the larger bodies of infantry. Each arm will have its transport and supply column complete in marching order. Contracts for supplies will be called for over the theatre of operations, or be drawn from a rail bead as the situation and training of the Army Service Corps demands in connection with the training. Artillery and engineers have now joined the force, as have also the squadrons allotted as divisional mounted troops.

Orders are issued by the (G.O.C. for the march, and again repeated by regiments. The daily ration will be carried on the man or horse, as also the number of rounds of ammunition, even if in blank. The first day's march need not be too long, and some sore feet will require attention. The force will be some miles in length, and provision must be made for the bivouac. The distribution of the next day's ration and its cooking will form an excellent lesson, and more, will be learnt in one day thus than in years of standing camps of training. The supply trains will need re-filling. The Army Medical Corps will find something to do, and Field Service Regulations will be brought into requisition every minute of the day. Outposts will be carried out strictly and only withdrawn in the orthodox manner, and all training instructions carried out properly.

Orders for the following day will again be issued, and on the force marches again. Staff officers will need to be awake, and regimental officers will want to wipe off the cobwebs to avoid yesterday's mistakes. Communication must be established and telegraph offices put at the disposal of the force when necessary. Some business men may growl, but the nation, too, must be trained if the country is worth defending.

Another day's march without incident other than “rumours" to keep up the interest of the force, will do no harm. The supply trains have gone astray. The contractors have failed to supply in time. Curses and anathema go through the bivouac. Tinned dog and biscuit! But soldiers must be trained, and this is one of the greatest lessons to be learnt. Where is the fodder? The owner of the privately-owned horse does not mind for himself, but this is too bad, and he is expected to starve his horse and them ride it all day. Just before midnight supplies arrive, the horses must be fed, and the sleepy light horseman turns out of his blanket pouring wrath on the powers that be, but glad to feed his faithful steed. Another lesson rapidly learnt.

Owing to the reports received from the light horse commander, the force is pushed on early next morning with barely time for hot coffee. Another regiment has found the advanced guard, the regiment finding last night's outposts falling in rear of the column. The number of men with sore feet, through being unused to marching, is increasing and taxing the accommodation of the vehicles available. Boots have not been properly fitted, socks have not been aired, and commanding officers are being hauled unmercifully over the coals. Another lesson rapidly taught.

Why all this marching? Why are we not being taught to “kill or disable"? For discipline's sake. This is the greatest lesson there is to learn, and the Australian will learn it quickly, and learn to put up with difficulties cheerfully. Till he can do this, of what use would lie be in front of a determined enemy who would die with pleasure for his country?

At midday the head of the column has reached its halting place, and everybody is praying for peace for the afternoon. Not so. The light horse commander is in touch h the enemy's advanced troops and wants assistance in pushing them back. A battery of artillery gallops past, and the whole battalion which found the advanced guard has pushed oil. The general officer commanding intends to stop here yet and puts out fresh troops on outpost.

The commissariat department is getting into better working order, and teams are settling down to steady work. The force is scattered a bit and must be supplied with food and forage, necessitating more thought for the army Service Corps. The advanced troops of the enemy have been driven back, but they are reported in strength some miles further on.

With plenty of food and water behind, the general officer commanding intends to strengthen the position just forced. The engineers lay out the necessary earthworks, and parties are told off to carry them into effect. The ground is hard and hands are soft. The men clearing the foreground find the axes are blunt and the box trees hard. This is only natural. Nobody thought a new axe wanted sharpening. Where are the files? Back in camp. Oh! So the blisters come on the hands and the sweat pours off the soldiers, as can only be expected. Yet, these are duties to be taught. The work must be completed properly. Will the free and easy, don't-care-a-damn Australian stand the strain? Yes, if he has had ingrained into him the necessity for the work in all his training from his youth up.

Let us hope that the ground is soft, and that during the first few days the general officer commanding has a soft spot under his iron exterior and decides to camp for the next day to do some regimental training before going on with the work. Camp fire concerts and hot coffee - Oh! For a tot of rum - dispel the trials of the first few days. The Australian is laughing over his troubles and getting fit as fiddle-strings. The day's halt has saved the sore feet. What is on to-morrow?

The general officer commanding intends to hang on to his position. He has plenty of room to manoeuvre and a splendid place for the co-operation of all arms, especially in the counter-attack.

Orders are issued over-night and the necessary arrangements made for water, &c.; orders are given as to trains and ammunition columns; the medical arrangements for the care and evacuation of the sick and wounded are carefully thought out. The Intelligence Corps are watching events and gathering information. The brigade ammunition column is at work, and pack animals will be used in conveying ammunition from the regimental reserve. Signallers will open up communication by telephone, as well as Morse, code. The enemy will be represented by a flagged skeleton army, the arrangements having been made on the previous day. The co-operation of all arms in the defence will be practised, casualties will be marked and sent back. Any unreal situations will be stopped immediately. It must lx' more' or less a sealed pattern display to begin with. The general principles must be taught correctly at first. The enemy will be driven back, and after being pursued by the light horse, will be found to have fallen back on a strengthened position.

Another day's march and preparations made for the battle. Trains will be some miles in rear and the organization of supplies, ammunition, &c., must be complete. Ball ammunition is to be used. The engineers have prepared a system of targets, so that after each phase of the operation results may be checked and told to the troops.

The country has been selected to facilitate supporting and covering fire. Artillery will prepare the way. No perfunctory firing, however. Results must be checked and satisfactorily obtained before any advance is made by the infantry. Now real battle practices must obtain, but the country must be selected for the purpose.

Under the covering and supporting fire of their comrades the firing line advances, reserving its ammunition. Results must be checked again, and if the firing is not good enough to make the enemy "keep down their heads," the advance must not proceed. Try another battalion or two. There is plenty of time and we must not hurry.

The firing line is now within 600 yards of the objective and pressing forward. Superiority of fire must be obtained. The crisis of the training is at hand. The artillery at its own targets in rear of the enemy's trenches (for safety and instructional practices) will now be pouring in its fire over the heads of their comrades. Supporting fire by the infantry behind to assist the reinforcements to reach the firing line will, with the artillery, try the nerves of the firing line. Yet they know that no shots are being fired at them. They trust their fellows. Will the shooting be good? If not, what is the use of the training? Why spend money on an army?

As the time available for training is so limited, we must go as near to service conditions as possible. The eight days must be hard and in earnest. What does Field Service Regulations say in para. 106? "As the infantry advance to the decisive attack, every available gun will be concentrated against its objective, and artillery fire will be continued until it is impossible for the artillery to distinguish between their own and the enemy's infantry. The danger from shells bursting short is more than compensated for by the support afforded, if fire is maintained to the last moment."

The light horse are on the flanks, but it will not be possible with ball ammunition to teach the method of dealing with the enemy's counter-attack. Such matters can only be taught with blank ammunition.

The carrying of the position by assault, its strengthening when taken, and the preparation for local counter-attacks, form only a few of the many lessons to be learnt, and to the staff must be left these details.

A howl of derision may greet such proposals, but at present we are only playing soldiers. Where there are standing armies, men are used to being in masses and only feel safe in masses, and are so disciplined in drill that by orders only will they retire. As in Australia our time is limited, and the day of reckoning may come at any tune, it is essential that the troops shall feel their responsibilities to each other, recognize that they are trusting their lives to their fellows in training, and, when the training is over, the odd accident will only accentuate the supreme necessity for such training; the very risks taken will endear the arms to each other, and so will be inculcated in the hearts of our young soldiers the importance of their duties and the seeds of the responsibilities of nationhood.

The incentive for home training has entered the hearts of our soldiers. They smell blood. Notions have entered the heads of regimental and company commanders. The desire to participate in next year's exercises will stir up the recruits and make them eager to classify as good enough shots for their comrades to risk their lives with. The necessity for marching and care of arms and clothing will be born of experience, while the greatest pleasures we all have in life are on looking back over the risks we took, the hardships we successfully went through, and the thoughts of "what might have been." We have done something of which we are proud. We are doing our duty.


More lessons to be learnt yet. What has happened to the horses of the light horse regiments? One-third of those in some regiments are not fitted for the work, and have caved in under the load they have carried. Commanding officers are trying to emulate Ashby in front of Stonewall Jackson. They are right. The nation has made no provision, or the authorities have not been strict in seeing that every light horseman has a horse suitable for the work as provided for in the Regulations. Every horse fit for such work is worth from £25 to £44 per head, according to the State they are bred in. The exercises of the whole training are being hampered. Many men are losing valuable training. And the nation says, “Where will the expense cease?" Even if horses were not wanted for reconnaissance in Australia, distances are too great to do without them; nor can aeroplanes relentlessly pursue a defeated enemy. The lesson learnt here is that there are not enough suitable horses in Australia, or available in case of need, and Parliament has made no provision for the registration of, and paying for, only suitable horses. Light horse units will never be trained, and the time will never be long enough, until this matter of horseflesh is settled. Light horse cannot properly train for war in a standing camp; they must be exercised in doing certain independent work covering long distances before becoming efficient in their duties.


If an army is to be trained rapidly, it must be trained on the march. It is not necessary to march all the tune, but unless regiments and brigades are trained to move with their transport and the transport is efficient, much valuable time will be lost in preparing for war. Are not these the lessons history teaches us? We are trying to solve the problem of how to make the best use of our limited time. Money works wonders, bit does not train men. Yet, the money must be found for supplying the necessities for rapid training if the time of the people is limited for the work. The nation must be trained by experience in peace.


One does not want to read novels like "Between Two Thieves" to get an insight into the doings of army contractors during the Crimean War, and although it is hardly possible for history to repeat itself in such a diabolical way, yet the putrid and maggoty meat sent to some camps in Australia shows the necessity for the thorough training of the Army Service Corps in all its branches. Will dead meat be always available to an army? If not, why wait for war to practice the moving and slaughtering of meat when it can be done in peace? We must save time in training. Whatever system is adopted, it will cost money. We want rapid training to be ready for war. It is only a national insurance. Let us pay.

Will the bakers send their bread by rail daily in war time? One feels almost tempted to laugh at such thoughts. Hand in hand with the training of the soldier is the training of the nation. The training of the nation rapidly will be the best method of making the best use of the limited time available. All these details, with their organization and administration, form a great part of the problem to be solved.


Who can ever think of the medical services in the field without thinking of Florence Nightingale and her inauguration of the medical services in the Crimea when soldiers were dying by thousands of fever, etc.?

The training of the Army Medical Corps, above all arms, should receive the best the nation can give. Can it be done in a standing camp? No answer is needed. The officers know their professional duties, and, while there may be little to do in regard to the card of the sick, they should at least be practised in collecting and evacuating 5 per cent. of the force. Regimental medical Officers and their stretcher bearers will then have the actual practice in the field. The necessary orders for the collection of the wounded and the selection and indication of positions for dressing stations, &c., will give a practical training from the firing line to at least the clearing hospital that is absolutely necessary if the organization and administration are to be tested. Again, on the march and in the different bivouac sites, sanitation must be taught and all regulations strictly adhered to. In standing camps one gets used to a certain thing, but the daily routine on the march must also be taught to save trouble in war time.



To criticize one's own opinions is difficult. Yet it will be urged that our soldiers are not yet sufficiently trained to participate in such a training on the march has been here indicated that any semblance of danger must be prohibited, and that the cost of finding transport, &c., will be more than the nation can afford. The time for training, however, is very limited. It is the time that Parliament has ordained. No nation in the world has succeeded in training an army in such it short time. Discipline cannot be taught in short spasmodic jerks at long intervals. Without discipline the whole training is wasted. The training of the officer and the man should not be subordinated to administrative duties by the staff, and continual practice in the field under service conditions can be the only solution to the difficult problem given as a text.

Given, however, a much longer period of continuous recruit training, there the problem becomes easy to solve.

When one is imbued with the thoroughness of the Swiss military system of training its citizen militia force, which is based on universal compulsory service in peace as well as in war; when one knows that the Swiss nation has increased the time of the recruit period of continuous training from 45 to 65 days (80 for cavalry, with additional training in schools of from 30 days for non-commissioned officers, and 70 days for officers) followed by seven annual courses of eleven clear days' training; when one reads the following words of such a distinguished British officer as Lieut.-Colonel G. F. Ellison, CB., A.A.G. Army Headquarters, who saw the Swiss Army at work some years ago:-

"That it is perfect in all its details, or that it is the same highly finished instrument that the French or German Army is, I do not pretend to assert, but I do unhesitatingly affirm, and in this opinion I am supported by more competent judges than myself, that taken as a whole, it is, for war purposes, not unworthy to court comparison with the most scientifically organized and most highly trained armies of the Continent. In some respects it even surpasses all other armies in its readiness for war. and there is certainly no other country that I am aware of, a fourth of whose army is annually mobilized for manoeuvres on exactly the same scale of equipment and transport as it would be for actual warfare"; ["Swiss Military System." - Lieut.-Colonel GR Campbell]

when one knows that all the, staff and militia officers in Switzerland tried hard to get 70 days as the necessary limit for the successful training of a recruit; when one reads of the efforts of that great general and organizer, Lord Roberts, to establish a system of compulsory universal training for Great Britain, which includes a period of six months' training in the recruit year ; when one knows that under the best system of continuous training, outside the "crack" regiments of England, it took six months to train the Spectator experimental company of recruits thoroughly, and that the best instructors in the "crack" British regiments assert that they cannot train a recruit under three or four months, given the most favourable conditions; when, above all, we realize our own weaknesses, and then see before us such a Herculean task as has never been accomplished yet in the limited time we have made available, it makes one wonder whether the nation itself, through its Parliament, has grasped even a rudimentary knowledge of the first principles essential to the training of an army.

In conclusion, we may again ask, “Can the citizen forces be efficiently trained during the limited time available?”


Further Reading:

Western Australian Mounted Infantry 

10th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Training by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 13 December 2009 12:12 PM EAST

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