Thursday, 10 September 2020

Advice to the Officers of the British Army

 Speaking of drumming yesterday reminded me that the book 'Advice to the Officers of the British Army', which I believe that I quoted from at the beginning of the recent troubles, is subtitled 'with the addition of some hints to the drummer and private soldier'. I'm not sure how well known the book is, and I'm pretty sure that it's currently out of print. My own copy is dated 1946 and that may well be the last time it was issued.

The book was originally published anonymously, but is generally accepted to have been by Francis Grose, a noted eighteenth century antiquarian. He may have decided to withhold his identity because whilst a militia officer (he had previously served as a regular in both the 19th foot and the 10th dragoons) he was entrusted with the funds from the officers mess and apparently managed to mislay much of it. The book is a satire ('1066 And All That' is as good a reference point as I can think of, although Grose's book isn't as funny as Yeatman and Sellar's) and may have been written in response to the debacle (from a British perspective) of the American Revolution.

The shortish book isn't relevant solely to the British army of that period, or even just to the military. A great deal of it has a sort of universal applicability.  Indeed, while we are speaking of shambles being carried on by the British government, this is included in his chapter addressed to the commanding officer:

"As you probably did not rise to your present distinguished rank by your own merit, it cannot reasonably be expected that you should promote others on that score. Above all, be careful never to promote an intelligent officer; a brave, chuckle-headed fellow will do full as well to execute your orders. An officer that has an iota of knowledge above the common run, you must consider as your personal enemy; for you may be sure he laughs at you and your manoeuvres.

A principal part of your duty is to see justice distributed amongst your troops. Military law being so summary and concise, you will not find this a difficult matter: but if, simple as it is, you should be entirely unacquainted with it, you may substitute your own goodwill and pleasure - and that, in fact, must be justice."

No comments:

Post a Comment