Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Soldiers And Soldiering

I read in some newspaper recently that research carried out during WWII found that armies divide into three parts. Part one consists of the people who do most of the fighting (and presumably like it), part two consists of the people who would run away if a chance presented itself and part three- the vast majority - consists of those who take their lead from the other two parts- who advance behind the fighters and run behind the cowards- and are basically there to make up numbers.

Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island* is the story of one of those in section three. He joins up in 1916 because it's expected of him, goes through the humiliation of basic training, is transported to France, sees men blown to bits and finds himself in the front line trench waiting to go over the top. Then comes a moment of clarity.

I stood up suddenly. "My God!" I said- quite inappropriately. "What am I doing here? I'm going home, out of all this cursed foolery. I've got serious things to see to."

My captain was a little shop-man sort of fellow, a temporary gentleman, as we used to call them, of about my age and type. He held a revolver in his hand without either menace or concealment. But he knew how to restrain me.

"It's foolery all right, old chap," he said, "but you'd better stick it now. The way home for all of us here, is over the top and east. You won't last a minute if you try going back out of this trench. It's just suicide for you."

"Well, take us over soon ," said I, and subsided.

The barrage begins, Mr Blettsworthy's troop advance across No Man's Land, he gets his leg smashed up and- having achieved absolutely nothing on the battlefield- returns to civilian life with a clear conscience.

Honour has been satisfied.

*H.G. Wells 1933
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