According to Viscount Byng, “Training in peace-time is the most important part of soldiering. In war-time it is second only to operations, and operations can only be as good as the training is efficient.” (1)
Basic training taught the recruit what he needed to survive in the army: the skills he would need to employ and the fitness he would require to exercise those skills effectively. In addition, basic training inculcates the “group values of spirit, pride, loyalty to comrades, cohesion and obedience … and the security of learned routine and behaviour.” (2)
The Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, 1913, put it this way (3):
Some of it seems pointless to civilians, and was complained of by recruits as “bull.” However, precision exercised in kit layout is only a variation of the precision with which a heavy artillery piece is operated. The more automatic procedures become, the more efficient.
As a twenty-first century soldier writes, “All this builds towards making sure a soldier can slip into the perfectionist, obedient mentality required of anyone who has to sometimes perform mission-critical tasks as part of daily routine. … Soldiers must be trained to, without doubts or hesitation, follow set procedures without being tempted to alter or adapt them when not authorized.” (4)
Initiative — at least at this stage — is for officers.
(1) Quoted in Radley, Kenneth. We Lead, Others Follow: First Canadian Division 1914-1918. 2006. 247.
(2) Radley. 248
(3) Quotations from the Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, 1913 are both from page 9.
(3) Vexen Crabtree. This British writer, apparently a former soldier, posts on a number of issues, including military matters, under the general heading of “Forcing Humanity Forward.” His public affiliation with the “Church of Satan” certainly raises questions in a reader’s mind, but his observations do cast a light on military life.