Training: Duties

Duties of a soldier BL

Thus a British recruit took notes during his training lectures in 1914.(1) The fact that the lecturer can’t seem to count implies that this rather abstract notion of duty, pertaining to the moral sphere, was paid only lip service before more practical lessons began. What follows immediately on this page, in fact, is a note about whom an officer salutes, although such military etiquette might come under the heading of obedience.

As noted yesterday, Training and Manoeuvres Regulations mentions the moral as well as the mental and physical qualities of the soldiers whose training it governs, but its definition of duties is certainly practical:

The men should be taught … all the individual duties that they might be called upon to perform in the field, including practice in finding their way about the country by themselves in the dark. Specialists, such as scouts, signallers, range-finders, gun-layers, etc., should receive instruction in their special duties, and provision should be made for training extra men to take the place of specialists likely to become casualties.” (2)

Artillerymen like Percy at the lowest rank – Gunner, the equivalent of Private in the Infantry – were not specialists, but they had to understand their part in signalling, range-finding, and gun-laying.

More basic to their work was tending to the horses and to the guns. The care and management of horses was a major matter: they were essential to pull the guns, and had to be managed in six-horse teams with three drivers – the lead, the centre, and the wheel. Horses needed to be fed and watered – and at the end of a long day, that took precedence over the men’s refreshment. Horses needed to be groomed and shod. They wore harness and saddles and bits and bridles, with plenty of leather for cleaning and buckles for polishing.

The guns required cleaning, maintenance, a ready supply of ammunition, moving into and out of position as well as loading, aiming and firing. Each individual had a particular role, but had to be able to take over another’s function if necessary.

And it would be necessary.

(1) From Garvin Papers. Military diary of R. G. Garvin; 1914-1915. British Library.
(2) Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, 1913. 63-64
(3) Image from Library & Archives Canada. Photo, MIKAN 3405482

Copyright 2016. See “About this project.”



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