Drill 2: Command

drill sergeant CTS crop

“Our dream for years to come” (2)


Under “Words of Command,” Infantry Training explains how the prescribed orders must be delivered.


  1. Every command must be distinctly pronounced and sufficiently loud to be heard by all concerned.
  2.  Every command that consists of one word must be preceded by a caution. The caution, or cautionary part of a command, must be given deliberately and distinctly ; the last or executive part, which, in general, should consist of only one word or syllable, must be given sharply. … A pause will invariably be made between the caution and the executive word.(1)


The delivery is diagrammed:

The manual insists that officers learn the correct words of command and practice their proper delivery:

Young officers and non-commissioned officers will be frequently practised in giving words of command. They should always … bear in mind the obligation of setting an example of soldierly smartness to those beneath them. Slovenly and indistinct words of command result in slackness and hesitation on the part of the men. (3)

Despite instruction and practice, individual — not to say idiosyncratic — variations were noticed by the men.

It was then, also, that we learned that ‘tion’ meant ‘A-Hun’ to Mr. Youell and ‘A-Hen’ to Mr. Crowe, and ‘Shun’ (shrill) to Mr. Cockburn, while Sergt.Major Purvis mystified everyone for a week or two with his rapid-fire of ‘Poof-town, Poof-town, Poof-towns’! ( … We could all say, ‘I didn’t know for a while what in H— he was trying to get through him.’) (4)

Nor do I have a clue — any suggestions?

The historians of the 43rd Battery would have appreciated the entry in the joke “Personal, etc.” notices in the Canadian Training School’s magazine:

FOUND, a lost VOICE. Enormous compass. Unintelligible, but sound. – Apply “WOW,” Drill Instructor.(5)

(1) Part 1: Section 4.1-2  Infantry Training. London 1905. 30
(2) Chevrons to Stars: The Official Organ of the Canadian Training School. Bexhill. [41]
(3) Part 1: Section 4.5 Infantry Training. London 1905. 30
(4) Kay, Hugh, George Magee and F.A.MacLennan. Battery Action! The Story of the 43rd Battery CFA. Toronto: [1919]. 18(5) “Personals, etc.” Chevrons to Stars: The Official Organ of the Canadian Training School. Bexhill. [62]

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”


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