Robert Graves, poet, novelist, mythologist, was a survivor of World War I — though The Times of London published a notice that he had died of wounds, an obituary Graves himself read. (1) A decade after war’s end, he published a memoir of his war-time experience as an officer. Among other topics, he wrote of drill:
“We [Graves and his his fellow-officers] all agreed on the value of value of arms-drill as a factor in morale. ‘Arms-drill as it should be done,’ someone said, ‘is beautiful, especially when the company feels itself as a single being and each movement is not a movement of every man together, but a single movement of one large creature. (1)
“We often theorized in the mess about drill. We knew that the best drill never came from being bawled at by a sergeant-major, that there must be perfect respect between the man who gives the order and the men that carry it through. The test of drill came, I said, when the officer gave an incorrect word of command. If the company could carry through the order intended without hesitation, or, suppose the order happened to be impossible, could stand absolutely still or continue marching without any disorder in the ranks, that was good drill.” (1)
(1) Tim Kendall. “Robert Graves.” Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology. 2013. 192.
(2) Robert Graves. Good-bye to All That. (1929). NY: 1980. 187