“Of course, gunner training was technical and easier to teach and learn than infantry tactics,” writes a modern historian, with not a little condescension. (1) A gunner who enlisted in the same battery as Percy, and on the same day, later made notes about his decision:
Calling the infantry by their slang name of “gravel-crushers” certainly implies that the mounted perspective of the artillery appealed more highly to him. The second point, the advantages of studying, may have been attractive because he was a medical student on enlistment. (2)
Writing at the end of the war, Andrew McNaughton opined that “our people took naturally to gunnery: our battery commanders, section officers, n.c.o’s and gunners developed extraordinary skill, efficiency and dependability, and if in support of our infantry there was ever a particularly difficult or dangerous task to be performed, a Canadian battery was called on to do it.” (3)
“Taking naturally” to something does not mean that the training is not arduous, only that the training has something to build on – a mechanical aptitude perhaps, or prior knowledge, like Percy’s civilian trade as a railway airbrake technician.
(1) Radley, Kenneth. We Lead, Others Follow. First Canadian Division 1914-1918. 2006. 257.
(2) Ives, Raymond Ellsworth. Memoir (manuscript). Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(3) McNaughton, A.G.L. “The Development of Artillery in the Great War.” Canadian Defence Quarterly. January 1929. 171