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The Amateur Army   By: (1890-1963)

Book cover

First Page:

THE AMATEUR ARMY

BY PATRICK MACGILL

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

CHILDREN OF THE DEAD END

THE RAT PIT

[Illustration: RIFLEMAN PATRICK MACGILL]

HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED ARUNDEL PLACE HAYMARKET LONDON S.W. MCMXV

Wyman & Sons Ltd., Printers, London and Reading.

PREFACE

I am one of the million or more male residents of the United Kingdom, who a year ago had no special yearning towards military life, but who joined the army after war was declared. At Chelsea I found myself a unit of the 2nd London Irish Battalion, afterwards I was drilled into shape at the White City and training was concluded at St. Albans, where I was drafted into the 1st Battalion. In my spare time I wrote several articles dealing with the life of the soldier from the stage of raw "rooky" to that of finished fighter. These I now publish in book form, and trust that they may interest men who have joined the colours or who intend to take up the profession of arms and become members of the great brotherhood of fighters.

PATRICK MACGILL.

"The London Irish," British Expeditionary Force, March 25th , 1915.

CONTENTS

PAGE CHAPTER I

I ENLIST AND AM BILLETED 13

CHAPTER II

RATIONS AND SICK PARADE 23

CHAPTER III

PICKETS AND SPECIAL LEAVE 36

CHAPTER IV

OFFICERS AND RIFLES 48

CHAPTER V

THE COFFEE SHOP AND WANKIN 60

CHAPTER VI

THE NIGHT SIDE OF SOLDIERING 71

CHAPTER VII

DIVISIONAL EXERCISE AND MIMIC WARFARE 85

CHAPTER VIII

THE GENERAL INSPECTION AND THE EVERLASTING WAITING 99

CHAPTER IX

READY TO GO THE BATTALION MOVES 111

CHAPTER I

I ENLIST AND AM BILLETED

What the psychological processes were that led to my enlisting in "Kitchener's Army" need not be inquired into. Few men could explain why they enlisted, and if they attempted they might only prove that they had done as a politician said the electorate does, the right thing from the wrong motive. There is a story told of an incident that occurred in Flanders, which shows clearly the view held in certain quarters. The Honourable Artillery Company were relieving some regulars in the trenches when the following dialogue ensued between a typical Tommy Atkins and an H.A.C. private:

T.A.: "Oo are you?"

H.A.C.: "We're the H.A.C."

T.A.: "Gentlemen, ain't yer?"

H.A.C.: "Oh well, in a way I suppose "

T.A.: "'Ow many are there of yer?"

H.A.C.: "About eight hundred."

T.A.: "An' they say yer volunteered!"

H.A.C.: "Yes, we did."

T.A.: (With conviction as he gathers together his kit). "Blimey, yer must be mad!"

For curiosity's sake I asked some of my mates to give me their reasons for enlisting. One particular friend of mine, a good humoured Cockney, grinned sheepishly as he replied confidentially, "Well, matey, I done it to get away from my old gal's jore now you've got it!" Another recruit, a pale, intelligent youth, who knew Nietzsche by heart, glanced at me coldly as he answered, "I enlisted because I am an Englishman." Other replies were equally unilluminating and I desisted, remembering that the Germans despise us because we are devoid of military enthusiasm.

The step once taken, however, we all set to work to discover how we might become soldiers with a minimum of exertion and inconvenience to ourselves. During the process I learned many things, among others that I was a unit in the most democratic army in history; where Oxford undergraduate and farm labourer, Cockney and peer's son lost their identity and their caste in a vast war machine. I learned that Tommy Atkins, no matter from what class he is recruited, is immortal, and that we British are one of the most military nations in the world... Continue reading book >>




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