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Quick Training for War

by Lt. Robert Baden-Powell

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I love primary sources. I know there's a place for the pre-digested historical summaries that come from universities, but for me there is nothing quite as good as a book or diary that comes from the very era that is being studied. So consequently it should come as not surprise that I very much enjoyed QUICK TRAINING FOR WAR.

Baden-Powell published QUICK TRAINING FOR WAR when WWI broke out, and he meant the book to be used by new officers. Thus he writes then about esprit de corp, and about the FOUR C'S. The latter being Courage, Common Sense, Cunning, and Cheerfulness. In addition he discusses more technical approaches to war, including but not limited to, Trenching and Sand bag Defenses, and cavalry training.

When it comes to the leadership sections, I particularly enjoyed the stories he used to illustrate his examples. I don't know if he made them up, but we can assume that they were included because he felt there was truth in them.

I remember an officer who was a bit of a martinet, who, by his cursing and punishing the men, had roused amongst them a thorough hatred of himself; but he was plucky, there was not doubt whatever of that. One morning when ordered on an expedition with his force, he formed the men up and said, "I know you hate me, and you mean to shoot me in the back at the first opportunity. All I can advise you is not to do so just yet. We have a got a rough time before us to-day, and it wants a bold push. If you stick to me I'll take you through. You can shoot me as much as you like afterwards."

In addition, there are juicy little bits that he shares with us. They express common sentiment in a way that an academic's summary probably couldn't do justice to:

No one will deny that in drill and drill-book lore the German is far ahead of the Belgian; yet the elan and intelligence of the latter render him an equally good soldier.

As for the technical areas of the book, they aren't overly drawn out. I found the bits about trench construction oddly engaging. Considering what is coming in France it's at once interesting and horrifying.

And because I'm not a student of WWI, I was excessively delighted to learn about things like cholera belts. Cholera Belts are an entirely ridiculous thing, by the way. A bit a silk or flannel meant to keep the humid damp away from the body's mid-region. It was supposed to keep the wearer healthy. As if cholera could be defeated by a reduction of humidity.

*****
QUICK TRAINING FOR WAR is an enjoyable read that is not taxing in length. There are all sorts of things to learn. The author shares his discussions with the German Emperor and quotes Ulysses S. Grant and Nogi. There are diagrams that explain techniques and strategies. And there are good stories.

(read as ebook. review copy) ( )
  PamFamilyLibrary | Apr 23, 2014 |
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