The Value of Systematic Instruction in Tactics for all Ranks of the Army

C. B. Brackenbury
1877 Royal United Services Institution Journal  
General, Superintending Officer of Garrison Instruction. WITHIN the past few d a p there 1 1 s been raised in this Institution the old question of invasion of England, and Fe have been told that the forces qf the country are not nearly sufficient for the task of defence. Even the talented author of a paper evidently designed to crcatc ,alarm, after deducting erery man ~h o could possibly be supposed to be iuefficient, admitted that 341,000 men could be placed under arms in the United Kingdom,
more » ... e United Kingdom, of whom 150,000 would be available for B field army, and 104,000 for a coast army, still leaving sufficient troops for garrisons. I n spite of these formidable numbers. and the extraordinary resources possessed by this country in the shape of railmqs, steamers, and magnificent roads for concentrating them, the cry is put forth for more men. Now, I think, that the tax-payers-and Ke arc all tax-paj-ers-may fairly turn round, and say, " Before we consent " to pay for more men, we sliould like to be sure that those already " provided are made tlio most of. Each English Officer and soldier " should be tixined as highly as possible before more ran-material is I' demanded." The work of the soldier is becoming more and more a skilled labour; and it seems to me that, if 341,000 men cannot defend this small island against any force likely to be landed on its shores in our time, there must be something amiss with the 341,000, and no addition to their numbers Kould insure success. No one on earth, I beliere, certainly no one in this room, will pretend that the flesh and blood of our English forces are inferior to that of France or GermanF, or any other nation. Snrely the Criimcan War and the Indian 3 h t i n F ham proved lately enough that the courage and endnrancc of Englishmen are as good and true as they w e r n-ere. Doubtless our arms and cquipments are equal to thosc of any foreign Downloaded by [Monash University Library] at 04:44 07 January 2015 TEE VAILUE OF SYSTEYATIC INSTRUCTTOX, ETC. 161 power ; and, for my part, I am not-afraid of the results eccn should inrasion take place. But, on the other hand, there are weak joints inharness which, though not such as to cause alarm, should none the less bc strengthened, especially 8s the strengthening would cost nothing to the country. One of the first requisites for nn army in tllcsc days is thorough acquaintance with the art of attacking an enemy, or defending itself with real skill SO as to make the most oft =limbers, whethcr large or small, and of all, circumstanccs that: m y &e. This art, which is called tactics, is assiduously practised in by foreign mmics, and-such practice is regardcd' by them as essential to succcss in war. How does tlie doctor, the lawyer, or the engineer grow in skill every day? By perpetually contending apinst the enemy he has to overcome; not by .resting sntisfied with his early studies. The doctor nmstles perpetually with disease and death; the 1 a n -p v i t h his equal on the other side; the en@ necr with the forces of nature. So must the soldier-be. constantly striving v i t h the nearest representation he can get at of the enemy ho will some day mcct in a trial of skill, when the stake will bc his life, the life of his mcn,and the honour of his country's arms. During the campaign in, 1870, T once nsked Prince Frederick Charles to 'wlmt special superiority he attributed the invariable success of his troops, which mere then figliting against an enemy very superior in numbers ?* He said, " The French fight bravely, and th'ey are well atmed; they do " well as long as their elaborate orders can be carried out exactly as. " giren, but tho moment any cariation in the conditions takes place,. " they do not know what to do ; whereas, I am quite certain that the-" shortest order giwn by me, or one of my Generals, will be carried. " out skilfully on ri@t principles, and that each officer down to tlic " last subaltern, or eren sergeant or corporal, understands how to act " on cmergency." I had frequent opportunities of seeing how trua were these mords. For instance, there came a time when Paris had nearly arrived at the end of its provisions, when t h e effozts of Gam-. betta had placed large armies on t h e Loire, far outnumbering the. forccs of Prince Frederick Charles, and a desperate attempt was to bc. made to relieve the belengured city. The Prince broke up from Orleans. and advanced a p i n s t Chnnzy's Army, through a country extremely like Surrey and Hampshire. There were rolling hills, with streams running through the valleys, large pine woods interspersed with heaths and walled farms. During thc six days' fighting which preceded the capture of Le Xans, and thc entire defeat of Chanzy's Army, there was not a single pitched bnttle whore the armies were drawn up on open ground. A11 day long a series of small fights were occurring along the whole front of the army. It mas impossible for n General to do what is called " handling " a division, or even a brigade. He could bring his force into collision with the enemy under the most facourablo conditions, and then the responsibility descended to leaders of battalions, batteries, compznies, or small dehchments. Villages and detached houscs had to be both attacked and defended; an$ I had many opportunities of seeing how aften the skill and knowledge of subalterns and sergeants were put to the' test, aud never found want-VOL. XXI. Y
doi:10.1080/03071847709417097 fatcat:v6evwbjyynfsvkvcx3npjrofse