Military Drill From the Training Standpoint

James W. Barton June 1 1910

Military Drill From the Training Standpoint

James W. Barton June 1 1910

Military Drill From the Training Standpoint

James W. Barton

IN view of the fact that Lord Strathcona’s gift for military and physical training in Canada has occasioned considerable comment, it may not be inappropriate to approach the matter from the training standpoint.

Many thinkers are of the opinion that the training begets in the boy a love for militarism, for itself alone; that as he learns the marching, the rifle exercises, the skirmishing, and the other rudiments of the drill, there arises within him the desire to put these tactics into active practice. The uniform also, in the opinion of these gentlemen arouses in the boy the inherent warlike spirit of the human race.

Other thinkers believe, on the other hand, that even as the best boxers and wrestlers are the least offensive boys at a school, so those that take up military training are the least warlike in disposition. They believe that the very training and the knowledge of the fearful effect of the modern implements of war,—which knowledge is a part of the training — enable those

taking the training to appreciate the terrors of war more fully than others, and to endeavor to avert war if at all possible in honor.

Of these opinions and the arguments that could be adduced to support them I do not wish to speak, but it has occurred to me that perhaps the civilian and the militiaman have both overlooked the physical, mental and moral benefits of military drill. I do not wish to speak of the military life as a profession, but of the military drill as given to our boys in accordance with the gift of Lord Strathcona. In thinking over the matter it was but natural that I should be immediately struck by the similarity in the training obtained from military drill and that from athletics.

In a previous article I endeavored to show how athletics give development physically, mentally and morally, aside from the recreation enjoyed. In military drill from the physical standpoint, the results are most apparent. Those of us who have had the opportunity of seeing the transforma-

tion in the physiques of the cadets of the Royal Military College, have been simply amazed at the improvement. Of course, a physical qualification is essential for entrance there, but it is by no means a too rigorous one.

Almost the same results are obtainable at any school where the cadet drill is not neglected. The drill itself, the very position of attention, as now prescribed, gives the shoulders the proper ease and carriage that not only prevents round shoulders, but gives the heart and lungs the fullest possible opportunity to perform their work correctly. Then the marching itself, which is practically always “quick march,” while developing the leg muscles—a most important matter in stress of arms—is really performing a much more important and valuable service to the heart and lungs. This will take but a minute to prove.

Those of us engaged in the work of correcting deficient hearts and lungs will tell you that in building up these most important organs, we spend little time with the exercises involving the arms. In the arms we have a fairly large bulk of muscle, but it cannot be compared with the huge bulk of the legs. Therefore, when we use the legs, with the large number of heavy muscles involved, we call on the heart to send an increased amount of blood to the legs. In marching, therefore, the blood is not only called for in increased quantities, but in a most regular rhythmical manner—the most efficient means of strengthening the heart.

Similarly, when we ask the legs to work, we must send more oxygen down to the muscles of the legs, and take away from them the waste matter manufactured, that is the carbon dioxide. This can only be accomplished by the lungs which are the medium for exchange with the atmosphere. Therefore increased amounts of oxygen sent down and increased amounts of carbon dioxide thrown off from the system, mean increased efforts on the part of the mechanism

performing these functions, that is the lungs. Hence the position of the body ■n marching not only gives the lungs and heart free play, but the marching itself is one of the best means of developing these organs.

The above benefit, to my mind, is the most important from the physical standpoint, but actual all-round muscular development is secured by the handling of the rifle, not only in the various positions of slope arms, present arms, and so forth, but in the physical drill with arms, which is a part of the training.

However, it is the mental training chat is the most striking event on the slightest analysis. The movements involved when an order is given, must be understood on the instant by every boy or man in the ranks, and must be executed correctly. Any slight misunderstanding will throw out a file, a whole line, perhaps a whole company.

The correctness of detail here then is a mental training in itself. The left must be distinguished from the right, a turn from a wheel or confusion results. This correctness of detail becomes a very part of the soldier, not only during the training but during his lifetime. It is an education in itself to hear the trained soldier deliver a message when it is sent verbally. The whole detail, no more, no less, is given with an exactness that is most refreshing. It is absurd to say that a training of this kind is but temporary and that it is entirely lost when the training ceases.

Then the training embraced in the order is also that the execution of the movement or movements must be done promptly. Any slight delay in obeying the command leads to the same confusion, perhaps, as obeying the order incorrectly. What is more inspiring than, at the word of command, to see the whole line move as one man.

Aside from the carrying out of the commands correctly and promptly the very commands themselves not only

involve considerable study, but present problems worthy of any schoolroom. A company is marching along in company column and it becomes necessary for it to make a sudden detour to the right through a small opening. The proper command muse be given at the moment by the commander, and must be understood and carried out by every boy or man in the ranks on the instant.

This is the simplest form of the problem. The proper disposition of the company during attack or defence ; the throwing out of outposts; the planning of surprises, the protection against the same, the practice of skirmishing and the hundred and one other points make the training as intricate a problem mentally as that worked out in the class room.

It is understood generally that the. main purpose of college training is not to acquire the knowledge that can be gleaned in four years’ attendance, but to inculcate within the student the proper principles of applying the mind in the various directions of thought. I am no prophet, but I venture to say that within a few years military training will be an integral part of the college curriculum not alone for its physical benefits nor for patriotic reasons, but for the training mentally.

A training that involves considerable study for the detail itself with perplexing problems to deduce, together with a training that calls for quick comprehension and prompt execution is worthy of a place in any curriculum.

And such a mental training cannot but induce resourcefulness in the boy. A boy who is taught to think clearly and correctly and to think promptly will assuredly be of more value to himself and the community than had he not had the training. Picture any emergency requiring prompt thinking and prompt action. To meet this put two boys equally brave and strong, one with and one without military training; which of the two think you, will be of most service? Place these two boys in any business capacity where they stand equal in so far as equipment is concerned. Which will be the more resourceful and self reliant?

So much for the physical and mental training. Now it is an actual fact that military drill in our schools gives a training morally that is perhaps overlooked by its friends, as it is by its enemies.

At the very outset obedience is the keynote of the training. And such obedience! It is at once prompt, un-

questioning and unwavering. He who gives the command may be but another schoolmate, perhaps one that could be handled in a fight by a majority of the company. Such absolute obedience cannot but be beneficial to any boy, irrespective of parentage or social position. The strongest-minded, most intelligent boy can only be helped by learning to obey the commands of those in authority. And likewise the boy of less attainment is developing moral stamina by such obedience. I believe we are all agreed that it is helpful for everybody to learn the meaning of subordination to authority.

It strikes me that it is but a simple deduction to say that such knowledge makes for better citizenship, for greater respect for the rights and liberties of our fellow7 citizens.

And what of the boy who is disinclined to recognize authority, who is disobedient at home and a menace to discipline at school. Schoolmasters will bear me out when I say that the cadet corps or military training has revolutionized the discipline of their schools. That these boys, who would brook no authority, become tractable, obedient and respectful.

And just in this connection we meet another valuable result of the training, and that is the control of the temper and the tongue. Those of us who follow7 athletics know7 how much more valuable to a team is the boy or man who controls his temper. It means that he is not watched or “picked on” by the officials, he is not cordially disliked by his opponents, and just tolerated by his team mates. Fuither he spends his time on the field during the duration of play, rather than on the bench with the penalty timekeeper. And such control of temper and of the tongue is considered a valuable part of the training in athletics. As has been remarked elsewhere the controlling of the temper occurs perhaps a hundred times where it is lost but once.

And now7 consider military training form this standpoint. There is no answering back or loss of control of the tongue w7hen the command is given by a superior officer. There is no loss of temper if the superior officer fails to bring the company to the “stand at ease,” as soon, or as frequently, as the men in the ranks think he should. If there is the desire to lose control of temper and

tongue it is smothered or controlled, before it arises, even as in athletics. Is such self-restraint worth anything to a boy or is it not? I believe the question a fair one.

And finally, there is the same unselfishness about the military training as about athletics. Each boy is but a pawn as it were on the chess board. He must move this way and no other. He is but one of a number of bolts, or one of a great number of pieces of metal, helping to make perfect a single piece of mechanism. He must obey

while others command. He must carry the rifle while his chum carries a sword. He must walk while his next door neighbor may be entitled to ride. In obeying commands he realizes that he is but one of a number, and yet he is as good a boy mentally, physically and morally as those in command over him.

In conclusion then I think we are justified in our belief that military training is worthy of a place in the curriculum of school or college, for the all-round training obtained.