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3rd February 2005Rivalry In The British Forces 1879
By Coll
I think it is generally known what was thought of the NNC during the Zulu War 1879, but what did the british imperial forces make of the irregular troops, was there a good relationship between them ?.

I wondered because of the sort of 'harmless' rivalry between modern forces, for example, what the paras think of the marines, what the marines thought of the navy, what the navy thought of raf, etc., if this sort of thing existed in victorian times between Infantry, Artillery, Engineer and Cavalry troops ?.

These are 2 different questions but on the same sort of theme.

The irregulars being like the FLH, NC, NMP, etc.

3rd February 2005Paul Cubbin
Coll - nice to see you back mate. I suspect the attitudes were the same as they are today between regulars and the TA. Non regulars probably being regarded as 'playing soldier' and generally looked down on until such time as they proved otherwise, no matter how necessary they actually were. The fact that they were mostly mounted would only have added to this as the infantryman has usually regarded the horseman as looking pretty but being unable to perform a full day's soldiering. One can only imagine what the resident volunteers must have thought at a bunch of pale skinned recruits turning up on their doorstep, ordering them around (no matter how experienced or necessary the troops may have been)! The British regimental system breeds a wonderful sense of tribalism.
4th February 2005Coll

Thanks very much for your reply.

4th February 2005Michael Boyle

In Victorian times there needn't have been just inter-service rivalry.I recall a reference in Farwell's "Mr Kipling's Army" between two infantry regts. who would instantly come to blows in a pub when one ordered a round of "Broken Square".(Not at home right now or I would look it up) but if you haven't read the book yet do try to get it, it has some of the funniest Victorian Army anecdotes you'll find anywhere!(As well as many facets of the Victorian soldier's day to day life including the 'pecking order' and rivalries.)


4th February 2005Mike Snook

Welcome back.

An interesting area. There was massive friction at a political level in the 9th Frontier War between imperial and colonial authorities.
Frere even dismissed the first Cape PM Molteno over the conduct of the war with the Xhosa. (its a long story).

Inspector George Mansel of the NMP hated the regulars. Maori Browne on the other hand quite liked them. Most colonials thought highly of the 1/24 who were well travelled in SA, and were famously polite and sociable. The reinforcement battalions sent out after Jan 79 were generally regarded as a bit 'windy' as they say in the military. Nervous in other words.

Paul is quite right to say that throughout history, professionals have tende dto look down their nose at locally mustered forces. But much depends on whether the professionals are as good as they like to think they are. The wise man makes efforts to keep his forces on good terms and use each component for what it is best suited at.



4th February 2005Paul Cubbin
I remember in the first Gulf War how many TA medics were shocked at being actually called up on active duty in Saudi - no joke under the threat of scuds. The regs all half-jokingly grumbled about having to rely on STABS (Stupid TA B#st#rds) or SAS (Saturdays and Sundays) in war. They were mighty glad to see 'em in the hospitals, though.
Besides, the 'colonials' (and their horses) were necessary in many ways, not the least of which being their acclimatisation to local weather, conditions and diseases.
4th February 2005Peter Ewart
There are a number of incidents which suggest the AZW regular officers and/or Staff had their usual doubts about the irregulars and this presumably mirrors the disparaging views which regulars of any age or army would have had about irregulars, militia or part-timers. And inter-regimental or inter-service rivalry itself must go back to the year dot.

Lack of regard could be turned round, of course, when respect was won. The London Scottish won the respect of the regular army in 1914 at 1st Ypres when they plugged the gap at heavy cost.

Six months or so later the 5th (Cinque Ports) Bn of the Royal Sussex showed their mettle - albeit in hopeless circumstances - when going over the top at Aubers Ridge, and earned the admiration & respect of their comrades in the 2nd Bn, whose casualties on the same day (9th May 1915) were on a similar level to the territorials, about 200 each. Many East Sussex villages lost heavily on that day alone as a result of the local nature of the territorials but the battalion's historian (an eye-wtiness) recorded the acclamation accorded the "Terriers" by the Regulars soon afterwards:

"The 5th received high praise for their gallantry under fire and the soldierly way in which they marched out of action. When they met the 2nd Royal Sussex three days later, those hardy regulars greeted their Terriers with shouts of "Good Old Fifth!" - and that, perhaps, was the approval they valued most of all."

Col EAC Fazan: "Cinque Ports Battalion (1971).

4th February 2005Michael Boyle

I seem to recall that in Victorian times prior to commissioning, canidates had to test (unless first attending one of the service schools). Those who scored highest qualified for the engineers, next highest the artillery(or vice-versa?), next the infantry and lastly the cavalry. It would seem that 'food chain' approach was also reflected in the attitudes of some of the troops based on anecdotal evidence.

So far from my reading it would seem that during the AZW colonial mounted troops were held in some esteem but the European officers and NCOs of the NNC not so (for some very good reasons).However it would seem that Imperial staff officers at least held so little respect for colonial officers that on the morning of 22nd the colonial officers' reports of Isandhlwana were dismissed out of hand, much to the staff officers' later chagrin.

Of course those put-upon branches of all services have always found a way to cope. While in the U.S. Marine Corps I recall the unofficial motto of the motor transport companies was "We may not be the Pride, but without us the Pride don't ride!" Could't argue with that. (Even as we speak the motor transport companies of all the services involved in Iraq are writing proud new pages in their histories.)


4th February 2005Coll

Thankyou for your replies.

It really does seem that any sort of irregular troops have their work cut out trying to prove themselves to regular forces, sometimes I would imagine that meant making the ultimate sacrifice, showing their true commitment to the cause they fight for and how they can equal any full-time military men.

As for rivalry between different types of Imperial troops I guess even happens in some civilian environments, it seems humans have some kind of instinct to form their own 'group' and see everybody else as competition.

5th February 2005Paul Cubbin
Coll - humans are tribal, the regimental system merely harnesses this. We have an inbuilt instinct to form groups that define us and exclude others. This can be manifested in everyday life as groups based on ethnic background, age, religion, gender, geography, what team we support, hobbies, anything. Its bizarre how we can join with people in certain groups whom we would be excluded from in others. Its all down to circumstance. I'm currently looking forward to a great rugby match on Saturday evening - Wales vs England - and will be raining curses down on England with all my strength. Come the Lions tour this summer, the might of the British nations will be combined and all will be my heroes. Coincidentally, the New Zealand coaches - Graham Henry and Steve Hansen - were both my heroes as former Welsh coaches (and Steve was at my wedding) and now are the hated foe for later this year.

Compare this to the inter unit rivalry in the forces. 'A' Company will spit curses at 'B' Company in battalion exercises, but will be their staunch allies in inter-regimental competition. Those rival regiments will band together against the Navy and RAF in inter-service contests, who in turn will link seamlessly with the Army in action to form a united front.