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14th April 2005Do your duty or else ! - Obeying orders in a battle
By Coll
I don't know if films or drama-documentaries are much to go on, but a couple of times in certain scenes, where a soldier will not move out of a trench towards the enemy, or situations like that, an officer/NCO orders them at the point of a gun.

In any time, especially the AZW, would an officer or NCO, in a combat situation, be within his rights to threaten a soldier in this manner, when the facility to actually arrest him is not available, and if so, would the officer be duty-bound to shoot ?

I personally don't think so, but I'm not sure how many, if any, incidents like this have ever happened in real battles.

15th April 2005Paul Cubbin
Coll - I can see that you and me have the same passion, mate. We love to chew the fat without a great deal of 'researched' facts.

The British have an odd personality flaw. We hate to cause a scene. There have always been (and, as long as war continues, always will be) cases where soldiers have been rendered inactive by sheer terror. It happens, and until we all face it we cannot have the slightest idea how we'll react, no matter how well we hope we will bear up to the stress of combat. I'll bet everyone has had a moment of conflict or confrontation where we have frozen and afterwards thought 'God, if only I'd done or said this.' We're human, it happens.
The thing is, in everyday life, whether it be a rude person at the bus stop, an abusive parent at the supermarket, someone butting in a queue at the post office, it really doesn't matter. Our dislike of aggresive situations leads us to avoid them and that's fine. Civilians don't need to fight, and to do so is often a breach of the law. Depending on our personality type we either carry on and dismiss it or react differently next time. It is one of the things that defines civilisation.
The problem is, in a combat situation, during wartime, to freeze is to kill your mates. Simple. Have British soldiers been killed by NCO's or officers for cowardice in comat? Yes.
Do people hear about it? No, not really.
Do you remember Tumbledown in the Falklands? There was a controversy about it where a British officer was seriously wounded and failed to receive the expected support from the government afterwards. The thing is, some of the men present say that the officer (whose name I forget) was shot by his own men because he had gone berserk. Imagine how may reporters there are vs how many soldiers. A lot is never reported, and long may it continue. War is brutal, to think otherwise is to delude oneself.
Luckily, as I say, we British are (massively generalising) different from other races. Say what you like, be politically correct if you must, but we are different. I'm not saying better, just different, especially within the forces.
Duty, and loyalty to the regiment and to your mates, are very, very, powerful impulses and have a tendency to drag a soldier through the most difficult situation. British Army training contains a lot of seemingly pointless drill designed to instill obediance before thought. There will always be those who react in opposition to training, though. To eliminate this factor would be to eliminate humans from the equation. But 'acceptable losses', grotesque though the phrase may be, are part of warfare and how it is waged.
Think of it this way, in Soviet forces during WW2, military leaders were executed or jailed and the command was taken by incompetent political officers who murdered whole units for cowardice rather than admit their own ineptitude. Tens of thousands of Russians were killed by their own side because of failure. Now that's what I call a workman blaming his tools rather than his work.
15th April 2005Coll

Thanks for your detailed reply.

Yes, I agree with you about having a chat about issues of military interest, even with lack of specific details or research.

It is great when you can ask a particular question, on a subject you do know quite a bit of information about, with the view of obtaining an answer and no more.

But, if that were to happen too often, it would just be question and answer all the time, instead of actual discussions about all aspects of the AZW and other military-related matters.

It involves more people too, who may not have the best knowledge of any military subjects, but will themselves have ideas and opinions that they would like to get feedback from, whether from documentaries, films, books, etc., obviously AZW-related, or linked in some way to this campaign.

It can be a bit of a challenge to try and keep up with those 'wise in the knowledge' with military history, as I am struggling all the time, but that is the whole idea of having discussions, some of the time these conversations cover a variety of issues, letting us all obtain that bit of extra knowledge, which can't be a bad thing.

15th April 2005Coll
Although I'm not going to activate the ammunition question again, and this might have been covered before, but Quartermasters were armed with revolvers and I wondered if panic (had) set in with soldiers trying to get ammunition from boxes, without the Quartermaster's consent, in the battle at Isandlwana, would he attempt to control the situation by drawing his pistol, or could this have worsened matters ?

On the subject of arming yourself to control a situation, I was surprised that officers on board the Titanic may have actually did just that, when, in the last stages of lowering the lifeboats, panic set in amongst the passengers. Shot, drown or freeze in the ice-cold water - what lousy choices.