March 6th 1917

We have a mumps epidemic and thus have been obliged to have our Sunday services at School. We have therefore had Old Boys on leave preaching – or rather talking (the word preaching, except in the case of a minister of religion, has an annoying meaning).

This week Lieut.-Col Stuart Taylor (West Yorks), ‘Fluff,’ gave the boys a capital talk:

Stuart Taylor 2“You see, in the Parks, the Drill Sergeant drilling the soldiers. Perhaps you wonder why it is necessary to be so particular that the soldiers should turn their heads and eyes to the right on the words ‘eyes right,’ why they should spring smartly to attention at the word of command, or why they must stand absolutely still and steady in the ranks. Why is it?

Why shouldn’t 1,000,000 men each be given a rifle, taught how to fire it, and be sent out to kill Germans? Simply because they will have, in the course of their work, to face unusual situations, sudden dangers, where steadiness, coolness and level-headedness are necessary.

You cannot trust a man or boy’s instinct to prompt him to do the right thing. It will make him do the natural thing. The natural thing is to avoid danger, to run away from it. Instinct will prompt this. But habit, which is the child of discipline, will make a man or boy face the danger and act rightly in an emergency…

The soldier is taught to keep his buttons bright, his hair brushed and short, his clothes clean and smart, not because these things in themselves are of great importance, but because they all tend to make him punctual, clean, smart, cheerful and tidy in mind and body throughout his life.

A smart, well turned out, well-disciplined regiment always fights much better than a dirty, ill-disciplined one. There is no doubt whatever about that…

If a bomb dropped in the street and damaged some people, the natural inclination of a man or boy is to avoid the danger and ugliness of pain and suffering, but the habit of your training, to command yourself and your natural instinct, will teach you to go and succour those who are injured and prevent others coming into danger…

And the outward and visible sign of your habit, of your discipline, is the Dragon which you wear on your cap…

That Dragon represents to you and to all who know you and your famous badge, the desire and determination to live a helpful, kind, courageous and unselfish life; to be true not only to others, but to yourself’. There is nothing so sad as the man or boy who succeeds in deceiving himself. It is far worse than deceiving others, because before successfully deceiving one’s own self, all self-respect must have disappeared.

That Dragon of yours stands to you and me as a symbol of courage, truth, unselfishness and kindliness.

I have met men who wore that badge in all parts of the world, in the North West Frontier of India, Mauritius, South and West Africa, Malta, Crete, Egypt and during the present war, in France; and everyone who knows it, loves it and respects it.”

 

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