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VOLUNTEER OFFICERS' CLUB., Issue 7997, 28 August 1889
VOLUNTEER OFFICERS' CLUB.
»■ The objects of this club are to keep alive an interest in volunteering and to afford means of instruction for young volunteer o'licers. The club meet weekly to discuss volunteering matters, and once every month ; a member contributes a paper. The follo ' v - Ij . U a prtcU of a pivprr was read by Majo ■■ Calbd at the meeting he''-l 0 » Thursday o? U«t week : . Instead of selecting ton.e ?p. cial bran eh ol -,'olunteering a* the subject of to-night's Daper, I shall say a few woid* upon the ■ volunteer system generally. My remarks wi«' be in the nature of an attempt at a defence of the volunteer system, or rather a few reasons for its existence, coupled with some suggestions which I think might .with advantage be carried into effect;. Although the Government contribute something towards the maintenance of the volunteers, an,' the Press of the colony gives prominent ruction to all matters pertaining to: them it is undeniable that there is a dis- j position is a section of the public mind to look with amusement, if not ridicule, upon the entire movemenfc~-to regard it more in tfiK lieht of a useless encumbrance than anythin* else. This feeling may bo summed up in the expression not unfrequently heard *« VOLTIWIESMNG IS ONLY PLAYING AT SOUUBWKfS." V w« analyse this feeling we shall find, I tn.uk tha* the:e are two # reason* for v* oilain. loth* first place, it seems to me
that this feeling U largely borrowed from the Home Country, The public there have always before them a great standing army —the regulars—men whose sole business in life u to make soldiers of themselves; upon whom no expense ia spared ; and whose martial appearance and perfect appointments have rendered critical the public eye; an army, moreover, with splendid traditions from the past—traditions connected with, as the poet says, The plumed troops and the bip ware, That make ambition vittuo; The noishing steed and the thrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, the car-ptvroing fife, The Royal banner; and all quality, Pride, pomp, and clroiimstanoe ol glorious war. The British nation is justly proud of its army and the noble traditions it has won on many a hard fought field, and it is because the nation is so proud of its army that comparisons are made between the regulars and the volunteers not favorable to the latter. This* DISPOSITION TO LOOK DOWN ON THE VOLUNTEERS has been imported to the colonies. It is not, however, so strong, I think, as it used to be. On the whole, I believe that those of the public who now turn out to see m drill consist almost entirely of supporters of the movement, and that they take some pleasure, or at least interest, in witnessing our mamenvies, and that when mistakes are made these mistakes are not so much a cause of ridicule to them as of regret. The other reason why, in my opinion, the volunteers are not looked upon with that universal favor with which, I think, they ought to bo regarded, is because they are considered by many as unnecessary. They are regarded as AN EXPENSIVE TOY at best to be tolerated, and nothing more. "What is the use of the volunteers?" these people argue, "We have never had any wars here, and we are not going to have any." Some, indeed, are ungracious enough to add that if we had to engage in war the volunteers would not be of much use. THE NEED OF A DEFENCE FORCE. Well, as regards our immunity from war, we have only to remember that during the Russian scare of a few years ago, our then Government informed us that they had authentic information that, in the event of war being declared, a descent was to be made upon New Zealand. If that was threatened once, why not again? We cannot, it is plain, rely upon our distance from Europe as a safeguard from attack. Our only and sure safeguard is summed up in the words of Sir Julius Vogel in his late novel' Anno Domini 2000,' when he says "the best security to a country for immunity from war is always to be prepared for it." If that be so, and the expression seems to me to be so free from doubt as to be almost a truism, the colony is not pursuing a wrong policy in putting itself in a state of defence, The question then arises: Are the volunteers to be depended upon in an emergency ? As an answer to that I have only to point to the great American Civil War as an example of what can be achieved by citizen soldiers under the most trying circumstances. The armies that contended in that gigantic struggle were recruited from all walks in life, The professional man, the merchant, the ■ mechanic, the laborer, all fought side by side in defence of what they thought the right; and the courage displayed, the privations cheerfully endured, the military skill developed by men whose avocations up to that time had been ot entirely a different character, were beyond all praise. lam sure the volunteers of New Zealand—should the occasion unfortunately arise—would not be found wanting in the soldierly qualities which were so largely displayed by their American cousins. We have our volunteers—we have the courage and the capacity to rise with the occasion, inherent in the British race. The question for us to consider is : Do we make the most of our opportunities and the material in hand in the training of our volunteers ? Now, a3 I take it, the object to be achieved by such training is to fit the men to meet the euemy in actual combat. But in actual combat all mameuvres are done in the extended order of drill. What I mean is that the real fighting is done in the extended order. Now, it is only two or three times in the year that the men have the opportunity of learning this part of their drill—skirmishing, attack, and defence. HOW TO IMPROVE THE FORCE. I know the almost insuperable difficulties in the way of getting the men together for this work ; but when it is remembered that skill in this part of a soldier's business—the actual fighting part—is, when all's said and done, the be-all and end-all of a soldier's training, I throw out the hint whether some plan could not be devised by which more frequent drills of this kind could not be hrought about. Everything, wo know, requires practice in order that it may be done well. When men do things well they will like doing them. Now, one result of having these extended drills at rare intervals is that these drills, naturally enough, are done badly. That tends to discourage the men and to create in them a distaste for this portion of their training—a portion which, to be perfect in, is vitally necessary if they are to turn out good soldiers. The Easter encampments were very useful in giving opportunities for training of this kind. Three days, however, are" too short. The men are just getting to know what military duties mean—" to shake themselves down," as it were, to their duties—when camp is struck. The camp should last at least a week, A man's uniform, when he puts it on, at first feels strange to him; but after a time it feels no stranger to his back than his ordinary week-day coat. So a week of continuous, strict drill in all the duties of a soldier would tend, let us hope, to make a volunteer feel that he was something of a soldier—to feel, in fact, that it was only the proper thing if his uniform were always j upon his back. The regulations make it incumbent upon the cavalry to go into camp for a week every year. The effect of this regulation is that they have excellent gatherings. It has become a habit with them, and they think nothing of it. Why should there not be a similar regulation as regards the rifles? Should there be no Government encampment this next Easter, surely there is enough public spirit in the volunteers of Otago to have an encampment of their own. Such a spirit would prove to the public that we were in e a -nest in our work and anxious to improve ourselves. By that time it is to be hoped we shall have a properly organised rifle battalion. At present we have none. The reason for the existence of the volunteers, the sole ground upon which their maintenance can be justified, is that they are on the spot ready to fight an enemy should he present himself. Now, as we all know, the unit of an army before the enemy is a battalion. Yet here at present we have no organised battalion. VVe are not therefore in that state of preparation we should be, and which the means at our command would easily allow us to be. The ' Field Book' tells us that a company is always to be drilled as if it were a, portion of a battalion, and that the movements of a battalion should be performed with a constant view to those of a brigade; but we all know how much more strange we feel—officers and men—how much more out of our element 1 when drilling as a bridle than in purely I battalion movements, aud simply because we luve ]< Ma practice i-i brigade drill. For a similar rcASon-~rm'neiy, w;:i;t «f practice—- ; however much drill men may get In tt eom, RiPY. tlie battalion movements will always | 'ppear grange and complicated to them ' rrU:BB they i.*vp rm\^ r P ractice a 8 com ' ' poncnt parts of a battalion.'
VOLUNTEER OFFICERS' CLUB., Issue 7997, 28 August 1889
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