Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
Action Front Boyd Cable

Conscript Courage

Page 1 of 3

Table Of Contents: Action Front

Next Page

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

More Books

You must know plenty of people--if you yourself are not one of them--who hold out stoutly against any military compulsion or conscription in the belief that the "fetched" man can never be the equal in valor and fighting instinct of the volunteer, can only be a source of weakness in any platoon, company and regiment. This tale may throw a new light on that argument.

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

Gerald Bunthrop was not a conscript in the strict sense of the word, because when he enlisted no legal form of conscription existed in the United Kingdom; but he was, as many more have been, a moral conscript, a man utterly averse to any form of soldiering, much less fighting, very reluctantly driven into the Army by force of circumstance and pressure from without himself. Before the War the Army and its ways were to him a sealed book. Of war he had the haziest ideas compounded of novels he had read and dimly remembered and mental pictures in a confused jumble of Charles O'Malley dragoons on spirited charges, half-forgotten illustrations in the papers of pith-helmeted infantry in the Boer War, faint boyhood recollections of Magersfontein and the glumness of the "Black Week"--a much more realistic and vivid impression of Waterloo as described by Brigadier Gerard--and odd figures of black Soudanese, of Light Brigade troopers, of Peninsula red-coats, of Sepoys and bonneted Highlanders in the Mutiny period, and of Life Guard sentries at Whitehall, lines of fixed bayonets on City procession routes, and khaki-clad Terriers seen about railway stations and on bus-tops with incongruous rifles on Saturday afternoons. Actually, it is not correct to include these living figures in his vague idea of war. They had to him no connection with anything outside normal peaceful life, stirred his thoughts to war no more than seeing a gasbracket would wake him to imaginings of a coalmine or a pit explosion. His slight conceptions of war, then, were a mere matter of print and books and pictures, and the first months of this present war were exactly the same, no more and no less--newspaper paragraphs and photos and drawings in the weeklies hanging on the bookstalls. He read about the Retreat and the Advance, skimmed the prophets' forecasts, gulped the communiques with interest a good deal fainter than he read the accounts of the football matches or a boxing bout. He expected "our side" to win of course, and was quite patriotic; was in fact a "supporter" of the British Army in exactly the sense of being a "supporter" or "follower" of Tottenham Hotspurs or Kent County. Any thoughts that he might shoulder a rifle and fight Germans would at that time, if it had entered his head, have seemed just as ridiculous as a thought that he should play in the Final at the Crystal Palace or step into the ring to fight Carpentier. It took a long time to move him from this attitude of aloofness. Recruiting posters failed utterly to touch him. He looked at them, criticized them, even discussed their "goodness" or drawing power on recruits with complete detachment and without the vaguest idea that they were addressed to him. He bought Allies' flag-buttons, and subscribed with his fellow-employees to a Red Cross Fund, and joined them again in sending some sixpences to a newspaper Smokes Gift Fund; he always most scrupulously stood up and uncovered to "God Save the King," and clapped and encored vociferously any patriotic songs or sentiments from the stage. He thought he was doing his full duty as a loyal Briton, and even--this was when he promised a regular sixpence a week to the Smokes Fund--going perhaps a little beyond it. First hints and suggestions that he should enlist he treated as an excellent jest, and when at last they became too frequent and pointed for that, and began to come from complete strangers, he became justly indignant at such "impudence" and "interference," and began long explainings to people he knew, that he wasn't the one to be bullied into anything, that fighting wasn't "his line," that he "had no liking for soldiering," that he would have gone like a shot, but had his own good and adequate reasons for not doing so.

Page 1 of 3 Previous Chapter   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
Action Front
Boyd Cable

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2004