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But A Company have got over that now. They have developed into sufficiently old soldiers to have acquired the correct military attitude towards manual labour. Trench-digging is a "fatigue," to be classed with, coal-carrying, floor-scrubbing, and other civilian pursuits. The word "fatigue" is a shibboleth with, the British private. Persuade him that a task is part of his duty as a soldier, and he will perform it with tolerable cheerfulness; but once allow him to regard that task as a "fatigue," and he will shirk it whenever possible, and regard himself as a deeply injured individual when called upon to undertake it. Our battalion has now reached a sufficient state of maturity to be constantly on the qui vive for cunningly disguised fatigues. The other day, when kilts were issued for the first time, Private Tosh, gloomily surveying his newly unveiled extremities, was heard to remark with a sigh--

"Anither fatigue! Knees tae wash, noo!"

Presently Captain Blaikie arrives upon the scene; the senior subaltern reports all present, and we tramp off through the mud to our training area.

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We are more or less in possession of our proper equipment now. That is to say, our wearing apparel and the appurtenances thereof are no longer held in position with string. The men have belts, pouches, and slings in which to carry their greatcoats. The greatcoats were the last to materialise. Since their arrival we have lost in decorative effect what we have gained in martial appearance. For a month or two each man wore over his uniform during wet weather--in other words, all day--a garment which the Army Ordnance Department described as--"Greatcoat, Civilian, one." An Old Testament writer would have termed it "a coat of many colours." A tailor would have said that it was a "superb vicuna raglan sack." You and I would have called it, quite simply, a reach-me-down. Anyhow, the combined effect was unique. As we plodded patiently along the road in our tarnished finery, with our eye-arresting checks and imitation velvet collars, caked with mud and wrinkled with rain, we looked like nothing so much on earth as a gang of weighers returning from an unsuccessful day at a suburban race-meeting.

But now the khaki-mills have ground out another million yards or so, and we have regulation greatcoats. Water-bottles, haversacks, mess-tins, and waterproof sheets have been slowly filtering into our possession; and whenever we "mobilise," which we do as a rule about once a fortnight--whether owing to invasion scares or as a test of efficiency we do not know--we fall in on our alarm-posts in something distinctly resembling 'the full "Christmas-tree" rig. Sam Browne belts have been wisely discarded by the officers in favour of web-equipment; and although Bobby Little's shoulders ache with the weight of his pack, he is comfortably conscious of two things--firstly, that even when separated from his baggage he can still subsist in fair comfort on what he carries upon his person; and secondly, that his "expectation of life," as the insurance offices say, has increased about a hundred per cent. now that the German sharpshooters will no longer be able to pick him out from his men.

Presently we approach the scene of our day's work, Area Number Fourteen. We are now far advanced in company training. The barrack square is a thing of the past. Commands are no longer preceded by cautions and explanations. A note on a whistle, followed by a brusque word or gesture, is sufficient to set us smartly on the move.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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