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"Bring in Private Dunshie, Sergeant-Major," says the Company Commander.

The Sergeant-Major throws open the door, and barks--"Private Dunshie's escort!"

The order is repeated fortissimo by some one outside. There is a clatter of ammunition boots getting into step, and a solemn procession of four files into the room. The leader thereof is a stumpy but enormously important-looking private. He is the escort. Number two is the prisoner. Numbers three and four are the accuser--counsel for the Crown, as it were--and a witness. The procession reaches the table at which the Captain is sitting. Beside him is a young officer, one Bobby Little, who is present for "instructional" purposes.

"Mark time!" commands the Sergeant-Major. "Halt! Right turn!"

This evolution brings the accused face to face with his judge. He has been deprived of his cap, and of everything else "which may be employed as, or contain, a missile." (They think of everything in the King's Regulations.)

"What is this man's crime, Sergeant-Major?" inquires the Captain.

"On this sheet, sir," replies the Sergeant-Major....

By a "crime" the ordinary civilian means something worth recording in a special edition of the evening papers--something with a meat-chopper in it. Others, more catholic in their views, will tell you that it is a crime to inflict corporal punishment on any human being; or to permit performing animals to appear upon the stage; or to subsist upon any food but nuts. Others, of still finer clay, will classify such things as Futurism, The Tango, Dickeys, and the Albert Memorial as crimes. The point to note is, that in the eyes of all these persons each of these things is a sin of the worst possible degree. That being so, they designate it a "crime." It is the strongest term they can employ.

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But in the Army, "crime" is capable of infinite shades of intensity. It simply means "misdemeanour," and may range from being unshaven on parade, or making a frivolous complaint about the potatoes at dinner, to irrevocably perforating your rival in love with a bayonet. So let party politicians, when they discourse vaguely to their constituents about "the prevalence of crime in the Army under the present effete and undemocratic system," walk warily.

Every private in the Army possesses what is called a conduct-sheet, and upon this his crimes are recorded. To be precise, he has two such sheets. One is called his Company sheet, and the other his Regimental sheet. His Company sheet contains a record of every misdeed for which he has been brought before his Company Commander. His Regimental sheet is a more select document, and contains only the more noteworthy of his achievements--crimes so interesting that they have to be communicated to the Commanding Officer.

However, this morning we are concerned only with Company conduct-sheets. It is 7.30 A.M., and the Company Commander is sitting in judgment, with a little pile of yellow Army forms before him. He picks up the first of these, and reads--

"Private Dunshie. While on active service, refusing to obey an order. Lance-Corporal Ness!"

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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