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Table Of Contents: The First Hundred Thousand

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Under this designation it is convenient to lump the whole heavenly host which at present orders our goings and shapes our ends. It includes--

[1] The War Office;

[2] The Treasury;

[3] The Army Ordnance Office;

(4) Our Divisional Office;

--and other more local and immediate homes of mystery.

The Olympus which controls the destinies of "K(1)" differs in many respects from the Olympus of antiquity, but its celestial inhabitants appear to have at least two points in common with the original body--namely, a childish delight in upsetting one another's arrangements, and an untimely sense of humour when dealing with mortals.

So far as our researches have gone, we have been able to classify Olympus, roughly, into three departments--

The outstanding feature of the Round Game Department is its craving for irrelevant information and its passion for detail. "Open your hearts to us," say the officials of the Department; "unburden your souls; keep nothing from us--and you will find us most accommodating. But stand on your dignity; decline to particularise; hold back one irrelevant detail--and it will go hard with you! Listen, and we will explain the rules of the game. Think of something you want immediately--say the command of a brigade, or a couple of washers for the lock of a machine-gun--and apply to us. The application must be made in writing, upon the Army Form provided for the purpose, and in triplicate. And--you must put in all the details you can possibly think of."

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For instance, in the case of the machine-gun washers--by the way, in applying for them, you must call them Gun, Machine, Light Vickers, Washers for lock of, two. That is the way we always talk at the Ordnance Office. An Ordnance officer refers to his wife's mother as Law, Mother-in-, one--you should state when the old washers were lost, and by whom; also why they were lost, and where they are now. Then write a short history of the machine-gun from which they were lost, giving date and place of birth, together with, a statement of the exact number of rounds which it has fired--a machine-gun fires about five hundred rounds a minute--adding the name and military record of the pack-animal which usually carries it. When you have filled up this document you forward it to the proper quarter and await results.

The game then proceeds on simple and automatic lines. If your application is referred back to you not more than five times, and if you get your washers within three months of the date of application, you are the winner. If you get something else instead--say an aeroplane, or a hundred wash-hand basins--it is a draw. But the chances are that you lose.

Consider. By the rules of the game, if Olympus can think of a single detail which has not been thought of by you--for instance, if you omit to mention that the lost washers were circular in shape and had holes through the middle--you are ipso facto disqualified, under Rule One. Rule Two, also, is liable to trip you up. Possibly you may have written the pack-mule's name in small block capitals, instead of ordinary italics underlined in red ink, or put the date in Roman figures instead of Arabic numerals. If you do this, your application is referred back to you, and you lose a life. And even if you survive Rules One and Two, Rule Three will probably get you in the end. Under its provision your application must be framed in such language and addressed in such a manner that it passes through every department and sub-department of Olympus before it reaches the right one. The rule has its origin in the principle which governs the passing of wine at well-regulated British dinner-tables. That is, if you wish to offer a glass of port to your neighbour on your right, you hand the decanter to the neighbour on your left, so that the original object of your hospitality receives it, probably empty, only after a complete circuit of the table. In the present instance, the gentleman upon your right is the President of the Washer Department, situated somewhere in the Army Ordnance Office, the remaining guests representing the other centres of Olympian activity. For every department your application misses, you lose a life, three lost lives amounting to disqualification.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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