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The Daily Grind

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Table Of Contents: The First Hundred Thousand

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At a quarter to nine the battalion parades for a route-march. This, strange as it may appear, is a comparative rest. Once you have got your company safely decanted from column of platoons into column of route, your labours are at an end. All you have to do is to march; and that is no great hardship when you are as hard as nails, as we are fast becoming. On the march the mental gymnastics involved by the formation of an advanced guard or the disposition of a piquet line are removed to a safe distance. There is no need to wonder guiltily whether you have sent out a connecting-file between the vanguard and the main-guard, or if you remembered to instruct your sentry groups as to the position of the enemy and the extent of their own front.

Second Lieutenant Little heaves a contented sigh, and steps out manfully along the dusty road. Behind him tramp his men. We have no pipers as yet, but melody is supplied by "Tipperary," sung in ragged chorus, varied by martial interludes upon the mouth-organ. Despise not the mouth-organ. Ours has been a constant boon. It has kept sixty men in step for miles on end.

Fortunately the weather is glorious. Day after day, after a sharp and frosty dawn, the sun swings up into a cloudless sky; and the hundred thousand troops that swarm like ants upon, the undulating plains of Hampshire can march, sit, lie, or sleep on hard, sun-baked earth. A wet autumn would have thrown our training back months. The men, as yet, possess nothing but the fatigue uniforms they stand up in, so it is imperative to keep them dry.

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Tramp, tramp, tramp. "Tipperary" has died away. The owner of the mouth-organ is temporarily deflated. Here is an opportunity for individual enterprise. It is soon seized. A husky soloist breaks into one of the deathless ditties of the new Scottish Laureate; his comrades take up the air with ready response; and presently we are all swinging along to the strains of "I Love a Lassie,"--"Roaming in the Gloaming" and "It's Just Like Being at Hame" being rendered as encores.

Then presently come snatches of a humorously amorous nature--"Hallo, Hallo, Who's Your Lady Friend?"; "You're my Baby"; and the ungrammatical "Who Were You With Last Night?" Another great favourite is an involved composition which always appears to begin in the middle. It deals severely with the precocity of a youthful lover who has been detected wooing his lady in the Park. Each verse ends, with enormous gusto--

"Hold your haand oot, you naughty boy!"

Tramp, tramp, tramp. Now we are passing through a village. The inhabitants line the pavement and smile cheerfully upon us--they are always kindly disposed toward "Scotchies"--but the united gaze of the rank and file wanders instinctively from the pavement towards upper windows and kitchen entrances, where the domestic staff may be discerned, bunched together and giggling. Now we are out on the road again, silent and dusty. Suddenly, far in the rear, a voice of singular sweetness strikes up "The Banks of Loch Lomond." Man after man joins in, until the swelling chorus runs from end to end of the long column. Half the battalion hail from the Loch Lomond district, and of the rest there is hardly a man who has not indulged, during some Trades' Holiday or other, in "a pleesure trup" upon its historic but inexpensive waters.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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