13 DECEMBER 1940, Page 16

Soldier Poachers It is not surprising that the bored soldiers,

billeted at an outlying farm or mansion in the heart of the country, should turn to poaching. But there are several sorts of poaching, and poaching with a fully loaded service rifle is something new. Even in the hands of a trained soldier a rifle does not cease to be the subject of accidents, and a gamekeeper friend tells me that when he recently captured two soldier- poachers roaming through thick woodland they had lightly forgotten that a rifle has a safety-catch. One gun promptly went off over his head. From a poultry-keeper comes a complaint of still another form of poaching. The loss of chickens and laying hens is, in these days, a serious thing, but the loss of pedigree cockerels, invaluable to the breeder but as tough as rubber to the eater, is something worse. It occurs to me that there is room for a little co-operation here: an occasional hour's rabbiting for the troops will hurt no one. And since Christmas, as every soldier knows too well, comes but once a year, it may be better to make a present of a fowl or two rather than have a dozen removed in a sack.