THE ARMY AND CITIZENSHIP
Sta,—The V.D. figures for the army, to which Lord. Moran drew atten- tion in his article last week, will, I fear, come as no surprise to those who remember the period of the so-called " phoney war in France in 1939-40. A senior R.A.M.C. officer once gave the official V.D. figures for that period in my hearing and, though I have now forgotten them, they were equally staggering—even to anyone...who already knew that things were far from well in this direction—and it should be remembered that the minimum age limit for overseas service at that time was 21. This prompts the thought that it is not by any means entirely a question of age but of training and background before a soldier proceeds overseas and, unfortunately, a large number of our soldiers who were drafted to France during that time appeared, anyhow, to have had singularly little of the former.
I am, myself, a firm believer in the Territorial Army as one of the finest possible teachers of citizenship. I served for some years after the Great War in a Lancashire territorial battalion and watched keen—though in many cases rough and ill-disciplined—youngsters slowly but surely turned into good soldiers and good citizens under the guidance of a strict, yet fatherly, sergeant-major, and officers who were themselves equally keen and who knew something of the lives and background of the yoting men they were commanding.
For the younger lads, at that time, there were also the various con- tingents of the Cadet Corps, and it has always seemed to• me that one of the national disasters of the years between the two wars was the all-too-successful attempts of our " pacifists " to stifle—even in its mildest form—the spirit of voluntary military training. We paid for it dearly in 1940 and we are paying for it dearly now in our armies of occupation.
Is it not possible that the alternative to the present tragic state of affairs lies in a real attempt at the revival of that spirit and the fullest
possible development of our Territorial Army and Cadet CorpS a training-ground for our present-day youth in both soldiering and citizen- ship? Conscription will, doubtless, be necessary for several years 'to come, but the maximum use of our Territorial units for the training 'of our conscripts could, surely, be made to go falong way to. fulfil Our present needs without, at the same time, reacting detrimentally on either our industries or. the careers of our young manhood. It, might then be possible to release a. sufficient number of our more mature and fully trained soldiers to complete the strength of units' required for occupation duties.—Yours, &c., J. P. BARDSLEY.
9 Berriedale Avenue, Hove, 3, Sussex.