30 JULY 1948, Page 16


Snt,—I may have been lucky with my postings while serving my conscript time in the army, but I enjoyed that time and regard it as an invaluable experience. I am convinced that a conscript's service in the army need not be wasted nor perversive—although at present it may well be so.

Army education can be worked successfully. At one R.A. unit with Which I served, the regimental " school" was well organised and bene- ficial ; it was run by a young second-lieutenant, backed by his colonel. Educational " parades " took precedence over all others, except in most special cases. It was sadly interesting to find that, on the strength of the regiment (700 officers, N.C.O.s and men), there were 300 semi- 'illiterates and two or three complete illiterates. I do not believe that, however much amatol is used, military training in peace-time can instil into a soldier the genuine " shoot-to-kill" spirit ; an exercise can at best be little more than an exhilarating " boy-scout " game (on a more strenuous scale). The object of peace-time training, from a military point of view, is to teach the basic essentials of such subjects as fieldcraft and weapon-training, and to make a civilian adaptable to army life and discipline. This last is the most important ; but it is as well to remember that it is not always the smartest unit which shows the most esprit de corps, keenness at games, laughs most, or has the truest form of discipline.

It is in the non-training hours that the young conscript runs off the rails, especially overseas, and fails to solve his problems of sex, drink, and, essentially, boredom. Sports, pastimes, Rover Scout groups, dances, entertainments, unit 'libraries and education are most often each under the control of a subaltern ; the soldier's personal problems come, if to anyone, first to the itibaltern. The responsibility of training and welfare, of the value or harm of a conscript's service, rests -full-square on the shoulders of the sergeant and the junior officer. If these ranks are ably filled throughout the army, conscript time need not be wasted time.—