13 AUGUST 1948, Page 15



Sta,—Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery is reported as having said at Bulford, "For some reason which is unknown to me, the response by the manhood of England to join the Territorial Army is not good." Towards the end of May he made a striking pronouncement about the training of the young men of the nation called up for "Colour Service." He was rightly emphatic that their training must be interesting, that it was more important to retain their interest than to ensure that a regular syllabus of training should be slavishly followed. The recent corre- spondence in your columns on "Conscript Service" should help the Field-Marshal to find the reason he seeks and should at the same time tell him that his grandly imaginative vision of what might and should be bears little or no relation to what is.

Many of those who keep in touch with the schoolboy-turned-soldier are only too frequently saddened to find there is neither interest nor apparently any regular syllabus of training in the Army today. At a time when the nation is crying out for constructive effort and can ill afford a year or more of conscript service it is chastening to think that the soldier's twelve or eighteen months' work could easily and profitably be condensed, as your correspondents have maintained, into three months' intensive training. Keen and intelligent boys of nineteen, who have gone successfully through the J.T.C., coming back to their schools, tell of wasted time, of prolonged boredom, of gettini their fill for a lifetime of what goes by the name of soldiering.

Within the last few weeks one such, scholarly, sensitive and sturdy, who had awaited the call-up eagerly, told me that in six months he had not done one day's real soldiering, that the first interesting job he had had was helping a groundsman to lay down a tennis court for the Command- ing Officer ; another such spoke of endlessly monotonous fatigues, . of which taking cloak-room and regimental cinema tickets was a fair sample. For great numbers of them it is one long "loaf," punctuated by over- much leave, until their day of "release." I speak, not of the more for- tunate ones chosen for training as officers or N.C.O.s, nor of the regular- commission cadets, but of the non-specialist common soldier. Little wonder that the Feild-Marshal finds, as everyone already knew, that the Territorial Army recruiting figures are shatteringly lamentable.

The moral and spiritual effect on the youth of the nation of a year's boredom at a time of their lives when all their faculties should be stretched to the full hardly bears thinking of. I can speak less surely of the other services, but I learn with fair certainty that the same state of affairs prevails both in the Navy and in the Air Force. It is being said that once the powers that be realised that they were going to have men for only a year instead of the promised eighteen months, they threw in their hands, decided that it was not worth trying to do anything with them and were no longer interested in their conscripts. If this is really so, let us, in the name of sanity, abandon the present sorry practice and cut down the time of training to three intensive months. I am all in favour of twelve months' hard, but this twelve months' soft is little

short of a disaster.—Yours faithfully, GEORGE A. RIDING.

Aldenham School., Elstree, Herts.