20 AUGUST 1948, Page 15



Sta,—Mr. Riding's letter may cause unnecessary and unjustifiable anxiety ; in the army, as in the life of any community and today in the home, there are menial tasks to be done, and these must be shared by "keen and intelligent boys of nineteen, who have gone successfully through the J.T.C." "Taking cloak-room and regimental cinema tickets" is such a task, but a necessary one, in providing for the recreation of the regiment ; but to the young soldier who thinks mainly of himself, with little thought of what he can contribute to his unit, such a task is a "monstrous fatigue."

The War Office has set an example, which the Admiralty and Air Minis- try might well follow, in the careful recognition that is given to pre- service training .when a cadet is called up for national service ; a boy is wise today to make the army his choice. The Admiralty has no use for the shortened period of national service, which from January, 1949, will be reduced to twelve months. The Air Ministry has little to offer to the cadet who has done his service in the A.T.C. and gained his proficiency certificate ; if he joins the R.A.F. he has no chance of a commission or of obtaining his wings as a pilot, but luckily the War Office recognises the proficiency certificates of the Air Ministry, and boys who have done good serviCe in the A.T.C. go to the army for commissions in their period of national service. In such circumstances it is surprising that the school flights of the A.T.C. survive at all. The War Office has made it quite clear that even when national service is reduced to twelve months a boy who has done well in his pre-service training will get a com- mission, if he is worth it, and in such time as will give him considerable experience of the work of an officer before his release. Mr. Riding refers to the experience of a schoolboy, whom he defines as "scholarly, sensi- tive and sturdy," but he does not indicate whether the boy reached a W.O.S.B., and such qualities in themselves are no evidence that the boy was fit for a commission. My experience tells me that boys who deserve commissions in the army have no difficulty whatever in obtaining them.

I agree with Mr. Riding that boredom is a factor which has to be faced in army life, especially by those 'who do not reach the rank of officer or N.C.O. ; but his letter is an example of the tendency today which exaggerates the bad side of militarism and the difficulties of national service. We need another "Student in Arms," and those who complain of boredom would do well to read the pages of Donald Hankey, and culti- vate the humour and patience and cheerfulness revealed in face of danger as well as of boredom, and find in their fellow-men, under adverse circumstances, the good qualities which Donald Hankey found in his men of the Rifle Brigade.

Mr. Riding finally suggests the alternative of three months' intensive training. But it is not for laymen to suggest to the chiefs of staff what length of time national service should be ; that, we may be sure, is determined by national necessity and by those who alone can estimate what our commitments overseas, in Germany and at home, demand at