27 AUGUST 1948, Page 15



SIR,—My friend Mr. Whitworth both misquotes and misunderstands me. I complained in my letter of August 13th, not of " monstrous fatigues," but of "monotonous fatigues." It is not monstrous, but inevitable and salutary, that there should be fatigues in Army life ; it is inimical to the best interests both of the Army and of the young men of whom I wrote that they should be monotonous to the exclusion of real soldiering. It was for real and interesting soldiering that the Field-Marshal was plead- ing in his pronouncements in the spring ; for lack of it his later pleadings fiar Territorial Army recruits fall on deaf and deadened ears.

Yes, the " scholarly, sensitive and sturdy " schoolboy of whom I wrote did reach a W.O.S.B., and is now heading for a commission in an 0.C.T.U. It was while he was an ordinary soldier prior to O.C.T.U. that he and his friends were so " browned off." And his fate was kindly as compared with that of the great mass who are not selected for training as officers and have to go on with their " conscript service " in the ranks. " Just rotting " was how another young man described it. Mr. Whitworth has been singularly fortunate in his experience if he does not know of excellent boys who fail and of inferior ones who succeed at W.O.S.B.s.

While defending Army life and methods, Mr. Whitworth confirms my fears as to the Navy and the Royal Air Force, though boys go into these services, as into the Army, ready and cheerfully determined to make the best of them ; should it not be that all three services should be making the best of the human material they take in and affect at this impresSionable age ? But Mr. Whitworth does not suggest that faulty conditions in these services be accepted in the " Student in Arms " spirit ; nor does he sug- gest with regard to these that it is " not for the layman " to criticise. His attitude of uncritical acceptance of whatever the Army Chiefs of Staff may decide is perhaps the saddest and most dangerous part of his letter—at a time when they are showing signs of resentment of criticism and when not only students but the whole youth of the nation is "in Arms." It is surely for the Chiefs of Staff of all arms to see to it that their schemes are such, however long or short the period of service is (and twelve months is none too short if it is well filled), as will fill it with hard work on the lines earlier suggested by the C.I.G.S. " This critical time " is one in which we cannot afford the state of affairs revealed by the letters of " Gunner," " Infantry " and " Craftsman." The last of these, printed below Mr. Whitworth's letter, is an illuminating footnote both to his

letter and to mine.—Yours faithfully, GEORGE A. RIDING. Aldenham School, Elstree, Herts.

[Reference to Mr. Whitworth's letter, which was in manuscript, shows that he did in fact write " monotonous fatigue " ; the adjective was misread by the printer.—ED., The Spectator.]