Quotulatiousness

May 5, 2017

QotD: The British Army before WW1

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When the Duke of Wellington described the British army as “the scum of the earth, enlisted for drink,” he was probably speaking no more than the truth. But what is significant is that his opinion would have been echoed by any non-military Englishman for nearly a hundred years subsequently.

The French Revolution and the new conception of “national” war changed the character of most Continental armies, but England was in the exceptional position of being immune from invasion and of being governed during most of the nineteenth century by non-military bourgeoisie. Consequently its army remained, as before, a small profession force more or less cut off from the rest of the nation. The war-scare of the [eighteen-]sixties produced the Volunteers, later to develop into the Territorials, but it was not till a few years before the Great War that there was serious talk of universal service. Until the late nineteenth century the total number of white troops, even in war-time never reached a quarter of a million men, and it is probable that every great British land battle between Blenheim and Loos was fought mainly by foreign soldiers.

George Orwell, “Democracy in the British Army”, Left, 1939-09.

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