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Full text of "TheCompleteMemoirsOfGeorgeSherston"

Platoon, which was my own compact little command,
was not impressive on parade. Of its thirty-four
N.C.O.s and men, eight were Lewis gunners and
paraded elsewhere. Eight was likewise the number of
Private Joneses in my platoon, and my first difficulty
was to differentiate between them. The depleted Bat-
talion had been strengthened by a draft from England,
and these men were mostly undersized, dull-witted,
and barely capable of carrying the heavy weight of
their equipment. As an example of their proficiency,
I can say that in one case platoon training began with
the man being taught how to load his rifle. After-
wards I felt that he would have been less dangerous
in his pre-existing ignorance.

It was difficult to know what to do with my bored
and apathetic platoon. I wasn't a competent in-
structor, and my sergeant was conscientious but un-
enterprising. Infantry Training^ which was the only
manual available, had been written years before
trench-warfare "came into its own" as a factor in
world affairs, and the condensed and practical Hand-
book for the Training of Platoons was not issued until
nearly twelve months afterwards. One grey afternoon,
when we had gone through all our monotonous exer-
cises and the men's eyes were more than usually
mindless, I had a bright unmilitary idea and ordered
them to play hide-and-seek among some trees. After
a self-conscious beginning they livened up and actu-
ally enjoyed themselves. When I watched them falling
in again with flushed and jolly faces I was aware that
a sense of humanity had been restored to them, and
realized how intolerable the ordinary exercises were
unless the instructor was an expert. Even football
matches were impossible^ since there was no suitable