For seven months we did the same old squad-drill every day, at the same time, on the same old square, until at last we all began to be unbearably "fed up." The sections became slack at drill because they were over-drilled and sickened by the awful monotony of it all. During those seven dreary months, in that dismal slum-grown town, we learnt all the tricks of barrack-life.
Hundreds of groups were being put through squad-drill and the manual, while other groups were having special kinds of exercises climbing up walls, digging trenches, making roads, shooting at targets. It rained every other day, and the ground was a morass, but no one paid the least attention to that; the men came in plastered with mud, and steaming like lard-vats.
Emil a Socialist, Emil a German, Emil a student and thinker, who had penetrated the hypocritical disguises of this capitalist war, and had fearlessly proclaimed the truth every Friday night at the local here he was with a suit of khaki on his rather frail figure, a rifle in his hand and a look of grim resolve on his face, going through the evolutions of squad-drill: left, right, left, right, left, right column left, march one, two, three, four left, right, left, right squad right about, march left, right, left, right squad left oblique march and so on.
More galling still, we are back in the region of squad-drill, physical exercises, and handling of arms horrors of our childhood which we thought had been left safely interned at Aldershot. But the authorities are wise. The regiment is stiff and out of condition: it is suffering from moral and intellectual "trench-feet."
That day I throd on rollin' clouds. All earth was too small to hould me. Begad, I cud ha' hiked the sun out av the sky for a live coal to my pipe, so magnificent I was. But I tuk recruities at squad-drill instid, an' began wid general battalion advance whin I shud ha' been balance-steppin' them. Eyah! that day! that day! A very long pause. 'Well? said I.
Directly war broke out David enrolled himself in the special volunteer corps of artists raised by an eminent Academician. He took his duties very seriously, and was at great pains to master the intricacies of squad-drill.
His performance on that occasion was so grotesquely awkward that I directed he should be put through the "squad-drill" by one of the sergeants, who was a thoroughly competent, but rather severe, drill-master. The "cook" felt that his rights were invaded, in requiring him to submit to be drilled. The sergeant made no progress in teaching him.
But I tuk recruities at squad-drill instid, an' began wid general battalion advance whin I shud ha' been balance-steppin' them. Eyah! that day! that day!" A very long pause. "Well?" said I. "'Twas all wrong," said Mulvaney, with an enormous sigh. "An' I know that ev'ry bit av ut was my own foolishness.
Next to the regimental sergeant-major, I had the loudest drill voice on the square, and shouting at squad-drill and stretcher-drill was about the only thing I ever did well in the army except that, having been a scout, I was able to instruct the signalling squad. Route marches and field-days were a relief from the drill square. For five months we got no issue of khaki.
They were all of 'em over ten; and squad-drill begins when they're eight. They knew their company-drill a heap better than they knew their King's English." "How much drill do the boys put in?" I asked. "All boys begin physical drill to music in the Board Schools when they're six; squad-drill, one hour a week, when they're eight; company-drill when they're ten, for an hour and a half a week.