Allenby, a Study in Greatness: The Biography of Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe, G.C.B., G.C.M.G

By Archibald Wavell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE REGIMENT (1882-96)

I
EARLY SERVICE IN SOUTH AFRICA (1882-83)

ALLENBY began his military service at a period when the old red-coated, long-service, close-ranked, horse-power, shockaction Army had just begun to develop into the modern khaki-clad, short-service, open-order, mechanized, fire-plan force. After the Napoleonic wars the British people unbelted the sword that Wellington had wielded with such effect, hung it on the wall with a sigh of relief, and went back to the business of making money, with the fixed hope of not having to use a military force again for many years, if ever, save only for ceremony at home and police work abroad. But the Crimean War betrayed what rust had gathered on the old-fashioned weapon, which even Wellington himself had neglected to keep serviceable during the years of peace; and the Indian Mutiny immediately after showed that a different system was required if we were to continue to seize and hold an Empire abroad.

While our rulers were considering the problem -- of which no one has yet produced an entirely satisfactory solution -- of how to organize the army of a people with a taste for empire in distant lands and a great distaste for military service, Prussia startled the world with her victories over Austria and France, and introduced into Europe the new system of 'a nation in arms,' with rapid mobilization and great masses of short- service troops, trained and led by a body of long-service professional (really professional) officers and N.C.O.s.

There followed from about 1873 onward a period of some

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