A terrifying sergeant wakes up the OTC

New OTC recruit Sydney Spencer experienced drill for the first time on 25 January. It was a challenge for the mild-mannered undergraduate.

25 January 1915
This morning I went to my first parade & put myself under the protection of dear old Loughton. It was of course a very new sensation to be ordered about in matters concerning my bodily movements. It is strange how very seldom if ever in my life, my bodily movements have been under the control of anyone outside my immediate self. I suppose that only when I was about 10, when I did a little infant school drilling, or when I learned to swim, & had a few breathing lessons, or when I have been sounded by the doctor, & sighed, & coughed and said “r” or “99”, did I feel the power of another mind over my corporal freedom. Did I like this subservience to the will of another? I answer conclusively and inclusively “Yes”. There was an intellectual satisfaction in the knowledge that one is voluntarily surrendering oneself to the mind & will of another. It is peculiarly difficult to quite explain how this comes about, perhaps there are other thoughts inevitably bound up in it too, i.e. – “No man is safe to command, but he who has learned well how to obey” (a Kempis chapter XX: Book I). I felt an infinite amount of satisfaction from this my first drill, for with all the ceaseless comments, of “eyes right”, “hands to side”, “heels together”, “form fours”, “form two deep”, “right turn”, “about turn”, etc etc, there was the growing knowledge & experience of the infinite depth of meaning in the words, “implicit & unquestioning obedience”. A command is given, I don’t know what it intends, never mind, obey each detail & get the result, & other peoples’ actions look after themselves!

As my head is really very full for the moment of OTC work I shall discuss that question fairly fully these days. Of course we had the usual sort of lectures and mods work in the morning, i.e. Tacitus & Livy. After lunch came the crucial point. I had to face the ordeal of going on company drill with no knowledge of what was expected of me! Things were pretty exciting. First of all I had no place and so that made rather a fly in the ointment. Then Lieutenant Claypole, a young faced chubby fellow who has just been made 1st Lieutenant took up, and we had sundry types of marching to so, some of which were moderately successful, others of which were an appalling hash up since there were a fair number of recruits in our C Company. After a good deal of this type of drilling we had to go to Keble & get rifles. This made matters exciting in the extreme for me, as I never thought I should be able to carry the beastly thing when I got it. To add to the general feeling of ignorance, there was the sergeant who now took us in hand. He was an enormous fellow, Sergeant Glover by name. He has a terrifying bass drone, and his orders split the air for yards around. His whole abdomen seems to contract when he shouts out his commands, & he works us up to such a pitch in marching – at first – that it is almost ludicrous. Of course his whole intention is to make us wake up. He informed me at the end of the rifle drilling that the rifle did not weigh 15 pounds but only eight pounds and a half! He saw that I was having a battle with it but was not cruelly sarcastic, only humorously so. He treated Greenhalgh rather abominably which made him go down in my estimation.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

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