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Major FM Crum
ARRSE Rating
1 Mushroom Head
Major Crum fought in the Second Boer War (1890 - 1902) in the Mounted Infantry, where he was wounded and taken prisoner. After peacetime service in India he retired due to the effects of his injuries, and became involved in the Boy Scout movement, founding the 7th Troop of Boy Scouts at Stirling in Scotland in 1909. On the outbreak of war in 1914 he re-joined the Rifle Corps and served with its 8th Battalion in France until 1919, specialising in trench sniping. This book is not only a fascinating account of a military career in the early years of the twentieth century, but also an insight into the mind and character of an officer of the period. The creation of the Boy Scouts was closely bound up with issues of national character and military preparedness before WW1, and this book clearly demonstrates that link. The Foreword is written by the military historian and expert on sniping Adrian Gilbert, author of 'Sniper' and 'Stalk and Kill'.

First Published in 1950 but written in 1923 from the Major's extensive diaries from his time in The Army and the boy scouts. It's almost difficult to discern which he is writing about and when. Perhaps that a bit unfair of me because of his jolly hockey sticks and all boys together attitude to beat the ghastly Hun, I suggest that this book tells us more about the man and his times than it does about the subject of sniping. I found his writing to be too much of an over view and lacked so much detail. For instance he tells us that he set up a blackboard in the trench showing where and how soldiers were killed by the German Snipers and he showed the board to the relieving unit. That's it, end of story no explanation of the workings of the German Snipers or how these 12 Tommy s got killed unnecessarily .The book is full of these type of stories , you want to know so much more but it's not to be had . This book in my opinion is well past its sell by date .

In order to challenge myself I purchased 'Sniping in France' by Major H Hesketh-Prichard around 1920 so in the same time frame as above , the cover put me off owing to the fact that it was a World War one history but had an image of a world war two sniper on the cover . However as it transpired this was a case of chalk and cheese. All you ever wanted to know about scouting and sniping on the Western Front . The British were suffering a terrible death rate and attrition to their moral by the superior work of the German Snipers who were experienced shooters and understood hunting. The Tommy was given occasionally a telescope to affix to the Lee Enfield without any instruction on how to use it, nor any regard to to his shooting abilities.

The major undertook to change matters without the support of an establishment, which meant he lost his pay for six months and had to beg borrow and steal scopes and hunting rifles. With a good team he did just that and the book is full of the detail lacking in my review tome . Another example given was that the German trenches were all over the place humps and bumps , full of battlefield detritus, in other words lots of hidey holes for the snipers whereas many British Regiments took perverse pride in ensuring that their trench fronts were flat level and tidy leaving any movement or change spotlighted for the enemy to see. I can't go on too much about this book as it was not my review but after the comparison of both of them I give 'The Rifleman Scout' one mushroom head because it describes the mentality of a certain type of officer from those times .
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