Serve To Lead (Page 2)
A Grim Price in Blood
Possibly, like most of our infantry, they (the battle school directing staff) suffered from the consequences of the pre-war shortage of creatively intelligent regimental officers. Too few of them were professionally dedicated to the extent that they could visualise how battles would be fought and identify the problems that might arise when planning them. They seemed to lack the capacity to think relentlessly through these things until solutions were found. Much of their time had been spent policing the British Empire. Also, unlike the Germans, we British instinctively avoid displays of keenness. The enthusiast, particularly if he is innovative, is an embarrassment. Thus the battlefield became our teacher and, inevitably, it exacted a grim price in blood and time.
Sydney Jary MC, 18 Platoon (1987).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
TRAINING: FIVE QUESTIONS
The Leadership Qualities of Commanders. Commanders at all levels must be placed in circumstances where they must make Decisions and live with the consequences. They must know they have the confidence of their superiors to make honest mistakes. In War, leaders are killed at a greater rate than subordinates and the service expands. In peace, training should be organised so that at every possible opportunity those suitable to take greater responsibilities are identified. To do this training should give an opportunity for judgements to be made of one, some, or all, of the following factors. Has the Commander in question :
(1) The moral and physical courage to carry greater responsibilities? In battle the successful commander is not seeking a consensus.
(2) Calmness and decision in a crisis?
(3) The necessary balance of professionalism, intelligence and practicality to carry the added breadth and weight of the responsibilities that go with promotion?
(4) The ability to innovate successfully and confidently rather than implement another plan? This factor is of increasing importance as the subject rises in rank.
(5) The willingness, of more importance at higher ranks, to delegate and work through others? We have all seen the officer who by working very hard produces an excellent performance but on promotion fails to maintain his promise. He reached that rank because he was clever enough not to need to delegate, he failed because he did not have the sense or character to know that he should.
Major General Rupert Smith GOC 1st British Armoured Division 1991 Gulf War.
A Few Honest Men
I beseech you be careful what captains of horse you choose, what men be mounted; a few honest men are better than numbers ... If you choose Godly honest men to be captains of horse, honest men will follow them, and they will be careful to mount such ... I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else. I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.
Oliver Cromwell, (1643).
There is one trait in the character of a leader that above all things really counts, and it perhaps counts in the war even more than in peace. Being straight. No amount of ability, knowledge, or cunning, can ever make up for not being straight. Once those under him find out that a commander is absolutely straight in all his dealings with them, and free from the slightest trait of self-interest, other than the self-interest of which we are all guilty when striving for the victory of causes we believe to be right, they will love him as their leader, trust him, work for him, follow him - and should occasion arise die for him, with the fundamental ability of the British soldier which comes to the surface when things are at their worst.
“Basilisk” Talks on Leadership.
Being Crooked - A Sickening Story
That summer of 1970, the Army War College issued a scathing report -commissioned by General William Westmoreland, who was now Chief of Staff -explained a great deal of what we were seeing. Based on a confidential survey of 415 officers, the report blasted the Army for rewarding the wrong people. It described how the system had been subverted to condone selfish behaviour and tolerate incompetent commanders who sacrificed their subordinates and distorted facts to get ahead. It criticised the Army’s obsession with meaningless statistics and was especially damning on the subject of body counts in Vietnam. A young captain had told the investigators a sickening story: he’d been under so much pressure from headquarters to boost his numbers that he’d nearly gotten into a fistfight with a South Vietnamese officer over whose unit would take credit for various enemy body parts. Many officers admitted they had simply inflated their reports to placate headquarters.
General H Norman Schwarzkopf, It Doesn’t Take a Hero (1992
Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Six Bags Full
The promotion policies of the US Army in the Vietnam era bedevilled post-war attempts at reform.
The practice of purging the ranks of “difficult” subordinates - people who question the wisdom of conventional thinking, who challenge their superiors, who do not automatically salute and say “yes sir, yes, sir, six bags full”, when their superiors speak - over the years has produced a crop of senior officials long on form and short on substance. The long-term result of stifling dissent and discouraging unconventional views, while rewarding those who conform, is an officer corps that is sterile, stagnant, and predictable. Promoting clones, while purging mavericks, is tantamount to incest. We all know the possible long-term effect of generations of incest - feeblemindedness, debilitation, and insanity’.
Colonel James G Burton, The Pentagon Wars (1992).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The Men May Lose Confidence
You cannot fight machine-guns plus wire, with human bodies. Without the wire to check them the men would have tackled machine-guns in spite of their losses. As it was, they tried heroically to tackle both. This was humanly impossible.
The Division only took over at 10 o’clock on the 11th and attacked at dawn on the 12th. Whatever the obstacles might have been on our front, it was too late to deal with them by artillery preparation. We as a Divisional Staff, assumed that the wire had been cut. Assumption in war is radically wrong if by any means in your power you can eliminate the uncertain ...
In this case I got sufficiently accurate information as to the state of affairs, but 24 hours too late to be of any use. Had it been received 24 hours earlier one would have been in a position to ask for an extension of time before attacking to deal with the difficulty ...
We cannot always expect to succeed, but I feel very sorry about it all when I think of the numbers of men who were lost. My chief fear is that the men may lose confidence in the arrangements made for them as they had always been taught that, provided the Staff arrangements are good, they are able to do anything that is asked of them.
In these days of Parliamentary criticism, questions may be asked as to the operations I refer to. The somewhat bald and concise statement I have made above accurately represents the position.
Major General Sir Andrew Russell to Colonel James Allen New Zealand Minister of Defence 7 Nov 1917. From Peter H Liddle (ed) Passchendaele In Perspective:The 3rd Battle of Ypres (1997).
The Tongue-tied Soldier
‘The culmination of the day was a field firing exercise on Hohne ranges. On arrival at what was clearly a pre-rehearsed event, I was shown a section of Royal Highland Fusiliers being briefed by a Lance Corporal for an attack. On completion of his orders he asked a young Fusilier to confirm the simple instructions that he had received. The young soldier had been clearly overwhelmed by the presence of so many senior officers and could remember nothing of what he had been told by his section commander. He went red in the face, and looked shamefully at the ground - no doubt thinking that he was letting down his section and his Regiment. Instead of censuring or humiliating him - as so many of us would have done - his section commanders looked at the next man with an encouraging grin and said “Go on, help him out”. In doing this, he showed himself to be a true leader who was not interested in covering his own position, and by asking another member of the section to help the unfortunate young man, he was also able to strengthen the trust between members of the section’.
General Sir Michael Rose
I felt so Responsible
In her small desert boots with a red Arab scarf on top of her camouflage gear, short, dark, tousled hair, and wearing sunglasses, Lieutenant Smart just about reached the chest height of some of the men she commanded. In guts, she probably equalled them. Certainly, her staying power for three months so far as second-in-command of Headquarters Company of The Royal Scots in the desert showed that. On G-Day, 24 February, the day the groundwork began, she was in charge of the lead vehicle in a convoy of food and water trucks which followed a few miles behind the front-line fighting troops and tanks into Iraq. They travelled through the breach in the enemy’s defences in their chemical warfare suits and gas masks in the dark and rain, avoiding cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines littering the track, hearing the roar of battle a few miles ahead, watching the flash of explosives ripping across the black sky, feeling the vibrations through the ground. Sometimes the trucks behind would get bogged down in the soft sand and they would have to wait for them to catch up. ‘I had a grid point on the map where we were supposed to be and a compass, and if I got the distance and bearing wrong, we could have ended up in enemy lines. So it was on my head’. She had been too anxious to sleep for more than one or two hours as her convoy travelled almost non-stop for four days and nights. ‘I worried more about the boys than myself. I felt so responsible’.
From Kate Muir, Arms and the Woman (1992).
It’s About People
Nothing more radical is suggested here than that the leader who would make certain of the fundamental soundness of his operation cannot do better than concentrate his attention on his men. There is no other worthwhile road. They dupe only themselves who believe that there is a brand of military efficiency which consists in moving smartly, expediting papers, and achieving perfection in formations, while at the same time slighting or ignoring the human nature of those who they command. The art of leading, in operations large or small, is the art of dealing with humanity, of working diligently on behalf of men, of being sympathetic with them, but equally, of insisting that they make a square facing toward their own problems. These are the real bases of a commander’s major calculations. Yet how often do we hear an executive praised as an “efficient
administrator” simply because he can keep a desk cleared, even though he is despised by everyone in the lower echelons and cannot command a fraction of their loyalty!
SLA Marshal Men Against Fire (1947).
Take The Men Into Our Confidence
The popular image of British generals in the First World War is that they were insensitive, incompetent and stupid - the donkeys. The following document, written in the summer of 1918 by General Sir Ivor Maxse, the Inspector General of Training, suggests that the stereo-type needs to be revised.
I have already given out the lines on which I want training carried out. You must remember that the men are tired after a trying time in the trenches - as a rule they don’t look forward to a spell out of the line because they think they will never be left in peace, and that each day and all day will be spent in some tiresome or boring drill or exercise which they have done over and over again - how are you going to get over this? Have any of you thought it out? There is only one way in which we can put this nightmare out of the men’s minds.Take the men into our confidence - explain to them the reason why we do every exercise, let them know that each item will only last a short time and that it is up to them to pay attention to their work and think out what they are doing. When they do anything well - tell them so. If they do not do it well, explain how they could have done it better, and put them at it again. Don’t make any scheme too long - knock off as soon as you see that the men have got the hang of it - then go on with something else.
John Baynes Far From A Donkey: The Life of General Sir Ivor Maxse(1995).
He Treated Them With Warm Consideration
A new commanding officer, Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, arrives at 617 Squadron RAF in 1943.
The aircrews had to face action day after day, week after week, virtually alone, with only their consciences as monitors. The ground crews, on the other hand, were liable to frustrations which could only be soothed if they could be assured of their value, and Cheshire delicately gave them those assurances. When he landed in the early morning after a raid his driver usually found him under the wing sharing cocoa and sandwiches with his ground crew. As anxiously as they asked him how he had got on he would be asking them if they had managed to get any sleep while he was away, or thanking them for the performance of the aircraft, all with a friendly touch and a few jokes thrown in.
With flying or ground crew he was a leader and never a driver, never bullying, overbearing or petty, though his tongue could be quite devastating if you merited it. His aircrews almost worshipped him, and the ground crews’ feelings were probably deeper because he treated them with warm consideration, and they were not used to it.
Paul Brickhill The Dam Busters
SHARE THE BURDEN
Soteridas’ Shield - an incident during the Anabasis 398 BC
Soteridas, a man from Sicyon, said: ‘We are not on a level, Xenophon. You are riding on horseback, while I am wearing myself out with a shield to carry’. When Xenophon heard this, he jumped down from his horse, pushed Soteridas out of the ranks, took his shield away from him and went forward on foot as fast as he could, carrying the shield. He happened to be wearing a cavalry breastplate as well, so that it was heavy going for him. He kept on encouraging those in front to keep going and those behind to join up with them, though struggling along behind them himself. The other soldiers, however, struck Soteridas and threw stones at him and cursed him until they forced him to take back his shield and continue matching.
Xenophon, Anabasis (400BC).
HMS Centurian arrives at Tinian 28 August 1742
After a nightmarish voyage around Cape Horn and operations against Spanish colonies along the Pacific coast of South America, the Centurian reached the island of Tinian in the central Pacific with a crew reduced to 199, of who 128 were desperately ill. Numbers of these (the sick) were so very helpless that we were obliged to carry them from the boats to the hospital upon our shoulders, in which humane employment the Commodore himself (Anson), and everyone of his officers, were engaged without distinction.
Anson’s Voyage Around the World (1776).
Know Your People
An American Message to the British
The High Command can do no more than to put you in action in the best
possible way, under the best possible conditions, and to make sure that you are well supplied, well cared for, and everything is done for you in the way of getting you ammunition, food, clothing and everything that you need. But upon your shoulders rests the real responsibility.
You young men have this war to win. It is small unit leadership that is going to win the ground battle and that battle must be won before that enemy of ours is finally crushed. It is up to you men to give your units - whether it is a tank crew, platoon, or becomes a company - leadership, every hour of the day, every day of the week. You must know every single one of your men. It is not enough that you are the best soldier in that unit, that you are the strongest, the toughest, the most durable, and the best equipped technically. You must be their leader, their father, their mentor even if you are half their age. You must understand their problems. You must keep them out of trouble. If they get in trouble, you must be the one to go to their rescue. That cultivation of human understanding between you and your men is the one art that you must yet master and you must master it quickly. Then you will be doing your duty and you will be worthy of the traditions of this great school and of your great country.
To each one of you I wish Godspeed and Good Luck. If I could have my wish as I stand here today, feeling honoured as I do in the tribute paid me, I would say this: If I could only meet you all somewhere east of the Rhine and renew the acquaintanceship of this pleasant morning.
General Dwight D Eisenhower. Sandhurst 11 March 1944.
A British Message to the Americans
You will soon have bars on your shoulders; I’ve got things on mine that you’ve never seen before - but they both mean that we are officers. We have no business to set ourselves up as officers unless we know more about the job in hand than the men we are leading. If you command a small unit, like a platoon, you ought to be able to do anything you ask any man in it to do better than he can. Know the bolts and nuts of your job, but above all know your men. When you command a platoon you ought to know each man in it better than his own mother does. You must know which man responds to encouragement, which to reasoning, and which needs a good kick in the pants. Know your men.
Field Marshal Sir William Slim, West Point 1953.
Little is known about William Shakespeare’s life. There is no absolute proof that he saw active service, but there is considerable internal evidence from his plays that he served in one of the English expeditions to the Netherlands in the early or mid 1580s. For more than 400 years the speech Shakespeare put into the mouth of Henry V has inspired British Servicemen - whether they were facing the French in 1692, 1757 and 1805 - the Germans in 1944 - or the Iraqis in 1991.
Agincourt 25 October 1415.
What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are marked to die, we are now
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will, I pray thee wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost:
It yearns me not if men my garments wear:
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God’s peace, I would not lose so great an honour,
As one man more, methinks, would share from me,
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more:
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart, his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company,
That fears his fellowship, to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, “Tomorrow is Saint Crispian”.
Then will he strip his sleeve, and show his scars,
And say, “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day”.
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother: be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentleman in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here:
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispian’s day.
Shakespeare, King Henry V’s speech before Agincourt.
A Weak and Feeble Woman
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm”.
Queen Elizabeth I address to her Army at Tilbury as the Armada sails up the channel. August 1588.
Alte Fritz - Frederick the Great
“Dogs! Would you live forever!?”
Frederick the Great of Prussia to soldiers reluctant to advance.
Old Nosey - Wellington
The sight of his long nose among us on a battle morning was worth ten thousand men, any day of the week.
Captain John Kincaid, quoted in Thomas Gilby ed Britain at Arms.
A comrade of his, tells Cooper also, as they were beginning the fight, called out: “Where’s Arthur?”. He meant Wellington. The answer was given: “I don’t know - I don’t see him!”. Rejoined the first private: “Aw wish he wr here!”. “So do I”, comments Sergeant Cooper.
Edward Fraser The Soldiers Who Wellington Led.
We had continued this arduous journey during five hours, when, on reaching the summit of an isolated green hill, at the back of the ridge already described, four mounted officers crossed us, one of them riding a little ahead of the rest, who, on the contrary, kept together. He who rode in front was a thin, well-made man, apparently of the middle stature, and just past the prime of life. His dress was a plain gray frock, buttoned close to the chin; a cocked hat, covered with oilskin; gray pantaloons, with boots, buckled at the side; and a steel-mounted light sabre. There were in the ranks many veterans, who had served in the Peninsula during some of the earlier campaigns; these instantly recognised their old leader, and the cry of “Duro, Duro!” the familiar title given by the soldiers to the Duke of Wellington, was raised. This was followed by reiterated shouts, to which he replied by taking off his hat and bowing.
As I had never seen the great Captain of the day before, it will readily be imagined that I looked at him on the present occasion with a degree of admiration and respect, such as a soldier of seventeen years of age, devoted to his profession, is likely to feel for the man whom he regards as its brightest ornament. I felt, as I gazed upon him that an army under his command could not be beaten; and I had frequent opportunities afterwards of perceiving, how far such a feeling goes towards preventing a defeat. Let the troops only place perfect confidence on him who leads them, and the sight of him, at the most trying moment, is worth a fresh brigade.
George Robert Gleig The Subaltern (1825).
Don’t Leave Us Major!
‘The men in the square were a difficult problem, and so jaded it was pathetic to see them. If one only had a band, I thought! Why not? There was a toyshop handy which provided my trumpeter and myself with a tin whistle and a drum and we marched round and round the fountain where the men were lying like the dead, playing the British Grenadiers and Tipperary and beating the drum like mad. They sat up and began to laugh and even cheer. I stopped playing and made them a short exhortation and told them I was going to take them back to their regiments. They began to stand up and fall in, and eventually we moved slowly off into the night to the music of our improvised band, now reinforced by a couple of mouth organs. When well clear of the town I tried to delegate the function to someone else, but the infantry would not let me go. “Don’t leave us, Major”, they cried, “or by God we’ll not get anywhere”. So on we went, and it was early morning before I got back to my squadron’.
Major Tom Bridges of the 4th Dragoon Guards recalling events at St Quentin on 28th August 1914, during the retreat from Mons from his memoirs Alarms and Excursions.
We Were in a Mess!
In 1915 Antarctic explorers found themselves in a desperate situation when their ship, the Endurance, became trapped and crushed in an ice floe. Stranded on the ice sheet, their chances of survival were virtually non-existent Fortunately the expedition was commanded by Ernest Shackleton.
The men had expected to be working in relative comfort in a base camp, or to be doing ship’s work. Instead, they were stranded on a vast, unstable layer of ice that was their only refuge from the depths of the Weddell Sea or, even worse, the jaws of a killer whale or a sea leopard. And it was -16 degrees Fahrenheit. The Boss (Shackleton) gathered the whole group around him and spoke to his men from the heart. He kept his message simple. As he spoke, he appeared calm, confident, and strong. Years later, several of the men would recall how much his words meant to them at that time. ‘There was nothing in the nature of a set speech’, RW James recalled. ‘He spoke to us in a group, telling us that he intended
to march the party across the ice to the west... that he thought we ought to
manage five miles a day, and that if we all worked together it could be done. We were in a mess and the Boss was the man who could get us out. It is a measure of his leadership that this seemed almost axiomatic’.
Margot Morrel and Stephanie Capparell Shackleton’s Way (2001).
It’s Not Over Yet!
Look, we’ve done bloody well today. Okay, we’ve lost some lads; we’ve lost the CO. Now we’ve really got to show our mettle. It’s not over yet, we haven’t got the place. We’re about 1,000 metres from D Company; we’re on our own and enemy has landed to our south and there’s a considerable force at Goose Green, so we could be in a fairly sticky position. It’s going to be like Arnhem - Day 3!
Major John Crossland addressing B Company 2 PARA on the night of 28/29 May 1982 just to the south west of the Goose Green settlement. Spencer Fitz-Gibbon
Not Mentioned in Despaches (1995).
A Brave Face
Officers sometimes find themselves in circumstances which are so dire that they judge it advisable not to tell their troops the whole truth. In effect, they put a “brave face” on the situation.
If, when covering an army during the night, an officer should hear that the army he is covering has decamped, he should not inform his men of this fact, as it might lower their confidence and courage. In other words, he must do nothing to lower the morale of his troops and ever strive to increase it.
Colonel Coote Manningham. A lecture to the Officers of Shorncliffe Camp March 1803. From JFC Fuller Sir John Moore’s System of Training (1924).
Shortly after arriving at Tinian in August 1742, a storm blew the Centurion, manned only by a skeleton crew, out to sea. Believing themselves stranded on the island, and at the mercy of the Spaniards who would treat them as pirates, some of the Centurion’s complement gave way to despair. The Centurion’s commander, Commodore George Anson, though privately agreeing with their assessment, decided to do some fast talking.
He (Anson) represented to them how little foundation there was for their apprehensions of the Centurion’s being lost: that he should have presumed they had been all of them better acquainted with sea affairs than to give way to the impression of so chimerical a fright: that he doubted not but if they would seriously consider what such a ship was capable of enduring, they would confess there was not the least probability of her having perished: that he was not without hopes that she might return in a few days; but if she did not, the worst that could be imagined was, that she was driven so far to the leeward of the island that she could not regain it.
Anson’s Voyage Round the World (1776).
Commando Officer Major Peter Young earns his first MC.
“What’s the matter with you! Everyone knows six yards of standing corn will stop machinegun bullets - come on - get up - follow me!”
Major Peter Young, Dieppe 18 August 1942.
A General Briefs A President
It is a grim fact that there is not an easy, bloodless way to victory in war and it is the thankless task of the leaders to maintain their firm outward front which holds the resolution of subordinates. Any irresolution in the leaders may result in costly weakening and indecision in the subordinates.
General George Marshall to President Harry S Truman 18 June 1945.
Lt Barry Advances Through A Minefield
By now Lieutenant Jim Barry’s [12 Platoon] were up and moving. Someone shouted in his platoon, ‘We’re in a minefield!’ Jim contradicted him, ‘No we’re not, keep going!’. In fact he knew that they were, but it was too late now but to continue. An anti-tank mine suddenly exploded, knocking over Sergeant Meredith, Corporal Barton, Spencer and Curran. Spencer had apparently walked straight into a tripwire. He sat up, dusted himself and continued.
Lt Jim Barry D Company 2 PARA. Darwin-Goose Green early afternoon on May 1982, from Spencer Fitz-Gibbon, Not Mentioned in Dispatches (1995).
The General Showed No Nerves
In The Residency, Lieutenant General Rupert Smith was calmly keeping track on the final preparations. Some of his staff were shocked when he declared that he expected that the Bosnian Serbs would attempt to level the UNPROFOR Headquarters as soon as the first NATO bombs started landing. Ivanko remembers General Smith telling the RRFOS at Kiseljak that they were to take over running the battle if smoke was seen rising from the Residency. Many of his staff said the General showed no nerves, despite his misgivings about the uncertain political objectives of the coming operation. These he kept to himself and his close advisors.
The die had been cast and he was determined to play to win.
Tim Ripley Operation Deliberate Force. The UN and NATO Campaign in Bosnia 1995 (1999).
I gave the group something else to think about.
On 25 August 2000 a small patrol of the Royal Irish Regiment on a Peace Support Operation in Sierra Leone was forced to surrender to the ‘Westside Boys’, a heavily armed gang notorious for its brutality. The Royal Irish’s senior officer, Captain John Laverty, had to keep his ‘mask of command’ firmly in place.
Otherwise they might not survive.
We could hear screams from an adjoining cell. They went on all night, but it wasn’t until the following morning that we first saw the victims. There were six left. They had been burnt, badly beaten and sliced by machetes. At dusk the previous evening one had broken free but was shot dead outside the barred window of our cell. I had reached the window first, just in time to see his corpse being dragged away. The men asked me if I had seen anything but I said no. That way while everybody knew there had been a shot, no one knew there had been a killing.
It was a dreadful night. I thought that at any moment the door would open and one of us would be dragged out to become the next victim. As I was lying next to the door I felt particularly vulnerable. We were all physically and emotionally exhausted but we couldn’t sleep. When the men asked me what was going on I did my best to reassure them. I said I thought the West Side Boys had grouped their many malaria victims together, which would account for the wild screams and the frequent calls for a doctor. I am not sure how many believed me at the time and all found it to be untrue the following morning but I’d given the group something else to think about. I do believe that some of the soldiers found it just plausible enough to allow them to get some sleep. I did my best to sleep but failed. However, I pretended to sleep in the hope that the others would follow suit.
Captain John Laverty Royal Irish Regiment.