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On Four Fronts With The Royal Naval Division

On Four Fronts With The Royal Naval Division

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THE Authors have given us at first hand in fascinating form an absorbing and realistic narrative of stirring times in the annals of the Royal Naval Division. They have seen with their own observant eyes, and been themselves a part of all they describe in many lands. Accuracy is the dominant note through all their graphic pen and pencil pictures. It was my privilege to see this wonderful Division in the making when the raw material was composed of an assortment of men strangely varied, but of a high physical standard. They were all keen to learn, the war being urgent and dispatch necessary. Hence in a marvellously short time they became transformed by their Marine and Naval Instructors into the wonderful fighting-men portrayed in these pages. Of good physique to start with, their training imbued them with the ready resource of the sailor and the precision of the soldier. The Authors take us pleasantly and with light touch through ever changing scenes from the Antwerp expedition, through the Homeric combats of Gallipoli, to Salonica and the Isles of Greece with their poisonous, malarial climate, to the muddy, blood-stained trenches of the Western Front. Hard fighting made them happy, and the ever changing climate, from blizzard to blazing sun- shine, never dulled their cheery spirits. They have done well in recording what at the time was common knowledge amongst all in Gallipoli, that the Turk was a clean fighter, because he was still his old self, uncontaminated by methods of Icultur. One wishes the Authors had said more about the everlasting miracle of the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula. That feat we owe to the military genius of General Sir Charles Munro, splendidly supported by Admirals Sir John de Robeck, Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, and Sir Roger Keyes-all to-day men of light and leading, and sheet anchors of their country. On the eve of the evacuation there was a general outside consensus of opinion amongst sailors and soldiers on the spot that 40 per cent. of casualties might reasonably be expected in the opcration of removing our many thousands of men from these perilous beaches washed by a turbulent sea, beaten upon by adverse winds and swept by the enemys guns. Happily the unofficial experts turned out to be all wrong, and the clearance was effected with practically no loss of life. The feat will pass into history as a great and successful military operation, and a teaching example of what perfect co-operation between Navy and Army can achieve when directed by trained and experienced master minds working in complete harmony one with the other. The chapter on the duties of a battalion medical officer is full of good and practical things, e.g. the rum ration. The attacks on it by total abstinence extremists are of old standing, and repeat themselves periodically. The truth is that the small daily tot of rum, issued under Service I conditions, cannot possibly harm any adult human being. On the contrary, it is within the writers personal experience, and of that of thousands who have been under his care, that at the end of a hard day in the field a tot of rum comforts, soothes, and supports the weary and worn. It is sad to read in these pages that suppuration in wounds is so common. In South Africa it was the exception, possibly because the pure air and virgin soil of the veldt were free from the germs of disease which swarm in the cultivated lands of France and under the insanitary conditions ever present in the Eastern Mediterranean. Readers will find much easily assimilated instruction in these brightly written pages...
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