Terms and conditions of service and recruitment of the rank and file of the British regular home army, 1856 - 1899
Skelley, Alan Ramsay
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The years between the fall of Sebastopol and the outbreak of war in South Africa in 1899 witnessed considerable changes in British society and for the British army were years which heralded reforms in army organization, tactics and weaponry, and military thinking. There were important reforms which affected the terms and conditions of service and recruitment, and these are the concern of this thesis. The conditions of service are best divided into four main areas: army health; army education; discipline and crime; and pay, career prospects, and discharge. Each of these is singled out in a separate chapter and dealt with in turn. To set the scene, Chapter I describes the size of the Victorian army in this period, its constituent parts and its employment. It also outlines recent historical discussion of the army and points out how sketchy the treatment of the topics of this thesis has been partly because of source limitations. Discussion of the conditions of service begins in Chapter II with the health of the army. Improvement over the conditions of 1856 was more marked in this area than in any other. This was a result of better diet, clothing, physical training, and most important, a better environment and an improved medical care. Chapter III deals with the questions of education and literacy in the army and discusses, since the two were inseparably linked, the educational provisions made for the soldier and for his children. The army's response to the need for an educated soldiery was a comprehensive system of education for man and child which, by virtue of universality, cost, curriculum, and quality of instruction, far outweighed the provisions society made in general for the education of the working classes for most of this period. It is discipline above all else that ultimately distinguishes an army from any other group of men. This is the subject of Chapter IV: discipline, crime in the ranks, and its prevention. Wholesale reduction in the severity of punishment and the large scale provision of recreational facilities brought an over-all decrease in crime by 1900, but failure to ease the many restrictions of army life and to relax the bonds of discipline meant that minor disobedience, insubordination, and desertion would remain as prevalent as ever. Chapter V deals with pay, career prospects, and discharge from the Service, questions which were of the most importance to army recruits. In contrast to other areas in which considerable success was achieved in bettering many of the conditions of military service, there was a striking failure to increase substantially the army's attractions either by augmenting pay, improving career prospects, or by providing adequately for the discharge of men from the forces, The connections between the conditions of service and recruitment are particularly close in a voluntary-service army since alterations to one can easily bring about changes in the state of the other. The subjects of the following two chapters are the recruiting problem and patterns of recruitment. Throughout this time the army did not raise enough men to meet its requirements. Chapter VI considers and assesses the attempts to improve recruitment through altering the terms and conditions of service, and modifying the recruiting system. Chapter VII explains the nature of the very considerable changes in the patterns cf recruitment that took place between 1856 and 1899 without solving the basic shortage of men. The final chapter of this thesis concludes with an assessment of almost a half century of reform from 1556 to 1899. Conditions for the enlisted man and his family had improved markedly in many respects since the middle of the century, and in some ways too the image of the forces had changed. If it was not respectable to become a soldier, it was at least becoming respectable to be one. The disastrous opening of the war in South Africa forced a new period of discussion about the question of military reform at all levels.