By Roy Oswick
It is not only footballers that have the hand of god!
Serving in the Armed Forces in any country is an experience like no other. Everything that happens is controlled by rules, laws or procedures and all of these are enforced by a number of people at various grades and ranks all with different but related levels of authority.
Many people think that Commissioned Officers run the Armed Forces, a natural assumption but far far from the truth.
Within the confines of the three forces it is well known that in fact the Senior Non Commissioned Officers actually ensure that the Army, Navy, and Air Force behave and perform to the very highest standards.
It is also well known that very often junior rank officers can take some time to recognise this and actually do believe that they are the architects of the success of the armed forces and this is sometimes clearly reflected in the behaviour of very junior and inexperienced 2nd Lieutenants. The more senior Officers, majors and above especially are fully aware of the contribution made by the Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs’, and tend to treat them with respect and appreciation for the skills, knowledge and experience that they have.
This is none more so when they have dealings with the Regimental Sergeant Major. He is the most experienced soldier in the regiment and relied upon by the Commanding Officer to advise on all matters to do with Leadership, Discipline Welfare Training and Equipment. Almost always revered and respected by all other Warrant Officers and Senior NCOS, the RSM is often referred to as GOD and is also required to assist in the development of the careers of the Junior Officers. In most cases this is seen by the Junior Officers as a bonus and they are generally thankful for any help that can be provided since life in the regiment is far different from the days and months so recently spent at Sandhurst acquiring the levels of skills required to lead a body of men sometimes into dangerous areas of conflict of which at first they have little or no experience.
Sometimes however there are occasions when the Junior Officer clearly takes umbrage at having his work overseen by the RSM and this attitude is the basis of this article. This story relates to a very young 2nd Lt who came from a very wealthy family, and was intent only upon spending a few years doing as little as possible before joining or taking over the family business. His attitude to soldiering was therefore to say the least offhand and he considered himself to be far removed from, having to comply to the wishes of the RSM when it came to maintaining discipline within the ranks, a role that he took upon himself to administer.
As a consequence a number of us found ourselves parading for OC’s orders for very minor offences which in most cases the Officer Commanding dismissed. This process served only to annoy the RSM, who considered it offensive to have this “Rupert”, (a name he often used to refer to this particular officer) putting his nose into areas that were the designated domain of the RSM!!!
At the time I was acting as the RSM’S Clerk, a nice little number that gave me an insight into the role and responsibilities that he had. I was also one of the first to know of any proposed changes to routines, military exercises Special duties etc and could plan accordingly.
One morning just after coffee break the said officer came to the RSM’s Office and entered without knocking!! an almost criminal offence and something that no one else would ever have dared to do. The RSM was seated at his desk and made no attempt to rise or offer a salute.
The exchange of words went something like this;
Officer. “Right RSM, I’ve just been inspecting the men’s accommodation and it is b….y filthy, get it sorted please”.
RSM. You do know sir that the OC gave the men the day off after the Queen’s Birthday Parade Officers Mess Ball where they were all on Special Duties until 0330 hrs this morning?
Officer. Well alright then I suppose. By the way my 6 months field training is due shortly. I’ve decided that I will do it with the Blues and Royals, can you get that sorted asap?
RSM. I’ll do my best sir. In those days all newly commissioned officers in corps such as the Pay Corps Ordnance Corps, Corps of transport etc all had to fulfil a 6 months secondment to a front line regiment. Of course some regiments were much more attractive than others and cavalry regiments were particularly favourable.
The officer then left and the RSM told me to get him a line to records office in London.
Records office dealt with all postings and movements. I got the phone connection and passed the phone to the RSM.
Hello, is that you Stan, yes fine mate, look Stan I’ve got a 2nd Lt b….y S…….s here and he’s a right pain. Says he wants to do his front line secondment with the Blues and Royals. I’ve told him that might be difficult, and of course they have just gone to Hong Kong. Have a look and see what else there is would you. I feel that he would do better with the infantry, How about 2 Queens they are now on Strat Reserve and bound for 3 months winter warfare training in Norway.
I honestly believe that three months under canvas in -39C would do him the world of good. Ok Thanks Stan I look forward to getting the posting letter. Cheers Mate.
Turning to me he raised an eyebrow and said. You, clear off and get your dinner, and that conversation never took place, got it?
A few days later I went through the post and sure enough there was the posting letter sending the Officer to 2nd Queens Regiment with him reporting to them in Trondheim Norway in two weeks time.
I gave the letter to the RSM a short while later the Officer came in and said..Any news on my secondment RSM.?
Funny enough Sir’ yes, came in this morning. I think you will enjoy it and I know you will learn an awful lot
With that he handed over the letter, as he did so the officer said “Can you get the QM to order my summer kit”
By now he had read the posting order and it had dawned upon him that far from enjoying the fleshpots of Hong Kong for the next several months he would be sharing a ten man tent, eating condensed food, and pulling a large sled across endless fields of snow.
He was not a happy soldier and almost oblivious to my presence began delivering a tirade of verbal abuse at the RSM.
After a few moments the RSM stood up and said. I can see that you are upset sir, but if you continue to abuse me, especially in the presence of a junior NCO then I will take appropriate action . Please leave my office.
Still spluttering at what he would do if he ever found that the RSM was responsible for this the officer left.
After a few minutes the RSM said to me. One day Young Oswick he will learn never to underestimate the power of the hand of God.