Commentary: This is the Army. The magic pageant of parade, – discipline, – measure, – self-control.
But the modern soldier is a man of the world. And here is the world he serves: – Malta – stone of shimmering white, set in the azure Mediterranean, Army station; Naval base. Malta, the George Cross island.
You’ll find him there, the ubiquitous British soldier. For at the present time his commitments are wider than ever in the Army’s history. The guns at Malta evoke again the echo that once rang round the world.
But there are other traditional duties that are expected of a soldier – especially in a Naval Base.
Or maybe his fancy runs to polo – and out here its not beyond his income. The ponies come from Malta’s pony club, open to all ranks who want to feel anew the thrill of a gallop.
You’ll find him, too, in Tripoli, under the sign of Romulus and Remus – the wolf-mothered twins who founded ancient Rome. Tripoli; show-colony of a more recent Roman Empire that vanished, in whose streets the past mingles with an uncertain future. And until such time as U.N.O. decides that future, its representatives are these uniformed, young men; accepted by the people, familiar friendly figures in the market-place.
When soldiers come, can NAAFI be far behind? Of course not. So tea up!
But training is training and – as any old soldier will tell you – the Army’s the Amy. They’re a unit of the Royal Armoured Corps – a famous old cavalry regiment, long since mechanised to the hilt. Maintaining and operating these fighting thirty tonners calls for a whole range of special skills.
What’s more they’re men of many parts, for nowadays they carry their own infantry – who can leave their vehicles and jump to it – getting down to earth and slogging it out. These days, even the P.B.I. move fast.
Farther on the Suez – Highway to the East – where in torrid heat and sometimes flame, history has been cast. There stands the statue of De Lesseps – memorial to man’s enterprise – watching the cargoes of the world go by. There too you will find the British soldier – in leisure as on duty – making the best of what life offers.
The Royal Military Police let loose the dogs of war. As trusted guardians of Army dumps and property, they must do their square-bashing, too.
Through the hoop and over the hurdles. The object of their training is to secure obedience and the correct response; so that – like the soldier he serves – he will come through, at moments of emergency – top dog. Take a stretch of desert, a few motor cycles marked unfit for service, a track built by the men themselves off duty. The result? Dirt-track records up to par; and ex-soldiers now riding professionally.
And so to Singapore – British colony; military base; world cross-roads.
Strolling down famous Change Alley, this great cosmopolitan eastern city, founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, looks peaceful enough to Army sightseers.
Singapore’s police – Malays, Indians, Chinese – are British Officers. They pride themselves on their efficiency. And today they need it. For stretching to the Northward lies Malaya – and trouble. These men know what they’re looking for, – yes, there it is. A good spy, they say, keeps everything under his hat. But they can’t keep much from these deft fingers.
Damage – Property attacked – Trains derailed – Buildings burnt Mutilation – Murder. For the police, and the Army supporting them, its a queer kind of warfare, this – against an enemy subtle, clever; against death concealed behind the things of every day.
Over the jungles of the interior go the R.A.F. Dakotas, with supplies for the men below. For down there are the troops on their ceaseless, dangerous patrols – Malays, Ghurkhas and British – side by side; often far from their Company post, itself but a clearing in the wilderness.
Removed from the comfortable security of familiar quarters, he’s down there with his platoon. And now – pushing through the rustling curtains of green – the months of careful training tell; keeping him alert – suspicious sensitive.
The patrols thread their courses, too, through the river vapours, watching the forest walls on either side, Some times in leaden rain, always in clammy heat, they follow their routes – watching advancing – Sniper – Seldom any warning – Which direction? – How far away? Only one thing for it reinforce – surround the area – and comb it, yard by yard.
Modern weapons, yes. But behind them are the enduring qualities: steadiness – initiative- control.
The British soldier. All around the globe you’ll find him, from Gibraltar to Hong Kong. Everywhere, he stands against the threatening years, staunch symbol of our common will to order.
All around the globe you’ll find him. Citizen in his sense of the responsibilities of freedom. Soldier in his acceptance of the disciplines of duty. Truly a Man of the World.