Cookie policy: on we use analytics cookies to understand how visitors use the site. The anonymous information they provide suggests improvements and alerts us to technical errors. For more information, see our cookies page, which also explains how to block or remove cookies.  Search T. E. Lawrence Studies

Contents lists


T. E. Lawrence, The Mint




Salacious and wholly Welsh is long-suffering Sergeant Jenkins, florid in description, florid in abuse, florid in praise. He seems not disappointed with our failures, while we are trying: and he has a fine nose for a try. His arms drill is called as good as Flight-Sergeant (Jock) Mackay's, the chief instructor: good judges even prefer Taffy's after his fifth pint. Our flight is proud of him. 'We're Taffy's' we tell the less fortunate recruits. Our week of torture before he came back quickens us to keep him pleased with us.

Taffy takes his own liberties. Last week at ceremonial he tramped across the hollow square to Stiffy, in command. At the regulation distance he halted with the regulation halt and saluted with a perfection that thrilled.

'Permission to fall out, Sir!'

'Why, Sergeant?'

'To visit the Sergeants' Mess, Sir.'

'What for, Sergeant?'

Taffy exploded. 'A drink, Sir.' Stiffy staggered a pace, and gave way.

'Take that man's name, Sergeant,' yells Stiffy another time, 'the tall fellow in the rear rank.' 'Taken it, Sir.' 'Well then take it again': for Stiffy loves his old mate, and they exchange their time-consecrated gags across the parade ground. 'That long man of yours, still, Sergeant Jenkins. He's lazy; he's not trying. Give him an extra drill.' 'Got him, Sir.' 'The man's a bloody fool, Sergeant. Give him two drills.' 'Keep him on all night, Sir.' Breakdown of Stiffy and the tension.

Lofty of course got no extra drill at all. Taffy does not believe in established punishments. A hobnailed gallop, screaming, down the wet road, three or four bruising jabs with the stick of office.... These in his judgment do us good and leave no rancour over the week-end. We respect his keenness upon our account so that we'd take much beating from him. 'Extra drills' he snorts; 'if you've spare spunk for five more minutes than I've given you by tea-time, then post me to the Boy Scouts.' And I think he does honestly run us about as empty, each day, as is good for a flight's courage.

There aren't many instructors like Taffy. Most of them itch to put their mouths upon subjects of instruction and cannot keep from biting one another, downward in degree; even they bite their juniors' squads with a great voice of holy authority. This is bad for the earth-worms, for us upon the ground: ours is the residual resentment, as beings too poor to turn. Our revenge has to be taken behind their backs, fearfully, in curses, ridicule or parody. The man sharpest bitten will be loudest in anger: his friends silent on his behalf: while the others make the affair one more impersonal item in the general account. Good-humouredly, though. We enlisted expecting few but evil-smelling bouquets.

'March?' Sergeant Jenkins would wail. 'A set of filleted crabs: and if I tell 'em to shout, it's ruptured they are, like anaemic parrots. O God, what did I do to deserve such a mob?' He banged his head back against the quivering hut-door and dissolved in sham tears, for he'd seen Stiffy coming. 'The damned rotten thing about it is, Sir, that they drill bloody fine when they think I'm not looking. Turn your back, Sir,' and round spun Taffy himself to shout over the drill manual at us while he and Stiffy listened to the rattle of our performing rifles. At the end Stuffy said 'Not so dusty: how did it sound to you, Sergeant Jenkins?' 'If you ask me, Sir,' replied Taffy unabashed 'like a pack of skeletons frigging on a tin roof.'

Yet we cannot be really proud of Taffy's pride in our bolshevism when we know in our hearts that we are any sergeant's to be knocked about in silence. Some of us cravenly admit this feebleness and moan about it in lack of shame. Others try, by making their impulse supplement the directing impulse, to retain a fig of voluntariness. They 'will' right turn when the sergeant says right turn, and so on. A pitiful pretence of a soul-salve, that, in my judgment, and a corruption of discipline. The good soldier is inconsequential as a child.

Copyright, privacy, contact | Cookies help