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View Full Version : Infantry Experiments: Who makes the best soldiers?



Nickdfresh
10-30-2006, 05:52 PM
I was once told by a colleague (while in the Army) that the British Army conducted experiments during WWII to test what made the most combat effective unit of soldiers. Among the findings: Criminals and street toughs made the worst, because despite their often violent natures they tended to be the first to quit or desert when the fighting got rough. While, conversely, the better educated the soldiers, the more combat effective the unit. Because the men were presumably more ideologically motivated and could out think their opponents.

I've never looked into this formally, does anyone have any info on this?

Mk VII
11-02-2006, 03:29 PM
educated men tended to be skimmed off into jobs where their abilities could be used (combat engineers, for instance)

Nickdfresh
11-02-2006, 04:21 PM
educated men tended to be skimmed off into jobs where their abilities could be used (combat engineers, for instance)

Oh I know. The thread's premise is that I think there were exceptions made, for purposes of a study.

I was just interested if anyone else had heard of this?

alephh
11-03-2006, 04:42 PM
There was a battalion of criminals in finnish army. They fought well - after the "immoral" part of the unit escaped/defected and only the hardened ones were left.

32Bravo
01-23-2007, 12:40 PM
In his book 'The Jungle Is Neutral' about Stay-Behind Forces, in Malaya, during the Japanese invasion and occupation, Spencer Chapman comments on how the Other Ranks had not the propensity for survival that the officers had and soon gave in to despair at their conditions and perished. On the other hand, the officer classes were generally better able to deal with the psychological stress of disease, isolation and the ever fear of discovery by the enemy etc.

In the novel 'Regeration' set in WW1 Pat Barker describes how soldiers suffering from 'Battle Shock' become mute, but officers never suffer this symptom, apart from one of the main characters of the book that happens to be from a working class background.

2nd of foot
01-23-2007, 02:23 PM
I am not sure if it was Hart or Fuller who said it but they wanted the better educated soldiers in armoured regiments. But as the RAF got the pick of the bunch they had little choice. The way they got around it was to form the Guards armoured as the Guards could pick its soldiers.

Although I understand the concept, I have known some excellent soldiers who if they had not joined (join or jail at an early age) the army would have spent a lot of time at Her Majesties pleasure. Most criminals have a jack attitude, what’s good for me, the regimental system produces a soldier who has very strong bonds with the others around them and this can overcome background.

32Bravo
01-23-2007, 03:07 PM
Perhaps if the question was framed around 'Better Leaders' and 'Better Soldiers'? By recognising that there is a difference between the two.
Some very excellent soldiers may shy away from becoming leaders.

Can it be that a unit commander leading his men in combat is less aware of his fear because he is so busy dealing with his responsibilites i.e. leading his men effectively and achieving his mission? The men, on the other hand, have plenty of time to focus on their fears. I think someone already mentioned motivation, it can't be ignored.

One officer I once new, serving with a Cumbrian regiment, commented that countrymen make the better soldiers as they are at one with the countryside. Another one from a different regiment swore that, in his regiment, the men from the back streets of Manchester and Salford made the better soldiers, as they were used to sneaking about at night stealing lead from the rooftops of wharehouses, churches and the like..."..excellent training for night patrolling!.."
Another one once told me that the men of the Durham Light Infantry were the better soldiers as they were usually ex-miners and were tough, gritty and accustomed to being in deadly situations.

All sweeping generalisations.

32B

GermanSoldier
01-24-2007, 09:41 PM
Good soldiers who do what they are told.

32Bravo
02-01-2007, 01:11 PM
Bottom line?.....the best soldiers are those which are the better trained and the better led!

1000ydstare
02-04-2007, 09:18 AM
Training.

That is what makes the difference.

Almost 99.9% of recruits if properly trained (not to mention well trained) will make exceptional soldiers.

However few armies have the time or resources to individually train soldiers to their individual requirements.

The best system I can think of was the old British Army Depot system. The infantry regiment, selected from it's catchment area and trained those men as they wished, to an extent. The new, one way for all, doesn't quite work as well IMH.

This is the reason why you can look at units and gauge them with sterio types. The training/indoctrination now occurs at regimental/battalion level. Those that don't fit in, or accept the methods usually leave the forces/battalion.

32Bravo
02-11-2007, 06:54 AM
Let's not forget team sports. They encourage competiitve rivalry, and esprit de corps, which in turn raises standards and levels of fitness. Rugby requires and produces: tactical thinking and planning; good communication, coordination, inspirational leadership and trains the individual to play their tactical position as a part of a wider formation. Also, with a game such as Rugby, it conditions ones ability to be able to take a physical battering (and stick with it), and to get used to the idea that the opposition have their plan and will do their utmost to spoil ones own. It is, of course, very sporting and does not necessarily have to condition a man into becoming a brute to turn him into a better soldier.

Team games also highlight the importance of training in developing and refining individual and team skills, and creative thought.

I know that Armies other than those that play Rugby have their own games ( which are almost as effective), but for me Rugby is the ideal game for balancing a little recreation time with soldier-skills.

Cuts
02-28-2007, 03:29 AM
Training.

That is what makes the difference.

Almost 99.9% of recruits if properly trained (not to mention well trained) will make exceptional soldiers.

However few armies have the time or resources to individually train soldiers to their individual requirements.

The best system I can think of was the old British Army Depot system. The infantry regiment, selected from it's catchment area and trained those men as they wished, to an extent. The new, one way for all, doesn't quite work as well IMH.

This is the reason why you can look at units and gauge them with sterio types. The training/indoctrination now occurs at regimental/battalion level. Those that don't fit in, or accept the methods usually leave the forces/battalion.


Ain't that the truth !
While not wishing to denigrate the actions of fine soldiers more recently trained, Regtl Depots invariably produced a better standard of soldier than ATRs.
By which I mean that the sldr arriving from a Depot was able to slot into a section with far more ease than those we now receive who tend to need further trg, (even if it is only Regtl SOPs,) when they arrive at Bn.

Regts would send their best NCOs to Depot to ensure a high std of new sldrs, whereas ATRs train to a (minimum) level.

Whilst not from a county regt myself, I deplored the loss of family which was one of the most forseeable results of the cost-cutting idea behind ATRs. New recruits used to realise that there would be relatives or at least people they knew from their home town at both Depot & Bn, and the moral pressure of not letting oneself or one's family down was a contributing factor for them to strive for the highest standards possible.

Once again politicos cut the effectiveness of the forces knowing full well that when metal meets muscle the British squaddie will dig deeper to ensure the cake & arse jobs they allocate to us are accomplished regardless of this artificial adversity. :mad:

Pottsy
03-09-2007, 07:43 PM
Soldiers who joined off there own back made the better soldiers.

Gun Plumber
05-05-2007, 05:21 PM
Soldiers who joined off there own back made the better soldiers.

Could you back that statement up ?

Winters
05-16-2007, 12:34 PM
soldiers who joined on there own accored make the better soldiers , they train harder faster and better then those that are there simply because they were told there going to join , rather then those who chose to do so , if you want it , you will go for it .

1000ydstare
05-16-2007, 12:40 PM
Some of those that were told to join have made bloody good soldiers.

The Artists Rifles were a Bn of conscripts and became on e of the most decortated units in the British Army during WW1.

Other units of pressed men have also distinguished themselves.

In short that statement is not strictly true, bordering on bo11ox.

Winters
05-16-2007, 12:42 PM
its a statistic , not a statement , but yea you are correct about some making fine soldiers .

Cuts
01-05-2009, 07:22 PM
soldiers who joined on there own accored make the better soldiers , they train harder faster and better then those that are there simply because they were told there going to join , rather then those who chose to do so , if you want it , you will go for it .
Some of those that were told to join have made bloody good soldiers.

The Artists Rifles were a Bn of conscripts and became on e of the most decortated units in the British Army during WW1.

Other units of pressed men have also distinguished themselves.

In short that statement is not strictly true, bordering on bo11ox.


its a statistic , not a statement , but yea you are correct about some making fine soldiers .

From which source did you obtain this 'statistic' ?

Rising Sun*
01-05-2009, 10:46 PM
soldiers who joined on there own accored make the better soldiers , they train harder faster and better then those that are there simply because they were told there going to join , rather then those who chose to do so , if you want it , you will go for it .

Rubbish!

Our conscripted national servicemen in Vietnam did the same basic, corps and jungle school training as the regulars, in the same time.

They suffered battle casualties at about the same rate as equivalent regulars, being 43%of total casualties. The greater proportion of regular casualties is attributable to them being involved before the national servicemen were sent; to the greater proportion of regular officers and NCOs due to their greater length of service; and to regulars being used in roles such as training team advisers for which the shorter service national servicemen were not qualified.

You wouldn't want to tell our conscripts who served in Vietnam that they were inferior soldiers.

boggy
01-22-2009, 07:04 AM
I joined the army as a boy soldier at age 16, after 2 years of intense training as an infantryman and training as a signalman and as a driver, I arrived at my Artillery regiment at a far higher level of training as the men who joined and did their 14 weeks basic training at their depot.

I slotted in straight away, within a couple of weeks was working in the regiment as if I had been their for a couple of years, about 80% of the chaps who came in from the Depot had to start at bottom of ladder and had to spend a couple of years training as signalmen / Drivers etc, it took a couple of years as they had to wait till winter months to do training as leave exercise etc takes up most of the time during the year.

I believe it was a great mistake the govenment made when the closed the excelent J. Leaders Regiments.

kamehouse
01-22-2009, 08:06 AM
I sincerely believe volunteer soldiers make a better job than those who were conscripted.
Based on my own experience during national service,I can guarantee that the state of the French army was really poor regarding their conscripted regiments.
We were affiliated paratroops in the Air force and couldn't give a toss about guarding radar and transmission sites.
This was before the change from a conscript to a volunteer army (1993/94) so maybe nobody cared anymore at that time.Still I do think people who do sign up for the army make better soldiers than the ones taken from their jobs or studies.

Schuultz
01-22-2009, 08:14 AM
Rubbish!

Our conscripted national servicemen in Vietnam did the same basic, corps and jungle school training as the regulars, in the same time.

They suffered battle casualties at about the same rate as equivalent regulars, being 43%of total casualties. The greater proportion of regular casualties is attributable to them being involved before the national servicemen were sent; to the greater proportion of regular officers and NCOs due to their greater length of service; and to regulars being used in roles such as training team advisers for which the shorter service national servicemen were not qualified.

You wouldn't want to tell our conscripts who served in Vietnam that they were inferior soldiers.

Well, purely theoretically speaking, Conscripts should make worse soldiers than Volunteers.

A Conscript was pushed into a war they (theoretically) didn't want to fight. Of course they'll fight hard to survive, build bonds and have heroic and definitely respectable achievements.
But in the end they are still conscripts, who were forced to subject themselves to a danger they did not want, and therefore are more likely to try to avoid unnecessarily dangerous actions.
This of course doesn't mean they won't still do them, depending on their patriotism, feeling of obligation towards their unit and personal bravery.
But with such a general subject, you have to live with generalizations.

A Volunteer would typically much more ideologically motivated. Whether it is a strong patriotism or a believe in the cause the war is fought for, they would theoretically be more likely to fight harder for the victory than people who were pushed into it and maybe don't even believe in what they're fighting for.
Again, there's the potential for cowardice with Volunteers just as with Conscripts, but I would expect it to be lower. If you signed up for fighting, you obviously did so because you wanted to fight, so you're more likely to fight.

Again, I'm not trying to say that Conscripts are necessarily inferior to Volunteers, but from a theoretical point of view, there's more speaking for Volunteers than for Conscripts.

Rising Sun*
01-22-2009, 08:22 AM
I sincerely believe volunteer soldiers make a better job than those who were conscripted.
Based on my own experience during national service,I can guarantee that the state of the French army was really poor regarding their conscripted regiments.
We were affiliated paratroops in the Air force and couldn't give a toss about guarding radar and transmission sites.
This was before the change from a conscript to a volunteer army (1993/94) so maybe nobody cared anymore at that time.Still I do think people who do sign up for the army make better soldiers than the ones taken from their jobs or studies.


Do you think it might depend upon whether or not the troops, both regular and conscript, think they are doing something worthwhile to defend their nation in a time of perceived need or threat rather than just filling in some comfortable or pointless years in uniform when there is no immediate military threat to their nation?

Our conscripts in Vietnam thought they were defending their nation and fought well.

Conversely, some conscript mates of mine were disparaging about regular soldiers who had 'gangplank fever', being a fear of boarding a ship or plane heading for Vietnam. Many of those regulars signed up in quieter times as an alternative to harder lives on the farm or in industry or trades and thought it would be a comfortable existence in a peacetime army.

I have been told of several instances where regulars, all volunteers, in that period upon being listed for Vietnam said something to the effect of "I didn't sign up for this." and then tried to to find ways out of the army while some of the conscripts were happily heading for action.

I don't think that one can generalise about the quality of volunteers or conscripts as both groups have people who make good and bad soldiers.

Schuultz
01-22-2009, 08:42 AM
Wait, Rising Sun, what is your definition of conscript?

The person who got a letter from the Government one fine day telling him that he has to report to the recruitment bureau, where he will be assigned a unit, trained and then sent to a currently waging war? (My definition)

Or the person who, when the war started and the Government made a public call that all men capable to fight are expected (though not yet individually forced/requested) to serve, went to a recruitment bureau, let himself get assigned and then went to fight the war. (Which I would refer to as a volunteer)

Rising Sun*
01-22-2009, 08:47 AM
Well, purely theoretically speaking, Conscripts should make worse soldiers than Volunteers.

A Conscript was pushed into a war they (theoretically) didn't want to fight. Of course they'll fight hard to survive, build bonds and have heroic and definitely respectable achievements.
But in the end they are still conscripts, who were forced to subject themselves to a danger they did not want, and therefore are more likely to try to avoid unnecessarily dangerous actions.
This of course doesn't mean they won't still do them, depending on their patriotism, feeling of obligation towards their unit and personal bravery.
But with such a general subject, you have to live with generalizations.

A Volunteer would typically much more ideologically motivated. Whether it is a strong patriotism or a believe in the cause the war is fought for, they would theoretically be more likely to fight harder for the victory than people who were pushed into it and maybe don't even believe in what they're fighting for.
Again, there's the potential for cowardice with Volunteers just as with Conscripts, but I would expect it to be lower. If you signed up for fighting, you obviously did so because you wanted to fight, so you're more likely to fight.

Again, I'm not trying to say that Conscripts are necessarily inferior to Volunteers, but from a theoretical point of view, there's more speaking for Volunteers than for Conscripts.

Those are all fair comments, but they assume that a war is going on and that all volunteers volunteer from pure motives of national defence and self-sacrifice.

I have no idea of the numbers, but I'd guess that in many nations far more soldiers joined and served as volunteers and conscripts in peacetime. That's rather different to the situation in a hot war, especially for volunteers who signed up expecting not to have to fight, which I've referred to in my last post as far as some regular bronzed Anzacs were concerned during Vietnam.

I know from reading various personal accounts and from a few personal contacts that some, perhaps many, Australian men volunteered in both world wars as much from perceived social pressure (which as usual came from people who could not or would not join but who expected others to do it to defend them) as from any other motive.

Once conscripts are forced into the service, some and maybe even many will discover or build on a martial spirit which was always there, but which needed them to be forced into service to discover.

On the other hand, and despite careful selection processes, some volunteers will prove to be major disappointments but will be retained in the service in lesser roles because they can perform there and it is a return on the service's investment in training them. But great soldiers they are not.

Rising Sun*
01-22-2009, 09:02 AM
Wait, Rising Sun, what is your definition of conscript?

The person who got a letter from the Government one fine day telling him that he has to report to the recruitment bureau, where he will be assigned a unit, trained and then sent to a currently waging war? (My definition)

Or the person who, when the war started and the Government made a public call that all men capable to fight are expected (though not yet individually forced/requested) to serve, went to a recruitment bureau, let himself get assigned and then went to fight the war. (Which I would refer to as a volunteer)

A conscript is someone who is drafted / press ganged / compelled / whatever to join an armed service by his or her government. They are civilians forced to be military slaves to their government's whim.

A volunteer joins voluntarily. They are civilians who chose to be military slaves to their government's whim.

Most regulars and conscripts in Western, and for that matter Eastern, Europe since WWII weren't even in countries which were remotely at risk of deploying conscripts, or regulars, to any current war in which their nation was engaged. I don't think we can draw too much from their service about the likely fighting qualities of conscripts and regulars, although I'm willing to bet that if their country's back was to the wall the vast bulk of them from any nation would fight hard to defend it, conscript or volunteer.

kamehouse
01-22-2009, 01:38 PM
I would have personally paid more attention and be less of a wanker if there would have been a risk my country would be involved in a war.At the time I was conscripted (93/94),the only place France was military involved was with the U.N in Sarajevo.I would have to sign for an extra 14 months to go there,something I wasn't very keen on.I was more thinking about my girlfriend and my friend who were still studying and have a good time.Not the best material for a good soldier now is it?All my section was in the same mood,trying to do as less as possible due to a shit pay(around £50 a month) and the fact that we lost our jobs or a year of study.My section was composed of a winemaker son(from Chablis,very nice),a shepperd,a baker,2 students of physics, a mechanic and a few more students and we all ended up as a sort of hybrid between paratroops and MP's with the pompuous bname of fusilier commando.
Commando?Still makes me giggle.
I feel more secured now that my country adopted the same model of Army Britain embraced a long time ago.
Again personal opinion from personal experience.

Schuultz
01-22-2009, 01:41 PM
How was the French model different back then?

How does it compare to the modern German model (If you know anything about it)?

kamehouse
01-22-2009, 01:52 PM
How was the French model different back then?

How does it compare to the modern German model (If you know anything about it)?
Back when?in the 90's or in the 30's?
and no I don't know much about German model let alone any modern armies.Only what I have tasted myself.;)

Schuultz
01-22-2009, 02:32 PM
Back when?in the 90's or in the 30's?
and no I don't know much about German model let alone any modern armies.Only what I have tasted myself.;)

The 90s.

32Bravo
01-27-2009, 08:48 AM
Conscripts or regulars?...well, I would imagine that in a prolonged war/campaign such as ww2 it made little difference in the end. A conscript who might have been sent to, say, Burma in 1942 would more than likely have remained there until the end of hostilities. As the campaign progressed, they were relieved from the front on a rotational basis and trained intensively for future operations. As the war continued even the average soldier/conscript became more effective on account of his trainig and experience.

A very good account is 'The Little Men - a Platoon's Epic Fight in the Burma Campaign' by Ken Cooper.which gives an account of a platoon's progress through the campaign, written by the platoon commander - very gritty reading and compares more than favourably with anything Ambrose produced - they don't come better than this.

colonel hogan
01-28-2009, 11:49 PM
i think volunteers make the best soldiers. they don't have to fight for anyone but themselves and there squad mates.

flamethrowerguy
01-29-2009, 12:01 AM
i think volunteers make the best soldiers. they don't have to fight for anyone but themselves and there squad mates.

Irrespective of this solemn comment...what exactly would conscripts fight for?

Rising Sun*
01-29-2009, 01:21 AM
Irrespective of this solemn comment...what exactly would conscripts fight for?

Clearly not themselves on colonel hogan's incisive view, so I guess they'd just be in it for the money.

Schuultz
01-29-2009, 07:26 AM
they'd be in it for the fun

duh :rolleyes:

32Bravo
02-02-2009, 04:44 PM
It's still about the training.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=v8H75Lp-wCY&feature=channel_page

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=nclFIutvISI&feature=channel

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=iHQ_BqQE7DE&feature=related

Mac in action:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=7yD4iD71uOw&feature=related

Timbo in Oz
02-15-2010, 07:56 PM
Here's a quote from a book I picked up second-hand, highly recommended by the way*. "A Child at Arms" by Patrick Davis - who was a war time KCO in the Gurkhas in Burma.

"That obscure little fight at Singu, .......... . ......... . ... was the last time I went confidently into battle, the last occasion I was in full command of my fears. ....... . .............. .

Yet so far my encounters with the Japanese had been remarkably unbloody. I had not fired a shot in anger, though some had been fired at me. ....... Many of our men had been through two campaigns against the Japanese, each more severe than this, and were still serviceable.

Nevertheless, whatever it is that keeps us going willingly and ardently into battle had for me run out. Will-power and pride bore me along after a fashion. Maybe no one noticed the difference. But from now on I never volunteered. I shrank inwardly at the news of fresh assignments. I most wanted to be where the Japanese were not."




I'd suggest that _if_ officers don't show it as easily or as quickly, it is mostly that the constraints on giving way are greater, for senior NCO's and WO's too. Also it is possible for officers to cope in ways an infantry private can not.

For some it can happen in one moment, terrible just for them, for others it takes years.

But IME&O it can get anyone. Highly random and strange, stalwart people can be undone by things that don't affect comrades in action with them. And nervous nelly's come through their service without cracking.

It is often not until much later, when it will surface, and in MOST such soldiers IME&O. Very few front-line soldiers are free of the psychoses of battle.

I have a friend who works with our Vietnam veterans, I knew that most of them are a mess, which he has strongly confirmed. We were both trained in the same militia/part-time unit . For officer / senior NCO training, straight from school. He a decade before me, and was commissioned, I went the other route.

Heaps of civilians who drive themselves too hard, can crack.

*Davis' book is at least as valuable as John Master's biographic trilogy - the middle one "The Road past Mandalay -, or George MacDonald Fraser's book (Flashman series?), when Fraser he was a private soldier in a British infantry battalion in the 14th Army.

Yorkshiress
03-02-2010, 10:51 PM
The criminals in jail WWII fought in wars for a chance to escape jail term.
The criminals had a choice,stay in jail or fight,if survived the war,the criminals walk free.
The Dirty Dozen (US films) is a great example for this.

well educated men are put into better war jobs,they are happier,willing to fight for there country meaning they have more of a heart to fight much harder than the criminals.

flamethrowerguy
03-03-2010, 03:26 AM
The criminals in jail WWII fought in wars for a chance to escape jail term.
The criminals had a choice,stay in jail or fight,if survived the war,the criminals walk free.
The Dirty Dozen (US films) is a great example for this.

well educated men are put into better war jobs,they are happier,willing to fight for there country meaning they have more of a heart to fight much harder than the criminals.

Yup. Hollywood movies are generally underestimated as a historical source.:rolleyes:

Munchausen
03-24-2010, 03:18 PM
I really don't know what is being asked. IMHO, the best soldier is the best human being. Someone who is smart, brave, strong, tireless and forthright would make an excellent soldier able to understand and carry out orders. From my experience such stock can come from anywhere: universities, factories, farms, reservations and, yes, even prisons. All war is is Darwinism kicked into high gear and only the best and luckiest survive.
Your question is that of eugenics.