Friday, 15 February 2008
Some thoughts on the past. Memories of Vietnam
I have just been writing up a blog about the time I was in the army and when my battalion (The 1st Battalion, Black Watch) went to Cyprus. That was in 1958 and I was only 19 years old.
When I arrived in Vietnam in 1965 I was twenty six. There is a great difference between the two. The majority of the United States enlisted men who arrived in Viet Nam were also only about nineteen. The big difference was the British stayed together as a battalion and many spent their whole military life in the same regiment. That meant the senior officers and NCOs had been together a very long time and even the more junior ones had time to get to know each other. Nobody ever wore name tags on their uniforms as everyone was expected to know the names of those, above or below them in rank, with whom they had dealings.
To be just a name and number, to be posted to a unit for a year and then off somewhere else again did not help to build an ésprit de corps. The possible exception was the US marines. Although even they were enormous compared to the average British battalion.
Now of course all the old British regiments have disappeared and there are only large multi battalion new fangled regiments of whom nobody has heard. Regiments come and go down the years. That’s sad but a fact. Armies go through re-organizations. That’s necessary. I read somewhere though that the idea was to copy the large American units. The British have always thought in Regiments, the Americans in Divisions.