Home > Uncategorized > Charles Edward Montague: Soldier politician, recruiter of other men for battles that he avoided himself

Charles Edward Montague: Soldier politician, recruiter of other men for battles that he avoided himself

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Charles Edward Montague: War’s demoralization

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Charles Edward Montague
From Disenchantment

London, to any open eye, was grotesque with a kind of fancy-dress ball of non-combatant khaki: it seemed as if no well-to-do person could be an abstainer from warfare too total to go about disguised as a soldier. He might be anything – a lord lieutenant, an honorary colonel, a dealer in horses, a valuer of cloth, an accountant, an actor in full work, a recruiter of other men for the battles that he avoided himself, a “soldier politician” of swiftly and strangely acquired field rank and the “swashing and martial outside” of a Rosalind, and a Rosalind’s record of active service. No doubt this latter carnival was not to be at its height till most of the New Army of 1914 was well out of the way. Conscription had not yet been vouchsafed to the prayers of healthy young publicists who then begged themselves off before tribunals. The ultimate farce of the mobbing of the relatively straight “conscientious objector” by these, his less conscientious brother-objectors, had still to be staged. But already the comedy, like Mercutio’s wound, was enough; it served. Colonel Repington’s confessional diary had not been published, but the underworld which it reveals was pretty correctly guessed by the New Army’s rising suspicion. And rumour said that all the chief tribes of posturers, shirkers, “have-a-good-timers,” and jobbers were banding themselves together against the one man in high place whom the New Army believed, with the assurance of absolute faith, to be straight and “a tryer.” It was said that Kitchener was to be set upon soon by a league of all the sloths whom he had put to work, the “stunt” journalists whom he had kept at a distance, the social principalities and powers whose jobs he would not do.

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If man, in all his wars, is predestined never to love and trust his Brass Hats, least of all can he struggle against this disability when he is warring in trenches.

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