Quote from Rudolf Binding, A Fatalist at War

Recently I read Trench Warfare 1850-1950 by Anthony Saunders, which is very good. Saunders cites to a German war memoir I had not heard of before: Rudolf Binding, A Fatalist at War. It was published in German in 1927 and in English in 1929. I bought it. It is a collection of excerpts from Binding’s letters and diaries. Binding was 46 when the war broke out, and he volunteered, serving in the cavalry. I am only up to December of 1914 and haven’t read enough to assess Binding yet.

I ran into this entry:

Drywege, December 19, 1914
What the English do, they do well; they will make good soldiers. Perhaps not so many as people think, but good ones. If England were to introduce conscription it would be more dangerous for us than anything she has ever done. For I do not agree with those who ask contemptuously where they will find officers and N.C.O.s. They will all come — the rowing blues, the leading lights of the cricket and football teams, the athletic trainers, runners and many more. Are the Berlin police to be compared with the English police, although most of them are Prussian N.C.O.s? The English policemen know how to deal with masses; they handle them perfectly. The quality of troops has always compensated for their comparatively small numbers. They have given us plenty of trouble here, too, though they are, in fact, definitely outnumbered.

Binding correctly perceived that leadership talent was dispersed throughout English society, and would be of military value in a mass army.

Interesting that he calls the town, presumably in Belgium, where he is billeted “Drywege.” But there is no town by that name as far as Google is concerned.

6 thoughts on “Quote from Rudolf Binding, <em>A Fatalist at War </em>”

  1. There’s a Driewegen right across the border of Belgium in the Netherlands. Border shift?

  2. The bulk of military leadership in the UK in the first world war was upper class youth which went from their various private schools right into Sandhurst. It goes way back.

    There was a large middle class component as well that provided many officers too but nearly all lower class soldiers would never make anything past Sergent Major.

    My family, we have been killing people for the crown for over 600 years … that we know about. ;)

  3. PenGun, the leadership was much as you describe. The need for officers was so huge that many middle class people who would never have been commissioned became officers in World War I. Winston Churchill went directly to Sandhurst, but only after successfully cramming for his exams, which he barely passed.

  4. “nearly all lower class soldiers would never make anything past Sergent Major”: except Wullie Robertson, of course, who became Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

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