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Sacrifice

After I posted last week blog which bemoaned the focus on the officers drawn from Britain's fee-paying schools when it comes to the slaughter of Britain’s “brightest and best” during the First World War , I remembered that I had some battalion casualty lists from both World Wars at home. I suggested that the loss of talent to the nation in the form of sergeants and warrant officers is too often fignored in military histories. The sergeants and warrants at least held their positions on the grounds of some merit, and not because they happened to go to the “right” school.  It is not difficult  to argue that perhaps the loss of the “brightest and best” of  working class males could actually have dealt a heavier blow to Britain than that of the officers. Certainly, many battalions found it harder to replace good non-commissioned officers than they did to replace those granted the King’s Commission. The point of mentioning the casualty figures was that it would seem that a senior N.C.O.’s life expectancy on the frontline wasn’t that much better than an officer’s. A look at the casualty lists shows that in some units the life expectancy was about the same. In others, the officer casualty figure is indeed higher, which at first sight might reinforce the myth that those families who could afford private education did indeed make a greater sacrifice in the "War to End All Wars". But perhaps when the number of officers killed who were actually smart working class boys promoted from the ranks of the N.C.O.s is factored in, the casualty rates balance again. All the deaths in the First World War were tragic losses to society. What irritates me is that when many historians talk about the Loss of a Generation they are only thinking of a generation of former pupils from fee-paying schools.
On another subject, no-one got back to me with any information about that book Tales of the RIC. I just noted that the University of Toronto classes the book as fiction, rather than the memoir of a police officer in Ireland during the IRA campaign of the early 1920s that it purports to be.

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