National Service Officers
I was reading a book recently which blamed much of the anti-militarist rhetoric in the British Arts scene in the 1950s and 60s on writers who were bitter about not being allowed to do their National Service as officers. These, according to the book’s authors, unjustifiably embittered souls dragged the military’s reputation through the mud as revenge for not being selected for officer training. In many cases both sides probably had a case. But maybe there should have been no National Service men trained as officers. By the time they were properly trained, they would barely have had time to learn the job before they were kicked back onto Civvy Street. And with each year they were civilians they would have become less useful as officers. It’s hard not to believe that the scheme was just a way of finding more comfortable berths for the sons of the privileged when called up for National Service. And as one of the few positive aspects of National Service was exposure to a broad slice of men from various backgrounds, perhaps service in the ranks would have been more beneficial to the already privileged than playing at officers. Though Play Officers continue to crop up in the army under the guise of Short Service Commissions, now sold as Gap Year commissions.