Extract from an address by General Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher, KBE, CB, MC, Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army (from 31 December 1947 till 15 January 1949) to the Staff and Cadets of Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, on 28 May 1948. “I would like to take this opportunity of offering to you Gentlemen Cadets some advice as to the future, which I recommend that you should bear in mind when you are finally permitted the honour of becoming officers in India’s Army.
Why do I say that you are being permitted the honour of joining the Army? It is because you will join a Service which has great traditions – traditions which have been and are most jealously guarded by its officers, both past and present and because you will join an Army which is second to none. When the last war finished, the Infantry of the Indian Army was the finest in the World. In the case of other Corps, the highest standards will undoubtedly be achieved, but they have been faced with a more difficult task than has the Infantry, since they have had to compete with modern and complicated equipment which was new to them.
The future of the Army lies with its officers, and in particular, with its junior officers. How are you going to set about ensuring that its great standards and traditions are maintained? An Army is as its officers are; if they are good so will the Army be good, if they are poor so will the Army be poor. The men reflect their officers and they are, in fact, the mirror in which you can see yourselves. What then are the hallmarks of a good officer – the outward and the visible signs?
Firstly, I would put DEVOTION TO THE SERVICE. The interest of the Army must come first in your thoughts and in your actions all the time. Remember that the Army, and indeed all the Services, are the servants of the Government in power at the time, and the political complexion of a particular Government makes not the slightest difference to this fact. As soldiers you are not concerned with politics. There is nothing wrong in your having political opinions and in expressing them with moderation in private conversation but that is a very different matter to expressing political opinions in public or allowing such opinions to influence your actions in any way. No Army which concerns itself with politics is ever of any value. Its discipline is poor, its morale is rotten, and its reliability and efficiency is bound to be of the lowest order. You have only to look at certain foreign armies which are constantly mixed up in politics to realize the truth of what I say.
It follows, therefore, that the Army has never the slightest right to question the policy of Government. Implicit obedience to the orders issued by Government is essential, and only in this manner with the interests of the Country be fully served. And so you see that devotion to the Service implies devotion to the Country as well.
Secondly, EFFICIENCY is undoubtedly a hallmark of a good officer. Unless you are efficient, you will neither be respected by your troops nor will you have their confidence, two essentials in the officer – men relationship. Without efficiency, you will have no self-confidence and without self-confidence you cannot possibly lead troops in war, nor for that matter can you train them in peace. Having made the Army your profession, you must put everything you can into being and remaining efficient. The Commandant and the Staff at this Academy have spared no efforts to set you on the right path, but I would not like you to go away from here believing that you already have the requisite knowledge to enable you to train troops or to lead them in war. You have still much training to do and much to learn; in fact, you will never cease to learn throughout the whole of your career.
Thirdly, I put HIGH PERSONAL STANDARDS. You must set yourselves the very highest personal standard in everything you do in your work; in the games you play; in your conduct in the mess; in your conduct in your own homes, and in your conduct in public. Nothing else is good enough. The maintenance of high personal standards leads to self-respect, and self-respect is one of the important elements of discipline. Included in personnel standards is loyalty, and I would like to draw your attention especially to it. You will find during your service that there will be occasions on which you will be called upon to show loyalty to your men, to your superiors, to your unit and to your Service as a whole. You must never let any of them down either by word, thought or deed. It will not always be easy, but it is an essential factor of life in the Army.
When I talk about high personal standards, I do not imply that you must aim at a standard of living which may possibily be far beyond your means. That would merely be senseless and to do so would show a weakness of character and a lack of balance, neither of which can be tolerated in an officer of the Armed Forces. I will go further, it is nothing short of criminal for an officer to run himself into debt, and crime in the Army is dealt with severely.
As junior officers you should remember that your personal bearing will exercise a dominating and permeating influence not only with your own men, but with the general public, and that the tone of an Army is set by its officers. In public, therefore, as on parade, you must conduct yourselves in such a fashion that the uniform you wear is regarded by the general public less as a uniform than as the hallmark of the great profession of arms to which you belong; a profession whose prestige in time of war is always vitally bound up with the Nation’s destiny. Fourthly, is DISCIPLINE I have recently issued to the Army some notes on, what discipline is and how it is achieved. (You will find them in Durbar Notes No 3 and you should study them carefully.)
Fifthly, is LEADERSHIP or the ABILITY TO COMMAND MEN. The two vital attributes of a leader, with which he will succeed, and without which he will fail, are decision in action and calmness in crisis. These apply, although in varying degree, to both peace and war. But there are other qualities with which you must also seek to equip yourselves if you wish to be good leaders. Readiness to accept responsibility is one, efficiency and self-confidence I have already mentioned. A leader must be firm and just in his dealings with his men; he must be clear-cut and definite in giving his orders; he should pay attention to administrative details and he must keep his men informed of all new developments.
There is another aspect of leadership and that is its relation to morale. The best type of leader earns the respectful admiration of his men because he possesses certain good qualities which they lack and brings out in them the quality of self-respect. A brutal leader who disregards the feelings of his men will not infuse them with self-respect, and the morale of the troops he commands, regardless of his qualities as a leader, will not be of the highest order. This ability to instill the quality of self-respect in troops is one of the principal attributes of a leader.
Now I want to say a few words to you on the subject of “Esprit de Corps.” “Esprit de Corps” comprises personal sentiments of duty, of courage and of loyalty, and a sense of pride in country, service, unit and self.
It is the task of every officer and every non-commissioned officer to play his part in making his sub-unit, unit and the Army as a whole into a formidable fighting machine. To carry out this task he must appreciate the distinction between an Army and a mob. It is not by its arms, for mobs have arms, but by its “esprit de corps” and discipline that an army is to be so distinguished. These two qualities are essential to secure coordinated action by a body of men, and to ensure the singleness of purpose which can alone enable them to achieve the intention of their commander. Fear is the enemy of morale; fear unchecked will lead to panic, and a unit that panics is no longer a unit, but a mob. There is no man who is altogether without fear, but with high morale, men will face danger because of their sentiments of duty, courage and of loyalty, and because of their sensible pride in their country, in their unit, and in themselves; in other words because of their “Esprit de Corps.”
There are several outwards signs of good “Esprit de Corps.” One is dress, another is good saluting, third is good drill and a fourth is good physical fitness of a unit as a whole. Again, there is the general behavior of a unit; in fact you will see that the matter of “Esprit de Corps” is closely bound up with discipline and if a unit’s “esprit de corps” is always in evidence, its good bearing in public will contribute to the good reputation of the Army as a whole.”