Brigadier defends the indefensible
The single aim of this paper is to answer, if not to disprove entirely,
the paper received under a covering letter dated 2 February 2007 and
signed by Brigadier (Retd) T.C. Sherry, OBE. 1 Brigadier Sherry it transpires
is President of the Board of Trustees of the RAEC Association. The paper
he sent is undated and had no by-line, so is referred to throughout this
response as the 'Sherry Paper'. It has a sturdy title: Issues
raised by Art Cockerill over the reputation of the Rev. GR Gleig with
regard to the development of military education in the mid 19th Century
with particular reference to Leslie Wayper's 'Mars & Minerva'. 2 The introduction
provides background information to the argument. Similarly, the setting
for this response is written from this writer's perspective.
A letter of inquiry dated 4 October 2006 to a Colonel R. Fairclough asking
for information on the Queen's Army Schoolmistresses 3 (QAS)
was passed to Sherry to answer. That letter included a mild criticism
of the first chapter of the Mars and Minerva book under the
Origins of Army Education. In short, I expressed disappointment
that Wayper had '... accepted without criticism everything White wrote
in his Story
of Army Education'. 4 In his
letter dated 30 November 2006, Sherry explained the inquiry had been
given to him because he was better placed to answer the question because
he had '... been involved in army schools work in various tours of duty.'
Next, he stated that he had passed the inquiry to the Corps Museum curator
to answer. 5 In the main, Sherry's
letter, showing evidence of composition by more than one hand, stoutly
defended Wayper. The Brigadier concluded by accusing me of having a '...derogatory,
sneering air of superiority...', 6 which
is near to, if not outright, slander. [Editing note: 'slander' is
incorrect; 'libel' is the right word.] Here are the reasons
for suspecting involvement in the response by committee.
First, Sherry is President of the Association. The delay in answering
my letter indicates Sherry considered the criticism serious enough for
discussion at the board of trustees level. His letter has a fully-justified
text with salutation and signature only hand-written; indicative work
by secretarial help familiar with the stilted style of military correspondence.
If emanating from committee, the president and no other would sign the
letter. As designated spokesman, therefore and to my mind, he stands
in relation to the board as Goliath stood champion for the Philistines.
This thought may produce an acidic charge that I might therefore be supposed
to see myself as a David. Not at all, although facing a solid phalanx
assembled to defend the Corps mythologies requires a dependable sling
and ample supply of lethal pebbles. However, at least two officers support
the view I expressed. One wrote, 'The former senior officers of the RAEC
were always very defensive about the corps and its roles.' 7
Sherry admitted consulting with colleagues, as well as availing himself
of the services of a scholar with specialist knowledge of 19th Army education,
to help support his defence. He named Dr. Elaine Smith as sharing with
others consulted and having had a hand in producing the Sherry Paper.
She may have written it. If so, why not add her name and date the paper?
An observation on Smith, then, whose academic qualifications are not
The name of plain Elaine Smith appears in the acknowledgement section
of Wayper's book, Mars and Minerva. She is cited for her '...unrivalled
knowledge of the Corps' archives she so kindly put at my disposal and
whose writings on the early days of Army Education have been so valuable.' 8 From this citation one deduces that this scholar's doctorate is newly
minted. She is to be congratulated, which remark should not be taken
as any more than a vote of confidence one is dealing with a scholar of
unrivalled knowledge in the field.
Confidence in the scholarship in the opposite camp is a prerequisite
to understanding this step-by-step response to the Sherry Paper. The
same sequence of argument used in the Sherry Paper is followed here,
beginning with Wayper's Mars and Minerva; also in the use
of endnotes, although for plain texts this is a pretentious form of
writing; Orwell would gag in his grave.
MARS AND MINERVA
Contrary to the impression given that I criticised the entire Mars and
Minerva book, my remarks applied to Chapter One headed The origins of
Army Education. I did not and will not comment on the balance of the
book. I believe also that anyone presuming to field counter censure should
have a copy of the book to consult, yet the Sherry Report states, 'I
do not have a copy of Wayper's book, only a small extract, and so it
is difficult to comment on his footnoting.' 9 Indeed it is, especially
for one who specializes in the field. Assertion that Wayper had available
all the references to 'original sources' given him by the writer of this
statement is unacceptable.
To settle the argument regarding the source references of Chapter One,
the charge is here repeated. The Chapter has 124 endnote references,
yet none cites an original source. Every reference is to secondary sources,
meaning what others have written. The claim that Wayper had all the 'key
source documents' available is not good enough. It is not evidence. The
footnotes are and they are clear evidence of this writer's claim. The
difference between primary and secondary source documents will be demonstrated
when dealing with the charge of 'factual inaccuracies'.
Admitting some faults in Mars and Minerva the second paragraph of that
passage in question concludes with yet another admission, 'I am not sure.' 10 A copy of the volume on the bookshelf to consult might have helped the
writer to certainty, so here to assist are some specific inaccuracies
in Chapter One. In his introduction to the section with the sub-heading The Corps of Army Schoolmasters, Wayper writes:
The fact that out of the original twenty-four applicants only thirteen
made the grade and enlisted shows how great were the demands on them.
In view of the rapid increase in their numbers, and the fact that prior
to the 1870 Royal Commission there were 250 Army Schoolmasters serving
all over the world, it seems probable that the very high standards required
from the first Schoolmasters were later considerably lowered.
The reference to '...the original twenty-four applicants ...' derives
from National Archives document WO 143/49, Normal
School Register 10 March 1847 to 17 January 1851. Hooray! We are reading from the same script.
The total applicants to take the course is unknown because their names
were not recorded. Of the twenty-four engaged to take the course, ten
were dismissed for various reasons: drunkenness, disorderly conduct,
gross breach of the rules - e.g. going AWOL - one publicly expelled,
three absconded, one withdrew, and one was 'encouraged to leave'. According
to Gleig, 12 (to go under the microscope shortly), candidates for training
came from '... well connected backgrounds, from clerical, Army Officer
and medical backgrounds.'
Again, with reference to Wayper's op. cit. source, speculation on the
probability that the '... very high standards required from the first
Schoolmasters were later considerably lowered' has no foundation in fact.
The standards of the first intake of could not have been lower than they
were. Why? The Normal School Register includes a summary of each student's
knowledge of set subjects during his interview. The examiner's comments 13 are subjective. Although tabulation of the record is not practical in
so short a paper, following is a representative list of what the first
intake knew or, more to the point, did not know.
Reading - Fair, (frequent notes on the student's reading voice,
e.g. reads with a Scotch, Welsh accent or Irish brogue)
Scripture - Good
English history - Fair
Ancient history - Knows nothing
Geography - Poor
Arithmetic - Poor
Geometry - Nil
Algebra - Nil 14
If the '... very high standards required ... were later considerably
lowered' as Wayper states, one has to ask how low did they fall? Perhaps
the answer is to be found in Smith's MA dissertation. Enough! These examples
of factual inaccuracy should put to rest the fierce reaction and groundless
accusations in the Sherry Paper regarding my, I repeat, mild criticism
of Chapter One.
In 1847, the first year of teacher training, 43 students registered;
13 left or were dismissed, 23 signed the 'bond of service' 15 required including
12 enlisted men. Judging from the record of those who registered for
the course, the majority were serving soldiers from the ranks. So much
then for gentlemen of 'well-connected backgrounds'.
To deal fully with the Rev. George R. Gleig's role in 19th Century Army
education is not a job to be undertaken here. One seeks only to challenge
the counter-criticism of the charge levelled against the Gleig in two
books 16 and elsewhere. This is a challenge when, with the precision of
a blunderbuss sniper, the Sherry Paper dwells tiresomely on what other
writers have written about Gleig. Where research involves examination
of a mid-19th Century Victorian, especially one charged with self-aggrandizement
and self-promotion, the orders, correspondence, reports and papers of
that person are the only evidence worth examining. 'Father of Army education'
and like shibboleths of the Army education community repeated often enough
may convince many, but that is propaganda, a technique totalitarian regimes,
societies and associations use to solidify their mythologies.
What records of his directives exist, what regulations did he issue,
where are the inspection reports, curricula, examination records, teaching
standards, statistical data and personnel records from 1846 to 1857?
There are none. The RAEC archival cupboard is bare. If those documents
existed, they would constitute the evidence of performance during the
period of Gleig's stewardship? No such accounts have come to the public
or scholarly notice. 17 As a consequence, we are left only with a record
of his appointments, letters, reports and published works over his by-line.
They are few enough, so let us examine what evidence does exist, beginning
In this regard, Gleig's appointments as stated the Sherry Paper are not
in contention. These include his Chaplaincy of the Royal Chelsea Hospital,
Chaplain-General (1844-1875), and Inspector of Military Schools 18 (1846-1857).
Of Gleig's reports we might begin with the WO 143/30 (footnote 5 in the
Sherry Paper), Minutes of HM Commissioners RMA Chelsea, 1833-46 and the
inference he was involved. The reference is to a response by the Board
of Commissioners of the RMA to the Secretary at War in which appears
the statement, 'It will be in their recollection that Sir Henry Hardinge
addressed to us a letter in March 1842.' 19 There is no paper trail to Gleig,
not a mention of him. The only time he is identified by name in document
WO 143/10 is in a petition discussed by the RMA board at its 19 March
1845 meeting for admission to the Asylum of the son of a storekeeper
in the Royal Hospital. Included with the petition is a certificate of
good character over Gleig's signature. 20
The use of Gleig's National Education No. 95 article, published in April
1852, 21 to prove his involvement in the early development of Army education
from the mid-1840s on is more serious. In his introduction, Gleig writes,
'Some time in the summer of 1846, two gentlemen met on the deck of a
river steam boat...' Really, this will not do. The Sherry Paper puts
the meeting of the two gentlemen in 1845. How could the two men visit
the RMA a year before they met? It is not acceptable for the writer of
this passage to say she did not have a copy of the National
Education No. 95 article. Here we go again. No book? No article? Where now does
the charge of 'inaccurate and false' reporting lie? But wait! Let us
stick with Gleig. He reports seeing, during his inspection visit, '...
a few [children] wandered about dragging heavy logs which were fastened
with chains to their ankles.' This is patently untrue and alone justifies
the claim that Gleig made outrageous and false statements.
There is no record whatever in any RMA document of children having to
drag about heavy logs chained to their ankles. The RMA authorities kept
accurate records in the punishment registers. The worst punishment inflicted
occurred in the very early days of the Institution when confinement to
a cage hauled to the ceiling by rope and tackle was visited on those
judged guilty of bad behaviour. Even here, one mention only is recorded
of the punishment cage in the board minutes for the 1803-7 period. 22 Ample
were punishments inflicted on children by other means: confinement in
the 'black hole', they were caned, thrashed and birched, but there is
no entry in the punishment books of logs chained to their limbs. The
Paper mocks this writer for use of the word 'porky', but here is a clear
case of lying and I challenge Sherry's experts to prove me wrong.
One last example of inaccuracy; there are more anomalies. In Gleig's
own words, he visited the RMA in the summer of 1846. School Inspector
Henry Moseley delivered his report in April 1846, so Gleig is incorrectly
credited with instigating Moseley's inspection. Again, no direct connection.
Sherry's experts should get back to the drawing board.
In a strong belief that this response more than fully answers the Sherry
Paper, two conclusions come to mind. The first is to express full agreement
with the Association President, or his mercenary expert, that this writer's
assertions '... have led those interested in this subject to revisit
Gleig and his role in ... military education in the mid 19th Century.'
This is the most sensible idea offered by the paper. The second conclusion
is to affirm that no contempt is here directed at the membership of RAEC
Association or its board of trustees. The board may adhere to Robert's
Rules. As Brigadier (Retd) Sherry mounted on his charger struck at me
with spiteful intent, he cannot complain if I follow Lonsdale's bare-knuckle
rules for public entertainment on Clapham Common.
Within the ranks of the RAEC Association, there are no doubt those who
can with ease recite Seneca's De Brevitate Vitae backwards, in the original
if necessary, or calculate the effect of the third harmonic on a salient
pole generator to the nearest volt. 23 They might be few in number, but
not so the historians in their ranks, who must be many. The RMA Normal
School registers and records were in the RAEC archives for many years
from 1955 on, before being transferred to the National Archives. The
Association missed its chance then. It yet has time to research its history,
including Gleig's role in it. It will not then rely so heavily on the
mythology in which it has wrapped itself. Also, it will be unnecessary
to be so easily offended by what others write of the Corps' history.
Here rests the case for the defense.