The British Army

Evaluate the impact of discipline in The British Army and justify the need for, role of and effects of such discipline. "Nothing can be more hurtful to the service than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another. "1 Today, the need for discipline in The British Army is of paramount importance. Without discipline, it becomes just another armed body in the world; with it, it maintains their capability as one of the world's most influential and powerful forces.

The average recruit going into the Army often misunderstands the meaning of the words military discipline. He thinks of them as being connected with punishments or reprimands which may result from the violation of some military law or regulation. Actually, discipline should not be something new, for most everyone has been disciplined throughout their lives. One such example is being disciplined at home and in school when taught obedience to parents and teachers, and to respect the rights of others.

On a football or other sports team one has disciplined themselves when turning down the chance to be a star performer in order that the team might win. Discipline may have been acquired in the workforce when loyalty to an employer and fellow employees was greater than one's personal desires to secure their own advancement. All of this is merely the spirit of team play; that is, putting the interests of the team above one's own for the greater good of the team.

The word 'company', 'troop', or 'unit' is merely the name for a team, and military discipline is nothing more than this same spirit of team play. It is the most important aspect in the Army. In civilian life lack of discipline in a young man may result in his getting into trouble which will cause his parents and teachers regret or sorrow. It may cause a member of an sports team to be 'sent off', or cause an employee to lose his job. In the Army it is far more serious.

Here a lack of discipline in a soldier may not only cost him his life and the life of his comrades, but cause a military undertaking to fail and his team to be defeated. On the other hand a team of a few well-disciplined solders is worth many times a much larger number of undisciplined individuals who are nothing more than an armed mob. History repeatedly shows that without discipline, no body of troops can hold its own against a well-disciplined and well-directed enemy.

For example while far smaller than the armies of many other European powers, by the turn of the century, the British Army, through its tight discipline, sound command, and shrewd tactics, was still a force to be reckoned with. Despite being inferior in numbers, the British Army was far superior in expertise and tactics, facilitating the seemingly incomprehensible victories over large French forces in the Peninsula, such as that of Busaco in 1810, where a modest British force held off attack from forty-five French battalions.

Throughout centuries of warfare the military hierarchy has always been to maintain the cohesion and fighting efficiency of the armed forces. Towards this end, it combined close surveillance of all military personnel with a complex system of rewards and punishments. But inevitably problems arose. Disciplinary measures that may on one occasion secure compliance, on another could arouse rebellion. Moreover, there remained the question of the impact of punishment on the morale of those not directly affected

In the First World War the high command retained the ultimate penalty. At least 254 men faced firing squads, presumably on the principle that it would encourage the others. Yet, the opposite seems sometimes to have been true. When news filtered through to the Western Front that the British military authorities had begun to execute those who participated in mutiny, the fighting spirit of troops immediately plummeted. It provided one of the reasons for halting the executions after many soldiers had paid the ultimate penalty.