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Being the Experiences of a Private

Soldier in the British Infantry

at Home and Abroad


Late of the --th Regt.




Trooper 3809

A Private Soldier of the

Third Republic


Lionel Decle

Author of

"Three Years in Savage Africa"

_With Eight Illustrations by H. Chartier_



William Heinemann


FIRST EDITION _August 16, 1899_

REPRINTED _August 26, 1899_

_This Edition enjoys Copyright in all Countries Signatory to

the Berne Treaty, and is not to be imported into the United

States of America._

_All rights including translation reserved._


_It is right to state that the following pages have not had the

advantage of final revision by the Author, as Mr. Decle was called

upon to take charge of an important mission to Africa on behalf of the

"Daily Telegraph," and was thereforeunable to complete the preparation

of his MS. for the press._


The bitter and protracted discussions which have arisen out of the

Dreyfus case, and which have divided France into two hostile camps,

have concentrated the attention of the civilised world on the French

army, but nobody has done more to disgrace it, and to lower it in the

eyes of friends and foes alike, than Frenchmen themselves.

Those who, persuaded of Dreyfus' innocence, made superhuman efforts

to further the noble cause of justice and to obtain the redress of

one of the greatest wrongs ever committed against a human being,

spoiled their noble task by indiscriminate and wholesale abuse of the

army in general, holding the thousands of French officers responsible

for the conduct of a few of their number. Those, on the other hand,

who believed in the guilt of Dreyfus, based their conviction upon

their blind belief in the infallibility of half a dozen officers who

had passed judgment upon the condemned man. Trusting to unworthy

subordinates, the highest officers of the General Staff made of

Dreyfus' guilt a matter on which they staked their own honour and

reputation, and when they discovered that they had been deceived, they

found themselves in the position of having either to acknowledge that

they had been befooled, or else of having to stand by those who had led

them into their awkward predicament. They chose the latter alternative,

and their friends and supporters played into the hands of those who so

fiercely attacked the army, by refusing to admit that there could be a

single black sheep in it, and by thus linking together the whole body

of French officers and making their collective honour dependent on the

honour of every individual member.

A time came, however, when even the most determined partisans of this

system had to turn against those they had extolled but the day before.

First came Esterhazy, the liar, the swindler, and the traitor; then

Henry the forger, and de Paty du Clam, his accomplice.

It is a remarkable fact that amidst all these scenes of violent abuse

there should be but one man who maintained implicit trust in the good

faith of his worst enemies--Dreyfus himself--the victim of this most

abominable conspiracy.

His case is, unfortunately, but a greatly magnified example of what

daily happens throughout the French army, and the recollections I am

now offering to the reader, of the time I served in its ranks, will

show that Dreyfus has been a victim not so much of the malice of

individuals as of a faulty system. It will be seen how, in a regiment,

the Colonel forms his opinion of a private from the character given to

him by his Corporal or Sergeant, and how the mere fact of appealing

against a punishment is considered as an act of insubordination. It

is always the same principle--_le respect de la chose jugee_ (the

upholding of a judgment, without considering upon what grounds or

evidence it has been delivered).

I wish it to be clearly understood that this little book has not been

written for the purpose of attacking the French army as represented

by its officers. It is intended merely as a faithfulaccount of the

hardships I endured when I served my time in the ranks--hardships which

every Frenchman has still to bear. I cannot follow M. Urbain Gohier in

his virulent and indiscriminate attacks upon all French officers--among

whom individuals differ as in other classes of men; but each one of my

readers will be able to draw his own conclusions with regard to the

system which, in practice, is universally in force.


_Dragoon in Full Dress Uniform of 1880_ _Frontispiece_

_Dragoon sitting on his bed eating from Mess-tin_ _To face page_ 56

_The Plank Bed_ " 90

_A Fatigue Party of Dragoons_ " 108

_Exercises in Riding School_ (_vaulting_) " 128

_A Duel in the Riding School_ " 244



Every Frenchman is liable to military service during twenty-five years

of his life--viz., from the age of twenty until he is forty-five.[1]

In time of peace this period of service is thus divided:

(i) Three years of active service.

(ii) Ten years in the reserve of the standing army, during which two

periods of a month each with the colours must be undergone.

(iii) Six years in the territorial army, with two periods of thirteen

days each with the colours, and

(iv) Six years in the reserve of the territorial army.

The conscription lists are thus made out:

Every year the Mayor of each "Commune" draws up a list of all the young

men who have arrived at the age of twenty during the past twelve months.

These lists must be posted up by January 14 at the latest. The names

of the sons of foreigners, if born in France, are included, and unless

they claim foreign nationality they are liable to serve, and on failing

to do so when called upon are regarded as deserters and punished


Domicile is established by the parents' residence.

Every year the War Minister fixes the number of conscripts required

to serve three years with the colours; those in excess of that number

are called upon to serve for one year only; but during the following

two years they are liable to be called upon to complete their time of

active service.

In order to determine those who are to benefit by this arrangement

_tirage au sort_ (drawing lots) is resorted to.

In time of peace, conscripts falling under any of the following

categories, among others, are also called upon to serve for one year


(_a_) The eldest of orphans, or the eldest son of a widow, or of a

family whose father is blind, or has reached his seventieth year.

(_b_) The only son in a family of seven children or more--or the eldest

son of a family of at least seven.

(_c_) The elder of twins.

(_d_) Brothers of men engaged in active service.

(_e_) Brothers of a man who has been killed, or who has died in active

service, or who has been invalided on account of disease contracted, or

wounds received, while serving.

(_f_) Young men who have signed an engagement to serve during ten years

as teachers in the National schools.

(_g_) Students in law, science, or medicine who have already obtained

their admission to the Government Universities or other institutions

mentioned in the Act.

(_h_) Students of the religious institutions who are studying to become

ministers of one of the religions recognised by the State.

Provided that, in classes (_f_), (_g_), (_h_), such young men have

obtained their final degree before their twenty-sixth year, or

that religious students have been ordained before the end of their

twenty-sixth year, failing which, they are called upon to complete

three years' active service.

Whoever has been convicted of theft, obtaining money by false

pretences, rape, and other crimes against morals, and has been

sentenced to more than three months' imprisonment for such crimes,

or has been sentenced twice for similar offences, is sent to special

battalions in Algeria. If, at the time a conscript is called upon to

serve, he is undergoing imprisonment, he begins his service at the

expiration of his sentence.

Instead of joining their regiment like other conscripts, these men

have to report themselves on a certain date at the headquarters of

the military district to which they belong, and they are thence taken

by gendarmes to the depot of their battalion. They are subjected to

an iron discipline, being commanded by officers and non-commissioned

officers picked out from other regiments where they have distinguished

themselves for their harshness. Many are the tales of dreadful revenge

taken by these conscripts on their officers. It is no uncommon thing

for a few of them to play away the life of an officer at cards, the

loser being obliged to kill him within a certain time. To quote but

a single instance: A few years ago one of these battalions was being

marched from Biskra to Tuggurt in Southern Algeria. Before leaving,

four of the men had played away the life of their Major at cards. The

loser, who was to carry out the deed, pretended to be ill, and kept to

the rear of the column. On the second day he kept still farther back,

and sat down pretending to be exhausted. The Major, who had fallen

far behind, seeing the man, spoke to him kindly, telling him to make

an effort. "Oh, sir," said the soldier, "I can't; I am done for." The

Major kindly handed the man his flask to take a pull from, and as he

was replacing it in his holster, the man fired his rifle point blank

at his officer. Fortunately the horse swerved, and the bullet missed.

Thereupon the Major drew his revolver, and blew the ruffian's brains

out. A few months later a stone was found on the spot bearing this






The man who placed the stone there was never discovered, and, although

it was removed by order of the military authorities, another one

bearing a similar inscription soon afterwards stood in its place. Six

times these stones were removed, and six times they were replaced, yet

the guilty parties were never detected. It is hardly to be wondered at

if the officers of these battalions usually carry loaded revolvers.

To return to our description of the mode of recruiting.

The lists having been duly posted up, a day is appointed for drawing

the lots. This public ceremony is presided over by the "Sous-prefet" of

the "Arrondissement." Having counted the number of names on the list,

the Sous-prefet places a corresponding number of tickets, each bearing

a number, in an urn: he then calls out the names of the young men, and

each in turn draws a ticket; in case of absence of one of them his lot

is drawn by the Mayor. As already explained only a certain number of

men being required to serve three years, those who draw the highest

numbers stand a chance of serving for but twelve months, besides those

who have a right to claim the privilege, although the latter are also

bound to draw lots.

All the young men whose names appear in the lists have next to appear

before a _Conseil de Revision_ (Revising Commission).

This Commission consists of:

The Prefect of the Department, who is ex-officio President.

A Conseiller de Prefecture.

A Member of the Conseil General.

A Member of the Conseil d'arrondissement.

A General or Field Officer appointed by the military authority.

An Intendant militaire (Commissariat officer).

The chief Recruiting Officer of the district.

A military Surgeon, or a Doctor, is appointed by the military

authorities to make a medicalexamination of all the conscripts, and

upon his report the Commission decides by vote whether each individual

conscript shall serve or not. It should be added that the minimum

height is 5 feet 01/2 inch.

The Commission also decides upon claims of exemption made by sons of

foreigners, and upon the claims of those entitled to a service of one

year only.[2]

Each conscript subsequently receives his _feuille de route_, stating

the regiment he must join, and the date on which he must join it,

and making an allowance for his journey to the town where he is to

be quartered.[3] From the moment conscripts receive their _feuilles

de route_ they are under military law, and can only be tried by

court-martial for any crimes or offences they may commit.

Men while serving for a month in the reserve, or for a fortnight in the

territorial army, are also exclusively under martial law for the time

being. Even in the case of a soldier who has finished his service the

fact of his assaulting one of his former superiors (from a Corporal

upwards) renders him liable to be tried by court-martial "should such

assault be considered the result of revenge for a punishment received

during his service."--(Art. 223 and 224 of the Code of Military

Justice.) So that a man who has been abominably treated during his time

of service and who gives a good hiding to one of his former officers

ten or twenty years later, is liable to be tried by the military


I may add here that the act of striking a _superieur_, meaning any man

superior in rank to one's self, from a Corporal upwards, is punished

with DEATH, _even in time of peace_. Two instances occurred while I

served. In the first instance a private had struck a Corporal who had

bullied him in a most shameful way; in the second instance a Corporal

had struck an officer who had called his mother by a vile name. Both

men were found guilty and publicly shot in the presence of their

regiment on special parade. It very seldom occurs that a man who has

struck even a Corporal is reprieved.

In each subdivision of every military district is kept a register in

which are inscribed the names of all the men in that subdivision who

are serving, or have served.

In this register is stated the date at which each man has been

incorporated, as well as the date of his leaving the service, the date

  • savage [´sævidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.野蛮的 n.蛮人   (初中英语单词)
  • charge [tʃɑ:dʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.收费;冲锋 n.费用   (初中英语单词)
  • mission [´miʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.代表团;使馆vt.派遣   (初中英语单词)
  • therefore [´ðeəfɔ:] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.&conj.因此;所以   (初中英语单词)
  • unable [ʌn´eibəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不能的;无能为力的   (初中英语单词)
  • hostile [´hɔstail] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.敌方的,敌意的   (初中英语单词)
  • disgrace [dis´greis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.耻辱 vt.玷辱;贬黜   (初中英语单词)
  • obtain [əb´tein] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.获得;买到;得到承认   (初中英语单词)
  • conviction [kən´vikʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.定罪;确信,信服   (初中英语单词)
  • belief [bi´li:f] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.相信;信仰,信条   (初中英语单词)
  • acknowledge [ək´nɔlidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.(公开)承认;感谢   (初中英语单词)
  • traitor [´treitə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.叛徒,卖国贼   (初中英语单词)
  • remarkable [ri´mɑ:kəbl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.值得注意的;显著的   (初中英语单词)
  • violent [´vaiələnt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.强暴的;猛烈的   (初中英语单词)
  • victim [´viktim] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.牺牲者;受害者   (初中英语单词)
  • system [´sistəm] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.系统,体系,制度   (初中英语单词)
  • character [´kæriktə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.特性;性质;人物;字   (初中英语单词)
  • punishment [´pʌniʃmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.罚,刑罚   (初中英语单词)
  • faithful [´feiθfəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.忠实的;可靠的   (初中英语单词)
  • account [ə´kaunt] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.说明 vt.认为 n.帐目   (初中英语单词)
  • frenchman [´frentʃmən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.法国人   (初中英语单词)
  • differ [´difə] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.不同;有差别   (初中英语单词)
  • standing [´stændiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.持续 a.直立的   (初中英语单词)
  • minister [´ministə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.部长;大臣 v.伺候   (初中英语单词)
  • excess [´ekses] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.超过 a.过分的   (初中英语单词)
  • engagement [in´geidʒmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.婚约;雇用;受聘   (初中英语单词)
  • admission [əd´miʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.接纳;承认   (初中英语单词)
  • regiment [´redʒimənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.团;一大群   (初中英语单词)
  • headquarters [´hed,kwɔ:təz] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.总部(署),司令部   (初中英语单词)
  • thence [ðens] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.从那里;因此   (初中英语单词)
  • discipline [´disiplin] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.纪律;训练   (初中英语单词)
  • dreadful [´dredful] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.可怕的;讨厌的   (初中英语单词)
  • instance [´instəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.例子,实例,例证   (初中英语单词)
  • column [´kɔləm] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.柱;柱状物;纵队   (初中英语单词)
  • bullet [´bulit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.子弹   (初中英语单词)
  • guilty [´gilti] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.有罪的;心虚的   (初中英语单词)
  • description [di´skripʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.描写   (初中英语单词)
  • ceremony [´seriməni] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.典礼;礼仪;客气   (初中英语单词)
  • absence [´æbsəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.不在,缺席;缺乏   (初中英语单词)
  • privilege [´privilidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.特权 vt.给….特权   (初中英语单词)
  • medical [´medikəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.医学的;医疗的   (初中英语单词)
  • examination [ig,zæmi´neiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.检查;考试;检验   (初中英语单词)
  • allowance [ə´lauəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.津贴;配给量;考虑   (初中英语单词)
  • revenge [ri´vendʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.报复 n.报仇;报复   (初中英语单词)
  • striking [´straikiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.显著的,明显的   (初中英语单词)
  • register [´redʒistə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&v.登记簿   (初中英语单词)
  • edition [i´diʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.版本;很相似的   (高中英语单词)
  • translation [træns´leiʃən, trænz-] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.翻译;译文;译本   (高中英语单词)
  • behalf [bi´hɑ:f] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.利益   (高中英语单词)
  • innocence [´inəsəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.无罪;天真   (高中英语单词)
  • awkward [´ɔ:kwəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.笨拙的;为难的   (高中英语单词)
  • dependent [di´pendənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.依赖的;从属的   (高中英语单词)
  • unfortunately [ʌn´fɔ:tʃunitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.不幸;不朽;可惜   (高中英语单词)
  • offering [´ɔfəriŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.提供;礼物;捐献   (高中英语单词)
  • malice [´mælis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.恶意;怨恨;预谋   (高中英语单词)
  • colonel [´kə:nəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.海(陆)军上校   (高中英语单词)
  • sergeant [´sɑ:dʒənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.警官;军士   (高中英语单词)
  • fatigue [fə´ti:g] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vt.(使)疲劳(劳累)   (高中英语单词)
  • liable [´laiəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.易于…的;有责任的   (高中英语单词)
  • eldest [´eldist] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.最年长的   (高中英语单词)
  • imprisonment [im´priznmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.监禁,下狱   (高中英语单词)
  • seeing [si:iŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  see的现在分词 n.视觉   (高中英语单词)
  • fortunately [´fɔ:tʃənətli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.幸运地   (高中英语单词)
  • bearing [´beəriŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.举止;忍耐;关系   (高中英语单词)
  • inscription [in´skripʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.题名;题字;碑文   (高中英语单词)
  • commission [kə´miʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.委任(状) vt.委任   (高中英语单词)
  • surgeon [´sə:dʒən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.外科医生;军医   (高中英语单词)
  • subsequently [´sʌbsikwəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.其次,接着   (高中英语单词)
  • fortnight [´fɔ:tnait] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.两星期   (高中英语单词)
  • parade [pə´reid] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&v.游行;检阅   (高中英语单词)
  • copyright [´kɔpirait] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.版权;著作权   (英语四级单词)
  • arisen [ə´rizn] 移动到这儿单词发声  arise的过去分词   (英语四级单词)
  • wholesale [´həulseil] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vt.批发 a.批发的   (英语四级单词)
  • amidst [ə´midst] 移动到这儿单词发声  prep.=amid   (英语四级单词)
  • corporal [´kɔ:pərəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.肉体的,身体的   (英语四级单词)
  • considering [kən´sidəriŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  prep.就…而论   (英语四级单词)
  • universally [,ju:ni´və:səli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.普遍地   (英语四级单词)
  • nationality [,næʃə´næliti] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.国籍;民族   (英语四级单词)
  • battalion [bə´tæliən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(军队)营;营部   (英语四级单词)
  • uncommon [ʌn´kɔmən] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.非常的,非凡的,罕见的   (英语四级单词)
  • revolver [ri´vɔlvə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.左轮手枪;旋转者   (英语四级单词)
  • corresponding [,kɔri´spɔndiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.符合的;相当的   (英语四级单词)
  • exclusively [ik´sklu:sivli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.独有地;排外地   (英语四级单词)
  • martial [´mɑ:ʃəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.战争的;象军人的   (英语四级单词)
  • upwards [´ʌpwədz] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.=upward   (英语四级单词)
  • shameful [´ʃeimfəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.可耻的;猥亵的   (英语四级单词)
  • dragoon [drə´gu:n] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.骑兵 vt.镇压;迫害   (英语六级单词)
  • revision [ri´viʒən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.修订(本);修改   (英语六级单词)
  • redress [ri´dres] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.&n.纠正;调整   (英语六级单词)
  • holding [´həuldiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.保持,固定,存储   (英语六级单词)
  • trusting [´trʌstiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.信任的;相信的   (英语六级单词)
  • collective [kə´lektiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.集体的 n.集体   (英语六级单词)
  • faulty [´fɔ:lti] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.有毛病的;有故障的   (英语六级单词)
  • territorial [,teri´tɔ:riəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.领地的;区域的   (英语六级单词)
  • contracted [kən´træktid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.收缩了的;缩略的   (英语六级单词)
  • publicly [´pʌblikli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.公然;公众所有地   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 17:45:31
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