Archive for July, 2007

Slim’s ‘Courage and Other Broadcasts’ …

Posted on July 29, 2007. Filed under: Books |

The third published work by Bill Slim, contains the famous Leadership lecture he delivered at West Point plus some other broad castes he made over the radio. Incidentally the Leadership lecture used to be covered in an Army publication and was required reading for the Indian Army officers of the 1950s.

Reading this, one is astonished by the erudition coupled with the earthy good sense of this true man of letters who actually was a richly deserving Field Marshal who also became Governor General of Australia.

The lecture at West Point on Leadership begins with an apology outlining the two disadvantages he faced as he addressed the Cadets of that premier institution. He said that West Pointers could hardly be happy spending a bright morning cooped in a room listening to a foreign General give a Lecture on – off all things – Leadership!

Then he goes onto outline the Six qualities which he says are the foundation of all Leadership.

The first of these of course is Courage – which he divides into physical courage and moral courage. He says that it is easy to have physical courage for the short haul – the trick is to have it for the long marathon – specially when things are not going too well and before one has got into ones second wind. He says any one can be brave for a day but how many can go on being brave for years on end! He observes that all armies talk about fighting to the last man and last round but the Japs were the only ones who practiced it.

Moral courage he feels is more important. He says that it is doing the Right Thing no matter how uncomfortable it makes one. He illustrates by asking them if they as brand new young 2nd Lts would dare tick off a group of hardened GIs, at the risk of getting some lip, for say not saluting?

The other qualities he mentions and illustrates are Knowledge and Initiative. Knowledge is self evident and as for Initiative, he says if you sit on your back side and wait for things to happen, they sure will happen but they wont be very pleasant. Leaders are expected to act more and react less.

The last two qualities he underlines are Humour – seeing the funny in the serious – and most importantly Self abnegation. Humor he amplifies is seeing the ludicrous in the serious and most importantly includes the ability to laugh at oneself.

Self Abnegation he says is at the root of any leadership. He narrates an incident when a particular unit had not done too well and he went around to check out things. On reaching he observed that the men were pretty much in disarray but he could not see any officers. He found them behind a hut having a meal!

This last quality has been immortalized by another British Field Marshal – Lord Chetwode and is enshrined in the Indian Military Academy’s Chetwode Hall –

“The safety, honor and well being of your Country come First, Always and Every Time.

The safety, comfort and well being of the men you command, come next.

Your own safety, comfort and ease come Last, Always and Every Time”.

Nice strong, pithy riveting lecture loaded with examples and biting humour.

About Indian Soldiers, he observes that the Sikh is at best a showman, the Dogra and the Garhwali are the stolid types. The Rajput and the Jat are driven by tradition but it is only the Gurkha who laughs all the time and most at times of great danger!

He includes stuff from his vast reading – gems like “Its the stove in your kitchen that contributes to the Happiness of your home and not the TV in the parlour”

And, “A sane view of life is had only in the kitchen of a small home”.

A great book but sadly not too readily available.

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Slim’s – Unofficial History

Posted on July 29, 2007. Filed under: Books |

Britains Lieutenant General Sir William J Slim Editorial Stock ...

To pass the time in between catching planes, Slim decides to stroll into a Military Library  and decides to read the Official tome of a campaign in which he had participated.

Alas, having searched it out, he is appalled to see that all it had to say was, “Advance was resumed against light opposition”!!!

Noting that it was not quite like that, he decides to chronicle things in an ‘Unofficial History’.

And he apologises in the foreword for treating too lightly the grim horrors of war – “I plead guilty to a fault or is it a virtue, that has for centuries characterized the common soldier and without which there would be lesser honours emblazoned on Regimental Colors”.

And one by one he goes onto tell his stories, all roaring good fun. Had he not been such a great soldier, what a short story writer he would have made!

There is much the Yanks and we Indians, can glean from the thought of this amazing man.

As an example he notes that all Battles he has fought have had two things in common viz they are alwaye uphill and aways at the junction of two or more maps!

Beneath the light stuff are enduring Truths for the Ages …

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Slim’s – ‘Defeat into Victory’

Posted on July 29, 2007. Filed under: Books |

Bristol war hero statue to William 'Bill' Slim 'unlikely' - BBC News

This classic covers the Burma Campaign of the Second World War. Writen by Field Marshal William Slim, who notes in the Foreword that a General who has taken part in a campaign is by no means best suited to write about it.

Yet this magnum opus can hold its own with the all time classics like Caesar’s Commentaries.

Slim has been rated as the greatest General to come out of the war on the allied side, by no less a person than Lord Luis Mountbatten.

A Soldiers General, he had an amazing ability to establish a very  personal rapport with the troops he commanded, be they British, Gurkha, Sikh or Australian. Apart from his earthy good sense, there was his marvelous sense of humour; and sure – he could write!!!.

The opening lines of this book  prove it.

 “It was good fun commanding a Division in the Iraq Desert. It is good fun commanding a division anywhere. It is one of the four best commands in the service. A platoon, a battalion, a division and an army.

A platoon, because you are young, its your  first command and if you are any good you know the men in it better than their mothers do and love them as much.

A battalion, because a battalion has a life of its own and whether it is a good battalion or a bad battalion, depends upon you and you alone.

A division because it is the lowest formation which is a complete orchestra of war and the largest in which every man can know you by face.

An army because enthusing it and giving it spirit and purpose is the greatest intellectual and emotional experience that can befall a man”.

And he is not ashamed to tell of himself lying in the dirt while under intense shelling and a nonchalant Gurkha Subedar Major come by and looking at him break into peels of laughter!!!

Neither is he reluctant to own his mistakes and say he was saved from  the fruit of one such only by the valour of his troops – and the stupidity of the enemy!!!

How many can be as brutally frank and honest???

A must read for those who like great writing, honesty, humour and history.

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Word – purloin

Posted on July 29, 2007. Filed under: Vocabulary/Words |

purloin – a perhaps nicer way of saying ‘steal’ or ‘theft’;

he/she purloined the silver lying on the table …..

 purloiner – stealer or thief!!!

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Ovid …

Posted on July 28, 2007. Filed under: Roman Thought |

Ovid was a Roman poet who lived around the time when BC turned into AD. He is ranked alongside Virgil and Horace and considered master of the elegiac couplet.

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn. It can be stabbed to death by a quip or worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.

Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast. In the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.

Courage conquers all things. It even gives strength to the body. Habits change into character. Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.

Bear and endure. This sorrow will one day prove to be for your good. Time is generally the best doctor. It is the devourer of all things. Everything comes gradually and at its appointed hour.

Take rest. A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. In our leisure we reveal what kind of people we are. Thou seest how sloth wastes the sluggish body, as water is corrupted unless it moves.

Fair peace becomes men. Ferocious anger belongs to beasts. Whether they give or refuse, it delights women just the same to have been asked.

Love and dignity cannot share the same abode. Majesty and love do not consort well together, nor do they dwell in the same place.

An anthill increases by accumulation. Medicine is consumed by distribution. That which is feared lessens by association. This is the thing to understand.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Posted on July 28, 2007. Filed under: Quotes |

Hence it comes about that all armed Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been destroyed.

No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.

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Bill Slim on First Reports …

Posted on July 28, 2007. Filed under: Quotes |

NO Situation in War or Peace, is ever So BAD – or for that matter GOOD – as First Reports Make it!


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The true blue Ladies

Posted on July 28, 2007. Filed under: Quotes |

A woman should never be seen eating or drinking,
unless it be lobster salad and Champagne –
the only true feminine and becoming viands.
Lord Byron

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Who says the World is going down the drain???

Posted on July 27, 2007. Filed under: Personal Stuff |

Yesterday I called my daughter who is on vacation with her family and her five year old took the call.

I queried how she was doing and she said she was doing fine and  having a gala time. She told me her Mamu had taken her rock climbing. When I told her I too wanted to do it, she advised me to exercise first in view of my large girth otherwise I may not be able to do it!!!

To rag her a bit I asked if she was missing school? She said no she was not missing school though she liked school (which is a white lie) and went on to add that she did not think about school while on vacation.

By now she probably noted that she was being pummeled so she decided enough was enough and took the gloves off and went on the offensive!!!

She asks, “Gran Pa .. why dont you go to work??? ….. Its not fair …….. I have to go to school and you dont even go to work …….. Why dont you go to work? ………  Everybody goes to work …. You must go to work”.

More in similar vein and I raised the white flag.. I responded that  tomorrow was Tuesday and I would go to work on Tuesday. …

Seeing she had won, she was pacified and relented. So she says that maybe I should not go to work on tomorrow’s Tuesday but I should go to work on next Tuesday ………….  and go for work at least one day every week!!!

Fair is Fair. And Girls are Kind!!! Even five year olds!!!.

“Now who said the World is going down the drain?? ..  With such kids growing up, it is as safe as it ever was — Maybe Safer!!!”

PS. Just before they were to go back home, they learn that the weather is real bad. So this Princess rings up her Gran Ma and wants to know where is yours truly. On being told I am sleeping, she imperiously orders me to be woken up so that she can talk something important with me.

After a very very sweet, ‘How are you Gran Pa’ she says that it is raining really bad and they may have to sit for long in the plane and so she wants me to please ask God, quietly with my mouth closed, to please please not make them wait too much in the plane!!!!!!!

Well, who would not come back even from Paradise, to hear a small girl request such a Thing?????

As I said the World is Safe and Going Strong and Stronger!!!

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Getting Started

Posted on July 25, 2007. Filed under: Quotes |

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

 Walt  Disney

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