Michael Edward Palin, CBE, FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries.
When the Sergeant Major, from this scene of Monthy Python’s “The Meaning of Life”, asks his troops if they’d rather be doing something other than marching, he loses all his troops.
The SNCO part is played by Michael Palin, CBE, FRGS who is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter, best known for being one of the members of the comedy group “Monty Python”, and for his travel documentaries.

Every time I see this Month Python classic clip (further below), it reminds me of my own basic military training courses (was privileged to have done two, one as a squaddie, and another rather lengthy one as an officer-cadet!), since it takes the comical piss at the core fundamentals, which aim at gelling together a body of men into a cohesive team, into a “band of brothers” if you may wish to call it so.

Much of the drill done today is either ceremonial, or implemented as a core part of training in the Armed Forces. Military discipline is enhanced by drill, as it requires instant obedience to commands.

Foot and arms drill is a crucial part of this process, as its an essential part of the training regimen of any  organized military and paramilitary elements worldwide.

Watch “The Meaning of Life (6/11) Movie CLIP – Would Rather Be Elsewhere (1983)”

“Foot drill” (or “Drill”) stems from time since antiquity when soldiers would march into battle, be expected to gather in a formation, and react to words of command from their commanders once the battle commenced. Drill was often used as a forerunner to great battles; during them it justified itself. It was also utilized after battles, where quick restoration of the corporate unity of an element was required.

Nowadays, drill commands remain used all over the world in all branches of the military, and are generally used with a group of soldiers that is marching during military foot drill or in marching band.

In the Maltese armed forces, the words of command remain in English, identical to the British Army’s drill commands. Drill commands are best given in an excellent command voice. A command voice is characterized by DLIPS: Distinctness, Loudness, Inflection, Projection, and Snap.

Regimental Sergeant Major Brittain, owner of the loudest voice in the 1950s' British Army
Regimental Sergeant Major Brittain, owner of the loudest voice in the 1950s’ British Army. Hear his barking voice in this period newsreel below…

Commands are broken up into two parts: the “precautionary” (i.e. “Squad, single file from the left quick -“) followed by the “executive” (-MARCH). There is a standard pause of two paces in quick time or one full second between the two commands, as well as between all drill movements.

Throughout military history’s great campaigns, drill proved useful when marching formations of soldiers cross-country. For example, officers could form men from an eight-wide route march formation to a two-wide formation for passing through gates and other narrow passages, without losing time or cohesion. Drill was used to efficiently maneuver formations around and through obstacles.

Basic Military Training (or Boot Camp as it’s called in some non-British Commonwealth countries!!) has always at its core drill to instil in the recruits military bearing, discipline, and a sense of accomplishment. It teaches adherence to standards, response to commands, individual coordination, teamwork, esprit de corps (the spirit of the formation/body from an historic perspective), alertness, urgency, confidence, followership, attention to detail, and leadership. It gives a group the ability to render respect, show honour, and uphold tradition. It’s also a form of exercise.

Exhibition drill displays bring out creativity in designing the marching, body movement, and rifle manipulation. All comes from the professional ability of the NCOs on the Directing Staff (DS) to teach the recruits (or Regular soldiers in cases of ceremonial events) the processes of the performance required of them.

Delegation of responsibilities while maintaining ultimate responsibility for the performance outcome. Memorisation of the routine: commands, marching, and (rifle, flagstaff, and/or body) movement. The ability to think quickly to ensure the squad stays within the time limit and physical boundaries and recover from possible mistakes.

Any soldier will admit and concede that military drill has multiple benefits, some intangible and some to be realised possibly years later. All of these benefits come to fruition in battle, that’s why soldiers march in the military, but they also are realised in all kinds of aspects of life in general.

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This entry was posted in ARMED FORCES OF MALTA, GENERAL OBSERVATIONS & THOUGHTS, WORLD MILITARY and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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