Spirit of Soldiering – Alive in Traditions

By Maj Gen (r) Muhammad Khalil Dar
Vandalizing of Flag Staff House in Lahore, followed by public sacrilege of a military uniform must have broken the hearts of many who joined the Army for the honour of the uniform and willingness to die wearing the uniform and protecting the country’s flag. Coverages where people disrespected the pictures of our War Heroes and burning an old F-6 fighter placed in the square were simply unbearable. These are symbols of our national pride, looking at those inspires the young and gratifies the old. How come, our own people are made so disillusioned that they indulge in desecrating those. Such a happenings must have forced the hardest of the heart to weep inside especially the ones who are in bounded with love to the very spirit of soldiery, universal to all Armies of the World.
    Thank God that the mob did not disrespect the Pakistan’s Flag which was there placed at a pedestal flying high above the building. Corps Commanders house was not ordinary living quarters, one that it associated with Quaid e Azam but militarily it was a Flag Staff House.
Though time have changed, yet adoption of few practices in the past, still reflect the very spirit of soldiering. Hence, the glorified spirit remain as a source of inspiration for the times to come. In 1st World War infantry officers weren’t issued rifles but pistols and whistles. The reason was that officers were expected to lead without fear and not indulge in firing at enemy themselves. Officers were expected to encourage the soldiers to keep going ahead facing enemy bullets and be with them till the end. Lagging behind or abandoning the soldiers, under fear was the most disgraceful of the acts of soldiering. No wonder 1st World War witnessed the highest of officer’s causalities.  Such is the pride when one wears a military uniform of an officer in command.
Similar is the maritime tradition, in which Captain of the Ship is expected to go down with the ship. It may appear strange to the non-military minds but it is a symbol of a strong military sense of pride. What separates it from a suicide is that the captain must ensure the evacuation of all on board before he leaves the ship. He may be the toughest of the captains and he may be the staunch disciplinarian, often hated by some of his under commands but when the time comes he is calmly ready to lay his life in grace of a military officer. His military pride is ensconced in this very tradition. No true military commander can live with this guilt that he abandoned his soldiers or sailors to the fate and saved his own life. That’s the way military works and that is what separates military form other corporate or businesses.
Any true soldier around the world would have fast blood flow whenever, he looks at the famous painting by William Barnes Wollen’s “the Last Stand of the 44th Foot”. Which depicts Lieutenant Thomas Souter, who wrapped the regimental colour round his body, ensuring that national pride didn’t fall on the ground. He along with last surviving 20 soldiers faced certain death at Gandamak in January 1842. Such happenings are always glorified and made part of the symbols which inspire the feeling of being part of an organization which signs up for sacrifice. Inspiration and motivation are gelled in manner in customs, traditions, and symbols that the end result is willingness to face certain death for the sake of motherland.
British promoted the idea of martial races to further their own objectives in India. Yet the connection to strong military traditions were ingrained in a similar manner as anywhere around the world. Its not uncommon to hear the tales of British Army with respect and pride by many who are still alive throughout the Pakistan. Ironically, and most likely as a result of disillusionment, many veterans are showing signs of confusion in choosing the side of political parties. As a prideful part of the Military traditions the need of the hour is to show solidarity to the current military command chain first and be above the political manipulations. Be part of a single voice that those responsible for the dishonor to the national symbols are taken to the task and made examples for the times to come.

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