Courage

From The Press and the General Staff (1920) by Neville Lytton:

One of the things that astonished me most was to find out the types of men who were most brave; the drunkards, the rakes, the dandies were a long way first — the high-minded religious people of strong principles were often good diers but not often good fighters — the orderly, well-disciplined, obedient types were more often than not quite useless in the face of the enemy. I was once discussing the psychology of bravery with ‘Sem,’ the French caricaturist, and I was telling him how extremely gallant were the dandies and the fops, and he made this wise answer. ‘Apres tout — le courage — c’est une élégance.’

4 Comments

  1. Posted September 27, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    cf. Chesterton: “Brave men are all vertebrates; they have their softness on the surface and their toughness in the middle.”

  2. The Shadow
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    There was a documentary a while back about what the psychological makeup of the ideal soldier was. Rather than the cold-eye killer one might have imagined, the ideal was someone with a mixture of bloodlust and conscience. He was the sort of person who, when not at war, would stand out in society. He was an alpha male. The drunkards, the rakes, the dandies, had all in their own way turned their back on conventional society. How many great leaders could have been at least partly defined by one or more of those descriptions?

    • Roger
      Posted September 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      “the high-minded religious people of strong principles were often good diers but not often good fighters”

      Cromwell thought otherwise with his troops.

      I think it would vary according to circumstances: a skilled sniper, artilleryman or pilot would have a very different temperament to the berserkers impled here by Lytton and would probably kill more people more effectively. Norman Dixon in The Psychology of Military Incompetence pointed out that the qualiies of a good officer were often opposed to those of a good general.

  3. John Shepherd
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Charlton Ogburn, in _The Marauders_, his history of Merrill’s Marauders, describe the recruiting methods of two officers who set about forming reconnaissance platoons for operations in the Burmese jungles. One officer recruited men as they left chapel services on Sunday. The other recruited those being released from the guardhouse. As Ogburn told the story, both platoons performed excellently in combat.


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