Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Glimpses into forgotten worlds - 3

A kind colleague brought an absolute treasure into the office the other day - a copy of Major W. Turner's 1943 "Guide to Military Urdu", including a sample elementary examination paper. It belonged to her father, who served in India during and shortly after WWII.

As you would expect, it is a magnificent collection of phrases which no pith-helmeted, khaki-shorted gentleman should be without:
"Your rifle is dirty, why have you not cleaned it?"
"How many mules have you brought?"
"We shall be able to capture the position in half an hour."
"Tell the men not to clean their rifles with sand-paper."

There are sections devoted to military discipline:
"March the prisoner in."
"You are charged with disobeying the Havaldar's orders"
"- Being absent from parade on Saturday morning."

Bayonet training:
"Don't bend the left arm so much."
"Keep the right arm against the butt."
"Make the 'withdraw' in the same line as you pointed."

Anti-gas training:
"What is the first aid for mustard gas casualties?"

And enrolment of new troops:
"You will not allow your caste usages to interfere with military requirements."
"Look here! I am going to ask you six questions. You will have to answer them truthfully."

But overall - disappointingly - it lacks the crusty, bat-stretching insanity of the slightly earlier "Malay Made Simple" or "The Modern Pushtu Instructor".

Until we get to the sample examination. Here, we start to get slightly more entertaining phrases:
"He got up and threw an orange at the Havildar."
"We hoped that the train would start again, quickly, as we saw a man coming towards us. when he got near, we all began to sing."

Best of all is a story regaring a man's ill-advised kindness towards a snake on a cold day, which concludes:
"The man got very angry and killed the evil snake with a stick. That snake was just like the Japanese. We must remember this story, and never let the Japanese get into our homes."

I showed this to Mr Shandonger, whose respect for the Indian Army rose appreciably...

7 comments:

M C Ward said...

Reminders that the world was once such a simple place.

scarlet-blue said...

"Make the 'withdraw' in the same line as you pointed."

Good advice for all situations I'd say.

Sx

Gyppo Byard said...

Mr Ward - Indeed; a time when humanity was neatly divided into 'underlings', 'targets', 'comrades-in-arms' and 'mem-sahibs'.

I have on a couple of occasions been into Delhi's Imperial Hotel, but alas as a paying guest long after independence.

Oh to have strode (stridden? strid?) in clad in khaki shorts, flung my pith-helmet in the vague direction of a hatstand and yelled "Ek pink gin, jeldi jeldi!"

In fact I did, and was thrown out.

Scarlet - I hoped someone would creatively misinterpret that line, and I'm glad it was you.

scarlet-blue said...

I had quite a choice of misinterpretations!
Sx

Gadjo Dilo said...

Heh! "The rifle is dirty, you've bent your left arm too much, bought too many mules, and thrown an orange at the Havildar. We must remember this story, and never let the Japanese get into our homes." Still right in spirit, and stretches the bat an enjoyable bit extra!

No Good Boyo said...

"I like m'women th'way I teck m'gin - pink, of generous proportions, and liable ter cause yer a headache. Carry on!"

Col Gervaise "Neither Know" Nacquere, Quetta mess, 1946.

Wordver: Squilin - a minor character in Blake's Seven.

Gyppo Byard said...

"I like m'women the way I like m'coffee - roasted, ground to a powder and steeped in very hot but not quite boiling water."

Capt Roderick "Dangerous" de Sade, Rangoon Insane Asylum, 1948