Tweet of the Day: A Tale of Two Treasures
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
William Shakespeare’s , Henry V, Act IV Scene iii 18-67mSt. Crispin’s Day Speech
Thus is born the trope, A Father to His Men. Of course this trope fits any “good” officer in fiction and many a great officer in real life. The kind of which the phrase, “We will follow him to hell and back”, is often uttered. Yet warfare is a cruel mistress, the ultimate Social Darwinian experiment while caring for the welfare is paramount, winning battles is just as important. As Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington said after the Battle of Waterloo:
My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.
Because a loosing general is wasting lives and accomplishing nothing in return. Care of the men doesn’t mean cuddling them either. An officer may look the other way when it comes to minor indiscretions but a winning army needs disciplined on and off the battlefield. The reason why this trope is not more popular in real life is that often military leaders came from different social strata than the men under their command, whether in the form of wealth (nobility) or as part of a military elite (knights, samurai). Mixing up the social order was frowned upon to say the least. However, many a general knew that the common soldier is the army and a well kept army is the only army worth having.
Talking of social order, often a leader in the vein of this trope is from said lower orders, whose rises through the ranks do to his ability to win battles. Add to this the fierce loyalty of his men and you can see how many of them end up not rewarded but imprisoned or dead at the hands of superiors who fear said leaders ambitions. After all the same force that can force an enemy to capitulate can do the same to you.