". . . Fetch a Spoon!"
Reportedly, during the late nineteenth century, one of the
highest ranking officers in the British Army had a very unusual experience.
The general had a reputation for being particularly
concerned with the well being of the troops, and was wont to pop in
unexpectedly for impromptu inspections of living conditions and food from time
to time, which sometimes resulted in severe dressings down for officers whom he
considered lax in their concern for the men.
On the particular instance in question, the general popped
in unexpectedly at a regimental kitchen.
As he did, he spotted two soldiers carrying a steaming cauldron out of
"Put it down," he ordered
The men naturally complied.
"Fetch a spoon."
The two soldier stared at each other for a moment, but then
one ran off. In moments, the man was
back, with the indicated spoon.
Taking the spoon, the general said, "I want to see what
sort of soup you get," dipped the spoon into the cauldron, brought it to
his lips, and tasted hit.
No sooner had he sipped from the spoon when the general spat
out the mouthful.
"What sort of broth is this?," he bellowed,
"It tastes like dish-water. What is
"That's just what it is, sir, replied one of the
soldiers, "It's the water the dishes were washed in!"
FootNote: Although recorded as fact,
this tale sounds very much like an old soldier's story, probably old even
before Sinhue toted a spear for Pharaoh.
Marshal Putnik Gets Home
July of 1914 found Radomir Putnik, the Vojvoda -- Commander-in-Chief -- of the Serbian Army at Bad
Gleichenberg, a fashionable spa in Austria, hoping that the mineral
waters would help ease his emphysema.
Although relations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia were
rather sour due to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the
Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princep in Sarajevo
on June 28th, the crisis seemed to have passed. Then, almost out of the blue, on July 24th,
issued a stern ultimatum to Serbia. Quite naturally, Putnik decided to return
home, and boarded a train on July 25th. Now Field Marshal Count Franz Conrad von
Hotzendorff, the Chief of the Imperial-and-Royal General Staff, a brilliant, if
unstable character, had a clever idea. Hoping
to "decapitate" the Serbian Army at a single stroke, when Putnik's
train reached Budapest,
Conrad had the field marshal arrested.
The very next day, however, the I-and-R Foreign Ministry convinced
Conrad that having the ailing and aged (67) Putnik commanding the Serb forces
would be better than having a younger man in charge, and so, pretending to make
a chivalrous gesture, the Vojvoda was
released. Due to the deepening crisis,
Putnik had to travel home by way of Romania, and thus did not arrive until
August 5th, by which time Austria-Hungary had initiated
military operations against Serbia,
sparking World War I.
Now, while Putnik was making his way back to Serbia, the War
Ministry in Belgrade
was in an uproar. It seems that when he
left for Bad Gleichenberg, Putnik had taken with him the key to his safe, in
which lay the mobilization orders and defense plans in the event of war with
the Hapsburg Empire. Without the Vojvoda, no one knew what to do. Fortunately, when Putnik's subordinates
dithered, War Minister Dusan Stefanovic took matters into his own hands; although
without any legal authority over mobilization orders or war planning, he had
the safe dynamited, and by the time Putnik resumed command everything was in
And so, when the Imperial-and-Royal Army undertook a full
scale invasion of Serbia
on August 12th, Putnik, despite the delay in mobilization, despite
his emphysema (which would kill him in 1917), and despite his age, promptly
beat the pants off the invaders.