Getting the Message Across
Early in the Second World War, the Third Army ran a school near Austin, Texas, to train junior officers in dealing with mines, booby traps, and similar dangerous ordnance.
The portion of the course relating to booby traps included detailed explanations and demonstrations of enemy devices that had been found – often at the cost of life or limb – during operations of American and allied forces.
To ensure that the officers took booby traps seriously, the instructors provided realistic demonstrations. In fact, they seem to have set booby-traps in all sorts of places, so that the trainees might encounter them unexpectedly, any time, any place, on duty or off. Most of the devices were “flash-bangs”, but from time to time the instructors laid truly devious traps. One second lieutenant, having performed his business in the latrine, flushed, and was immediately engulfed by a veritable fountain of water and associated debris spouting several feet into the air.
To ensure the lessons were hammered home, a trainee who was “killed” by one of the bobby traps had a wooden marker bearing his name erected in a “grave yard” outside the barracks.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit
Sir Robert Boyd (c.1710-1794) rose, unusually, from civilian storekeeper in the British Army to lieutenant general, while twice serving as Governor of Gibraltar (1776-1777 and 1790-1794).
The good general was noted for many things, not least for his brevity and wit, even in rather mundane communications, which on one occasion resulted in an equally brief and witty reply.
At one point during his tenure at Gibraltar, the general found that his private stores were running low. So he sent an order for resupply to his agent in Britain, a certain Mr. Browne, which read, "Browne, beef, Boyd."
When the next shipment of goods arrived from Britain for the general, it was accompanied by a note reading, "Boyd, beef, Browne."
While perhaps not up to the standards of brevity, wit, alliteration, and drama set by Caesar with his famous “Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered”, Boyd and Browne both came close.