This is a book about people and how they sometimes behave. In particular, it is about Indian soldiers and about certain virtues - loyalty to comrades, fidelity to an oath, courage under stress. Without these virtues, an army is nothing.
In this remarkable classic, Philip Mason provides an astute understanding of the individual psychology of the soldier and how, despite weapons, equipment and training, it is personal honour and integrity that emerge as the most important assets of an army.
Mason looks into history-the Indian Army's role during the two World Wars, the birth of the Indian Army, and studies it as it finds its identity. The book provides a starting point for many dimensions of thought into human behavior.
A Matter of Honour will remain a classic for the frontiers it touches, encompassing society, culture, human psychology and military thought.
Philip Mason was educated at Sedbergh and Balliol College, Oxford, and spent nearly twenty years in the Indian Civil Services, both strict administration and in the Defense Department of the Government of India. He was secretary of chiefs of Staff Committee during the war. After the war and his retirement from the Indian civil Servicees, he was for some years Director of the Institute of Race Relations His first Book, call the next witness, was published in 1945, under a pseudonym (Philip Woodruff) at the request of the Indian office. Also under that name, he published, among other books, The Man Who Ruled India, a two volume account of the administrative and social background of the "Ewe British in India, the Founders and The Guardians
To write a history of the Indian Army on the scale of Fortescue's History of the British Army would be the work of a lifetime. This book has no pretensions to be anything of that kind. It is an attempt to sketch the changing relations of officers and men and to answer certain questions about their behaviour. It is set against the general background of the history of the British in India because the purely military aspects do not make sense in isolation. It is based on well-known standard works, memoirs and regimental histories together with some personal knowledge of Indian peasants at home in their villages, and on friend-ships with many of their officers. It covers two hundred years and all three Presidency Armies-Bengal, Madras and Bombay-as well as the Indian Army that arose from the reorganization of 1895. No existing book covers this span in one narrative. No one who served in the Indian Army will feel there is enough about his own regiment and I can only say that I too wish there could have been more; I have had to leave out a great deal of what I know and of course there is much more I do not know.
I have tried to judge men's behaviour by the standards of their own day. The frightful increase in human powers of destruction has forced us today to think of war in different terms from the Victorians; ideals of conduct have changed and we question a social structure they took for granted. They should be judged by the standards of honour, duty and service they admired, by what they themselves sought to be. Nor should Indian soldiers be judged in terms of a nationalism of which they had no knowledge. Courage is always a virtue and to forget self and die in the service of others is an act with a value of its own, in-dependent of any analysis of the causes for which men suppose they are fighting There are many dimensions of thought about human behavior into which this narrative has not entered but for which it may provide a starting-point.
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