Reading #4 – Raucous Soldiers!

This is an article by Patrick Bury in The British Journal of Sociology (Bury, 2017).  I came across it half by accident, but found it interesting.

It is also relevant to my work on world-view in that it helped me identify another area of diverse outlook – the closed military life versus civilian incomprehension!  (I’m in the latter camp, by the way, which is perhaps why I found the research so diverting.)

There were some astute insights into a very specific social environment, one defined by tradition and hierarchy, and into how behaviours are governed by it.

This work focused on an unusual breakdown of habitual adherence to roles and discipline and the conditions that precipitated this.  The author concludes that a recent stressful tour of duty in Afghanistan served to flatten the authority gradient by placing junior officers in positions of great responsibility.  It also picked out certain agitating factors on the night, like the inclusion to a senior officer outside of the regimental ‘family’ which seemed to serve the ambitions of the commanding officer and breach and therefore disrupt the firm etiquette of this traditional social occasion.

How this looks to civilian eyes and how this narrative can be reproduced succinctly in story to help us civilians enter into the military mindset is where I may apply this work.  I believe soundtrack could be highly referential in this case, referencing:

  • Sounds associated with this tradition – with drinking, with chants and traditional forms of words, with the banging on tables and the scraping of chairs in rising for the big toast.
  • (This is the toast that didn’t happen this time when it went wrong – could the chair scrapes sound different, as the junior officer whose speech went wrong moves his chair back to run from the room, as the other chairs squeak when the remaining company turn round to watch him go?  Could the new scrapes evoke the old ones, imagined in daydreams as the man prepared the big speech in days leading up?)
  • Sounds associated with battle and junior officers granted agency beyond that to which they are accustomed in drills.
  • Sounds associated with disorder.
  • The ambient environment would be rather claustrophobic, close and dry.  This could be used to good effect in conveying the sense of an out of control situation that one cannot escape from, or the uncomfortable proximity of people who suddenly feel different as order breaks down.
  • I note also that while no doubt there were some woman officers present, the predominate sound of the room would be male.

It is all speculation, as no such project is planned!  But interesting speculation all the same.


BURY, P. (2017) Barossa Night: cohesion in the British Army officer corps. The British Journal of Sociology 68, 314–335. doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12236

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