Letters to the Editor

Dear Mr Street,

As one military chap to another, I would like to whole-heartedly commend you on your highly informative periodical about the dignified & gentlemanly art of ‘dawdling’. And in these dank days of absurd political correctness, it is a welcome relief to read something that doesn’t kowtow to the media-believing, liberal masses.

As chairman of the Worshipful & Noble Company of Swanners & Skivers, I would like to inform your readers about our prestigious history & the deep integration Swanning & Skiving has with the British Forces.

As you stated in your introductory letter, the term swanning correctly refers to a sudden sport undertaken by married men in a bid to avoid being tasked by their better halves, but did you know that the tradition of Swanning (with a capital S) actually originated in the British military? Many years ago in the Asian mainland, a bunch of Army officers actually found that they had run out of gin & without any other ranks on hand to hither-to & fetch some more, straws were drawn regarding which one of their number would nip out & acquire some. The unlucky selection was made by Captain Walter Mitty Swanning-Barstad, a member of the Royal Army Pay Corps. The harrowing account later provided by Capt S-B was that upon entering the cellar of the officers mess, he was violently attacked & abducted by a hoard of local ruffians, who then transported him out of the villa in the back of a dingy cart, whereby in the middle of the desert he subsequently overpowered his captors, making his escape & finally arriving back at camp an hour later. When viewing his dishevelled & unkempt appearance, one of his cohort in the mess stood up, pointed their finger & shouted “You Swanning-Barstad, where the hell have you been?”

But it from that very episode that Captain Swanning-Barstad gave his name to the tradition that every commissioned military officer still undertakes to this very day. For it is that after breakfast & before elevenses, if they are not still drinking tea in the mess, officer-types generally Swan-along to the Headquarters of a barracks/station/ship, where they walk up & down corridors, appearing to talk, nod & generally hob-nob with other officers, whilst giving the general appearance of being highly official. Then after lunch & following mid-afternoon nap, many junior officers can be seen Swanning-about the locality, inspecting large pieces of military apparatus that they absolutely know nothing about, while the senior staff Swan-around the golf course. It may be noted that some officious, lowly subalterns do not fully accept the tradition of Swanning, attempt to Strut instead. This obnoxious manner tends to lead to instant resentment by those troops immediately around, & often results in the ‘jumped-up little subby’ being taken to one side by a friendly Non-commissioned Officer for ‘a quiet little chat’.

When it comes to Skiving though, I am sure that we both agree that there are no greater exponents of this fine art than the non-commissioned ranks. Although there are no historical records to show exactly when & where Skiving actually started, some historians believe it originated about the same time that ‘waitering-on’ & ‘block jobs’ were first performed by the common soldiery.

These days during basic training, all recruits receive a thorough grounding in Skiving through a module called ‘Survive to Skive’. Once posted to their adult unit, those who show an aptitude for Skiving, can volunteer for specialist Skiving duties in the Headquarters, Quartermasters, Motor Transport, or Signals departments, where they can spend their working days shirking & body-swerving any serious grunt work. For those others with whom the ‘flash to bang’ is a tad on the slow side, they might be able to pick up some advanced Skiving tips from some of the ‘Old Sweats’ in their unit, in particular those who are in receipt of the LSGC (Long Skive & Good Coffee) medal.

I do hope this brief view into Swanning & Skiving has been tremendously insightful for your readership & I would like to finish my letter with a quote from one of the British Army’s greatest Swanners – Captain Lawrence Oates: “I’m just going outside, I may be sometime…”

Yours sincerely

Lord Lucas Veltin

Chairman of the WANCSS

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