Leadership & Ethics

One Hundred Hints for Company Officers

By Duncan Foster October 23, 2020

Clear and simple advice or guidance for junior subordinates has been a hallmark of successful commanders. This advice can be informal or it can be directed (in the form of an order); however, it is but one method for a commander to steer their organisation in the direction they want it to go and to imbue it with the behaviours a commander wants. They can provide specific guidance for the conduct of tactical activities and/or how soldiers and officers should act and treat others. One example is the standing orders for the US Army Rangers, they are listed after the Ranger creed in every edition of the Ranger Handbook. These orders are a derivative of the original ‘28 Rules of Ranging’ by Major Robert Rogers which he compiled and implemented during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). They were originally used by Rogers to provide direction to his personally selected 600-man company. This order was then used by Lieutenant Colonel William Darby to his 1st Ranger Battalion prior to combat in the Second World War. A more succinct version continues to be used by the 75th Ranger Regiment today.
The following document ‘A Hundred Hints for Company Officers’ was used by the 4th Infantry Brigade and was published in November 1914 just prior to the unit’s departure for service in the First World War. The Brigade Major, Lieutenant Colonel McGlinn, states that the document has been issued under the authority of the Brigade Commander, who at the time was the then Colonel John Monash. John Monash would command the brigade from September 1914 until 1916, which would include the entire Gallipoli campaign. He would go on to command the 3rd Division and then the Australian Corps on the Western front, and many would recognise him as Australia’s finest commander from that war.
The One Hundred Hints that Monash has identified are in many ways timeless and have ready application now in preparing land forces for future operations. It is important that the reader understand some of the context for the hints, they were written prior to experiencing and learning from combat at Gallipoli and the Western Front. They were also written over one hundred years ago. The hints are from John Monash’s personnel papers that are available online from the Australian War Memorial (AWM), and can be found here.
It is but one of the many gems that can be discovered by the military professional from the AWM records.  
I would encourage you to read the following hints and use your professional military judgement as to their current validity. I would contend that many of them are valid today and some such as number 83 (which talks to the care of horses) could be simply reworded to make the link to vehicles and ensuring they are appropriately maintained. They are also clearly applicable to all ranks and not just officers and many would be valuable above the company level.


Australian Imperial Force, Fourth Infantry Brigade
This pamphlet is issued under the authority of the Officer Commanding the Fourth Infantry Brigade to all officers and sergeants of the command.

Its object is to create a uniform spirit, and to ensure a satisfactory morale.  

It is the duty of every officer not only to master and apply the maxims contained herein, but also to impress them upon his subordinates.


J.P. McGlinn


Brigade Major, Fourth Infantry Brigade,

Australian Imperial Force.

23rd Nov, 1914.


1. Success in battle is the sole object and ultimate end of all military training. 

2. Battle is a severe examination of the principles of the art of war, which have been studied during peace. As in other branches of knowledge, carelessness of preparation, or misapplication of principles, means failure, but in this stern school there is seldom an opportunity for any supplementary examination.

3. Mistakes must always be corrected on the spot: otherwise incorrect habits are formed, which are afterwards difficult to eradicate, and thereby valuable training time is wasted.

4. When faults occur, it is often not the individual who is to blame, but the supervision of a superior officer may have been lax, or his instructions defective. Such causes of faulty behaviour should be vigilantly sought for and corrected.

5. All criticism must be kindly and helpful; never discouraging. Censure should not be administered in the presence of subordinates.

6. The Commander of every unit; however small, is responsible for its training. If inefficient, he is primarily to blame.

7. The officer who knows his work, is firm but impartial, who expects the utmost from his men, is respected more and can obtain better results than the officer with defective knowledge, who is lax and who endeavours to be the “good fellow” with his men.

8. It is the men in the ranks who win the battle. The officers being the leaders who take them in the right way, at the right time, to the right place to overcome the enemy. Therefore, an officer’s constant thought must be the preservation of the soldier’s fighting spirit and physical condition.

9. Solicitude for the comfort and well-being of his men must be the first concern of every officer. He must assure himself that everything possible in the situation has been done to secure for them rest, protection against surprise, food, and sanitary conditions, before looking to himself.

10. Strive always to make the best of things. On service nothing will ever go completely right, and that man will succeed best who has formed the habit of doing what he can with the means available; while, at a time of stress, his cheery spirit will animate, and be invaluable to, his unit.

11. Much greater self-sacrifice is naturally expected from officers than from the rank and file, and, therefore, in the worst situation of battle and campaigning, an officer should never appear to his men other than energetic and satisfied. A regiment is doomed when the men hear their officers complaining.

12. Always uphold the authority of Junior Officers or N.C.O’s. If an offence charged appears trivial, remember that it may have become serious by repetition. Even if the case be dismissed, impress upon the accused that the N.C.O. has only done his duty in bringing the matter to notice, and that his authority will always be upheld. If such matters are treated lightly, subordinates will overlook minor offences rather than risk being humiliated.

13. An officer who condones or overlooks a fault one day, and punishes for the same or a lesser offence on another day, is invariably hated by his men, who become unable to gauge his standards or shape their conduct accordingly.

14. Never interfere with the performance of any duty for which a subordinate is responsible, unless his performance of it is incorrect. If you do, the responsibility becomes yours and you are checking the initiative of the subordinate, and his desire to bear responsibility.

15. Gain the confidence of your N.C.O’s, as they have, through their associations, an inside knowledge of the spirit and feeling of the men in the ranks that an officer can never obtain.

16. The more an officer succeeds in impressing his personality upon the men entrusted to his care, the more will they be influenced by his temperament. It is his duty, therefore, to appear cheerful and hopeful even under the most trying and adverse circumstances.

17. Be natural. The assumption of mannerisms is easily detected by men, personality is lost, and in most cases respect suffers.

18. One of the hardest tasks in peace is to inculcate in the soldier the necessity for the greatest care of his rifle. In peace, unfortunately, the target never hits back, and the necessity for getting a result with the first and every shot is not realised. After the first action, however, the need for care and attention is brought home to the men; but this is often too late for many.

19. One of the cardinal principles of organisation is to divide responsibility among trusted subordinates, each responsible to you for a definite portion of the whole, and working under your general supervision.

20. Never depart from the terms of an order if the superior who gave the order is within reach for reference. If you are compelled by circumstances to do so, report your action to your superior in the quickest possible way.

21. Miscarriage or mutilation of orders and messages transmitted by word of mouth is the rule rather than the exception. Whenever possible, therefore, orders and messages should be transmitted in writing.

22. Whenever a verbal message is sent, the messenger should be made to repeat the message; and all possible care must be taken to see that he knows to whom the message is to be given, and his location.

23. The evil tendency of instructional manoeuvres in peace is to slow up and check the advance of the firing line. On active service, the watchword must always be “Press forward! Press forward! Close with the enemy”.

24. Tactical principles can be learnt from books, but they cannot be properly understood unless they are constantly applied in the field under constantly varying conditions of ground and situation.

25. Knowledge can only be gained from experience. Text-books are only guides and cannot be consulted when decisive action is imperative. If, during training or manoeuvres, an idea occurs of performing some duty in a manner differing from that which has been the custom of the battalion, try it, provided –

   a. You are not departing from orders;

   b. No principle of tactics is violated;

   c. The intention of your commander is not interfered with.

If it is proved unsound, it is better to find that out during peace, and besides, experience has been gained.

26. It is seldom realised that much of a soldier’s efficiency depends on pure manual dexterity, that is, his capacity to handle skilfully, accurately, and rapidly the weapons and appliances which he has to employ. Such dexterity can be acquired only by long sustained and oft repeated practice.

27. To get men interested is the sure way of attaining an effective and intelligent performance of their duties. Monotonous repetition never achieves a result other than a mechanical one. If, during instruction, the men’s interest is waning, change the subject at once. You can later return to the original theme, with better result.

28. If you constantly tell men they are awkward and useless they will become so, because even the keenest will give up trying. On the other hand, indiscriminate or constant praise tends to make men disregard many details which are essential in order to maintain a standard.

29. Men who are proud of themselves are proud of their unit. The estimate of the spirit of a regiment is better gauged by the carriage, turn-out, and actions of its members while off duty, than by a formal inspection on parade.

30. Economise training time in every possible way. Teach your unit to assemble punctually and tell-off rapidly. Be severe on men who straggle on parade late, because this seriously curtails the time available for training. Move off for work as soon as possible after the time named.

31. Whenever men are resting, or waiting under cover, during field exercises, use the time to have them instructed in some branch of their training.

32. Ability to find the way by night, especially across country, with and without previous daylight reconnaissance, with and without the aid of map or compass, is a most useful accomplishment for every officer. This should be practised whenever opportunity offers.

33. As a preparation for night operations, men should be taken out at night, at first in small, and later in larger parties; at first on familiar and later on strange ground; to accustom them to move about in darkness, and to train the eye to recognise stationary and moving objects, and the ear to recognise the direction and distance to sounds.

34. In camp or bivouac, the constant presence of officers in the men’s lines, while they are off duty, is undesirable, as it puts a restraint on the men. On the other hand, on service, in action, in trenches, or in stress, the presence of officers is a great factor in keeping up the men’s spirits, when they see that their officers are no better off than themselves, but are still cheerful, energetic, and sanguine of success.

35. Noise in the lines between Lights Out and Reveille is a serious offence. It springs from a reckless and selfish disregard for the well-being of tired men who want to sleep. Deal severely with disobedience of this instruction, and see that your orderly sergeant and corporal are insistent. It should be a point of honour with every company officer that his company does not offend this respect.

36. The ability to lecture or teach without elaborate notes is rapidly acquired with practice. Continual references to notes distract the class and destroys attention; while a lecture written out in extenso and read to the class is next to useless. If you require notes, let them be as few as possible and consult them openly and deliberately (not surreptitiously) during pauses in your remarks, and not while actually speaking.

37. Never undertake the giving of any lesson, or piece of instruction, unless you have beforehand thought out what you are going to teach, and have made a plan (in your mind or on paper) of the main headings and sub-headings of your subject.

38. Every tactical exercise, no matter how simple, should be preceded by an explanation of the principles to be illustrated, and should be followed by a discussion, on the ground, of the merits and faults noted.

39. Rivalry between units to excel is to be encouraged, but all are working for a common cause, and such rivalry must not be allowed to impair the spirit of helpfulness of all officers towards each other, and to their comrades of other commands.

40. While developing in each man a solicitude for the success and efficiency of the unit to which he belongs, care must be taken that this does not impair his ready co-operation with the men of all other units under all circumstances.

41. Punctuality is of the utmost importance. A combined operation may break down completely because of some small unit fails to come up to time. Punctuality does not; however, mean being ready long before the time. This generally involves a waste of time, harassing the men, or unduly curtailing your previous duty.

42. Proficiency in elementary training is the foundation of success. The more thorough the grounding in the rudiments, the more rapidly will the men benefit from advanced training. Company, Battalion, and Brigade drill are merely extensions of squad drill; the men in the ranks performing only the movements which they learnt at recruit drill.

43. The intelligence, receptiveness, and education of men varies widely. The more stupid, clumsy, and unreceptive the men, the greater the care, effort, and patience that should be devoted to his training.

44. There is a wide difference between drill and tactical handling of troops. In the former there must always be strictest adherence to the prescribed formations and movements; while in the later the exact opposite prevails, for it is impossible, as well as undesirable, to lay down fixed formations and procedures under the constantly varying conditions of time, place, weather, military situation, or morale of the troops.

45.When engaging in any operation of war, whether movement, protection or battle, every officer must realise that he has to perform two separate functions, both equally important. On the one hand, he has to command and direct the operation, and, on the other hand, to keep up communication with his immediate superior and neighbouring commanders. The later function means that he must report the course of events and any important changes in the situation, as they occur.

46. Communication between the several units engaged in a combined operation is so vital to the success of the operations that it is duty of all ranks to keep the means of communication intact; and should unavoidable interruption occur, to promptly improvise the best means to repair the interruption.

47. Rapidity in the transmission of information during reconnaissance or battle is much more important than that the information should be lengthy and elaborate. At the same time, the accuracy of the message sent must never be sacrificed for speed.

48. Messages framed in brief, concise language save valuable time in writing, transmitting, reading, and recording. If you can in this way save a few minutes per message, it is well worth while. Practice writing out a typical field report or message, and then seeing how many words you can save by rewriting it. The practice of clear brevity will soon become habitual.

49. Success in modern war depends more on moral than physical qualities. Resourcefulness, energy, and determination count more than numbers.

50. “Half-hearted measures never attain success in war; lack of determination is the most fruitful source of defeat”. This maxim, written in relation to battle tactics, applies uniformly throughout the whole range of an officer’s duties.

51. Courage is not synonymous with reckless exposure to danger. It is the quality of mind deliberately formed by an earnest sense of Duty to King and Country, by a thorough confidence in our physical and mental powers, our leaders and our weapons, and by a firm belief in the justice of our cause.

52. It is often better to act quickly, decisively, and energetically upon a provisional plan than to lose time in perfecting your plan by prolonged consideration. Any plan or action is better than none at all.

53. To imitate good examples is an effective way of improving your efficiency. Always be vigilant to recognise the good points of another man’s work and the reason for his success, and then act upon his example.

54. Never commence any parade without an inspection, and make the inspection always thorough; because carelessness in dress or equipment means loss of personal pride and slackness of carriage (which leads to loss of interest and energy), and consequently loss of marching and fighting power.

55. The correct fitting of equipment means much to the comfort of the men during the march, and their condition on arrival at their destination. Yet it is only the close and constant supervision of officers and N.C.O’s that will make men careful in adjusting equipment.

56. The efficient use of the rifle can be likened to the efficient use of other appliances, such as the typewriter, a musical instrument, or a heliograph. It results from the skilfully coordinated action of the powers of judgement, of the senses of sight and hearing, and of muscular control. The inference is plain: that efficiency in all these cases follows only after earnest endeavour and constant practice.

57. Our service rifle is a powerful and accurate weapon, and the confidence of the men in its power must be carefully cultivated. They must be taught that rifle fire, well controlled and well directed, makes infantry most formidable in both attack and defence.

58. Instil into the men that wild firing at long range gives no result, and that the nearer they advance to the enemy, the more priceless does their ammunition become, as replenishments from the reserves are almost impossible, the only supply available to them being that of men rendered “hors do combat”.

59. Judging distances is not confined to musketry. It should be practised laterally, longitudinally, and vertically. The frontage occupied by a company, the length of a column marching across the front, the lateral space occupied by a named frontage on a distant ridge, the height of a steeple, a tree, or a cliff are a few examples of measurements which is useful to be able to judge accurately.

60. Apart from acquiring proficiency in professional subjects, every officer must subject himself to careful training in his physical and mental attributes, such as by exercising the body to be supple, to stand fatigue, and to do with less than usual food, drink and rest; by improving the habit and power of observation by eye and ear both day and by night; and also developing the faculty of imagination.

61.The power of imagination is a most valuable faculty for an officer. It is a faculty which can be developed with practice. It means the capacity of rapidly constructing a definite mental picture of an event, situation, or locality, the description of which is being heard or read; and is a powerful aid to the understanding of the impressions desired to be conveyed to the brain by the eye and ear.

62. Soldiers have constantly to perform onerous, disagreeable and irksome duties. They will do so the more cheerfully if they understand that these duties are in the interests of their own comfort, health and safety.

63. A good officer never disdains to perform, occasionally, tasks and duties which he requires of his men, so that he may be able to form a correct judgement of the time, degree of skill, and effort required in their performance, and thereby acquire capacity to recognise when men are overtaxed or shirking. For example, it is a useful experience to undertake a long march in full marching order.

64. Always give quietly, and deliberately, and always insist on their performance to the letter. Avoid fuss and flurry. Through excitement, effective control is invariably lost.

65. The idea that a soldier must do what he is told is obsolete. It is still a fact that he must obey unhesitatingly, but he must also think about, and understand, what he is doing. An express order for some executive action will be all the better performed, if the recipient understands the object in view.

66. Firmness in command invariably wins the respect of the men, provided it is exercised with absolute fairness and impartiality. Nothing so damages an officer’s prestige as unfairness or injustice. Remember, that the strictest justice is the fairest mercy.

67. When drilling troops, or lecturing, stand well away and adopt a reposeful but soldierly attitude. Mannerisms, i.e., moving about or moving limbs, except for the purpose of illustration, fidgets the men and distracts their attention.

68. An officer cannot fraternise with members of the rank and file without loss of status. If he does so, he cannot expect to have respect and control, and will often find himself in an unenviable position as regards, (a) his brother officers, (b) his duty and responsibility, (c) his position, particularly when required to administer praise, blame, or punishment, impartially.

69. The rifle is the tool employed in the infantry soldier’s calling. Good workmen always take care of their tools, with the object of obtaining the best result, though there may be no personal risk attached to a failure. Therefore, the military workmen, i.e., the soldier, should take great care of his instrument, as on its condition, when required, for use, depends his life, the result of the battle, and perhaps the fate of his country.

70. In attack, the object of fire is to facilitate the advance. Therefore, fire should rarely be opened if satisfactory progress can be made without it. In this way ammunition will be saved for closer ranges, where it can be used with most effect, and where it is most difficult to replenish.

71. In battle, the soldier, through want of accuracy, loss of nerve or previous want of care of his rifle, misses his mark, is only wasting ammunition and encouraging the enemy.

72. Discipline which is obtained by punishment, cannot be compared with that of a force animated by the honour of the regiment, confidence in their officers and comrades, and the knowledge that, in their spirit, equipment, and training, they are equal, if not superior, to any force they may meet in battle.

73. The development of a soldierly spirit is the foundation of discipline and efficiency. The ingredients of a soldierly spirit are obedience, self-reliance, self-sacrifice, courage, and comradeship.

74. Cleanliness of person, orderliness in dress and manner, steadiness in the ranks, soldierly bearing, smartness in movement; these qualities must be constantly impressed upon every man, until they become habitual.

75. The force of example is the most powerful factor in leadership. The conduct of men, in camp, in the field, and in battle is an exact reflex of the conduct of their commanders. The officers must, therefore, rigorously practice every soldierly virtue which they desire men to acquire.

76. Men will never make difficulties about paying proper “compliments” to a superior, if they are taught to understand that this is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the authority vested in the superior. The officer who does not insist that the proper compliments are paid is doing more to undermine discipline than the worst growler in the ranks, because his own men grow careless and act similarly towards other officers.

77. Soldierly comradeship is marked by self-denial, mutual help, mutual forbearance, loyalty, unselfishness and consideration. Such qualities do not evolve spontaneously (especially among men thrown together for the first time), but must be sedulously fostered under all circumstances. Good comradeship means effective co-operation in time of stress.

78. During action your immediate commander, especially if at a distance, constantly requires information, not only about what is happening, but also about what is not happening. It is your duty to keep him so informed.

79. A message always loses much of, and often the whole of, its value if it fails to contain the date, time, and place of despatch, and the title of the sender’s unit or appointment.

80. If a return or state is asked for at short notice, it is only reasonable to assume that the shorter the time allowed for preparation the greater the urgency for the required information to be in your Commander’s possession.

81. If cooks are rushed in the preparation of a meal owing to late arrival in camp, or bivouac, extra assistance should be given to them, otherwise the men are kept hungry until late in the night.

82. Immediately on arrival in camp or bivouac, send an officer or reliable N.C.O. to conduct your transport wagons to the lines. This precaution will often save officers and men going to bed supperless.

83. Always see that your horses are attended to. Any trouble in this respect will be amply rapid. Ill-fitting saddles and harness are sources of cruelty to horses, and should be specially guarded against. Always dismount during halts, or when watering horses.

84. In camp, bivouac, and on the march, see that cut-offs of rifles are closed and safety catches pressed to the rear. Such precautions will often prevent accident, and during the night operations will prevent the position of your force being disclosed by a stray shot.

85. Always conserve your ammunition; waste may mean disaster. Prior to marching from camp or bivouac, organise a drive through your lines to gather up stray ammunition.

86. Abstain from drinking water on the march; a clean pebble carried in the mouth will be found an aid to stave off thirst. All water should be first examined by a medical officer, and, if doubtful, should be boiled before being used. A picquet should be placed on the water carts to prevent them being rushed, and the water wasted.

87. Impress upon all concerned the absolute necessity of keeping touch when carrying out advanced rear or flank guard work, and also when marching at night.

88. Good marching and the covering of long distances, without undue fatigue, depends on the observance of march discipline, which includes adherence to uniform pace, preservation of distances and covering, avoidance of dusty routes, periodical halts for rest and water, attention to feet, and the fitting of equipment.

89. If at any time you discover that the maps issued are at fault, always correct them and advise superior authority. For example, maps often show, say, only two off-set roads between two given points, but actual movement over the ground will disclose three or four. In marches great care must be exercised in identifying the road ordered to be followed.

90. If engaged in reconnaissance, always dispose your patrol in such a manner that in case of an encounter all men cannot be shot or captured, and that information can be speedily conveyed to your base.

91. Flank guards to a force moving between ridges must secure the father sides of such ridges, so as to prevent ambush.

92. Keep off the skyline when occupying or reconnoitring elevated positions, and see that your outpost details and observation posts do likewise. The skyline does not always mean the highest point of a hill or ridge.

93. The composition of a column can be learned by observing the different ways in which the dust raised by its various parts appears. Officers, N.C.O’s, and Scouts should be well acquainted with these differences, which practice in observation will soon teach.

94. When alarms are given by day or night, nothing is more essential and conductive to morale, than the turn-out of troops in absolute silence and order. On these occasions, the fewer officers and N.C.O’s giving commands or instructions the better. If proper arrangements have been made, there should be necessity for few commands prior to moving off.

95. The best way to meet a bayonet charge, is by a counter-charge; because a charging line has an advantage over a stationary line by reason of its impetus.

96. When officers or other ranks become detached through illness, wounds, or other reasons, a note of the fact should at once be made in Company and Regimental Records. On their rejoining, this should also be recorded, with the date.

97. Entries regarding pay should be kept absolutely up to date. Neglect of this essential will result in endless confusion and immense trouble to those responsible.

98. Strict attention should be paid to camp and personal hygiene. Feet and toe-nails should receive special attention, and hair should be kept short. On every opportunity washing of person and clothing should be encouraged. Keep your outpost positions just as sanitary, and free from nuisance as you would the camp or bivouac.

99. A small bottle or flask of Tincture of Iodine carried by the sergeants or section commanders will be found invaluable in preventing scratches, cuts, or slight wounds from becoming septic, pending proper treatment.

100. Be courteous, yet firm, with inhabitants of any town, village, or district. You will probably obtain more information and assistance from them than if you treat them harshly.






Duncan Foster

An Infantry Officer that at various times during his career has served in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment. He is also a graduate of the Capability and Technology Management College and the Australian Command and Staff College.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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