“No problem, sir,” says the S-M, and when C Company is on parade, he calls out “Atten-shun! Higgins! Your father’s dead!” at which poor Higgins breaks down in tears on parade and has to be escorted away.
The next morning, the colonel once again sends for the sergeant-major and says “Mr. Macintosh, once again C Company are on parade and I regret to say that we have been notified that as a result of her injuries sustained in the accident, Higgins’s mother has now died. And, sergeant-major, when you pass on this news, see to it that you do so more tactfully than yesterday.”
“No problem, sir,” says the S-M, and when C Company is on parade, he calls out “Atten-Shun! Higgins! Prepares to receive bad news of a familial nature. Higgins… wait for it!… your mother’s dead!” and, once again, poor Higgins has led away in tears.
It is three days before C Company is on parade again, and when they are, the colonel once again sends for the sergeant-major, and his face is grave: “Sergeant-major, we have just received the news that in spite of all possible medical attention and a brave fight for life, Private Higgins’s poor sister has tragically died. This was Higgins’s last close family member and I cannot stress strongly enough the need to pass on this news as gently as possible.”
“Don’t you worry, sir,” says the S-M, and when C Company is on parade, he calls out “Atten-shun! All members of C Company who have living sisters, three paces… wait for it!… three paces forward, March! Higgins, where the ‘ell are you going you ‘horrible little man?”