The story of corruption in the Armed Forces in the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries is both absurd and horrible. If men’s lives had not been fruitlessly wasted, one could laugh at the absurdities of Army organization, the purchase of commissions or the stupidities of a man like the Earl of Cardigan,1 but as it was the British tradition of ‘muddling through’ in naval and military matters was a tradition of paying for corruption and incompetence with other people’s lives.