The Colonel’s short time on stage highlights how little time senior army officers spent on the front line. We feel that he is relatively safe and removed from the horror, but that he too has to follow orders from above and keep a stiff upper lip.
The Colonel acts in control, suggesting who Stanhope should send on the raid. But he lacks sensitivity, speaking as if he views war as a game, "It’s all a damn nuisance; but, after all – it’s necessary."
Sherriff’s use of understatement in the phrase “a damn nuisance” when describing something which is killing many men, suggests how trivial the whole thing is to the Colonel.
When the young German soldier is captured, the Colonel interviews him roughly and shows no humanity, scornfully taking away his treasured letters from home.
This lack of care and compassion shows him in contrast to the respected “hero”, Stanhope.
Hardy is the first character we see in the play. He is an officer from another company about to be relieved by Stanhope.
Hardy offers our first insight into Stanhope, "How is the dear young boy? Drinking like a fish, as usual … [he] really is a sort of freak ... He didn’t go home on his last leave, did he?" This allows us to form an opinion of Stanhope before we meet him.
Despite Hardy’s criticism he provides a contrast to Stanhope, showing him as a better officer. For example, Hardy is messy and disorganised while Stanhope has high standards and likes the dugout to be kept clean and tidy.
Mason is Stanhope’s batman - this is the term for an army officer’s servant. He is presented as less well educated than the officers. His station in life is emphasised by his working class accent, he talks about " ’ot tea” and “sambridges".
Mason is hard working and keen to serve his officers. He is put in his place by Stanhope but is resilient and humorous, offering light relief and a sense of normality against which the madness of the war seems even more apparent and sad.
In the end, Mason proves brave and dutiful when he asks to join the others at the front. Sherriff juxtaposes his character here with the reluctant time-wasting Hibbert in order to emphasise Mason’s courage.