Signing up

I missed conscription by about one year – although as a university entrant I would probably have deferred my ‘national service’ for four years. A work colleague who had done that in the early ’50s found himself actively involved in the Suez Crisis in ’56. Frying pans and fires come to mind. Neither of us could be dubbed macho or a natural warrior and his tales of derring-do were mostly ironic; although duty had to be done and he like millions of others might have died doing it.

But a career in the the professional military is a whole nuther thing than that, ain’t it? It involves a willing acceptance of the conditions and probabilities – a choice not available to the conscript. That is particularly true, I imagine, of special forces activities – even if I have only Hollywwood and the telly for evidence.

So for once, Don the One has a point. The soldier who died in Niger this month did know what he’d signed up for; but as so often Trump’s sense of occasion and timing (let alone respect) leaves much to be desired. His own alleged avoidance of the Draft suggests his duty genes are also flawed.

Author: janus

I'm back......and front - in sunny Sussex-by-the-sea

19 thoughts on “Signing up”

  1. I have a feeling, Janus, that you missed conscription by a bit more than a year. My first husband missed it by 19 days – he was born 19/01/1940. A more unlikely soldier I have yet to meet – he couldn’t even kill a spider.

    I remember trying to tell a group of school-children about conscription – and they simply could not get their heads around the fact that there was no escape. As you say, willing or no – the young men of the UK were drafted and that was that.

    Come to think of it, I’ve read a lot about conscientious objectors in WW1 and 2, but nothing about those caught up in National Service.

    My brother enlisted in the Navy at 16, it’s what all the males on my father’s side of the family did. It’s a long, complicated story as to why he ended up doing that – but he did. He got caught up in the Cod War – and his descriptions (now) are exceedingly amusing – not that he thought so at the time. It wasn’t, as far as he was concerned, what he joined for. He bought himself out very rapidly, and ended up following Big Sis with various degrees in medieval history, even tho’ he didn’t know that he was doing that at the time.

    I remember at the time of the Falklands War many parents screamed that their sons had not joined the forces to be involved with a war – I had little sympathy with them. What did they think the Armed Forces were about?

    Some few years ago, my grandson, who seems to think it worthwhile to ask my opinion, phoned and said he was thinking about joining the Australian Defence Force so that he could get the rest of his degree financed. What did I think?

    “You could get killed.”

    “No, no, Nana – I get my degree paid for.”

    “And – what do you have to do for that… ?”

    I won’t bore you with the however long the rest of the conversation took before he realised that there just might be a price to be paid – and that price just might be his life. He didn’t join.

    I know that all countries need their Defence Forces – although I’m don’t think that they are always used solely for Defence.

    But, since no one these days seems to force anyone into joining the military, I can’t help but feel that those who do sign up are aware of what they are joining and should face the consequences.

    Nonetheless, I am very pleased that they don’t all have ‘Nanas’ like me – because we really need our Defence Forces. And I think we, as a country, should provide a great deal more support than we do when they are injured or killed.

  2. Boa, you are right! As Wki says, ‘National Service ended gradually from 1957. It was decided that those born on or after 1 October 1939 would not be required, but conscription continued for those born earlier whose call-up had been delayed for any reason. In November 1960 the last men entered service, as call-ups formally ended on 31 December 1960, and the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963.’

    It’s strange though that some contemporaries of my sister, born 1941, were called up and we were told those born in 1942 would be the last – obviously, they were not.

    Conscription here in DK continues in a rather convoluted way, normally entailing 4 – 18 months’ service for able-bodied males only, if the no. of ‘volunteers’ is insuffiicient. Mrs J’s son was drafted just before the Bosnian conflict and was lucky not to have to participate. The ‘peace-keeping’ contingent there was involved in fighting when attempting to relieve other UN personnel.

  3. France ended conscription in 2001, but both Macron and LePen promised to bring it back during their campaigns for the presidency. At the moment all young people, of both sexes, are obliged to register themselves as available for unspecified service if required. What would worry me is the thought of all the disaffected youths from the “banlieues”, many of them muslims, being trained in military activities such as the use of firearms. It would keep them off the streets, but at what price? There have already been thefts of guns and ammunition from military depots.

  4. You renounce free will if you sign up. Even conscripts have to take an oath although it could be construed ( at least by me ) as less binding, being taken under duress.

    Whilst willing to defend home and hearth I would be less enthusiastic about getting involved in some foreign fracas.

  5. Janus: I agree that the Only President We’ve Got has a point but that, as is too often the case, he’d have done far better to keep his thoughts to himself. But oh, the shock, horror and outrage that swept through our military when so many of them were yanked out of their peacetime jobs and bundled off to the Middle East! One might suspect that many had been so comfortable doing so little for so long that they’d clean forgotten what might be involved once they’d signed up.

    Although I generally like Canada, one thing I’ll always hold against them is that, when so many of our young people turned coward and fled North to avoid being drafted and going to Viet Nam, the Canadian government didn’t round them all up and send them back but rather let them stay.

    My father and I were both lucky – he in the 1940s and I in the 1960s – to have benefited from rare flashes of military insight. Each of us was given a job that actually had something to do with our civilian occupations and that kept us here in the USA rather than turning us into cannon fodder overseas.

  6. As things turned out not being sent to Vietnam was the best option.
    The only good thing that Harold Wilson ever did was to keep the UK out of that war.

  7. I tried for a short service commission with the British Army because I thought it would be exciting. they would not have me because of my Rhodesia connections. So I returned here and spent 18 months in the Rhodesian army fighting our war of independence, albeit on the losing side. Lots of excitement, laughter and boredom. Worth every second. But I was lucky and survived unscathed. Tragey happened to some who fought and to some who did not. I am glad I did my bit.

  8. Two thoughts sprang immediately to mind as I read this.

    Firstly, how come subsequent political ‘leaders’ have always been able to avoid the draft or any form of active service? Granted, many post Great War and WWII politicians of every political persuasion had honourable military careers and some still do today (Paddy Ashdown and David Davies to name but two), but that was then. Can you imagine a Captain Cameron or a Corporal Corbyn these days? I think not. Even with the fall of Raqqa this week, there are lots of dead Jihadi foot soldiers in the rubble but all the leading mullahs and other Daesh headbangers have long since fled the so-called capital of the Caliphate rather than embrace immortality, sixty virgins and half a dozen alluring goats or whatever it is they entreat their minions to accept.

    Secondly, what the UK (and many other countries) needs right now in the absence of a good gene-pool cleansing war is some form of compulsory national or community service run along military lines in order to show the current crop of metropolitan millennials that they are not so self entitled, indispensable and individually special as they might think. A little experience of the conditions endured by the generations they affect to despise yet claim owe them a living would be an eye-opener and a valuable life lesson.

    Will someone pass the FrizzEase, please. I think I’m having a Christina moment.


  9. OZ….and talking of CO, I’m sure she has a unique take on this.

    Sipu, I like the ‘doing my bit’ expression. I think it is what drove the two world wars.

  10. I find it quite amusing that no one here (other than it would seem Cog) seems to have HAD to do compulsory military or community service in any form – and yet seem to be in favour of imposing some form of compulsory service for the present mob of snowflakes…

    I’m not saying it wouldn’t do more than one or two of them a bit (or even a lot) of good! But that’s not the point…

    … I rather think that many of our parents’ generation thought that a bit of ‘compulsory service’ might have knocked some sense into our generation’s Flower-Power, Woodstock, Happy-Hippy and Anti-War mob.

    As a weekend hippy (who never took drugs or marched for or against anything!) I don’t think I’ve turned out too badly, and I think that most of those who took the drug-road are probably long gone – and as for the rest – well they eventually just grew up.

    But, I’m an optimist 🙂

  11. Boa, no, I’m not in favour of giving the young generation a lesson of that kind, not lleast because I’d have hated it myself! But a more structured approach to discipline in schools would help.

  12. Janus, as quick as ever with a jibe. My country, the country in which I grew up and, as it happens, the country of my mother’s birth, was being attacked by comrade Bob and his band of merry terrorists, and terrorists is exactly what they were. Whether or not you or anybody else feel the war was worthwhile, is beside the point. If people give into aggression without a fight they will become slaves. Had you been in France at the time I have no doubt that you would have been happily ensconced in Vichy with a bunch of other cheese-eating surrender monkeys. And, had you been in Nazi Germany, I have little doubt what type of role would have been assigned you and with what enthusiasm you would have embraced it. I can at least take some sense of pride out of the fact that I stood up to my commanders and confronted them on the ethical treatment of prisoners.

    Boadicea, my national service in the Rhodesian Army was compulsory and active. The fact of the matter was that my father managed to get me an exemption because he was emigrating with the rest of my family. I did not actually volunteer on my return to the country, I was called up, as I knew I would be. While you could argue that I had a choice not to return, it is a bit like saying that you have a choice not to support your dependants. Somehow, it just does not feel right. Not being able to return to my country would have been a sacrifice.

  13. Off your high-horse Sipu… I had no idea of the circumstances of your military service and your initial comment seemed to imply that you chose to join up.

    As to the circumstances – I believe I have said before that I have some small understanding of events in Rhodesia – I had family there – and possibly still do. But as a white farmer, I expect my cousin is long dead.

  14. Fair comment Baodicea. My steed was a little taller than was called for under the circumstances. To be fair, my goat had been got and molested somewhat by Janus.

  15. Incidentally, if you would like me to track down your cousin I can try and do so. Name, age and farming district would help.

  16. Sipu, ref your 4.23 pm, my comment was genuine, not a jibe at all! I believe the spirit of ‘let’s do this’ would be hard to replicate today. My advice would be not to presume I disagree with you. I resent your slur that I am ‘another cheese-eating surrender monkey’ – for which you have no evidence except your prejudices. I will of course delete you if you continue.

  17. Janus, I appear to have misunderestimated you, for which I apologise. Twice in one post. I am red all over. 😦 .

    I took your comment as implying that a ‘do my bit’ attitude led to wars rather than prevented them. I withtract (not sure if GW ever said that) my comment. Clearly no cheese has ever crossed your lips. Pax. For now at least.

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