35 thoughts on “Lest we forget”

  1. Like Trump I allowed the rain to deter me but unlike Trump and Macaroon I was on time to watch the ceremony (on tv).

  2. Did you know that Rhodesians are excluded from the wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph? My own school lost 26 of its former pupils in the Great War. Bear in mind that is had only been in existence for 18 years at the start of the conflict, having opened in 1896 with an intake of 6 boys. My point being that per capita, Rhodesia made one of the biggest, if not the biggest contributions to the war effort. I find it strange that there should continue to be such antipathy towards a generation, perhaps better word is tribe, of people who behaved with such honour and courage. But it seems that being white and right is not a very palatable dish for many.

  3. Not sure that Germany is part of the Commonwealth, but I could be wrong.
    No, this dates back to UDI in 1965. Britian can forgive Germany which cost the lives of millions, but not Ian Smith who as an RAF pilot was wounded, captured and escaped while fighting for Britain. I know Rhodesia does not exist, but Rhodesians do (despite Chrome spell check not allowing that plural noun) and many of them had relatives who fought and died in various wars fighting for Britain. Britain is run by petty, vindictive people, and that is the sum of it.

  4. Seriously though, the participants in the ceremony and march-past represented the UK and Commonwealth. The German president was a guest of the Queen. I am sure there are thousands of former ‘Empire’ soldiers from many former member nations who might share your views.

  5. PS I am amused by your description in your last sentence. Your country has little room to criticise.

  6. I recently read another book of short fiction from Zimbabwe — fairly recent writing, from the last decade. Some of it had kernels of humour and not everything was heavy, but there was a theme that connected most of the stories. The country has spun out of control and is a ruin. One writer, Shona judging by his name, wrote that the pictures of pre-1980 Zimbabwe show a world far more functional, glamorous even, than the squalor that it has become. Sipu, I suspect, is onto something. Virtue signalling has replaced not only being correct, but intellectual honesty. The Germans have spent the better part of the last decades virtue signalling and have been excused all sorts of destructive behaviour and attitudes, some very, very recent. The Rhodesians (Firefox’s spell recognised the plural form) did not. They fought for what they built and have struggled to defend what, for most, was the only life they knew.

  7. Hi, Janus, I think you are right and that many Empire soldiers would share my views. I recall, when I was a boy in the newly independent Rhodesia, we had some elderly neighbours. He was a retired major from the Indian Army (as opposed to the British Army in India) and as British as they come, except in the eyes of Britain. For someone of his age, there was no future in Rhodesia, his small and, it must be said, uneconomical farm, was soon to be in the centre of the bush war. In fact some years later, during one of my sorties, our helicopters landed very close by. He told my father, that he and his wife wanted to retire to Britain. But not having been born there, they were refused entry. Not only that, their assets there were frozen by the government. To my mind, it was and still is, shameful behaviour.

    I am puzzled by your comment, that ‘my country’ has little room to criticise. Do you mean Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia? Can’t argue with you on the former, but with regards to the latter and by way of riposte, I have pasted an article written by a local journalist. It may be too long for you to read, but if you can manage it, I think it will give you some insight into some of the reasons for the ‘deplorable’ attitudes held by white Rhodesians. I grant that it is not terribly well written, but the sentiments appear genuine and his concerns are certainly based on merit.

    Was Rhodesia’s Ian Smith right – African rule will lower the country’s standards?

    by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

    As my dear wife Tinta and I were taking a stroll in our neighbourhood – which used to be a ‘Whites only’ suburb during the colonial era – we started discussing how standards had greatly deteriorated since we and our parents moved into the area immediately after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

    We wondered how in such a short space of time, we, as Black people, could have reduced – a suburb that had been for decades the pride of the nation – to such deplorable standards.

    The failure to maintain the houses and their yards – let alone improve them – rubbish strewn all over the streets and nearby bushes, noise everywhere, and a place that once did not have alcohol consumption areas was now a hive for drinking.

    I remember confessing to my dear wife that – as some of the first Black pupils at the formerly Group A school of Redcliff Primary – we used to engrave our names on the desks using pointed objects, such as mathematical dividers and compasses, and how we would write all sorts of stuff in textbooks.

    Is it then any wonder that there are no longer any textbooks and desks?

    It is clear that our group were the Black people to initiate this deterioration of a once vibrant community – something that, unfortunately, has been passed on from generation to generation.

    We could not help asking, what the people who resided in this suburb prior to independence would say if they were to return for a visit today.

    Would that not be the most embarrassing moment in the lives of Black people?

    Thus, the question came to my dear wife and I: ‘ Was Ian Smith right in saying that Black majority rule would lead to the lowering of standards’?

    It seems that he was right after all.

    My father – who had been a staunch ZANU PF supporter, and had actually been blacklisted by the Rhodesian regime for his political activism – had always been angered by such statements by Smith, labelling them racist.

    In fact, he was even more enraged by one particular comment that he attributed to a senior Rhodesian government official that if Black people ruled this country, we will find faeces strewn all over town.

    How I wish my beloved father had still been alive today so that he could witness for himself what has become of our towns and cities’ alleys – then he would have, most probably, eaten his words.

    Our towns and cities now reek of urine and faeces – that is if you are fortunate enough not to actually stride on some.

    So, was Ian Smith wrong, or is there something else to this sad situation?

    I, honestly, do not believe that it has anything to do with colonial oppression.

    As a matter of fact, the town of Redcliff was owned and built by the then giant Rhodesia Iron and Steel Company (Risco), now Ziscosteel, and the company was very strict in maintaining very high standards even in Torwood township, where we resided during the colonial days – even awarding regular prizes to the best kept homes.

    Therefore, where did everything go wrong after independence?

    Should the new government have continued with this strict standard monitoring policy?

    I strongly believe that the new government should, indeed, have continued.

    However, this is entirely our fault as Black people, as much as it is also government’s role to ensure strict adherence to high standards.

    Another question then comes to my mind: ‘Just how racist was the Rhodesia regime?’

    I will not try to justify, defend, or even trivalise the gross injustices perpetrated on the Black majority of this country by the brutal Rhodesians, nonetheless, just how far did that racism go?

    Would it be racist if those Whites who stayed in Redcliff suburb wanted to maintain their high standards, and denied me permission to reside there, as they would know that I would just mess up everything – as indeed happened?

    This issue just does not stop there, as it also touches the political and business corporate landscape.

    Once we, Black people, took over the political and business corporate reigns, most of us were just there to plunder resources for our own selfish gain, without a thought for the advancement of the country, community, and company.

    Instead of ensuring that high corporate governance standards were maintained, we have managed to turn once vibrant country, towns, cities, and companies into nothing but hopeless embarrassments.

    As much as this is our country, and can not be dictated to by foreigners – as that is how we have characterised Rhodesians, and I am not advocating for a return to colonial rule – this is an opportunity to self-reflect as a people.

    Instead of rushing to scream ‘racism’, whenever this fact is mentioned, especially by Whites, should we not be focussing more on whether they are wrong or not.

    As much as it is our beloved country, and will maintain its independence, but should we not be learning from such criticism of our behaviour and change our ways?

    Seriously, do we enjoy – or at least, see nothing amiss with – living in the midst of utter filth, corruption, and mismanagement?

    Instead of throwing that banana peel, or Chicken Inn empty carton onto the street or into the nearby bush, can we seriously not put them into the nearest rubbish bin – or if not available, keep them till we get home and discard of them properly?

    Just how pressed would someone be to defecate in the middle of town in an alley, or in the nearby bush?

    Can we seriously not mobilize each other to patch up those potholes in our roads, or to fix our children’s schools?

    Are we saying that we can not even train our children to mend their own schools uniforms, such that they do not move around as if they live in the bush?

    In Shona we call that ‘kuzviregerera’, which means a deliberate lack of self-control.

    As much as this should be common sense, there is an urgent and serious need for our local governments to start focussing on issues that matter the most, such as enforcing by-laws dealing with hygiene and other standards.

    If municipal police have the energy and time to be chasing around commuter minibuses, then they are more than capable of strictly monitoring how well we keep our residential areas and towns at the highest levels.

    Why should unleashed dogs be allowed to roam around the streets?

    These would most likely not even be vaccinated against rabies, let alone been dipped.

    Before and just after independence, such dogs were impounded – and all others regularly inspected for vaccination and dipping tags and licences.

    We need those high standards back.

    I remember being regularly stopped by municipal police, when I was a little boy, to check if my trusty bicycle had a valid licence.

    What happened to all that?

    We can not afford to live like wild animals in our own country.

    To make matters worse, we merely inherited most of these towns, cities, and companies – although, we bought the houses – and all we needed to do was just to maintain what was already there – if improving was asking for too much.

    Or was the ‘inheriting’ part of the problem, as people are prone to mismanage something that they never sweated for to build?

    As the country spirals out of control economically and politically, we also need to take a good look at the social issues, as these could just be as catastrophic.

    We have talked a lot on what is economically and politically wrong with this country and its leadership – as I write extensively about that – but we also need to analyse what is wrong with us as Zimbabweans.

    We are sitting on a social and health time bomb, as we fail to maintain the highest living standards.

    Added to that, our actions reveal the true nature of our minds and hearts – as what manner of people are we when we find comfort in living in filth?

    When we do not lose any sleep even if we plunder a town, city, country, or company to its ruin?

    We can not continue as if everything is normal, when in fact the opposite is true.

    Let us frankly examine ourselves, as Zimbabweans – without denial and being defensive – and critique our own mindset and behaviour, and what that says about us as a people.

    I am someone who believes that the only hope for a better future starts with an honest self -inventory before I start finding fault in others, as that is exactly what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said – that we should first remove the plank in our own eyes, for us to see better the speck in our brothers’ eyes.

    Tendai Ruben Mbofana is social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should anyone invite him to speak at any event or gathering. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.com. Please also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  8. Christopher, when you come to this country, I will introduce you to a couple who are the leading publishers of local literature. For years they have championed the cause at great financial cost to themselves and no little harassment from a government that will not tolerate dissent.

    With regards to your comments on virtue signalling, I know that the magazine is reckoned to be another deplorable and that some of its contributors use fairly forthright terminology, but have a look at this article and see if you think any of it could possibly be true.

  9. Sipu: In essence, he is correct. During the Obama years I spoke with many Eastern European expatriates in the United States. Most reviled him and the cultural mindset of his era because it reminded them far too much of their youth growing up in Eastern Europe. There was still vastly more wealth, but the “intellectual” climate was very, very similar. So long as you paid lip service to the “cause” you could be as grotesque as you wished without fear of reprisal, you could say largely what you wished to, do largely as you pleased, so long as you made the right statements and signalled the correct, post-modern virtuous, views. If you didn’t, you’d be destroyed. It was rare, outside the USSR, for people to be gaoled or sent to gulags. Rather, they found it difficult to find jobs. Their children would suddenly find it impossible to be accepted by any university. Their freedom to travel anywhere, even another East Bloc, country was severely curtailed and receiving permission to do even the most mundane things proved arduous. The most absurd and unfounded allegations could and often were levelled against them. So long as they didn’t push their luck too far, anyone who toed the line would be fine. That has become the mindset of many today in the West.

    It would be lovely to meet them. There is a significant chance that I won’t be in Africa alone. A certain dazed, but likeable, Scandinavian is likely to come with me. He is as naive as he is easily confused. Being far rougher, street smart and able to scare people with my gait and bearing, I will have to mind him!

  10. Sipu, I meant Zimbabwe, your country as opposed to Rhodesia, your former country. The UK can be proud of not engaging in petty, vindictive politics.

    That horrible expression ‘virtue signalling’ is widely practiced by businesses with ‘this call is being recorded for quality control and training purposes’, followed by a long wait, interrupted by commercials extolling the virtues of the company concerned. Only yesterday I was the victim of such treatment. When eventually a human voice appeared, it was anxious to assure me that they had my best interests at heart but offered no answer to my very specific question and request for a solution. Subsequent trainers will applaud the employee’s handling of my case, ignoring their total failure to satisfy me.

  11. Christopher, I suppose that is the nature of any ‘ocracy’. It boils down to a suppression of freedoms. ‘crats, in whatever guise they appear, have to rule the masses in the particular style that tickles their fancy.

    Ironically, and this is what I aim to discuss when I finally get round to writing the final post on my Australian trip, there is almost more freedom here than in most western countries I have visited. I do not think that is deliberate, more down to apathy and incompetence on the part of our rulers.

    I look forward to meeting you and the Viking. There is quite a high turnover of Nordic folk in this part of the world, so I doubt neither he nor you will terrify the locals too much. As for our indigenous folk, they can be described as being, in the words of Douglas Adams, mostly harmless.

  12. Janus, thanks for the clarification. I will agree on Zimbabwe, but disagree with you on Britain, though I wont argue. Please understand that it gives me no pleasure to denigrate the United Kingdom. As you may have surmised I am proud of my heritage and it simply horrifies me to think of what the country has become, though I recognise that others may take a different view. The point being that my negative views exist despite my inherent patriotism and not because of any prejudice towards the country of my birth.

    I suppose that is the nature of cliches. ‘Virtue signalling’ is an irritating phrase, but frequently very apt. Just like stereotypes; they exist because they are valid!

    Interestingly I had a similar experience to you yesterday. But given my tempestuous nature, I let rip and eventually got through to the boss who was as polite and helpful as he could be, though to no useful result. But he did at least try.

    I am fighting another war with my internet provider. As a result of the economy’s further collapse, prices have gone up by 56% from one month to the next. (That is just the internet charges, which was already extortionately high anyway.). My argument is that they had just sent me an email advertising a rise of only 50% and when I paid that amount, I received an invoice requiring the further 6%. I have now escalated to the government regulator, though hold little hope that I will be heard with any sympathy! The mindset in government is that there is only one side to an employment contract and that is to get paid. Most civil servants do not expect to actually have to work to justify their salaries.

  13. Back to the original post – not that the comments thereafter have not been incredibly enlightening and thought provoking.

    I have just spent a while trying to trace an article I read on Sunday about a professor who is researching the lives of WW1 soldiers after they returned to Oz.

    After he made an initial presentation someone asked “Were there any happy endings?” to which he replied “Virtually none”. Someone else asked if the stories could somehow be presented in a way that promoted “Nation-building”. The Prof replied that he wasn’t prepared to do that – he’d sooner resign. He said that the people who died in that war, and those who survived and suffered afterwards from that war (and were vilified) needed to have their truths told.

    And he is right. It is not just those who died who need to be remembered – but all those who went, returned and were never the same again.

    Occasionally, just occasionally because it’s a long job to do more than just collect names, I research a friend’s family. Recently I undertook a project for my son-in-law who was very curious about his great uncle – who was known for being “exceedingly odd” and had been “cared for” by the family. The guy had, indeed, been conscripted in 1914 and had survived the war. And then I read his school records. Those records showed that he fainted every time a lesson talked about killing an animal and had to be sent home every time one of his co-pupils fell over and he saw blood… but he went to ‘serve his country’. Is it any wonder that he was never the same again?

    When I first came to Oz, I met a few Vietnam Veterans. They were a pretty odd bunch – and I soon became aware that many Viet Vets had severe problems.

    Nor did it take me long to realise that the various organisations for the ex-military shunned and excluded them – because the Vietnam War here was a political hot potato. They were not accepted or allowed to join those organisations.

    I don’t think I made too many friends when I pointed out that the Vietnamese War was the only war for which Australia had conscription … all those who joined other conflicts were ‘volunteers’… but Oz used the US conscription criteria by calling up all those born on a specific date for the Vietnamese War.

    I lived in Canberra when the Australian Government finally recognised the Vietnamese Vets – and erected memorials in Anzac Parade. The city was inundated with Vietnam Vets … in any context they might have seemed frightening – but these men were not – they were so emotional at finally having their efforts finally recognised.

    So yes … Let’s Not Forget those who died, but also do not forget those whose lives were wrecked by war.

  14. Boa, Peter Jackson’s film referred to in my post ‘Full colour horror story’ – They Shall Not Grow Old – was shown here on Sunday evening. Its message echoes precisely your point – that the returning armies were lost souls who met with little understanding and less help of any kind.

  15. Pure dumb luck, sometimes recognized in not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    While observing the Veterans Day / Remembrance Day / Armistice Day ceremonies in the dry comfort of my own home, I could not help reflecting on the part that sheer luck has played in keeping members of my family safe in time of war.

    My paternal grandfather was the only one who was even so much as injured. A Merchant Mariner, he was hurt while abandoning his ship after it was struck by a torpedo. The rest of his life, he was shorebound and walked with a limp – largely compensated for by a full load of aquavit – but that did not stop him from doing well as a carpenter and hotel owner.

    My maternal grandfather was in the Royal Navy but, with the possible exception of some hangovers, survived his service with no ill effects.

    In WW II, my father benefited from a rare flash of military insight, in which it was recognized that his prewar experience in shipping management made him a perfect candidate for supervising the loading of Europe-bound cargo ships. That kept him from ever leaving this country.

    My uncle stayed safe throughout the war and must have done well enough in his assignments to end up as a Colonel standing on the deck of the battleship Missouri when the Japanese surrender documents were signed.

    My ex-father-in-law had a more difficult time in the Pacific theatre, actually being shot at, but made it home alive, uninjured and well enough to father my first wife.

    I was in the US military at the height of the Vietnam war but, as with my father, had a job specialty that kept me safe in Georgia, with nothing worse to complain about than the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes and the odd alligator.

    I’m almighty glad that there was no such need for troops while my son was of military age. What, after all, would they ever do with a rock guitarist, except maybe have him play with maximum amplification in the direction of where the enemy was trying to sleep.

  16. Interesting, Cog. Reminds me of a couple of things from my family saga –

    My Great Uncle Gill (who was my childhood idol in many ways, and who was the template for my cricketing stories a few years ago) was a conscientious objector in WWI. When this became known in the Nutley and Forest Row area (yes Janus) the local ladies began to hand out white feathers to his family, as was the delightful custom in those far-off days, and many abusive mutterings were heard. But all this stopped abruptly when they found out that Gill, whilst refusing military service had volunteered for the Red Cross and had become an ambulance driver and stretcher bearer at the front. He was one of those heroes (idiots?) who ran out unarmed and unprotected to gather up the wounded while the Krauts were still firing and rushed them off to a field hospital. He eventually came home without a scratch on him – someone somewhere was looking after him, I reckon.

    Far too many of the family found themselves in reserved occupations, and the same was true in WWII, but a handful of idealistic lads volunteered, like my Dad. I’m sure I’ve already bored the Chariot with the tale of his eventual escape from Dunkirk, but I don’t believe I’ve previously mentioned his exploits in the Korean war. As a Z reservist (I think that was the term, but I could be wrong) he was called up and sent to a secret dispatch centre where he would receive specialist training before being flown out to fight in the pits of the far East. The secret site was actually a seaside village in Cornwall, and the special training was to allow Dad to spend two solid weeks beach fishing, which he’d always loved, with his catch cooked each day, with due reverence, by the mess sergeant.

    At the end of this exhausting period he was sent home with papers that formally declared that he’d done enough and should never be called up again. Or something like that. I think the same someone, somewhere, was looking after him, too. 😎

  17. Boadicea, my apologies for the diversion and I hope that what I am about to say has more relevance.

    Your point about people returning from the war and there being few happy endings to their lives is an interesting one. While I would not argue for one second that there were not thousands whose lives, bodies, emotions and minds were devastated by the Great War or any subsequent ones, I believe that there were many who would reflected fondly on their war years. I say that not only from the position of having met and listened to interviews with people who have spoken that way, but also because I think it is a logical conclusion to draw, given the history of mankind and its love for tales of derring-do, and probably what is more significant, its remarkable ability to ‘misremember’ the past.

    Just as most people tend to look back on their childhood as though it were shrouded in a golden haze, forgetting the agonies of adolescence for example, so old soldiers tend to forget the horror and tedium of war and focus on the adventures, comedy and camaraderie they experienced.

    Some years ago, probably 20 or 25, I saw a documentary about the Great War involving interviews with survivors. For the most part, people did indeed speak about the horrors, but I was struck by a couple of men who somewhat shamefacedly told how much they loved it. These were clearly not psychopaths but came across as thoroughly pleasant individuals who generally speaking had had a happy and optimistic approach to life. Whatever tragedies they had witnessed had been greyed out with time.

    This view was endorsed only on Sunday evening while I was listening to an historian on Radio 4, who I believe worked with the Imperial War Museum and who had conducted hundreds of interviews with 1914-18 veterans. He confirmed that there was a very large number of people who reflected positively about their experiences. In many cases, he explained, that this was down to the fact that the war was a vast improvement on the lives of drudgery, boredom, poverty and social exclusion they would have otherwise experienced back home, living in slums and working in the mills, mines or factories.

    The historian also endorsed John Mackie’s view point that “‘Lions and Donkeys’ stuff is, in my opinion, utter keech”. https://charioteers.org/2018/10/17/full-colour-horror-story/#comment-109449 The whole country went to war, and as Bearsy alluded to with his ‘white feather’ comment, the women folk were as vociferous as the men. It is interesting to note, that one school, Eton College, lost over 1,000 old boys many of whom, I assume, would have been members of the officer class. Prime Minister Asquith himself lost a son, who by this account, died rather heroically. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Asquith. Both the leaders and the led comprised lions and donkeys in equal measure.

    As I have mentioned in the past, I have a friend who fought several sea battles in WW2, including two involving the Bismarck and Scharnhorst. He participated in the Russian convoys as well as the Torch landings in North Africa. I last saw him in June this year and at 95 he is still very cheerful and would certainly claim that he has had a happy and successful life and that the war was a great adventure. He has written about his experiences in a book which you can download here.

    There is an important aspect of war, which I think that many who have not experienced it first hand, fail to appreciate. I am talking of the guilt that people feel, not just for having survived when so many of their comrades did not, but also because of the memory of their own feelings of fear and sometimes of their own actions. A commander has a choice of sending a subordinate to perform a dangerous task, or of performing it himself. Is it cowardice or pragmatism that makes him choose the former? Is it cowardice or pragmatism that causes the subordinate to fail to achieve his goal? Without wishing to be too flippant, Monty Python’s King Arthur had a point when he shouted “Run away”. Only the individual is able to truly examine his conscience to determine what led him to make those decisions.

    My own father, who, as a professional soldier, volunteered to join SOE and was based in Albania for a while, which despite the inherent danger was, militarily speaking, uneventful, often said that he was embarrassed by his lack of active involvement. He claimed that he did nothing heroic, though the very act of volunteering gave lie to that. On his return to England, he was separated from the rest of his regiment which fought in Africa and Italy while he was given a job as a weapons instructor. For him, who survived unscathed, the war was not a happy experience or one that he could be proud of, precisely because he felt that he had failed to contribute.

    I believe that as with any situation, those reporting on the effects of a war, frequently do so because they have a particular viewpoint to promote, a counterpoint perhaps to the government’s wartime propaganda, which by definition is unbalanced.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am not extolling war, I am merely proposing that mankind, more specifically men, do perceive some benefit from it.

  18. Again, the film is told by the recorded recollections of survivors – probably those same voices you heard on Radio 4, Sipu. It starts with tales of adventure, pride and go-get-’em courage. It ends with disillusionment, loss and feelings of guilt. There seem to have been too few folk back home who recognised their heroes; perhaps too many who resented those who managed to survive.

  19. No need to apologise Sipu – I intended to come back to your comments later.

    I’m sure that you are right and that many people ‘went to war’ and ‘went home’ largely unaffected – other than to know the world had irrevocably changed. I’m sure that lots of young men (and indeed women!) thought it was a good way to get out of the drudgery of their every day lives… and for some it was. And I’m sure they didn’t go back to that drudgery thereafter. My pleas are for those who were affected by their experiences and who would have been compared to those who were not.

    Now back to your comments Sipu, regarding Rhodesians not being allowed to participate in the British Armistice Ceremony.

    It’s outrageous and unworthy of Britain to refuse to allow the descendants of those who stood to the call in 1914 to honour their dead in the country that called them.

  20. Boadicea, I’m not quite so sure that those who “went home” were able to go back to the drudgery they’d previously known. Many of their old jobs simply weren’t there anymore, others were taken by women in an unavoidable blow to masculinity.

    I don’t think the British military is all that great at looking after its returning veterans either. The worst case of which I’m aware involved the Gurkhas, who weren’t even allowed right of residence in the UK until 2004 (I think), when Tony Blair did one of the few decent things in his career and granted them citizenship and residence – provided that they met certain requirements. This for troops whose mere presence in the Falklands induced at least one Argentine unit to surrender en masse.

    By contrast, the USA appears to do much better by its veterans. The one time that returning troops were not honored was after Viet Nam, but that was more a matter of public feeling than Gummint policy.

  21. Good morning Cog, I usually tend to agree with you on most things and would certainly share your view that the British have not always been good to their veterans. Kipling knew that. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/tommy/

    But I do take issue with you on the question of the Gurkhas. The subject was a cause of much heated debate at the time. I was very much against it then, though, I confess that I did relent, if only for a while and I have no doubt that it was the wrong decision taken for the wrong reasons. As an aside, I do not believe that Tony Blair ever did a decent thing in his life, though it was under Gordon Brown’s leadership that the judgement was made and it was as a result of a legal ruling.

    I quote Wikipedia, “In September 2008 the High Court in London ruled that the British Government must issue clear guidance on the criteria against which Gurkhas may be considered for settlement rights in the UK. On 21 May 2009, and following a lengthy campaign by Gurkha veterans, the British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced that all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.[12]”

    Note that this only applied to veterans who had spent 4 or more years prior to 1997, which is in itself an entirely arbitrary ruling. Why 4 years and why 1997?

    The Gurkhas were/are volunteers, effectively mercenaries. They had a choice. In my admittedly unqualified view, it would be naive to imagine that Gurkhas had any fierce loyalty toward Britain and its security. What they were attracted to was an exciting, well paid job (the GDP of Nepal is $730 per capita) that would give them tremendous kudos and long term security when they returned home. The question of injury and even death, would seldom enter into the thought process, given that such sentiments are rare amongst young men looking for adventure and due to the fact that neither misfortune was particularly likely. In fact statistically speaking it was probably safer to be in the British army, where you are looked after than to be a peasant trying to eke out an existence on the slopes of the Himalayas. In 1970, the life expectancy in Nepal was 43 years! In 1980, it was still only 48. These were the decades when many of the qualifying veterans would have been recruited. Today, it is 70 years. (Incidentally, live births per woman is over 5, which means Nepal has a real population problem on its hands, but that is another debate.)

    Interestingly, the BBC and other sources claims the total number of deaths of Gurkhas in various British wars at 43,000. The Gurkha Welfare Trust puts the figure at 19,000. Why let facts get in the way of a sentimental story?

    In my view Joanna Luvvie, sorry, Lumley, is a publicity seeking narcissist the kind of person who whips up rowdy mobs in support of misguided causes. Admiral Byng springs to mind. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Byng. It was public hysteria that led to his execution. Sorry, another tangent.

    In any event, the deal was made and “about 8,000 former soldiers and their families” have since moved to Britain. The results have been pretty unedifying. world-south-asia-13372026

    I have had first hand accounts of friends and family with military backgrounds, i.e. they know Aldershot well, who maintain that the migrants are proverbial fish out of water. They support the view in the article that the Gurkhas live miserable segregated lives in totally unfamiliar surroundings, many unable to speak English. They cost the government more than would have been the case if their pensions had been raised to match those of other British soldiers, though the MOD’s argument against this was that the cost of living in Nepal is way below that of the UK, an unquestionable fact.

    It is sad to say that though the number of personnel serving in HM Forces is at lowest level since who knows when, the MOD is unable to recruit sufficient native Britons to enlist. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/04/armed-forces-recruits-no-longer-need-live-britain-mod-removes/

  22. Now just one cotton-picking minute, it’s time for a wee name drop!

    A good few years back, a work colleague (and occasional drinking buddy) of mine was married to a lady who had been at school with, and remained close friends with, the incredible Joanna Lumley, who you mentioned in passing in less than effusive terms. They both asserted affectionately to the fact that Joanna was exactly the same in real life as she was in films and TV – absolutely mad – but great fun to be with, a hoot in class and without a malicious bone in her well-kept body. Publicity seeking? – No way, notoriety pursued her! 😎

  23. Cog – I suspect your comment about women taking jobs from men is more appropriate to WW2 than WW1 – where the death rate of UK soldiers led to a severe shortage of marriageable aged men and led to what were known as ‘superfluous’ or ‘surplus’ women in the years following that war.

    After WW2, it was perceived that women ought to ‘get back to the kitchen’ – and there was considerable advertising designed to make women do just that – both in the UK and here! In the early 50s when my mother tried to get a legal separation the presiding whoever it was told her that she was a very wicked woman for wanting to work and she should stay at home to care for her husband and child – just imagine a judge telling any woman that today!

    There were loads of articles about ‘latchkey children’ – with some amusement last year I found, amongst my mother’s papers, a cutting of a letter I (at about 13 years old) wrote to a newspaper on the subject.

    Likewise the Vietnam Vets did not fair well here for the same reasons that you note.

    I agree with you about the way Britain treats its ex-military. One of my very earliest memories is of walking along the Embankment with my father and seeing the scores of ex-WW2 soldiers who drew chalk pictures on the pavements to eke out an existence. At that age I was more upset by the fact that the rain washed their pictures away – but it has since become a symbol of the disregard that Britain showed to those who ‘answered’ or more truthfully ‘had to answer the call’.

    Sipu – I have no thoughts one way or another about the Gurkhas – but it does not surprise me one bit that there is a shortage of volunteers for the military in Britain – or elsewhere for that matter.

    I remember, with some amusement, the uproar in Britain over the Falklands War when parents screamed that their offspring hadn’t joined the services to (Heaven Forbid) be sent to war…

    It seems the message might just have been learned that, despite, all the glossy adverts, there is a pretty good chance of getting maimed or killed.

  24. Bearsy, I am sure you are right and that Joanna Lovely would be a more fitting sobriquet. Apart from this particular diversion, which she no doubt pursued with the best of intentions, I was a fan of hers. The nearest I came to meeting her was via one of her acting colleagues, Gareth Hunt, aka Mike Gambit of New Avengers fame. About 20 years ago I was involved in launching a “dotcom” company that served as a platform for actors to flaunt their talent. Gareth was involved and he promised he would try and persuade Ms Lumley to lend credibility, but it all came to nought, as did the company! Forgive my petty dismissal of her.

  25. Hi Boadicea, I can certainly understand parents complaining that their children had not joined the army in order to fight. However, I have strong suspicion that for many young men, that is precisely why they joined the army. When you are an 18 year old male you feel immortal and fighting a war is just the sort of thing to get the juices flowing. The reality of course is very different. I think that the reason young people do not want to join today is that they have been brainwashed into thinking that all military personnel are by definition right wing fascists whose sole purpose in life is to kill and torture innocent Muslims who want nothing more than to practise the religion of peace, in peace.

    It does not help that if you do end up killing a terrorist/combatant of one form or other, you are liable to be prosecuted decades later.

  26. Sipu, you’ve obviously studied the Gurkha issue far more than I had time and energy to do, so no arguments from me. Regarding the way they’re living in the UK, it appears that it’s no different from the way certain other groups of immigrants live, in their enclaves (from which they exclude all others) with only the postman (bearer of benefit cheques?) allowed regular visitation.

    Boadicea, you’re correct in pointing out that my comments on women taking over jobs apply far more to WW II than to WW I. Blame it on my poor sleep habits, which contribute on occasion to a degree of mental impairment to which I’d usually prefer not to admit. What this did for their own lives I can’t say. Any idea when beating one’s spouse became as fashionable as it appears to have done at some point?

    Regardomg the uproar over posting peacetime military types to places where they might actually be shot at, I observed here in the USA that it was due not nearly so much to the parents as to the children themselves. Many had seen the military only as a pretty good job (at least when pay and benefits were all added up) and were shocked to discover that more might actually be required of them at some point. Even those who enjoy your average everyday pub brawl didn’t relish the prospect of not coming home at all.

  27. Sipu: Not that many younger people care all that much about the PC culture. There is a very shrill minority and they’re larger than would make one comfortable, but they’re not as bad as they’re made out to be. It isn’t so much a fear of “hurting Muslims” as it is cynicism. Most know war veterans, quite a few have had siblings/parents/friends who are war veterans or know those who do. The lack of respect shown veterans by the British government is glaringly obvious to most. More than anything, what is the urgency? Kaiser Bill isn’t marching across Belgium and the Luftwaffe these days is more likely to sit broken down in a field somewhere than dropping bombs over London or Coventry. There is no longer a sense of there being a existential conflict and, as a result, there is no longer a sense that all must stick together.

  28. Sipu, your comment that the ‘hot-blood’ of youth might account for some joining the military made me smile! That may well have been the case for the young bloods of the upper classes – who were rarely the stuff of cannon-fodder! For many young men there was little work and the forces provided employment – and a chance to see a bit of the world. Certainly that was the case with virtually all the males on my father’s side of the family.

    I think Christopher has the most of the truth of it – the young today have far more of an idea of what war is really like. Not only do they know veterans – but the reality of war is broadcast in all its sickening horror daily. Moreover, they have other choices that don’t involve the chance of dying…

    … or, as Sipu, rightly points out, being prosecuted some many years down the track for doing what they were trained and ordered to do.

    Cog – it has been fashionable to beat one’s wife since time immemorial. We all condemn Islam Imams for saying that it is perfectly OK for a man to beat his wife / wives. But we tend to forget that Christian Canon law expected men to beat their wives, but in their ‘compassion’ said that the rod should be no thicker than the man’s thumb.

    Just looked up the laws in the UK – it was not until 1976 that there was legislation against Domestic Violence and laws against Marital Rape were passed in 1991.

    This is the web-site I found – it has quite a lot about American law. https://www.quora.com/When-did-it-become-illegal-for-men-to-physically-discipline-their-wives

    I’m pretty sure it is accurate as far as the UK is concerned.

  29. Thanks, Boadicea, for your research efforts. I hope that you and all others understand that what I said about domestic violence was based mainly upon British films and TV shows I’ve seen, which did not specifically link wife-beating to any wartime experiences but which were set in a time when one or the other war would still be reasonably within memory. Meseemeth that all too many men are depicted in “entertainments” set in a certain time period as either thoroughly unpleasant or, with a fleeting mention of “shell-shock” to excuse them, as largely useless. I haven’t kept score but have developed the general impression that such incidents in American films/TV shows deal with those involved in, or at least closer to, other sorts of criminality.

    For any who may wonder, I myself am not a criminal and have never given in to temptation.

  30. I think this might be an appropriate place to relate a rather sad story about Domestic Violence here in Oz.

    Just after the time I came here from the UK there was a survey in the Northern Territory which seemed to indicate that 2/3 of people thought that there were occasions when it was perfectly acceptable for men to hit women… and that included a large number of women…

    Horrified, the NT Government passed laws making it mandatory for anyone suspecting DV to report the same – and made it quite clear to the police that they HAD to intervene – and it did not matter whether the woman wanted to prosecute – the Government would prosecute.

    At the same time there was a massive advertisement campaign. One of the people I knew at that time was a young actor who was horrified at the results of the survey and offered his services, free, to promote the campaign against DV.

    Sadly, far too many people thought that the adverts were ‘real’ and after a while, he couldn’t walk down the street without being abused by all and sundry for being a bully…

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