Heroes who wait


[Neo] I can’t speak for you but, I always find it a comfort when the cousins come with us on our military operations. Over the weekend Parliament overwhelmingly voted to join us in the air strikes in Iraq. That gives me some confidence that we may be doing the right thing. They aren’t joining us in Syria, at least yet, and I also understand that, it’s a much more confused situation.

It is indeed ‘A Thin Red  (actually RAF blue, but whatever) Line of Heroes’. If I read correctly they’re committing 6 Tornadoes. And that is a measure of how overstretched HM Forces have become, and how much their budgets have been cut. But you know, as I do, that they will acquit themselves superbly, as always.

That’s all well and good but the reason I’m rerunning this piece of Jessica’s is because we all sometimes forget just how hard it is on those who wait for their loved ones to come back from the war. We shouldn’t, I suspect that in some ways they are more heroic than those who so willingly go in harm’s way for us.

Here’s Jess:

Thin Red Line of Heroes

I don’t know how it is in the USA with civilian/military relations in everyday life, but, as ever, Kipling in his Tommy still sums up the British attitude:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

As a sometime Army wife, I know this all too well.  For a long time, thanks to IRA activity, British soldiers were advised to wear civvies when off duty, and it is indicative of something bad that the first reaction of some of the Top Brass to the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was to suggest that soldiers might want to revert to that; it is indicative of something right that our soldiers give the old two-fingered saute to such nonsense.

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do.There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Yes, here in the UK on 11 November, Armistice Day, we all remember our armed forces and the glorious dead, and we have pubic ceremonies where we celebrate and congratulate out Armed Forces; but what about the other 364 days? Well, unless there is a particularly horrible series of death, we forget – the ‘we’ being the vast majority of the population who know nothing and care less about our soldiers sailors and airmen.

I don’t know whether it is different in the US, but here, the armed forces are very much the Cinderella services – except when they are needed. Kipling, as ever, said it best:

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

But how thin does that red line have to be before it breaks?

Hard Power, Soft Power, and Muddy Power and the Current World

Windsor Castle Muster ER 60 LONDON 2012I was taught many years ago that there are several types of militaries (specifically armies but it’s applicable across the board)

  • The political army: this is used mostly to keep the civilian populace under control. The original (prewar) SS would be a good example of this
  • The parade ground army: this is the army that looks really good on parade, but unexpectedly fall apart when confronted by an enemy
  • The war fighting army: this is the army that can’t parade for a damn but look out on the battlefield. For a good part of its history, this is a fair fit for the US Army
  • Then there is one more type: The army that can look good (or better) on the parade ground, and fight a war excellently, and even more to the point, do it anywhere in the world. The prototype of this one is Imperial Rome. In the modern world, there are two: Since the Second World War, the United States Army, and since (at least) the Napoleonic War, the British Army.

The spread of liberty since its nadir in 1941 is because those two armies have been armies of the free, and allies around the world. Read more of this post

(Not) John Cleese on Threats to Europe

English: John Cleese in May 2008.

English: John Cleese in May 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[A quick note here. Am I the only one who remember why we classed chemical weapons as ‘weapons of mass destruction’? It was because during the cold war we had lots of tactical nuclear weapons but no gas shells. the Russians had lots of gas shells. so we decided that a gas shell, a bio weapon, or a nuke were all nukes to us, and that was how we would respond.

Now on to the main story]

I’ve seen this before (in fact I think I’ve run it before) but it’s still pretty much accurate. From Steven Hayword at Power Line


UPDATE: Turns out this is not from John Cleese, though it has an Aristotelian authenticity that causes me to leave it up anyway.

This is making the rounds, and should not be missed:



The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels ..

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

John Cleese ,
British writer, actor and tall person

And as a final thought – Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC.

(Not) John Cleese on Threats to Europe (Updated) | Power Line.

So the British told us to go away and deal with our own silliness, and now we’re stuck with the Cheese-eating surrender monkeys French

Which doesn’t mean or State Department shouldn’t take a lesson from the British Foreign Office

And we might want to do something about immigration before it gets like Britain’s as well

Welcome to Labor DayThe end of Summer, the first weekend of college football

Soldier of the Empire

Adrian Carton de Wiart

Adrian Carton de Wiart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know we talk a certain amount here about the Empire (mostly the British one, I’ll bet there’s a blog about the Galactic one, as well, though) but we don’t often think all that much about the men who built it, and sustained it. Sure we have heard the bad parts, like how Lord Hastings supposedly enriched himself to the point of being impeached, and in the process so impeaching impeachment that just as the United States was adopting the procedure, the United Kingdom was outlawing it.

We’ve read a bit of Clive, and Wellesley, himself, and even Lord Kitchener, making names for themselves which stood them in good stead later.

But what kind of men were these? Would we like them? Would we admire them? Would we want to be like them? Were they special? Your mileage may vary but let’s take a look at one of them, who came to my attention (I don’t remember why either) yesterday. From Wikipedia:

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn’t amputate them. He later said “frankly I had enjoyed the war.” 

After returning home from World War II, he was sent to China as Winston Churchill’s personal representative. While en route he attended the Cairo Conference.

Carton de Wiart was thought to be a model for the character of Brigadier Ben Ritchie Hook in Evelyn Waugh’s trilogy Sword of Honour.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography described him thus: “With his black eyepatch and empty sleeve, Carton de Wiart looked like an elegant pirate, and became a figure of legend.” […]

When the First World War broke out, Carton de Wiart was en route to British Somaliland where a low level war was underway against the followers of Mohammed bin Abdullah, called the “Mad Mullah” by the British. Carton de Wiart had been seconded to the Somaliland Camel Corps. A staff officer with the corps was Hastings Ismay, later Lord Ismay, Churchill’s military advisor.

In an attack upon an enemy fort at Shimber Berris, Carton de Wiart was shot twice in the face, losing his eye and also a portion of his ear. He was awarded the DSO in May 1915.

In February 1915, he embarked on a steamer for France. Carton de Wiart took part in the fighting on the Western Front, commanding successively three infantry battalions and a brigade. He was wounded seven more times in the war, losing his left hand in 1915 and pulling off his fingers when a doctor declined to remove them. He was shot through the skull and ankle at the Battle of the Somme, through the hip at the Battle of Passchendaele, through the leg at Cambrai, and through the ear at Arras. He went to the Sir Douglas Shield’s Nursing Home to recover from his injuries.

Carton de Wiart was promoted to temporary major in March 1916, from 15 February to 25 March. He subsequently attained the rank of temporary lieutenant-colonel, and was promoted to brevet major in January 1917. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in early 1917. In June, now a temporary brigadier-general, Carton de Wiart was promoted to brevet lieutenant-colonel.

In July, he was promoted to the permanent rank of major in the Dragoon Guards.

He was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre in March 1918, and was appointed a CMG in the King’s Birthday Honours List in June. Just prior to the end of the war, on 8 November, Carton de Wiart was given command of a brigade with the rank of temporary brigadier-general.

Victoria Cross

During World War I, Carton de Wiart received the Victoria Cross. (VC), the highest award for gallantry in combat that can be awarded to British Empire forces. He was 36 years old, and a temporary lieutenant-colonel in the 4th Dragoon Guards (Royal Irish), British Army, attached to the Gloucestershire Regiment, commanding the 8th Battalion, when the following events took place on 2/3 July July 1916, at La Boiselle, France:

For most conspicuous bravery, coolness and determination during severe operations of a prolonged nature. It was owing in a great measure to his dauntless courage and inspiring example that a serious reverse was averted. He displayed the utmost energy and courage in forcing our attack home. After three other battalion Commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands, and ensured that the ground won was maintained at all costs. He frequently exposed himself in the organisation of positions and of supplies, passing unflinchingly through fire barrage of the most intense nature. His gallantry was inspiring to all.

Read more about him here

Not your average office mate. Personally, I admire de Wiart and those like him immensely, and have no illusions that I am anywhere near the man they were. Were they always right? No more than any other man but, they believed in their mission and its correctness as much as any in history, and they

Deserve our respect:

And this:

America’s Army

English: United States Military Academy Coat O...

English: United States Military Academy Coat Of Arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Something you may not know is that Jess gets precious little guidance here, if she wants to write about the London fashion scene for 14-year-old girls, nobody is going to stop her, although I’d probably raise an eyebrow. I mention that because I specifically asked her to write Thin Red Line of Heroes. Because we forget, how strained the relationship often is between military and civilian.


Something else to note here is that the United Colonies during and after the Revolution absolutely hated the idea of a standing army, the British experience had taught them that soldiers were always a severe threat to liberty, not to mention good order.


To me, that sounds extremely quaint in a country that has come to see it’s military as the most trustworthy of servants, far better than any elective or appointed officer of government.


Part of the reason that Kipling’s Tommy rings false in American ears (although not always) is that America has pretty much always been a citizen army, granting that lots of Irishmen and Germans learned about America in her army. It reconstructed a lot of Southerners too. But you know, it wasn’t accidental.


As with so much in America, it goes back to George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. And yes we are going to speak of West Point. The Continental army occupied it in 1778 and it has been a US Military post ever since. It is the oldest continuously occupied post, in fact.


But in 1802 Congress chartered (and funded) it as the United States Military Academy, and so it has been since. It’s first few years were pretty chaotic and the results in the War of 1812 reflected this. But after that war, in  1817, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer was appointed Superintendent. He established the curriculum still used today. Thayer instilled strict disciplinary standards, set a standard course of academic study, and emphasized honorable conduct.


By contrast for many years, until well past our Civil War, the British Army was a dumping ground for the younger sons of the nobility, buy them a commission, occasionally and forget about them. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s how Winston Churchill got his start. He did do better than most, however!


But Colonel Thayer figured out something else. He figured out how to train officers for a democratic army. The regulars in America epitomized what Jess said earlier even more than the British Army


Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do.There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side.


But the American regular army has always been a combination constabulary for the territories and a cadre for vast expansions of the army if we got into a war. We managed to do that in the Mexican war, and in every subsequent war. And the thing is, the officers trained at West Point have always known how to make American civilians into effective soldiers. Often they wouldn’t have impressed anybody on the march, whether in Mexico, Georgia, Pennsylvania, France or finally Germany but , they always manged to get into the battle and fight effectively. But like Billy Yank before him, GI Joe wasn’t particularly interested in the niceties of showing officers respect.


And so America’s Army has always reflected America, loose-jointed, casual, intelligently lazy, goal oriented and not deterred by much of anything.


But Jess speaks of the British authorities recommending the troops wear civilian clothing off post. I can remember a time when the American army ordered it, and further when junior officers sometimes went armed to the barracks. In the early 70s the American forces were broken, especially the army, ill-disciplined, ragged, riddled with drugs, and anything but combat ready. But the officer corps, men like Schwarzkopf, Powell, Starry, and thousands of others didn’t despair, got down to work, raised the standards, worked, [wash, rinse, repeat]. What emerged is the superlative force we have today


But, it seems to me, the other thing we learned from Vietnam is this; We no longer fight with our professional, regular army. The way we’ve structured it now, the army can’t fight without the reserve forces and almost always with the National Guard as well. This has put the local back into American war making, not many out here missed it when a truck convoy of the Nebraska Guard was rescued from an ambush in Iraq by the cavalry from the Kentucky Guard. These “Weekend Warriors” as we call them are normally amongst us as civilians except for about 2 weeks a year and a weekend a month. They more than any soldiers in history are direct representatives of our communities for good and bad.


And this, I think, is one of the secrets of how to keep your army dear to the hearts of your population, it has to represent your population. Jess knows more about how we do this than she lets on, because she reads so many of us, and she has mentioned occasionally what seems to her as incredible support for the troops. But, of course, British troops wouldn’t respond to that, or would they?



Those Anglians look pretty happy to me :-)


Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.


Somehow this seems like a good place for the infantry motto


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Soldier of the Queen

Drummer Lee "Rigger" Rigby

Drummer Lee “Rigger” Rigby

The British soldier brutally killed in London in a Islamist attack was a drummer in a military band who had served in Afghanistan, officials said on Thursday. Lee Rigby, 25, known as “Riggers” to his friends, was killed in broad daylight on Wednesday


And so we find out this week that Nigerian so-called men have taken the role that Afghan women filled so well, as Kipling told us.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
   An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
      Go, go, go like a soldier,
      Go, go, go like a soldier,
      Go, go, go like a soldier,
         So-oldier of the Queen!

Except, of course, these animals haven’t the courage of the Afghani women, to face a British soldier in the field, far better to ambush him in London, where he’s in his comfort zone, not to mention unarmed and alone. Somehow I suspect they didn’t exactly have jobs either. Scum of the earth living off western civilization.

God grant Drummer Rigby peace. A Soldier of the Queen Freedom. He and his family are in our prayers.

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