Welcome to December

Well, another week, for a lot of us Christians, we start a whole new year today, as we anticipate the birth of Jesus. I’m ready for one, and suspect you are too. He’s back!

Well, the President retweeted some British group (that hardly anybody had heard of, although they have now) and HMG came unglued. I wonder of it was because Britain First was correct. Less NSFW than usual, BTW.

Well, another week, another bunch of unemployed famous men who can’t seem to understand that women are not their property, or something.

More palatably

Christmas shopping?

And, of course

Mostly from PowerLine, Sleeping Beauty from Ace.

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# Red Wednesday

Westminster Cathedral (Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk) courtesy Catholic Herald

You know me well enough to know you won’t find an article here on Friday about which of the sales are the best – my advice is if possible sleep of the food from Thursday. 🙂 But while I often denigrate virtue signaling, signals remain important. Today is a signal, churches in the United Kingdom, including Winchester Cathedral and a dozen other cathedrals, Walsingham and about 80 other churches, and the House of Parliament will be floodlit this evening in Red, as a reminder of Christian persecution.

Many churches in the US will follow suit, although I don’t have numbers here.

In Iraq, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, says that Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church will also be lit in red.

In the Philippines, according to GMA News Online,

The Philippines is joining for the first time Red Wednesday, a worldwide religious activity geared towards raising awareness on the “ever-increasing” trend of Christian persecution in the world, set for November 22, in scores of cathedrals, dioceses and Catholic universities in the country.

On Wednesday, the façades of 82 participating churches, ecclesiastical territories, and universities will be bathed in red light, “the color of martyrdom,” to bring attention to the suffering of Christians being persecuted in many parts of the world, said Jonathan Luciano, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines.

The international event, which is mainly marked by a Mass and the symbolic lighting, was first held last year, but Luciano said he hopes it will be an annual event for the church in the Philippines.

Luciano, quoting Pope Francis, said “there are more martyrs now than at the beginning of the Church,” referring to the large numbers of Christians who are in varying situations made to suffer for their faith.

Reading from a report, meanwhile, Mark von Riedemann of ACN’s parent office in the United Kingdom, outlined some of the scenarios of persecution Christians face.

In Iraq, the Christian population has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2003 to 250,000 to 300,000, prompting the European Union to call the situation a “genocide of Christians,” he said.

ACN’s report found 75 percent of religious persecution occurs against Christians through three main categories: state-sponsored persecution, fundamentalist nationalism, and extremism.

According to the report, religious freedom in Sudan, for example, is seen to be “spiraling downwards” because of government-issued Islamist threats, such as the tearing down of churches, the fining of women for dressing “immodestly,” and the mass exodus of Christians after the state removed citizenship rights of people with origins outside of the country.

For an illustration of extremist-fueled violence, one need not look further than the Philippines’ own experience in Marawi City.

And such examples of persecution are not only a threat to the Christian faith itself, but to the “plurality of society” in general, said von Reidemann.

“The survival of Christianity is a test case for the survival of plurality as a whole,” he said.

Red Wednesday will not end persecution, its organizers conceded. After all, Christians have been facing persecution for thousands of years, said Luciano.

He’s right of course, and that is why I, and many others, are often critical of these symbolic demonstrations. Too often they substitute for actually doing something, and that is a danger here. But it is also true, that if people are not aware of how extreme persecution has gotten, and the media isn’t telling much of anyone, then it is worth doing, simply to raise awareness. But it needs to be followed up with serious proposals, and even more important: action.

Symbols without follow-up are futile, but symbols are important.

#RedWednesday

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November; and Pictures, Too!

Tonight they’ll try to set a bonfire to burn England down. Why? Because back in 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught before he had time to light the fuse on 30 some odd barrels of gunpowder under parliament, in an attempt to destroy Parliament and the King (James I), thereby setting the stage for the restoration of the Catholic Church.

It has long since become nonsectarian although very often an effigy of Guy Fawkes is on the pyre. But mostly it’s a good excuse for a bonfire and fireworks, indeed rather like the 4th of July, where we really don’t rail much about old King George anymore.

It was celebrated here until the Revolution as well, especially in New England, where the effigy of Guy Fawkes was sometimes joined by one of the Pope. It was banned by General Washington while the Continental Army occupied Boston in the Revolution so as not to over inflame the residents, and pretty much never resumed.


Speaking of domestic terrorists

And, of course…

Most, as usual from PowerLine and Bookworm.

 

Poppies and Political Correctness

Brookwood American Cemetery

Here in America, sometime after Vietnam, the wearing of Poppies seemed to die out without even a whimper, just over a few years, something that was de rigeur became optional and then unusual. It is something I miss, but maybe it is for the best.

If you are my age, you will likely remember the ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary (or the corresponding organizations from the VFW or the DAV) coming to your school, and passing out poppies, and giving us a talk about how important those men were. And the good works their organizations were doing (yes, it was, and it is, all true). Always, their talk included this, written by Canadian Major John McCrae at Ypres in 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The thing is, for those ladies, who took the time to come and talk to a bunch of kids who were more interested in recess than history, it was their father’s and uncles at (well not Ypres for Americans) but at Chateau Thierry, and the Argonne. And it was their brothers and boyfriends and husbands who fought all across Europe and Asia a mere 20 years before. Even as grade school kids a good bit sunk in.

My guess is, it was much the same in Britain, but where in America, for some undocumented reason, the poppy has retreated to a much-diminished place, in Britain it has become a required marker. I’d like to think that a good thing, but I’m not sure it is. Sir Humphrey had some thoughts about this lately at A Thin Pinstriped Line. They are worth a think.

[P]oppy season is here again, that time of year when politicians, celebrities and others compete to wear the biggest and most garish poppy. The media are on tenterhooks, waiting to spot a public figure without one, or even better someone wearing a white poppy or saying how they don’t believe in poppy day. The Guardian and Independent will run articles decrying the event, which will have the effect of raising the blood pressure of people across the country who have never served but feel the need to be OUTRAGED on behalf of those who have. Frankly I think this garish spectacle is getting worse every year, and I wonder if the time has come to rethink it.

I come from humble roots. Looking back over 100 years of ‘Appleby’ family history and you will find coal miners on Tyneside and farmers in Essex, all living in relative poverty. One direct side of my family has a long history of service with the Reserves. My great grandfather was in the TA before WW1, mobilising as a Private in a TA rifle Bn in 1914, before being invalided after the Battle of Loos. My Grandfather joined the TA in 1940, serving as an anti-tank gunner  in a long series of campaigns from Africa to Western Europe in 1945. Growing up I heard his stories of the war and thought they sounded exciting and fun.  I was too young and naïve to realise the deep horrors he saw and experienced that lurked beneath the surface of his bravado about nearly being killed at Alam Halfa, entering the minefields on the first night of Alamein, or going toe to toe with Tigers at Villers Bocage. To my youthful mind he had spent his twenties having a bloody good adventure, not risking his life in circumstances he didn’t necessarily want to be in

There were no decorations or medals for my family members. A citation recommending him for the Military Medal was found after his death. The award was never gazetted, and it was likely that he was written up at least twice for a gallantry award, but family legend being that his falling out with his Platoon Commander saw the end of the matter. What was telling though was that he never spoke of the horrific and desperate circumstances that saw him being written up for the award, only the circumstances of it going no further.

The other half of my family history involves many who were conscientious objectors, and who did not serve for strong and deeply held religious beliefs. As a child I did not understand this, nor what it meant to be a conscientious objector in the UK during the war. It was only as I got older that I began to realise the strength of moral courage required to not serve, to say the unpopular thing and to not give into peer pressure and sacrifice your deeply held beliefs in order to conform. To listen to how lifelong friends would refuse to talk to you ever again over your views was humbling. I am as equally proud of my family on this side, and use their example of courage and standing up for what they felt was right in my own approach to life. The manner in which this blog is written, challenging the status quo and pushing unpopular views is in its own way a small attempt to continue this tradition.

That sounds like almost any American Family I can think of over the last century, although Conscientious Objectors were quite uncommon here, but they certainly have always existed, and we have mostly honored them, as we should.

I have no particular emotional attachment to Remembrance Day, and feel no reason to get morose or withdrawn over it. It is a time of year to pause, give thanks and look to the future. But in recent years I feel that something has gone awry with the whole process.

Growing up in the early 1980s it was about watching parades of men from both world wars come together to pay respects. There was huge and genuine admiration from the crowd and more importantly a sense of humility. It felt that the day functioned as a national coping mechanism for a nation where most of the population had in some way lived through, or been impacted by the legacy of the war.

Today very few are left who remember the war – even the youngest babe in arms in 1945 is today well into their 70s. The youngest UK veteran of WW2 will probably be about 88-90 years old, and much as with the end of the First World War veterans, their numbers will soon dwindle rapidly and then pass forever into memory.

Watching the parade in London now seems to involve an ever more eclectic combination of random organisations, people with ever more tenuous links to the military and a growing number of post war veterans who may never have seen an actual campaign, but who feel the need to vocally campaign for a medal anyway. At the same time the whole process of remembrance appears to have been caught up in a wider process of ostentatious displays of poppy memorabilia and ‘proper remembering’ (as ARRSE users call it).

I think we have lost sight of what the act of remembrance actually is – a simple pause for two minutes to reflect, give thanks and look forward, wrapped up in a simple service. The growing ‘remembrance industry’ seeking to milk every opportunity to raise funds or be outraged at some manufactured incident seems to have lost sight of this.

About that parade, Sir Humphrey is simply correct, I watched it last year (on youtube) and it had little to do with the stalwart men who kept us free, it was virtue signalling central. I wonder if the Queen agrees, there must be a reason why she has decided to pass it on to the Virtue Signaller in Chief, Charles, Prince of Wales.

Not that this is news, really. Jess and I did a comparison a few years ago. her thoughts are here, and mine here.

All that said, where will I be, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th months for the 99th time? Where I always am, at my local cemetery, remembering those I have known, in olive drab, in khaki, in pinks and greens, in tiger stripes, in woodland, in BDUs, and ACUs. That is the meaning of the day, to remember, not just for those two minutes, but in our lives and in how we live our lives, those who laid it on the line for us all. Sir Humphrey is correct, the ones from the Great War are all gone, the ranks from the second are thinning quickly, we need to learn the lessons quickly, although they are the eternal lessons that these men lived so well. Duty, Honor, Country says it all, really. But we need to try much harder to live up to them.

And then I will retire with my friends to the local Legion Hall, for lunch, and a few (usually cheap) beers. The first toast will be what it always is, just as we stole it from the Scots, long ago.

Here’s tae us;
to which the assembly replies:
wha’s like us?
to which the hosts replies:

Gey few, and they’re a’ deid.

St. Crispin/Crispinians Day

It’s St Crispin’s Day again, and that makes it a day to talk of the bravery of English and American armed forces, not that there is ever a bad day for that. St. Crispin’s Day is a pretty good encapsulation of our military histories though, always brave, sometimes badly led and more often than not, victorious.

From Wikipedia: “Saint Crispin’s Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twins who were martyred c. 286.” That’s where the day gets its name. What it’s famous for is the battles of the English-speaking peoples that have been fought on it.

The first we will look at took place during the “Hundred Years War”. Henry V of England with a small army was on his way to Calais, getting chased all over northern France by Constable Charles d’Albret of France. The French King (Charles VI) was mentally incapacitated. Henry was heavily outnumbered and decided to arouse his exhausted army before the battle by giving a speech.

The English won the battle with ridiculously low casualties while wreaking havoc on the French forces. The reason for this was the English (and Welsh) longbowmen, making this the first battle since Roman times when infantry was anything but a rabble for the knights to ride down.

For this reason, Agincourt is often cited as a victory for the freemen of England over the aristocracy.

Battle number two for the day wasn’t so kind to the British.

This one was a cavalry charge against Russian Artillery. It was commanded by Lord Raglan (Yes, the sleeves are named for him). The orders he issued were vague and Lord Cardigan (Yes, he designed the sweater) executed the worst possible interpretation of them. The charge was carried out by the British light cavalry brigade which consisted of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, whose bravery we have never forgotten. It was too well immortalized.

Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Here’s a visual version.

It should be added that Great Britain didn’t do a great job of taking care of their veterans (neither did the U.S.) in those days.  Rudyard Kipling had this to say:

The Last of the Light Brigade

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.

“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made – ”
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

OK, that’s two, only one more to go, 90 years later, to the day, halfway around the world

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

This time it’s the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Japanese realized that losing the Philippine Islands meant losing the war put everything they had left into this battle. Here a chart that shows the relative strengths.

Navy Large carriers Small Carriers Aircraft Embarked Battleships Cruisers Destroyers
United States 8 24  1712 12  24 141 
Japan 1 3  117 9  20 34

from: http://www.angelfire.com/fm/odyssey/LEYTE_GULF_Summary_of_the_Battle_.htm

From the chart, you can see how amazingly the USN had recovered from Pearl Harbor and the early battles of the war. You should also note that if the ship is not engaged in the battle it doesn’t count for much, so here we go.

The Japanese had a complicated plan depending on close timing between forces coming from various ports and operating under what we call EMCOM now. Essentially radio silence; meaning they couldn’t coordinate their attacks.

The Japanese carriers which had essentially no planes or pilots were used as a decoy force to try to pull Halsey’s 3d fleet away to the north. This worked, although it took them a long time to attract the Americans attention. When they were finally spotted Halsey went charging off after them until he was almost in gunshot and then turned around to help 7th fleet (which we are coming to). This also ended up being too late, so America’s premier naval force mostly sailed around burning oil and accomplishing not much of anything.

The Japanese Centre Force was first spotted in the Palawan Passage by the submarines Darter and Dace. Darter sank the Heavy Cruiser Atago which was Admiral Kurita’s flagship and Dace sank the Takao and severely damaged the Maya, which was forced to withdraw.

Halsey’s force made 259 sorties against the Centre Force eventually sinking the battleship Musashi with her 18.1-inch guns. They also did damage to some other ships. But Kurita made for the San Bernadino Strait at night with 4 battleships and 6 heavy and 3 light cruisers all fully operational.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Southern force including two elderly battleships under Admirals Nishimura and Shima were spotted on the morning of the 24th and Admiral Kincaid who realized they would attempt to attack the landing through the Surigao Strait was preparing to meet them. Kincaid’s 7th fleet had plenty of power for this.

The Battle of Surigao Strait

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had 6 old battleships (5 of which had been sunk at Pearl Harbor), 4 Heavy and 4 Light Cruisers, 26 destroyers and 39 PT Boats. He deployed his lighter ships along the side of the strait and formed his battle line. PT 131 made first contact and for 3 and a half hours the squadron attacked the Japanese force without a hit but, providing contact reports to the force. As Nishimura’s forces entered the strait the American destroyers attacked; hitting both battleships, the Yamishira was able to continue but, Fuso blew up and sank. Admiral Shima with the 2d Striking Force was much discouraged when he came upon the burning halves and other wreckage of the destroyer attack and decided to withdraw. So as Admiral Nishimura emerged from the strait to engage Oldendorf’s battle line, he had 1 Battleship, 1 Cruiser and 1 Destroyer. Oldendorf crossed his “T”. Parenthetically this is what Lord Nelson risked with his battle plan at Trafalgar that we talked about a few days ago. The American Battle line started firing as they got range information (some had radar rangefinders and some didn’t) at about 30,000 yards. The Battleship was sunk, the Cruiser wrecked and somehow the Destroyer escaped. This was the last surface gun action in history.

The battle off Samar

USS Hoel

USS Hoel, from Wikipedia

The 7th fleet had 18 escort carriers divided into thee task units. They were equipped for fighting submarines and providing air cover to the landing, not for full-on naval battle. These are usually referred to by their radio call signs Taffy 1, Taffy 2, and the most northerly, Taffy 3 under Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. It was a routine morning until at 0647 Ensign Jensen from the Kadashan Bay sighted (and attacked) a force that he accurately reported as 4 Battleships and 8 Cruisers. The surprise was complete. A few minutes later heavy shells began falling around the carriers.

Admiral Sprague was in trouble. He was being chased by heavily armed warships which were considerably faster than his escort carriers and were already in range. He also had very few weapons that could hurt them. He started chasing shell splashes, making smoke, running away, and yelling for help, from 3d fleet, 7th fleet, a merciful God, or somewhere. At 0716 he also ordered his three destroyers, the Hoel, the Herrmann, and the Johnston, to counterattack the Japanese which they did with incredible bravery. At 0750 the Destroyer escorts also attacked. Remember these are anti-submarine ships with 5 inch and 3-inch guns going on the attack against Battleships and Heavy Cruisers. Not terribly different from charging the Russian guns 90 years before. They attacked with torpedoes and guns and managed to disrupt the Japanese formation enough to give Sprague a chance to get away. All the available aircraft also attacked even though they weren’t carrying the proper (if any) ordnance for this work, they strafed and buzzed and annoyed the Japanese though.

By 0945 the Johnston, the Hoel and destroyer escort the Samuel B. Roberts had been sunk. and the escort carrier Gambier Bay was hit repeatedly by 8 inch shells and sank at 0907.

But Kurita had lost control of his formation (and was probably worrying about when 3d fleet would turn up) and broke off the action at 0911.

While Taffy 3 was doing all this, Taffy 1 was subjected to the first organized use of that new weapon: the Kamikaze, Taffy three would be so attacked in the afternoon.

And so we have St Crispan’s Day, a day of mostly victorious battle for the English-speaking peoples. The English win one with a “Band of Brothers”; the British lose one heroically and gloriously, and the Americans win one part easily, live through a terrible nightmare, while the American varsity is off hunting empty carriers.

The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

I don’t know about you guys, but most of what we have talked about this week, I find distasteful. There are few things that infuriate me more than the abuse of power, and it’s only worse when it is a powerful man abusing young women. perhaps at least some of them were willing to play the game, after all ‘the casting couch’ is a clichĂ© for a reason, but why, exactly, should they have to. Yes, people will always abuse power, if they can, but we do not have to let them. In any case that was part of the reason that this week’s picture post was about Navy Day, not that they don’t deserve the recognition. I had simply had enough, and most of what I had was about Weinstein. Yuck! As I said today in a comment, Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back in our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. here’s my dearly beloved dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

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