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Frank E Gibbard

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Frank E Gibbard

You may have failed every exam

A bod who isn't worth a damn

But still may be our ideal man

With a British uniform on?

 

You'll have glorious good days

In a job that really pays,

If you've patriotic ways

Come and join the fun.

 

You know what's really keen

You'll be fighting for the Queen,

And have boots so shiny clean

And your own private gun.

 

You may have a good career

It may last many a year,

There remains one major fear

You may end up dead, old son.

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Hell, no! I won't go! :@@ Not even for the college money! :wacko: If I did, I think I should qualify as a general ... or a latrine cleaner! :)) Thanks for the ever-so-gentle admonishment, for the "heads-up."

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Hiya Frank,

 

Yes indeed, the constant shadow of military matters: it's not so amusing now that the coffins keep trickling back from Afghanistan. I fear the truth of what is really happening out there is being kept from the public ... although no great surprise in that! When I was in the UK recently I heard quite a bit about the row over faulty or insufficient equipment. More than that, I think the situation is rapidly getting out of hand and the recent request for more troops is an urgent plea. From a frankly overheard pub conversation among squaddies on leave (you would have had to be deaf not to hear them!) I understand that on several occasions smaller outposts were only saved from being overrun by airstrikes. I think Kipling had it right about Tommy Atkins. Then again, having just arrived in the UK from a short but sobering tour of the World War One battlefields there was the added poignancy -- if that is the word -- of observing how young fellows of the present day still get thrown into battlefields abroad to shore up political policy at home. I dare say that goes double or triple for the American military. At the end of the day, however one comes to judge the policies, it's always the young lads in their late teens and early twenties who get shot or blown away.

 

I'm no great fan of the British Empire (go 'way, you must be joking!) but I can see how easy it could be to get sucked into any nationalist or patriotic programme. One quibble with the ironic tone of your poem is that not all military recruits -- now that there is a volunteer army again -- are subnormal young chaps who didn't do very well at school or who couldn't find other jobs. There are still young fellows who join from patriotic motives or simply because they come from military families. I was in our own version of the Schools Battalions and later rose to the dizzying heights of Corporal. Mind you, I never got shot at until several years after I had doffed the uniform and insignia but all that 1939-style training with Lee-Enfields and other antique gear couldn't hide the fact that they taught you a lot of useful stuff about mapreading, fields of fire, gauging distances, crossing dead ground, concealment, and basic infantry tactics that probably started with the Boers. I don't think the British Army cottoned on for a while if the crossing of the Tugela River is anything to go by, never mind the battles of Loos, the Somme and above all Passchendaele. They did in the end, of course, and now Britain has one of the best-trained little armies in the world (as I mentioned with no ironic intent in a recent poem ... it's a simple fact). A British infantry battalion is the match of any corresponding infantry regiment (say 3 battalions) in the world and their Special Forces, such as the SAS and the SBS -- the former of which (the latter was never deployed) we came to loathe in Ireland for their totally amoral, unfeeling and professional ruthlessness: they were like Manchester United playing against the local village team; they were a perfect breeding ground, perhaps, for well-paid mercenaries, which is what many of them have become since the end of the Bosnian war and the IRA in Northern Ireland. All these so-called "security companies" and bodyguards for rich dictators seem to recruit heavily from the SAS. Well, why not? They're good at what they do. They hoovered up jobs in Iraq as well and (fair is fair) didn't shoot up everything in sight like the Blackwater crowd and the other US guns-for-hire.

 

So where does this bring us? Nowhere, really. Maybe the old SAS guys, suborned by tempting paychecks, should do a deal with the penny-pinching UK government. But somehow I don't think they really trust their old masters. The politicos, always out to save a few pennies, ignore the super-soldiers which their own Army trained and turn to the lads from Doncaster and Durham and Carlisle and the dodgy bits of Glasgow and Birmingham and Liverpool and after intensive but underfunded training (the first from the military, the second from the government) send them out to Win the War.

 

I'm not being cynical about this situation; if anything, it makes me feel sad.

 

All the best,

Brendan/ dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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