Thursday, April 12, 2007

Column, April 10, 2007

I LOVE a good war story.
Probably not the most politically correct thing to admit nowadays, but there you go, I was born just 20 years after we’d defeated Germans a second time and the three TV channels we had in those days fed us a regular diet of war films depicting our victory.
So be it Battle of Britain, Dambusters, D-Day or A Bridge Too Far I would sit spellbound cheering on our chaps and booing the beastly Bosch.
And I think there are plenty of others out there who share my taste for tales of those who heed the call to arms.
We’ve been told tales of those who do battle from Chaucer onwards and some of our greatest literature has been set in wartime – don’t believe me? See Shakespeare’s Henry V.
More recently we’ve seen Andy McNab and others tell the tale of the Bravo Two Zero mission in the first Gulf War.
So why has everyone had an attack of the vapours over the sailors and marines seized by Iran?
I notice that one of the talking heads wheeled out to give an opinion on them selling their story was Bob Stewart, formerly Lt Col Stewart of the Cheshire Regiment. He seemed to give his grudging approval but said it might sour the deal for others with a better story to tell. That’s ‘Bosnia Bob’ who wrote the bestseller ‘Broken Lives’ about his time serving with the conflict.
I don’t know if our own North Wales member of the team that was held by the Iranians, Andrew Henderson, is one of those who has sold his story, but if he has, then good luck to him.
I confess that I cannot understand the attitude displayed by one or two relatives of servicemen who had died in Iraq, who objected to the HMS Cornwall crew selling their stories.
They seemed to be objecting to their profiting from their ordeal, while families of those who die are given very little in the way of compensation. The logic of that argument escapes me I’m afraid. Families of service personnel killed and those who are injured deserve better support than they get at the moment, but that should not stop those with a story to tell telling it and profiting from it if possible.
But then this is just the latest in a long line of rubbish that has been written and broadcast about this crisis.
First we had the Fay Turney – should she have been there, shouldn’t she have been there debate – which, given the fact we have had women serving on front line units for ages now, was frankly fatuous, space-filling nonsense. We’ve got women in the forces now, deal with it.
Then, as the crisis entered its second week journalists short of facts to fill their column inches started speculating on just whether a blooming great big frigate like HMS Cornwall, which is just, so, well, big, could let those nasty Iranians in gunboats take our brave chaps and chapess.
If you are under the impression that mighty Britannia that rules the waves should have blown them out of the water let me tell you a tale about an exercise called Millennium Challenge.
This was one of the biggest military exercises ever staged by the USA, against a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a crackpot despot – sound familiar. For the exercise they had a retired general running the despot’s forces.
When the US fleet sailed into the Gulf, the fleet of small private boats the despot had swarming around them carried out suicide attacks and sank three aircraft carriers, 13 other ships with the loss of thousands of US lives. It was a good job that it was just a desktop exercise.
The Cornwall, a lone frigate, was vulnerable to such swarm attacks and could only stand by and watch its crew members taken. We should have more ships there, with more helicopters, but then many of our ships have been mothballed to save money by the very people who got us into this conflict in the first place.
I might just remind you that the man who sent them into this illegal war, Tony Blair, is rumoured to have a book deal worth £4m lined up to tide him over in his retirement from front line politics. So lets not begrudge those on the real front line from making a fraction of that.

THE little lad at on the pavement was throwing something up in the air and when it went into the road, so did he.
Right in front of my car.
So there were a few things he and I were both thankful for this particular Easter Sunday.
Firstly, I’d been watching where I was going, I’d seen him, and I saw his dive into the road.
Secondly, I was doing less than 30mph.
Thirdly, the brakes on my car worked when I stamped on them.
Of course, it would have been his fault had I not been able to stop in time, but I imagine that would have been little comfort to me and even less to his parents, had I run him over.
So don’t let any of those so-called ‘motorist’s organisations’ that carp about speed cameras kid you that there is no reason for enforcement of speed limits.
It is 30 for a reason and that little lad, and his family, have good reason to know that.

I DIDN’T agree with a lot of what Ivor Wynne Jones wrote in the Daily Post.
But then, that’s kind of the point of a good columnist – which he undoubtedly was.
He had written for this paper for as long as I can remember reading it and a couple of decades beyond that.
He was something of a lodestone, showing true north. You might not want to go north, but it’s always comforting to know which way north lies.
His was a distinctive voice and North Wales will miss it.

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