The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'War' Category

08 August
Comments Off on “Dunkirk” 1958 and 2017….Two Very Different Perspectives

“Dunkirk” 1958 and 2017….Two Very Different Perspectives

Having seen Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” I remembered that way back in my uni days in Leicester at the end of the 50s I had seen a film with the same title starring John Mills and Bernard Lee (actually it was made in 1958). I couldn’t recall much about it but fortunately it’s on Amazon Prime so a day or so later we watched it on Firestick.

Being nearly sixty years old, of course, some aspects of it are a tad dated. It’s in black and white, some of the scenes are obviously studio bound and the women are either cheerful cockneys or very middle class with cut glass accents. However, at 2 hrs 14 mins the director could take a broader brush approach and not only focus on the beaches (actually Camber Sands) but also set the scene by looking at the events which led up to the evacuation

The story was told through the eyes of three individuals. Bernard Lee (who later played M in the Bond films) was a cynical journalist, John Mills a resourceful army corporal and Richard Attenborough an English factory owner making a handsome living off the Army by manufacturing belt buckles.

Unlike the current film the 1958 production showed how during the period of the “phoney war” of the early months, when there was hardly any fighting most civilians felt disconnected from the war. Government and media were complacent and there was a feeling that, in Chamberlain’s fateful words “Hitler had missed the bus”. By the end of the film, as people flocked to welcome and help the soldiers successfully evacuated from Dunkirk the mood had changed. Many more in Britain felt part of the war.

The film also recognised the actions of the rearguard, those soldiers who were ordered to defend the perimeter to the last man and the last bullet in order to protect the men already on the beaches.

The first half of the film followed the civilians as they volunteered to take their small boats across to Dunkirk and John Mills leading his squad through the countryside to the beach. Thereafter the storyline was closer to the 2017 movie with some significant exceptions.

There was a small medical post in a bar by the front staffed by a handful of doctors and orderlies trying their best to cope under extreme pressure. Eventually the chief is sent orders to evacuate the walking wounded to the ships but to leave the most serious cases to await the German forces. Three volunteers are requested to stay behind with the patients and inevitably face being taken as POWs. They decide to draw lots and one of the three to draw the short straw, when asked his name straw gives a very common Jewish name. Nothing is said but the look on his face conveys a solemn message. If the film had been rooted in the First World War there would have no concern at being a Jewish POW. The 2017 production skirted such issues about the Germans… they were just a faceless “enemy” with no hint of darker forces.

In 1958 the film picked up on a moment when a simple service was held on the beach. Most soldiers of that time were not particularly religious but closeness to danger and death often makes men more conscious of their mortality and the scene showed many of the troops kneeling for the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe by 2017 the film makers felt uncomfortable with the notion of men kneeling in prayer….

We also know that on the beaches at the time there was a feeling that the Luftwaffe appeared to be having a free hand in the skies over Dunkirk without much opposition. In fact the RAF was working very hard further inland to deter enemy planes at quite considerable cost. Bur this didn’t stop many of the soldiers feeling angry that the “Brylcreem Boys” of the RAF had let them down. This was picked up in 1958 when John Mills had to step in when a RAF driver who had got them to the beach was threatened by other soldiers. By 2017 this had been airbrushed out.

But the most glaring omission in the recent movie was something picked up in the original film where, sat on the beach, John Mills describes the whole business as a mess and ask how on earth the Germans had managed to drive Britain to the very edge of defeat in such a short time. Bernard Lee blames it firmly on the “never again” reaction to the bloodshed and suffering of the ’14-’18 war. This had encouraged an ostrich like attitude to the rise of Nazi Germany. Lee said, laconically, that Germany had chosen guns before butter while British politicians and the public had chosen the other way around.

How could any film made in 2017, in the midst of the continuous hand-wringing built into the commemoration of the First World War, dare to even suggest that it was the motif of “never again” that had led to the slaughter of even more millions during WW2?

The 1958 “Dunkirk” came from another country. Almost every adult involved with the film would have been impacted by the 1940 evacuation. Many would have actually had experienced WW2 as soldiers or civilians. Even younger folk like myself would have had memories of family in uniform and stories about the Blitz. But now there is very little connection with those experiences at first hand.

Both films have their strengths and weaknesses. Both are, on balance, artistically sound. But both are also of their moment – and if you want to get closer to how people felt at the time then “Dunkirk” 1958 wins hands down.

Share
29 July
Comments Off on DUNKIRK – THE FILM

DUNKIRK – THE FILM

Just saw Dunkirk….a brilliant film and a serious attempt to portray an event that has become deeply embedded in the British folk memory of WW2.
It’s also an unusual war film in the sense that dialogue is minimal and the emphasis is almost entirely on the visual. There are also very few “heroics”, indeed much of the film is understated and almost passive. There are bursts of violence but also a lot of the “waiting around” that often characterises military life.
Episodes of courage occur but we also see the panic and confusion that war films tend to underplay.
It’s also a film about men…there are a few women but they are peripheral to the narrative and very much in the background. A few decades ago there would have been the compulsory “love interest” of either wives at home or nurses aboard but moviemaking seems to be growing up.
Men die but there is very little blood or dismemberment. In fact the dead are just “there” either to be stepped over or pushed aside.
You do leave the cinema, however, grateful that that over 330,000 of these soldiers escaped to fight another day and, even more that you weren’t a man born in Britain between 1900 and 1922……

Share
29 March
Comments Off on A Real Feminist….

A Real Feminist….

This is a real feminist…….a member of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit fighting ISIS

kurd

 

 

Share
23 October
Comments Off on Were Our Soldiers In Afghanistan Betrayed By Politicians & Generals?

Were Our Soldiers In Afghanistan Betrayed By Politicians & Generals?

Poor leadership from the top brass?

Military leaders failed to calculate the magnitude of the conflict in Afghanistan, the former head of the British army has told the BBC. Gen Sir Peter Wall said they thought they had a “reasonable force” for their limited objectives, but he now admits they got it wrong. The commander in Helmand in 2006, Brig Ed Butler, said troops were “underprepared and under-resourced”.

Peter Oborne in the Telegraph dots the i’s and crosses the t’s in a savage indictment of the UK’s political and military leadership.

British forces were ill-equipped, underprepared and, at the most senior strategic level, atrociously led. The men themselves were nevertheless brave as lions. The conflict in Helmand will be remembered for centuries as a shining example of astonishing heroism combined with pointless sacrifice

Reading Oborne’s article will make you angry – and frustrated. In essence good men and women were killed and maimed so that politicians and senior officers could grandstand at meetings in Westminster and Washington. The politicians (are you listening Mr Blair?) are now either waxing fat with lucrative speaking engagements around the world or are still in Parliament trying to sell themselves as the next government. I guess that also many of the senior officers slipped seamlessly into cosy and well paid consultancy positions in the UK armaments industry…perish the thought that better kit might  be available off the shelf elsewhere.

Metaphorically thoughts of Admiral Byng might well come to mind – and not just for senior officers….

download

Share
11 April
Comments Off on When he Entered Belsen Sgt Major Seekings Abused An SS Guard’s Human Rights By Punching Him In The Face….Good For Him!!

When he Entered Belsen Sgt Major Seekings Abused An SS Guard’s Human Rights By Punching Him In The Face….Good For Him!!

Reg Seekings 1920-1999

Reg Seekings 1920-1999

H/T for picture

John Randall is 94 but in April 1945 he was a young SAS officer operating forward reconnaissance in Germany. I challenge anyone to read his account of being the first Allied officer into Belsen without a shiver down the spine and a tear in the eye.

But there was one aspect of his story which gave me food for thought and it concerned Sgt Major Reg Seekings.

After 30 minutes alone in Belsen, Randall and his driver were joined by another SAS Jeep carrying the squadron commander, Major John Tonkin, and his squadron Sergeant-Major, Reg Seekings, an SAS veteran of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France. ”Seekings was a very tough man,” Randall says. ”He had been with the regiment almost since it was formed and had been an army boxing champion when in the Guards.”

While the four of them were walking around the camp (along with the Camp Commandant Kramer) Reg Seekings saw an SS guard beating up a prisoner with his rifle butt

“Reg Seekings turned to John Tonkin, and asked permission to intervene and teach the guard a lesson.” This was granted without hesitation. ”So Reg went over and hit the guard in the face. He got up and was then knocked out by another punch to the head. Then Tonkin ordered Kramer and Grese into the guardroom, and said, “We are now in charge, not you, and any guard who attempts to treat a prisoner with brutality will be punished.”

Maybe it’s fortunate for Reg Seekings that he died in 1999. But even now a bunch of lawyers might still be trying to track down that SS guard or his descendants to get some compensation for the abuse of his human rights…..

Share
04 March
Comments Off on You Remember That Russian Officer Who Threatened Us In Budapest In 1956? Well He’s Back!!!

You Remember That Russian Officer Who Threatened Us In Budapest In 1956? Well He’s Back!!!

 

revolution-hungary-1956-soviet-invasion-illustrated-history-pictures-images-photos-020

He’s back –that strutting Russian officer, with his bullying sidekicks, last seen in Budapest in 1956, is now in Ukraine and doing exactly the same. Of course, as in Hungary, he would claim that he has been “invited” in to defend the country against Fascist mobs but it’s all lies. He’s there because Ukrainians have dared to aspire to glance westward rather than remain a supplicant of Moscow.

In 1956 realpolitik dictated that we stood by as the Russian tanks moved into Hungary to crush the uprising – but we did have the good grace to weep for those brave freedom fighters as they were imprisoned and tortured and executed by the grim legions of Soviet terror. Indeed, throughout the west those tears were followed by a sense of shame and guilt that we just watched as they drowned.

But in 2014 there are few tears and little, if any, sense of shame. The liberal left is mute, as always in the face of Russian aggression, incensed, no doubt that the Ukrainian protestors should dare to go around toppling statues of Lenin. But what is far worse is the attitude on the right. “Russian sphere of interest” is the current weasel phrase. Until a couple of decades ago Ukraine had been a colony of the Russian Empire for centuries, we hear from many “conservatives”, so what else should they expect if they annoy Moscow. It’s like getting an axe buried in your head in the East End in 1960 because you had a few beers too many and started badmouthing the Krays – you deserved it because you were STUPID….

Or, if “armed men” are swaggering around Crimea pulling down Ukrainian flags well isn’t that the same as what happened in Kiev?

Actually – no. Power didn’t shift in Kiev because the demonstrators, armed to the teeth with assault weapons, stormed into parliament and arrested President Viktor Yanukovych and his ministers. There was violence and there were bullets and scores of people killed and wounded. But the shootings were ordered by Yanukovych and the violence instigated by his security apparatus – and when the bullets failed to intimidate the crowds his authority just melted away just as it did in Petrograd in 1917 and Tehran in 1979. The government disintegrated and the police disappeared from the streets.

There was no putsch – just a power vacuum that the anti Yanukovych elements began to fill.

Still the myth of an armed insurrection has grown legs, conveniently reinforced by the Russians with references to gangsters, neo Nazis and anti-Semites. Standard agitprop in the best soviet mould, naturally and total bullshit. But the essence of the tragedy is not Putin’s lies – as a former KGB hack it came with his mother’s milk.

The most shocking aspect of the whole affair is how so many on the right are gloating over Putin’s actions. He has become, with his anti gay and anti Islamic rhetoric the antithesis to the gelded softness of the western elite. He rides a horse, Obama rides a golf cart. He hunts animals, Cameron strokes them. He vows vengeance against Islamic terrorists, the BBC worries about Islamophobia.

Our emasculated, feminised and over sentimental me-me-me society makes many of us uneasy. But a corrupt self serving regime led by a posturing bully like Putin who feeds on grievance is no substitute for the rule of law.

Realpolitik once again demands that there is little we can do to protect Ukraine from Putin’s bullying. But for crying out loud don’t bolster the man’s ego by gleefully supporting Russia’s right to strut imperiously into anywhere that once fell under the writ of tsar or commissar.

You would have thought that we had learned that lesson with that other gangster in in 1938.

Share
13 January
Comments Off on MYTHS ABOUT THE FIRST WORLD WAR

MYTHS ABOUT THE FIRST WORLD WAR

A must read for all those who want to separate myth from reality about the Western Front in The First World War 1914-1918

51isRyqtM1L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_

 

These quotations are from Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan

The popular view of the First World War remains that of BLACKADDER: incompetent generals sending brave soldiers to their deaths. Alan Clark quoted a German general’s remark that the British soldiers were ‘lions led by donkeys’. But he made it up.

Indeed, many established ‘facts’ about 1914-18 turn out to be myths woven in the 1960s by young historians on the make. Gordon Corrigan’s brilliant, witty history reveals how out of touch we have become with the soldiers of 1914-18. They simply would not recognize the way their generation is depicted on TV or in Pat Barker’s novels.

 

The perception of soldiering in the Great War is of a young patriot enlisting in 1914 to do his bit, and then being shipped off to France.  Arriving at one of the Channel ports he marches all the way up to the front, singing ‘Tipperary’ and smoking his pipe, forage cap on the back of his head.  Reaching the firing line, he is put into a filthy hole in the ground and stays there until 1918.  If he survives, he is fed a tasteless and meagre diet of bully beef and biscuits.  Most days, if he is not being shelled or bombed, he goes ‘over the top’ and attacks a German in a similar position a few yards away across no man’s land.  He never sees a general and rarely changes his lice infested clothes, while rates gnaw the dead bodies of his comrades.

MARCHING

The original BEF, composed of pre-war regulars and reservists, did do quite a lot of marching, but they would have been very unlucky to have to tramp all the way from Boulogne to Belgium.  As far as possible men moved by train until they were a few miles from the front, and as the war went on and motor lorries became available these too were used to speed up movement.  As early as 1914 London buses were shipped out to the front for use as troop carriers.

TRENCHES

French and German ideas on trench construction differed according to the military philosophy of the two nations.  The French military doctrine was of constant aggression: the offensive was what mattered, and their works reflected this.  They were largely earthen, used little concrete and were often without revetment (zigzagging).  Their main purpose was to provide a launching pad for the French attacks.  German defences. On the other hand, were stoutly and meticulously constructed.  Concrete was used and deep dugouts were built; in some cases so well built and so deep that no Allied artillery could affect them, as the British would learn to their cost on the Somme.

The design and dimensions of British trenches were based on a good British compromise.  The British adopted much from the French methods, but they also used concrete and revetting when available.  Unlike the French, the British were not wedded to the idea of constant attacks.  Indeed, in private some British commanders and politicians thought that Britain should stay on the defensive until her New armies were ready and then intervene massively, end the war and dictate the future shape of Europe.

HYGIENE

Despite the tales of rats, lice and general filth, cleanliness and hygiene in the trenches were strictly enforced.  The paid a great deal of attention to its latrines, as indeed it had to.  Disease caused by poor hygiene had dogged armies throughout history and dysentery had always been a big problem.  By now the army was well aware that if human waste was not disposed of properly, unnecessary casualties would follow.  The average made produces 2.4 pounds weight of faeces and urine per day.  In the average company defended position this in a ton a week.  In the forward areas latrines were constructed just behind the trenches at the end of a communication trench and out of view of the enemy.  They were usually deep pits with wooden seats on top.  Disinfectant was provided and when full the latrine was closed.

A general lack of cleanliness made worse by food left lying about, particularly in andaround horse lines and abandoned ration dumps, could of course attract rats.  They did scamper around in no man’s land and bodies left uncovered did provide food for them.  Bodies were always buried whenever humanly possible and taken to the rear for temporary burial, before being given a proper funeral.  Bodies left lying around where the fell were not good fore morale; they were never left in the trenches or buried in the parapet as was the practice in the French trenches.

RATS & LICE

Good discipline got rid of rubbish and edible scraps, and rats were rarely a problem in the trenches, although lice, inevitable when men cannot wash properly, sometimes were.  On coming out of the line troops had their uniforms fumigated, laundered and ironed, and if necessary exchanged to reduce the risk of infestation.

TROOP ROTATION

British soldiers did not spend four years of the war in the firing line, or even at the front.  Men were regularly rotated from the firing line to the support and reserve trenches and then back to billets, usually well behind the battle area.  With a division having two brigades in the line and one out, and with each brigade having two of its four battalions in the line, a battalion could expect on average, to spend just ten days a month in the trenches. It was unusual to find any battalion spending more than four or five days a month continuously in the firing line.

TRENCH FOOT

 The winter of 1914 –15 was exceptionally cold and wet, and flooding of trenches was a problem.  Initially this led to large numbers of men contracting trench foot, caused by lack of circulation in the feet and legs and. If untreated, leading to gangrene and amputation.  Most cases were caught before recourse to the knife but, before preventative measures were enforced, many soldiers suffered from bad feet.  The remedies were the issue of whale oil and thigh high rubber waders, the loosening of puttees, regular changing of socks, and drainage of the trenches.  At first drains were soak pits dug into the floor, but mechanical pumps would later be provided.  By the middle of 1915 trench foot had all but been eliminated, except in battalions new to the front.

DIET

It is now recognised that a fit, active and athletic adult male needs a daily intake of between 3,000 and 2,500 calories.  Heavy physical work or exceptional cold increases the requirements.  The British army aimed to give its soldiers at the front a daily intake of 4,193 calories.  This was less than the French and more than the Germans who aimed for 4,466 and 4,038 calories respectively.  Soldiers rarely went hungry except in the most extreme circumstances.  Soldiers did not complain about lack of food, although they did complain about its monotony.

Where possible fresh meet was bread were issued, even in the firing line when a hot meal might be brought up at night, but there were many times when the fighting meant that the men had to survive on corned beef and biscuits.  Nevertheless, while hardly appetising, this was a far better diet than many had been used to at home, where in poorer households meat was eaten once or twice a week, and it was healthy and filling.  The tea issue was enough to provide each man with six pints of army tea a day, and British soldiers have always loved their tea!

MORALE

It has generally been considered that one indicator of morale and discipline in a unit is its sick rate: that is the percentage of men reporting sick with ailments due to causes other than enemy action.  Before the war it was considered that 0.3 daily, or about three men a day in an infantry battalion of 750 men was a reasonable sick rate for an army in the field.  Te rate for 1913 was in fact 0.12 percent and after the war, 1929 to 1928, it was 0.17.  On the Western Front, with total war in full swing, the sick rate for August to December 1914 was 0.26, declining to 0.24 percent in 1915 and 0.13 percent in 1016.  Throughout he war the sick rate was well below acceptable peacetime rates.

 

H/T John D Clare

 

Share
12 November
Comments Off on Remembrance From A Small Town….November 2013

Remembrance From A Small Town….November 2013

Redhill in Surrey….

Remembrance in Redhill

Remembrance in Redhill

 

 

Sea Cadets & Air Training Corps

Sea Cadets & Air Training Corps

 

The Redhill War Memorial

The Redhill War Memorial

 

Touched by the light...

Touched by the light…

 

The official wreaths

The official wreaths

 

Private memories

Private memories

 

...still falling...

…still falling…

 

 

 

 

 

Share
12 November
Comments Off on Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

automotivator (5) LEST WE FORGET

 

 

Lance Corporal James Hill of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards killed in Afghanistan

 

 of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards killed in Afghanistan

Share
28 May
Comments Off on Syria = Thieves Falling Out

Syria = Thieves Falling Out

Can’t help agreeing with the old windbag here. Syria ia a hornets nest and the last thing we need to do is poke a stick into it. Indeed “a pox on all your houses” should be our watchword here. Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard proxies duking it out with AQ leaning Jihadist fanatics from all over the world should not be unwelcome news. Remember the split between Mao and the late unlamented Soviet Union?  It was very good  for us in the west because it meant the Russians were always looking over their shoulder.

The Foreign Office and elements of the North London dinner party circuit are itching to pimp their consciences here with dreams of intervention but, as sure as eggs is eggs it would all end in tears.

When thieves fall out it’s honest folk who benefit….

 

Share
6 visitors online now
0 guests, 6 bots, 0 members
Max visitors today: 14 at 03:59 am BST
This month: 64 at 10-21-2017 08:29 pm BST
This year: 64 at 10-21-2017 08:29 pm BST
All time: 264 at 05-31-2011 04:37 pm BST
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: