Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Soldiers Story

With Veterans Day behind us and Armistice Day just sixteen weeks away it’s as well to expose humbug at its most hypocritical; a moment to reflect on the words of British servicemen expressed during World War Two.

Today, seventy-years after the outbreak of Churchill’s War the media still falsely portray these men as square jawed heroes eager to get to grips with Fascism. Martin Page who has compiled material of the period and says; “The fact is that most of the men in the war hated almost every moment of it, and for much of the time were thoroughly scared. Nobody in their senses wants to be the man whose life is sacrificed for the cause. “Why have we gone along with such a false and sentimental picture of them? Perhaps because we should prefer not to contemplate the fact that many of those who bravely risked and lost their lives begrudged having to do so, to say the least and were far from convinced that the rest of us, on whose behalf they did so, were worth it.”

At the outbreak of war Hore Belisha was Britain’s Jewish Secretary of State for War

We had to join, we had to join,
We had to join Belisha’s Army.
Fourteen bob a week
Fuck-all to eat,
Marching round the square
With bloody great blisters on our feet.
We had to join, we had to join,
We had to join Belisha’s Army.
If it wasn’t for the war,
We’d have fucked off long before,
Hore Belisha - you’re barmy

If that was the case back in 1939 when for all of its faults England was still England. It was before it had been colonised and Englishmen and women gagged, restrained by political correctness, then placed in reservation-like sink estates, imagine how servicemen serving in today’s theatres of war feel?

The war correspondent Alan Morehead recalls visiting troops in the trenches. There were several old newspapers lying around. One, the Daily Mirror, had its last page turned upwards and its massive headline read: ‘No More Wars After This, say Eden.’“Seeing me look at it, the soldier at the end of the trench said bitterly: ‘They said the last war was the war that ended all wars. I reckon this war is supposed to start them all off again.’Many a true word said in (bitter) jest.

There have been over forty conflicts since that soldier uttered those fateful words. Morehead went on to say: “They hated the war . . . They fought because they were part of a system. It was something they were obliged to do. They wanted to win and get out of it - the sooner the better.

They had no notions of glory.“A great number of people at home who referred emotionally to ‘Our boys’ would have been shocked and horrified if they had known just how the boys were thinking and behaving. “They would regard them as young hooligans. And this because the real degrading nature of war was not understood by the public at home, and it can never be understood by anyone who has not spent months in the trenches or in the air or at sea.”

I don’t want to be a soldier,
I don’t want to go to war.
I’d sooner hang around Piccadilly underground
Living on the earnings of a high-born lady.
Don’t want a bullet up my arsehole,
Don’t want my bollocks shot away,
I’d rather live in England,
In merry, merry England
And fornicate my fucking life away.

Martin Page recalled receiving a letter from a serviceman who wrote: “I served in several theatres of war - France, Western Desert, (I am an ex-Desert Rat), Italy and Germany.“After my Army service, I got married and now lead a pretty staid life with my wife and three children, and often wondered was it worth it?“I live in a slum and I am ashamed of it but cannot do anything about it, as I am just a poor disabled working man. Perhaps you can understand how bitter I feel, to think that after I and thousands of other men fought for this country, we came back here to live like this.”

Sadly the old soldier missed the point. When Germany was defeated it was the rich, the politicians, the establishment that looted what he and his mates had conquered: and for what? Who are his neighbours now? Germans? No, they are Somalis, Afghans, Pakistanis: he is culturally enriched?

Canadian Reuter’s correspondent Charles Lynch accredited to the British Army was refreshingly candid: “It’s humiliating to look back at what we wrote during the war. It was crap, and I don’t exclude the Ernie Pyles or the Alan Moreheads. We were a propaganda arm of our governments. At the start the censors enforced that but at the end we were our own censors. We were cheerleaders. I suppose there wasn’t an alternative at the time. It was total war, but, for God’s sake, let’s not glorify our role. It wasn’t good journalism. It wasn’t journalism at all.”