On somber occasions such as the centenary of the Somme we would get together, drink far more than a good man should and get on with some extreme bullshitting. Dad, being a great history teacher, would always add fascinating dynamics that we have all long forgotten.
We would probably start off before the battle of the Somme. Trench warfare was a South African invention that dates back to Spioenkop and Magersfontein. At least our stuff was over in a day, not months or years.
There is nothing new about terrorism either. It was Boer War General Christiaan De Wet who clicked that you cannot engage a fanatic enemy you cannot see. SA history shows us that for every fanatic you manage to kill another will take his place. And concentration/refugee camps just make for more resentment and even more fanatics.
Then we would bang off about my grandfather who was so terribly wounded in the WW1 trenches and spent a year recovering as the guest of a mysterious kind British family who we never knew. He reckoned those were the happiest years of his life and immediately joined up again when WW2 came along.
Then we would sing ‘If the Sergeant steals your rum, never cry.’ Hopefully humanity is beyond this now, even if the youth of today are a mollycoddled spoilt lot.
We often spoke about great leaders. Today, the hideous acts of Winston Churchill such as the Dardanelles, Dresden and a whole lot more would have him charged for war crimes. Yet the Poms forgave him everything and elevated him to their number one roll model. They forgave Prince Charles as well. But not Boris!
‘Successful leader’s have a horrible habit of eliminating any talent around them. As a result they stay on far to long,’ Dad would stay. Stalin was the ultimate example. More recently Thatcher and Blair purged their own parties. And Cameron has left a massive vacuum.
Most of the casualties at the Somme and other British campaigns are not officers and British gentry. Rather the cannon fodder that came from Scotland, Wales Ireland and the Commonwealth. This is the same lot that worked in the coal pits and factories post the industrial revolution. The abuse of the working class gave rise to the Labour Party and much of the social protection all Poms enjoy today.
My Dad would have been very sad at what has happened to the Labour Party. And he wouldn’t blame it all on Corbyn. It was Blair who sold them out with ‘New Labour’ and his successors, Brown and Milliband, lost the plot. Corbyn’s attempts to bring back ‘Old Labour’ ideals were outdated from the start. It is not nice to speak ill of the dead, and Corbyn is indeed a man of good intentions, but even Dad would be stunned that he just won’t go.
It is now 50 years since the Poms won the world cup soccer and it will probably be another 100 years before they ever win another major tournament. There’s so much money in British soccer they play lip service on other championships. Just the same as the golfers conveniently using the Zika virus to skip the Olympics.
Of course you can’t do a proper job of getting drunk without bringing in the house of Windsor. And 1 July is also Lady Dianna’s birthday. Dad thought she was manipulative, but in death she modernized the royal family in one week. And that will keep them popular for decades to come. What is the Queen is thinking in all this?
Therein lies the important point. Poms have decided on Brexit and that’s it. Now, if history is anything to go by, come what may, the Poms will ultimately stick together and come out on top.
Yes, the Poms are at their very best when their backs are against the wall. They become unplayable. And the EU lot would do well to know that and get on finding a way forward.