At this time of year, lots of us elect to wear poppies and remember the service people and civilians who gave their lives or were injured in past conflicts. A period of reflection, when people take time to think about the sacrifices that people made so that we can live our lives in peace. I spent 5 years serving in the Royal Navy. I didn’t personally join up to serve ‘Queen and Country’. I joined up to see the world and had the experience of visiting far flung places. I also served in Northern Ireland and that’s why I moved to Heysham. Whilst in NI, I would board the ferries travelling from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to Heysham. I actually used to dream of just one night, staying on the ferry and travelling across to Heysham, in order to have a break from being on patrol and when I applied to work as a Therapist in Residential Care homes for children in North Lancashire and the South Lakes, there was only one place I was going to move to...!!! Our patrol boat would be anchored in Carlingford Lough, on the border between Northern Ireland and Eire. Our responsibility was to ensure that guns and explosives were not smuggled by either side of the terrorist divide. Along with Royal Marines, we were tasked with climbing up the side of the Ro-Ro ferries and gathering information about the passengers who were travelling. This was towards the end of The Troubles and you can imagine my Mum and Dad’s worry when I announced that their only son would be serving in the Province. I was sent to Northern Ireland to replace someone who’d been very badly injured when he fell from the rope ladder on the side of the ship and landed in the RIB, Rigid Inflatable Boat that delivered us to the bottom of the ferry before we made our treacherous climb to the top of the ship. We would climb to the top and then haul the search dog up on his harness, his four paws hanging in mid-air before he was lifted to the cargo deck where he would excitedly race around, loving the freedom to run after being on a cramped patrol boat for many hours. We wore no protective headgear in those days, even after my colleague had fractured his skull. Now, boarding parties do wear helmets to protect them. This was at the end of The Troubles, as I indicated earlier. When I served there, I could see both perspectives and appreciate the anger felt by both sides of the divide. Would I want someone from a country that I feel has subjugated me, asking me questions? Answer, No. Did I believe in any terrorist activities? No. Could I however, understand the motivation behind them? Yes Eventually and fortunately, people with grand ideas of peace, stopped what was a continuation of violence. They saw the Bigger Picture.
So, let’s hope after decades of comparative peace, that there is never a return to borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the peace process continues unabated.
Politicians need to put their personal aims of glory and opportunism to one side and rule for the good of all the people of this currently, Disunited Kingdom. These people need to do what the politicians did during the Northern Ireland Peace Process and see the BIGGER PICTURE. Rule for all, not just the few.
Talking of Politicians; This is also a time of year when politicians line up at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. One day a year when they issue soundbites about remembering The Fallen and those that endure suffering after serving their country.
EVERY day of the year, serving and former service personnel and civilians who have been affected by combat struggle with the effects of PTSD. They don’t just endure those issues ONE day a year.
They are enduring those issues and suffering from the after affects of the conflicts they served in. Some people say that it’s the price that people may pay when they sign up to serve. However, I personally feel that adequate care should be provided for those that have served.
It’s the least the country can do.
I actually believe that all of this country’s population should have adequate care from cradle to grave. A Country that is truly fit for heroes. A legacy that the people who did serve and gave their lives, limbs and minds deserve.Meanwhile people who are suffering from PTSD cannot always get the care they need. It’s easy for politicians to issue soundbites and then not deliver on promises.
A BLINDING DEPICTION
The series Peaky Blinders is a very good drama that depicts the effect of PTSD on returning service people from the First World War. Tommy Shelby’s character, played by Cillian Murphy, is smoking opium in Series One to help him cope with flashbacks. His brothers Arthur and John are also severely affected by their experiences. Arthur’s character particularly, will erupt into severe rage and all brother’s characters are able to inflict violent acts on their enemies. Thomas Shelby is angry towards the establishment for the loss of his friends in the war and is driven by rage and revenge. Then there is the character Danny ‘Whizzbang’, who is on a hair trigger when he feels that he is back in the trenches. Meanwhile Polly’s character has had to suffer for 4 years not knowing if her family are going to return and struggling to keep things going in the meantime. Then when the men return, she is supposed to, like a generation of women who stepped in and stepped up, return to the previous subservient role that women were expected to play. Part of the character, Tommy Shelby’s, rage is towards the politicians and generals that led his generation to the mindless and some would say, needless slaughter. The creator and writer of all the five series of Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight, has tried to educate modern audiences to the similarities between then and now, whether it’s about the lack of provision for service people returning from wars or indeed the rise of individuals who want to divide the nation and sow discord.
‘Lions Led By Donkeys’ was a phrase popularly used to describe the British Infantry of the First World War and to blame the generals who led them.
STILL NOT A LAND FIT FOR HEROES
Fast forward a hundred years from when that first series was supposed to be set and the care for people is still not good enough. Not just Veterans but the population as a whole.Service people returning from the Great War, were promised by the Prime Minister, Lloyd George that his Government would make Britain a ‘Fit Country for Heroes to Live In’. A promise that wasn’t achieved but led to the election of a Government in 1945 that had a manifesto of change to ensure that health would be provided free for all and adequate social housing would be built, amongst other policies that promoted social mobility. We are now in a situation where the standard of health care provision and particularly, mental health care, has reduced in the last 10 years. There are less beds and people are having to travel distances that they shouldn’t, to have adequate care. Things have to change. We need to look after our young, our old and those in between. Allow our population to flourish and help them grow. Educate them, at all ages, so they can develop and adapt to technological change. Increase social mobility, provide adequate housing, eliminate homelessness, invest in infrastructure programmes that improve transportation and also provide jobs. Thinking creatively not punitively. A Country where there is prosperity for all. Where divisions are reduced and eliminated, not used by politicians to divide and rule. So, lets’s hope the politicians who stand at the Cenotaph remember that the sacrifices people made in numerous conflicts were not to enable them to lie, make false promises and certainly not to allow people who are Fascists, to propagate their divisive views.
Lets Make A Land Fit for Heroes to Live In. A Fitting Legacy. Everyday. Not just one Sunday every November.
Thanks for Reading.
John The loss of life and the disregard shown towards service-people when they return home is reflected in this famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, whose own son was killed in the Great War, as the First World War was originally known as, because it was supposed to be the war to end all wars.
I WENT into a public 'ouse to get a pint o'beer,The publican 'e up an' sez, ``We serve no red-coats here.''The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Tommy, go away'';But it's ``Thank you, Mister Atkins,'' when the band begins to play,The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,O it's ``Thank you, Mr. Atkins,'' when the band begins to play.I went into a theatre as sober as could be,They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;They sent me to the gallery or round the music 'alls,But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Tommy, wait outside'';But it's ``Special train for Atkins'' when the trooper's on the tide,The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,O it's ``Special train for Atkins'' when the trooper's on the tide.Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleepIs cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bitIs five times better business than paradin' in full kit.Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Tommy how's yer soul?''But it's ``Thin red line of 'eroes'' when the drums begin to roll,The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,O it's ``Thin red line of 'eroes'' when the drums begin to roll.We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an ``Tommy, fall be'ind,''But it's ``Please to walk in front, sir,'' when there's trouble in the wind,There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,O it's ``Please to walk in front, sir,'' when there's trouble in the wind.You talk o' better food for us, an'schools, an' fires an' all:We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our faceThe Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ``Chuck him out, the brute!''But it's ``Saviour of 'is country,'' when the guns begin to shoot;Yes it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool--you bet that Tommy sees!Rudyard Kipling