Monday 13 July 2009

'We turned to our right...'

This, it seems to me, is a fine, plain eulogy (we can forgive the use of 'at the end of the day' as it seems, for a wonder, to connote 'at the end of the day'). The sentence 'We turned to our right, saluted the fallen and wounded, picked up our rifles and returned to the rampart' put me in mind of this much-anthologised poem by one of the great one-hit wonders of English poetry, Charles Wolfe. It's a brilliantly effective piece, perfectly suited to its purpose. I hadn't realised, till I read his Wikipedia entry, what a short and, towards the end, sad life Wolfe lived. But, thanks to Byron, that one poem lives on.


  1. British Army officers, judging from press quotations - such as this one - and tv news interviews, do seem a thoughtful and articulate bunch. I knew a couple of army scholarship students and a couple of dons who lectured at Sandhurst during my student days and they were all impressive people.

    I don't know if anyone saw or remembers Bad Boys Army - one of the few reality tv shows that was genuinely interesting, engaging and worthwhile, in my view - but the officers and, especially, the NCOs who appeared in it were really admirable. Obviously partaking in a healthy ethos.

    Military leadership - despite the problems of southern Iraq and Afghanistan - does seem to be something we continue to do well in Britain. It would be interesting to explore why nowadays it provides such a lonely example.

  2. Entirely agree Gaw (and I even saw a bit of Bad Boys Army). I wonder if the armed forces survive as a sole example because the ethos is so strong - deeply embedded in traditions and institutions, driven by the primal force of comradeship in action - in the end, after all, a matter of life and death. An ethos so strong it hasn't (yet?) been overwhelmed, as others have, by the ethos-destroying forces of box-ticking, compliance, political correctness etc that have taken out so many of the other things we used to do well.