Sunday 20 November 2022

'Be British, boys'

 This imposing statue – which, when I first saw it, I took for George V – is of Edward Smith, the captain of the Titanic, who went down with his ship in 1912. It stands in Lichfield's delightful Beacon Park, and is the work of Kathleen Scott, the talented widow of Scott of the Antarctic. According to the official account, Lichfield was chosen as the location for Smith's statue because the Captain was a Staffordshire man and Lichfield is the centre of the diocese. Cynical locals say it was because no one else would have the statue: respect for Smith as a national hero was not universal, and there were rumours (almost certainly untrue) that he attempted to save his life rather than go down with his stricken ship. None of this is reflected in the plaque on the statue's granite plinth, which talks of his 'bequeathing to his countrymen the memory & example of a great heart, a brave life and a heroic death'. It also quotes his supposed last words: 'Be British.' The full version is 'Be British, boys. Be British!' and the words were apparently invented for him by the myth-making British newspapers. Fair enough.
   I paused to admire the Captain's statue while on my morning walk today, before heading out into Lichfield's circumambient (as the city's most famous son might have put it) countryside. It was a gloriously sunny morning, and I followed paths across bumpy pastureland and fallow fields, past Lady Muriel's Belt (a curiously named wood) and Leamonsley House, by Sloppy Wood (another curious name), and back into town, and to Lichfield's premier tourist attraction – Waitrose. There I noticed a fine range of interesting vermouths on sale, something you rarely see in England. I stood a while, impressed but paralysed by indecision, then moved on...


  1. At last the BLM mob hasn't come to tear it down. Surely Smith deserves to be canceled for his ethnocentric utterance!

  2. Absolutely, Foose! I must bring it to the attention of the local cadre – I'm sure Lichfield is a BLM hotbed (not).