Sunday, 31 January 2010


Someone quoted Kipling with reference to Afghanistan in yesterday's Telegraph - and very aptly - though I can't be certain: I generally can't remember that far back these days. But it put me in mind of "Tommy", his wonderful satirical poem about the lot of the average squaddie, who, when called upon to execute the policy follies of men like Tony Blair, is treated with hypocritical reverence and, should he lose his life in the service of Queen and Country, can expect his memory to be honoured, for instance, with a cursory, solemn mention at the dispatch box - but not a visit from Gordon at his repatriation ceremony, of course. The rest of the time, he's ignored, underpaid, under-equipped, unappreciated, badly billeted and generally despised - especially by the people who would put him in harm's way just to suit their own political ambitions and vanities (Blair again).

The point is that the poem is as fresh now as it was when it was penned by the great man, in 1890. It's pretty funny, too:
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, 'We serve no red-coats 'ere.'
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again, an' to myself sez I:
Oh, 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,
Oh, it's 'Thank you, Mister 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,
Oh, it's 'Special train for Atkins' when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow'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,
Oh, 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,
Oh, 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 face
The 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;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!
I don't know about you, but I think it's time to put an end to this Afghan thing, either by sending in massive reinforcements and actually paying the necessary price for final victory - in other words, not causing unnecessary death by doing everything on the cheap (one scandal for which Brown should genuinely never be forgiven) - or by bringing our army home. That's the choice Cameron will have to face. Why? Because, to coin a phrase, we can't go on like this.

Me, I would opt for the former and give our armed forces everything they need, and then some. Whatever it takes, Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is the right war and is a war that we have to win. We must respect our troops properly, therefore, by backing them to the hilt, even if it means making some sacrifices at home in the short term.

One thing is certain, if nothing else, our armed forces deserve much better than Labour, and much, much better than Brown.


  1. Just a wee thought.

    Supposing that we did get rid of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan (looks unlikely but.....), I'm suspecting that they wouldn't just fold their tents and think... "Cor blimey gov, them Brits have got us bang to rights here. We'd best just give it all up and become Christians and do what that nice Mr Brown says....." (or the pashtoon equivalent)

    I'm pretty much certain that they would remove themselves to Pakistan, Bangledesh, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and perhaps to the wide open spaces in Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Algeria, Lybia, Niger..... and we'd have to start all over again... this time calling up all able-bodied men (and women) between the ages of 14 and 75.

    So, I think the thing to do is to come home, realise when we are stuffed, like the Soviets did and the British Empire did ( a couple of times) and get on with trying to run our countries instead of trying to tell them how to run theirs.

    The trouble is that ours is so incredibly badly run, that they must ask themselves why on earth they would want to take instruction from us...

    I wouldn't if I were them.

  2. By the way... thanks for the poem. I love it. It reminds me how we havge always been incredibly two faced about the way we treat troops.

    It reminds me of that Bastard Brown and his lecturing bus on supporting the troops. The same one that denied them money for the illegal war that they were sent to fight in Iraq.

    May he rot in hell.

  3. Well, Tris, dammit, you're right. But I would humbly offer that we should nonetheless still surge for a year or two (I think about eight divisions - 80,000 troops - should do it), given that the we're there (and, to quote Benitez, that's a fact) and at least try to secure the future of that country before we piss off and leave it to its own horror. You know, make the best we can of a very bad job.

    As for Al Ki Eeeeda, I really couldn't care less where "they" run. And it doesn't matter anyway. That organisation is global and insane. Mad and inviting annihilation as they are and do, they simply ain't a country.

    It's the Taliban fascists that needs to be wiped out in Afghanistan - and shall be, with enough will, courage, resources - and support from the loud home voices.

  4. Oh dear Denverthen... I'm never right... there's always a fatal flaw in my reasoning. The reason I think it's important that we worry where the terrorists go is that, the current excuse for being there is that they will attack us from Afghanistan. So, they can attack us from Lybia, or Mali or Yemen ... or anywhere. It matters not where they are.

    I just think we don't have the money to do the job, whatever the job is. It's not worth another life. These are just kids that are dying out there. Young lads with... well, hopefully their lives ahead of them.

    I don't want any more of them to die.

  5. You know what, you are very possibly right ("we don't have the money to do the job"). In which case, we must leave. Immediately. But that kind of retreat will be tough for a country like Britain to take.

    The repercussions will be devastating, however. For one thing, it will make the breakup of the Union almost inevitable. As a Welsh Conservative, I'm afraid I do not welcome that.

    But I do understand why Scots separatists might be happy to exploit such a national calamity. It's what they're best at, after all.

  6. Er, re-reading my comments a day later, tris, I feel I ought to admit that my remarks night's might have been a bit Claret-inspired, if you see what I mean. Don't get me wrong, I stand by them generally, but regret that I failed to frame them a little more sensitively, especially with regards to my totally impertinent - and irrelevant - reference to the great nation that is Scotland.

    Sincere apologies for that.

  7. *"I feel I ought to admit that my remarks last night might have been a bit Claret-inspired..." I meant.

    I'll get my coat...

  8. Ha ha... The dangers of claret.....

    You're far too nice a guy to ever offend anyone mate. I knew no offence was intended.

    None was taken.

    LOL @ I'll get my coat.... (if you can manage to find the arm holes?)


Any thoughts?