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The last refuge of scoundrels

You couldn't make this shit up:

Margaret Thatcher's funeral will have a Falklands War theme, Downing Street reveals
: The Independent break the news that 700 armed forces personnel from units which served in the Falklands conflict will take part in the funeral.

Family veto Argentine officials at funeral.

Police ask Margaret Thatcher protesters to identify themselves (according to The Independent, so that their "right to protest can be upheld".)

I'm very glad to be overseas for the next week and a half. I fully expected Cameron et al to use the Maggon's funeral as a rallying point for their clan, but I wasn't expecting a full-blown Nuremberg Rally. Disgraceful.



I shall be mostly not watching Tv news or reading newspapers (and living in Scotland I do have choices of newspaper beyond "which hagiography do I want to read?") for the next week or so.


I've tried to keep my tongue civil and get along after Thatcher's death. I'm not British, and I'm a conflict-averse, friendly sort of guy.

But...Christ in Crinoline, this is abhorrent.


I remember so many tweets angry at the "stupid" people driving the #nostatefuneral tag to trending topic because "you dumbasses dont realize she is not getting one?"


I like Ken Loach's approach:

"How should we honour her? Let's privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It's what she would have wanted."

What an exceptionally wise and sensitive theme! A very tasteful addition to the funeral procession would be a model of the sinking Belgrano carried on a milk float.


well, if they pull that minutes silence shit , I for one will be belting out 'ding dong the wicked witch is dead'


I am rather moved to wonder how many of the policies for which Thatcher is villified were, if I might coin a neologism, "Thatcher-independent"? By this, I mean that these events would have happened in broadly the same manner at broadly the same time regardless of Thatcher's presence.

An example here might be the closure of coal mines. In the run-up to Thatcher's time in power, coal mining was in decline and mines were being closed. All the easily accessed coal had been accessed, and to get at the rest needed huge investment in new deep-mining technologies and automation which the country didn't have the money for. So, I rather think that the massive reduction in miners employed would have happened anyway.

Another example is the showdown between unions and government. In the run-up to Thatcher's time, the unions had effectively booted one government out of office and had a track record of shortsighted pettiness, stupidity and obstinacy combined with a hunger for power without democratic oversight. Sooner or later they were going to butt heads with government, I think.

Finally, privatisation. This once again was almost inevitable, whether by mass sell-offs or by creeping invasion of public realms by private companies out-competing the public monopolies.

So, how many of Thatcher's much-villified actions were inevitable, do you think?


Please note that, for example, Labour governments had and were shrinking the coal industry. From my casual reading, it's more likely that the overwhelming majority of alleged improvements done by Thatcher were either Thatcher-independent or non-existent (when comparing UK performance to France/Germany or the US).

You should really read the comments on the 'Obituaries' post.


The rate of decline in coal mining output actually slowed under Thatcher. A smaller proportion of the industry closed during her eleven years in power than had closed either inn the previous eleven years or the following eleven years or the first eleven years of New Labour. From that page:

In 1979 output was 55% 0f 1968 output. In 1990 output was 67% of 1979 output. In 2001 output was 28% of 1990 output. In 2008 output was 36% of 1997 output.


Looking on the bright side, they'll be able to reuse almost everything when Rupert Murdoch carks it. Save a fortune they will.


What were the manning levels though? In the mid-80s an agreement with the NUM effectively preventing surface-mining of coal ended and a number of new surface mines were opened employing only a small workforce compared to that needed to staff an underground mine. Those surface mines are mostly played out though today.


Really wasn't expecting anything else from this government. Boringly predictable.


This old bit of verse seems to fit.

Cut off from the land that bore us, Betrayed by the land we find, When the brightest have gone before us, And the dullest are most behind- Stand, stand to your glasses, steady! 'Tis all we have left to prize: One cup to the dead already- Hurrah for the next that dies!


If the Tories expect us to take their rally seriously, they shouldn't have invited Jeremy Clarkson...


Given that Cameron has emulated the Madwoman & every PM since, by cutting our defence forces ... I would agree so much with the headline - thank-you Smauel Johnson! It is quite sickening - particularly since, as usual, we will have to carry the can when they drop it, & I'm not talking economics here. [ See my comments on Spain Syria in a previous thread ] And, even if we survive (because we are so weak, militarily, that we won't "win") will the guilty parties be strung up? Of course not! Euwwww .....


There is only one possible reaction I can have to all this: For Fuck's Sake.


No one ever expects the Nuremberg Rally, that's why its so effective :)

If I remember my none arrestable T-shirt from the period "If Maggie is the answer then it's a bloody silly question"

Having seen dementia destroy a loved one I can only say that for a woman who lived for the excercise of control it couldn't have happenned to a better person, little lost Maggie, all alone, watering the roses.


Isn't it an amazing coincidence how "ding dong the witch is dead" is top of the i-tunes download chart the week she passes away.


but I wasn't expecting a full-blown Nuremberg Rally. Disgraceful.

oooh, I was! OGH underestimates the Conservatives.

I'm surprised there isn't re-enactment of Orgreave to go with it

or...A float with a fibreglass sinkingGeneral Belgrano with primary schoolchildren playing drowning sailors?

or...A cohort of charred Welsh Guardsmen? A flypast by XH558?


Come on, what better time to put on the old army boots?


I wasn't expecting a full-blown Nuremberg Rally

You have triggered Godwin's Law and I claim my five pounds.


and HMQ will be in attendance, leaving her score of dead ex-PMs funerals as -

[whisper]Conservatives - TWO[*]

{whisper]Labour - NIL

even the Peter Oborne in the Torygraph thinks it a bit off

and of course FW de Klerk, Jeffery Archer, Shirley Bassey, Jeremy Clarkson, and Tony'n'Shree have been invited...

[*]Churchill's in 1965, and [provided Her Maj doesn't cark it in the interim] Thatcher's on Wednesday.


I wasn't expecting a full-blown Nuremberg Rally.

I saw that line and my mind went to Monty Python: No one expects the....


A really good retrospective on her.

"Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had "broken the glass ceiling for other women". Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism."

"I hope I'm not being reductive but it seems Thatcher's time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behaviour that it's much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others."

"The blunt, pathetic reality today is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision. If you behave like there's no such thing as society, in the end there isn't. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn't sad for anyone else. [...] All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people's pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful. Perhaps there is resentment because the clemency and respect that are being mawkishly displayed now by some and haughtily demanded of the rest of us at the impending, solemn ceremonial funeral, are values that her government and policies sought to annihilate."


"FW de Klerk, Jeffery Archer, Shirley Bassey, Jeremy Clarkson, and Tony'n'Shree have been invited..."

What a collection of used up, third rate has-beens.

Says it all really.


Well, to be fair, Churchill was a Liberal in the middle there for a while.

Which begs the question: being Tory at both ends with some semi-principled opportunistic Lloyd George Liberal in the middle, does that make Sir Winston the first New Labour PM?


I had hoped that there wouldn't be a state funeral. I did expect it though its a good excuse to rally the Tory troops and distract the rest from the current state of the country.



Maggie dies ... finds hersef in Hell ... First person she meets is Jimmy Savile: JS: Wot you doin 'ere luv? MS: I was shafting miners JS: Oh, you too?

/snark Pass it on!


Perhaps they can have survivors of HMS Coventry reenact their singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" after she was sunk.


technically speaking he was a National government PM during 1940-1945, too, as his cabinet was made up of Conservative, Labour, and Liberal MPs - Clem Attlee was his deputy prime minister, in charge of domestic politics.

However, he was a Tory MP when became PM, and was Conservative Party leader while PM PM, then ;-)


What a collection of used up, third rate has-beens

and of course, Nick Clegg will be there as well


According to the article.

Of course, there are other ways to measure an industry than output: the number of miners employed, for example. But that chart looks much like this one. Half a million mining jobs were lost in the 30 years before Mrs Thatcher, 70% of the workforce. How radically different to what went before was the challenge from Mrs Thatcher herself?

It's a fact about Thatcher hardly anyone has ever heard and hardly anyone believes when they hear it. Coal mining did relatively well under her.


So bascially things were working well enough before Thatcher came in that they managed that level of job reduction without triggering protests and other such nastiness?


I have it on good authority that Shirley Bassey is going to sing the Theme from " Goldfinger " in St Paul's Cathedral at Baroness Thatcher's funeral.

Come now ...would I lie to you? Haven’t I got an honest face? I taught Tony Blair how to tell the truth through the media you know and look how well he turned out.


Union leaders would in no way shape or form do anything to oppose a non Labor PM now would they?


Our right wing is weeping. Everyone remember the saying that small victorious wars bring the country together. It worked for our own Bush and it had worked for Thatcher first. For what its worth Google finds David Weber its first user.



Russian interior (secret police) minister Vyacheslav von Plehve, said in 1904, in reference to the Russo-Japanese War: "What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution."

(Little known fact: the campaign of the New Republic's space navy in "Singularity Sky" is based on the voyage of the Russian Baltic Fleet in 1904-05, during the Russo-Japanese war. See also.)


38/39 And Weber himself quotes von Plehve on the opening pages of his H Harrington novel of the same name, just to underline the message. ( IF you know your history, of course )


We can only hope that the Russians never based their fleet tactics on a half-baked time travel scheme.


Well, as good as; I've read a history of the said battle cruise and action, and they came spookily close to proposing to bring the fleet out of FTL!


After Reagan's funeral, I decided that the worse a political leader was, the more impressive their funeral.

Trottelreiner, I've been thinking of that band, since her death.


That's where not being British doesn't help you - there were almost alternating Labour and Conservative governments in the 30 years before Thatcher. And yes, some industrial unrest under both party's, although the oil price spike had a lot to answer for.

Which reminds me, has anyone an idea of how much the oil price spikes in the early 70's sucked money away from investments which might have helped improve the situations of the developed countries anent redevelopment of industry etc?


Expanding on the extensive police presence associated with the funeral to the pervasive, constant polic camera surveillance you subject yourselves to, I have to ask: shouldn't just call yourself Air Strip One?


Funnily enough some of us have been saying that for a couple of decades now ...


There had also been major miner's strikes in 1972 and 1974. The NUM was highly militant and believed, with considerable justification, that it had brought down Heath's government.


Umm, don't you mean 3 decades, by now?

The other thing that isn't always clear is that unions are not, in their nature, socialist or communist or suchlike. In fact many in the earlier days of the labour party and well into the 80's were misogynistic, uninterested in wider political issues such as the welfare state, and certainly not revolutionary in any way. So whilst they caused a number of problems, it was hardly because they were trying to overthrow the state and create a workers paradise.


The big problem isn't the numbers in previous decades. That's meaningless without some measure of employment rates. At a minimum, you need to be looking at the unemployment. If that was falling as the number of miners fell, they had a good chance to find other work. The figures for the Thatcher years showed increasing unemployment.

The unemployment at the time of the miners' strike was over 3 million, more than twice the level when she came to power, and it was still over 2 million when she quit office.

I don't recall the details of what was being done in the eighties, but I have to wonder if anything was being done to increase employment in any organised way. Was retraining available, or was it being done in the Jobcentre basement, behind a sign reading "beware of the leopard"?

It's the human equivalent of dumping unprocessed effluent in the river. The company accounts show higher profits, but they don't get fingered for the damage they do.


People maybe don't realise how unusual politics became after 1979.

Here is a summary of the electoral pattern from 1045 onwards.

1945-51 Labour. 1 Prime Minister

1951-64 Conservative. 4 Prime Ministers

1964-70 Labour. 1 Prime Minister

1970-74 Conservative. 1 Prime Minister

1974-79 Labour. 2 Prime Ministers

1979-97 Conservative. 2 Prime Ministers

1997-2010 Labour. 2 Prime Ministers.

While it isn't so obvious from the summary, Margaret Thatcher set a record for years in office. The Conservative government of 1951-64 replaced two Prime Ministers as a result of ill-health, and could not be said to be dominated by a single leader in the way that Margaret Thatcher did from 1979 to 1990. Blair was Prime Minister for 10 years.

One difference between the UK and the USA is that the Prime Minister is essentially chosen by the parliament in the UK. The details of how the party leaders are chosen have changed, but the leader of the majority party is Prime Minister. There isn't the scope for conflict between Parliament and Prime Minister that there is in the USA. If I read the history right, it seems almost inevitable that the President is faced with a Congress controlled by the other party for a part of his term.

Margaret Thatcher wasn't unrestrained by Parliament, but the party system meant that she found it much easier to get what she wanted. If she carried the Conservative Party the opposition was almost irrelevant.


There isn't the scope for conflict between Parliament and Prime Minister that there is in the USA. If I read the history right, it seems almost inevitable that the President is faced with a Congress controlled by the other party for a part of his term.

That is by design. But for most of the 1900s till 94 the D's controlled Congress. So a D president in theory had a unified Congress behind him. But in reality southern D's were only D's in protest against Lincoln being an R. So it wasn't as unified as it might appear on paper.

Anyway the real splits between Congress and the President started in 94. For reasons good and bad. The D's got tossed similarly to Labor over there because they had spent so long in power they had started to become inept at ruling due to a lack of having to try.


Nojay@11 - Those surface mines are mostly played out though today.

Isn't it mostly down to planning permissions? There's a rather large open-cast mine near Merthyr Tydfil. I once went to a parent's night at the school, and had to apologise for my wife's absence because she was down 't pit :)

Greg@15 - Given that Cameron has emulated the Madwoman & every PM since, by cutting our defence forces ...

The threat has diminished - we don't need a Regular Army of 140,000 and a TA of 70,000. We don't have a NATO commitment to 1(Br) Corps that requires us to keep 55,000 soldiers in Germany - because the Western Group of Forces packed up and went home. Fairly soon we'll be down to 80,000 regulars, and up to 30,000 reservists (to be fair, the damage done to the TA is down to the Regular Army, not to the Government).

There are fewer credible threats to UK sovereign territory; Germany isn't about to annexe the Sudetenland, the Argentinians haven't rearmed after their Last Disastrous Outing (they have far less than they finished with in 1982), and the Guatemalans aren't about to invade Belize (again, if the tales of some vicious little skirmishes are true). Russia seems happy to just give uppity neighbours the occasional slapping (see Georgia), but isn't about to invade the Near Abroad. The Balkans seem to have realised that there's more money to be made by joining the EU than by committing ethnic cleansing.

So - why do we need such a big expensive armed force, if we're agreed that going around knocking off unfriendly or tyrannical regimes creates problems in the long run? The sensible thing seems to be to maintain a credible ability in the long-lead items (SSBN and SSN, naval and land-based aviation, combined arms warfare, the ability if not all the factories to build the weapon systems concerned) and scale up if necessary.

Put simply, where's the short-term threat that you want us to arm ourselves against?


They should give equal time at the state funeral and fly Elvis Costello in to give the rebuttal. Maybe the Angels will return his Red Shoes for the occasion.

"I hope she sleeps well at night And isn't haunted by every detail... And now the cynical ones Say that all ends the same in the long run... And how it's only voices in your head And dreams you've never dreamt Try telling him the subtle difference Between Justice and Contempt... You should be proud and pleased You've only got the symptoms You haven't got the whole disease Just like a schoolboy whose head's like a tincan Filled up with dreams then poured down the drain...

I never thought for a moment That human life could be so cheap But..."


This morning NPR had decent (though incomplete--you can only fit so much in 5 minutes) overview on Thatcher's impact on the British music scene.

The Thatcher Era's Effect On British Music

Much more in the audio than the text. I'd totally forgotten Morrissey's "Margaret on the Guillotine."


gravelbelly22 @ 52 My bad: - I SHOULD have said Navy (& to some extent Air force) not "defence forces"... We are an island - we depend upon seaborne trade & supplies. Agreed we do not need anything like the level of force needed for "anti-soviet" precautions, but it has gone much too far. The "threat" I (& hope I'm wrong) is longer-term & comes from the Salafists (or whatever you want to call them) & also from ones we don't expect ("Black Swans") as happened, more-or-less in the case of the Falklands. It's called "An insurance policy".


Given that Cameron has emulated the Madwoman & every PM since, by cutting our defence forces

you can accuse Margaret Thatcher of many things - but cutting the warfare state?

not guilty...

and cutting back on the welfare state?

not guilty of that, either

I can see why the funeral would have a military theme, but where are the ceremonial guard of dole scroungers?

"By the left, present 40 card!"


On a lighter note & much more appropriate I suggest ( PLEASE ) Looking at THIS BLOG under today's entry (Saturday 13 April 2013) For an, err, "alternative" view of the lunacy.


"The unemployment at the time of the miners' strike was over 3 million, more than twice the level when she came to power, and it was still over 2 million when she quit office.

I don't recall the details of what was being done in the eighties, but I have to wonder if anything was being done to increase employment in any organised way. Was retraining available, or was it being done in the Jobcentre basement, behind a sign reading "beware of the leopard"?"

I was there, in industrial West Yorkshire, Nottingham, and later the North East before graduating and moving to Chelmsford in the relatively prosperous South East just in time to witness the disembowelling of GEC/Marconi (major employer in the Town) by a combination of changes in defence procurement policy and managament ineptitude...

Under the Thatcher government in the '80s we got a whole range of measures to maasage the unemployment figures (like the much derided Youth Opportunity Scheme and dramatic expansion of long term sickness/disability benefit) by moving people who didn't have jobs either temporarily or permanently into some other category, largely financed by North Sea oil revenues and still the numbers soared.

Headline unemployment figures don't tell anything like the full story, they didn't them, they don't now, and I doubt they ever will...


Rejoice, Rejoice.

Margaret Thatcher taught us how to respond to the death of enemies.

So let us all rejoice, rejoice. Not that a human has died, as she would want us to. But that that human can never again be the source of such divisive policies and the means to impose them on the populous.

Rejoice, rejoice. Ding dong!


"IF you know your history" I am not a lover of Google. I remember too many things that can't be found in it. What I said was that that in Google I could only find "What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution" going back to Weber. I try to know real history, not what somebody said it is, no matter how much I liked it. Voters loved Thatcher because she did something. Voters will vote for someone who seems to be trying to do something. Our Democrats got tossed because of the Civil Rights Act and starting to cut the old time racists out of power. Berry Goldwater told them to come to the GOP to save their way of life. They did.


I am trying to ignore the hype and the looming funeral. Margaret Thatcher will have a place in history as the first woman to be the Prime Minister of Britain. The rest of what is happening is rather shabby party politics.

The people who are casting her as the saviour of the country, and as the example they are following, are no more than scum. We've had a century of mismanagement which climaxed in 2008. And a lot of the failure comes from the oldest banking mistake in the book.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid: Step for step and word for word—so the old Kings did!


THat's a good point, but I thought it was the Sun and other tabloids that were the exemplar here, e.g. the 'gotcha' headline.


I was alive and of voting age in the UK at the time of that war, and although I have no great regard for Margaret Thatcher as a political Icon and Heroic War Leader, I do have a certain regard for her as a Women who overcame the most vicious Male Archetype opposition to become one of the most significant political figures of her generation.

The thing is that The Sun and such like News PAPERS...remember them? Newspapers were Dead Trees stuff pressed into sheets and then distributed to the masses imprinted with Human Thought in the form of Inky Words with a very low...aside from page 3 girls...graphic content. This Long before the Internet? Long before Satellite TV ...and so on?

Rather than lead Public opinion they did tend to reflect Public Opinion. Though in fairness it can be said that public opinion had already been raised to fever pitch at a time. A Time that was not so very long after World War 2. So, News PAPERS did tend to join in the Rejoicing as cheerleaders rather than as their being opinion leaders. Just as once upon a time they may well have REJOICED at the fate of the Bismarck, which was an imprinted icon of the post war War Movie customer generation that actually Knew people who had been at the receiving end of enemy action.

One of my academic colleagues at the time that I started work as a junior technician in 1965 had rather a soft spot for me because - I think - he had been robbed of his youth when he, as a junior lieutenant on a battleship had had his presence on said ship deeply resented by the enemy. Nothing Personal of Course. Jim had been in charge of a damage control party and hadn’t had time to change into his gear and out of tropical uniform and as a consequence his men had been cooked alive inside their protective gear when a fuel bunker went WOOOMP whilst he had become a recipient of the very latest in burn treatments and plastic surgery ..The result wasn’t quite as bad as...

But it was pretty bad even after the passage of time

" A U-boat later reached the survivors and found three men, and a German trawler rescued another two. One of the men picked up by the British died of his wounds the following day. Out of a crew of over 2,200 men, only 114 survived.[124]

Bismarck was mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht (armed forces report) three times during Operation Rheinübung. The first was an account of the Battle of the Denmark Strait;[127] the second was a brief account of the ship's destruction,[128], and the third was an exaggerated claim that Bismarck had sunk a British destroyer and shot down five aircraft.[129] in 1959, C. S. Forester published his novel Last Nine Days of the Bismarck. The book was adapted for the movie Sink the Bismarck!, released the following year. For dramatic effect the film showed Bismarck sinking a British destroyer and shooting down two aircraft, neither of which happened.[130] that same year, Johnny Horton released the song "Sink the Bismarck".[131]"

Over 2000 men dead...Enemy Dead of course so that makes the difference between the Germans and... But wait?

But of course the...well there have been rather a lot of vapourings about the direction in which the Belgrano was headed at the time when that Warship was sunk by a submarine, and there is also the traditionalist view that ...such an un-gentlemanly form of warfare! Oh the horror! I rather fancy that the submarines role as being somehow unfair is going to be overtaken by the role of the Drone in modern warfare.

SO unfair and ignoble eh wot? What the Enemy ought to do is come over here - for a given value of 'here' - and fight on Equal Terms...sort of thing. And May the Best Man Win? Best Person Win that is.

The Falklands War was a horrific mess but it was compounded by the Argentine Dictatorships desperate need for some sort of War and our own experience of the late disagreement with the German dictatorship. Hardly a British family hadn’t suffered a death in that confrontation ..I'm named after an Uncle who was killed at age 19 in Operation Market Garden ..So even given so VAST a gulf of time between WW2 and the Falklands war we weren’t really in much of a mood to make concessions to a military dictatorship. As I recall it " Appeasement " was still a dirty word way back then.


Around forty years since WW2, and the Cold War was still pretty chilly. I don't know that I was as conscious of the prospect of being thermonuclear tempura as some of the other regulars here seem to be, but the idea of war certainly lurked in the mind. It was a time of some quite militaristic almost-SF based on the idea of a war in Europe.

I can't really say we were primed for war, but there didn't seem to be the alternatives that can be invoked now. Things such as UN sanctions were around, but hardly an obvious idea.

And a part of the general atmosphere was the "Troubles" in Ireland. People developed a certain awareness of the possibility of bombs. And the political context of the Falklands looked pretty simple in comparison. Argentina had started the shooting. British troops had been shot at. There was none of the "a pox on both your houses" that the situation in Ireland so often evoked.

The Falklands felt different. The Kuwait War seemed fairly clear too, but the lies to justify war started to get too big.

Maggie had it easy. Her war could be finished before anyone started looking too closely at what was happening. There was no time for the BBC to make a comedy show about the soldiers before it was all over.


I wonder what the Queen will be doing while the funeral goes on? Having a roaring great party, but with the blinds closed? She was not exactly a great fan of MT, if what I read is correct.


Nope, I'm with Arnold on this. There's no need to look to look "too closely" at the Falklands War; nor the invasion of Kuwait. Both simple responses to an invasion. After her time, Bosnia makes sense - lots of people trying to make a difference, and succeeding (but not fast enough). Kosovo makes sense - an attempt to stand up to the same murdering b*ds who had held civilian populations hostage in Bosnia. It's the invasion of Iraq where you have to wonder...

I've mentioned in other threads that I'm an Army brat, who went to a military boarding school. Of the 250ish boys in the school at the time, ISTR that nine had a parent serving in the Task Force. A year afterwards, the first boys appeared who had lost a parent in the war (Queen Victoria School was originally set up by public subscription after the Boer War as an orphanage for service children). Our Pipe Band played "The Crags of Tumbledown" - and we had a piper whose father had died there. As a war, it was simple. No civilians, an enemy that actually wore a uniform (the school had several boys whose fathers had died in Northern Ireland), and a clear sense of being on the side of right. No nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons to worry about, either (that was a very large part if 1980s Army training, unsurprisingly).

I don't recall it being a time of militaristic almost-SF, though (in print form - granted, we had Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, not sure whether Buck Rogers is "militaristic"). It was more escapist; Julian May and the Pliocene Saga, David Eddings' Belgariad (still got it, firstborn has just been rereading it), new Clarke novels coming out, new comics like 2000AD that were more anti-war than militaristic, and Asimov still in the shops. Niven/Pournelle maybe, but nothing like Ringo was out there that I recall.


And I should say - I'm rather enjoying "Bluestone 42", you should try it ;)


So, Dick Cheney will have an enhanced-interrogation-themed funeral, then?

A leather-clad George W. Bush pours water up the corpse's nose as it lowers into the ground…


I was thinking of things such as General Sir John Hackett's two Third World War books, the first one in 1978. And that maybe led to The Hunt for Red October and that whole tech-thriller genre. Is very-near-future SF or not? It's not something written by obvious SF writers.

I maybe did mis-remember the timing, a lot of stuff was after the Falklands. But the idea of war was being talked up, with the Soviet Union as the bag bad, until everything fell apart at the end of the decade.


Bluestone 42 doesn't come across to me as funny. Not bad not-funny, it mostly just doesn't work for me as humour. But I can recognise some of the style of humour. MAS*H has been brought up a few times as an example: it was a book and a movie before it ever hit TV (several books?) and by the time I started watching that the characters were established.


" Voters loved Thatcher because she did something. Voters will vote for someone who seems to be trying to do something. "

How does it go again? "Something Must be done, This is Something, therefore This must be done..."


Dick Cheney has a book out. In it he says he did most of what we hate Bush for.


Around forty years since WW2, and the Cold War was still pretty chilly. I don't know that I was as conscious of the prospect of being thermonuclear tempura as some of the other regulars here seem to be, but the idea of war certainly lurked in the mind. It was a time of some quite militaristic almost-SF based on the idea of a war in Europe.

there was lots of stuff like this

and many others - I know because I read most of them!

Jerry Ahern's were less "Turner Diary"-esque than most, but all the Commies/Russkis were flatly depicted as Waffen-SS analogues

there was also a jet-fighter variant of The Survivalist, featuring an F-16 carrying an unfeasibly large number of missiles - I can't remember the title[s].

Don Pendleton's books had a resurgence in the early 80s too...


I was wrong, and you were right - I'd quite forgotten most of the stuff mentioned. I read Hackett's books (he also wrote a good book about his evasion activities after MARKET GARDEN) but it wasn't really a surprise; as a kid in BAOR, if childcare was a problem, my visits to Dad's offices meant that the only available reading material was "Recognition Journal" and the "Threat" magazine (actually a rather downplayed explanation of the technical details of how the glorious armies of the USSR went about their business; remember kids, threat is about capabilities not intentions).

An interesting if little-known fact of the time (KAL007, ABLE ARCHER, cooling of detente) was that Edinburgh hosted one of the only back-channels between the US and Soviet militaries, courtesy of Edinburgh University's War Studies departments and Professor John Erickson. Absolutely fascinating guy, and apparently the expert for Soviet strategic thought. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph gives an insight into how much "defusing" of tension (by increasing understanding between two sides) can happen by following and supporting activities at a personal level, rather than through deliberate diplomatic manoeuvring...


I think I read the first of that third one on your list: The Zone. That seemed slightly nearer SF. I remember a hovertank of some sort, and a swathe of destruction across Europe, saturated with chemical weapons, that stalled both sides attempts to advance in force.

Written by James Rouch, and the timing might have stuck in my mind.


I vaguely recall a good many copiously-illustrated books that were sold to us civilians in those days, full of details of how the forces of the Soviet Union were equipped. I remember I was once at a wargames show in Newark, looking through the second-hand Traveller stuff, and some guy was boasting about how how he had a Soviet-style tank regiment in 1/300 scale, used "authentic" tactics, and in a club game had hammered the guys playing NATO.

He sounded a bit boring. I think that was where I picked up a copy of the Traveller ground warfare game, called Striker which gave a lot of weight to the command and control problems. Changing plans in mid-game could leave your orces immobile for several turns, which you sent out orders. I think it put a bit too much emphasis on the decision-making of the player-characters, who were, of course, officers.

Sounds a bit Thatcherite, doesn't it. Don't mention the Sergeants. Apparently the propaganda films made during WW2 had characters of all ranks. Post-war there was a switch to officer-only movie plots. I wonder what things were like in 1945-51.


The Doctor Who episode, "Cold War", flashes a date at the start: 1983. That would fit with ABLE ARCHER and the rising levels of fear.


The strategy has been around a while. In Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2, that king's deathbed advice to his son reads in part:

"...Therefore, my Harry, Be it thy course to busy giddy minds With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out, May waste the memory of the former days."


The Soviet Union were the big bad. Almost all the blood lost after WW-2 was thanks to them, their free arms and training. Look at what their wonderful peoples armies did around the world. Don't you think that matters.


Don't forget people like my neighbours' grandparents who had to flee the err, "liberating" Pakistan "Army" [ Actually, a collection of murdering rapists ] coming through Kashmir in '48. You have to remember that the SovUnion was an almost classic theocracy, as well.


You seem to have forgotten the several million people who lost their lives thanks to US actions. The bombing in Laos and Cambodia, for example, or the couple of million civilian dead in North Vietnam. For shame!

"Army" [ Actually, a collection of murdering rapists ]

Actually, AFAIK that one is a tautology for most armies of human history[1]. Even worse if they're on your side, you aren't even allowed to kill them then. :(

[1] Ask Boudica, not that I expect the enemies of the Romans were much better, only less organized. Then again, wasn't that the bit evil excelled at according to one Vetinari?


There's no need to look to look "too closely" at the Falklands War; nor the invasion of Kuwait. Both simple responses to an invasion.

I disagree -- conditionally. There is a strong case for naval-gazing over those incidents ... on the part of the Foreign Office and the US State Department respectively. On the other hand, once the diplomats FUBAR'd the peace, there wasn't much else to be done but what the military got up to.

Again: there's cause for concern over how politicians handled those 'conflicts'. For example, was Thatcher's instruction that HMS Conqueror should fire on the Belgrano appropriate, lawful, and effective? (By "appropriate" and "effective" I mean: the decision ultimately killed 425 men; would the alternative -- not torpedoing the cruiser -- have ultimately prolonged the war and cost more lives, or was the conflict amenable to a solution in which those lives were not lost?)

Again: some aspects of those wars were not conducted effectively. I've heard it suggested that Colonel Jones of 2 Para shouldn't have been anywhere near the front at Goose Green, much less storming a machine-gun nest in person. It wasn't even a strategically important target ...


Now, now. What two consenting adults do in their own home is none of our business.



I've heard it suggested that Colonel Jones of 2 Para shouldn't have been anywhere near the front at Goose Green, much less storming a machine-gun nest in person.

He needed to be there or nearby; he didn't need to be leading a section attack. There was an even more scurrilous story that could be used to wind up Paras very successfully, if you were willing to suffer a smack in the teeth...

You could argue that because the main effort of the British Army was to face a much stronger enemy across the Inner German Border, it focussed on defensive operations (which need much tighter coordination) and created a controlling mindset that doesn't translate as well to offensive operations. Hence, AIUI, his plan for 2 PARA of a intricately-timed six-phase deliberate attack. It ended up being largely conducted in daylight (all other battalion-scale deliberate attacks in the Falklands were conducted at night). It didn't help that they couldn't get air support until the end, and the naval gunfire support left at daybreak.

Anyway, his second-in-command (who had done his staff training at the German Staff College, not the British one) took over, had a quick think, changed the plan, and won the battle. In fact, the British infantry won all its battles...

The "Britain's Small Wars" website is a good resource for those interested. You can also search a large South American River for "Not Mentioned in Dispatches" by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon


My quick summary would be something like, "Montgomery thinking, when they needed Rommel."


Montgomery, when they needed Slim... :)


Montgomery was what they needed in the Falklands War. Those who denigrated Montgomery in the aftermath of D-Day forgot the factor that Montgomery never let go of in his thinking and planning, that he had no appreciable reserves left uncommitted and so it was with the Falklands campaign. Montgomery knew there were few troops left back in the UK that could be brought forward into the line if something went wrong during, say, the Falaise operation and a battalion was wiped out, a division smashed by a chance of war. So it was in the Falklands where a bold advance like Operation Market Garden could have lost more men and materiel than could be replaced in a week or more given the distances involved and no beachhead airport in place to land troop-carrying aircraft.


Slim, every time. Monty gravely over-rated.


I would agree that Montgomery had reason to be cautious, but Slim was also constrained by logistics and manpower. India could certainly provide manpower, and had some significant industry, but getting trained replacements up to the front was never going to be easy. And there were political risks in heavy casualties.

Of course, the particular level of command that matters in the Goose Green story is the battalion commander. And the contrast is between an officer who went through the British staff college, and his replacement who went through the German staff college. So maybe comparing Montgomery and Rommel, as they were around 1930, is appropriate. Rommel was the successful WW1 combat commander. Montgomery was mostly the staff officer.


zochoka @ 90 A lot of people have suggested that Monty was sup[osedly so good, because of one of his immediate subordinates, who really was good. Sir Brian Horrocks I remember him on TV (when I had one) - he was a "natural" presenter, clear & lucid & obvioulsy highly intelligent. Scared the Soviet secret-police spooks shitless, shortly after 8/5/45, when they had joint military meetings & didn't let on that he spoke good Russian & tripped the translators up, several times ....


To those who have access. This week's copy of "Private Eye" is a MUST-BUY ...

Cover: MAGGIE / MAGGIE / MAGGIE Souvenier edition OUT / OUT / OUT Out now

Etc in huge, very funny quantities inside.

A welcome antidote to the fawning, I must say.


In the same copy of the "Eye" ... cartoon ... "Maggie Death Party" in decaying progess ... blokes at end ... caption: "Great party, let's do it agian when Blair snuffs it" (or approx that, anyway)


So when Rommel and Montgomery went head to head at Al Alamein, who came out on top?

Montgomery wasn't a Lee or a Rommel or even a Patton (thank the Lord!) but then again the supreme commander for D-day was Eisenhower, not exactly a well-tested combat veteran or a daring tactical genius. In fact he spent more of his time at a desk moving money around (money trumps logistics in war -- see the definition of "war chest") than at a sand table planning a schwerpunkt attack on an enemy line. And that's what Montgomery was on the British side of things, a nitpicking organiser making sure that unlike Rommel or Patton his troops wouldn't run out of fuel or supplies and that the reinforcements would be where they needed to be when they were needed.


So when Rommel and Montgomery went head to head at Al Alamein, who came out on top?

The man with twice as many men and tanks?

Slim managed more, with less, and didn't end up a case study in Norman Dixon's "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence"...


So why didn't Rommel have more men and tanks at Al Alamein instead? He was the superior military mind in the conflict after all, wasn't he while dim old Montgomery just plodded away putting together the force needed to actually, you know, win rather than losing gloriously as Rommel did.

The greatest general ever is practically unknown in the history books which are filled with studies and eulogies of great losers like Rommel, Lee and, going back far enough, Alexander the "Great". I refer of course to Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky, the organiser of most of the Red Army's victories during WWII including the masterpiece Battle of Manchuria in August 1945.


I love the fact that Slim's history of the Burma campaign is called "Defeat into Victory".

Somewhere in that vast collection of manoeuvre reports, he explains that his forward divisions were operating on 120 tonnes a day, when received wisdom was that you had to have 400 tonnes a day to exist.

"Quartered safe out here" is a marvellous account of serving at the sharp and pointy end under Slim, well worth a read if you have any interest in the period.


Nojay - surely you mean Zhukov? The man who gave the Japanese such a kicking at Khalkin Gol / Nomonhan that they never took the Russians on again?

Rich - agree about George Macdonald Fraser's "Quartered Safe Out Here" - an excellent book. Interestingly, he uses pseudonyms in QSOH, but he dedicated "The Steel Bonnets" using the real names of the men from his section. "The General Danced at Dawn" series is likewise a masterpiece - a brilliant description of life as a young officer, all the better for being mostly true...


So why didn't Rommel have more men and tanks at Al Alamein instead?

Because HIS commander put him into a battle without a means to keep him supplied.

And Monty got US Sherman's at the end which at that time were a superior design than the tanks Rommel had. Plus Rommel's were worn out.


I think you're making my point for me here -- Rommel was a tactical master at attacks and manoeuvering but he sucked at the really important generalling business, that is the politicking, the logistics and organisation and the financing of his operations and that's why he lost at Al-Alamein and that bumbling idiot Montgomery won. Same thing for Eisenhower on D-day, meticulous planning trumps tactical genius and that's why I put Vasilevsky at the top of the generalling tree.

Manchuria was a masterpiece battle, three months in the making, a million and a half men moved over three thousand miles by rail from Europe and supplied with brand-new equipment when they arrived, a deployment of attacking forces along a series of fronts running for thousands of kilometres. It was a walkover because Vasilevsky had done all the hard work beforehand, not because of some genius making stuff up as he went along.


I thought that part of Rommel's problem was the fact the Germans and Italians weren't concentrating their forces properly; a lot was heading to Russia, and they didn't destroy the Mediteranean fleet of the Royal Navy first. So a lot of supplies were lost on the way to Rommel.

When you slag off Montgomery, you should remember that he did a good job of manouvring and getting his men out on the way to Dunkirk. Alan Brooke wouldn't have promoted him if he didn't think that had been carried out well.
The main issue is more Montgomery's personality and the backlash against him after the war, partly because the propaganda built up too high, and partly because he was an egotistical bastard.


(I have no idea how we've mutated onto this. But since we have...)

Remember too that Rommel's battles were not being lost in Africa, they were being lost in the Mediterranean. The Axis never properly controlled that sea, never took Malta (and Malta is rarely considered a military hard case), and never figured out how totally the Allies were reading their messages.

Rommel is rightly considered a master of tactics. So it should be no surprise that the Africa campaign was won and lost on strategy. Nojay's point is well taken; a vital skill for the professional military person is getting your superiors to pull their anatomy out of where-ever it's stuck and, at the very least, stop hindering you.


You guys are saying some interesting stuff about military command.

But an "intricately-timed six-phase deliberate attack" sounds a bit too much like the first day at Arnhem. Or is A Bridge Too Far another piece of literary bollocks masquerading as history? The Parachute Regiment has that huge historical example of the perils of caution and the problems of resupply. I would expect the Parachute Regiment to think a bit differently.

And then I looked up what Rommel did on the Italian Front in WW1. Forget about him being the Desert Fox, that's a whole different level of operations.


I have my copy.

Now, Private Eye or Modesty Blaise? Ian Hislop is no Willie Garvin, that's for sure.


OH Dear, Oh Dear, Oh dear... and also ... this has a HUGE potential for Stuff as told of Me..

“You Really Don't MIND causing TROUBLE do you A?” This as after a Departmental meeting in the ultimate University that had the Extreme Privilege of Employing me. And I should add that I didn't come particularly close to killing the Academic who told my Tech Support Line Manager that, " You Aren’t an Academic and so your Opinion doesn’t Count. “ If he'd tried that on with me then I'd have toasted him on both sides, but then even he wasn’t that silly for I had a formidible reputation for academic in-fighting even though technically I wasnt an academic.

Anyway, I am conscious of my lack of Academic Research Credentials when I say that ... It wasn’t all that simple and straightforward in the WW 2 that emerged from WW1.

My Grandfather fought throughout WW! After having volunteered at a Musical Hall Event - when he may have been just a tad slewed through Drink ..." We Dont Want to Lose YOU But We think you ought to Go! Your King and your Country, They Both NEED you SO " - and so forth. For which he got several campaign medals and a small pension for having been gassed.

Next generation supplied my Namesake who was killed in operation Market Garden.

My Uncles gravestone is depicted on the Web...

Cemetery: Jonkerbos War Cemetery

Country: Netherlands


Rank: Sapper

Official Number: 14554210

Unit: Royal Engineers

Force: Army

Nationality: British "

So he was an Engineer...a Sapper...perhaps he was disposed of by enemy ordinence that that he failed to dispose of? It was a dangerous profession and,as I was told, he was supposed to be in on The Normandy Landings and been killed there ... but then something happened.

Maybe, Ever so Quick lessons in Parachuting? Or in praying for deliverance from a Glider? Whatever, he was killed age 19 and just lately my younger brother asked me for family info - I'm not all that interested in Genealogy - and I sought out information on my namesakes final campaign and found ..Stuff.

Now at first thought The Sappers were Bomb Disposal, Mine Sweeping and so forth?

Evidently NOT...or at least not in Mad Churchillian Cunning Scemes like Operation Market Garden.

So, here for your Writerly Interest is how a military Campaign really worked at a Ground Level... “If you can See the Enemy -They can See YOU!” sort of level in the form of a copy of an E-Mail that I sent to my little brother ...

" Re: Sapper Arnold * ( - 1944) - Find A Grave Photos

Fri, 12 Apr 2013 at 17:05 2 Apr message ARNOLD ... TO 1 recipient Re: Sapper Arnold ** ( - 1944) - Find A Grave Photos Show Details


ARNOLD .... *******

“ Apparently the role of the Sapper is rather broader than I had thought. This isn't a reference to that particular sapper but it may interest you ...

" The engineers finally neared the road bridge at about 10 p.m. and reached it a half-hour later. Almost as soon as they arrived, engineers from A and B troops made an attempt to take the southern end of the bridge. Armed with a flamethrower, Sapper (private) Ginger Partridge attempted to destroy an enemy pillbox but missed and instead hit a hut next to it that contained fuel and ammunition. The resulting explosion ignited the paint on the bridge, which burned throughout the night and illuminated the area. After rejoining their comrades, the engineers were ordered to the east side of the bridge to set up a defensive perimeter. As Sergeant Harold Padfield recalled: "We managed to get under the bridge without any bother. We came across a large building which Lieutenant D. [Dennis] Simpson told me to break into and search….I just broke the glass in the door and turned the handle from the inside. I asked Joe Malley and Arthur Hendy to give me cover as I searched around. I went upstairs and realized it was a school; there were desks and chairs and a blackboard and blasted great picture windows on one side of the main classroom and porthole windows on the opposite side, but other rooms weren't too bad. There was a good view of the bridge from the room at the end of the passage. I went out and reported back and we then took over this building." Other sappers, mainly from A Troop, went to a building north of the school, but a German attack convinced Captain Eric Mackay, the commander of A Troop, that the building was too vulnerable, so he ordered his men to pull back to the schoolhouse and join the engineers from B Troop. At first, the new arrivals were not welcomed. Sapper George Needham remembered that when they entered the school they were told by one of the B Troop sappers to "Bugger off and go find your own place." Eventually everyone was accommodated, and all hands set to work fortifying the empty rooms. Although everything had not gone according to plan, by the evening of the 17th, nearly 800 men from Frost's 2nd Battalion, along with bits and pieces of other units, were in position on the north end of the bridge. All they had to do now was hold on for three days until the tanks of XXX Corps arrived to relieve them. The 60 men from the Royal Engineers and C Company who were gathered at the schoolhouse spent the rest of the evening preparing the building for defense. This included filling as many containers as possible with water. Four toilets were found in the basement, together with a tap. Three of the commodes were placed out of bounds so they could be used for drinking purposes, while the fourth was reserved for calls of nature. Padfield remembered: "We used desks and cupboards to make barricades. We had the advantage of fires around the place to see what we were doing, and then we settled down to wait. I positioned myself on the stairway so that I was available for any occurrence. I sent Arthur Hendy to have a scout around the basement to see if there was anything of use in the way of clothing that we could use to muffle the sound of our boots, and just as important to see if there was any food. Our luck was in as he came up with pullovers, slips and skirts, obviously a girls' school. We passed them round and he cleared off again as he said 'There were some vegetables down there.' After a while he came back with some hot soup, which went down very well. Daylight came and I went round and sorted out the arcs of fire I wanted each man to cover. I went to Sid Gueran and set him up on a desk so that he could comfortably sit and cover a vital area to the west through his porthole window. I was telling him the area I wanted him to cover and couldn't understand why I wasn't getting a response. When I turned towards him, he was sat upright, and my first loss. He had been shot through the mouth. It must have been a stray bullet because I certainly didn't hear anything. I got hold of Joe Malley, whom I had put in charge of this particular area, and we laid him out on the floor and made sure that his identity tag was round his neck." Although Frost was able to prepare a perimeter defense, he was isolated from the main body of the division, which was located about three miles from the bridge and busy fighting its own battle. The lightly armed British paratroopers had run into two SS armored divisions that had reacted quickly to the landing and were now trying to crush the northernmost airborne bridgehead. There had been intermittent opposition throughout the evening in Arnhem, but the first concerted German attempt to destroy Frost's position at the bridge came at about 8:30 the next morning, when a mixed force of armored cars and halftracks from the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, commanded by SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Viktor Gräbner, raced toward the north end of the bridge. It is not known if Gräbner, barreling down the road from Nijmegen, intended his column to mount an attack or if he was just trying to dash through the British positions to reach his divisional headquarters. The men in the schoolhouse had a good view of the vehicles as they approached. Two or three were allowed through before the order was given to open fire. Sapper Ronald Emery from A Troop was one of those who immediately opened on the Germans. He shot the driver and co-driver of a halftrack, which crashed into the schoolhouse not 10 yards from where Emery was positioned. Disregarding the hail of machine gun fire coming from the vehicle, the sapper stood up in full view of the Germans and threw a grenade that killed the crew and silenced the gun. He then went on to assist in the destruction of five other vehicles. When the fusillade finally stopped two hours later, 12 German vehicles were destroyed and approximately 70 SS troops were dead, among them Gräbner. After this first attempt to regain control of the bridge, there was a period of relative quiet for an hour or two before the Germans began a series of attacks on the schoolhouse, which went on unceasingly for the remainder of the day. At 1 o'clock the sturdy brick building endured an hour of concentrated mortar fire that was followed by infantry attacks lasting until 7:30 p.m. "The Germans then opened up with mortar and artillery, and life was getting difficult," Padfield remembered. "Twiggy Hazelwood was badly wounded and Ginger Partridge had the sights shot off his Bren gun, but miraculously he wasn't touched. Houses around about were set on fire from the constant barrage of shells, and we just waited. You could hear battles going on all around, but at this particular time shelling was our main worry." When these attacks were beaten off, the Germans resumed their bombardment, firing 51mm mortar rounds directly through the building's north-facing windows. So intense was the fire that for a short while many of the rooms had to be temporarily abandoned, but they were reoccupied before the Germans could move in. The fighting was up close and intense. At one point, Emery used a Bren gun to defend a room under attack. Six grenades flew into the room and exploded. Although stunned in the blast and wounded by shrapnel, Emery continued to fire his automatic and drove off the Germans trying to get inside, killing 13 of them. There seemed to be little organization to the maelstrom in and around the school, with soldiers from both sides fighting random intermittent encounters. At about 3 a.m., a large German force — believing that they were relatively safe — began to assemble directly under the windows of the school. Standing around and chatting among themselves, the unsuspecting Panzergrenadiers were startled when a shower of grenades began to fall. With elements of three different units defending the schoolhouse, accounts vary as to what had just occurred. "We all stood by with grenades," Lieutenant Len Wright of C Company remembered. "We had plenty of those. Then Major Lewis shouted 'Fire!' and the men in all the rooms [on] that side threw grenades and opened fire down on the Germans. My clearest memory is of Pongo Lewis running from one room to another, dropping grenades and saying to me that he hadn't enjoyed himself so much since the last time he'd gone hunting. It lasted about a quarter of an hour. There was nothing the Germans could do except die or disappear. When it got light, there were a lot of bodies down there — 18 or 20, perhaps more. Some were still moving, one was severely wounded, a bad stomach wound with his guts visible….Some of our men tried to get him in, showing a Red Cross symbol, but they were shot at and came back in, without being hit but unable to help the German." Lieutenant Dennis Simpson, however, remembered things differently: "Early on Tuesday morning, an explosion shook the southwest corner of the school. There was a flash and, when the falling debris had settled, one corner of the building and roof had been blown away. Hastily the wounded were taken down to the basement and the men reorganized. A few minutes later some 60 Germans arrived quite casually on the south side of us. They appeared to believe our resistance was over for they crowded together close to the building. Captain Mace and his men in the southern rooms stood at the windows with hand grenades at the ready. The north side was fairly safe owing to the light from the fire next door, so that most of my men formed a chain supplying the grenades and Gammon bombs to the bombardiers. On a given signal, the grenades were dropped and chaos ensued. The men stood up on the window sills and gave everything they had. The noise was a hideous mixture of explosives, screams from the Germans and cries of 'Whoa Mohammed' from the men; our North African battle cry resounded from house to house. It was all over in no time. A moment of alarm was caused during this episode when one of the sergeants, in his keenness to play his part, threw a grenade, which hit the top of the window and bounced back into the corridor. Fortunately it exploded in a corner and did no harm." The sergeant was Norman Swift, who remembered: "We were told to hold our fire until ordered, then hit them with all we'd got. I went into a passageway leading from our rooms where an unmanned window, suitably blocked with furniture, faced the garden. When we received the order to fire I threw a 36 grenade through the window. At least that was my intention. Imagine my horror when the grenade hit the wooden crosspiece of the window, bounced back and landed amongst the piled up furniture! Luckily, I was the only one in the passage, so with a yell of 'Grenade,' I dived back into the room. Thank heavens no one was hurt." Regardless of the details of who tossed the first grenade, the results were the same, a major German force was destroyed before it had an opportunity to press an attack against men who had, by this point, been fighting without rest, reinforcement or resupply for days. Even this momentary triumph, however, offered no real respite. Fighting continued throughout September 19. German attempts to eliminate resistance in and around the school once and for all included small-arms fire, mortars, artillery and finally armor. At about 7 p.m. a German tank approached to within about 30 yards of the schoolhouse and blew away the northeast corner of the structure at the first-floor level, with other shots going right through the building. In spite of this, the defenders held on. In a first-floor room off the landing, about a dozen mattresses had been stacked to give protection from splintered glass. As Padfield remembered: "Suddenly there was an explosion and one of the mattresses was on fire. I went in to pull it off the pile and put it out and was hurled to the doorway by another explosion. What the hell was that? Someone thought it might have been a rifle grenade from a sniper across the road. I crawled back and there was another explosion with the same result. The third time I was lucky and got the fire extinguished." Although every German attack had been beaten back, the constant fighting had used up ammunition at a terrible rate. Given the school's crucial position east of the bridge, however, the men fought on. Sergeant Swift remembered, "armor piercing shells, fired by German tanks, coming straight through the walls of the room and creating so much dust that we thought we had been blinded and the cries of 'Whoa Mohammed' growing fewer and fewer as our positions were overrun and fighting fires in the upper part of the school." It had been three days since the school had been fortified, and the tiny band inside the school had suffered two killed and 24 wounded holding the key position east of the bridge. The hard-pressed men, however, still clung to hope that XXX Corps would reach them. It was not to be. The British tanks were still trying to make their way through Nijmegen. On the morning of the 20th the bleary-eyed men could see considerable German activity around a crossroads south of the school building. At about 9, a tank and self-propelled gun began firing on the schoolhouse from only 70 yards away. Armed with nothing more than Bren guns and small arms, the defenders could do little more than watch as the German guns blew away the roof and top story of the school. One shell set the roof ablaze and another explosion injured and stunned Major Lewis and Lieutenant Wright. Padfield remembered: "Joe Simpson and Paddy Neville were killed, the rest of us were OK and moved into the basement. It was becoming obvious that we should have to move out. [Corporal Bill] Twiggy Hazelwood [wounded before] was getting worse by the hour, and sure enough an­other direct hit and the school was well alight." The end was now fast approaching. "Preparing to leave the school because the fire had finally won," Swift recalled, "Captain Mackay told me to gather together any Gammon bombs the lads had left and he and I would try and get the Tiger tank under one of the school walls. To my relief, after collecting together a few bombs in a canvas bucket, when we were going up the main staircase the ceiling of the landing collapsed putting a stop to that idea." Mackay detailed a few sappers to remain at their posts as a rear guard and to stop any German attack during the evacuation. The wounded were brought up from the basement, with eight or so seriously wounded being brought up on doors or mattresses. There was a low wall that the defenders had to cross to reach the new position and unfortunately they would be exposed to German fire when doing this. Several men from both units were wounded and killed doing the maneuver. Meanwhile the rear guard was also suffering from the shelling, and more men were wounded and killed there as well. The retreating British hoped to reach a nearby smaller building, which had been evacuated by the sappers on the first night. But as the first men began to move, Lieutenant Simpson was wounded. "As we made our way across to a wall, we came under fire," Padfield remembered. "John Bretherton was killed as he was getting over it. Twiggy got a machine gun burst up the side of his body as we were lifting him over the wall, but he was still clinging to life. The next 20 minutes were phenomenal; we were caught in an enfilade of fire, and air bursts. Charlie Grier was hit by a stray bullet; it made a hole in his helmet but didn't mark his head. Billy Marr had his pack severed from his back but with no injury." One of the men carrying Lewis on his mattress had half his face shot away and slipped quietly to the ground dead. Through the din, Major Lewis called out from his mattress, "Time to put up the white flag." His second in command, Captain Wilfred Robinson, remembered: "Being unwounded, I felt guilty about allowing myself to be captured, so I went up toward where he was and called out to ask if the fit men could attempt to get out. He shouted back that we could." About 10 men ran across to some gardens in the houses to the east, but were soon discovered and taken prisoner. Lewis shouted that the remainder should surrender and that they should take pride in their performance. Men took the bolts out of their weapons and threw them away, leaving the arms behind. Padfield noticed that Sapper Butterworth was the farthest forward, and he was told to put his white handkerchief on the end of his bayonet and to go slowly forward waving it. While he was doing this, a German opened fire and shot him in the legs. A German officer then told the men to come forward, saying, "You are very brave, but very foolish." The Germans surrounded the pitiful survivors and took them prisoner. Swift was directed by a German soldier to leave Major Lewis in a cellar. Lewis asked for water, and Swift remembered "staying behind to leave him my water bottle and then being chased out with arms raised by another German soldier." Swift also commented on "the kind treatment we received from our captors, even to being given cigarettes and drinks of wine." He recalled, "It was only later that rear echelon troops, who were no doubt more afraid of us than we of them, got a bit nasty." With the loss of the position at the Van Limburg Stirum school, Frost's battalion had little hope of holding its position at the bridge. Late that afternoon, Frost ordered the men to attempt a breakout. Those too badly injured were left behind to be taken captive. Defeated but defiant, the surviving defenders of the schoolhouse were escorted through the rubble of the town. As they marched into an uncertain future, the men sang "Roll Out the Barrel." West of Arnhem, the rest of the division fought on around Oosterbeek. With Arnhem now securely in their hands, the Germans could concentrate their full force on Urquhart's men. The remaining paras fought on for five more days, and on September 25 the 1st Airborne Division was evacuated. Of the 11,000 men who had landed on September 17, only 2,300 made it safely back to Allied lines. Too often overlooked in accounts of the fighting at Arnhem, the defense of the Van Limburg Stirum schoolhouse by 60 brave men was a crucial element of Frost's gallant four-day defense of the bridge. Without the stand made by Major Lewis and others, the Germans would have been able to concentrate their full force on Frost, forcing him from his position sooner. This would have allowed the Germans to move more men against 1st Division forces fighting around Oosterbeek, and might have ended with even more men winding up on casualty lists or as POWs. Although it ultimately ended in a British defeat, the fight at the schoolhouse should be remembered as one of the greatest examples of a defense in urban terrain ever carried out by the British army. This article was written by Niall Cherry and originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of World War II magazine. Niall Cherry is the first non-Arnhem veteran ever to be accorded the honor of serving as the UK/Worldwide representative for the Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum Oosterbeek. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today

3 Responses to “Operation Market Garden: Last Stand at an Arnhem Schoolhouse”

1 tony jackson says: 2/14/2009 at 8:52 am having just sent my father a copy of lyod clarks book on Arnhem and spoken to him we realised that he is in one of the photos in the book taken after the withdrawl, he swam across the rhine!, he believes his vickers machine gun is in the musem at oosteerbeck, the one with a bit of rag stuck in the crack on the casing, i am so proud of him and all his comrades of 1 para div, may their story live on forever Reply 1.1 Susan Knight says: 9/30/2011 at 9:34 am My husbands uncle ,Sergeant Sidney Knight was killed on 25th Sept 1944 defending Arnhem bridge. He was member of SAS, AAC parachute regiment. Trying to find anyone still alive who might have remembered him. Reply 1.1.1 N Cherry says: 1/27/2012 at 7:02 am Susan, Happy to try and help you..but the fighting at the road bridge finished on 21/09/1944…..sounds like he was killed defending the Oosterbeek perimeter…… N Cherry "

I've removed my SurName ..we are mentioned in the annals of the Border Wars " The Steel Bonnets " ..

You know the Odd thing about the US of A s Interest in the War Between " The Evil Slave Owners and the GOOD Guys " ? Even knowledgable and interested in British History U.S.Of A vian people fail to appreciaate that actually we of the British Isles have had LOTS of Civil Wars! So many such wars as we have long ago lost count. Practically the entirity of the history of the United Kingdom has been Civil Wars.

Its a funny old world isnt it?


That is SO unjust! Ian Hislop is even better at Knife - and Felling Axe - throwing than me.



There's a preview button. Use it.

If your post is too incoherent, it may be removed.


Err, well, actually I did. Care to explain just why it was...

“Too incoherent”

It does seem to make sense even on second reading.

Your own post seems to me to be a bit hasty ...and ““too incoherent”

But maybe I'm missing something here.

Of course as Mods you aren’t required to explain but an explanation might be useful.

You did read my post didn’t you?

I admit that the inserted quotation was a bit text dense but it was useful in context of the thread. So .. “Too incoherent” ?


Then I strongly suggest you consider a few points when commenting:

Use complete sentences. Avoid ellipses. Words do not need to arbitrarily be in all caps. Avoid excessive quoting (of any sort). Focus on a single point. If it's more than a hundred words or so, consider why you are spending so much effort on a comment, and not making your own blog post somewhere.

This applies to everyone, not just you.


So where were the British tanks? I can't say its true but I read that a American Airborne officer was sent down the still open road to find them. It was said the tanks commander was having tea at a roadside cafe. Reportedly he was not happy at being told to get a move on by a America junior officer and did not. Its said the road was one tank wide and the mud was too bad to go into.

111: 105 - Thank you for that. That is all I have to say. 107 and #109 - FYI, I did read, and enjoy reading, every word of #105. 110 - I don't know how true or otherwise the bits about the USian officer and the "stopping for tea" are, but it's entirely true that that the British armour was forced to advance in single column, and obviously a breakdown derailed the entire advance until it could be cleared.

Yesterday, I found an interesting book, called "Rommel's war in Africa" by a German called Wolf Heckmann.
Oddly enough he has many unfavourable things to say about Rommel and his mistakes in north Africa. So much so that Sir John Hackett in the introduction to the English translation suggests that Heckmann is a bit too critical and the truth about Rommel's capabilities lies somewhere between the extremes.

I'm only at the first siege of Tobruk, and it is clear that Rommel ordered his soldiers forwards without any clear idea of what was facing him, basically gambling with their lives, and unsurprisingly they lost heavily in the first assault or two. So much for Rommel's mastery of tactics!



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