Tuesday 17 April 2007

One with Nineveh and Tyre

Two of my uncles served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. One was on board the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous in September 1939 when Winston Churchill, the newly appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, satisfied his perennial desire for action by sending it out into the Western Approaches in search of U-Boats. Its quest was successful, though not in the way that Churchill had intended. Uncle Reg was one of the survivors, and spoke movingly of his officers standing to attention and saluting the White Ensign as they went down with their ship.

Admittedly I only heard that story at second hand from my father. This country found that it had little use for Reg once the war was over, prompting him to emigrate to Australia as a ten pound Pom.

My Uncle Eric served on Malta during the siege which won the whole island the George Cross, and was subsequently torpedoed twice. On the second occasion, heading home on the troopship Empress of Canada, he spent several hours in the Atlantic off West Africa. He had a large lump bitten out of one of his legs by a shark; he also ingested quantities of heavy fuel oil, causing him lifelong health problems. I never heard him speak of this ordeal, though it is only fair to add that this may have been because his immediate family used to react like the Trotters in Only Fools and Horses when it looked like their very own Uncle Albert might be about to embark on one of his fascinating naval reminiscences.

I can well imagine how Reg or Eric would have reacted if they had lived long enough to see their successors cashing in on such dreadful sufferings as having their i-Pods confiscated, or being forced to sleep on the floor with only a rolled-up blanket for a pillow.

I also clearly owe the people of an Iran a profound apology, for suggesting two weeks ago that their leaders were deranged, and that we should even consider retaliating against them to secure the release of our “hostages”.

In fact, I now realise that President Ahmadinejad is a public relations genius. His taste in menswear may be a little suspect, but who’s to say that he’s not telling the truth when he says that he only wants to develop a civilian nuclear power programme? What could be more natural for a country with stupendous oil and gas reserves, little uranium, and a long track record of disastrous earthquakes? Building a nuclear bomb? Wiping Israel off the map? Stuff and nonsense. The man’s definitely a humanitarian. We’ve seen the evidence in his goodie bags.

I’ve also read David Banks and others saying that Faye Turney and her colleague are not to be blamed for taking the money that was on offer. It is certainly true that they were “only obeying orders” and that their greed is not in the same league as that of the failed politicians and their advisers who pocket not-so-small fortunes for their serialised memoirs.

But recent events are horribly symbolic of a nation that has truly reached rock bottom. Watching Leading Seaman Turney whingeing to Sir Trevor McDonald last week, I finally grasped something that would doubtless have been obvious long ago if I had not carefully sheltered myself from the daily horrors of “reality TV”. The old England that I was brought up to love, a country of restraint, decency, bravery and respect, is as dead as the dodo. It is one with the vanished empires of Nineveh and Tyre, and nothing will ever bring it back.

The men who fought and died to defend our freedom in 1939-45 were betrayed by politicians who handed our independence to “Europe” in the interests of “prosperity”, and by fools like me who were conned into voting for it. Thirty years of relentless dumbing down in education and the media did the rest. And so a once great country lies rotting in an unmarked grave, while pygmies swarm over it in pursuit of unearned cash and totally undeserved celebrity.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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