Rosie Update; "Tired. Teary. And feeling a little sorry for myself."

Another update from  Rosie who has been in the trenches with Cycle 5 of her breast cancer treatment. Tough couple of weeks; tough girl.


"Tired.  Teary.  And feeling a little sorry for myself.  

Cycle 4 certainly had a sting in the tail... All on the same day had to say 'goodbye' to my Uncle who died recently.  Goodbye to Daughter No. 1...... gone to a wonderful party in Val d'Isere for 6 months....  and... Goodbye to Husband.... to SE Asia for the week (to work I was assured... no parties).  Then the plan was to spend time with my Ma and return home refreshed and invigorated and ready to face everything Cycle 5 could throw at me.  

All went tits up when first the tank in the loft at Buzzers let go and water cascaded down the cavity wall and into to the kitchen ceiling space.... closely followed by collapse of kitchen ceiling.   Then the outrageously itchy rash that also ached, which I assumed was all part and parcel of the wonderful world of 'chemo side effects' turned out to be..... Shingles....  So I arrived in the chair for Cycle 5 feeling "A Bit Cross" as opposed to merely "Miffed". 

Compared to Epirubicin,  Docetaxel supposed to be a breeze (anaphylactic shock aside) but I have to confess, woke up on Saturday feeling as though I had been trampled on by a herd of elephants.  Everything hurt...  So full of steroids and medication I physically rattled... And a vile mood to boot.  Poor Mark spent the entire weekend being shouted at by a bald, angry dwarf.  

Which reminds me - I am obsessing with hair again.  This is because like rats leaving a sinking ship, my eyebrows and eyelashes have deserted me (traitorous b*****ds).       A little light research on the subject reveals the punishment of shaving a woman's head has biblical origins (why am I not surprised?)  In Europe the practice dates back to the Dark Ages with the Visigoths. During the Middle Ages, this "mark of shame" - denuding a woman of what was supposed to be her most seductive feature - was a common punishment for adultery.  Goes a long way to explaining why the practice enjoyed a remarkable comeback during the 20th century for women accused of "collaboration horizontale"...... No wonder I feel a prat... I'm up against oceans of history.

Had huge fun back in the recording studio - was heaven to be doing something "normal" as opposed to "abnormal" and you will be relieved to hear that the Guinea Wig remained firmly in place.  My secret is safe.   In other good news...  The necessity of blood transfusion receding... all blood levels on the up...

The bad... Mark reluctant to purchase Lynches-Bages to maintain this upward trend...

The Ugly... I look like a boiled egg...


Be The Barista

We are indebted to Captain Clare Coward of 4th Battalion REME this weekend for reminding us that the injudicious use of email for internal communication can, when distributed externally, be misread, misinterpreted and generally used as a sharp ended boomerang which comes flittering back to smack you where it hurts. You’re not the first Clare and you won’t be the last. Suck up the flak and move on. The best defence is just to do your job to the best standard you’re capable of and whatever else you do, don’t lose your sense of humour. No one got hurt and no one is shooting at you with live ammunition. Laugh it off.

I’ve been through this temporary tunnel of darkness myself. Told to do something by a CEO, I did. Quelle surprise, there I was splattered all over a full page of The Sun the next morning in an utterly trivial and forgettable article, a copy of which now hangs in the downstairs loo. The Today programme even phoned to ask if they could send their radio van round for an interview. 'No you bloody well can't.' Such are the dangers of catching the press's attention in the dog days of August. 

The old adage of never pressing ‘send,’ with an email you haven’t thought through for about for ten minutes or slept on; or in City terms never send anything you would be embarrassed for your mother or a judge to read obviously passed Clare by but we’re all human. The internet though is not. Social media will eviscerate you in minutes, just for fun and giggles, with a nasty and unrelenting vindictiveness which is mostly unfounded and unfair. There is no regard to perspective or circumstance when keyboard heroes savage the unsuspecting individual who thought he or she was communicating with a closed group. There is always some malignant septic maggot who will take joy in giving said email a wider audience with the aim of humiliating the originator; ‘you may be my boss but I’m on the internet where everyone was created equal.’ I would find the culprit and out him as a disloyal and untrustworthy scroat.

Interestingly, one of the Crumble Kids who has an interest in these things said to me recently, ‘We’ve had the Technology Age, the Social Media Age, next will be the Age of Anonymity.’ That is, a total reversal of recent trends for Warhol’s, ‘7 seconds of fame.' People are quickly discovering that 7 seconds of fame isn't quite what they hoped it would be. Expect the 'right to forget,' on the internet to achieve more prominence in the next couple of years.

The trend of internet revenge leads to many individuals in positions of responsibility and seniority to actually send very little at all by email. Their communications frequently go through PA’s or other subordinates or their email traffic tends to be restricted to simple answers, ‘yes,’ ‘no’, ‘put it on the agenda,’ ‘see Smith.’ That is, answers that leave no paper trail of culpability that may be used in the future if a bad thing happens. One could interpret it as being too defensive and an abdication of responsibility. Certainly, in the City, the very first place compliance departments and regulators head for when looking for evidence is email. I would suggest that rather than trawling through thousands of long emails their optimal starting point should be those who use email sparsely.

So, what did Clare actually write? It seems that in her particular REME battalion the young officers are responsible for making coffee and putting out biscuits for Morning Coffee. Why anyone would imagine that a Second Lieutenant is capable of making coffee is quite beyond me but there we have it. As the Adjutant, and being responsible for discipline among the subalterns, she was on a loser from the get go. Her email which expressed exasperation with their clumsy attempts to get the simple things right quickly found it’s way to the Army Rumour Web Site, (ARRSE), and from there to the national press. Good effort there Clare.

There are though, a few points of reflection that came to mind as I read her email. Ambling over to the Mess for morning coffee is just a great part of life in barracks. Soldiers undergo all sorts of deprivations and hardships when on exercise or when deployed and a civilised living routine in barracks is one of the few perks left. Actually, I think its a major selling point for the British Army. Then there is the vexatious question of biscuits which must be a REME thing. I thought the only people who would have biscuits with Morning Coffee are Chaplains; I obviously served in some sort of hardship regiment. Morning coffee was a generally convivial get together where any officers in barracks would gather and chat mostly about work related subjects as opposed to breakfast when few talked at all. I don’t ever recall officers making coffee but if its ‘do it yourself or do without,’ these days then so be it. Less serious, much more important and much more enjoyable was the 4:30pm afternoon sprint for tea on a cold winters day. It was important to get there in good time to secure space in the ‘tick-tick’ toaster and get some of the spreads which mostly would run out by 5pm. I’m talking hot buttered toast with Shippam's, yes Shippam's paste, (Mrs Flashing won’t let me buy it), sandwich spread, peanut butter, jam….. happy days. Tea tended to be the most boisterous event of the day, good humoured but with sometimes acerbic fast wit and was usually followed by a run, game of squash or preparatory work for the next day before dinner. The real point of all this is that the Mess is the single officers home; his fellow officers his family. That is the basis of regimental life for a young officer; soldiers first, (always), then the Mess, then the Rest of the World. Whichever mess member at 4 Bn REME decided the email needed a national audience has lost all grip of this aspect of military life , one that has kept the Army bonded for centuries. I recall getting a heck of a bollocking from my Adjutant once , who threw in 28 extras for good measure. In between exercises it felt like I was Orderly Officer for months. After the bollocking, and at that point where you think your entire career has just gone down the tubes, the Adjutant greeted me in the Mess and said, ‘Now, Crumble, what will you have to drink; gin is it?’ Not mind games, just a ‘what happens on tour’ mindset and keeping the distinction of the Mess being home, not place of work.

The British Soldier; Able to ruin a bad guys day and make a brew, anytime - anywhere.

Some may of course find it risible that so much attention has fallen on who did or didn't make the coffee in the Officers Mess in 4 Bn REME. That would be failure of understanding the importance of the brew in Army culture, be it coffee of tea. Seventy two pages of comments on the incident on the aforementioned web site tells us that either an awful lot of armchair ex soldiers have nothing to do with their Saturdays or that they are passionate about brews. After all, rather like the weather it's something everyone has an opinion on. The Army though consumes brews on an industrial scale. The quickest way the enemy could possibly impair the Army's performance would be to stop the supply of coffee and especially tea. 

probably an idealised internet invention but we like it anyway.....

That’s the Officers Mess. Now the Sergeant’s and Corporals Messes, (for those regiments that have corporals messes), if any of the instructions laid down by RSM’s various across the Army were instantly made public the media and passing public would be in a state of bemused bafflement; their officers usually were which was pretty much a mutual feeling. Anyway, this old chestnut explains in pretty clear terms how the rank structure operates; many a true word and all that...

WO1 (GSM) Andrew 'Vern' Stokes, Coldstream Guards

The Image of Rank


Leaps over tall buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a locomotive, is faster than a speeding bullet, walks on water, and gives policy to God.


Leaps over short buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a switch engine, is just as fast as a speeding bullet, walks on water if sea is calm, and talks to God.

Lieutenant Colonel:

Leaps over short buildings with a running start and a favorable wind, is almost as powerful as a switch engine, is as fast as a speeding BB pellet, walks on water in an indoor pool, and talks to God if special request is approved.


Barely clears a shed, loses tug-of-war with locomotives, can fire a speeding bullet, swims well, and is occasionally addressed by God.


Makes high marks when trying to leap sheds, is run over by locomotives, can sometimes handle a weapon without inflicting self-injury, can doggie-paddle, and talks to animals.

First Lieutenant:

Runs into buildings, recognises locomotives two out of three times, is not issued ammunition, can stay afloat if properly instructed, and talks to bushes and small trees.

Second Lieutenant:

Falls over doorsills when trying to enter buildings, says "look at the choo-choo," wets himself with a water pistol, and mumbles to himself.


Lifts building and then walks under them, kicks locomotives off the track, catches speeding bullets in his teeth, and chews them, and freezes water in a speeding glance. He is God. 

Wee Sec There Andrew.....

Broadcaster Andrew Neil's debrief for Jihadist's is probably, and rightly, the most viewed clip in the UK today. In it he lauds French culture citing everything and everyone from Monet to Creme Brulee. Juliette Binoche even gets a mention. Now, while we're generally fans of Mr Neil's here at Crumble Central I do feel obliged to correct a wee omission in his list and that is Melissa Theuriau. Certainly the most beautiful newscaster in the world, possibly the most beautiful women in the world. I haven't got a clue what she's saying but I could listen to that melodious voice all day.

Jonah Lomu

Jonah during the 1999 Rugby World Cup Semi-final against France, scoring two incredible individual tries. The first try running straight at six to seven defenders, being unable to stop him and scoring the try. The second running past, fending and stepping french defenders and scoring his second try.

The word 'Legend,' is used liberally these days to describe sportsmen. Jonah was the real deal. Such was his talent he elevated himself beyond the All Blacks and became the property of every rugby loving fan across the world. 

The clip above, from the NZ v France semi final at Twickenham in 1999, is one I recall well. It remains the best live match I've ever seen. Who could forgot watching the man? Open mouthed astonishment is how I would describe my reaction. Bodies everywhere.

Remembered with respect and affection.


Jihadists; What About The UK?

I’ve never been to a pop concert. I won’t be going to one anytime soon. The son of a friend was at the Bataclan concert in Paris on Friday night and thankfully, made it out with his friend. 80 others didn’t and many more are left with life threatening and life changing injuries. Those young people saw things that evening that most soldiers don’t see in a career. Just as their lives have changed, so has life for us all. The attack which security services in Europe expected but dreaded manifested itself in a brutal slaughter of the innocent on a medieval scale. It is an unfortunate irony that many of those kids who were perhaps living life to the full, brimming with optimism and idealism would have been the very constituency who supported mass migration from Syria, Africa and the Middle East this year. I described it at the time as possibly the biggest Trojan Horse in history. The full ramifications of unfettered migration over many months from war zones is yet to be felt. The media has been very sensitive to cross referencing migration and terrorism, especially the BBC who were at the forefront in creating political pressure to open the doors, but the fact remains that mainland Europe does not know what internal security risks it has created as a result of its liberal approach to the problem.

The threat from Sunni jihadists is not new, especially in France. Returning foreign fighters, domestic supporters of ISIS and other individuals sympathetic to the jihadist cause who pre date problems in Syria create a complex and multi stranded threat. At the moment, it is not known if the perpetrators on Friday were returnees working to Syrian based planning and funding or grassroots operators sponsored by domestic organisations or a combination of both. The dominant threat currently comes from ISIS and that pre dates Fridays incident with 10 out of 17 previous attacks since September 2014 being perpetrated by ISIS fighters or sympathisers. A French returnee has also reportedly told the authorities that Syria was a “terrorist factory” where individuals were being trained to attack Europe in the near future, and it has also been reported that returnees would attack not in their countries of origin, but elsewhere to lessen the risk of detection upon return (Le Monde, October 20). According to The Jamestown Foundation there is roughly a 3:1 ratio of domestic sympathiser events versus returnee attacks and while the security services stop or disrupt more than half of those initiated we know from old experience that the terrorist only needs to get through once. Certainly, the events of Friday in Paris wholly justify the British Governments approach to the Syrian refugee crisis in focusing on the camps and only letting individuals in directly from those camps who have been fully vetted.

Whatever the source of funding and planning of the terrorist operation France plans to hit ISIS hard. Air operations overnight are a start but the skies over Syria are becoming congested with Allied and Russian aircraft and the French may decide to focus on Northern Iraq where they have already flown 1,285 sorties against Islamic State targets whereas up until last night they had flown only two sorties in Syria. At some point, the Allies are going to have to commit ground forces to destroy and eradicate ISIS. Given justification for previous conflicts it shouldn’t be difficult to come to that conclusion. ISIS is engaged in genocide in Northern Iraq, they present a high level threat to our own populations and war from the air is not working. Having created the vacuum in which ISIS has flourished I’m not sure for how much longer governments can continue to ignore their moral and political duty.

It’s also clear that Schengen is finished in an already rattling European construct. No government will survive if they fail to protect their citizens. The Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer knows this and is becoming more vocal in his demands for permanent border controls and faster repatriation of asylum seekers. That view in Germany is underpinned by the popular view which is hardening, helped by incidents such as the one last week when  a Montenegrin citizen was arrested while allegedly driving to Paris with several weapons. While German police have not established a direct connection between this incident and Friday’s attacks, they have said that a link cannot be ruled out. The fact that this man was from Montenegro and made it to Germany in his car will strengthen the demands for stricter border controls along the so-called Balkan route of migration. Politically, Merkel is now in a weakened state which will probably be terminal and we can expect a rise in support for parties coming from the extreme left and right wings, especially if governments are not seen to act.

2001 New York
2002 Moscow
2002 Bali
2004 Madrid
2004 Beslan, Russia
2005 London
2006 Mumbai
2008 Mumbai
2009 Maiduguri, Nigeria
2012 Kano, Nigeria
2013 Baga, Nigeria  
2014 Kaduna, Nigeria
2015 Paris

What about the UK? The list of significant terrorist actions above reminds us that we are well within their reach from either internal or external operators. Our Security Services will stop most incidents but what of those who get through? Our experience with Jihadists is mostly limited to the 7/7 bus and tube attacks in 2005. The big difference between Jihadists and the Provisionals, who we fought for 30 years, is that the Jihadists are prepared, or expect, to die. That was never the case with PIRA. Moreover, we have to ask the basic question, ‘is our lightly armed police force trained and prepared to respond to a fire group attack like Paris?’ I don’t doubt the bravery of individual coppers but facing multiple battle hardened assassins armed with automatic weapons and suicide belts is a level beyond their normal drills, even if they are an armed response unit. Witness the television scenes of the armed French policemen outside the Bataclan concert, unsure of what to do. The basis and success of previous actions were on attacks going wrong which led to armed sieges and negotiated outcomes or by action after much preparation and reconnaissance by special forces. It just doesn’t work like that anymore. To save lives action has to be swift, aggressive and lethal. 

The old ‘Tin City’ for NI Training.

The basis of national confidence in our response rests on 22 SAS. Even with a sub unit based in London though, they can’t be everywhere. Even if they could be within 45 mins of every town in England, 45 mins is too long in these situations. I think the Home Secretary and Chief Constables have no choice but to radically upgrade fire arms training and arming of police officers across the UK. To send an ordinary unarmed beat officer into one of these situations will have only one outcome. In mitigation, it is very difficult to acquire and move around automatic weapons in the UK. The police are very skilled at interdicting plots before they get to maturity and especially when working with GCHQ, 5 and 6 it is not easy for terrorists to plan and execute operations. It isn’t impossible though. Cuts in the numbers of police officers should be suspended immediately. Military support should not be considered by the COBRA committee after a bad thing happens but the committee should start planning on that basis now.

What does that mean? I would nominate two infantry battalions or Marine Commandos for Home Defence, one operational the other resting and training on 4 week rotations and rotate the battalions with others every 12 months. The operational battalion would be dispersed in platoon sized sub units across the UK, each with a serving or retired SAS or SBS instructor with a section on short notice to move 24 hrs a day. Their aim would be simple; in the event of a terrorist attack their task is to rapidly deploy and kill the terrorist. I would rebuild the old Northern Ireland ‘Tin City,’ to suit current scenarios, ie shopping malls, theatres, spaces for large groups and train both police and soldiers relentlessly. This is not a game, when this new enemy get in their stride the casualty list climbs by scores every minute. They do not negotiate. Speed and aggression are paramount. Our current intelligence and Special Forces based response is not commensurate with the threat. Many would recoil at the inclusion of military assets as part of normal support to the police but these are not normal times and this is no ordinary enemy. The safety and well-being of ordinary citizens is much more important that what column writers in the Guardian think. Anyone thinking that such a plan is excessive may wish to consider how we would deal with a four man fire group letting rip at the Metro Centre in Gateshead two weeks before Christmas. Thought so. I’d mostly be calling in the Commanding Officers for their briefings right now.

Don't Call Me Stupid.....

This text from the youngest in his first year at university made me laugh. He did a month this summer at Sieman’s and time with Google in Munich doing exactly what he suggested, (that is, telephoning potential employers and in Google's case waiting outside the lift and asking guys leaving the building); all of which  his tutor dismissed. The world loves a tryer. Some of these university tutors need to get out more…

Armistice Day; An Epic Tale

Men of the 16th Bn HLI in 1914

It’s Armistice Day and I would like to share a tale with you. A tale so epic it is scarcely believable. It is a howling shame that this story is not more widely known for among the many moments in our proud history that men have done great deeds this surely merits a place in the collective history of our nation. It concerns an incident in the mud and blood of Flanders in the Great War, of very ordinary volunteers of Kitchener's Army; clerks, storemen, conductors, drivers, roadmen, milkmen, schoolboys and such. Men whose courage, tenacity and fighting spirit went beyond anything that was expected of them.

We’re all familiar with the concept of the ‘Pals,’ Battalions. One such was the 16th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry which was formed predominately by members and ex-members of the Boys Brigade in the City of Glasgow. The Battalion was formed very early in the war, on the 2nd September 1914, and in May 1915 moved to Shropshire where it joined the 97th Brigade of the 32nd Division HLI. In November 1915, the Battalion sailed for France.

The Battalion endured a rough time on the first day of the Somme at Thiepval. When the Battalion retired from the line on the 3rd July 1916 the casualty list ran to 20 officers and 534 other ranks. Having lost two thirds of its strength just four months later they were back and at the final battle at the Ancre in November casualties again were grievous.

16th Bn HLI Church Parade

On the 18th of November the Battalion, reinforced with soldiers from the Highland Cyclist Battalion, attacked at Beaumont-Hamel. The whistles blew at 06:10hrs and the men, laden with half a hundredweight of arms and equipment, launched themselves into No Mans Land. The 2nd Manchesters, 2nd KOYLI and 11th Borders to their left were counter attacked after initial success and were beaten back. Six to eight enemy machine guns on the Battalions half right pinned down A and B Companies. C and D Companies on the half left though penetrated the German front line, Munich Trench. While the rest cleared the trench, three platoons of D Company pushed on to the second objective under heavy shell and machine gun fire, Frankfurt Trench. The trench was taken and 50 prisoners sent back under escort. This group arrived back at Munich Trench in time to be attacked from three sides by the enemy in overwhelming numbers. The guards were killed as was the mopping up party clearing the trench. In fact, according to the Battalion war diary every man became a casualty. The attempted capture of the Beaumont Hamel spur had failed and the 16th alone had lost 13 officers and 390 other ranks.

While the Germans now held Munich Trench, three officers and 60 other ranks of D Company, with men from 11th Borders, still held Frankfurt Trench, cut off and deep in enemy territory.

By nightfall, some stragglers joined the men of D Company to leave them with a strength of 45 fighting men and a similar number of wounded. Two dugouts remained in the captured trench. One was allocated to the wounded with a Corporal in charge, the other to the fit men. There were four Lewis guns and the men handed over their own ammunition to supplement the Lewis guns and armed themselves with German weapons. The machine gun NCO, L/Cpl Veitch, was a tower of strength. A survivor of the Somme he was later recommended for a Victoria Cross. Grenades, food and water were all in short supply as were any medical supplies save for a few field dressings.

By the second day the trench had been revetted, Lewis guns placed at  vital points, The men were surrounded and in a state of siege. The senior NCO, Sergeant Lee, a Glasgow Corporation roads foreman before the war, encouraged and cheered his men throughout the day. Later described as ‘the heart and soul of the defence,’ he too, would later be recommended for a VC. As dawn broke on the third day the Germans, supported by trench mortars and bombs launched a determined attack. It was repulsed but left the HLI with more wounded than they had fit men. They shortened the line to make it easier to defend and that night a heavy British barrage fell around them but a relief effort failed. On the fourth day hopes rose when a signaller managed to attract the attention of British plane with a piece of torn shirt. More aircraft arrived and signalled that help was on the way and to hold out. Help though, which was attempted on the fifth day in another attack, was beaten back and the relief assault suffered 300 casualties. Conditions in the trench then deteriorated further as a result of heavy shelling.

New Munich Trench Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel

Lack of sleep and food, gangrenous wounds and constant fire took its toll. On the sixth day the Germans again assaulted the trench under heavy shellfire. After brutal hand to hand fighting with the bayonet and entrenching tools the Germans were beaten back leaving eight prisoners. The exhausted defenders then suffered the loss of the indefatigable L/Cpl Veitch, killed by a sniper. On the seventh morning an Inniskilling Fusilier prisoner of war appeared with a German message, ‘Surrender and get good treatment or stay where you are and be killed.’

The defenders were then subjected to the heaviest bombardment yet. Sgt Lee was killed by shrapnel. The promised German attack came in force and from all directions on the morning of the eighth day. The men fought but were overwhelmed. The killing was only stopped by the screaming of the German POW’s. The last stand of D Company, 16th HLI was at an end with only fifteen men left unwounded. Exhausted, they stumbled into captivity. The remainder were roughly removed on stretchers or buried where they lay. Two men died on the way to captivity and a third was shot for accepting a piece of bread from a Frenchwoman.  

In 1919, General Sir Hubert Gough wrote, in a letter sponsoring awards for valour, ‘I consider that these men deserve great recognition for the magnificent example of soldierly qualities they displayed.’ It seems likely that every survivor was decorated because the 16th received one DSO, two MC’s, 11 DCM’s, and 22 MM’s; the highest number of awards by a margin to any one battalion. This was unusual, not least because gallantry awards were rarely given to prisoners of war. The two NCO’s recommended for a VC each received a Mention in Despatches.

This is an extract of a speech given by the chaplain of the regiment, Rev A.H. Gray, during a memorial service in Glasgow in July 1917.

"From a hundred lonely graves in that foreign field - from the spots where they fell, and which now are sacred spots for us - our dead men are asking us when we mean to erect that monument From trench and shell hole where death found them, their voices call - young, musical voices, the voices of boys still in their teens, the voices of martyrs on life's threshold. Scarce a wind can blow that will not waft to these voices. And they ask a better Britain as their monument. They ask it of you and me. Shall we not go from this place resolved to build it?".

Not Forgotten.