Wear That Badge With Pride

I note the passing of John Noakes with a mixture of sadness and warm nostalgia. Millions more will feel the same. He was very much a part of my growing-up, as he was for a whole generation of boys and girls. For us then youngsters, his infectious sense of fun and enthusiasm generated a sense of curiosity and 'can do,' spirit with an overlay of mischievous contempt for scolding adults, wary of too much adventure and time away from books. He was in fact, for our generation, a cross between Bear Grylls and James May. 

Noakes did some genuinely inspirational things, all of which are etched on the memory. His parachute jump with the RAF, (he held the record for the longest free fall by a civilian for a few years), his epic climb without harness of Nelsons Column and his HMS Ganges mast climb spring to mind, not forgetting of course his bumpy ride down the Cresta Run. Those will be much quoted over the next 48 hours as tributes are paid to him and people reminisce. Perhaps though, the short Blue Peter piece about the making of an episode of the epic comedy 'Porridge,' in the clip above demonstrates a little bit better what he brought to us each week. You see, as kids, we actually learnt stuff from Noakes in between the madness. I also like to think in some small self-indulgent way that I brought a little bit of the Noakes eccentricity into my own kids upbringing. He genuinely was, a barking mad uncle for an entire generation.

Like millions of others, I tried, oh how I tried, to get a Blue Peter Badge. I reached adulthood though disappointed and empty handed. However unkind it may seem, I have often felt a pang of jealously for those who may have one. I like to think that I am a better, more mature person now. So, if you have a badge in your bottom drawer, go and get it, wear it and wear it with pride in proud memory of a thoroughly decent bloke who helped make growing up fun and lifted horizons for many.

Smart or Stupid Policing?

Andersonstown RUC Station before it was remodelled by PIRA.

Andersonstown RUC Station before it was remodelled by PIRA.

During one tour in Northern Ireland I recall being sent to Andersonstown in West Belfast. We were sent there to reinforce the local roulement battalion which was a little stretched at the time. We were based in the Andytown RUC Station which was being rebuilt after the Provisional’s had the temerity to detonate a 1,000lb car bomb outside a few months previously which gave the place what interior designers would call a ‘distressed,’ look.

On one foot patrol my multiple encountered some teenagers acting suspiciously just inside the Milltown Cemetery.  One could say all teenagers act suspiciously all of the time but we anyway stopped for a natter to try and find out what their game was. Try as I could I couldn’t get any sense out of them and I was getting more and more irritated by their morose ramblings and refusal to answer questions. I persisted until one of the boys walked up and whispered, ‘I’d just let ‘em go Boss; they’re all high as kites on glue.’ We moved on. It gave the boys a bit of a laugh though.

As a rule we always tried to engage with the kids, no sense in making enemies for no reason. Some of them were hard little scrotes who a few hours later might be trying to bounce rocks off your head. Some were ‘dickers,’ (spotters), for the Boyo’s. Some would push their luck and try and goad the boys into doing something daft. Mostly though the banter was sharp and very occasionally we might pick up a tit bit of info that might prove useful at some point.

Lippy teenagers v Avon & Somerset Police

It was then, with some mystification that I watched this clip of some officers from the Avon & Somerset Police taking on some unruly teenagers. While the events prior to the video are unsubstantiated, (the man under arrest is supposedly unconnected with the kids),as an example of ‘how not to do it,’ this clip is a hands-down favourite to be a regular at the Police Training Centre.

The officers were apparently called to the scene of an assault against a woman on Friday evening in Taunton. While it is always a mistake to take on the police the lippy teenagers who were remonstrating with the police officers got a little more than they obviously expected or perhaps deserved. RoboCop with the red mist and designer stubble who comes steaming in at 20s deserves a special mention. Making no effort to assess, contain or mediate he immediately escalates a pretty ordinary stand off to a policing PR disaster with 7.1m views on Facebook. This is what happens when officers spend too much time in their cars and not enough on the street. It does have to be said though that most of the thousands of comments on social media are virulently supportive of the officers rather than the teenagers.

As the Chief Constable discusses the incident with the local Crime Commissioner they may wish to consider that those teenagers looked pretty ordinary and not tooled up inner City thugs high on PCP who might have warranted the strong approach. I mean, reaching for Mace, seriously? Notwithstanding the fact that those half dozen youths will now have entrenched negative views about the local police for a long time, which is not the aim of local policing, the officers involved probably need to spend some time on confrontation management. Humour would be a good start. The UK Cop Humour site has a reasonable view of things, again noting that it is never a good idea to front up to the police. They go on to say, 'If you think you could solve that situation with hugs and a poem you're simply wrong,' which in my view is a bit rich. The problem with escalation is that it limits your optionality and it is always easier to ramp the temperature up than it is to bring it down. Who knows, the girl who referred to the 'crackheads round the corner,' might have had something useful to say about the assault. If they like, I’ll see if I can round up the boys from my 1983 multiple, they were quite handy at defusing tension. 

Avon and Somerset Police –

We’re appealing for witnesses after a man sustained a fractured jaw in an assault in Taunton yesterday afternoon (26/5).

The victim, a 20-year-old man, was walking through Victoria Park with two 18-year-old women at approximately 5pm.

They were approached by a large group of young people some of which then racially abused the two women before repeatedly punching the man in the face.
DS Mark Probert said: “This was a violent and disturbing attack in which the victim and his friends were threatened and intimidated by a large group of people.

“The victim was standing up for the two young women who had been racially abused and as a result he suffered a significant facial injury.

“There can never be any excuse for hate crime or violence in any shape or form and this criminality will not be tolerated.

“As part of our investigation we’re keen to talk to anyone who was in the park and witnessed the incident or may have mobile phone footage of the incident.”

Officers responding to the incident arrested two 16-year-old boys in connection with it and they have both since been released under investigation.

Four other people were also arrested in the park shortly after for disorder and we are currently investigating any links between the two incidents.

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 and provide the call handler with the reference 5217118496.

The Enemy Within

We have heard the 'Manchester Spirit,' quoted a great deal this week. I must admit, I'd never heard of it before. I last visited Manchester a couple of years ago. While there I wrote an irreverent and tongue-in-cheek blog post but decided not to publish it because it was somewhat disparaging about a place that I do have a degree of affection for. Here is an extract of what I wrote,.

"I spent a couple of days in Manchester, (pronounced "Manchest-Orr"), this week. Wednesday was apparently the hottest day of the year; it rained all day in Manchester. It is in fact many years since I last visited and the place if anything has become more glum than ever it previously was despite its attempts to sell itself as being “cool.”.

Manchester abounds with people who look either like Liam Gallagher or as if they have just walked out of a young offenders institution, (I think many have). The rest give the appearance first thing in the morning of having done half a row of optics in three pubs the night before and there is barely a flicker of enthusiasm anywhere except in the electric trams hurtling back and fore. An early near miss with the Eccles tram on Market Street in fact alerted me to this new urban threat..

I quickly picked up on the idiosyncrasies of the locals who mostly say "eye-yoh" instead of hello and "c-yoh lateoh" instead of goodbye.  An additional linguistic hindrance is the inability of the populous to pronounce the word car correctly, instead sounding like a deranged and demented parrot being put through a wringer. Most of the girls appear with the same hairstyles, the same clothes and many are rumoured to all have the same husband. Husband by the way is loosely defined as someone who is "avin-yoh" and who need not actually be married "2-yoh" to qualify for this role. Most Mancunians tend to like spending their annual holiday in places like "ayanap-oh" drinking lots of "larg-oh."  .

While there I bought a birthday present in Selfridges only to find on return home that the security tag was still in place. I suppose the shop assistants must not be in the habit of having to remove many. I wasn’t an early fan of the City Mayor idea but Boris has turned me. Manchester badly needs a personality to pull it together and help it rediscover it’s soul which is deeper and richer than the sum of a bunch of night clubs and the BBC, dragged kicking and screaming to Salford by the last government.".

How terrible then that a night of indescribable pain and suffering brought to bear on the most innocent of innocents by a barbaric murderer should be the catalyst for the deep and iridescent soul of the City to find itself and shine through. As was the case after the Arndale Centre bombing by the Provisionals, Manchester is more united and in a better place as a community but at a cost which is obviously not worth paying. The many acts of individual and collective kindness in the immediate aftermath, and since the tragedy, are a fine example of people pulling together in the worst of times. From taxi drivers to local residents and passers-by, hoteliers and business owners who threw their doors open to the distressed and disorientated, to the homeless man who rushed in to give first aid to casualties. All are Samaritans and an example to the rest of us. (I would not though, recommend removing nails, glass and shrapnel from the wounded as the well meaning homeless fellow did; just leave it there for skilled surgeons to deal with)..

This was the incident when our luck ran out. A 'big one,' has been expected for a long time, ever since 7/7 in fact. That it happened in Manchester, a city with the resources and skill-sets to deal with a major incident is better than it happening in, for example, a medium sized city or market town. The grievous casualty list  could have been worse had the perpetrator entered the arena itself. Instead, he detonated the device, or it accidentally detonated, in the waiting area, just before the security entry point. This is similar to the Brussels Airport bombing where the terrorists detonated the device in the soft area before security. This has implications for security planners and for the rest of us. At a minimum, we can expect further disruption, queues and waiting when entering any crowded events for the foreseeable future.

The challenge for the Security Services seems overwhelming. Some have been quick to criticise them this week but when we learn that five terror plots have been disrupted in just the last two months and that there are 500+ active investigations drawn from a pool of 3,000 suspects with a further 23,000+ 'subjects of interest,' the scale of the task at hand becomes clearer. When one considers it takes in excess of 20 operators to do covert surveillance properly on just one target the size of the challenge is self evident. Remember too that for some of our Security Service personnel their lives are at constant risk. They live and operate in the dark shadows to keep the rest of us safe. Most of their stories will never be told. Perhaps some stories will see the light in forty or fifty years time, (as was the case with Bletchley Park), but most secrets will stay secret. They do what they do out of a sense of duty and responsibility to do the right thing. Collectively, we ought to be just a little more appreciative and thankful for their service, sacrifice and courage.

Investigations will be following many strands but a priority will be to determine if the bomber manufactured the device himself or if there is a bomb maker on the loose. Making a bomb is not difficult. The ingredients for TATP for example, which was used in the 7/7, Brussels and Paris attacks, (and is rumoured to have been used in Manchester), are easily found in most household kitchens and ladies make-up bags. An electrical circuit, initiator and battery complete the package. The biggest hurdle for the would be terrorist is in making the decision to commit to the act. A separate specialist bomb maker however, is a game changer because it suggests that bomb making may evolve in sophistication. The good thing about DIY bombers blowing themselves up is that the evolution stops there. While acts of terror perpetrated by 'lone wolf,' individuals are difficult to predict, terrorist cells give the security services a slightly better opportunity to penetrate them. However, the numbers of jihadists out there are a concern given, if they ever got together in numbers, our problems would grow exponentially. In Belfast in the early seventies I wouldn't have thought there were not many more than 50 or 60 PIRA 'volunteers,' with perhaps 300 'runners,' behind them. At the height of the Troubles, they tied up 16,000 soldiers in Belfast alone.

So, where does this leave us?.

The incident was followed by a well worn and choreographed sequence of announcements, pronouncements and platitudes designed to arrest any sense of public panic and foreboding and to encourage us to be nice to one another whilst remaining alert for anything untoward or unusual happening around us. Given the aim of the terrorist is to murder and maim, to instil fear and to create divisions in society by their monstrous acts, the public script is fine in as far as it goes. I fear though, that as a society, we are some way from the moment of 'collective recognition,' when we become more demanding and questioning of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. .

If seventy-five of our young and unprotected citizens being shredded by high velocity 'shipyard confetti,' isn't a wake up call then it is worrying to think what kind of escalation will bring about a meaningful change in our efforts to confront home grown terrorists. Were it not so distressing for the families I sometimes think some of the images of the aftermath of a bombing should be published to bring some people to their senses. President Trump was eviscerated by social media when he introduced a travel ban to the US from some countries yet we allow the free movement of 'persons of interest,' between the Middle East and the UK. The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, returned to the UK from Libya via Turkey just four days before the attack. TPIM's, (Prevention and Investigation Measures), should be strengthened and Control Orders, which were pushed back by the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2011 should be reinstated. Personally, I would drag Nick Clegg by the collar around all the mortuaries in Manchester and make him apologise to the families of the victims. 

The 'Prevent,' strategy also does not deserve all the criticism which has been thrown at it. It requires more resource and probably, some more imaginative and creative thinking but it is a start. The war against Jihadists will be with us for 100 years. We are in the early days of this conflict, at least domestically. As a society we by and large rub along together reasonably well given the enormity of change which has been forced upon the natural population in the last two generations. Certainly, we have problems but less so than some of our European neighbours who are seemingly culturally less well equipped to deal with the challenge. We are after all, despite what some may believe, something of a bastard nation in terms of our historical DNA.

Op Temperer, which saw soldiers deployed to release police officers for other duties was a not unreasonable thing to do for public reassurance and PR but nonetheless, leaves informed individuals with a slight sense of unease. There is no possible way that an armed 19 year old soldier will react with anything like the degree of professionalism, in the public domain, that one would expect from a trained police firearms officer, (many of whom are anyway, ex Army and are trained to a very specific and high degree of training for those very difficult environments and situations). That doesn't mean that soldiers cannot do the task. It means they have to be trained for it rather than for general warfare. In a previous post in 2015 I criticised the low numbers of available trained armed police officers. We need more. Here is what I suggested,

"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."

Street poets and liberals who think a declaration of love and some hugs are going to keep our children safe are misguided, delusional or are just barking mad. The bad people are amongst us and are intent on bringing us harm. We need to ramp up the resources we devote to anti terrorism and do so with the same unfettered determination which the US did with their creation of Homeland Security after 9/11. Any talk or debate with an air of 'we will not let them change our way of life,' is simply detached from reality. Here's a newsflash, life changed forever on Monday evening in Manchester. The quicker we get with the programme the fewer victims we will be burying. Moreover, and despite the efforts of the good people who stood up when they were needed on Monday, Manchester and it's new Mayor need to admit that the Manchester area is a key hub in the UK for Jihadist sympathisers and activists. It has a problem and it needs to first admit it, then deal with it.

AMERICAN PUBLIC INFORMATION FILM ON RUN, HIDE, FIGHT. THERE ARE MANY SUCH VIDEO'S AVAILABLE, MOSTLY FROM THE US. HERE IS ANOTHER, THIS TIME FROM LA WHERE I GUESS THEY HAVE HAD PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE IN THIS FIELD.

Finally, for individuals going about their normal daily routine, I do think this old post , from which the clip above comes, about situational awareness and personal security is worth revisiting for those who have a care.

 

 

 



 

The Good Guy Club

Way back in the early eighties I went to a Leukaemia Research ‘Ball,’ in the Hook area which was organised by a family who had tragically lost a young family member to blood cancer. In those days, Leukaemia in it’s various forms killed an unacceptable number of youngsters but great strides have been made in research and survivability has more than doubled since. The party in Hook was good fun. Held in a village hall the catering was done by the matrons and mothers of that commuting enclave and it was all cheerfully village fete, raffle and coronation chicken like. Ten years later the event had grown into something altogether more substantial and was held in a large hotel with auctions, entertainment and attendant celebrities to match. The growth of the fundraising effort over the years was mirrored with success in the laboratory. Those raffle tickets really do help.

My mind is again focused on the wretched thing with a close friend having recently been diagnosed with the illness. Fortunately, the doctor’s roadmap for him back to the bright sunlit uplands of health and happiness is likely to include stem cell donation. Unfortunately, while his friends would happily drive to wherever they needed to be this afternoon to donate our stem cells,  Anthony Nolan doesn’t actually want ours; mostly because our bodies are old and knackered. You see, the best stem cells come from those who are aged between 16 and 30, weigh over 7st 12lbs and are in good health. I should immediately point out, the old urban myth of stem cell donation being painful, ‘they stick a knitting needle in your thigh bone,’ is utter nonsense  90% of donors do so by blood in a process called peripheral blood stem cell donation. You can find out more here.

Being a donor gives ordinary people the opportunity to do something quite extraordinary in their lives. The implications for the recipients are as profound as they are joyful. Please, kindly spread the word.

Insane

Most of us are aware of the obvious dangers of driving on rural roads. They include, but are not limited to, deer, badgers (you'll know about it if you run over a badger at night in a small car), flash floods when drainage is poor or blocked, agricultural vehicles and mud left on the road from agricultural machinery, bird strikes, (a pheasant or pigeon hitting your windscreen at 30mph can give you a bit of a wake up) or indeed on-coming vehicles swerving to avoid fur or feather. 

It does tend to be other motorists and motor bikes that pose the greatest threat. There is a bountiful supply of complete dunderheeds out there who are oblivious to the old saying, 'better to be twenty minutes late in this life rather than twenty years early for the next.' Here in the South Downs, when the sunshine comes out, so do the cyclists and that is fair enough. Indeed, Mrs Flashbang herself has just cracked 50 miles this morning so it is more than a little vexing to see drivers, every single day, driving without anything close to what can be considered due care and attention. Overtaking cyclists on bends is simple suicidal. Who would risk a life changing incident and potential manslaughter charge for the gain of 30 seconds of time? Insane, simply insane. A couple of examples in front of me from this weekend are in the clip above.

Scared Rabbits

Jeremy Corbyn is not having a very good day. Running over a BBC cameraman's leg is not usually the sort of voter friendly PR which helps political campaigns, although I doubt very much the BBC will cover it much. It's all rush, rush, rush to get to the next photo op in front of a group of mannequins holding placards as veteran Rob Gray discovered yesterday in York. Mr Gray shouted a question to Corbyn who was on stage outside. Mr Gray wanted to know what Corbyns position was on the pursuit and possible prosecution of Northern Ireland veterans. Mr Corbyn said he would come down and speak to Mr Gray. Instead he hurried off in the opposite direction while Mr Gray's path was blocked by a minder.

This kind of antiseptic and choreographed campaigning is endemic in British politics. It wasn't always so. There was a time when politicians were expected to prove themselves in front of their voters, when unrehearsed heckling and questioning was part of the game and politicians were expected to show a little more grit. The last time we saw such an exercise was Labour's Jim Murphy in 2014 when he did his 'No,' 100 towns in 100 days tour throughout Scotland. Before then? Well, you perhaps have to go back quite a while. I accept that politicians then did not have to face 24 hour news or any small verbal indescretion instantly being pinged around the world but the current state of affairs lacks balance. This piece from Newsnight from a couple of years ago adequately sums up where we are and where we have come from,

For A Few Minutes...

First day; the beautiful drive from Staff College Gate to Old College

We drove to Sandhurst yesterday with one of the boys for the start of his Commissioning Course. Eighteen hour days for the next five weeks before we next see him won’t do him any harm. The 2,000 volt emotional field emanating from the mothers, wives and girlfriends in the chapel when the Commandant gave some welcoming words was palpable. The emotion radiating from the mothers, wives and girlfriends didn’t though, come anywhere close to how I felt. If I could have signed up there and then and done it all over again I would have done so in a heartbeat. It is though, thirty five years since I walked through those hallowed gates on my first day…… thirty five years. I loved every single minute of it. I honestly believe the air at Sandhurst is different to anywhere else in the world. Just being there instills in you belief, a positive mental attitude and an optimism about life. For a few minutes in the Chapel today, I was twenty again and yes, I do bloody miss it. So, for any other old lags out there, here’s a clip (above), of the beautiful drive from Staff College Gate up to Old College……. (bit dull for anyone else but those who know the feeling… know).

Election Data Point

So, ‘This Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics.’ That'll help then.........

So, ‘This Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics.’ That'll help then.........

The Bank Holiday weekend has delivered a welcome respite for most from the General Election campaign which actually, is delivering all that was expected with few surprises. The Conservatives are pitching the ‘strong and stable,’ script with tedious monotony and downplaying their strong lead lest the volatile electorate begin to sniff some trace of a sense of entitlement from them. Labour continue to veer off in so many directions it is difficult to keep up, especially so for the blundering idiot charged with leading them over the cliff which he will achieve with almost no effort at all, (although I’m convinced he won’t make it to the end of the campaign and suspect he’ll have a breakdown long before the end of May). The LibDems have got themselves in a right old tizzy with their leader, Tim Farron, (he’s the one that looks like a Spitting Image puppet thats been left in direct sunlight for too long), seemingly unsure of where he stands on the gay sex thing and he now tells us he’s ‘a bit of a Eurosceptic.’ Right on Timmy boy. All those supporters who knit their own clothes and cut their own hair will have been pulling it out in clumps over the weekend. The SNP meanwhile are still being mean about the English and deflecting criticism about education in Scotland like true Dodgeball champions while UKIP appear to have spontaneously combusted without many people having noticed. Across the main parties there is an unseemly rush to the exits with shouts of ‘Carpe Diem,’ from a raft of special political advisors and party apparatchiks, anxious to grab a safe seat from retiring members of Parliament and the political press can’t believe their luck that Westminster just keeps on giving with their workload brimming over with yet another election.

So far so good. 

There is change though. Some of it subtle enough to be missed, or ignored by the mainstream. The first concerns Corbyn, which I will deal with in this post. There has been a gentle hidden hand on the tiller attempting to alter the narrative where Corbyn's relationship with Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA is concerned. The historical canvas is being recoloured to suggest that during all the years that Corbyn was involved with, and supported PIRA, he did so in pursuit and attainment of peace. This is facile nonsense. Corbyn voted against the peace process and with it the Anglo Irish agreement. This is the man who hosted Sinn Fein in the Houses of Parliament just weeks after the Brighton bombing. The same man who was a mouthpiece for the Republican pressure group in the UK, Troops Out. Corbyn regularly attended and spoke at commemorations for terrorists in the eighties and was general secretary of the left wing publication Labour Briefing,’ which supported PIRA atrocities and backed the Brighton bombing which lets remind ourselves, killed five and maimed 31. While Corbyn was honouring dead PIRA terrorists, PIRA ‘prisoners of war,’ and the active ‘soldiers of the IRA,’ families across the United Kingdom were grieving for those men women and children murdered by the terrorist and those left with broken bodies and minds, civilian and military alike. Corbyn and his acolytes are being allowed to rewrite history and it stinks. This man wanted the IRA to win and to win at any cost. If he had been sincere in pursuing a peaceful outcome he would have supported not criticised John Hume and the SDLP. He did not though. Instead he supported the bad guys and moreover, supported a continuance of extreme violence. 

DUP MP Nigel Dodds attacks Jeremy Corbyn, and Shadow Chancellor (John McDonnell) who in the past has called for IRA terrorists to be 'honoured' Notice the silence and glum expressions from the Labour benches after the question is asked.

The difficult truth for Corbyn is that the Provisionals lost. They were forced to negotiate when they realised they their organisation was riddled from top to bottom by British security intelligence and the cost of continuing was unsustainable. Even when the peace process was gaining traction Corbyn and John McDonnell could not bring themselves to support it. Corbyn in fact was a very long way from helping any successful outcome and over the years made a contribution to prolonging the conflict. 

The Manchester bombing in 1996; 3,500 lbs of Semtex and ammonium nitrate in an area where 80,000 people worked or were shopping.

The Manchester bombing in 1996; 3,500 lbs of Semtex and ammonium nitrate in an area where 80,000 people worked or were shopping.

Certainly, as far as I am concerned the concept of anyone voting for a man who supported people who would have liked nothing better than to give me or any one of my friends a headshot or blow us to bits all over the nearest three villages is total anathema. To my mind, anyone who does is spitting on the grave of all those who suffered at the hands of the terrorist and is disrespecting their memory. So too, are those who choose not to report the truth.

Lily of Laguna

Lily of Laguna from The Way Ahead. They are far from home and waiting to finally go into action after all their training. 

Sometimes, I think I was born and have lived in the wrong age. Sometimes, I know it. Incidentally, all the actors in the clip served in either the Great War or the Second World War which gives it a touch of authenticity.

ANZAC DAY

The proud tradition and sacrifice of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps is commemorated today on Anzac Day, one of the most important days in Australia and New Zealand’s calendar. The 25th April was the day the ANZAC’s landed at Gallipoli and the day was first commemorated in 1916 throughout Australia, in London and on Fronts from France to the Middle East. The day of remembrance begins as it has from the earliest services with a dawn vigil or service throughout Australia and is repeated by their countrymen across the globe, most obviously at Gallipoli itself where attendance has become something of a rite of passage for so many young Aussies.

I would like to mark the day, if I may, in a small way by remembering a small group of ANZAC’s who died on the Western Front 100 years ago today.

On 7 November 1916, the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company took over the mines at Hill 60 from the 1st and 3rd Canadian tunnelling companies. The mines placed under the German lines by the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company had already been charged with explosives by the time the Australians arrived in the area.[7] The first mine (Hill 60) contained 53,000 pounds (24,000 kg) of ammonal explosive and the second (The Caterpillar) contained 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg). The galleries formed part of the series of mines that was dug by the British 171st, 175th, 250th, 1st Canadian, 3rd Canadian and 1st Australian Tunnelling companies as part of the prelude to the Battle of Messines (7–14 June 1917), while the British 183rd, 2nd Canadian and 2nd Australian Tunnelling companies built deep dugouts (underground shelters) in the Second Army area.

As part of the preparations for the Battle of Messines, the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company was tasked with ensuring that the tunnels and explosives beneath Hill 60 and The Caterpillar remained intact and undiscovered by the Germans over the next seven months.Drainage and ventilation shafts had to be dug in the unfamiliar blue clay, and there was a constant danger of collapse, particularly in the part of the gallery leading to The Caterpillar, which passed under the railway line. At the same time, listening posts had to be maintained to detect enemy action. These posts were only a few metres underground and therefore susceptible to collapse during bombardments. The German mining units were constantly trying to find British tunnels and numerous counter tunnels had to be dug towards the German excavations so that they could be mined with small charges and destroyed. In April 1917, German infantry conducted a raid into the British lines in an attempt to find the entrances to the British mine galleries but failed to do so. On the 25th April 1917, a detonator exploded in the Australian underground HQ, killing ten men. The Official Australian History states that at Hill 60, "underground warfare reached a tension which was not surpassed anywhere else on the British front". It is estimated that altogether approximately thirty Australian tunnellers were killed at Hill 60. The mines at Messines were eventually detonated on 7 June 1917, creating 19 large craters. 

There is incidentally, a very good movie called 'Beneath Hill 60,' which tells the story of the men of the 1st Australian Tunnelling company.

In remembering these ordinary ANZACS’s who died 100 years ago today doing an extraordinary job, we remember them all,