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The Royal Highland Fusiliers museum on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow is an interesting place. But the regimental trustees would be the first to agree that they are forced by lack of space to cram perhaps too much into the very limited space they have available for display. That's why they have launched an appeal to fund a move to bigger premises. The regimental trustees are the custodians of artifacts and documents relating to two of Scotland's oldest regiments. Perhaps part of their problem is that both the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the third oldest Scottish infantry regiment (counting the Scots Guards), and the second oldest Highland Regiment, in the form of the Highland Light Infantry, lack the glamour attached to many of the other units. And that might make the fund-raising drive tougher than it should be. When I was researching Scottish Military Disasters, several of the regiments were very very helpful: only one ignored me completely. It would be unwise of me to pick a favourite museum or archivist. In fact, not only would it be unwise but it would also be unfair. I'm not even going to name a top three. But I will say that the RHF have some tremendous tales to tell and I whole-heartedly support anything that improves their ability to get their story out. For more information about the appeal -  Museum Appeal.

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Remembrance Day is a big deal here in Canada. It is marked not on the nearest Sunday but actually on November 11th and is a public holiday in many parts of the country. There are ceremonies at war memorials across the nation. But the grandest of all is at the National War Memorial just outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Following the recent murder of a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada while on ceremonial guard at the memorial by a loner sad-sack convert to Islam, this year's commemoration attracted a bigger than usual crowd. So, maybe not a good day for a someone to allegedly dress up in a military uniform and pretend to be a serving soldier. An even worse idea to be interviewed on national television while wearing that uniform. And even even worse to wear one of the highest awards available to members of the Canadian military for bravery. Straight away geniune members of the military called "fake" and many of them howled with rage. It's a criminal offence in Canada to wear military medals that have not been earned or to impersonate a member of the army, navy or air force. Jail time , if found guilty of the alleged offences, seems a bit severe but a fine would probably in order to show society's disapproval. I know a lot of people here in Canada wonder what all the fuss is about. Years ago I tried to follow-up a tip that a frequently quoted in the media and supposedly highly decorated veteran was really a navy cook. What harm is he doing, I was asked by the people who controlled the purse strings I needed loosened to pay for a couple of searches of military records I wanted done before outing the old fraud. The answer is plenty. He was filling folks' heads, including young soldiers, with nonsense about war. War should never be undertaken lightly and the last thing people need is fakers muddying the waters with their fantasies when decisions that put people in harm's way are to be made.

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You don't need me to tell you that the First World War was a turning point in British history. In fact it may have been THE turning point. The conflict is all too often portrayed in British popular memory as futile. I can believe that my great-grandfathers were duped by their political masters and social betters and herded like cattle to the slaughter grounds. As two of them were killed in the war and the other two died long before I was born, I never had the chance to ask them what their thoughts were when war broke out. What did they believed was worth risking death to defend? But the First World War was not an exercise in futility. The Germans were stopped. It's too often forgotten that the German commanders who pillaged and murdered and created so much havoc during the Second World War had learned their trade during the First. The populations of German-occupied France and Belgium were enslaved and starved. Hostages seized by the Germans to ensure local good behaviour were murdered. One of the greatest libraries in Europe was torched. The only things missing from equation were Death Camps. The Kaiser's Germany was a vigorous and lusty parent of Nazi Germany. The Treaty of Versailles was indeed a mistake. It was harsh enough to create resentment in Germany but not harsh enough to prevent the Germans resuming the work they had started in 1914. If you want to talk about harsh peace treaties, have a look at the one the military dictators who ran Germany imposed on the Russians in March 1918.

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Calling film buffs everywhere. In the deep dark recesses of my mind I seem to remember an old British black and white film which featured in the climactic scene a Centurion tank busting its way into a bank.  It was obviously a robbery caper and I have a feeling that the bad guys did not get away with it. Can anyone remember the name of the film and/or anything about the plot? I used to think that the film might have been called Robbery Under Arms. Then I decided that was the name of a Stanley Baker film about a gang trying to steal an army payroll around the time of the Suez Crisis. Wrong yet again, the Stanley Baker film I was thinking about is called A Prize of Arms. Anyway, without any idea of the title of the tank-in-the-bank film or what year it was made, or who was in it, I haven’t managed to get very far. I am beginning to wonder if I dreamt the whole thing and there's no such film. Anyway, if you know anything about this film, hit the comment button below and let me know.

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The thing about politicians - apart from being unable to look beyond the next election - is that they feel they have to be seen to be "doing something". I'm sure I'm not alone in becoming increasingly concerned about the proposed curbs on free speech and civil liberties that seem to be accompanying the rise in Islamist extremist violence. The United Kingdom managed to survive the threat of Northern Irish terrorism without many of the powers which we are now told are essential to deal with the rise of ISIS and the ilk. I don't remember all the passengers getting off the ferry from Larne to Stranraer being herded into detention camps for questioning. Here in Canada the murder of two soldiers, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, in separate incidents by sad-sack loser loners, both converts to Islam, has led to calls from a couple of MPs for some form of internment.  I suspect that there are already adequate means in the legislative toolbox to deal with the present threat. I would have thought extremists should be encouraged to shoot their mouths off. That way we know who they are. Then we can watch them and anyone who associates with them. The Number One aim of terrorists is to provoke an over-reaction that shoves recruits into their net. What is needed now is some finesse and imagination, not a blunt instrument forged because some politco feels "something should be done" to secure the vote of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells or Toronto.

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It would appear that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II shares my concerns about bravery medals. She recently, for the first time in history, took a soldier's bravery medal away from him. The rescinding of Major Andrew Armstrong's Military Cross appears to have opened a can of worms. A review is going on into all the bravery awards given out to the Royal Artillery in Afghanistan. The suspicion appears to be that some of the recommendations for the awards contained exaggerations and distortions. One has to wonder why it has taken so long for the Palace to become suspicious. The British officer corps has a long tradition of looking after its blue-eyed boys and a nice little bravery award can often help when promotions come around. And not all bogus citations are self-serving. One of the founders of the Special Air Service, Paddy Mayne, was recommended by his officers for the VC. He may well have earned the VC several times over - probably not for the action which led to the recommendation. His subordinates were more than a little economical with the truth. They concocted a recommendation that they believed pushed all the right buttons to spit out a VC for their boss. He ended up with a fourth Distinguished Service Order.  Some units keep score of the number of VCs they have won in their history as an indication of military prowess. Other units regard extraordinary deeds of valour as all in a day's work and seldom apply for them. I say the only recognition that counts comes not from the Queen or the chain-of-command, but from fellow members of the unit involved.

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At a recent job interview I was asked how I felt about working in an environment in which most of my colleagues were black. Or was it Chinese.? How is a person supposed to answer a question like that? There's an implication in the question that is very unpleasant. Actually, the working enviroment was going to be heavily populated with women. Does that make the question any less objectional? Or the implication any less vile? Maybe I had a close escape when I didn't get the job. A less welcome escape was when I was refused a roof over my head because I was male. I had just returned to Edmonton and was sleeping on a friend's floor until I could find a place of my own. I found a nice little granny flat in the basement of a house in my old neighbourhood. I met the people who rented the main floor and they were really nice. The landlord's factor was not so nice. She would not lease the place to a male. That might have been understandable if the people on the main floor had an objection to males or a fear of them. But they didn't. It doesn't get much meaner than refusing someone a roof over their head on the grounds of gender, colour, country of birth or sexual orientation. But I just moved on. No human rights case lodged with the courts. No attempt to bully someone, no matter how loathesome they were. So, I didn't have a lot of sympathy when I heard a woman in Saskatchewan had taken a barber to court for refusing to cut her hair. There are far more important battles out there that need fought before we should get around to tackling loony barbers and sexist factors.

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In the words of the old song - if you're going to love a woman, be sure and do it right. The same goes for fighting a war. I'm not sure how the apostles of air power manage to get away with it; convincing their bosses that it's a war winner. "Boots on the ground" do not appear to be a priority when it comes to defeating Islamist hard-liners in Iraq and Syria. Western politician after western politician promises their nation's warplanes will take part in air strikes but their will be no "boots on the ground". I guess that keeps the number of body bags down and the political cost at home to a minimum. But it's no way to win a war. We're assured that the Kurds and the Iraqi Army will provide the necessary boots on the ground. I don't think so. Does anyone remember how Libya turned out? And no-one likes to mention who will be providing the boots on the ground in Syria. Anyway, if the Iraqi Army and Kurds can't do the job, who can? Perhaps it's time for mercenary man. There is a long long history of kings and governments hiring mercenaries to do their fighting for them  - particularly when their own countrymen are unlikely to cut the mustard. I strongly suspect that the presence of "contractors" is yet another of the things we are not being told about the conflict in Iraq. That and the number of civilian casualties being inflicted as the Islamic hardliners embed their positions in amongst the local population. 

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I heard some purported expert on the Scots in Canada on the radio recently havering about the "native genius" of the Scots. I don't believe the Scots are naturally any smarter than anyone else on this planet. But during the years that the Scots did punch above their weight in Canada they did have something going for them - educational opportunity. When Scotland did indeed produce more than its fair share of doctors, scientists, inventors and other contributors to the general good it had one of the most highly educated populations in Europe. That wasn't actually saying much, because outside of Germany, there wasn't a lot of commitment to the idea of universal education until quite recently. And Scotland was only a little further down the road than most countries. The availability of universal educational opportunity was in reality pretty limited. Few of the Scottish doctors of English stereotype were from the Gorbals. But enough Scots did get an education to validate the notion that it was well worth giving as many people as possible the opportunity to develop whatever talent they had. Developing and harnessing talent benefited everyone. A nation that only believes the existing elite is worth educating is doomed. Universal and equal educational opportunity is a worthwhile and sensible aspiration. I just hope that the fruits of the recent independence referendum include the chance to move the dream a little closer to reality. 

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When you think about it, perhaps the most astonishing thing about the Scottish referendum was that 45% of the electorate was prepared to take an enormous leap in the dark, for that is what it would have been, to escape from the deadening grip of Westminster. I hope that the imagination and energy generated by the debate can be sustained. By the time the votes were cast last Thursday it was hard to see how Scots could lose. Thanks to a last minute panic in Westminster which led to promises of more powers to the Scottish Parliament, the democratic deficit at the heart of the debate looked set to be addressed to some extent no matter which way the vote went. When I left Scotland it still had a colonial administration in the form of the Scottish Office. That's why I find the rediscovery of the West Lothian Question by English MPs something like 35 years after it was first asked so amusing. The West Lothian Question dates back to the devolution debate of the late 1970s. West Lothian MP and silver spoon socialist Tam Dalyell pointed out that if Scotland got devolution it was unfair that Scottish MPs at Westminster would still be able to vote on bills that affected only England and Wales. I agree. But when the Tories swept to power in 1979, falsely promising by the way to introduce their own referendum bill, the West Lothian Question lost its currency. English Tories flooded the chamber to vote on bills that affected Scotland only and imposed such joys as the Poll Tax. The Scots would probably still have the Poll Tax if the Tories hadn't tried to impose it on the English too and the voters south of the border realised just how unfair it was. I wonder how many of the English MPs who thought that was OK to vote on purely Scottish bills before devolution in 1999 have in the past few months suddenly rediscovered the West Lothian Question. And does the fact that they have say something about the extent of the powers presently vested in the Scottish Parliament? And why haven't the English MPs been screaming about Northern Irish MPs at Westminister following the 1998 establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly? What I'm worried about now is that the democratic deficit in England will be used as an excuse not to the fulfil even the vague promises made before last week's vote in Scotland. Westminster has always been the English Parliament in all but name. There is no need to create yet another level of government in England. And the English regions have up until now been luke warm about creating yet another tier of administration anyway. All that has to happen is that Scots and Irish MPs absent themselves from the chamber when the Blah Blah (England and Wales) Bill is debated and voted on. Too simple? I hope the rest of world is watching closely to see how much reliance can be put on the word of a British Prime Minister.

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I remember when I was a newspaper reporter here in Edmonton I used to be ordered to phone members of numerous immigrant groups in the city for reaction to events in their old home countries. I did it, of course, but I had serious doubts about the value of what they said. Who were these people? Why didn't they live in their own country? Was is possible that they were ex-secret policemen and torturers? Only this morning someone was asking me if I thought the people of Scotland would vote for independence later this week. My answer was the issues are so complex and the nuances so subtle, that you would literally have to be there to give a sensible answer. It's all about who to trust and to work that out a person would have to be a lot closer to the scene of the action than I am.  I know how I would vote if it was the same Scotland I left more than a decade ago. But it isn't. Chatting with friends and family back in Scotland and reading the Scottish papers online just isn't enough to yield an informed opinion. I know enough to know that almost without exception London-based commentators haven't a clue. The most sensible and rational discussion I've heard was on Australian radio. There are a lot of Scots in Australia and though they don't have a vote in the referendum, it has major implications for them; from pensions to the right of return. But, as one of the interviewees on the radio programme told them, they have already voted; voted with their feet when they left.  Of course, even being there isn’t always enough either when it comes to being well informed. I remember one of the Canadian radio stations had a United Kingdom correspondent who never seemed to leave London. Her entire view of life in Britain was based on what she heard at dinner parties in Chelsea, Hampstead and Notting Hill from the Chattering Classes. That was just after I moved to Canada and I certainly didn’t recognise the country she was describing. She may have been living in the UK but she had no idea about what was going on in the country.

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Some older readers may be interested to know that Canada's Department of National Defence is finally retiring the venerable Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifle. The rifles are used by the Canadian Rangers, a sort of Home Guard unit in the country's far North, because more modern weapons just can't be trusted to work in the Arctic. But the Department is finding it harder and harder to find spare parts for their Lee Enfields. As far as I can work out, the rifles themselves are issued straight from the packing cases they came in in 1947. The Canadian Army switched from Lee Enfields to the FN SLR around the same time as the British but now uses a Canadian manufactured version of the US M16. The Canadian M16 was actually better than the American version and the SAS used it in Sierra Leone. It was made by a company called Diemaco which was recently taken over by Colt. Colt Canada, as Diemaco is now known, has been given the job of coming up with a replacement for the Lee-Enfield for use in the Arctic. It is expected it will lighter than the old rifle but still bolt-action and using 7.62 ammunition.

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There used to be a fund-raising advert for one of the veterans hospitals in Scotland which ran something like "Tiny was the bravest man I knew; now he's afraid to go out in the dark" or something along those lines. If I remember correctly, Tiny had been caught in an explosion in Aden and was suffering what would now be called PTSD. So, obviously PTSD has never been the unspoken menace to the mental health of members of the military that many of the media would have us believe. In recent years the media has discovered PTSD in big way. I am sure their intentions are good and honourable. But sometimes I feel the water is being muddied and perhaps some harm is even being done. There is not a month goes by here in Canada when I don't hear someone being interviewed about their PTSD. My difficulty  is that while these people certainly have problems, a number of them don't have PTSD or even any other combat-related stress. PTSD is often used as a catch-all shorthand for any stress conditions relating to military service. Even psychiatrists have problems agreeing what constitutes PTSD but some of the people I hear interviewed are not even in the ball park. The public ends up confused and a confused public cannot pressure their politicians to do the right thing. And believe me, politicians often have to be pressured to do the right thing. 

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The tears of a clown - it's a cliche. But like a lot of cliches, there is a grain of truth in there. Humour is a coping mechanism. I think genuinely happy people tend not to need so many coping mechanisms. Basically, happy people do not need a sense of humour. Humour flourishes in grim times. This was brought home to me a couple of years ago. We had a really funny guy at work. He was everybody's pal and always had a great joke or on-the-nose quip. But as I got to know him better it turned out that he was actually a very bitter wee man. The few people he disliked, he hated with a depth that was almost indescribable. Underneath the class clown facade was actually a man weighed down heavily by his own sorrows. When I was a kid, I used to love the old Norman Wisdom comedy films on television. I used to have to pretend to go to bed at the same time as my wee brother but I could sneak back to the living room after he nodded off if their was a Norman Wisdom on after 7 p.m.. Years later, while working as a journalist in Inverness, I met Mr Wisdom. He turned out to be an oppressively serious and earnest man. Then he went on stage and it was as though a switch had been flipped. He was hilarious. Even though I had just seen the other side of him, I was laughing along with everyone else. Which is odd, I think, in view of our chat only minutes earlier. Then Mr Wisdom's public appearance ended and the switch flipped again. He was back to being incredibly serious. Not unpleasant or anything like that. Just really really earnest. I got the impression he was not an entirely happy chappy. So, I'm seldom surprised these days when I hear that the funniest people often do the saddest things. 

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The Christmas before I left high school, my grandfather's sister in Australia sent me a picture diary. For a laugh, I started filling it in. It was basically just a log of where I'd gone and who I'd seen. At the end of the year I put it away and forgot about it. Then a few years later I found it again and had a flick through it. I was astonished. Over the intervening years I had re-written the sequence in which events occurred. You guessed it, I'd created a far more comfortable personal narrative when it came to my last year at high school and going to work for the Glasgow Herald. My recollection had been that I was more sinned against than sinning. But a look at that old Australian picture diary showed that in a least one instance, I was the bad guy. It was me that started the trouble. It was me who set in motion a chain of unfortunate events, not the person I'd been blaming for years. It was a sobering experience. Nations do the same. Scotland's historical narrative seems to have followed much the same course. In it, the Scots are more sinned against than sinning. A nations of victims; be it of Westminister, the redcoats, uncaring and brutal landlords, avaricious mine owners, callous factory owners, slum owners, or the English-dominated Establishment. But what of the people Scots victimised? Sometimes underdogs are not the most compassionate of people. The underdog often seeks out someone even further down the totem pole to exploit. When I was young, the Scots prided themselves on being less racist than the English. But perhaps someone should ask the non-white inhabitants of Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Canada and the West Indies what they think.

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I was talking to an English woman here in Canada when she mentioned that her uncle had been a kiltie during the First World War. I took a flyer and asked if he was from Manchester. Yes he was, was her reply but how did I know. I made the guess, and that's all it was, based purely on the fact that I'd heard that at one point during the First World War perhaps as many as half of the 5th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders were Mancunians. Sadly, I can't remember at which point in the war that was. The 5th Battalion was a Territorial unit originally recruited from Caithness and Sutherland. It would not have been easy to keep the battalion up to strength with recruits from such a sparsely populated area. And, particularly after the heavy losses suffered by units recruited from specific areas, it was policy to mingle troops from various areas of Britain into the different infantry units. The same policy was followed during the Second World War. As far as I know, no-one has ever worked out how many Englishmen served with the Scottish regiments during the two world wars. But I think the answer would be a lot, a lot more than people think. The old joke about the two Northern English members of the 51st Highland Division getting into a row and one eventually declaring to the other "Ah've been a Jock way longer than thee" is an old one. The one thing I can say is that I get a lot of people from England asking me to help identify which Scottish regiment their father, father-in-law, uncle or grandfather served with. There was time, before the First World War, when the Scottish regiments, particularly the Highland ones, enjoyed the same glamorous reputation as the Royal Marines Commandos and the Parachute Regiment have today and Englishmen were clamouring to join them. The Highland brand was valuable. It is quite possible that Scotland lacked the population base to feed all the Highland battalions fielded in the world wars. Even before 1914 Scotland had been struggling to support all the nominally Scottish infantry units. In the 1881 re-organisation which created most of the "historic" Scottish regiments serious thought was given to appropriating the prestigious 1st Foot appellation enjoyed by the Royal Scots for an English-based regiment. The King's Own Scottish Borderers almost became a Yorkshire unit in the same shake-up and the 75th Foot did not, despite its Scottish roots, appreciate becoming a kilted unit as the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. As it was the 94th and 99th regiments of foot lost their Scottish trappings to become, respectively, an Irish and an English regiment. The contribution of Englishmen to the Scottish regiments all too often goes unrecognised.

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There are lies, damned lies and statistics. But people love stats. If the statistics are to be believed, then the Scots Guards are by far the bravest of Scottish soldiers; or at least they were during the First World War. The Scots Guards, the most English of Scottish regiments, netted five Victoria Crosses 1914-1918. Spread between only two frontline battalions, that gives an easily calculated 2.5 VCs per battalion. So, there you go. Whether you choose to believe the Scots Guards were truly the bravest of Scotland's fighting men or perhaps had better contacts when it came to the medals list is up to you. It is harder to work out where the other Scottish infantry regiments place in the table. The Guards had only two fighting battalions, which served throughout the war on the Western Front. The other Scottish regiments had numerous battalions, some of which fought throughout the war, some were disbanded or amalgamated , some were used as labourers, others were solely training or reinforcement units and some were shunted off to quiet theatres of the war such as Salonika in Greece. So, calculating a VC quotient for most of the Scottish infantry units during the First World War is far from straightforward. Including the labour battalions and those sent to Salonika, which did eventually see action, then the next best performer after the Scots Guards would have been the Seaforth Highlanders. But the Seaforths with seven VCs from the eight battalions I calculate could be considered "active" yields a quotient of only 0.87. So, not even half as brave as the Scots Guards. The Royal Scots Fusiliers and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders tie for third place in the table with a quotient of 0.66. The King's Own Scottish Borderers with 0.57 pipped the Highland Light Infantry on 0.53 for fourth place. The Black Watch and Gordon Highlanders took joint sixth place with 0.44. The Cameron Highlanders, Royal Scots and Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) all scored 0.43. Personally, I put little stock in these quotients but knowing how much people love statistics, and having done the work needed to undertake the calculations, I thought I'd share them with you.

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Several years ago I wondered in these columns who the mystery author of an odd little book called Tales of the R.I.C. might be. The book, which purported to be the memoirs of an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence of the early 1920s, bore a lot of hallmarks of being produced by a propaganda bureau. Too much supposedly happened to one policeman and the writing was a little too slick. I thought that perhaps it was one of the last kicks of the can from one of the propaganda units set up by the British government during the First World War to enlist the sympathies of the great American public and to a lesser extent in other "neutral" countries. I had never heard of the Public Information Bureau, a similar propaganda organisation set up by the British in Dublin to influence public opinion outside the Emerald Isle after the Irish electorate turned its back on Westminster in the 1918 elections. Well, apparently a retired Irish civil servant AP Magill  recently identified a former governor of H.M. Prison Belfast as the author of Tales of the RIC. Just what retired King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Major Aubrey Waithman Long did in the years immediately following the First World War and before he joined the prison service is a mystery. We know that he was a budding writer with at least one book to his credit and that he knew the County Clare area, where Tales of the RIC is set, very well. Some say that he did serve with the RIC, others say there is no record of this. The RIC certainly recruited former British officers as auxiliary constables in what was intended to be a crack anti-terrorism force but which quickly gained an unenviable reputation for ruthlessness, lack of discipline and brutality. But it seems more likely that Long put his writing skills at service of the Crown and laboured  in the British administration's Dublin Castle to confect his tales of republican atrocity from a variety of sources, including genuine Auxies. So, there you go, Aubrey Waithman Long and the Public Information Bureau.

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I was intrigued to hear that the British invented poison gas warfare around the turn of the 20th Century. The claim was made on the BBC World Service – so it must be true. The BBC for some reason thought it might be a good idea to have a panel discussion in German city of Dresden about whether the Germans were to blame for the First World War. Dresden was an interesting choice of venue, having been heavily bombed by the British and Americans in the closing days of the Second World War. I would have thought Louvain in Belgium might have been a better choice as the historic library there was torched by the Kaiser’s men in 1914 and around 250 civilians murdered. The audience in Dresden were invited to participate and maybe it should not have been a surprise that at least one member believed the Germans could not be held responsible for either World War. Another announced that it was the British who first used poison gas artillery shells, during the Second Boer War, 1899-1902, rather than the Germans pioneering effective chemical warfare in 1915. That’s the problem with such radio events – absolute twaddle often goes unchallenged during them. I suspect that our little German friend was referring to the use of lyddite shells by the British. Lyddite is based on picric acid and the fumes can cause vomiting.  Not exactly on a par with the clouds of poison chlorine gas the Germans released on French and Canadian troops at Ypres in 1915. I got the impression that someone is teaching the Germans that every frightfulness they perpetrated in both World Wars was actually pioneered by the British in 1899-1902. There are those who will claim that the British pioneered concentration camps. The camps the British herded the families of Boer farmers into were a disaster and countless women and children perished in them. But the point of the camps was not deliberate extermination.  The deaths were due to British incompetence and indifference. The Spanish had a few years earlier herded the civilian population in several parts of Cuba into similar camps as they struggled against an independence insurrection. So, the British operations in South Africa were not even a very original solution to guerrilla warfare. And what pray what were the Indian reservations/reserves of North America but concentration camps without barbed wire? 

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I recently picked got some old episodes of an old British TV series called Tales of the Unexpected on DVD for a couple of dollars in the bargain bin at a local supermarket. I won't go into the fact that very few of the endings were actually that unexpected. One episode was very like a true story my mum told me years ago. She said a guy she was at primary school with attributed his later millionaire status to the fact that he was illiterate. He couldn't read or write but he was an excellent car mechanic. He parlayed mechanical skill into owning several garages which he then sold for a couple of million. Illiteracy's contribution to his millions was that because he couldn't read or write, he got experts in from the start to handle his accounting and legal needs. He thus avoided the rookie error made by many self-employed people of trying to do handle these things themselves. This meant the business was run on a rock-solid foundation from the beginning. The Tale of the Unexpected episode was about a former butler, played by Richard Briers, who lost his job as a church verger because he was illiterate but went on to own a tea-shop business worth millions. If he hadn't lost his job, he wouldn't have opened the tea-shops.The episode was apparently based on a short story by Somerset Maugham. I have no intention of reading that short story. You see, Maugham believes that I, my dad and my brother, my auntie, my uncles and cousins are all scum. I have two volumes of Maugham's short stories at home which I will now never finish. Life is too short to read everything and the author calling me scum is a good way to put his book at the very bottom of the “to-read” pile and keep it there for eternity. A number of family members benefited from going into higher education thanks to government grants. But according to Maugham, folks who go to university on a government grant are “scum”. I'm sorry he felt that way because I enjoyed the short stories of his that I had read before learning of the contempt in which he held me and my kin.

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