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Let loose the Dogs of War! Life is complicated and sometimes bad people do good things - like killing German Nazis and Italian Fascisti. Or just their German or Italian fellow-travellers. This was brought home to me recently when I discovered that the British Colonial Office had been sitting on details of a murder confession since 1947. SAS hero Roy Farran confessed to his boss in the Palestine Police, Bernard Fergusson, that he beat a teenage Jewish boy to death with a rock after catching him with some anti-British pamphlets. Fergusson made a statement to police about the confession but refused to testify at Farran's court-martial. A written confession found in Farran's room was ruled inadmissible after Farran's lawyer, William Fearnley-Whittingstall,  successfully argued it was part of defence briefing and had lawyer-client privilege. All copies of the confession are believed to have been destroyed. But none of Farran's protectors seems to have realised that a copy of Fergusson's statement had been sent to the Colonial Office. Then a couple of years ago the Colonial Office file was sent to the National Archives and came into the public domain. I suspect the cover-up was more to avoid giving Jewish terrorists a propaganda victory at a time when they were regularly murdering British troops than to protect Farran. He was obviously unstable and very dangerous. Not a nice man. The same goes for his SAS comrade Paddy Mayne. He was also very good at killing Germans. But away from the frontline his drunken antics included some very nasty violence. Nothing was ever proven but he was the prime suspect in a cowardly and vicious attack in the dark on a fellow officer in No. 11 (Scottish) Commando. Both Farran and Mayne had serious drinking problems. But to paraphrase George Orwell, we sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us . But perhaps there have to be limits. Like all dogs, the Dogs of War have to be kept on a leash. They are, after all, acting in our name. Farran and Mayne were among many dangerous disturbed men we have made use of and only a fool would believe that they have no spiritual descendants who have stood guard over us within recent memory. Expediency is the moral coward’s excuse. Rotten apples really do eventually corrupt the whole barrel if not thrown out.  

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No-one would surely disagree with the slogan "Black Lives Matter": but apparently White Lives matter more. The wall-to-wall almost 24-hour blanket coverage of the recent terrorist attack in Paris which claimed around 130 lives and has probably wrecked an equal number demonstrates clearly who the English-speaking media cares about. And the lesson will not have been lost on the terrorists. Killing innocent people in Turkey or Beirut generates nothing like the same coverage as slaughtering people in Paris. Even two hundred or so Russian tourists on a plane flying out of Egypt are not quite as interesting.  What was it, 100 dead in the Turkish bomb attack? But 25% more dead in Paris generates entire news broadcasts dedicated to the European attack. Terror depends on publicity. If no-one knows about the murders, no-one will be sacred enough to give the terrorists what they want. Zero coverage or mention of the Paris attack would be stupid and irresponsible. But the level of coverage we got sends a clear message to the terror bosses. Rounding up a bunch of sad-sack losers, preferably with criminal connections who can supply the guns, and sending them to a high profile European city is definitely going to work better than killing non-whites somewhere else in the world. I know not all the victims in Paris were white, but most were. I just hope the BBC World Service's tweely-named Team Newshour realise how much their jolly to Paris is probably going to cost the people who pay their wages. Canada's state broadcaster wasn't much better. But I think the terrorists' money will be on more coverage for a European massacre than one in Toronto.

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Did you know that the British Government during the Second World War believed the United States might give the Falkland Islands to Argentina? I didn't until last week. The British were worried in 1942 that Japanese would attack the Falklands or even turn it into a submarine base. The Falklands were in a part the Atlantic that the Americans were supposed to keep safe. But the British worried that if they asked the Yanks to garrison the islands, Uncle Sam would give them to the Argentinians to advance their own interests in South America. So, Whitehall turned to the Canadians instead. After all, the Canadians had been in the war from the start and did not charge an arm and a leg for their help. Nor were they highly likely to give the islands to the Argies. But the Canadians politely declined to garrison the islands, perhaps disturbed by the entire loss of the two battalions they sent to Hong Kong to bolster the feeble British defences there. Canada did well out of the Second World War. The Americans did even better. The British bankrupted themselves and became a client state of the USA. But they did get to keep the Argentinians out of the Falklands for another 40 years. My guess is that they'll stay British until it's in the national interest of the United States to give them to Argentina. 

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I won't be able to make the meeting in Dunbar at the end of the month to discuss the fate of the recently discovered bodies of the 29 Scottish soldiers who were among approximately 1,600 who died in captivity at Durham Cathedral after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. But this is my tuppence-worth. The bodies should be respectfully buried at Durham. The only other alternative would be at Dunbar itself and I think soldiers should be buried where they fell. I don't hold with repatriating the bodies. Like most Brits, I have relatives, ancestors even, buried in foreign soils across the world - from France to Hong Kong. I think that's more fitting than the local cemetery in Scotland with those who died from "natural" causes or accident. Of course, in none of the countries I have relatives buried in are their graves or, in two cases because their bodies were never identified the memorials bearing their names, likely to be vandalised or desecrated. I couldn't help feeling the Taliban were just being spiteful when they smashed the gravestones of 19th Century British soldiers, and civilians, buried in Kabul to pieces with sledgehammers a couple of years ago. And the Libyans thanked us for our air support during the overthrow of Col. Gaddafi by vandalising Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries. Much the same thing happened at Basra in Iraq. Closer to home, war graves and memorials in Northern Ireland have also been vandalised But somehow I don't think the people of Durham will show the same hatred of the Scots dead. There used to be a time when decent fighting men showed respect for their fallen enemies once the battle was over. Venting hatred on dead bodies is more the sort of thing sad-sack cowards do. By the way, I'm referring only to deliberate desecration, not the metal thievery from war memorials by the chronically stupid that is becoming more common in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Are these guys the great-grandchildren of deserters? Maybe that's a blog for another day. Oops, turns out I wrong and I should I remembered this, Commonwealth war graves have been vandalised in France. And someone had a go at some Australian war graves in England earlier this year. There would appear to be more scumbags  out there than I realised when I first started writing this.     

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People still ask me why I went to Canada. There were many reasons, some good, some bad, some now forgotten.  One of the reasons was Canadian newspaper boxes. In Canada people can walk up to a steel box on the street, shove in some change, open a door in the front, take out a newspaper and then close the door again. What a wondrous country. Can you imagine how long something like a newspaper box would last in Scotland? How long it would be before every newspaper in the box was strewn all over the street? Newspaper boxes have now started to disappear in Canada. But it's not because Canadians started throwing the contents all over the neighbourhood. It's because the internet means fewer newspapers are being printed and casual sales are no longer reckoned worth the trouble. Most newspapers don't print many more copies than names on the list of people who still get their paper home-delivered. In way that's a shame because the newspaper box said a lot about what it means to be Canadian.

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Maybe I'm just out of touch; but what's happened to novelty songs? Is humour just too much of a gamble for the modern recording industry? Or do the few people who still pay for music these days really only want to hear about serious stuff. I seem to remember as a kid there were a lot of funny songs on the radio. Hmm, to name just a few - My Brother by Terry Scott, Bernard Cribbens and Right Said Fred, Charlie Drake with My Boomerang Won't Come Back and Mr Custer, and from America Hello Mudda, Hello Fadder and Purple People Eater. Perhaps out there on the web there are lots of novelty songs. Or perhaps life in the early 21st Century is just incredibly po-faced thanks to its dominance by multi-national "entertainment" conglomerations.

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I may be the only person left on this planet who cares about standards on the BBC World Service. Certainly, considering a lot of the shoddy material it broadcasts, I doubt if anyone in BBC management listens to it. Sadly for me, first thing in the morning when comes to the wireless is either the World Service or an American call-in show for conspiracy theory cranks. Anyway, what I want to say is that I can see trouble ahead for The Conversation - "about women, by women, for everyone". Let's ignore for the moment how a programme that excludes input from 50% of the population can be so certain that it is for everyone. Obviously, someone in BBC management has decreed it is OK to deny people jobs because they are males. But has anyone at the BBC thought how job applications from men who believe they are women should be handled. While discriminating against men is apparently OK, I suspect the transgender rights activists will not take similar treatment lying down. Does the BBC have a policy in place to decree when a man can be considered a woman and therefore not excluded from the production team at The Conversation? By the way, I can't help but note that the venerable, and enjoyable, Woman's Hour does not boast that no man has ever darkened the door of its production office.

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I have to sympathise with a Dutch academic who found it difficult to discover first-hand accounts of the First World War from rank-and-file Scots on the internet. The way Britain was, and to a large extent still is, organised very few working class Scots find their words in print. And that sorry situation was, and is, even worse for those from other parts of the United Kingdom. We have a radio program here in Canada which interviews authors from around the world. Almost all the English writers on it seem to have attended private school. The recent Afghan and Iraq wars led a flood of accounts from rank-and-file soldiers but too many bear the heavy imprint of a tabloid journalist ghost-writing in "soldier-speak". But back to Scots rank-and-file memoirs of the First and Second World Wars. Even if a our Dutch friend had been able to find many examples, how useful would they have been? The most interesting surely have been written at the time; and that would mean letters home. The more distant in the past an event was, the more memory plays tricks to concoct a coherent, not to say sympathetic, narrative. But letters home may be just as misleading as memoirs or accounts written in later years. With letters the main concern was not to worry the folks back home. War zones are inherently dangerous places, there's a lot of heavy machinery around and little fingers are easily trapped if someone is careless in cocking their weapon.  That means seldom telling everything that's happening in a war zone. Even during the recent fighting in Afghanistan a lot of people were falsely assuring loved ones back home in emails and phone-calls that they never left the base. Once, when I was there, I claimed to be on a remote base in the Canadian Arctic with limited access to a phone to explain why I would be hard to reach. And once the whole thing is over, it does not take long after you get back home to realise that the only people who really understand what happened are the people who were there. It's often a real "you have to have been there" thing. Eventually you give up: it's easier. So, even if a working class Scot from either war did find a publisher, how much could they tell? Put it all in a book and loved ones will find out how much you misled them. And lot of what braver souls might have wanted to say in 1920 or 1950 just wouldn't have found a market, even in the unlikely event of them finding a publisher. And now, as the last of the Second World War veterans fade away the surge of books they are writing in retirement are based on time-adjusted memories. The truth may be out there, but it's very hard to find.  

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I have a theory. Actually I have a lot of theories. But I fear a lot of them would lead to this website being vandalised by web-fascists. But this one is relatively tame. It seems to me that these days there are far more kids around with allergies. Have people just become more aware of allergies? Or is this a symptom of the kind of parenting that means kids are never allowed to play unsupervised and an allergy is perhaps some kind of status symbol? Or are allergies more common than they used to be? I suspect it may be the third option. For a couple of generations now women and girls in the Developed World have lived on a diet of processed food packed with unnatural additives. Is it possible than some of these chemical food additives have resulted in kids being born more susceptible to allergies? Just a thought.

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The Germans during the Second World War noted that the Americans were far quicker to learn battlefield lessons than their British counter-parts. The same may still be true. But while the Americans' learning curve may be far steeper than the British one, the Americans tend to pay a very high price for it. The problem is what is known as American Exceptionalism. American kids are taught from an early age that they live in the greatest country in the world. No other country comes close. That's why the rest of the world is so keen to live there. And that's why Americans have nothing to learn from anyone else. Therefore it is pointless anyone else trying to share the benefit of their experience with the Americans. The First World War is a classic example of this. Both the British and French tried to prepare their newly arrived allies from across the Atlantic the realities of war on the Western Front. But the Americans had their own ideas. They were wrong and the Americans suffered casualties out of all proportion to what they managed to achieve. The Americans, sadly, insist on learning from their own experience. A more recent but thankfully less costly example of this trait was at a shipboard fire fighting course one of my friends took part in. The American participants ignored what their British instructors told them, they knew better. The result was that a couple of them were almost killed during what should have been a simple routine lesson and their instructors had to risk death or serious injury to rescue them from their own stupidity.

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Well, I've finally given up on running onto the rugby pitch at Murrayfield as a Scotland International. It's not that I'm way too old, or that I was never that good a player. I hope my ex-team mates won't take this badly but the Highland 4th XV was made up of has-beens and never-will-bees; I was one of the never-wills. No, the final nail in the coffin of my hopes of an international cap is that you don't have to be Scottish to play for Scotland any more. I think there have always been folk playing rugby for countries they had no real connection with; was not a Polish nobleman played for England before the Second World War? And even in my day I think there were some fellahs from the Antipodes turning out for Scotland on the strength of a Scottish great grandmother, or was it a granny? Anyway, nowadays which country a man plays rugby for has very little to do with any real connection with it. I guess it's part of the professionalisation and commercialisation of the game. The international fixtures attract big TV audiences and that means every country wants to field the best team possible. That seems to mean these days that the audience can't foisted off with a load of haddies selected simply because they were born in Old Scotia. But I don't really feel comfortable being represented by a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis who can't get a game in their own country and may be only temporary residents of Scotland. The only commonality we might share is drinking in the same pubs decades apart. Perhaps the time has come to drop the sham "national" teams and just have a worldwide super-league featuring teams with names like the Pumas, the Walleroos or the Warriors.

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One of my least favourite parts of high school was being forced to look like a clown when PE Class meant doing the High Jump. The apparatus was set up in the middle of the gym and then one by one we all charged at it from what seemed like way too far away in front of the entire class. Being a short fellah, I seldom lasted long and was quickly humiliated. I wasn’t exactly the Mighty Atom or the Amazing Human Jumping Flea. All this came back me recently when I saw a photo of a paralympic swimmer. He had what seemed from the photo to be a mildly clubbed foot. That might have been enough to rule him out when it came to a real Olympic Gold Medal. But I bet he would leave me way behind in his wake if we got in the pool together. I was left wondering who he competed against; other men with one mildly clubbed foot? Or other swimmers who had entire limbs missing? What about swimmers without a foot? Do they get to strap on a flipper?  Should the real Olympics not only divide High Jumpers by gender but also by height? After all, boxers have weight classes. Or how short would a short guy have to be to qualify for the Paralymics? Does being below average height constitute a physical handicap? I sometimes wonder if the day is coming when everyone on the planet will be the proud owner of an Olympic or Paralymic medal thanks to highly selective competition categories. 

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Durham University managed to garner a lot of publicity for its identification of remains taken from partially excavated mass graves in the grounds of Durham Cathedral as being those of 29 of the approximately 1,600 Scots prisoners who died there after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. What most, if not all, of the media coverage failed to pick up on was that the enamel on the teeth of three of the victims, of what would nowadays be considered a war crime, showed they had been raised in mainland Europe, most probably the Netherlands or Germany. The researchers speculated that the three may have been mercenaries. That might be, but there is another possibility. That is that they were the sons of Scots mercenaries who served in the Scotch Brigade of the Dutch army during the late-to-mid 1600s. They may have returned to Scotland with their parents in due course or even come back to what they looked on as their native land to help defend it in its hour of need. The researchers were able to examine the teeth of 13 individuals. For those who haven't read Scottish Military Disasters yet, it might be interesting to go over the fate of those involved in what might be called The Durham Death March. Though the numbers involved are very much open to debate the death toll was far higher than simply those who died at Durham.  English commander Oliver Cromwell claimed to have taken 10,000 Scots prisoners at Dunbar and released half of them almost immediately as of no further threat to him. It looks as though the remaining 5,000 were herded towards Newcastle upon Tyne. Countless stragglers were murdered and any who made unsuccessful escape attempts were executed. Around 500 men who were too weak to continue were imprisoned in St. Nicholas's Church in Newcastle. About 3,000 prisoners made it to Durham. Within less than a month, they were dying at a rate of 100 men a day. They died from disease, starvation, mistreatment or were murdered by their fellow prisoners desperate for food, warm clothing or valuables they could sell to their English guards for food. The English had to wait until an outbreak of dysentery had run its course before selling the surviving Scots into slavery. Around 100 were sold to mine owners in County Durham or Northumberland or forced into equally dangerous servitude, a further 500 were sold to the French Army and 900 were shipped across the Atlantic to Massachusetts, Virginia and Barbados as virtual slave labour. Very few of those herded south from Dunbar saw Scotland again. It has long been known that Scots who died at Durham had been thrown into mass graves, one was supposedly found in 1946 during work on a central heating system, so the publicists at Durham University are to be congratulated on generating so much coverage.

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I take the BBC's decision to appoint a "Scotland Editor" as an admission that the corporation's coverage of the Scottish Independence Referendum was a mess. I only heard what passed for the BBC World Service coverage and it was a disgrace. I suspect it was pride that induced the decision to use "national" correspondents to explain to the rest of the world what was going on and why the population of Scotland might vote to leave the United Kingdom. While many of these "national" reporters might know Westminster and the Home Counties like the back of their hands, their grasp of Scottish affairs was dismal. Much of the coverage was ill-informed. Or patronizing. Or, most often, both. Their degree of ignorance and lack of grip when it came to the issues involved was both appalling and embarrassing. It was worse that the World Service was involved, because it regularly subjects its listeners to correspondents who can barely speak English and whose impartiality is highly suspect. Many are either related to the families who run the Third World countries they report from or, at the other end of the spectrum, to exiled opposition factions. On many days it is hard not to conclude that the only qualification to be a BBC World Service reporter is membership of the most privileged section of society in the country being covered. Most appear to have been brought up in privileged Western-lifestyle compounds and to be privately educated. They seem to have little idea of how the majority of their fellow citizens live. The same, sadly, appears to be true of the sad crew the BBC sent to Scotland for the referendum. It is just a shame so many of them lacked the courage to say they did not feel qualified. I know I would urge anyone who wanted to assign me to cover Welsh politics to seek someone with a better knowledge and grip instead. I can remember only one Scottish voice - Colin Blane. He was also almost alone on the World Service in actually knowing what he was talking about. I nominate Colin for the post of Scotland Editor.

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I was interested to learn that the Scottish Government has decided not to recommend the Queen  pardon a man hung after being found guilty of being part of a conspiracy to murder 236 years ago. Jacobite Alan Stewart was executed for his alleged role in the killing of Colin Campbell of Glenure as he led a party harrying the Stewarts of Appin in 1752 near the site of the present-day Ballahulish Bridge. Stewart was tried by a jury mainly made up of Campbells in that clan's heartland of Inverary and not surprisingly he was found guilty. A less partisan jury may have given him the benefit of the doubt. Two things struck me. One; if Stewart didn't do the killing, how can he be pardoned for a crime he didn't commit? Secondly, this is ancient history and if the Scottish Government has time to look into such matters, it might be better to consider more recent events. Scotland's name is blackened to this day by the 1948 massacre of 24 ethnic Chinese rubber plantation workers in Malaya by a patrol from the Scots Guards. The claim made at the time, and which is maintained by the British Government to this day, that the men were shot while trying to escape has been shown to be bogus. But the exact truth of what happened and why it happened is still very murky. This doubt makes it easy for those who wish to portray the Scots Guards as a Scottish Waffen SS. And by association, that in some minds makes all Scottish soldiers as akin to evil Nazi stormtroopers. And it's not much of a leap to tar the whole Scottish nation with the same brush too. The facts of the Batang Kali Massacre need to come out. Some of the participants claim they were sent to the settlement with orders to murder the male workers there as a warning to ethnic Chinese not to mix it with the British Army. The Scottish Government will no doubt argue it has no jurisdiction in this matter. Jurisdiction is a highly flexible concept and where's there's a will, there's a way. A call from the Scottish Government, after due consideration of the matter, to the British Government demanding a proper inquiry would certainly up the pressure on Whitehall to do the right thing.

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One of the reasons I used to read the Rebus books by Ian Rankin was for the junk food. Rankin's fictional members of the Edinburgh CID crammed all sorts of far from healthy junk food down their throats in the course of each book. I moved to Canada in the late 1990s and the Rebus books were a way of keeping up to date with the latest Scottish junk food trends. I'm fairly sure I remember one detective eating pakora flavoured crisps. Certainly, it was some exotic flavouring. I miss a lot of the Scottish junk food. We have junk food of our own here in Canada, or should I say North America, as very little of it is peculiar to Canada. You may have heard of poutine, chips smothered in gravy and cheese curd. That might be Canada's only major contribution to international junk cuisine. When I go to see my mum and dad I seek out Scottish junk food. They want to feed me good food. But I can eat good food here in Canada. When I'm in Scotland, I want bridies with weird fillings, crisps which claim to be baked bean flavoured or prawn and lemon or something like that, or stuff from the chip shop, maybe a plastic tray of cold pakora with strange spicy sauce, and all washed down with some oddly coloured soft drink. It's not a diet I'd like to live on for ever, but the way I look on it, I'm on holiday. And I do cave in and agree to eat some "good" food too when I'm in Scotland. 

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I was a little disappointed to hear some English balloon with a double-barrelled surname chuntering on the BBC World Service about whether the Americans were justified in dropping  atom bombs on Japan.  Actually, that is a question worthy of discussion. I think what pissed me off was he seemed to be buying into the whole Japanese as somehow especially victimized by the war scenario. Certainly, the Japanese see themselves as victims and need little encouragement from the BBC when it comes to that feeling.  They remain woefully ignorant to this day about how their compatriots and ancestors behaved during the Second World War. The Japanese narrative is that the United States forced them into war and then committed the greatest of all war crimes by dropping the atom bomb on them. No mention is made of mass rape, murder of prisoners, torture, massacres of civilians, cruel medical experimentation or working slaves to death that took place in between. Yes, atomic weapons were and remain terrible things. But so were the fire storms created by conventional bombing raids on Tokyo, Hamburg and Dresden, to name only a couple of the targets for Allied attack. Yes, the Japanese had put out peace feelers before the atom bombs were dropped. But the Germans put out peace feelers in 1916 which involved them getting to keep all the bits of France and Belgium they occupied. There are peace proposals and "peace proposals". But the disgusting behaviour of the Japanese obviously does not justify two atomic attacks. Maybe saving lives in the long run does.  Perhaps our little chum from the BBC would like to tour cities in Britain, India, the USA, China and Japan and point out several hundred thousand people for execution.  I think he should condemn to death the same number of people who would have died, including Japanese, if the war had not been brought to such a sudden and unexpected conclusion by Little Boy and Fat Man.

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I can't believe that anyone is making a fuss about an English actor being cast to play Charles Edward Stuart in a film about his escape from Scotland after his disastrous defeat at Culloden in 1746. It is just a shame that casting director could not find a part-Polish, part-Italian, part-French, part-Danish, part-English, part-Scottish actor for the role. After all, that would reflect the bloodline of the real Young Pretender. I'm guessing the implication of the media fuss is that it should have been a Scottish actor. The Great Getaway production team that chose Jamie Bacon for the lead role would appear to have a better grasp of Scottish historic reality than some in the media. And talking of pretenders, English actor David Niven was the last big star to have a go at the Bonnie Prince Charlie role back in 1948 - with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders cast as his ill-fated army. Niven, the Great Pretender, claimed to have been born in Kirriemuir but was in fact born in England. Niven was a raconteur par excellence and as an entertainer never let the facts get in the way of a great tale. His story of being at the hospital bedside of legendary Highland Light Infantry Company Sergeant Major Sixty Smith when the regimental pipe band marches as he lies dying could not have happened the way Niven describes it. Smith died three years after Niven quit the army and not, as the actor claimed, in Malta but in Egypt. But back to the Young Pretender. At least Niven did not become the drunken wife beater that the real Bonnie Prince Charlie turned out to be. 

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One of the most common complaints from authors in North America trying to publicise their new release is that most of the television and radio shows they manage to get on are hosted by people who have never read the book. But British author Stephen Grey seems to have encountered another hazard. It's not clear if he, or his North American publicist, knew he was being thrown to the cranks. One of the local radio stations here takes an overnight feed from America, I'm guessing because it is a cheap way to fill airtime when few of the people its advertising to will be listening. The show, I can't dignify it with the term "programme", mixes interviews with a call-in. It seems that most of the people calling in believe they have been abducted by aliens. The interviews are with people who, for instance, write about battles in the Irish Channel between the British armed forces and flying saucers. Those callers who have not been abducted are nearly all hard-core conspiracy theorists. I have to wonder if Mr Grey was aware of this when he agreed to appear on the show to discuss his new book about espionage and counter-terrorism. I only caught the last few minutes of the show but it seemed obvious that Mr Grey was somewhat surprised by the questions posed by the callers. The first caller did not have a question. He wanted help because the US government is holding his daughter hostage to force him to take part in its "war on terror". The second caller wanted Grey to agree that the internet is a government conspiracy. The third wanted to discuss using telepathy to spy on people. Grey's discomfort was palpable.

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When I was a lot younger there seemed to be an attitude amongst the general public that if someone was daft enough to join the Army, they shouldn't whine when things went pear-shaped.  To coin a phrase - "You shouldn't have joined if you can't take a joke".  Soldiering is inherently dangerous and training which 100% guarantees no-one gets hurt is not worth doing. But although the Great British Public appears more compassionate these days when it comes to its soldiers, especially after Afghanistan and Iraq, I'm not sure that the Army and the Ministry of Defence are not still locked in the old mindset. Reading reports of the inquest into the deaths of special forces hopefuls Lance Corporal Craig Roberts, Corporal James Dunsby and Trooper Edward Maher during a selection test in July 2013 it is hard not to conclude that their lives were squandered through carelessness. Health and Safety regulations obviously cannot be stringently applied to military operations or exercises but common sense and fore-thought can. There was a distinct lack of common sense that terrible day in 2013. And afterwards the Ministry of Defence showed a disgraceful lack of compassion. Encouraging young determined men, especially military reservists, to push themselves further than they think they can go on a remote Welsh mountainside is an accident waiting to happen. It is clear from the inquest that the people in charge did not take their responsibilities, not to say duty, seriously enough. Responsibility for the three men's deaths goes a long way up the military chain of command because many of the things that went wrong that day were the result of systematic failures. Lessons that should have been learned from previous incidents, including a similar 2008 death, were pretty much ignored. Officers are supposed to put the welfare and wellbeing of their men first. Sadly, promotion prospects and pensions still come first for far too many of the British Army's supposed leaders. Will we see anyone carry the can for this one or will the usual slight of hand make it impossible to work out where the buck should stop?

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