When I was trying to find a publisher for Scottish Military Disasters, one publisher suggested I balance each disaster with a triumph. “A litany of disasters is too much of a downer,” I was told. I didn’t agree. War, either victory or defeat, brings out the best and worst in people. And sometimes, the balance which decides between victory and defeat can tip either way.
Years ago, when I was teenager, a remote Highland glen lost its water supply. Four or five of us volunteered to go up into the mountains to clear the pipe blockage that was cutting off the water supply. The weather was terrible. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Despite working our guts out, the pipe remained blocked. And we returned from the rain-lashed mountain to a community still without water. Failure. Next day we went back. The weather was gorgeous. The job was easy, everything went our way. The blockage was easily cleared. We returned from the mountain as heroes. Triumph. But I’m far prouder of the guys for the work they did the day before. It was on that day that the real effort was made, when folk really pushed themselves and gave their all. Success was easy; it was failure that brought out the best in all of us.