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Lucky Charms

A couple of years ago I remember my heart going out to a Canadian sergeant who had lost half his team in Afghanistan. The Canadian sergeant, the equivalent of a British corporal, had obviously told his boys that if they did their battle drills correctly, he’d bring them back alive. That wasn’t the way things worked out and he felt guilty. The truth is that while good training and battle drills can increase the chances of avoiding death or horrendous injury, a battlefield is a terrible lottery. Who lives and who dies is more a matter of luck, or bad luck if you will, than anything else. It’s a lottery in which a winning ticket means you get to finish the day in the same physical state as you began it. Perhaps that’s why I was so pissed off when I thought I’d lost my lucky Silver Dollar in Kosovo. Talismans are an important part of the equation. They’re up there with rituals such as putting on your helmet last before going out on patrol or which boot you tie up first. Despite all the hi-tech gear, in many ways many Western soldiers are no different from a 19th Century Fuzzy-Wuzzy or African warrior who believed a charm or witch doctor's spell made him bullet-proof. Farmers and soldiers may be amongst the last people in the West who grasp how fickle the Finger of Fate can be. By the way, it turned out I hadn’t lost my Silver Dollar.

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