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No Stopping

The past is another country - they do things differently there. At least I think that's the quote, the opening line of a dreadful, twee, book I was forced to read at high school  called The Go-between. That quote is probably the only good thing about the book. It came to mind because of two books I was reading recently. One is about the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, when the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders inspired the phrase "Thin Red Line" as they saw off a Russian cavalry regiment. Times war correspondent William Russell actually described the Highlanders as "a thin red streak" in his original dispatch but later changed it to "thin red line". The book also covers the Battle of Alma when British general, and carpenter's son, Colin Campbell told the Highland Brigade (the Sutherlands, Black Watch and Camerons) that there would be no soldiers stopping to help the wounded on his watch - that was the bandsmen's job and any soldier who disobeyed would be publicly shamed back home. The other book I was reading was the Australian Army's "Lessons Learned" from the Vietnam War. It noted that all too often operations were brought to a shuddering halt after a "Free World" soldier was wounded and the scramble to organise a helicopter medi-vac began. What a difference 100 years or so makes. Oh, and can anyone name a senior British frontline general since 1914 whose father was a carpenter, coal miner or plumber?

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