Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Soldiers deserve more on which to hang their hats

Thousands of Canadians flew with the RAF and RCAF in the First and Second World Wars, and thousands of them won the Distinguished Flying Cross, many of them still living, yet you can't help feel that news of a young Tommy Canuck winning the DFC for heroic services in the RAF, is diminished today as nothing more than foreign honours by a foreign country for military work in a foreign field.

Even though over 4,000 Canadians have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross since the Great War (Ace Billy Bishop being the most famous), the DFC is regrettably now only part of the British honours system; Canada, Australia and New Zealand dispensed with it with the modern adoption of their own national honours systems starting in the 1970s. I say regrettably because, apart from the Victoria Cross, our modern military decorations for bravery and valour have no history, and therefore no intrinsic merit. A rather unfortunate situation given the dangerous circumstances in which Canadian Forces and others find themselves operating in today.

When the first Canadian, Sergeant Patrick Tower, was awarded the new Star of Military Valour in the Fall, the second highest military commendation for bravery in the presence of the enemy, it was received by blank stares all around including from yours truly, who should have known better as a graduate of the Royal Military College, but didn't. In my defence, the new decorations for valour didn't come out until 1993, a few years after my formative training. Besides, until Sgt. Tower won the SMV, nobody even heard of it, nobody, including veterans, knew what it was. They still don't. That's because unlike the VC and DFC, there is no instinctive knowledge, no transcendent significance to the order, no inherent value that comes from a long and shared experience. Sgt. Tower is literally in a class all of his own, which is of course to his immense credit, but with nobody to share it with, the brave sergeant will spend a good deal of his time in the Remembrance Days to come explaining to people the significance of the SMV.

Had he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he would have joined the legions of veterans in Canada and across the Commonwealth who had also won the DCM; he would have been welcomed into their branch societies; he would have mingled and swapped war stories. In this way, the new rejuvenate the old. The heart of the old veteran warms when he discovers that his caste are not a dying breed after all, that the coming new DCM or DFC holders will eventually take their place. The young soldier in turn glows with pride, having been welcomed into their esteemed ranks. Young and old the generations are linked because they share a heritage, are connected by a common history and a common faith for the future.

The actions of Sgt. Tower is proof that this faith has not been broken, but having left the valour part to our soldiers, it is up to the nation to honour them with more than worthless trinkets. The Star of Military Valour will no doubt hold great personal value for Sgt. Tower, as it should, but there in the SMV hall of honour, he sits alone. Empty. Disconnected from history. A gallantry medal devoid of any past heroic narrative, needlessly separated from the like sacrifices of previous generations. Forgive me if some of us feel just a little underwhelmed.

Beaverbrook (Cross posted to the Torch)

Update: Then again, Britain has also changed their honours system as of 1993. The second highest medal of valour for soldiers on the battlefield is no longer the DCM, but the CGC, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. So much for my dime novel bunk. The DFC stuff notwithstanding, feel free to carry on without me.

Related: Walsingham, In Defence of Pomp; Pitt the Younger, From Honours to Merit Badges


The Monarchist said...

It turns out there was good reason for the change. The second highest commendation for valour was class-based. The Distinguished Service Cross for officers, the Distinguished Conduct Medal for men. This goes against our social ethos, and so the change is to be commended. The other reason though is weakert: consolidation of the service medals. Depedning on whether you were airforce, navy or army, all three services had different traditions and therefore different medals. Hence of the dispensation of the Distinguished Flying Cross for a tri-service equivalent. I think it would have still been nice for our pilots to be eligible for the DFC...

Anonymous said...

"Tommy Canuck"???

Anonymous said...

Sure buddy, there was Tommy Atkins and G.I. Joe (Gov't Issue), and there was Johnny Reb and Johnny Turk and there was Johnny Canuck. But our cousin "Tommy" was never 'Tommy Canuck'...a good lad no doubt but in the end he is a 'juicer' with no taste buds

but always fun at a party ...espically if he is a fmr Royal Marine

Poppaholdfast sends

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Anonymous said...

I've served in the Canadian Forces since 1976. I started out as a technician on the 707 and now am an MWO nearing retirement. I have had a great career and over the decades I've worn Trudeau's garbage bag green, Mulroney's blue, and now look like I'm in the army.

Traditions are something politicians mess with at great peril. Losing the VC or DFC are a loss, but pale in comparison to the loss of the RCN or RCAF. The RCAF died 8 years before I joined. My career has spanned long enough to see the high cost paid for Liberal nationalism. Our air branch has lost its spirit, and for most members it has become a job. The "Air Operations Branch" still drifts aimlessly as it did after unification, and is quickly becoming a subordinate organization to the army. In the early 1990s the odd term "Airforce" began to emerge. The first time I heard it I thought someone was talking about the USAF. This hollow and illegitimate term has become normalized, despite the fact that there is no official entity called an "Air Force" in Canada. The RCAF was a legitimate and proud entity.

Creating bogus entities in an effort to establish an identity just reinforces the fact that we were fools to abolish these proud institutions in the first place.

Just hang around with any old guys who were in the RCAF and you can't help but realize how we've lost a great institution that made a profound contribution to this country.

The Monarchist said...

Damn straight. The man with egg over his face is one Paul Hellyer. The evil that men do...