Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The covenant never really was, but it should be 

Magnificent programme last night on Channel 4 on ‘Forgotten Heroes: The Not Dead’, the soldiers who survive wars and have to live with that fact. The stories remind us that failures of the Military Covenant are not a recent thing.

Nobody gave my dad counselling for his experiences, such as having to walk forwards over burnt human bodies after the closing of the Falais Gap in August 1944, or later having to count and bury the dead at Belsen. Watching and listening to the participants last night I glimpsed just a little of the nightmares my dad still had at the end of his life, and why when he finally died I had a small stab of relief in the sorrow – at least he could not dream again.

On equipment failures in WW2 my dad told me about the explosive Sherman Tank which was designed with a petrol rather than a diesel engine so it would go faster. Result – if an enemy bullet (not even an antitank round) hit the fuel container exactly the tank would flame up, this interesting result not being hindered by the fact that the big identifying white stars on the sides were painted over the fuel inlet cap. Several times in street fighting my dad had to go first in his jeep before the tanks could follow – he was faster than them.

Dad died just before the Iraq invasion, contemptuous of the feeble arguments for war and angry that another generation was to be broken and let down.

So I am all for the Covenant Commission suggested by Nick Clegg, and I hope we carry this forwards whoever wins our parochial contest.

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