Category Archives: History

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

ANZAC troops bound for Gallipoli

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda is a song written by Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971.

The song describes war as futile and gruesome, while criticizing those who seek to glorify it. The story is told through the experiences of a young Australian soldier who is maimed at the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War.

The song  concludes with the melody and a few lines from the 1895 song Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson.

The song has been covered and recorded many times, perhaps most notably by John Williamson but my favorite version is performed by John McDermott. This is the original Eric Bogle version.

The song has been praised for its imagery, evoking the devastation at the Gallipoli Landings. The protagonist, who had traveled across rural Australia before the war, is emotionally devastated by the loss of his legs in battle. As the years pass he notes the death of other veterans, while the younger generation becomes apathetic to the veterans and their cause.

Full Lyrics

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in 1915, my country said “son
It’s time you stopped rambling, there’s work to be done”
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun
And they marched me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the cheers, the flag-waving and tears
We sailed off for Gallipoli

And how well I remember that terrible day
How our blood stained the sand and the water
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk, he was waiting, he’d primed himself well
He showered us with bullets and he rained us with shell
And in five minutes flat, he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
When we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

And those that were left, well we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead
Never knew there was worse things than dyin’

For I’ll go no more waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where me legs used to be
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve, to mourn, and to pity

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then they turned all their faces away

And so now every April, I sit on me porch
And I watch the parades pass before me
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reviving old dreams of past glories
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “what are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard
As they march by that billabong
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

You might like to listen to the song “I Was Only 19” which has has similar themes.

I Was Only 19

I Was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen (or ‘A Walk Through The Green Light‘) is a folk song  written by John Schumann of  the Australian band Redgum. The song was released as a single by  Redgum in 1983, and stayed as number one in the charts for   two weeks.

The song gives an account of the experiences of an  Australian soldier fighting in the Vietnam War.  Listen to the song here.

The song has transcended the Vietnam War and has become an Australian icon for the tragedy of all wars.

Complete Lyrics

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal
It was a long march from cadets
The sixth battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card
We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left

And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean
And there’s me in me slouch hat with me SLR and greens
God help me – I was only nineteen

From Vung Tau riding Chinooks to the dust at Nui Dat
I’d been in and out of choppers now for months
And we made our tents a home, V.B. and pinups on the lockers
And an Asian orange sunset through the scrub

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M.16?
And what’s this rash that comes and goescan you tell me what it means?
God help me – I was only nineteen

A four week operation, when each step can mean your last one on two legs
It was a war within yourself
But you wouldn’t let your mates down ’til they had you dusted off
So you closed your eyes and thought about somethin’ else

And then someone yelled out “Contact”, and the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours
then a God almighty roar
And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon
God help me – he was goin’ home in June

And I can still see Frankie, drinkin’ tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six hour rec. leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
‘Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears
And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel
God help me, I was only 19

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
Any why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me – I was only 19

War Memorials

War Memorials

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Paris and the eternal flame rekindled every night

War memorials are a commonplace in the countries I have lived in: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, The United States of America, Canada and Australia. Lots of wars spawn many war memorials and all the countries I have lived in have long histories of warfare; sometimes fighting alone, sometimes fighting as allies and occasionally even fighting against each other.

There are essentially two kinds of war memorial; those that simply commemorate the fallen and those that glorify some individual participant. I would shed no tears if all the countless statues of generals and their horses were consigned to cemeteries and museums or even broken up. Their histories, glorious or otherwise, will live on in rival history books written from this or that point of view.

General Robert Edward Lee
General Robert Edward Lee

The memorials to the fallen are an altogether different matter. When new, these enumerations in stone serve as a community’s thanks for the sacrifice of the individual soldiers and their still grieving families. As a war fades into history and slips beyond living memory these lists of the dead become fitting reminders of the terrible cost of war.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. not only honors service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, it honors too all those U.S. service members who fought in the Vietnam War, and those service members who were unaccounted for (Missing In Action) during the War.

Less well known than the Washington Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a memorial to the fallen in Australia’s wars. King’s Park in my adopted home town of Perth has a conventional Cenotaph in stone and marble but a less obvious, yet infinitely more touching memorial is the park itself.

Avenues criss-cross the park, but look a little closer. At the foot of each tree, lining those avenues, is a simple plaque. Each plaque honors an Australian soldier who didn’t come home. Look even closer, look at their ages so many didn’t even make their 20th birthday.

Most war memorials barely move me but this one does, even now as I write this. So you can keep your statues of generals and perhaps consider giving every soldier a tree. You will need a lot of trees though, there are a lot of trees in King’s Park.

Secession of South Carolina

Secession of South Carolina

The full title of this document is: Confederate States of America – Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

Summary

The document was Adopted December 24, 1860, just 4 days after South Carolina formally seceded from the Union.

The document relies heavily on its interpretation of the founding documents of the United States, in particular those elements related to slavery:

“Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. ”

“We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.”

“The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” Note that January 31, 1865 Congress passed 13th amendment abolishing slavery in the US

“This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.”

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

“For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The Complete Text

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slave-holding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act.

In the year 1765, that portion of the British Empire embracing Great Britain, undertook to make laws for the government of that portion composed of the thirteen American Colonies. A struggle for the right of self-government ensued, which resulted, on the 4th of July, 1776, in a Declaration, by the Colonies, “that they are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; and that, as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.”

They further solemnly declared that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.” Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies “are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

In pursuance of this Declaration of Independence, each of the thirteen States proceeded to exercise its separate sovereignty; adopted for itself a Constitution, and appointed officers for the administration of government in all its departments– Legislative, Executive and Judicial. For purposes of defense, they united their arms and their counsels; and, in 1778, they entered into a League known as the Articles of Confederation, whereby they agreed to entrust the administration of their external relations to a common agent, known as the Congress of the United States, expressly declaring, in the first Article “that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not, by this Confederation, expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”

Under this Confederation the war of the Revolution was carried on, and on the 3rd of September, 1783, the contest ended, and a definite Treaty was signed by Great Britain, in which she acknowledged the independence of the Colonies in the following terms: “ARTICLE 1— His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.”

Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE.

In 1787, Deputies were appointed by the States to revise the Articles of Confederation, and on 17th September, 1787, these Deputies recommended for the adoption of the States, the Articles of Union, known as the Constitution of the United States.

The parties to whom this Constitution was submitted, were the several sovereign States; they were to agree or disagree, and when nine of them agreed the compact was to take effect among those concurring; and the General Government, as the common agent, was then invested with their authority.

If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have remained as they then were– separate, sovereign States, independent of any of the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, two of the States did not accede to the Constitution until long after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.

By this Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of their powers was restrained, which necessarily implied their continued existence as sovereign States. But to remove all doubt, an amendment was added, which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people. On the 23d May , 1788, South Carolina, by a Convention of her People, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution, and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the obligations she had undertaken.

Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government with definite objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any specification of reserved rights.

We hold that the Government thus established is subject to the two great principles asserted in the Declaration of Independence; and we hold further, that the mode of its formation subjects it to a third fundamental principle, namely: the law of compact. We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.

We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

Adopted December 24, 1860

Two Romans and a Briton

Did you hear the one about the two Roman soldiers and a Briton watching the chariot races at Londinium ?

Me neither,  but I am sure there was such a story similar to the one told by Billy Connolly about rival fans at a Rangers Vs Celtic match.

I saw the same story recently cast in the form of two Arabs and an American on a plane.

It seems that after takeoff, the American kicked off his shoes and one of the Arabs sitting in a window seat announced that he was going to get a beer. The American, in the aisle seat, said “I’ll get it for you”.

While the American was gone, one of the Arabs spat in the American’s shoe. When the American returned with the beer, the other Arab said “that looks good, I think I’ll have one too.” Again, the American obligingly went to get another beer and the Arab spat in his other shoe.

As the plane began its approach for landing, the American slipped on his shoes and realized what had happened. He looked over at his Arab companions and asked “Why does it have to be this way?. How long must this go on, this fighting between our nations? This hatred? This animosity? This spitting in shoes and pissing in beer?”

This more recent incarnation of a very old joke is interesting in that the story assumes that the “Arabs” are not American and that the American is not Semitic. If the story were just about three guys on a plane, it probably wouldn’t work. The joke depends on the listener supplying the tension by assuming American and Arab stereotypes.

The Billy Connolly version is much funnier and far cleverer. The Connolly version is not merely a funny story about the passions of rival football teams but a brilliant satire ridiculing all conflicts over trivialities.

The earliest version of this satire may be Jonathon Swifts “Gulliver’s Travels” in which the diminutive Lilliputians fought a perpetual war against the equally diminutive Blefuscudians. The casus belli was a difference of opinion over whether a boiled egg ought to be opened at the big end or the little end hence the “bigendians” versus the “littleendians”. This was a biting satire against wars over trivial differences of religious opinion as typified by the early 18th century wars between catholic France and protestant England. Don’t forget that we once burned people alive over differences of religious opinion.

Will we ever stop pissing in each others boots over trivialities? I hope so, but I wont hold my breath.

 

 

 

 

Hate He Said

HATE HE SAID

by Steven Oliver, 24/01/2012

Hate, he said was in my heart
Hate, he said tore us apart
Hate, he said to let it go
Hate, he said but he did not know
That what I had inside of me
Was a sadness born of empathy
That because I did not celebrate
It did not mean I was full of hate
I asked him to just try and see
Through my eyes the tragedy
Of dispossession, of pain, of hurt
Of the red of blood that stained this earth
I mourn for all the lives that were lost
I mourn for what this country cost
I mourn for how we came to be
For the end does not justify the means
It’s in the past he said, move on
Why mourn for something so long gone?
I looked at him and came to say,
Do you think we should forget about ANZAC day?
It’s not the same was his retort
I said wait a minute, give it some thought

People died while fighting for their land
Defending it from a foreign hand
Make no mistake there was a war
That had been fought on these very shores
A war that didn’t always discriminate
Where the elderly or infants could meet the same fate
As those who fought to protect them so
And that’s why we should never let go
Never forget what price was paid
For us to live as we do today
He looked at me quite seriously
Said he celebrates because we’re free
He celebrates our democracy
And everything great in this country
I said, that’s fine, I get that, it’s clear
Just please don’t forget how we got here
Just take a moment to think it through
What price was paid for me and you
To live in this country as we do
Don’t take for granted the sacrifice
Both of land and of life
We need to remember those who died
Not let their legacy be swept aside
You got an apology, he said
It talked about loss and mentioned the dead

What more do you want? He asked of me,
And so I replied in the hope he would see
We have a day for Australia, the Queen
For New Years and Christmas and all those between
Like Labour and Easter, the ANZAC Parade
And just what the hell is Boxing Day?
There’s even a day that we have for the Shows
But nothing that speaks of my people’s woes
A national day to acknowledge the cause
To acknowledge all that has happened before
And I don’t mean NAIDOC I mean something more
Where the whole nation stops, like it does for a horse!
A day, is that too much to ask?
To remind us, don’t ignore the past
He processed my words and looked at the ground
We both sat in silence, then there was a sound
A sound that seemed like heaven to me
A sound of two words that said, I agree!
We talked some more as the day came to end
And despite our differences I’d made a new friend
He understood as the day came to night
That I needed some things in this country made right
And because I did not celebrate
It did not mean I was full of hate.

© Steven Oliver
Australian
24/01/2012

Listen To Steven Oliver as he recites his poem.

History According to Trump

Trump claims complete ignorance of his son’s meeting(s) with Russians. I believe him. Trump is so ignorant of so many things that claiming ignorance as a defence is completely credible for this man.

Speaking in Paris, Trump said, “France is America’s first and oldest ally. A lot of people don’t know that,” and followed up with, “France helped us secure our independence, a lot of people forget.”

Strange comments from a man who practically lives on Lafayette Square; a public park located directly north of the White House on H Street and bounded by Jackson Place on the west, Madison Place on the east, and Pennsylvania Avenue. Lafayette Square is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution, and includes a prominent statue of early 19th century President and general Andrew Jackson on horseback. Don’t even get me started on the role of the French navy at York Town.

Trump recently commented on Abraham Lincoln: “Great president. Most people don’t even know he[Lincoln] was a Republican,” Trump went on to ask his audience: “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.” This was even funnier when you consider that his audience was the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The president’s statement was met with ridicule and not for the first time. From implying famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was still alive to claiming that Andrew Jackson “was really angry that he saw what was happening in regard to the Civil War.” But Jackson died in 1845, and the Civil War didn’t begin until 16 years later, in 1861. Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, the seventh President of the United States and was the only president who served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 in which he won a decisive victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

Trump went on to say, “People don’t ask the question, but why was there the Civil War?” This is arguably the most asked and answered question in American history but Trump wouldn’t know that he has probably never read a history book in his entire life.

Each time Trump ‘discovers’ a historical fact it seem that he assumes everyone else is as ignorant of history as he clearly is. It turns out that uttering the phrases “a lot of people don’t know that” and “a lot of people forget” before stating well-known historical facts makes for instant meme-fication. Sad!

I wonder if he knows where the statue of liberty comes from? Now this:

To Pet or not ToPet

“Hoist by your own petard” is a curious phrase meaning something like “falling into your own trap” or even “what goes around comes around”.

I have long known what the phrase meant but I misunderstood its literal meaning; I thought the phrase had it’s origins in ancient naval vocabulary and I assumed that a petard was something like a pennant such that some hapless ‘Jack Tar’ might sometimes have got himself all tangled up in rigging while trying to raise a signal flag in rough weather.

Not so; it turns out that a petard (un pétard)is a french word meaning a small hat-shaped explosive device used to blow a hole in a wall or blast open a door. These days the word usually means firecracker or the noise made by a firecracker.

The French have a verb péter which means “to fart” and a noun “pet” meaning the fart itself. During a scatalogical flight of fancy, I wondered if the French “péter” and “pet” were descended from pétard or perhaps the small French explosive device was named for a natural bodily function.

I can reveal to you now that the small explosive device is indeed named for a French fart. The next time you see Hamlet and you here the oft quoted phrase: “For ’tis the sport to have the engine[e]r / Hoist with his own petar[d].”, you can smile quietly to yourself as you picture some villain, on being undone by their own schemes, disappearing in a cloud of self generated excretia.

Continuing in a scatalogical vein, did you know that a common synonym for fart is trump? Now! Was there ever a more worthy candidate for being hoist by his own petard.

Get Back in your box Eric. OK!

Pussy

This page is dedicated to Mrs Slocombe’s Pussy.

Susan Herbert studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford. After working for English National Opera and the Theatre Royal in London, she specialized in limited-edition prints of theatrical animals and exhibited frequently. She died in September 2014.

Order by:

 

Vietnam and Me

Approaching Gibralter
Approaching Gibralter

I saw a post a little while ago referring to Jane Fonda as “Hanoi Jane” and which characterized her as a traitor. It reminded me of my one and only involvement with the Vietnam war.

I was once a fully paid up member of the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR). Military duties involved weekly training at HMS Eaglet moored or rather cemented to Salthouse Dock, just around the corner from the Pier Head in Liverpool. We had our very own mine sweeper (HMS Mersey) which we used to invade the Isle of Man from time to time, on weekends only as is befitting for weekend warriors. The Royal Marines did the actual invading of course, our role was to provide the transport, hot kai and covering fire. Covering fire was fairly minimal because the locals objected to naval gunfire in the middle of the night.

Once each year we got to play with the grown ups in the regular RN in exotic places within the last remnants of the British Empire.

On one such outing in the late 60s, during a break in exercises with the US sixth fleet, I was on shore leave in Gibraltar with the rest of the crew. We were drinking with some US Marines in one of the many bars on Main Street when one of the Marines asked one of my shipmates “why ain’t you guys in Vietnam?” My mate, a fellow Scouser, injudiciously replied that “the Vietcong seemed to be doing just fine without us”. Naturally a bit of an altercation ensued. Glass went flying everywhere and much furniture was converted to firewood.

No one was seriously hurt but the incident inspired a Hornblower inspired commando raid the following night. Some intrepid souls swam out to a US destroyer and painted “Liverpool FC” in Liverpool’s signature red along its side. The graffiti wasn’t noticed until the following morning as the fleet was leaving harbour and the US destroyer was hastily recalled by an outraged american admiral. The entire crew of HMS Mersey were  obvious suspects and so the ship was thoroughly searched and the entire crew interrogated but no incriminating evidence was ever found, nobody confessed and nobody snitched. Strangely, HMS Mersey was the only vessel that had no red paint on board.

My country of birth did not get involved in Vietnam while my adopted country did. The Vietnam war, its causes and its aftermath will continue to be debated endlessly. I happen to be on the side that thinks the US invasion of Vietnam was a mistake but honest people can honestly disagree and dissent is not disloyalty. Political criticism of a war in no way impugns the bravery of those who fought in it.