Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Flashman's Viewpoint

In 1945, George MacDonald Fraser, author of the immortal "Flashman" series, was fighting as a young subaltern with the valiant Border Regiment against the Japanese in Burma. He concluded his moving war memoir with these words:

"... they were Labour to to a man, but not necessarily socialist as the term is understood now. Their socialism was of a simple kind: they had known the ’thirties, and they didn’t want it again: the dole queue, the street corner, the true poverty of that time. They wanted jobs, and security, and a better future for their childen than they had had – and they got that, and were thankful for it. It was what they had fought for, over and beyond the pressing need of ensuring that Britain did not become a Nazi slave state.

Still, the Britain they see in their old age is hardly “the land fit for heroes” that they envisaged – if that land existed in their imaginations, it was probably a place where the pre-war values co-existed with decent wages and housing. It was a reasonable, perfectly possible dream, and for a time it existed, more or less. And then it changed, in the name of progress and improvement and enlightenment, which meant the destruction of much they had fought for and held dear, and the betrayal of familiar things that they had loved. Some of them, to superficial minds, will seem terribly trivial, even ludicrously so – things like county names, and shillings and pence, and the King James Version, and yards and feet and inches – yet they matter to a nation.

They did not fight for a Britain which would be dishonestly railroaded into Europe against the people’s will; they did not fight for a Britain where successive governments, by their weakness and folly, would encourage crime and violence on an unprecedented scale; they did not fight for a Britain where thugs and psychopaths could murder and maim and torture and never have a finger laid on them for it; they did not fight for a Britain whose leaders would be too cowardly to declare war on terrorism; they did not fight for a Britain whose Parliament would, time and again, betray the trust by legislating against the wishes of the country; they did not fight for a Britain where children could be snatched from their homes and parents by night on nothing more than the good old Inquisition principle of secret information; they did not fight for a Britain whose Churches and schools would be undermined by fashionable reformers; they did not fight for a Britain where free choice could be anathematised as “discrimination”; they did not fight for a Britain where to hold by truths and values which have been thought good and worthy for a thousand years would be to run the risk of being called “fascist” – that, really, is the greatest and most pitiful irony of all."

(George MacDonald Fraser, "Quartered Safe out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma" (London, 1993), pp. 177-78).

3 comments:

James Higham said...

Some great quotes in there.

Witterings From Witney said...

I thought so too James! Feel free if they of use in parts 2 and 3!

Trooper Thompson said...

Sad and true.