Rhodes on dog tags and the invasion we prefer to forget

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Military exercises
Military exercises

Eight thousand British troops are on exercise across Europe, perfecting new and exciting ways of stopping a rabid bear. Military exercises are priceless; they reveal all sorts of issues.

I recall a large hangar near Rugby in the 1980s where hundreds of reservists were on a mobilisation exercise. Thanks to a new computerised data system, a process that once took several minutes per soldier was reduced to seconds. Then someone noticed a long queue forming. It turned out to be a corporal who, with a little hammer and anvil, was painstakingly stamping out dog tags for the soldiers exactly as the British Army had done in the First World War. All the time saved by computers was being lost by the technology of Ypres. Thanks to that exercise, a problem was spotted and sorted. These days dog tags are laser printed.

Army dog tags carry your name, number, blood group and religion. Being raised a Methodist, my TA tags were marked “Meth.” A colleague asked: “So what's that, your favourite tipple?”

After my item on the massacre in Buffalo, a reader writes: “ Never mind about the US, action is needed here in the UK to tackle and stop knife crime.” True enough. But the scale of the US problem goes far beyond anything we can imagine. In the year 2020 the number of knife deaths in England and Wales was 221. In the same year the number of gun deaths in the US was 45,222. God Bless America.

The columnist Peter Hitchens has launched a one-person campaign for England to leave the United Kingdom. I suspect this could turn into a 55 million-person campaign. But in the process of bigging-up our nation he repeats the old line that England has not been conquered for almost 1,000 years – since the Normans came ashore in 1066. Not exactly true.

In 1688 Britain went through a coup followed by invasion by a Dutch fleet of 460 ships – twice the size of the Spanish Armada – carrying 40,000 men and 5,000 horses. Because it was a successful and almost bloodless invasion, we Brits never use the I-word but refer to it as The Glorious Revolution. This proves the old theory that history is always written by the winners.

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