Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The old send the young to die

"Older men declare war.  But it is the youth that must fight and die"  is a quote from Herbert Hoover the 31st US President.  That fact has been reality since humans first organised themselves for combat.  As young men (and increasingly woman) continue to die for their countries, it is also a fact that in each army (as anyone who has served on a front line knows) there are also staff officers who sit behind the lines, taking decisions that affect those risking their lives at the 'sharp end'.  These can be good or bad, and it is the bad ones that rankle young soldiers.  Siegfried Sassoon won the Military Cross in trench warfare in WW1 but increasingly became disillusioned with many aspects of military life.  His poem 'Base Details' sums up the view of many young soldiers, even today.

"If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
    I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
   You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
   Reading the Roll of Honour.  'Poor young chap,'
I'd say - 'I used to know his father well;
   Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap.'
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed."

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