Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bad Timing

I have an unfortunate habit of saying the most inappropriate things at exactly the wrong occasion. It’s obviously part of my genetic makeup, which, as hard as I try to avoid it, I can’t always do anything about.

Looking back at the last couple of entries, I realised that posting one called Bullshit! on Remembrance Day was perhaps not the most tactful thing to do. I did try to swap the order around (because obviously being posted on Remembrance Sunday would be so much better), but discovered that Will Dixon had already jumped in and left a comment.

So apologies to anyone who took offence.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of interviewing a couple of RAF bomber pilots for magazine articles I was writing. One had flown Wellingtons into the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland, or “Happy Valley” as he called it. The other piloted Blenheims in the North Africa Campaign, before transferring to flying unarmed reconnaissance Spitfires.

In the early twenties, they were serving their country at an age when I was goofing around at art school and bunking off to see movies, without a care in the world. Both men were very matter of fact about the job they had to do. It was only when I got to browse through the pilot logs they had kept after all these years that I discovered the extent of their exploits.

The Wellington pilot was shot down over Belgium, and taken down the famous Comete Line, set up by Andrée de Jongh, to Spain where he was traded for his weight in petroleum. Attacked by fighters after one particular raid on Derna, the Blenheim pilot eventually brought the plane home on one engine, with less than a minute’s worth of petrol in the tanks, to find that the rest of the squadron had already raised a glass to him and his aircrew.

Both men survived the war and went of to lead long and happy lives with successful careers and loving families. Too many men and women who served their country weren’t so fortunate. For the sacrifice they made, they should be remembered not just today but every day.

In early April 2003 I had to contact a Wing Commander in the RAF to arrange a time and place to interview him for one of the articles. “Bit busy with the war,” he announced, which threw me, because, having spent the day in London’s Imperial War Museum’s archives immersed in 1939-1945, my initial reaction was What are you talking about the war’s over? But of course he meant the second invasion of Iraq, codenamed “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, which had begun mid-March.

“Call me next Thursday” the WC instructed, “I should have more time to talk.” Next Thursday was April 10, 2003. The day before I turned on the television and watched tanks enter Baghdad and the M88 tank retriever tear down the statue of Saddam Hussein.

Obviously the second invasion had gone according to plan. It’s a great shame the coalition governments hadn’t put as much thought and effort into what was to follow.


At 7:25 pm, Blogger English Dave said...

A lot of people are fuckers at the best of times. The real test is are they trustworthy fuckers at the worst of times.

I stand my ground at 11a.m on the 11/11. In support of those who are/were trustworthy.

At 8:08 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

That's kinda amusing...I never thought about date of the post at all. But with the time difference and all, I tend to not pay attention to that kind of thing.

At 8:55 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Will, not blaming you for it by any means. Hope it didn't appear that way.

I switched Bullshit! back to draft them reposted it with the piece on Dexter in its place earlier today. Only found the comment then.

My fault. I had let the machine pick up a call I knew would have carried on past the hour if I had picked up the phone, put down the paper to observe the two minute silence, then got on with my day... er, watching Dexter.

At 4:23 am, Blogger wcdixon said...

What ep of Dexter are you up to over there - just watched ep 7 over's still working.

At 9:46 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

Excellent. I've seen the first four so far. Looking forward to the rest.


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