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TUESDAY 27  FEBRUARY 2024

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Has patriotism died in the ranks of the Andy Capps?

AS THE Tories disintegrate and Starmer sweeps up the pieces of a broken party, the world burns around us and calls grow for the return of the Call Up of our young in some form.


Generals and politicians in our country and other European states are demanding increases in planes, ships, and men, either by spending, some form of conscription or Citizens Voluntary Army.


The news was met with a dismal reaction in some newspapers, especially a poll by Daily Mirror readers, some who clearly believed they were better Red than dead and appeared to be as patriotic as an empty Fortnum & Mason hamper.


It was sad to see that the Leftie paper, once the home of Andy Capp patriotism, quoted some young Brits claiming they would never fight for their country because they hated Sunak. He was rich and they wouldn’t go to war for him. Eh?


That’s not the point is it, if your mother, sister, or wife is about to have her head disengaged from her shoulders by a warrior of God with an axe or a convicted murderer in a Russian uniform, you would want to do something, wouldn’t you?


And with US nuclear missiles, that have three times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, about to arrive in Lakenheath, do they really believe Putin will recognise their white undies fluttering from flagpoles?


Enemies are banging on Europe’s door, and those who should know, say we don’t have enough troops and resources to fight them. If that is true, what’s been going on? Why have we fiddled while Rome burns?


Russia continues its genocide of the Ukrainian people less than 1700 miles away; China warns that it will use Star Wars to blast its enemies in the West; Iran and North Korea continue to develop wobbly nuclear missiles they claim can obliterate targets as far away as the Tottenham Court Road bus stops and the Pentagon flags.


Not to mention a group of rag tag and bobtail Houthi thugs who fire missiles at cargo ships bringing our supplies through the Red Sea. As if Yemen hasn’t got enough problems of its own. These are just silly boys with nothing else to do. Why don’t they grow food and dig for water for their 14 million starving people? They’ve got drones and rockets though.


For a country like Britain with ground-breaking technology it must be better to have a well-trained, well-equipped army of men and women who want to fight for their country instead of the kind of cannon fodder Putin relies on … which is just throwing bodies at the front line and raping villages, literally.


It must be better to have a top-tech, high-morale but slightly bigger Army. Putin’s military performances speak volumes. Only cruelty gives them an edge. He has a hungry and cold army, short of morale, poor equipment and unmotivated men and women who want to go home to mum. As for caring about his own men and women, he is too busy polishing his statues in the bunkers of his palaces to care as he continues towards his destiny to be Peter the Great. 


Rishi Sunak has ruled out conscription after the Generals’ warning and vows military service will remain voluntary. But how long will he be around now? And what does a former multi-millionaire broker know about the military? He never polished his £500 shoes at Sandhurst. A new PM and a new order in the EU and America may think differently. We need to take a deep breath.


Britain recruited a huge volunteer citizens’ army after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, with over three-quarters of a million men joining up in eight weeks. But they never watched the horrors of a Ukrainian war on their TV sets before they went. Or even Gaza for that matter.   


This adds to the reason that a recent TV recruitment campaign by all three armed services has failed to attract the massive number of young men and women needed to support NATO’s Eastern flank as Putin hands out Kalashnikovs to another 80,000 men and women. Now even France is looking at some form of military training for younger people when they leave college.


Britain hasn’t been sleeping on the job we hear. We were told last week that we have apparently developed a super-powerful laser weapon designed to knock drones out of the sky. Dubbed ‘Dragon Fire’,” it can replace £1million missiles and costs just £13 per shot. Cheap as chips.


I have often wondered what weapons the British military has been experimenting with in the Ukraine. A former Tory Defence Minister once told me that our Generals want our allies to have little wars around the place … it gives them a chance to experiment with new weapons and tactics’. I am sure they have been. Trouble is, where are they all? Not that some Mirror readers need them.  


Let us hope Conscription doesn’t raise its ugly head in the UK. The National Service Act was passed the day Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 and required all fighting age men between 18 and 41 to join the armed forces. Following the end of the Second World War, the practice continued in some form until 1963.


We don’t go down that road again with just cannon fodder … it might take us to our Waterloo. A strong voluntary, well-equipped force that is a deterrent must be the only way.

*****

COMMONS SENSE

Well done the public panel on the Laura Kuenssberg TV show yesterday who were asked who would make the best Prime Minister and get things done. Their answers … Martin Lewis; Carol Vorderman; Alex Ferguson and Alan Sugar because he wouldn’t stand any nonsense in the boardroom!

*****

IN TOWN WITH ALICE








When I was with the Press Association in the North, my local pub in Harrogate was The Cairn Hotel, a wonderful, Victorian gothic building with high ceilings, ornate walls and stained-glass windows.


It had around 150 rooms, wonderful gardens and was a former vicar’s house, (which tells you something about Victorian vicars), a stone’s throw from the White Swan where author Agatha Christine famously vanished for a weekend.


We soon became friendly with The Cairn manager (I shall call her Christine) and the staff, being a regular there, even at weekends. So, naturally I soon picked up the stories and anecdotes of life behind the reception desk.


One story I remember was of widow Alice, a grand old lady guest in her 90s, who was very alert and sharp for age, but lonely. She had a couple of sherries in the bar after dinner most nights and enjoyed brief conversations with passersby before retiring to her room on the top floor, where she had lived for around a year.


One morning, Marko, the breakfast waiter, took her tea and toast to her room to find her dead in bed. The ambulance came and a medic carefully wrapped Alice in a blanket and with the help of Christine and Marko eased her body into a wheelchair and out towards the service lift, usually used for such delicate matters. Unfortunately, the lift was broken that morning. They had no alternative but to take the corpse to the communal lift in the next corridor.

They arrived at the doors to find three American ladies on their way to breakfast, who immediately stood aside and asked what happened as they all poured in. Christine explained, (not wanting to tell them this was a dead body), that Alice had a fall, and they were taking her to hospital.


But the concerned women didn’t leave it there. They gently pulled the blanket away from Alice’s face and began to give her words of encouragement, patting her head and telling her not to be frightened or worried. She appeared to be sleeping all the time and they remarked that she was very pale, bless her. When they all got to the ground floor, the women fussed around and tucked her up and even walked with the party to the ambulance.  


“It was a wonderful goodbye really, Terry,” said Christine to me later. “Alice would have been thrilled. They never realised they were fussing around a corpse! I just never found the right moment to tell them.”

***** 

TAKE ME TO THE MOON, JET








STAR WARS and laser guns, as I mentioned earlier, seem more real now than they were back in the Fifties, the days of those compelling radio dramas ‘Journey into Space’ and ‘Dan Dare’.


And today, we know there’s no one on the Moon and no little green fellahs whizzing around Mars in flying saucers. But back in the day, we lapped them up.


China’s threat of using inter-galactic weapons this week, reminded me of the BBC’s Journey into Space, which was followed by millions of listeners in Britain, young and old and was translated into 17 languages. It was first broadcast in 1953. Remember it?


My brother and I would turn the lights off in our bedroom, as we tuned into space crew Jet, Lemmy, Doc and Mitch travelling to the Moon and Mars on our crystal radio sets, with a wire hanging out of the bedroom window.


The adventures were written by producer Charles Chilton, a former BBC messenger, who created The Goon Show and Riders of the Range. It was a thrill to interview this prolific script writer for yet another space anniversary pull-out I was doing for the Express in the Eighties.


I knew, like many of us did, that Chilton only wrote the series as a favour because another producer asked him to fill a gap quickly in his production schedule. The rest is history, of course and it became the longest-running space radio series of all time.


He was a jovial, friendly man, not at all like the kind of space academic I had imagined. I discovered that he had borrowed an astronomy book to get him started … but got hooked after that.


Chilton admitted that he gave Andrew Faulds the part of the original Captain Jet, because his secretary fancied the actor so much, she kept pestering him to do it. In the end he relented. He couldn’t have been jealous – he went on to marry her himself. David Jacobs played Jet much later in the series.


Not everyone then knew the actors, but their crew names were famous in most UK households. Taking a walk down Memory Lane, as we do on the Drone, the studio actors were … Guy Kingsley Poynter (Doc); Bruce Beeby or Don Sharp (Mitch) and David Kossoff or Alfie Bass (Lemmy).


Charles explained that Jacobs played a variety of characters … changing his voice each time. “He used to mark up his script using different colour crayons to help him remember what each character was supposed to sound like, with a colour code at the top of the page, red for Geordie, green for Scottish and so on,” he said.


Chilton added: “Once he even changed his voice to sound like a crowd of reporters each one interviewing Jet in a different accent.” Amazing, who would have thought Mr Juke Box Jury could have done that.


While we were fearing for the crew’s lives every night in series like Operation Luna, however, the crew were having laughs in the studio. Jacobs was nearly always the target … once the crew poured a jug of water inside his trousers and he had to do the rest of the programme in a raincoat and pants.


Another time Lemmy smeared strong mustard on his lip microphone, and he struggled to speak perfectly.


I played my CDs of the whole series again recently, (sad eh?) and because of what we know now about space travel, there were some glaring holes … like lighting up a cigarette when the oxygen was running out while stranded on the lunar surface.


But the endearing space adventures will live forever in our hearts. I still heartily recommend it to you.

*****

NOT SO SHARP, IDRIS!







AS knife crime in London continues to grow, I see that tough guy actor Idris Elba is telling His Majesty’s Press again that mandatory prison sentences for carrying a knife should be scrapped.


He says that the UK epidemic of street violence will not be solved with a ‘one size fits all’ remedy of banning the blades … and warns against criminalising young men caught up in this cycle of gang violence.


The actor says that most boys carry knives because they are scared, they have been stabbed or seen someone stabbed.


What? So, carrying a butcher’s knife through our streets is OK then, right? Just in case you need it to defend yourself, or suddenly feel like whittling away at a twig on a park bench?   


At the centre of the whole debate is Stop and Search again. Many in the black community hate it … and say it’s racist of course. They say black youths are being picked on. But at 13 percent of the population, black Londoners make up 61 percent of knife murderers; 53 percent of all knife crime and 45 percent are victims.


If police are hunting a black knife attacker in a hoodie, they can’t waste time arresting every white boy in pink trainers, can they?


There always seems to be an outcry when someone black is stopped. Just like a police officer asking a black person to step out of their car. They are being picked on. Personally, I don’t care about being asked to step out of my car, why should I? Police are here to help me aren’t they?


I get where Idris is coming from, and we all care about young boys white and black being hurt or murdered.


But it is not OK for young men to carry two-foot Samurai swords they have seen on the internet, just in case a stranger jumps out of the bushes with one, Idris. Get a grip.


“There are gradients to the issue he says,” as the Government plans new, tough legislation to ban the zombie blades. Rubbish Idris! A knife is a knife when it is in your stomach.


Britain is calling out for tough laws all round from the streets to the courts. We are suffering.

 

TERRY MANNERS

29 January 2024