Watch your black, gents
I must apologize to Master Flea for treading on his culture-beat turf, but I trust he'll forgive me, since the play I quote from is a military one: Black Watch, about the legendary (former!) regiment of the same name.
At one point a Black Watch sergeant explains to his men why they are in Iraq: “You’re here because Her Majesty’s Government has decided that there’s no way we can sit down in Basra brushing up on our Arabic and topping up our tans when our allies are getting ten types ay shite knocked out ay them by the Mujahidin. It’s our turn tay be in the shite. We’ve had three hundred years ay being in the shite. If you dinnay like shite, then you shouldnay have bothered f*****g joining.”
Unfortunately, the shite didna limit itself to the stage, or even to field operations for that matter. The shite was dropped upon this proud military unit from a great height - the Palace of Westminster, to be exact.
The Black Watch are no longer a regiment, due to the machinations of Britain's Labour government. Instead, they are the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Like the author of the article quoted above, I doubt the regiment's soldiers appreciate the supposed efficiencies of amalgamation.
I wonder what was going through Gordon Brown’s mind as he watched the 3rd Battalion of the Black Watch (sic) swinging past him through the streets of Kirkcaldy on Saturday, pipes playing, boots thudding, eyes left. They had just been granted the freedom of Fife, the region that provides the bulk of their recruits, and they were parading in front of the VIPs, who included their local MP, the Chancellor.
He may have noticed that they wore battledress, not kilts, and he may have wondered why. It was not because they are about to go back to Iraq — which they are — but because, since the amalgamation of the Scottish regiments, they are allowed to wear the red hackle, their most famous emblem, only when they are kitted out for patrol.
Personally, I must echo the sentiments of Jeff Duncan:
"It is only a matter of time before all five Regiments are wearing the same uniform and the bracketed names are dropped. This is a meaningless gesture in the greater picture of almost 400 years of proud service to the country. The appalling decision to merge the Royal Scots with the King's Own Scottish Borderers will be remembered by all patriotic men and women of Scotland as the ultimate act of betrayal by this Labour Government and those cowardly, so-called Scottish MPs and MSPs - mainly Labour - who deserted the men of those Regiments in their hour of need."
Why is this important? Because, as Tom Clancy sagely asserted with the voice of a fictional but most realistic Royal Warder in his novel Patriot Games, tradition is in an integral part of the bedrock of what makes militaries function.
“Tradition is important,” Evans said. “For a soldier, tradition is often the reason one carries on when there are so many reasons not to. It’s more than just yourself, more than just your mates – but it’s not just something for soldiers, is it? It is true – or should be true – of any professional community.”
Who would have thought that Great Britain, of all the countries in the whole wide word, would have forgotten this? What a shame.
Sometimes fiction, no matter whether play or novel, tells the factual story best.