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  • 10 Best Special Forces in the world Special forces, or special operations forces are military units extremely trained to perform unconventional, typically insecure missions for a nation s political, economic or military purposes. The origin of Special Forces dates back to the early twentieth century, with fighting models set up by German Brandenburgers during the World War II. Ranking the Best Special Forces from all over the world is a tough job. It s just like trying to rank the best athlete from the world among the numerous different sports which require different skills and abilities. Throughout the worl, every country train special forces within their military. And all these special forces train their men to be the best of the best, to take the impossible task and make it possible. Here is a list of top 10 Best SPECIAL FORCES from around the world. All these renowned Special Forces are always surrounded by an air of mystery as they cannot be exposed to the general public. 10. MARCOS, India The MARCOS (Marine Commando Force) is an elite special operations unit of the Indian Navy. It was created for conducting special operations such as Amphibious warfare, Counter-terrorism, Direct action, Special reconnaissance, Unconventional warfare, hostage rescue, Personnel recovery, Asymmetric warfare, Counterproliferation. The MARCOS is specially organised, trained and equipped for the conduct of special operations in a maritime environment. 9. GIS, Italy The GIS (Gruppo di Intervento Speciale) is an elite special operations counter-terrorism tactical response unit inside the Italian Carabinieri military police. It was created by Italian State Police in 1978 to combat the growing terrorism threat. The unit is globally known for its sharp marksmanship. Currently the GIS, with one hundred or so soldiers, is tasked with anti-terrorism operations, security services and providing training. 8. EKO Cobra, Austria EKO Cobra (Einsatzkommando Cobra) is Austria s primary counter-terrorism special operations tactical unit. It was formed in 1978, primarily as a response to the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. This special tactical unit is involved mainly in counter-terrorism. The unit retains a low profile, despite their high-speed involvement in the war on terror. They were involved in a hostage rescue in the Graz-Karlau Prison in 1996 and numerous other operations. The EKO Cobra is the only Counter-Terrorism unit to end a hijacking while the plane was still in the air. They are considered by many as one of the best trained counter-terrorist units in the world. 7. GIGN, France The GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) is a special operations unit of the French Armed Forces. The unit is trained to perform counter-terrorist and hostage rescue missions in France or anywhere else in the world. It was formed after the Munich massacre in the 1971 Olympic Games. Its basic goal was to prepare for possible future responses to the extremely violent attacks. In 1973, the GIGN became a permanent force of men trained and equipped to respond to these kind of threats. It is renowned for its swift responses and proficient combat capability in hostage rescue and anti-terrorism operations. GIGN currently deployed for large-scale intervention, search and protection missions. 6. SSG, Pakistan The SSG (Special Services Group) is a special operations force of the Pakistan Army. It is quite similar to the U.S. Army s Special Forces and the British Army s SAS. The unit was created in 1956, it also known as Black Storks a name derived from their unique headgear the Maroon Beret . The SSG considered one of the world s best special forces because of their courage and bravery. As a Russian president once said that if he had Pakistan s army and Russian weapons he could conquer all the world because they are very brave. The SSG has trained for these specific missions: Asymmetric Warfare, Special Operations, Counter-Proliferation, Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action, Hostage Rescue, Counter-Terrorist and Personnel Recovery. Recently, SSG has been active in anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan s restive western borders with Afghanistan and fighting Islamic extremists in Pakistani cities. 5. JW GROM, Poland The JW GROM (Jednostka Wojskowa GROM) is Poland s elite counter-terrorism unit. The unit was officially activated on July 13, 1990 in response to terrorist threats. GROM, which stands for thunder is one of the five special operation forces units of the Polish Armed Forces. They are trained to respond to a variety of threats and unconventional warfare roles, including anti-terrorist actions and projection of power behind enemy lines. 4. GSG 9, Germany GSG 9 is a German counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police. It was officially established in 1973 after the mismanagement of the German Police to successfully free 11 Israeli athletes who were kidnapped in Munich during the Summer Olympic Games. GSG 9 is deployed in cases of hostage taking, kidnapping, terrorism and extortion. It also be used to secure locations, neutralize targets, track down fugitives and sometimes conduct sniper operations. The unit is very active in developing and testing methods and tactics for these missions. From 1972 to 2003 they reportedly completed over 1,500 missions,[1] discharging their weapons on only five occasions. 3. Delta Force, United States 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), popularly known as Delta Force, was officially approved in 1997 after numerous, well-publicized terrorist incidents in USA. It s the best and one of the most secretive forces in the US. Modeled after the British 22 Special Air Service Regiment, or SAS. The founder/co-founder of SFOD-D was a former SAS operative who thought the US needed an elite force like the SAS. Delta Force s primary tasks are counter-terrorism, direct action, and national intervention operations, although it is an extremely versatile group capable of conducting many types of clandestine missions, including, but not limited to, hostage rescues and raids. 2. Navy SEALs, United States The Navy SEALs, also known as the United States Navy s Sea, Air and Land Teams can trace their roots to World War II. SEALs are male members of the United States Navy, and are one of the United State s most elite special Warfare Combatants. The CIA s highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits operators from the SEAL Teams. Joint Navy SEALs and CIA operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War. This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recent joint Navy SEALs and CIA operation in the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. 1. SAS, United Kingdom Special Air Service is one of the best Special Forces in UK. SAS was set up in 1941 during the Second World War and has served as a model for Special Forces around the world. It was reformed as part of the Territorial Army in 1947, and named the 21st Battalion, SAS Regiment. The Regular Army 22 SAS gained worldwide fame and recognition after successfully attacking the Iranian Embassy in London and rescuing hostages during the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege. It currently comprises one regular regiment and two territorial regiments. It,s primary tasks are counter-terrorism in peacetime and special operations in wartime.
  • 100 Years Motorman : The Pensive Quill Daniel Bradley has questions to ask about the suppression of important documents relating to British state killings in the North. Daniel Bradley is a justice campaigner in Derry. My solicitor Richard Campbell says "its bizarre"and goes on to ask the question, what could be contained in this material that is so bad that it has to be locked away for a century ? And he would be correct to ask this. This government on the 10th July 1972 gave authority to their troops to do what they will with no consequences; That is clear after reading the minutes of this secret meeting which even mentions torture to seek information from prisoners. At that time the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland signed the agreement for the go ahead even for the changing of the "yellow card". It is possible that the capture of my brother could be in this material as it shares, under the third file Ref No. WO305/4600. It is locked away for a hundred years and one must ask the question, who were the persons on the ground taking footage and still photographs? And did they take footage of my brother's capture and torture? Did they take footage of the brutal murder of Daniel Hegarty? To be put away for a 100 years, that's the only possible reason. I am also aware that the British troops did the same thing on Bloody Sunday. When will the people of Northern Ireland waken up to facts. It took myself and the family of Daniel Hegarty, as well as the Bloody Sunday families over 40 years to get in to court. It took just two weeks for soldier J and 7 other soldiers to get a high court judgement to stop proceedings of prosecutions of soldiers as well as 25 thousand signatures. Where is the Justice.
  • 100+ National Guardsmen return home New Year's Day About 120 members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard are celebrating the New Year by returning home. Click to watch the report. [1] The members of the 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, arrived Friday afternoon at the Manchester Armory. The troops deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Spartan Shield, a training mission coordinated by the U.S. Army. The New Hampshire guard members conducted artillery training. Several other members of the Regiment returned to New Hampshire in December. It was the first time a National Guard field artillery battalion was used to support the operation. References ^ Click to watch the report. (
  • 102-year-old freedom fighter Mawasi Ram passes away Selling zero-outage dream, in grip of blackouts Expect disruption along Gurgaon-Delhi border as diesel cabs go on strike today 10-minute shower leaves artery waterlogged Chief Minister to lend an ear to homebuyers plight Windfall for shuttle bus operators as non-CNG cab ban spikes demand Selling zero-outage dream, in grip of blackouts Odisha techies extort Gurgaon doctor, arrested Policemen held captive by kin for 1 hour as accused flees
  • 12 World War II Diaries You Can Read The experience of living through a war can seem almost unimaginable for those who haven't been through it, but the diaries kept by real people c an help bring it to life. Many important diaries kept by political leaders and ordinary folks during World War II have been digitized or preserved, and while reading a few of them might require a trip to the library, they're valuable reminders of what life was like during those tumultuous times. 1. HARRY S. TRUMAN, 33 RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES Harry S. Truman became president close to the end of World War II, in April 1945, after Franklin D. Roosevelt died suddenly. He kept a diary during this crucial period, and large portions have been released to the public for free via the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. Truman s diaries reveal some of the difficult decisions he had to make, including the one to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. On July 25, 1945, Truman wrote: This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new. He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler s crowd or Stalin s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful The full text of Truman s 1947 diary [1] has been digitized and transcribed, allowing us to read his own words from his own hand. 2. THE WORLD S MOST FAMOUS DIARIST, ANNE FRANK Such was the impact of her diaries, detailing her experiences in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, that Anne Frank has become one of the most famous diarists in the world. Anne started her diary aged just 13 and wrote it over two years while she and her family hid from the Nazis in a secret annex of an old warehouse. Anne describes how Jews in Amsterdam were treated, writing on October 9, 1942 [2] : Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they're sending all the Jews If it's that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they're being gassed." Anne s diary [3] was so affecting in part because she remained so positive despite the terrible world in which she was living. One such example of her inspiring attitude was written on July 15, 1944: It s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It s a wonder I haven t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. Tragically, Anne and her family were caught by the Nazis in 1944 and Anne was sent to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where she died of typhus at the age of 15. Her diary was first published, by her father Otto, in 1947, and there have been many editions [4] since. 3. JOSEPH GOEBBELS, HITLER S MINISTER FOR PROPAGANDA Joseph Goebbels [5] was Hitler s minister for enlightenment and propaganda from 1933 to 1945 and was instrumental in spreading Nazi doctrines. He kept a diary starting in 1923, and the early years mainly cover Goebbels' failed love affairs. But after 1925, Goebbels became fixated on Hitler and his diary reflects this. He wrote in November 1925 [6] : Hitler is there. Great joy. He greets me like an old friend. And looks after me. How I love him! What a fellow! Then he speaks. How small I am. He gives me his photograph. With a greeting to the Rhineland. Heil Hitler! I want Hitler to be my friend. His photograph is on my desk. Once Goebbels rose to become a senior Nazi, his diary entries often concerned Nazi policy, such as the extermination of the Jews. In February 1942 [7] he wrote: The Jewish question is again giving us a headache; this time, however, not because we have gone too far, but because we are not going far enough. By 1941 Goebbels' extensive diaries filled 20 volumes and he began to realize what a valuable historical resource they would be. From then on, he dictated them to a stenographer and had them kept in an underground vault at Reichsbank, Berlin. In 1945 glass plates featuring microfilmed copies of the diaries were buried at Potsdam, where they were later found by the Russians and shipped to Moscow, where they lay until 1992. Twenty-nine volumes of the diaries were subsequently published in Germany between 1993 and 2008, but so far only some of the diaries from the war years have been published in English [8] . 4. HAYASHI ICHIZO, JAPANESE KAMIKAZE PILOT Kamikaze translates as divine wind and was the Japanese practice during World War II of sending young men in planes loaded with explosives on suicide missions. The vast majority of kamikaze pilots were under the age of 25, conscripted into the army sometimes against their will. One such young man was Hayashi Ichizo, a student who was drafted into the army in 1943 aged just 23. While stationed at a Japanese Naval Base from January to March 1945, Ichizo recorded his thoughts in his diary. In one entry [9] , he admitted he was not entirely convinced of his mission: To be honest, I cannot say that the wish to die for the emperor is genuine, coming from my heart. However, it is decided for me that I die for the emperor. In another heart-breaking entry , Ichizo yearns to be back with his mother, as a small child: I dread death so much. And yet, it is already decided for us Mother, I still want to be loved and spoiled by you. I want to be held in your arms and sleep. More extracts from kamikaze pilots' diaries can be found in Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms and Nationalisms [10] by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. 5. VICTOR KLEMPERER, LIVING IN DRESDEN AS AN "UN-GERMAN" GERMAN Victor Klemperer was of Jewish descent and yet a baptized Christian, a complicated situation that made him "un-German" according to the Nazis. Klemperer began keeping a diary in 1897, aged 16, and his diaries span German history from Kaiser Wilhelm II through the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis, ending in communist East Germany. However, Klemperer s diaries from 1933 45 [12] have gained the most attention. As Hitler was elected on March 30, 1933 , he wrote: [11] [13] Hitler Chancellor. What, up to election Sunday on March 5, I called terror, was a mild prelude. Now the business of 1918 is being exactly repeated, only under a different sign, under the swastika. Again it's astounding how easily everything collapses. Klemperer was a Professor of Romance Languages at the Technical University of Dresden, but under the Nazis he was forced to give up his position and was even banned from entering the university library. Furthermore, he and his wife were forced to leave their home and move into a mixed house for Jewish people (as his wife was non-Jewish), he had his typewriter confiscated, was forced to wear a yellow star, and even had to surrender his cat [14] . Klemperer s diaries were published in full in Germany in 1995 to great critical acclaim and have since been translated into English. 6. U.S. ARMY GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON George S. Patton was a U.S. Army general who was the field commander in North Africa and kept a diary throughout the war years. Despite being a highly successful commander, he was thought of as politically unskilled and made a grievous error in 1944 [15] , when newspapers reported that Patton had said it was the destiny of Britain and America to rule the world, leaving out America s Soviet Union allies (the Army quickly responded by saying that he had been misquoted). As a result, Patton was called before President Eisenhower (Ike) and wrote of the encounter in his diary entry from May 1, 1944 [16] : Ike said he had recommended that, if I were to be relieved and sent home, I be not reduced to a Colonel, as the relief would be sufficient punishment, and that he felt that situations might well arise where it would be necessary to put me in command of an army. I told Ike that I was perfectly willing to fall out on a permanent promotion so as not to hold others back. Ike said General Marshall had told him that my crime had destroyed all chance of my permanent promotion, as the opposition said even if I was the best tactician and strategist in the army, my demonstrated lack of judgment made me unfit to command. Despite the dressing down, Patton was given the critical role as commander of the FUSAG, or First US Army Group, for the Invasion of Normandy. An almost entirely fictitious army, they were intended to make the Germans think that an invasion was going to land at Pas-de-Calais instead of Normandy. Patton died in 1945 after sustaining injuries in a car crash, and his diaries were used to write the memoir War as I Knew It [17] , which was published in 1947. 7. IVAN MAISKY SOVIET AMBASSADOR TO LONDON 1932 43 Getty Images Ivan Maisky served as the Russian Ambassador to London from 1932 to 1943 and during that time kept a fantastically detailed diary. The diary was kept hidden in the Russian Foreign Ministry until 1993, when historian Gabriel Gorodetsky [18] found it and realized he had stumbled upon a fantastic historical prize revealing a Soviet insider s thoughts in the lead-up to the war. Maisky was a central player in London society and had connections with top people from Winston Churchill to Lord Beaverbrook. In one diary entry [19] from September 4, 1938, he revealed what happened when he visited Winston Churchill at his country estate: Then the three of us had tea Churchill, his wife and I. On the table, apart from the tea, lay a whole battery of diverse alcoholic drinks. Why, could Churchill ever do without them? He drank a whisky-soda and offered me a Russian vodka from before the war. He has somehow managed to preserve this rarity. I expressed my sincere astonishment, but Churchill interrupted me: That s far from being all! In my cellar I have a bottle of wine from 1793! Not bad, eh? I m keeping it for a very special, truly exceptional occasion. Which exactly, may I ask you? Churchill grinned cunningly, paused, then suddenly declared: We ll drink this bottle together when Great Britain and Russia beat Hitler s Germany! I was almost dumbstruck. Churchill s hatred of Berlin really has gone beyond all limits! The full diaries are published by Yale University Press as The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James s, 1932-1943 [20] , edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. 8. "VINEGAR JOE" GENERAL JOSEPH STILWELL Nicknamed "Vinegar Joe" for his caustic personality, General Joseph Stilwell was a general in the U.S. army who commanded troops in Burma under Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek ( whom he nicknamed "the peanut [21] ") during World War II. Stilwell complained openly, in his signature staccato fashion, about his difficulties dealing with the Chinese nationalist leadership, writing on April 19, 1943: Worked all P.M. 5:00 to see Peanut. A hell of a session. More demands sneers and complaints. Counter-offensive !! More stupidity. Acts scared. Morale at low ebb . Is he crazy? Close to it. Stilwell s diaries reveal his experiences escaping from Burma [22] in 1943, as the Japanese closed in, and later his thoughts on commanding troops in Japan. The Joseph Stilwell diaries are kept at the Hoover Institute and are fully available online [23] . 9. MARIE VASSILITCHKOV AND A PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER Marie Vassilitchkov was a White Russian princess who escaped Russia with her family after the Russian Revolution before moving to Berlin in 1940, where she worked in the German Foreign Ministry from 1940 44. There Vassilitchkov worked under Adam von Trott zu Solz, a leading anti-Nazi who was part of the 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler [24] . Vassilitchkov kept a diary during this period, covering the assassination plot (which she was aware of but not directly involved in) and the subsequent bombing of Berlin. On November 22, 1943 she wrote about the destruction of Berlin s Lutzowplatz [25] : All the buildings had been destroyed, only their outside walls still stood. Many cars were weaving their way cautiously through the ruins, blowing their horns wildly. A woman seized my arm and yelled that one of the walls was tottering and we both started to run. Vassilitchkov later escaped to Vienna and finally settled in London. Her diaries [26] were published in 1988, ten years after her death. 10. FIELD MARSHAL LORD ALANBROOKE Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke (or just plain Alan Brooke [27] to his friends) was a British military strategist who helped to plan the Normandy invasions in 1944 and was central to the British war effort. Alanbrooke frequently disagreed with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and yet because of his military insight remained a key part of Britain s military strategy. Alanbroke s diaries were first published in 1957, but were heavily edited and redacted for both national security and to soften his criticisms of powerful figures like Churchill. Alanbrooke wrote in his diary about how his American equivalent, George Marshall, viewed Churchill [28] : I remember being amused at Marshall s reactions to Winston s late hours, he was evidently not used to being kept out of his bed till the small hours of the morning and not enjoying it much! He certainly had a much easier time of it working with Roosevelt, he informed me that he frequently did not see him for a month or six weeks. I was fortunate if I did not see Winston for 6 hours. A new un-censored version of Alanbrooke s diaries were published in 2001 [29] , finally revealing the real tensions and truths behind [30] his relationship with Churchill. 11. CHESTER HANSEN, U.S. SOLDIER AND AIDE TO GENERAL OMAR N. BRADLEY Diaries kept by World War II soldiers are very rare, because keeping a diary was generally forbidden due to the danger of it falling into enemy hands. This did not stop Chester Hansen, an aide to General Omar N. Bradley, who was instrumental in the North African campaign and commanded troops during the D-Day Landings. Trained as a journalist [31] , Hansen kept meticulous records of his war years, completing some 300,000 words in his diary. On June 6, 1944, while headed toward the coast of Normandy, France, Hansen wrote that: Like others in the Army party, Bradley was up at 3:30. He is on the bridge, a familiar figure in his ODs with Moberly infantry boots and OD shirt, combat jacket, steel helmet. He smiles lightly as though it is good to be nearer the coast of France and get the invasion under way. Hansen also recorded much of the intense warfare he took part in. This extract [ PDF [32] ] from April 1, 1943 relates to a battle fought in the Tunisian desert: Ten minutes later 9 JU88 s came over, disappeared and returned out of the sun [sic]. We ran for the trenches generals rather casually. I last remember looking up to see ships. Terrible concussion hit me tore back my helmet dropped to slit trench thinking I had been hit in neck. No blood, greatly relieved. Shrapnel breaking overhead, riddled my rifle. Got out, helped wounded. Although Hansen often wrote of battles, he also revealed some of the more amusing details of life during World War II, recounting that Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Bradley an ice-maker because the latter was fed up with getting served warm whiskey. The diaries have yet to be digitized but the archive along with letters, maps, newspaper clippings and other ephemera are kept at the Army Heritage and Education Center [33] in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 12. NELLA LAST A BRITISH WOMAN S EXPERIENCES OF LIFE IN WARTIME BRITAIN Nella Last s diary [34] , which spanned 1939 66, was kept for the British Mass Observation [35] archive in order to preserve the thoughts of ordinary people during wartime and beyond. Last was a housewife who lived in Barrow-in-Furness in Lancashire and was 49 years old when she started her journal. She carefully records how life changed as the war progresses, as well as her thoughts on the conflict. On March 13, 1940, [36] she wrote of her feelings on hearing Finland had surrendered to the invading Russians: All the brave struggles of Finland such futile bravery now seems to hang over me like a black fog that shuts out the sun. It's easy enough when things go right, to talk and think of 'God's plan' but so hard to reconcile any plan with the martyrdom of the Finns and the Poles. Kill kill kill, sorrow and grief and loneliness, senseless cruelty and hatred, drowning men, mud, cold and a baffling sense of futility what a Hell broth. In 1941 the Germans began bombing Britain, and Last was forced to endure many bombing raids. She wrote of one terrible night on May 4, 1941 [37] : A night of terror. Land mines, incendiaries and explosives were dropped and we cowered thankfully under our indoor shelter. I really thought our end had come. Now I've a sick shadow over me as I look at my loved little house. Ceilings down, walls cracked, doors off. Nella continued to write her diary after the war and right up until 1966. The diaries of her war years [38] were published in 1981. References ^ 1947 diary ( ^ October 9, 1942 ( ^ Anne s diary ( ^ many editions ( ^ Joseph Goebbels ( ^ November 1925 ( ^ February 1942 ( ^ have been published in English ( ^ one entry ( ^ Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms and Nationalisms ( ^ keeping a diary ( ^ 1933 45 ( ^ March 30, 1933 ( ^ surrender his cat ( ^ grievous error in 1944 ( ^ May 1, 1944 ( ^ War as I Knew It ( ^ Gabriel Gorodetsky ( ^ diary entry ( ^ The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James s, 1932-1943 ( ^ whom he nicknamed "the peanut ( ^ escaping from Burma ( ^ available online ( ^ 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler ( ^ destruction of Berlin s Lutzowplatz ( ^ Her diaries ( ^ Alan Brooke ( ^ viewed Churchill ( ^ Alanbrooke s diaries were published in 2001 ( ^ truths behind ( ^ journalist ( ^ PDF ( ^ Army Heritage and Education Center ( ^ Nella Last s diary ( ^ British Mass Observation ( ^ March 13, 1940, ( ^ May 4, 1941 ( ^ diaries of her war years (
  • 13 pictures of the devastating Boxing Day floods England is in the middle of its second major flooding crisis in a month, after unusually high levels of rainfall on Boxing Day causes river banks to break in the North of England. Prime Minister David Cameron has called the situation unprecedented and vowed to do whatever it takes to help those affected. See some of the devastation caused by the floods in the pictures below and see how it unfolded. The North of England has been hit by unusually high levels of rain over the Christmas period, which have caused rivers such as the Ouse and Foss to break their banks. The Ouse reached over 5m high overnight it s normal range is 0.5m to 1.9m. Lancashire and parts of Yorkshire have suffered the worst of the flooding so far, with parts of Wales also affected. Hundreds of flood warnings are in place and there are 24 severe warnings, which indicated possible loss of life. 3,500 properties around the River Ouse are at risk, with police advising people to move all valuables upstairs and evacuate. 7,500 properties around Manchester and Lancashire are without power. Parts of York that would normally be protected are now flooding after the Foss Barrier, which joins the rivers Ouse and Foss, was overwhelmed on Saturday night. Prime Minister David Cameron has called the flooding unprecedented and on Sunday morning chaired a meeting of emergency response team COBRA. Cameron says the government plan to do whatever is needed and has deployed more of the armed forces to help out in the area. The army are already on the ground helping to evacuate people. Mountain rescue and other emergency forces are also helping the efforts. Here are soldiers from The Second Battalion, The Duke of Lancasters Regiment, evacuating people from the Queens Hotel in York city centre. More rain is expected on Sunday, but nowhere near the level seen on Saturday. It s the second incident of severe flooding in Britain this month. Earlier in December, Storm Desmond flooded much of Cumbria. [1] The clean up costs are likely to be huge. The government set aside 50 million to cover the costs of Storm Desmond [2] and may have to earmark a similar amount to pay for the damage of the Boxing Day floods. Even after the water subsides and people can return to their homes, it will take more than just money to rebuild lives. This is Rosaline Notman from Carlisle, standing in the kitchen of her home that was ravaged by Storm Desmond. Victims of the Boxing Day floods will return to similar scenes. References ^ Storm Desmond flooded much of Cumbria. ( ^ set aside 50 million to cover the costs of Storm Desmond (
  • 15 Years On. Joe O'Connor. No Need For An Admission Ciaran Cunningham recalls the Provisional IRA slaying of his friend Joe O'Connor in Ballymurphy 15 years ago tomorrow. Time flying relentlessly in as it does, this Tuesday will mark fifteen years since Provisional IRA gun men murdered Joe O Connor, a Volunteer of the organisation then known as the Real IRA. They shot him repeatedly in the face outside his mother s door in Ballymuphy, Friday 13th October 2000. Sinn F in to this day denies claims of Provisional involvement. I have always made a point of remembering and declaring the blatant wrongness of Joe s murder at anniversary time, perhaps to beyond the point of proportionate concern. Many young men and women before and since have been wrongfully murdered, with just as appalling an outcome and perhaps not afforded the ceremony and reverence that a handful of Joes friends and comrades assured he received in death. From the outset I declare a prejudice; Joe would have been my brother-in-law had he lived. The damage his killers left in their retreat is manifest in my home to this day. But there is a more prominent motivation that propels me to put my hand up at anniversary time. The blatant and crass nature of his murder and the political context in which it occurred stuns and offends me till this day. You see Joe knew he was going to be murdered. Sometime around 1999, while I was a student at Queens University, he called to my house in an agitated state. It was a Sunday morning not the liveliest of times in a South Belfast student house but Joe being a persistent early riser thought nothing of grabbing the Sunday papers and driving to mine for a cup of tea to read them. He was probably glad of the chance to get away from the increasingly menacing atmosphere of the West, where the Provisionals were well into the process of banning dissent. Kidnapping and abducting men with sport like enthusiasm, no doubt floating on the confidence of Mo Mowlam s internal housekeeping declaration. This one morning Joe sat on our dusty armchair with his knee rocking up and down persistently; that subconscious declaration from young men that all is not well. I asked Joe what was wrong, at which point he explained that a British based Sunday Newspaper was suggesting that his maternal grandfather Francisco Notarantonio - who had been shot dead in his bed by the UFF many years previously - was in fact murdered as result of a British Army ploy to cover up for a high ranking agent within the Provisional IRA. Me in my youthful naivety suggested to him however that this was a useful revelation. My young and absolutist political mindset back then welcomed any opportunity to throw back a snowball in the face of the rocks of condemnation which were coming our way from within the ranks of Sinn F in, who we saw as engaging in a fundamentally flawed and ill founded strategy. One of us is going to go to the wall for this , Joe solemnly declared to me that morning. I have never forgotten the grim sounding dry pronunciation of that one line, nor the cold atmosphere it left in the room. In hindsight I understand exactly why he was concerned. The stars were beginning to align against Joe O Connor from that moment on, and he was well capable of reading the signs, signs which I did not see until a friend (unaware that we knew each other) causally informed me of his murder while I sat drinking tea on her couch on the evening of Friday 13th, October 2000. It is difficult to relay exactly, the political atmosphere which existed in areas like West Belfast in the late 90s. Unless one belonged to an established and confident armed organisation (which we did not) public expressions of dissent from Sinn F in strategy were quite simply not allowed. The Provisionals were having none of it and they made it very clear. For some time, and across the country, they had embarked on a campaign of abduction and the brutal beating of activists singled out as dissidents . In West Belfast - where devotion to Gerry Adams had peaked at a religious like fervour - not only would they have been capable of murdering a dissident, but their appetite for it was palpable on the ground. It goes without saying that the Provisionals would have loved to kill a dissident at that time. The actions of a section of their membership, walking away from that organisation in late 97 in opposition to the Mitchell principles, the subsequent immeasurable tragedy of Omagh, and the feverish appetite for violence that seemed to exist within the well drilled and equipped Provisional circles made it almost inevitable. But the final provocative factor; the perception (real or perceived) that Joe's own family were party to the musings of an ex-British Army whistleblower, who asserted that IRA internal security was for years directed by Army Agent Steaknife ; this was the key factor which surely brought the cross hairs closer to the head of Joe O Connor. Joe was the easiest of targets for the Provisionals to pick. He was not identified in the locality as a Republican face so to speak. Cruel necessity (his father dying while he was a child) saw him tasked in no small way with bringing up his younger siblings. While many other youths his age busied themselves with rioting or other fringe political activities of the late 80s and early 90s, Joe O Connor was more likely to be seen in Castle Street selling Christmas wrapping or dish cloths in an effort to bring a few quid into an under resourced working class house. Ironically this type of absence from the Republican scene was mooted as a valuable advantage for young men wishing to join the Provos. For Joe O Connor (who instead Joined the Real IRA) it could be relied on as a key condemnation, to be expressed after his death. By the time of his death he was most certainly a Republican, well capable of expressing where he felt things should be going politically and militarily, happy to travel around Ireland networking, securing and ferrying war materials and generally expressing frustrations, fears, suspicions, strengths and indeed weakness; no better or worse than the average Provisional of his age. His locality made him all the more vulnerable; there were at the time no more than eight loosely aligned members of the Real IRA in Belfast, at least two were subsequently found to be working for the Provisionals. The Provisionals in comparison were a monolith, with an existence that extended to at least every street. And the Provisionals could not have lashed out as they did anywhere else, not without a genuine prospect of taking hits in return. Had they done so in South Armagh for example, the ramifications would have rolled on for generations. Joe had unfortunately been buoyed by assurances that he would be defended in the face of any Provisional aggression. This was of course an unrealistic assurance as events (or the lack of them) would go on to demonstrate. Thankfully the Real IRA never did exercise retaliation for the murder of their Volunteer. Indeed their political manifestation would go on to studiously avoid all mention of the man who sold their first paper in Belfast. And today the army he joined arguably no longer exists. A predictably tragic pattern which should perhaps act as a tale of caution to all eager young men promised adventure and the world. Hindsight being a great thing, the kindest thing that Joe s organisation could have done was to tell him to go home, that they were unable to protect him in the hostile Belfast atmosphere of the time, and perhaps come back when it was safer to be a Dissident . 2015 perhaps. In the run up to the tenth anniversary of Joe O Connor s murder, I busied myself with attempting to secure (via Relatives for Justice) an admission of responsibility from the Provisionals. Aware that his mother (in ill health and getting no younger) could benefit from that thing called closure , a concept which I must admit to not understanding myself, not having lost a child to murder, a murder which (according to those now in the government) was committed by nobody in particular. In fairness to RFJ, they were extremely helpful when approached in 2010. Fears had been expressed to me by others about RFJ, from people concerned in regards to the impartiality of the organisation and their willingness to confront Sinn F in, in an atmosphere in which that party appear to pull the strings of so many community based organisations. However in dealing with the Joe O Connor case, the representatives of Relatives for Justice were (in my opinion) up front, transparent and as honest as could be expected. I measure their honesty by their simple declaration to me (following their attempt to gauge the mood of the PIRA) that The Provo s are never going to admit to this , and subsequent expressions of distaste for what was being proposed by Sinn F in at the time as suitable means to address similar issues of the past. And they were right; the Provisional s are never going to admit to the brutal and unnecessary murder of Joe O Connor, a twenty six year old working class dad who ended up on the wrong side of the Irish political pendulum. Fifteen years on, does it now really matter if those who ordered his murder admit responsibility and explain their actions? It would be helpful, but not altogether necessary. The Provisional IRA did murder Joe O Connor, let that be stated as a historical fact, beyond the need for any further debate. Furthermore, the array of Sinn F in, SDLP and Unionist politicians who for the sake of political expediency said or intimated otherwise, knowingly and deliberately lied to the people regarding the murder of a working class citizen of Ireland, let that be remembered also.
  • 1916 And Ireland's Revisionists – A Counter Blast From Justine ... Ed Moloney @ The Broken Elbow discuses and shares a riposte from Justine McCarthy against the anti-Easter Rising lobby. The Irish edition of The Sunday Times lurks behind a paywall and so, many of my readers especially those not able to afford the newspaper may not be aware of, much less have read this significant piece on the 1916 centenary by Justine McCarthy, writer, broadcaster and adjunct professor of journalism at Limerick University, which appeared at the weekend. So here it is, below, reproduced for your enlightenment and entertainment, with thanks to Chris Fogarty who brought it to my attention. I hope to be re-publishing more 1916 material as the anniversary approaches. I called Justine McCarthy s article in the headline to this post, a Counter Blast because it is just that: an articulate, factually based, strongly worded and compelling riposte to the coverage of the 1916 anniversary that so far has characterised much of the media commentary in Ireland, coverage of the rebellion that has, as she puts it, spewed scorn on the Rising . Her point is that this view has constituted the loudest (media) commentary on the Rising, characterising the rebellion as: antidemocratic, fanatical bloodlust; Catholic fundamentalism; uncalled for and unwanted. The tone underlying each charge is one of communal self-abased apology. This is, in no small measure, because Ireland s two premier dailies, The Irish Independent especially and, to a lesser extent, The Irish Times, are presenting a view of the anniversary not unlike the disapproving one they offered to the Irish people in the days and weeks after Easter Monday 1916: goodbye to William Martin Murphy, and hello to Denis O Brien. Since the unnecessary and bungled demise of The Irish Press twenty years ago, the Irish print media has been badly unbalanced and so a view of Ireland and its troubled relationship with Britain at odds with that of The Indo/Times, which is held by a large slice of the Irish populace, no longer finds an expression in the daily media. How ironic is it then, that it is to the columns of one of Rupert Murdoch s prized publications that one must turn to read an alternative commentary such as that provided by Ms McCarthy? There are two other factors at play however, one of which Justine McCarthy touches upon in her article, to wit, Ireland s loss of economic sovereignty in 2010 , a reference to the forced austerity policies imposed on Ireland by European & US capitalism to deal with the disastrous consequences of the banks cavalier greed. Thus, to celebrate in a positive way the bid for political, economic and social freedom represented by the audacious act of rebellion in 1916 would put in sharp and shameful relief the abject surrender of 2010. So, far better to belittle the former so as to disguise the extent of the latter. The other is the impending general election in the South and with it the prospect terrifying to many readers of the Indo and The Times of a government that has in its ranks, members and leaders of Sinn Fein. And so denigrating the republican militarists of a century ago is another way of having a bash at Gerry Adams and his buddies, a proxy sortie against the hordes at the gate. The commentariat should calm down however and settle their nerves. The Shinners may not be everyone s notion of ideal house guests, they will undoubtedly get up to all sort of roguery should they set up store in Government Buildings and whichever party or group of independents they choose to partner with in office are deserving of much solicitude. But the simple truth is that in Mr Adams and his colleagues there really is much less for the Irish establishment to worry about than they imagine or fear. These are not revolutionaries who wish to upend the social and economic order, despite their history of armed struggle; the willingness to use guns does not in itself signify anything more than a readiness to end another s life. As republicans go, they are more Pearse than Connolly, more concerned about changing the colors of the flag that flies over the GPO than challenging how the GPO does its business, more intent on attaining power than using it to transform society. Their track record in government office in the North, from an almost instant acceptance of public-private partnerships and cuts in the health services, through to the recent negotiation of the viciously pro-austerity Fresh Start deal tells us that. Sinn Fein is a party which has elevated pragmatism and expediency to art forms, disclaiming a fixed economic and social ideology in the interests of attaining and keeping office, driven more by the polls than political doctrines, one day championing the victims of austerity against the banks, the next declaring it has no problems with capitalism . Last March, on the margins of a St Patrick s Day bash for Hillary Clinton in Manhattan, at a time when alarmed European bankers were comparing Sinn Fein to the then Greek radicals in Syriza, Goldman Sach s CEO, Lloyd Blankfein asked Gerry Adams for a private chat which lasted ten minutes or so. Afterwards Blankfein confided to a fellow guest that he had come away greatly impressed ..and re-assured by the Sinn Fein leader. So relax, Dublin Four. Easter Monday 2016 isn t going to be any bit as bad as Easter Monday 1916. If you don t believe me, then trust the man who runs the most powerful and egregiously greedy bank in America! I don t think Gerry Adams would lie to him. Anyway here is Justine McCarthy s article. Enjoy: Historic revisionism means the truth is still a casualty of the Rising by Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times , 17 January 2016 The delectably named actress Perdita Weeks, who plays a classic English rose beauty in RTE s Rebellion, has said it is no wonder that British school children such as herself were not taught about the Easter Rising, since England s treatment of the Irish was absolutely appalling . In Ireland, this news comes as something of a thunderbolt, 100 years after the event. England was mean to Ireland? Some mistake, surely. Since the dawn of this commemoration year, and in its bristling approach, the loudest commentary in Ireland about those five days that sowed the seeds of this independent Irish state has spewed scorn on the Rising. It has been variously disclaimed as antidemocratic, fanatical bloodlust; Catholic fundamentalism; uncalled for and unwanted. The tone underlying each charge is one of communal self-abased apology. To whom are these apologists saying sorry? To the insurrectionists who were executed? No. To the people of Ireland whose country continued to be occupied for another six years? No. To whom then, as a baffled Weeks might wonder. The commentariat, by and large, is mortified that England was caused bother while its back was turned, dealing with the First World War. Can you think of any other country that makes craven mea culpas to its former oppressor for exploiting an opportunity to gain its freedom? One of the glaring deficiencies of this commentary is its failure to imagine how different history might have turned out had the government in Westminster agreed to negotiate a peaceful handover of power without the need for bloodshed. The night before he was executed in Kilmainham jail, Eammon Ceannt, one of the seven Proclamation signatories, wrote: This generation can claim to have raised sons as brave as any that went before. And in the years to come, Ireland will honour those who risked all for her honour at Easter 1916. Ceannt s valedictory prophecy proves that Ireland s patriot dead were not right about everything. Their critics, however, would have us believe they were wrong about everything. One of the most common refrains is that the leaders of the Rising had no mandate for it. What were they supposed to do? Commission an opinion poll from Behaviour & Attitudes or, maybe, hold a referendum? Remember, just 30% of men in Ireland (compared with 60% in England) and no women whatsoever were entitled to vote in the last election held before the Rising, in 1910. While John Redmond s Irish Parliamentary Party won that election comprehensively, Ireland s political landscape changed significantly in the intervening six years. Westminster had put Home Rule on the long finger once again. Edward Carson s Ulster Volunteers, who had the support of the Tories, had smuggled in 25,000 guns, and 57 of 70 British army officers at the Curragh quit rather than take on Carson s force. Today s commentators would have us believe that everyday life for the citizenry in Ireland mirrored England s. This is a fallacy. The Rising came three years after the Lockout and its concomitant destitution, with civilians in some of Europe s worst slums left dependent on soup kitchens. It was two years after Erskine Childers s gun-running to Howth on the Asgard when, in response to jeering by a crowd on Dublin s Bachelor s Walk, British soldiers fatally shot and bayonetted four civilians and injured 38 others. Ireland was not a benign, untroubled place. The Rising took place 68 years after a million people died in the Famine, during which Charles Trevelyan, the assistant secretary to the treasury, exported Indian rice sent to feed the starving. Common wisdom has it that, if the British had not turned nasty and executed the leaders, the Rising would never have won popular support. This assumes that, until the executions started, the British had behaved impeccably. It is another fallacy, as evidenced by the fate of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a pacifist arrested while trying to stop looters. He was taken as a hostage by an army raiding party in Rathmines, which was ordered to shoot him if it came under attack. Afterwards, they shot him dead by firing squad and never bothered telling his wife, Hanna, who was left to search the city for her husband. In the absence of elections that genuinely gave the people their say, the second-best medium for assessing public opinion in 1916 is contemporary media coverage. This is largely dependent on the pro-establishment Irish Times and William Martin Murphy s Irish Independent. Murphy, a former Irish Parliamentary Party MP offered a knighthood by King Edward VII, was in the employers vanguard against James Larkin in the Lockout. He was, therefore, not ideally placed to know or to express the mood of the majority. Even after the executions had commenced in Kilmainham jail, he was still writing in the Irish Independent that more of the leaders ought be put to death. Ireland had its own powerful conservative class at the time of the Rising. They were stolid, middle-class men who wanted to keep the status quo because it served them well. They were the guardians of the establishment, with an Irish accent. The insurgents, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. James Connolly was born in Edinburgh, Eamon de Valera in America, Tom Clarke in Hampshire. Roger Casement and Constance Markievicz were Protestants, as were Grace and Muriel Gifford. Ceannt s father was an RIC officer. John MacBride was a major in the Boer War. What bonded them was dissatisfaction with the status quo: they were nationalists, suffragists and intellectuals who yearned for a republic of equals. Their spiritual heirs still do. To dismiss them as a handful of wrong-headed mavericks is a grievous fallacy. On Easter Monday, 1,200 men and women participated in Dublin s Rising. More than 3,500 were arrested after it. Had Eoin MacNeill not countermanded the rebellion order on Easter Monday, and had Casement s German guns not been intercepted in Kerry, who knows how many more would have taken part across the country. Would the Rising have been the start of the Irish War of Independence? Most people do not glory in the deaths and injuries caused in 1916. Yet most people do ascribe to the right of a people to self-determination. It is a core principle of international law that a country should be free to choose its own sovereignty and political system, to set its own ethos and vision, to nurture its own culture and make its own mistakes. It is a principle rooted deep in human psychology, entangled in a mesh of self-respect and destiny, that no slanted history can undermine. When Ireland lost its economic sovereignty in 2010, the country better appreciated its hard-won self-determination. Anti-imperialism was a growing movement around the world in the late 19th and early 20th century, but much of the analysis about Ireland suggests that independence was a mere bagatelle way down the list of a sane people s priorities. I, for one, am happy to have grown up in a self-governing country. In the 100 years since the Rising, Ireland has endured a war of independence, a civil war and 30 years of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The propaganda war alone is the one that endures. The truth continues to rank foremost among its casualties.
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  • 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment due to move to Dale Camp in ... 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment due to move to Chester site later this year A changing of the regiments is under way at Dale Barracks in Chester. A merger parade has taken place at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth to formally mark the coming together of The Royal Welsh Regiment s 1st and 2nd Battalions into a single unit. View gallery Corporal Barry Lloyd RLC Royal Welsh Fusiliers View gallery The merger saw the 1st Battalion move from its old base at Dale Barracks in Chester to Tidworth, as part of the Army s 2020 reorganisation.

    It was announced last May that they would be replaced by the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment which is due to move into the Dale later this year. The Royal Welsh Regiment was formed in 2006 when the Chester based Royal Welch Fusiliers combined with the Tidworth -based Royal Regiment of Wales in 2006. Last year there was speculation the move could spell the end for the Liverpool Road barracks especially when defence secretary Philip Hammond confirmed seven barracks would be closing under the restructure.

    But this fear proved unfounded when the announcement was made that the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment will be moving on to the Liverpool Road camp.

    The Mercian Regiment recruits heavily from Chester and the surrounding areas.

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  • 3 Clothing Staples That Came From the Military The armed forces have given us more than freedom they've given us fashion. The List's [1] Bradley Hasemeyer [2] has a list of duds that came up from the trenches to invade your closet. 1. Dr. Martens These iconic shoes came about around 1945 in post-war Munich. Dr. Klaus Marten was nursing a foot injury from a skiing accident and realized he needed a more comfortable shoe than his military issued could provide. 2. Coats Bomber jackets, pea coats and parkas all came from the military. Popular brands like Alpha Industries [3] initially started as a contractor to the United States military and then grew into an international commercial seller of military style apparel. You can also find a large selection of both new and used at your local military surplus store [4] . 3. The Cardigan Sweater This classic came about in the 1800s thanks to James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th earl of cardigan, who served as a British military Commander. His buttoned wool vest has evolved into the cardigan of today. From Dr. Martens to the cardigan sweater we re saluting the military clothing in our closets because it's what's trending. [5] Do you wear any of these pieces? Share your thoughts with us on our Twitter [6] page. References ^ The List's ( ^ Bradley Hasemeyer ( ^ Alpha Industries ( ^ military surplus store ( ^ what's trending. ( ^ Twitter (
  • 360 degree: Nehru's legacy, a mixed bag For a proper understanding of Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India s first Prime Minister who was as much revered as he was reviled, we have to shed some of preconceived notions about him He was a dreamer, yes, in contrast to Sardar Patel who was a man of action who in one fell sweep made all princely states fall in line and used force when Junagadh and Hyderabad showed resistance and coolly called it police action. It was Nehru who took the Kashmir issue to the UN after the Indian troops beat back the Pakistani tribesmen and the Pakistani army. The result was a ceasefire to be followed by plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The two countries differed on terms of the ceasefire and on pullback of troops. Since then we have one part under Indian control and another part in Pakistan s hands. Why did Nehru take the issue to the UN after Maharaja of Kashmir acceded to accession to India? Was it because he was too much of a democrat to force an unwilling people be a part of India? The UN resolution said the accession should be ratified by the people. Nehru wrote: When Kashmir acceded to India in October 1947, there was no mention of plebiscite by India. What India said was that the people of Jammu and Kashmir would be consulted. The first mention of plebiscite came long afterwards in a resolution of the U.N. Commission, which we accepted. That resolution contained various conditions to be fulfilled before the question of plebiscite came up. Among these conditions was the withdrawal of the Pakistan forces. In May 1956, he said: My justification for being in Kashmir primarily is because the people of Kashmir or a great majority of them, the national leaders, invited us and because I think that a very large section of them want us to be there. If nobody wants us there in Kashmir, we shall have no place there. We can't keep an army of occupation in place there. So that, both for practical reasons and other reasons, the natural result is that we should seek a settlement of the Kashmir issue as it is today in the ceasefire line, subject to some changes here and there. In another setback to Nehru s policy, the UN did not accept election held in Kashmir under India s control as a substitute for plebiscite. The UN said the wishes of the people of the entire state should be ascertained. In the first election, Sheikh Abdullah won and became Chief Minister. Later, he called for self-determination and fell afoul of New Delhi and was kept under preventive detention in Kodaikanal. When Mohammed Jinnah insisted on partition and Mahatma Gandhi s determined opposition delayed grant of independence by the British, it was as Rajaji predicted in 1946. Contrast this pragmatist s view with Nehru s stand. He said well into independence: So far as the two-nation theory is concerned, we have never accepted the fact that Pakistan was a result of the two-nation theory. It may be so in the minds of the people of Pakistan but we did not agree to it even then. Our position has been that we cannot consider a nation and a religious community as the same thing. Nations contain more than one religious community. Even if all the Muslims in India believed in this theory, we would not accept it or even if all the Hindus believed in it. Being a true secularist, Nehru found the very idea of a theocratic state repugnant. No wonder the Sangh Parivar despise him. Another misconception is that Nehru felt betrayed when China invaded India in 1962, inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Indian army and later unilaterally on Arunachal, having made a point that it was a disputed territory. A stand that China sticks to this day. The fact was the border issue was discussed when Nehru visited Peking in 1954 and when Chinese Premier Chau-en-Lai made a return visit in 1956. No agreement was reached, though. Cited as a crowning glory of Nehru in foreign affairs was the non-alignment policy, coming together of Asian and African countries that had just gained independence from colonial rule the central pillar of which was keeping equal distance from both the super powers. The first conference in Bandung, Indonesia, saw participation of Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Egyptian Premier Abdul Nasser and host Sukarno, besides Nehru. The panch sheel, five principles of coexistence enunciated at Bandung suffered a blow when China, which joined the movement at Nehru s urging, sought to settle a territorial dispute through use of force. In domestic issues, a blot on Nehru s democratic credentials was the dismissal of the world s first democratically elected communist government in Kerala. It was the fallout of a mass agitation against the government of EM S Nambodiripad against an education bill that sought to regulate the wages and working conditions of teachers in private educational institutions. Up in arms was the Catholic Church as well as the Nair community, both of whom ran several institutions and a saw the bill as an encroachment on their rights. Nehru relented in the face of mass protests. Most controversial was Nehru s policy of democratic socialism or mixed economy with emphasis on public sector commanding the heights of the economy. Rajaji, his long associate during the freedom struggle, turned a bitter critic of what he called the licence-permit-raj system which said was the root cause of corruption. Rajaji stood vindicated when P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh opened up the economy leading to liberalisation and globalisation. But when foreign majors came to India the so-called Bombay Club of big industrialists, pleaded for protectionism. If they are able to stand up to competition from MNCs, it was because of the foundation laid by Nehru on industrialisation. Maybe, he neglected agriculture, which Gandhi said should be the focus with villages as fulcrum of growth. But then it was a different where the nation was ruled by stalwarts who agreed to disagree and yet remained best of friends. When Nehru died in May 1964, a year or so after the Chinese invasion from the shock of which he could not recover, Rajaji paid a glowing tribute. He said: Eleven years younger than me, eleven times more important to the nation, eleven hundred times more beloved of the nation, Sri Nehru has suddenly departed from our midst and I remain alive to hear the sad news from Delhi and bear the shock... .The old guard-room is completely empty now... I have been fighting Sri Nehru all these 10 years over what I consider faults in public policies. But I knew all along that he alone could get them corrected. No one else would dare do it, and he is gone, leaving me weaker than before in my fight. But fighting apart, a beloved friend is gone, the most civilised person among us all. Not many among us are civilised yet. God save our people The writer is a Chennai-based senior journalist and political analyst
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  • 4 stress related health problems – and how to fix them Stress is something we ll all encounter at some point in our lives. While for some it s signified by sweaty palms, a knot-like feeling in our stomachs and a pounding heart, stress can have a major effect on other areas of our health and some that we might not even realise are associated. And since it's National Stress Awaress Day on November 4, read on to discover the most common stress related health problems and what can be done to treat them from the experts Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) A recent poll by Buscopan IBS Relief revealed that for 34% of people with IBS, stress for is what triggers a flare up. The pain of IBS is caused by muscle spasms in the bowel , and since stress often goes hand in hand with long working hours which can mean irregular meal times and hurried eating at desks, it can make the problem even worse. Try: Buscopan IBS Relief [1] , 4.75. Skin breakouts and acne When we re under pressure, hormones like Cortisol get released, which are bad news for skin as it can increase the skin s oil production resulting in breakouts, pimples, spots, the lot. When we re stressed and anxious we also tend to touch our faces a lot, transferring dirt and bacteria from our hands onto our skin. We also tend to sleep less and put exercise on the backburner, all having a negative effect on our skin. [Related story: 10 everyday stress triggers we could do without] [2] Free radicals are released when we re stressed and a great way combat these by is using skincare and eating foods that are rich in anti-oxidants, nature s way of protecting skin from all sorts of daily damage. Try : If you re having a stressful time, don t go for super harsh products to counteract breakouts use a gentle wash, exfoliate, put a mask on, relax. Look after your skin and calm it rather than stripping it. Try Witch Blemish Stick [3] , 3.19, to target blemishes. Insomnia People who are stressed often sleep badly, becoming generally fatigued or in more serious situations suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep can make you irritable, affecting your relationships with others and performance at work. A recently published study concluded that the active natural ingredient Rhodiola rosea, exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate, whilst also decreasing the presence of stress in burnout patients suffering with fatigue syndrome. Try: Vitano [4] , 9.00 . Headaches Another common problem caused by stress is stress headaches. Most common in women, these headaches can be really debilitating for the sufferer. Relaxation techniques like exercise, massage and yoga can help reduce the frequency of these. Watch our video on tips to massage away a headache or migraine [5] . Try: Syndol Headache Relief [6] , 2.99 , for a quick pain relief. References ^ Buscopan IBS Relief ( ^ [Related story: 10 everyday stress triggers we could do without] ( ^ Witch Blemish Stick ( ^ Vitano ( ^ Watch our video on tips to massage away a headache or migraine ( ^ Syndol Headache Relief (
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  • 5 Patriot Spies of the American Revolution During the American Revolution, the fledgling Continental Army employed a sophisticated network of spies, double agents and secret informants to gain the upper hand on the British. Espionage duty was notoriously hazardous work operatives faced the gallows if caught but that didn t stop dozens of intrepid volunteers from collecting intelligence and undertaking covert missions behind enemy lines. From a doomed Patriot to an officer who spied on the British in plain sight, get the facts on five of the American Revolution s most legendary secret agents. Nathan Hale Last Words of Nathan Hale, stipple engraving by Scottish artist Alexander Hay Ritchie. (Credit: Yale University Art Gallery) Often dubbed America s first spy, Nathan Hale was a Yale graduate who served in Knowlton s Rangers, a short-lived Continental reconnaissance unit. When General George Washington s forces became bottled up on Manhattan Island in September 1776, Hale volunteered for a mission to gather much-needed intelligence behind enemy lines. He was ferried across the Long Island Sound on September 16, slipped into the occupied town of Huntington and began surveying British fortifications and encampments while posing as a schoolmaster. Hale was undoubtedly courageous, but according to most historians, he wasn t a very skilled intelligence officer. It only took a few days before his suspicious questions drew attention from loyalist locals, and he later blew his cover after a British agent approached him in a tavern and pretended to be a fellow Patriot spy. Hale was arrested the next day and discovered to have incriminating documents concealed beneath the soles of his shoes. Charged as an illegal combatant, he was executed by hanging on the morning of September 22. According to legend, the 21-year-old patriot faced the gallows with gentle dignity before uttering the famous words, I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country. James Armistead James Armistead Lafayette (R) at Yorktown, standing with Marquis de La Fayette (L). During the Yorktown campaign, the Marquis de Lafayette found an unlikely secret agent in James Armistead, a black slave who got his master s permission to assist the Continental Army. The Virginia-born bondsman began his service by transporting dispatches and intelligence reports across enemy lines. He then graduated to full-blown espionage in the summer of 1781, when he infiltrated Charles Cornwallis s camp by posing as a runaway slave loyal to the British. He proved so convincing in the undercover role, that Cornwallis eventually enlisted him to work as a British spy. Armistead agreed and immediately began funneling the Redcoats phony information supplied by Lafayette, including a fraudulent report that referenced nonexistent units of Continental troops. He also kept his ears open for any word of enemy movements. In July 1781, he was one of the first sources to inform Lafayette that the British were marshaling their forces at Yorktown. Despite having risked his life for his country s freedom, Armistead was sent back to his master after the war and held as a slave for several more years. He finally won his release papers in 1787, thanks in part to Lafayette, who wrote a letter to the Virginia legislature on his behalf. As a sign of his gratitude to his former commander, Armistead later changed his name to James Armistead Lafayette. Benjamin Tallmadge and the Culper Ring Benjamin Tallmadge, member of the United States House of Representatives and spymaster for George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. (Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty Images) Serving with distinction at the Battles of White Plains, Brandywine, and Germantown, Continental dragoon Benjamin Tallmadge was also the mastermind behind the Culper Spy Ring, one of the most effective espionage networks of the American Revolution. The New York native first organized the cabal in late-1778 at the behest of General George Washington. Operating under the pseudonym John Bolton, he recruited childhood friend Abraham Woodhull and several other acquaintances to provide intelligence from in and around British-controlled Long Island. Tallmadge instructed his operatives to communicate via a complex system of dead drops and coded messages. He even had them write some of their reports in invisible ink that could only be read after being brushed with a chemical compound. Once smuggled out of the city, the documents would be ferried to Tallmadge s coastal Connecticut headquarters by a fleet of whaleboats operated by an agent named Caleb Brewster. Despite operating from the heart of enemy territory, Tallmadge s Culper Ring managed to gather intelligence for some five years without losing a single agent to the British. One of their most significant achievements came during the summer of 1780, when they informed Washington of a British plan to ambush French forces gathered at Newport, Rhode Island. Enoch Crosby French map of the Hudson River Valley and surrounding area, New York, 1778. (Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty Images) Enoch Crosby s spy career began with a simple case of mistaken identity. In 1776, the Connecticut-born shoemaker was making his way to a Continental Army camp in New York when he was confused for a British sympathizer and invited to a meeting of loyalist militiamen. Crosby played along and later reported what he learned to Patriot leader John Jay, who seized the opportunity to recruit him as one of the nation s first counterintelligence operatives. The job required Crosby to work deep undercover. To help sell his new identity, his handlers arranged for him to be arrested as a loyalist before staging his escape to the Hudson River Valley. Crosby then reunited with the British sympathizers and began reporting on their movements. Thanks to the intelligence he gathered, the entire gang was rounded up in a Continental raid a few days later. In the months that followed, Crosby infiltrated British loyalist groups on at least four more occasions. Each time he would be arrested along with his hapless co-conspirators, only to later escape and return to the field to start the whole process over again. The young spy carried a special pass that would identify him as an American agent in a pinch he once had to use it to avoid being picked up by Continental sentries but outside of Jay and a few others, no one knew he was actually working for the colonials. Before he was finally discharged and hailed as a hero in 1777, even Crosby s own parents believed their son was a traitor to the Patriot cause. Lewis Costigin British-Hessian troops under the command of General Howe parading through New York as they took over the city during the American War of Independence. (Credit: MPI/Getty Images) Not only did Lieutenant Lewis Costigin supply valuable intelligence from behind British lines, he did it while openly wearing a Continental Army uniform. His bizarre career in espionage began in early 1777, when George Washington sent him to New Brunswick, New Jersey to report on British movements after the Battle of Trenton. Costigin was promptly captured, but he was wearing enough of a uniform at the time to be classified as a soldier rather than a spy, thereby avoiding the noose. After shipping him to New York City as a prisoner of war, the British placed him on parole and allowed him to wander the city freely on a pledge that he wouldn t take up arms or communicate with his superiors. Costigin was exchanged for a British officer in September 1778, but rather than return to his unit, he remained in occupied New York and began collecting intelligence for the Continentals which he was now legally free to do under the terms of his parole. Luckily for Costigin, the British had grown so used to seeing him around town they no longer viewed him as a threat. Though still clad in an enemy uniform, he was able to openly roam the streets gathering information on everything from troop movements to military shipping and British army rations, all of which he reported to Washington in dispatches written under the pseudonym Z. By the time Costigin finally left New York in January 1779, he had spent some four months spying on the British in plain sight.
  • 5 Soldiers, the dance show that explores war and the military The cast of 5 Soldiers at Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Colin Hattersley 12:00 Saturday 23 April 2016 12:35 Friday 22 April 2016 Army barracks are among the venues for Rosie Kay s acclaimed 5 Soldiers, which explores modern war through dance. The choreographer tells Kelly Apter how the show made her rethink her ideas about the military It s 4am and the fighting is about to begin. For four hours, the Infantry has marched through darkness carrying backpacks weighing over 70lbs, but now it s time for the real challenge. The sound of rifles firing fills the air, adrenalin starts to pump and there, in the middle of it all, is Rosie Kay. Not a soldier but a choreographer, spending three days and four nights on Dartmoor training with The Rifles, an all-male regiment of the British Army. It was very intense, she recalls, and lifting so much weight for that amount of time was really tough going. I stupidly thought they would make compensations for me, because I m a woman and a choreographer, but they knew I wanted to be involved as much as possible. And although I started off as an observer who was treated like an outsider by the soldiers, because of sleep deprivation, sharing rations and just sitting around talking together, their guards really came down. Plus they could see I could keep up and was enjoying it. It was the first of several periods of research which Kay later poured into her award-winning dance production, 5 Soldiers. As well as her gruelling but exciting experience on Dartmoor, she took part in a mock battle on Salisbury Plain including lengthy discussions about strategy and manoeuvres, which she was surprised to find extremely choreographic . A few months later, however, she saw Army life from the other side, visiting Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey. There Kay met men she had befriended during the training exercises, now back home and dealing with complex injuries after a tour in Afghanistan. Having been inspired to create a show about Army life when she herself sustained a career-threatening injury, Kay was fascinated by how soldiers prepare, and heal, their bodies. As a dancer, I can get injured but they risk life and limb, says Kay. I wanted to know: how do they prepare for that? How do you train your body and mind to risk everything, and then what do you do when you are injured? People are surviving much more traumatic injuries now than they would have in the past, and the Army has had to adjust to that after-care and support. Visiting Headley Court was a very good counterpart to the excitement of the other world on Dartmoor. The subtitle to 5 Soldiers is The Body is the Frontline , and it was this Kay was keen to communicate. She readily admits to her own thoughts and prejudices about the military before starting her research, but as time went on, she felt compelled to portray what lies behind the facade. I wanted to humanise something which has become very dehumanised, she says. We see the uniform and the weaponry, and we use the word soldier, but we don t think about the human being. Yet despite all the changes in technology, the army is still made up of individual bodies. When we talk about war, we re still talking about harm to the human body. The result is one of the most successful shows that Rosie Kay Dance Company has toured in recent years, collecting awards, nominations and high praise along the way. Civilian audiences see it as a visceral insight into Army life, while those who have actually been on the frontline have been impressed by the accuracy and attention to detail. Support for the show in Scotland has come from Lt Col Gordon Mackenzie of the 51st Infantry Brigade, who has helped secure performance spaces in three Army barracks, open to all. For him, the show acts as a valuable bridge between the Army and the public. We want people to have a sense of ownership of the Army given that we are funded by the taxpayer, says Lt Col Mackenzie. And that includes reaching out to engage with different communities. So 5 Soldiers is an exciting opportunity to get people to look at us, and think about us, in different ways. One of our challenges is that we tend to live in barracks behind walls and fences and away from where most people live. This show gives us a chance to break down the barrack walls and bring people into the place we work. It will create debate and discussion, but we welcome that as we strive to broaden our dialogue with the people of Scotland. Kay herself was born in Devon, but spent her teenage years living in Edinburgh. We meet just along the road from her old high school, and the pleasure she takes in bringing work back to Scotland is palpable. Gaining such close access to the Army took, she tells me, a very, very long time but once Kay was in, they really took her into the fold. That said, it was important for her to retain some distance. I ve been really blown away by the support, she says. It s not often that people like me get access to something like this, so as an artist I felt a responsibility to respond to it. But I also have to keep my integrity as a choreographer and it wouldn t be right if I was just telling the Army s story. We had to have a real sense of authenticity in the piece, so the details are all really well observed, but it s a piece of dance, it s stylised and theatrical, it s not a documentary. Kay says she saw herself in the role of war choreographer , following in the footsteps of artists, poets, composers and filmmakers who have gone before during countless conflicts. Only with a dance production, the key component of both the subject matter and the artistic medium is the same the human body. Audiences don t look at 5 Soldiers in the same way you would a war film or book, she says. It makes you work because we re not just shouting one single message - there are lots of different messages, and how you receive them will depend on your own viewpoint. Rosie Kay Dance Company s 5 Soldiers is at Tramway, Glasgow, 29-30 April; Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik, 6-7 May; Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, 13-14 May; Fort George, Ardersier, 20-21 May; Gordon Barracks, Aberdeen, 27-28 May, [1] {* #userInformationForm *} {* loginWidget *} {* traditionalSignIn_emailAddress *} {* traditionalSignIn_password *} {* /userInformationForm *} {* #userInformationForm *} Email Address {* traditionalSignIn_emailAddress *} Password {* traditionalSignIn_password *} {* /userInformationForm *} {* #userInformationForm *} {* traditionalSignIn_emailAddress *} {* traditionalSignIn_password *} {* /userInformationForm *} Please fill in the remaining fields below to complete your registration {* #registrationForm *} {* traditionalRegistration_firstName *} {* traditionalRegistration_lastName *} {* traditionalRegistration_emailAddress *} {* traditionalRegistration_password *} {* traditionalRegistration_passwordConfirm *} {* traditionalRegistration_displayName *} {* /registrationForm *} {* #socialRegistrationForm *} {* socialRegistration_firstName *} {* socialRegistration_lastName *} {* socialRegistration_emailAddress *} {* socialRegistration_displayName *} {* socialRegistration_jpCommsOptIn *} Registering with The Scotsman means you're ok with our terms and conditions. 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  • 5'1″ British Army medic Lcpl Kylie Watson received Military Cross ... 1 In 2011, when Lance Corporal Kylie Watson was summoned to the office of her commanding officer for a fireside chat she feared the worst. Do you know why you are here? he asked the combat medic. Am I in trouble, Sir? she enquired. No, he told her. You ve been awarded the Military Cross. The 23-year-old had already deployed to Iraq, but her tour of Afghanistan s Helmand province was her first as a fully qualified battlefield medic. Are you sure you ve got the right soldier? she asked. But there was no mistake. The extraordinary heroism she displayed by twice running into Taliban fire to treat wounded comrades had been awarded with one of the UK s highest honors. 2 Lance Corporal Kylie Watson tried to resuscitate one casualty as bullets smashed into the dust around her in a totally exposed position for 20 minutes. She was also forced to use her SA80A2 rifle firing 15 rounds to help defend her patrol during an ambush. The LCpl also ran 100 metres under fire to save the life of another ANA soldier who had been shot through the pelvis. His Afghan comrades were unhappy about a woman treating the wounded man and tried to stop her. The Lance Corporal from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, who stands 5 1 tall, said: I told them straight (through an interpreter), If I don t treat him, he dies. There is no argument, he is getting treated. 3 I just got on with it. There was no option. He had been shot through the pelvis and was bleeding heavily. We exposed the wound and I managed to stop the bleeding by applying several first field dressings. I got the stretcher ready and two guys from 1 LANCS (1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster s Regiment) and an ANA warrior helped me get him back into cover. The incident happened as Kylie went on patrol from a checkpoint near Nad E Ali in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in June, 2010. In a separate firefight she ran into exposed ground to treat an Afghan National Army soldier who had been shot in the chest. 4 5 She said: I ran forward to treat him. There was a tiny entry wound where the bullet had gone into his chest and no exit wound. There was very little blood but he was not breathing. I tried to resuscitate him for about 20 minutes but nothing could be done. I think he had died before I got to him, bless him. I looked up at last and saw bullets hitting the dust around me. I realised for the first time how exposed I was, I was just kneeling in a field with no cover. It was time to go. She said: About 12 of us were patrolling south a few hundred meters when we came under small arms fire from three men in a ditch. There was no cover available to us apart from an irrigation ditch but you don t want to dive into one of them in case it has IEDs planted in it. We needed to stop them shooting at us quickly and had to help. I just took a knee and fired about half a magazine at their position, about 15 rounds. It sounds dramatic I suppose but it wasn t, I know for a fact I didn t hit a thing. I need to get on the range a bit more often I suppose. 6 7 While her MC might have made her the pride of her regiment, it earned her a stiff telling-off from her mum: Kylie! What did you do? Next time, please don t. Watson is a little angered by some of the online comments which followed the announcement of her MC, branding it an act of tokenism or political correctness, rather than the just reward for acts of heroism to match any man. Watson is one of only four women in history to have been awarded the Military Cross. Those who say that are welcome to take my kit and go to Afghanistan for six months. They are welcome to wear my boots and be me, she said, adding that she can t wait to return to operations because I think I ve done all right so far. Her citation read: Watson s immense courage, willingness to put her own life at risk and absolute bravery saved the life of one warrior and acted as an inspiration to her platoon and their Afghan National Army partners.
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  • 50 Missile Regiment Royal Artillery Leadership Course50 Missile Regiment Royal Artillery Leadership Course | You Are Here: Home [1] ' 50 Missile Regiment Royal Artillery Leadership Course Soldiers who had shown aptitude for promotion had to successfully pass a Leadership (Cadre) Course. This video shows the course final parade at Northumberland Barracks Menden in 1992. reflects the history of the only Nuclear Missile Regiment in the British Army that disbanded at the end of the Cold War. References ^ (
  • 50th Missile Regiment Role VideoHeavy Anti-Aircraft During World War I anti-aircraft guns and anti-aircraft gunnery developed rapidly. The main British gun being the QF 3 inch AA gun. Shortly before the end of the war a new gun QF 3.6 inch was accepted for service but the war's end meant it did not enter production. Post-war, all anti-aircraft guns except the QF 3 inch AA gun were scrapped. Read More [1] References ^ Read More (
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  • 600 British jobs are at risk as the Ministry of Defence is set to hand £425million helicopter deal to a US firm British Government is set to buy 50 battle-ready Apaches from Boeing Apaches previously fitted out by UK helicopter-maker AgustaWestland If Government buys from US, it puts 600 jobs at AgustaWestland at risk | View comments Hundreds of British jobs were feared to be under threat last night as the Ministry of Defence was poised to award a 425 million contract to provide Apache helicopters exclusively to a US manufacturer. The Government s move to buy 50 battle-ready Apaches from Boeing could put up to 600 jobs in jeopardy at the UK s last helicopter-maker, AgustaWestland. The controversial decision is reminiscent of the issues that triggered the Westland Affair of 1985-86 when Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine stormed out of Downing Street and quit after a row with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the future of the company. In action: The British Army's Apache attack helicopters which Prince Harry famously flew in combat in Afghanistan - have previously been fitted out and serviced at AgustaWestland s factory in Yeovil, Somerset While the Apache attack helicopter which Prince Harry famously flew in combat in Afghanistan is an American design, previously the helicopters in service with the British Army Air Corps were fitted out and serviced at AgustaWestland s factory in Yeovil, Somerset. But The Mail on Sunday has been told that 50 new aircraft to replace the existing fleet will be bought off the shelf directly from Boeing, for about 8million each saving the Government tens of millions. Last night, AgustaWestland and Boeing refused to comment and the MoD said it expected to make a decision by this summer. But The Mail on Sunday understands the MoD has made up its mind and will announce the deal in July. Ian Waddell, Unite union s national aerospace manufacturers officer, said: We will be seeking cast-iron assurances from the companies and the Ministry of Defence that the present employment levels at AgustaWestland will be maintained as a result of the Apache deal. The Government s move to buy 50 battle-ready Apaches from Boeing could put up to 600 jobs in jeopardy at the UK s last helicopter-maker, AgustaWestland
  • 600 take part in huge military parade (From Western Telegraph) 600 take part in huge military parade 8:00pm Monday 21st July 2014 in County News 1 PRIDE OF WALES: The Welsh Guards at Pembroke Dock. PICTURE: Martin Cavaney. (8435922) THE Welsh Guards led one of the biggest military parades Pembroke Dock has ever seen on Saturday (July 19). The bicentenary parade stepped-off from Pembroke Dock Community School at 11am, making its way through the town to the Royal Dockyard Chapel.

    The Fanfarenzug Stadt Band which was on a twinning visit from Bergen, Germany - Pembroke Borough Silver band and Haverfordwest ATC Band were on parade. About 100 standards from across Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and about 600 people, including troops from 14 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) based at Brawdy, and Army, Air Force, Royal Marine and sea cadets also took part. Pembrokeshire district parade marshal David Boswell said: It was a damn good parade.

    He added: It s always a proud moment to have the Welsh Guards leading the way, it s excellent. The Welsh Guards put the shine on the boots but at the end of the day if none of the other people had come it would have been a flop. They came from all around South Wales to make this parade for Pembroke Dock a real success and I thank them all.

    Bicentenary coordinator Martin Cavaney said: It was a very, very successful weekend the town was very, very busy and there were a lot of people in the centre of town. We were very pleased. On Sunday (July 20) afternoon the Fanfarenzug Stadt Band and members of the Schutencorp (Shooting Club Members) from Bergen paraded along Pembroke Main Street to the Castle for a performance.

    References ^ County News (

  • 65 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers deployed to Iraq, Kuwait ... MADISON Gov. Scott Walker, Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin s adjutant general and senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders joined family and friends at a January 4th sendoff ceremony in Madison, Wisconsin, for approximately 65 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers mobilizing for a mission to Iraq and Kuwait as part of a deployment with the 101st Airborne Division. The Wisconsin Soldiers assigned to Detachment 1, Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division Multi-Component Unit (DMCU) [1] will deploy as an element of the storied active duty division with approximately 500 Soldiers from the active and reserve components in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The 101st Airborne Division Headquarters will assume the role of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Iraq, replacing the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters. The division headquarters will provide command and control of coalition troops training, advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces. The deployment [2] will be the first combat test of a first-ever Army initiative to integrate Soldiers from the National Guard and Reserves into a single multi-component unit alongside their active duty brethren. The deploying group of Guardsmen was up to the task. Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields, the Wisconsin Army National Guard s senior enlisted advisor, once served with the 101st while on active duty in the 1970s. At the time, there was a wide gulf between the active duty and the National Guard. Those days are gone, he said during the unit s deployment ceremony at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Madison. I couldn t be prouder to be a part of this organization and see what I see in the Soldiers out in front of me here today, he said. You have set the standard, Shields said. This was a pilot program, and as we did during previous deployments, you have gone above and beyond demonstrating to the active component that we are as good, and in most cases, better than they are in terms of being ready and being tactically proficient. Dunbar spoke of the National Defense Act of 1916, which formally declared the National Guard a component of the federal U.S. Army. Since that time, the National Guard has fulfilled two key missions. Here we are about to fulfill one of our two missions in the National Guard, Dunbar said. We re the primary combat reserve of the United States Army and nobody does it better. And we are the first military responders here at home. Dunbar pointed out that while the Guard is simultaneously sending Wisconsin Soldiers overseas to combat threats abroad, it is also serving domestically in states ravaged by floodwaters and raging rivers in the south. Make no mistake about it, you are part of an organization that is a national treasure, he said. And you re now part of the 101st Division a storied division and one of only 18 divisions in the United States Army. He also said that when the Pentagon developed the concept of a DMCU, the National Guard Bureau sought to align active duty units with states it could trust. They turned to Wisconsin and Utah first to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept. As you go downrange into a difficult part of the world, there is no doubt that you will stand shoulder-to-shoulder and not one dot below the quality of the 101st, he said. Because that s what the National Guard is, the primary combat reserve, and you re ready for that today. The 101st already had a deep history in Wisconsin s storied military lineage, and the current partnership will only add to it. The iconic Screaming Eagle that adorns the division s famed unit patch is a depiction of Wisconsin s Old Abe the mascot adopted by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War. The men of the 8th Wisconsin carried Old Abe into battle alongside the national and regimental colors during the unit s campaigns. At one point shortly after the division s formation, the 101st was headquartered in Milwaukee as part of the Organized Reserves, where Old Abe first became associated with the division. Gov. Scott Walker invoked that history during his remarks to the deploying Soldiers, noting that a painting of Old Abe hangs in his office at Wisconsin s capitol and a replica sits perched high above the Wisconsin State Assembly chamber. More than 150 years ago, Soldiers from Wisconsin units fighting in the Civil War asked for something they could carry into battle that would remind them of home, Walker said. Thus the state flag was born, he explained as he presented a Wisconsin flag to Col. Leland Ward, the commander of the detachment of Wisconsin Guard Soldiers. So today I give you this flag both as a reminder first and foremost of the courage of those that preceded you into war, he said. You are part of that proud tradition, not just of the United States Army, but of service members from Wisconsin who carry that tradition on. Go forward with that kind of courage and bravery. But it s also a reminder, particularly when you are in a tough time, particularly when you are a little homesick or challenged along the way between now and the time when we welcome you back home the other reminder of this flag just as it was in the Civil War, is about all the other people back home. Walker said that 5.7 million Wisconsinites will be praying for and thinking of the deployed Soldiers while they are away. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan also spoke at the sendoff and thanked the Soldiers for defending the country as well as its rights, values, freedoms and all for which it stands. We want to send you our thanks and best wishes on behalf of the people of Wisconsin and on behalf of the federal government, he said. And we want to make sure that you know that we have your back while you re there and when you come home. We are going to be there for you like you are there right now for us. Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin s deputy adjutant general for Army, pointed out that the families and employers of deploying Soldiers are key elements of the overall success of the unit s mission. The love and support that you provide to your loved one allows that Soldier to be able to focus on their mission, he told the families. And then collectively as an organization be able to achieve whatever mission that that organization is given when it goes overseas. To a person you will continue to represent the Wisconsin Army National Guard at-large by your performance and your professionalism, and I am absolutely confident that each and every one of you will do an outstanding job, Anderson said to the Soldiers. The detachment commander, Col. Ward, proclaimed the unit ready to take on its mission and praised the Soldiers for their commitment. Today we change our effort, Ward said. We put on the mindset of the leaders of the 101st Division. We will plan, prepare and execute effective operations. Remain ready. Thank you, good luck, and Godspeed, he added. DMCU Soldiers agreed. We re more than ready, Master Sgt. Joseph Gudleske, an operations non-commissioned officer in the division s engineer section said. Sgt. Alec Libby, a geospatial engineer who is deploying for the first time, looked forward to the deployment. It s something I ve always wanted to do, and I m ready to go no matter where they send me, he said. The detachment will head to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to link up with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters before beginning its journey overseas. References ^ Detachment 1, Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division Multi-Component Unit (DMCU) ( ^ deployment (
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  • 8 ethnic rebel armies sign cease-fire pact with Myanmar govt | NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) Myanmar's government and eight smaller ethnic rebel armies signed a cease-fire agreement to end more than six decades of fighting, but other more powerful groups refused to come on board, signaling that peace will remain elusive for some time to come. The pact was signed at a ceremony in Myanmar's administrative capital, Naypyitaw, by President Thein Sein and representatives of the groups. The refusal by the larger armies, such as those of the Kachin and Wa ethnic groups, to sign it robs Thein Sein of what he had hoped would be the crowning achievement of his five-year term. Still, the agreement, called the "National Ceasefire Agreement" despite its truncated list of participants, is seen as a first step toward ending longstanding insurgencies against the Burmese-majority government by various minority groups demanding autonomy and control over their natural resources in the north, northeast and east of the country. Ethnic groups, representing 40 percent of the country's 52 million people, have found themselves victims of military abuses and discrimination in areas spanning from health and education to road construction and access to electricity. "Although some organizations are currently not ready to sign, the government decided to conclude the (agreement) with the vanguard group." Thein Sein said in a speech at the signing ceremony. "We will continue with our efforts to bring the remaining organizations into the process. The door is open for them," he said. "The road to future peace in Myanmar is now open." Though largely an agreement to keep talking, the agreement could pave the way for a more comprehensive political settlement in the future. "It can't be considered a nationwide cease-fire agreement but it is the start of a process that might actually lead to all the ethnic groups signing the cease-fire agreement," Larry Jagan, a specialist on Myanmar and freelance journalist, told The Associated Press. Myanmar stunned the world by opening politically and economically in 2011 following a half-century of harsh military rule. But early reforms have since either stalled or started rolling backward. That has upped the stakes for getting cease-fire deals with all ethnic armies, one of Thein Sein's biggest pledges. Many ethnic armies have been fighting since the country gained independence from the British in 1948, and experts say continued civil unrest is slowing development in one of the region's poorest countries. The signing of the agreement, which was also witnessed by representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, China and others, comes just before the Nov. 8 general elections for a new parliament, which will eventually lead to the election of a new president. Critics said the only real beneficiary of the agreement would be Thein Sein, as he would use the image as a peacemaker to try to win another presidential term. Some of the groups decided they'd rather wait and negotiate with a new government, even if that means starting from scratch. The powerful Kachin Independence Army, Shan State Army and United Wa State Army the biggest in terms of army strength and territory size were among the groups refusing to sign. Things proceeded well in the early days of Thein Sein's administration, with more than a dozen groups signing bilateral cease-fire agreements. But negotiations have been on-again-off-again since then, with hundreds of meetings between rebels groups, peace negotiators and government officials. "We have to keep fighting for our freedom, for our political rights," said Thar Phone Kyaw, the general secretary of Ta'ang National Liberation Army, which also refused to sign. He said no cease-fire agreement will be signed without assurances they will get the "federal union" promised to them by Myanmar's independence leader Gen. Aung San more than 60 years ago. That would give them greater control over their natural resources in the northern Shan state, including a say in issues surrounding an oil pipeline to China that has displaced people and destroyed livelihoods. It would also allow them to control their own troops' movement and help end the spiraling scourge of drugs. Still, the agreement is not without meaning. State-run TV emphasized that point this week saying the signatories would be removed from a list of "terrorist groups." "It's going to allow them to move around their territory, talk to their townships, build up relationships with people on the ground that they have not been able to do because before this they were called illegal," said Jagan, the Myanmar specialist. It also will potentially allow for development and investment in those areas, others say, serving as encouragement for other holdouts to join the process at a later date. Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article. SHARE PICTURE
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  • 9 Ways Mentally Strong People Handle Stress They reassure themselves Stress is a common obstacle [1] to productivity and career success. That s why being able to manage stress effectively can prove pivotal. We spoke with psychotherapist Amy Morin, the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don t Do [2] , to find out the best way to approach stress management. Here are nine things mentally strong people do to keep stress from taking over: 1. They keep their problems in perspective As stress builds up over time, it s easy to become frustrated and exaggerate the negative. Mentally strong people, however, understand that stressful situations arise and don t let the ill effects loom over them. They reframe their negative thoughts into something more realistic in an effort to keep their stress in proper perspective, Morin says. More from Business Insider: 2. They reassure themselves Self-confidence and self-assurance, key characteristics of mentally strong people, helps people work through stress. Instead of being negative and saying, I can t handle one more problem, they tell themselves: I can deal with stress, and I ll be OK no matter what happens,' Morin says. 3. They focus on what they can control Certain things are out of your control, and for some people, that simple fact is stressful. People with mental strength, however, know when something is their responsibility. They spring into action and engage in active problem-solving when they can prevent and address problems, and they don t waste energy on the things they can t control, Morin says. 4. They remain aware of their sources of stress A stressor is a situation that causes us to need to act and that can trigger our body s stress response, writes Elizabeth Scott in her book 8 Keys to Stress Management [3] . Identifying these stressors is the first step in stress management [4] , she says. Mentally strong people are aware of their stressors, and they re aware of the warning signs that they re becoming stressed out, Morin says. Because of their self-awareness, they are able to adjust their activities and their lifestyle accordingly so they can combat stress effectively. 5. They establish healthy boundaries In her book, Morin writes that mentally strong people avoid giving away their power by establishing strong emotional and physical boundaries. People can establish healthy boundaries by behaving assertively, she says. It s all about being responsible for your own actions. They don t blame others for infringing on their time or space, Morin says. They establish healthy boundaries, speak up when necessary, and take responsibility for getting their needs met. 6. They spend time with positive people Social support is an important part of combatting stress, and mentally strong people seek out positive people, Morin says. If you re surrounded with pessimists, chances are they will infringe on your outlook. The same can be said, however, for optimists. 7. They prioritize their tasks Time is perhaps the single most valuable resource, and mentally strong people understand this. They aren t hesitant to scrap the activities that bring them down, and they prioritize their tasks so they can focus on getting the most important things done, Morin says. 8. They don t forget to have fun One of the best ways to combat stress is to engage in leisure activities, Morin says. It can be anything hanging with family, engaging in a hobby, watching TV. As long as it relaxes you and improves your mental state, it will be beneficial. People who have developed mental strength know this and take time to relax and enjoy themselves. 9. They use healthy coping skills There s a right way and a wrong way to handle anything. When dealing with stress, using alcohol, caffeine, or food would fall in the wrong way category, Morin says. Mentally strong people use healthy coping skills, such as meditation, walking, or journaling to deal with their stress, she says. Living an all-around healthy lifestyle is key. Morin suggests getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in regular physical activity, which can give your mind and body a boost [5] . This article originally appeared on Business Insider [6] [7] References ^ common obstacle ( ^ 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don t Do ( ^ 8 Keys to Stress Management ( ^ first step in stress management ( ^ mind and body a boost ( ^ article ( ^ Business Insider (
  • 90 facts about The Queen on her 90th birthday Queen Elizabeth's 90 years have seen some of the greatest changes and moments in history - the Second World War, the transition from Empire to Commonwealth, technological advancements including the internet, and even the advent of the photobomb - but she has steered the Monarchy impeccably. To celebrate Her Majesty s big day, we ve rounded up 90 interesting and unusual facts about our reigning monarch. Happy birthday, ma am! 1. She celebrates two birthdays One on her actual birthday of April 21 and her official birthday on the second Saturday in June (the 11th this year) so that there is a greater likelihood of good weather for the Birthday Parade 2. Her actual birthday will be marked publicly by gun salutes in central London at midday There ll be a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, 21 gun salute at in Windsor Great Park and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London 3. She celebrated her 80th birthday in 2006 with a walkabout in the streets outside of Windsor Castle to meet well-wishers Loved: The Queen reads some of the cards sent to her for her 80th birthday (PA) 4. She was originally third in line to the throne and was never expected to be Queen That all changed when her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 5. She spent her honeymoon in 1947 in Broadlands, Hampshire and Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate 6. There have been 12 Prime Ministers during her reign They are Winston Churchill; Sir Anthony Eden; Harold Macmillan; Sir Alec Douglas-Home; Harold Wilson; Edward Heath; James Callaghan; Margaret Thatcher; John Major; Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. 7. Tony Blair was the first Prime Minister to have been born during Elizabeth s reign In May 1953 a month before The Queen s coronation 8. There have also been 12 US presidents during her reign Harry S Truman; Dwight D Eisenhower; John F Kennedy; Lyndon B Johnson; Richard Nixon; Gerald Ford; Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan; George H W Bush; Bill Clinton; George W Bush and Barack Obama 9. She has a big family Four children, eight grandchildren and (to date) five great-grandchildren 10. The British Monarchy has its own Facebook account But you are not allowed to poke Her Majesty 11. Her official wedding cake was made by McVitie and Price Ltd Yes, as in digestive biscuits. Because of rationing restrictions the wedding cake was made using ingredients given as a wedding present by the Australian Girl Guides 12. The Queen owns all the dolphins, whales and sturgeons within three miles of the UK shore 13. She was a budding actress As a teenager she performed alongside her younger sister Margaret in a number of pantomimes. She played Price Florizel in Cinderella in 1941 14. She is also a keen photographer Snapped (PA) 15. She enjoys the occasional photobomb Her first reported photobomb was during the 2014 Commonwealth Games Ahhh The Queen photo-bombed our selfie!! #royalty #sheevensmiled #amazing #Glasgow2014 @Hockeyroos @AusComGames [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Jayde Taylor (@_JaydeTaylor) July 24, 2014 [8] 16. Her first radio broadcast was in 1940 It was a message to the children of the Commonwealth, many of whom were living away from home during the Second World War 17. She s a fan of Ali G According to Prince William, Ali G impressions give her the giggles 18. The Queen sent her first email in 1976 from an army base 19. Princess Elizabeth was known as Lilibet as a young girl She also nicknamed her sister, Princess Margaret, Bud Sisters: Elizabeth and Margaet (PA) 20. When she gave birth to Prince Andrew in 1960 she became the first reigning sovereign to have a child since 1857 since Queen Victoria celebrated the arrival of Princess Beatrice 21. The Queen has visited 117 countries According to the official count, and has travelled at least 1,032,513 miles during her reign 22. Pub hours are to be extended for her official 90th birthday Pubs will be able to stay open an extra two hours on June 10 and 11 until 1am 23. She sent her first tweet from @BritishMonarchy in 2014 Which read: It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R 24. The account currently has 2.15 million followers 25. Since 1952 The Queen has personally held over 660 Investitures She has always loved horses 26. She has had a lifelong passion for horses Her Majesty s first pony, Peggy was given to her by King George V when she was four years old. She attends the Derby at Epsom every year, as well as the Summer Race Meeting at Ascot 27. The Queen hosted the first women-only event Women of Achievement at Buckingham Palace in March, 2004 28. Her Majesty has sent more than 710,000 messages to couples celebrating their Diamond Weddings in the UK and the realms Serving her country in 1945 (PA) 29. She first learned to drive in 1945, when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a Subaltern 30. The Queen is a bit of a cake fiend One of her favourites is honey and cream sponge 31. She has sat for 139 official portraits during her lifetime 32. Her Majesty also sat for her first and only holographic portrait in 2003 33. She has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign She also famously adores dogs (PA) 34. Her first corgi, Susan, was given to her as an 18th birthday present in 1944 and accompanied her on her honeymoon 35. The Queen now only has two corgis left After the star of the Olympic Games opening ceremony film, Monty, died in 2012, only Holly and Willow are left 36. She introduced a new breed of dog known as the dorgi when she mated one of her corgis with a dachshund She currently owns two dorgis, Candy and Vulcan 37. Each dog has its own individually designed dinner and they are fed in order of seniority Meals include fillet steak, chicken breast and home-made gravy, rabbits shot by William or Harry, and scones crumbled up into their bowls for a treat 38. Tragically, The Queen will not be continuing her tradition of breeding her dogs to replace the ones that pass away 39. Her Majesty is Britain s longest reigning monarch, having reigned for 64 years and two months Only five other monarchs in British History have reigned for 50 years or more. Victoria (63 years); George III (59 years); Henry III (56 years); Edward III (50 years) and James VI and I (58 years) 40. Elizabeth overtook Victoria's record on the evening of September 9, 2015 as the longest reigning monarch Having reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 30 minutes Our Queen is crowned (PA) 41. Her Coronation was the first ever to be televised 42. There are 11 sculptures of The Queen in existence 43. She was the first British Monarch ever to visit China when she went there in 1986 44. Prince George calls his great-grandmother Gan-Gan Dynasty: the Queen with Prince Charles, Prince George, Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and James Viscount Severn, the son of Edward and Sophie, at Trooping the Colour last year (Rex) 45. The Queen owns a cushion at Balmoral with an embroidered slogan that reads: It s good to be Queen 46. 1992 was not a good year for her A fire broke out at Windsor Castle and her three of her children s marriages broke down Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne. She called it her annus horribilis (horrible year) 47. She owns all of the cygnets on the Thames She first claimed ownership of the cygnets in 2005. They are looked after by the Swan Marker 48. The Queen s signature single-colour outfit is usually chosen to help make her stand out in a big crowd Long to reign over us (PA) 49. She is the reigning monarch in 16 countries There are 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the UK: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas 50. About1.45 million people have attended Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse 51. The Queen is believed to be the only monarch in British History to have been properly trained to change a flat tyre When she served with the Number 1 Beaufront Company, Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War 52. The Queen is patron of 626 charities, organisations and military regiments The patronages and charities cover a wide range of issues, including everything from providing opportunities for young people to the preservation of wildlife and the environment 53. The Queen is fluent in French She first learned it from a number of French and Belgian governesses when she in her teens. She has often used it when speaking to ambassadors and heads of state from French-speaking countries, and when visiting French-speaking areas of Canada 54. On the evening of her birthday, Her Majesty will light the first beacon in a train of more than 900 beacons across the country & worldwide 55. The largest ever display of The Queen s wardrobe opens on Thursday, April 21 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse 56. The first Royal Walkabout took place during The Queen s tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970 57 She loves a good soap The Queen has walked the set of Coronation Street, visited Eastenders Queen Vic and witnessed an explosion on Emmerdale Queen Elizabeth at the Queen Vic (PA) 58. She has distributed Maundy money (the ancient ceremony that takes place every Easter) to pensioners on all but four occasions since 1952 These were two occasions during official tours and another two due to the birth of her youngest sons 59. The Queen is informed about matters affecting the realms and Commonwealth on every day of every year 60. She has launched 23 ships during her lifetime Her first was HMS Vanguard on November 30, 1944 in Clydebank, Scotland. Her first ship launched as Queen was the Britannia, also from Clydebank 61. Her Majesty s first Commonwealth tour began on November 24, 1953 In total she covered 12 countries and a distance of 43,618 miles 62. She is the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror obtained the crown of England on Christmas Day 1066 63. She is the oldest monarch to have celebrated a Golden Jubilee In 2002, at the age of 76 64. She was the first British Monarch to celebrate her diamond wedding anniversary (60 years) on November 20, 2007 The Royal couple (PA) 65. Due to the rationing in place in Britain at the time, Princess Elizabeth used coupons to buy the material for her wedding dress 66. She has received a number of live animals as gifts over the years These have included two tortoises given to her during a tour of the Seychelles in 1972; a bull elephant called Jumbo, which was presented by the president of Cameroon in 1972 to mark the Queen's Silver wedding anniversary; two black beavers during a royal visit to Canada; a live jaguar; beavers and some sloths 67. She has also received various other unusual gifts Including a pair of cowboy boots gifted to her during a visit to the US, sunglasses, pineapples and seven kg of prawns 68. Her Majesty was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace She was named after her mother, while her two middle names are those of her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra and paternal grandmother, Queen Mary 69. The Queen has penned more than 45,000 Christmas cards during her reign, and has given out upwards of 90,000 Christmas puddings to staff 70. Since 1952 she has given royal assent to more than 3,500 Acts of Parliament 71. Princess Elizabeth was a keen swimmer At the age of 13 she won the Children s Challenge Shield at London s Bath Club 72. No other Sovereign has visited as many places in Britain as during her Silver Jubilee in 1977 During the summer of that year she embarked on the six jubilee tours in the UK and Northern Ireland, covering 36 counties in just three months 73. The Queen s horses have won races at Ascot several times In June 1954 Landau won the Rous Memorial Stakes and a stallion called Aureole won the Hardwicke Stakes, and in 1957 she had a total of four winners during Ascot Week 74. She loves Scottish country dancing Every year during her stay at Balmoral Castle she give dances known as Gillies Balls for neighbours, estate and Castle staff and members of the local community 75. The royal yacht Britannia, launched by the Queen in 1953, travelled more than a million miles on royal and official duties until it was decommissioned in 1997 76. She travelled on the London Underground for the first time in May 1939 The Queen on the tube after officially opening the Victoria line in 1969 (Corbis) 77. The first football match she attended was the 1953 FA Cup Final The famous Matthews final, when Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3 78. The first time Buckingham Palace was opened to the public was in 1962 That year a public gallery was opened in the palace s private chapel 79. The Queen has made a Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth every year of her reign except 1969 That year, a repeat of the film 'Royal Family' was shown and a written message from The Queen issued instead 80. The Queen sent a message of congratulations to Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing on July 21, 1969 It was micro-filmed and put on the moon in a metal container 81. The Queen hosted Pope John Paul II at Buckingham Palace in 1982 He was the first pontiff to visit Britain in 450 years 82. The Queen visited a British mosque for the first time in July 2002 83. She is Patron of a number of racing societies Including the Royal Pigeon Racing Association 84. Her wedding ring was made from Welsh gold, which came from the Clogau St David's mine near Dolgellau 85. The Queen has the largest pink diamond in the world in her jewellery collection 86. Buckingham Palace's first official website was launched in 1997 87. Her wedding dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell It was woven at Winterthur Silks Limited, Dunfermline, in the Canmore factory, using silk that had come from Chinese silkworms at Lullingstone Castle 88. The Queen's racing colours are purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves and black velvet cap with gold fringe 89. Her Majesty is somewhat of a musical connoisseur She was the first member of the Royal Family to be awarded a gold disc after selling 100,000 copies of the CD of the 'Party at the Palace' concert 90. She has overseen a massive population increase since she was born The UK s population has grown from 45.2m in 1926 to 65.1m today. And London has grown from 7.5m through to 8.6m Now test yourself in our quiz on The Queen... References ^ #royalty ( ^ #sheevensmiled ( ^ #amazing ( ^ #Glasgow2014 ( ^ @Hockeyroos ( ^ @AusComGames ( ^ ( ^ July 24, 2014 (
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  • A Bigoted New Year : The Pensive Quill Sean Mallory gives a flavour of what to expect in 2016. Sean Mallory is a Tyrone republican. With freedom of speech comes the right to express the freedom to choose to listen. - my auld man! Not long in to the New Year and the resolutions of parity of esteem and cultural respect, agreed by all political parties in the myriad of agreements since the Good Friday Agreement, have faded back to poignant and celestial ideas from the bad old days of the conflict. Borne out by Foster s and Nesbitt s responses to media questions on the possible attendance of either at any event commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising. Foster and Nesbitt have both ruled out any participation whatsoever in any of the events organised throughout Ireland to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. Foster, keen to stamp her new manly authority on the DUP and to allay the fears of the old DUP misogynist guard, has unabashedly stated that she will under no circumstances be participating in any commemoration event for 1916 as it was an attack against the UK to which she has bequeathed her political self too.(1) In other words the lady-boy isn t for turning and she will endeavour to retain Unionism s business as usual agenda. An agenda made up of bigotry, sectarianism and racial hatred of all things Irish. In the same report, Nesbitt, not as blunt as Foster as he - unlike her - has no longer the millstone of proving one s loyalty to all things bigoted hanging around his neck, but with the same level of disgust at such a thought, has intimated that he will also not be attending any commemorating event for the same reasons and his party will continue to lay wreaths at the graves of the dead British soldiers killed during the rising in Grange-Gorman military cemetery in Dublin. Pastor James McConnell can now relax after winning his court case of being accused of grossly offensive remarks and in making such remarks by improper use of a public electronic communications network. A victory not just for McConnell but also for free speech and one which this avid raconteur is in full support off. The judge ruled that the remarks were offensive but not grossly offensive under the law. Obviously, grossly offensive remarks, unlike offensive remarks, must meet some additional criteria in order to be declared as such. What that criteria is, was not expounded or clarified by the judge. So we can only surmise that perhaps, if Pastor McConnell had made the remarks at a graveside while one of his flock held the good book aloft from which he regularly reads from, or if he had stated that putting a bullet in the heads of Muslims was more acceptable than a prison sentence, if - since he is against their theology and what they believe in - he had burned the Koran or even if his remarks had been made against the Caliphate (replace with British State) and called for the right to bear arms against that State would his actions have been considered offensive or grossly offensive? PUP Billy Hutchinson has joined in with Jim Rodgers and attacked the invite by Belfast City Council to the Republic s qualifying team (supported by the norn iron manager s family) and the norn iron qualifying team (unsupported by the norn iron managers family) to a reception at City Hall to congratulate them both on their success. Hutchinson displayed his bigoted narrow mindedness by singling out James McClean as a potential catalyst for trouble if he were to attend. McClean, who has made his political views very clear and run contrary to the cosmetic ideology of norn iron society, is persona non grata because of such views. Rodgers, in his usual sectarian and racist form, amateurishly fumbled and stumbled around to try and put a halt to this invite by stating that the mainland teams of Wales and England should be invited and couldn t for the life of him understand why only the Republic and norn iron were. Very puzzling Jim indeed! And so, will this be the year that sports people like James McClean be perceived on the same level as those Unionist rugby players who don the green jersey of Ireland and are not thrashed or determined to be trouble makers by the Irish media because of their political views? Will this be the year that in November, when the British are given the freedom of expression to lay wreaths of poppies at the graves of their war dead in Ireland, will they complain if that freedom of expression is removed? Considering that it is the current political children of those same people who put those soldiers there in the first place that graciously grants them this expression! Would Cameron reciprocate the gesture if the shoe was on the other foot and will nationalist politicians give a second thought to laying a wreath at Belfast City Hall cenotaph or will Kenny, having his history slapped down in to the mud and so derisorily tread upon, be in attendance in Enniskillen this November? Now, the English Monarchy can rest at ease knowing that their interests in Ireland are under newly elected High Sherriff of Belfast, Jim Rodgers, who for the next 12 months will no doubt fervently offer his own persona to shield and protect the Windsors ... a loyal duty which he has already stretched to their national football team! In this year 2016, under British Unionism s asymmetrical politics of disrespect and, pompous arrogance, those who hold a difference of opinion to them can look forward to just as much grace as they have/had afforded on the Irish people 100 years ago. But I leave you with these words that come from a mouth that couldn t spell freedom of expression or even equality! "Anyone who is engaged in public debate or speech ought to be happy at the result today. We live in a free society and in a free society, people should be free to express the beliefs that they hold." DUP Sammy Wilson speaking on Talk Back on Pastor McConnell s court case victory. Profound words that Wilson fails to put in to practice or respect....well, only if you are on his side! (1) Belfast Telegraph 08/01/2016.
  • A bloody outrage: The decorated Para facing prosecution 44 years after shooting dead an IRA killer Soldier C faces prosecution for shooting the IRA commander Joe McCann The 65-year-old had been cleared of any wrong-doing over killing in 1972 Thought case is politically motivated and designed to appease IRA families Meanwhile, suspected IRA terrorists avoid prosecution due to Blair's deal | 105 View comments Soldier C is a man who rarely shows emotion. Having served his country for 23 years in both the Parachute Regiment and the Special Forces, he is made of sterner stuff. But here he is, red-eyed. Tearful. For this former paratrooper, who was awarded the British Empire Medal for his heroic actions during a distinguished career, now faces prosecution for the shooting dead of IRA commander Joe McCann more than 40 years ago. All I ever tried to do was serve loyally and professionally as a soldier, says the retired 65-year-old, who was cleared of any wrong-doing at the time of the killing in 1972. Only some sort of psychopath would take any pleasure from a man s death. I wish I hadn t been involved, but at the same time nobody will ever convince me that my actions on that day were anything other than the right actions. I did my duty when I was called upon to do so. Soldier C (pictured) faces prosecution for shooting the IRA commander Joe McCann in 1972 But now, all these years later, I ve been brought to this. This is the fact that two months ago he and a fellow ex-soldier were informed that their case, after being reviewed by Northern Ireland s Historic Enquiries Team (HET) and closed in 2010, had been passed to the country s Public Prosecution Service. It means the men, who served with the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment at the height of the Troubles, could be ordered to stand trial for the 1972 Belfast killing and face jail if convicted. When the letter arrived I was standing beside my wife in the kitchen, says Soldier C, who cannot be identified for security reasons. She said: What s going on? I thought all this was behind us. Why is it happening? My poor wife, she s . . . He pauses. Swallows. Gathers himself. I m sorry, this is very difficult. This is so hard on her. Perhaps you can imagine what she s going through? What we re terrified of is literally a knock on the door and they handcuff me, drag me out of the house and take me into custody. If that were to happen, it would be unholy. He shakes his head. Progressively, on a daily basis, this weighs upon us more and more. It s much worse for my wife. Given my background with the army, if I was incarcerated I could deal with it. My wife couldn t. It s not the issue of having to go to court and being tried, it s the stigma the stigma to my name, my reputation and the impact on my family. This is so. . . so. . . He searches for the right word. Unfair. Indeed. The case being considered by Northern Ireland s Public Prosecution Service is widely regarded to be politically motivated and designed to appease IRA families. A settling, some might think, of old scores. For the man sitting before me is not the only old soldier facing prosecution for his actions in a troubled Northern Ireland of almost half a century ago. His lawyer, James Dunn of Devonshires Solicitors, is representing no less than 12 British soldiers, but Soldier C is the first to speak out. By doing so, he knows, he is putting his own safety at risk. But this is a man who, if you cut him open, would have the Parachute Regiment s motto Utrinque Paratus (Ready for Anything) written through him like words through a stick of rock. Joe McCann (pictured) was shot dead in Joy Street in the Markets Area of Belfast This is wrong, he says. Thirteen months ago, our daughter gave us a grandson [he has one grown-up child] so I am a husband, father and grandfather. My wife supported me loyally throughout my army career. Sometimes, I d be away for ten months at a time but she never complained. Never asked questions. Now I ve retired this should be her time our time. We d just booked to go to the States when I was told about this. I d always wanted to go and see the Grand Canyon. A few days ago, she asked me what was going to happen about our holiday. That s the 64 thousand dollar question. I ve told her if there s a decision to go ahead with the prosecution I don t think my mindset would make me good company because. . . Again, his voice breaks. Meanwhile, suspected IRA terrorists, such as John Downey, who is believed to be responsible for the 1982 Hyde Park terror blast that killed four soldiers and seven horses which he denies escape prosecution because they were given guarantees of immunity, widely dubbed Get Out Of Jail Free Cards , under a controversial peace deal drawn up by Tony Blair. I constantly ask myself what kind of world am I living in when suspected terrorists and murderers are literally walking around with Get Out Of Jail Free Cards in their possession, while I and many others like me who have served our country, are living in fear of being arrested and tried for doing what we considered was our duty? It seems that Sinn Fein, under the control of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and their stooges, are being allowed to mount a campaign of revenge against those they have despised for decades. These same men, who were themselves sought by the authorities for acts of terrorism, are now rubbing shoulders with royalty and senior politicians the Prime Minister included while at the same time former and serving members of the armed forces are being persecuted. This whole scenario I consider is the making of Tony Blair. In his haste to do a deal with Sinn Fein he was prepared to throw people like me to the wolves to satisfy the likes of Adams and McGuinness. His hands are washed in blood, and how he and his family can live with that every day is beyond my comprehension. This is the price he was prepared to pay to bring peace to Northern Ireland, but Blair s not paying the price. Others and their families are, while every day he enriches himself on the back of the deals he made while he led our country. I find that quite shocking. Where s the integrity? Where are the morals? All of this is said in a composed, reasoned fashion, but Soldier C s anger is palpable. He should be on the golf course today or in the garden with his wife. But he is here, in his lawyer s office having to defend his honour. I have asked myself countless times what would have happened had we not taken the action that we did that day, he says. I keep getting the same answer: Joe McCann would undoubtedly have carried on his war against the authorities, attempting to murder members of the security forces, police and possibly innocent members of the public. In short, he was a battle-hardened terrorist who had no compunction about killing others. On that sunny Saturday morning in April 1972, Soldier C was a 22-year-old paratrooper who d served two years in Northern Ireland. It was a very different country then, with daily riots, bombs and killings. Like a war zone, he says, and his unit worked on immediate standby whereby on a three-day rota they literally had to lie on our beds in our boots ready to go . McCann, known as the Che Guevara of the IRA, was at the top of the British Army s wanted list along with Adams and McGuinness. He was a notorious killer who, as commander of the Official IRA s feared Third Belfast Battalion, was involved in the July 1970 gun battles with British soldiers that saw five civilians killed and 70 injured. The following year his unit used children to lure Royal Green Jackets into an ambush, killing a young soldier. He also laid siege to a bakery (where he was photographed in a picture that became iconic), and in February 1972 was involved in the attempted assassination of Unionist politician John Taylor. Along with a second gunman, he machine-gunned Taylor s car, hitting him five times in the neck and head. McCann (pictured during a gun battle with the British Army), known as the Che Guevara of the IRA, was at the top of the British Army s wanted list along with Adams and McGuinness Five days of riots followed McCann s death and five British soldiers were shot in revenge. Three died. He was well-known to the security forces and feared, says Soldier C. It was accepted he was likely to be armed. Everyone believed he posed a threat and would have no compunction in killing to avoid arrest. Soldier C, in light of the possible prosecution he faces, has been advised by his lawyer not to speak about exactly what happened on that April 15 morning. It has, though, been widely reported that two RUC Special Branch officers recognised the terrorist in disguise near Belfast city centre and decided to arrest him on suspicion of attempted murder. Soldier C and two colleagues on patrol nearby were ordered to help. As McCann was fleeing, it is claimed the soldiers shouted at him to stop or they would shoot. When he failed to halt, one of the paras fired two warning shots into a wall above his head. He continued to run so all three paras opened fire. It was something that happened literally within seconds, he says now. There was no plan, no time to even discuss things among ourselves. But I m utterly convinced, and always have been, that the actions we took that day were appropriate and we did the right thing. Today, he says he has no memory of what happened immediately after McCann fell to the ground. I can only assume I was suffering a degree of shock because my recollection of the immediate aftermath is almost non-existent, he says. It s as if there is a big gap there where, for a period of time, my mind wasn t acknowledging what was going on around me. I ve been told our commander arrived, that there was a priest on the scene and our unit medic tried to save Joe s life. He gave him First Aid to try to keep him alive. My understanding is Joe died on the way to hospital, but I have no clear recollection of any of that. He does, however, know he was asked to provide a written statement later that day to a Royal Military Police investigation team. The soldiers were later told they would face no further action and life, as Soldier C says, went on . That August, he married his wife, whom he d met in Belfast. Two years later she gave birth to their daughter. Soldier C s military career flourished and, later, he was seconded to Special Forces where he rose to the rank of Warrant Officer and was awarded the British Empire Medal. In 1993, he retired from the army with an impeccable record to work in security in some of the most dangerous countries in the world. The events of April 1972 were little more than a distant memory until a letter arrived from the Ministry of Defence in July 2009, advising him that the HET was reviewing the shooting of Joe McCann along with 3,250 unresolved deaths during the Troubles. Soldier C was working in Columbia at the time, responsible for the security of three oil rigs. My wife opened it, called me and said: I ve got some bad news for you dear. I thought: What is this? The investigation continued for eight months, culminating in an interview on March 19, 2010 in his lawyer s London offices. A lawyer s note from the interview records that the head of the investigation, a detective chief superintendent, gave an assurance that in my professional opinion this ends here for you . Soldier C was delighted. I walked out of there elated, says Soldier C. I got on the phone to my wife and said: It s OK, love. There s nothing to worry about. Three years later, Soldier C retired. Having saved up during his time in security and with his army pension, he and his wife began to enjoy holidays in Barbados, gym membership, visits to their daughter and grandson and a house renovation project. On May 18, completely out of the blue, he received a letter from his lawyer asking him to call urgently. Prosecutors had contacted him to say that, despite the reassurances in 2010 and the case being closed by the HET, it had been reopened yet again and was being reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service. Soldier C has been told to expect no decision until the end of August. I ve got four brothers and a sister. We re a close family, he says. They keep asking me the same question: How can it be that these terrorists and murderers are walking around free and nobody is after them but, after everything you did in the army, you re being persecuted? As I said to them: life isn t always fair. Those guys walking around with those Get Out Of Jail Free cards should be standing beside me having to justify what they did during the Troubles. I can justify my actions because I believe in what I did. The IRA were merciless. They had no compunction in killing innocent civilians. They didn t care whose lives they affected or who they murdered. I was in Northern Ireland proudly serving Queen and country, which I continued to do I believe as a consummate professional for 23 years. Now here I am and my poor wife and family waiting to hear whether I ll face prosecution for murder. You tell me what s fair about that?
  • A British Paradox: the EU’s Most Reluctant Power is its Militarily Strongest For the European Union s military operations there is a central paradox: Britain is both its strongest asset and its principal undoer. The U.K. possesses one of the largest and most technologically advanced militaries in Europe and arguably the most experienced. But Britain has consistently blocked more defense spending by the EU as well as any efforts that Whitehall believes could constitute a move toward a European army [1] . U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter this week reiterated U.S. opposition to a so-called Brexit, while U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon this week said an exit by Britain from the European Union would weaken the collective security of the West. [2] On Tuesday , he warned the move would shrink defense spending by the U.K. and complicate ties between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU. Speaking to reporters again on Wednesday , Mr. Fallon reiterated that Britain remains opposed to any European Union moves toward creating an EU army. We retain an absolute veto on any moves to a European army and that is not being proposed. Let me assure you, we would veto that, Mr. Fallon said. But, Mr. Fallon said, the British military had been effective working under the EU umbrella in Operation Sophia [3] and other missions, helping rescue migrants and deter smuggling operations. We work under different umbrellas, we work under the U.N., we work under NATO and our ship, the HMS Enterprise, is saving lives in the Mediterranean under the EU umbrella, he said. A U.K. exit would not simply deprive the European Union of its most advanced military equipment, but also on-the-ground operational experience, said retired British Army General Richard Shirreff. What you d miss is British experience, commanders and staff, and expertise, said Gen. Shirreff. We ve got people who are operators, who ve done it, who ve commanded on operations. Engaged in almost non-stop combat operations since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the British armed forces have accrued experience unmatched within Europe, with the ability to run expeditionary operations of a particular intensity and complexity, which requires a certain command and control background, said Christian Moelling, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund. While Britain has been a principle obstacle to deploying the European Union s standing battlegroups, paradoxically a British exit could make for a less assertive EU, said Mr. Moelling. Britain possesses the political will to deploy troops and military assets overseas and that any future EU mission would miss the point of political crystallization that the U.K. s more assertive posture has traditionally provided, Mr. Moelling said. To Europe, British special forces, the U.K. intelligence services and London s still-under construction aircraft carriers would be the assets most missed in the event of a Brexit, analysts said. Last month, Germany announced plans to expand its armed forces with an additional 7,000 troops, [4] a sign that Berlin may be looking to take on a more assertive role on the world s military stage. But doubts remain as to whether the capability gap that a British exit from the EU would create could be filled. Ian Kearns, the co-founder of the European Leadership Network, said there is no other European country that could make up for the loss of British hardware and troops. If Britain was to exit, he said, Europe would have to find a new way to pool its resources. The real way forward isn t to spend more and increase the size of militaries but to spend differently, more collaboratively and to invest more in research and development that will actually increase capabilities, rather than spending more on personnel and pensions and duplicated infrastructures, he said. Despite the gloom in Brussels over a potential British exit, the U.K. leaving could have a silver lining, according to analysts. On the symbolic level the a leave vote could be a push towards greater integration, Mr. Moelling said, especially if some countries feel the need for a push towards more intense cooperation. References ^ European army ( ^ weaken the collective security of the West. ( ^ Operation Sophia ( ^ EU Governments Get Stingier Over Citizenship (
  • A century of marching with the Coldstream Guards Ron Groves, the buttons on his red tunic glinting in the sunshine, peered from under his bearskin at the throng of tourists gathered only feet from his sentry box. Suddenly he became aware of a familiar face among the sightseers outside Buckingham Palace. Striding towards him in stilettos was Hollywood sex symbol Ava Gardner.

    It was then the months of training kicked-in. Ron fought off a smile and stood statue-still as his favourite pin-up posed only inches from him for a typical holiday snap. The pensioner, and Coldstream Guards veteran, treasures the memory of that brief encounter in 1954.

    If I shut my eyes, he chuckled, I can still smell her perfume. She really was a looker. Tomorrow, Ron and 70 colleagues celebrate a military milestone the 100th anniversary of the Birmingham Coldstream Guards Association.

    Close to 200 people are expected at the anniversary lunch at Tally Ho Police Training Centre. In my day, said Ron, 79, there was no hiding place. The sentry boxes were outside the palace.

    Some people would try to get a reaction, try to get you to move, but your training takes over. Ron, from Stechford 1 , was conscripted as an 18-year-old in 1952 into the Coldstream Guards. He finished in 1959 as a Lance Sergeant.

    He said: You walked through the gates of Caterham Barracks and it was a real shock to the system. You did 12 weeks doing foot drill and training. You learned about the regiment s history.

    Every four weeks we had a passing out parade in front of a high ranking officer. If he thought you were up to scratch, you were sent on a weekend s leave, if you weren t good enough, you were back squaded a week. After 12 weeks you got a final passing out parage and then we were sent down to Pirbright Camp, where we did nine weeks.

    After that, we were sent to Pickering in Yorkshire for live ammunition training for two weeks. I was then sent to the 2nd Battalion in Germany. The Coldstream Guards View gallery Ron said the best thing about being a Coldstreamer was the comradeship amongst the men.

    He said: We had so much pride, you never forget it. The comradeship and friendship that you built up was unbelievable. The training was very, very rigorous and we all went through it together.

    Ron is a long-serving committee member and secretary of the Birmingham branch. In 2003, they attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace and in 2011, he was presented to the Queen at Royal Chelsea Hospital. His pal and association chairman Brian Owens, 70, from Perry Common, served as Lance Corporal from 1960 to 1969.

    Brian said: I went to Pirbright and trained 16 weeks there. I joined the 2nd Battalion in Kenya in 1961. There was a bit of trouble in Zanzibar and I served there as a peacekeeper.

    We also went to Tanzania for their independence parade. Brian also went to Yemen where they lost five members of his battalion in clashes. Despite this, he enjoyed his time in the army and the variety it offered.

    He said: The aim of the association is to look after the Coldstreamer. Since 2007, we have looked after the injured troops at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at the QE hospital. We take whatever they request for the injured troops and for their families.

    We have also raised more than 5,000 through street collections and charity stalls at markets. He added: We have people donate money to us. We have a lot of help from other branches and clubs and members of the public.

    Norman French, 70, from Marston Green, served in places as far as South America and Yemen when he served as a Lance Corporal in the guards from 1961 to 1967. He said: When I was posted to Aden (Yemen), we went up to the Radfan Mountains, where we were occasionally attacked but our weapons were more advanced. He is now a welfare officer in the Birmingham Association.

    Norman said: I keep in touch with members who are sick and see what we can do for them. We will help Coldstreamers who may not be in our branch. HISTORY OF THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS The Coldstream Guards is one of the seven regiments in the Household Division - the personal troops of Her Majesty the Queen 2 .

    Formed in 1650 as part of the New Model Army during the English Civil War, the regiment swore allegiance to King Charles II in 1660 and has guarded the country s monarchs since 3 . The Regiment s motto is, Nulli Secundus or Second to None . The Coldstream Guards also contribute to ceremonial occasions, such as Changing of the Guard and Trooping the Colour and are distinctive for the black bearskin caps and red tunics worn by the five regiments of the Foot Guards.

    THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS ASSOCIATION BIRMINGHAM Around 175 people will be attending the 100th anniversary lunch of the Coldstream Guards Association Birmingham tomorrow at Tally Ho Police Training Centre off Pershore Road. There are 71 paid up members and 24 serving soldiers of the branch which was formed in 1913. All members will receive a commemorative tankard and ladies will get a photo frame.

    The association helps members who are leaving or who have left to obtain employment and they help injured soldiers at the RCDM at the QE. They meet every second Wednesday of the month at Tally Ho. Members help with recruiting and participating in its annual dinner, memorial parade and other social events.

    Sir Adrian Cadbury is president of the association and was a Coldstreamer.

    References ^ from Stechford ( ^ Her Majesty the Queen ( ^ King Charles II in 1660 and has guarded the country s monarchs since (

  • A Charmer in the Trenches by Jenny Uglow I had lazily pigeonholed E.H. Shepard as the genius who drew Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, and Roo, his images as enduring as A.A. Milne s text, and who also gave us the unforgettable Ratty and Mole and Toad in Kenneth Grahame s The Wind in the Willows . Here he draws with deft pencil strokes and minimal background, and a cartoonist s eye for short-hand shape; silhouettes of these figures would be instantly recognizable. But the genius lies in his evocation of movement: Pooh s rotund clumsiness, Eeyore s saggy body and roping head, Tigger s unstoppable bounce, Kanga s panic as baby Roo disappears. This is the Shepard we know best. Yet in an intriguing exhibition at the House of Illustration, the brilliant new public gallery behind King s Cross station in London the first place in England to give real space to this underrated art Shepard s work does not show Pooh s Hundred Acre Wood, or Ratty s slow-flowing Thames. Instead he is sketching amid the mud and gunfire of the World War I trenches that dreadful countryside, as Shepard called it, made vividly immediate in his depiction of shells exploding like puffs of cotton wool against grey mist and broken trees. But how do these worlds fit together, that of the tender illustrator of children s books, and the officer with his sketchbook in the trenches? Ernest Howard Shepard was already drawing with passion as a child, fascinated by two subjects, soldiers and the theater both of which would mingle, oddly, in his wartime work. Born in 1879, he grew up in a privileged, artistic London household: his father was an architect and his mother Jessie, who died when he was ten, was the daughter of a well known watercolorist, William Lee. At sixteen, when Shepard was studying at Heatherley s Art School and gained the lifetime nickname Kipper he won a five-year studentship at the Royal Academy School. Here he met his wife, another talented artist, Florence Chaplin, who turns up in this exhibition in smiling student photos and in a trio of comic sketches from their tender, almost daily, wartime letters, modeling her new underwear, a teasing, sexy reminder of life away from bullets and shells. Illustration, like teaching, is often a way for art students to add to their income, and even while he scooped up RA scholarships and prizes, Shepard was sending work to magazines. He drew sweet, conventional scenes for classics like Tom Brown s School Days , and one of the most disconcerting moments here is when these fresh-faced, well-brushed children turn up in a cartoon, enthusiastically sweeping ash out of the fireplace onto a bunch of toys, which are all wearing gas-masks, shrieking Gas attack! Gas attack! He understood the violence as well as charm of a child s imagination, and the distorted impact of war. Most of all in his prewar days, Shepard longed to join the elite group of cartoonists in Punch , of which Florence s grandfather had been one of the founders. He had just managed this, with graphic social cartoons, when war broke out. In 1915 he joined up, soon to serve as an artillery officer with the 105th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was there with his troops on the Somme, at the battles of Arras and at Passchendaele, and later, in the last days of the war, in the fierce, snowbound fighting in the Italian Alps. Everywhere, he took his sketchbook. Shepard made topographical drawings for army intelligence, sent work home to family and friends, and continued to draw his cartoons, mostly for Punch . At the outbreak of war, Owen Seaman, the magazine s editor, had been convinced that Punch would go under, as this was no time for jokes. On the contrary, friends told him, your work is just starting, and humor would be needed more than ever. This proved true, not least because the secret War Propaganda Bureau enrolled him in the task of raising morale by showing the indomitable spirit of the British people and forces. But when Seaman asked for cartoons on subjects other than the war, Shepard replied that it was almost impossible to think of anything else. In the spring of 1917, at Arras, Shepard took over from his commanding officer and was awarded the Military Cross, its citation reading, His courage and coolness were conspicuous. For months, his life, like all those on the front, was surrounded by slaughter. His sketchbook was full of pictures of crammed dugouts and rough shelters. He drew the chaotic rubble of no-man s land, the plight of the wounded, and the tall roadside crucifix used as a lookout post by the Germans. At Passchendaele, in September 1917, in rapid, urgent sketches, he showed his own gunners ramming in shells one of these great howitzers would explode a few weeks later, killing four men. In these sketches, not intended for publication, he simply drew what he saw, his pencil lines quicker, more delicate than his prewar work, his art extending and expanding in sensibility. One great heartbreak was the death of his elder brother, to whom he was very close: on his map of Albert, a vital point in the battle of the Somme, he marked the coordinates of his brother s grave. Nothing of the horror appeared in his letters home, although after Passchendaele, when his promised leave was cancelled and he was sent to the Italian Front in November 1917, he said he could cry and cry. Outwardly, however, Shepard was a cheery soul. In 1917 he told Seaman he was too busy for Punch work, but the cartoons that he did send showed he could find humor anywhere. Much of this is of the stiff upper lip kind, employing clich s of fat, thuggish Huns (he isn t very good at drawing villains) and of toffish British officers and yokel-type Tommies. In a typical example, a staff officer points to a ribbon pinned on as a soldier s battle honors: Staff Officer (inspecting scratch collection G.S. Men). Ah, my man ribbon eh? Don t seem to remember the colours. What campaign is that? G.S. Man (proudly). First prize, ploughin match at Yeovil, Zur . It s uncomfortable to smile at the class-based jokes, typical of the period. But one can see how much Shepard s men would have liked his high spirits: they thought him lucky, clustering round him, sure he would never be hit. In Italy, where his unit fought in the deep snow of the Asiago plateau, the gunners were aided, as they had always been, by his drawings of enemy positions. When an armistice was signed, Shepard stayed on until 1919 to cope with captured artillery. We can feel his exhaustion and his compassion in sketches of captured troops and of refugees on the road. But there s still plenty of humor in Venti Quatro , the soldiers magazine he edited, satirizing the gung-ho coverage of the British press, so far from the bitter reality. His wit is not verbal, but visual a quality hard to define seen here in affectionate caricatures of fellow officers and in the wonderful, rhythmic dance of beak-nosed, moustachioed officers in swirling tutus in Close of the Italian Season. Grand Peace Ballet finale . He was still relatively unknown, but back home, as part of the editorial board at the famous Punch table, he sat next to the publisher E.V. Lucas, who persuaded A. A. Milne to use him to draw the pictures for When We Were Very Young . The three Pooh books followed, from 1926 to 1928, and, among other commissions, The Wind in the Willows in 1931. He continued to work for Punch until the 1950s, drawing cartoons this time from the Home Front during World War II, and kept up his work as a book illustrator until his last years, although rather regretting that popular interest in Pooh, that silly old bear, swamped recognition of his other work. He died in 1976, aged at ninety-six. Shepard s peacetime drawings, with their pure mastery of line, have a distinctive sweetness not a rigorous art-critical term, but true. And in the drawings of animate toys and talkative animals, there is a shrewd observation of quirky human nature that bears witness to Shepard s own endearing character, and to the deep understanding that he gained by sketching the terror and the comradeship of war. E.H. Shepard: An Illustrator s War is on view at the House of Illustration [1] in London through January 24, 2016 October 23, 2015, 3:10 p.m. References ^ House of Illustration (
  • A famous Scot in the FCO for St Andrews Day Sir Fitzroy Maclean (1911-96) a true Maclean scion A man of daring character, with Foreign Office training : thus Winston Churchill perfectly summed up the glamorous and enigmatic Fitzroy Maclean, who combined the careers of diplomat, soldier, partisan, politician and writer. His talents aided by personal charm and enviable contacts enabled him to play an exceptional role during the Second World War. Widely believed to have been one of the models for his friend Ian Fleming s creation James Bond, he also had something of the staunch gentlemanly bravery of John Buchan s fictional hero Richard Hannay. Born in Cairo into an old military family, and always proud of his Highland roots, Maclean nevertheless had a cosmopolitan upbringing, with a childhood in India and Italy as well as Scotland, which ensured a good knowledge of languages and wide cultural tastes. This predestined him for the Foreign Office, which he entered in 1933. After an enjoyable spell in Paris from 1934-37, he asked to be posted to the tougher climate of the USSR during the height of Stalin s purges, which did not prevent him from undertaking dangerous solo travels to remote regions of the Eastern Soviet Union. His dispatches to Whitehall won him the reputation of a bold and clever young diplomat. However, back in London, service on the Russian desk pleased him less, and with the coming of war he decided to join the Cameron Highlanders, his father s old regiment. Diplomats, however, were not allowed to enlist. Maclean showed a characteristic mixture of determination, ingenuity, and cheek: he stood for parliament (and to his surprise was subsequently elected), which required him to resign from the Foreign Office. He immediately volunteered for the Camerons as a private soldier, was promoted to lance-corporal, and was soon commissioned. He was posted to North Africa and joined the new SAS, whose early commando operations in the Western desert, for example against Benghazi, combined a high level of danger with a degree of black comedy. He moved on to Persia, commanding an almost entirely Scottish band of volunteers, one of whose exploits was the successful arrest or kidnapping of a pro-German Persian general. This prepared him for his most famous and important mission. In 1943 he was chosen personally by Winston Churchill as a daring ambassador-leader to be parachuted into German-occupied Yugoslavia as head of a small military mission (which for a time included Randolph Churchill and the novelist Evelyn Waugh) to the then largely unknown and mysterious Communist guerrilla leader Tito rumoured by some to be a woman, or perhaps even a committee. Maclean s diplomatic and military skills were to be put to the test. The gentlemanly Scot and the Communist apparatchik Josip Broz (alias Tito) formed a good relationship, with Maclean developing an admiration for Tito s military skill and courage. Maclean certainly played a part in the British decision to give full backing to the Communists, though he later insisted that Churchill had already made his mind up on military grounds. Nevertheless, Maclean, who had direct access to Churchill, certainly facilitated the process, and thus helped Tito to become leader of an independent postwar Yugoslavia able to stand up to Soviet pressure. Maclean remained until his death a friend of Yugoslavia, where he had a holiday villa. After the war, Maclean continued his political career or rather, began it, for during the war he had not occupied his seat in the Commons. He served as parliamentary under-secretary at the War Office from 1954-57. He made friends across party boundaries and Tory though he was maintained close contacts in Yugoslavia and the USSR, and was one of those who in the 1980s identified Mikhail Gorbachev as an important figure. In 1949 he published a gripping account of his wartime experiences, Eastern Approaches , which made him something of a celebrity, and inspired future diplomats, for example Sir Ewen Fergusson, future Ambassador to South Africa and to France. It was followed by travel books, histories (including a History of Scotland ), and biographies of Tito and of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He also put down firm roots in Scotland, for although always considering himself a thorough Scot, much of his life until this point had been lived elsewhere. In 1957 he and his wife (Lady Veronica, daughter of Lord Lovat) bought a house in Argyll, and he was elected Unionist MP for Bute and North Ayrshire (1959-1974). He died at the age of 85, having led an extraordinarily full and adventurous life. One of his wartime comrades thought that part of the explanation was his wish to be a true Maclean scion a big, bad Highland chieftain.
  • A Glimpse of the British Army In May, 1916, Arthur Conan Doyle was permitted by the War Office of the Allies to visit the battlefront of the World War I, and report on the British, French and Italian Armies. Here his account of the British Army from the front I It is not an easy matter to write from the front. You know that there are several courteous but inexorable gentlemen who may have a word in the matter, and their presence imparts but small ease to the style. But above all you have the twin censors of your own conscience and common sense, which assure you that, if all other readers fail you, you will certainly find a most attentive one in the neighbourhood of the Haupt-Quartier. An instructive story is still told of how a certain well-meaning traveller recorded his satisfaction with the appearance of the big guns at the retiring and peaceful village of Jamais, and how three days later, by an interesting coincidence, the village of Jamais passed suddenly off the map and dematerialised into brickdust and splinters. I have been with soldiers on the warpath before, but never have I had a day so crammed with experiences and impressions as yesterday. Some of them at least I can faintly convey to the reader, and if they ever reach the eye of that gentleman at the Haupt-Quartier they will give him little joy. For the crowning impression of all is the enormous imperturbable confidence of the Army and its extraordinary efficiency in organisation, administration, material, and personnel. I met in one day a sample of many types, an Army commander, a corps commander, two divisional commanders, staff officers of many grades, and, above all, I met repeatedly the two very great men whom Britain has produced, the private soldier and the regimental officer. Everywhere and on every face one read the same spirit of cheerful bravery. Even the half-mad cranks whose absurd consciences prevent them from barring the way to the devil seemed to me to be turning into men under the prevailing influence. I saw a batch of them, neurotic and largely be-spectacled, but working with a will by the roadside. They will volunteer for the trenches yet. If there are pessimists among us they are not to be found among the men who are doing the work. There is no foolish bravado, no under-rating of a dour opponent, but there is a quick, alert, confident attention to the job in hand which is an inspiration to the observer. These brave lads are guarding Britain in the present. See to it that Britain guards them in the future! We have a bad record in this matter. It must be changed. They are the wards of the nation, both officers and men. Socialism has never had an attraction for me, but I should be a Socialist to-morrow if I thought that to ease a tax on wealth these men should ever suffer for the time or health that they gave to the public cause. Get out of the car. Don t let it stay here. It may be hit. These words from a staff officer give you the first idea that things are going to happen. Up to then you might have been driving through the black country in the Walsall district with the population of Aldershot let loose upon its dingy roads. Put on this shrapnel helmet. That hat of yours would infuriate the Boche this was an unkind allusion to the only uniform which I have a right to wear. Take this gas helmet. You won t need it, but it is a standing order. Now come on! We cross a meadow and enter a trench. Here and there it comes to the surface again where there is dead ground. At one such point an old church stands, with an unexploded shell sticking out of the wall. A century hence folk will journey to see that shell. Then on again through an endless cutting. It is slippery clay below. I have no nails in my boots, an iron pot on my head, and the sun above me. I will remember that walk. Ten telephone wires run down the side. Here and there large thistles and other plants grow from the clay walls, so immobile have been our lines. Occasionally there are patches of untidiness. Shells, says the officer laconically. There is a racket of guns before us and behind, especially behind, but danger seems remote with all these Bairnfather groups of cheerful Tommies at work around us. I pass one group of grimy, tattered boys. A glance at their shoulders shows me that they are of a public school battalion. I thought you fellows were all officers now, I remarked. No, sir, we like it better so. Well, it will be a great memory for you. We are all in your debt. They salute, and we squeeze past them. They had the fresh, brown faces of boy cricketers. But their comrades were men of a different type, with hard, strong, rugged features, and the eyes of men who have seen strange sights. These are veterans, men of Mons, and their young pals of the public schools have something to live up to. Up to this we have only had two clay walls to look at. But now our interminable and tropical walk is lightened by the sight of a British aeroplane sailing overhead. Numerous shrapnel bursts are all round it, but she floats on serenely, a thing of delicate beauty against the blue background. Now another passes and yet another. All morning we saw them circling and swooping, and never a sign of a Boche. They tell me it is nearly always so that we hold the air, and that the Boche intruder, save at early morning, is a rare bird. A visit to the line would reassure Mr. Pemberton-Billing. We have never met a British aeroplane which was not ready to fight, said a captured German aviator the other day. There is a fine stern courtesy between the airmen on either side, each dropping notes into the other s aerodromes to tell the fate of missing officers. Had the whole war been fought by the Germans as their airmen have conducted it (I do not speak of course of the Zeppelin murderers), a peace would eventually have been more easily arranged. As it is, if every frontier could be settled, it would be a hard thing to stop until all that is associated with the words Cavell, Zeppelin, Wittenberg, Lusitania, and Louvain has been brought to the bar of the world s Justice. And now we are there in what is surely the most wonderful spot in the world, the front firing trench, the outer breakwater which holds back the German tide. How strange that this monstrous oscillation of giant forces, setting in from east to west, should find their equilibrium here across this particular meadow of Flanders. How far? I ask. 180 yards, says my guide. Pop! remarks a third person just in front. A sniper, says my guide; take a look through the periscope. I do so. There is some rusty wire before me, then a field sloping slightly upwards with knee-deep grass, then rusty wire again, and a red line of broken earth. There is not a sign of movement, but sharp eyes are always watching us, even as these crouching soldiers around me are watching them. There are dead Germans in the grass before us. You need not see them to know that they are there. A wounded soldier sits in a corner nursing his leg. Here and there men pop out like rabbits from dug-outs and mine-shafts. Others sit on the fire-step or lean smoking against the clay wall. Who would dream to look at their bold, careless faces that this is a front line, and that at any moment it is possible that a grey wave may submerge them? With all their careless bearing I notice that every man has his gas helmet and his rifle within easy reach. A mile of front trenches and then we are on our way back down that weary walk. Then I am whisked off upon a ten mile drive. There is a pause for lunch at Corps Headquarters, and after it we are taken to a medal presentation in a market square. Generals Munro, Haking and Landon, famous fighting soldiers all three, are the British representatives. Munro with a ruddy face, and brain above all bulldog below; Haking, pale, distinguished, intellectual; Landon a pleasant, genial country squire. An elderly French General stands beside them. British infantry keep the ground. In front are about fifty Frenchmen in civil dress of every grade of life, workmen and gentlemen, in a double rank. They are all so wounded that they are back in civil life, but to-day they are to have some solace for their wounds. They lean heavily on sticks, their bodies are twisted and maimed, but their faces are shining with pride and joy. The French General draws his sword and addresses them. One catches words like honneur and patrie. They lean forward on their crutches, hanging on every syllable which comes hissing and rasping from under that heavy white moustache. Then the medals are pinned on. One poor lad is terribly wounded and needs two sticks. A little girl runs out with some flowers. He leans forward and tries to kiss her, but the crutches slip and he nearly falls upon her. It was a pitiful but beautiful little scene. Now the British candidates march up one by one for their medals, hale, hearty men, brown and fit. There is a smart young officer of Scottish Rifles; and then a selection of Worcesters, Welsh Fusiliers and Scots Fusiliers, with one funny little Highlander, a tiny figure with a soup-bowl helmet, a grinning boy s face beneath it, and a bedraggled uniform. Many acts of great bravery such was the record for which he was decorated. Even the French wounded smiled at his quaint appearance, as they did at another Briton who had acquired the chewing-gum habit, and came up for his medal as if he had been called suddenly in the middle of his dinner, which he was still endeavouring to bolt. Then came the end, with the National Anthem. The British regiment formed fours and went past. To me that was the most impressive sight of any. They were the Queen s West Surreys, a veteran regiment of the great Ypres battle. What grand fellows! As the order came Eyes right, and all those fierce, dark faces flashed round about us, I felt the might of the British infantry, the intense individuality which is not incompatible with the highest discipline. Much they had endured, but a great spirit shone from their faces. I confess that as I looked at those brave English lads, and thought of what we owe to them and to their like who have passed on, I felt more emotional than befits a Briton in foreign parts. Now the ceremony was ended, and once again we set out for the front. It was to an artillery observation post that we were bound, and once again my description must be bounded by discretion. Suffice it, that in an hour I found myself, together with a razor-keen young artillery observer and an excellent old sportsman of a Russian prince, jammed into a very small space, and staring through a slit at the German lines. In front of us lay a vast plain, scarred and slashed, with bare places at intervals, such as you see where gravel pits break a green common. Not a sign of life or movement, save some wheeling crows. And yet down there, within a mile or so, is the population of a city. Far away a single train is puffing at the back of the German lines. We are here on a definite errand. Away to the right, nearly three miles off, is a small red house, dim to the eye but clear in the glasses, which is suspected as a German post. It is to go up this afternoon. The gun is some distance away, but I hear the telephone directions. Mother will soon do her in, remarks the gunner boy cheerfully. Mother is the name of the gun. Give her five six three four, he cries through the phone. Mother utters a horrible bellow from somewhere on our right. An enormous spout of smoke rises ten seconds later from near the house. A little short, says our gunner. Two and a half minutes left, adds a little small voice, which represents another observer at a different angle. Raise her seven five, says our boy encouragingly. Mother roars more angrily than ever. How will that do? she seems to say. One and a half right, says our invisible gossip. I wonder how the folk in the house are feeling as the shells creep ever nearer. Gun laid, sir, says the telephone. Fire! I am looking through my glass. A flash of fire on the house, a huge pillar of dust and smoke then it settles, and an unbroken field is there. The German post has gone up. It s a dear little gun, says the officer boy. And her shells are reliable, remarked a senior behind us. They vary with different calibres, but Mother never goes wrong. The German line was very quiet. Pourquoi ils ne r pondent pas? asked the Russian prince. Yes, they are quiet to-day, answered the senior. But we get it in the neck sometimes. We are all led off to be introduced to Mother, who sits, squat and black, amid twenty of her grimy children who wait upon and feed her. She is an important person is Mother, and her importance grows. It gets clearer with every month that it is she, and only she, who can lead us to the Rhine. She can and she will if the factories of Britain can beat those of the Hun. See to it, you working men and women of Britain. Work now if you rest for ever after, for the fate of Europe and of all that is dear to us is in your hands. For Mother is a dainty eater, and needs good food and plenty. She is fond of strange lodgings, too, in which she prefers safety to dignity. But that is a dangerous subject. One more experience of this wonderful day the most crowded with impressions of my whole life. At night we take a car and drive north, and ever north, until at a late hour we halt and climb a hill in the darkness. Below is a wonderful sight. Down on the flats, in a huge semi-circle, lights are rising and falling. They are very brilliant, going up for a few seconds and then dying down. Sometimes a dozen are in the air at one time. There are the dull thuds of explosions and an occasional rat-tat-tat. I have seen nothing like it, but the nearest comparison would be an enormous ten-mile railway station in full swing at night, with signals winking, lamps waving, engines hissing and carriages bumping. It is a terrible place down yonder, a place which will live as long as military history is written, for it is the Ypres Salient. What a salient it is, too! A huge curve, as outlined by the lights, needing only a little more to be an encirclement. Something caught the rope as it closed, and that something was the British soldier. But it is a perilous place still by day and by night. Never shall I forget the impression of ceaseless, malignant activity which was borne in upon me by the white, winking lights, the red sudden glares, and the horrible thudding noises in that place of death beneath me. II In old days we had a great name as organisers. Then came a long period when we deliberately adopted a policy of individuality and go as you please. Now once again in our sore need we have called on all our power of administration and direction. But it has not deserted us. We still have it in a supreme degree. Even in peace time we have shown it in that vast, well-oiled, swift-running, noiseless machine called the British Navy. But now our powers have risen with the need of them. The expansion of the Navy has been a miracle, the management of the transport a greater one, the formation of the new Army the greatest of all time. To get the men was the least of the difficulties. To put them here, with everything down to the lid of the last field saucepan in its place, that is the marvel. The tools of the gunners, and of the sappers, to say nothing of the knowledge of how to use them, are in themselves a huge problem. But it has all been met and mastered, and will be to the end. But don t let us talk any more about the muddling of the War Office. It has become just a little ridiculous. I have told of my first day, when I visited the front trenches, saw the work of Mother, and finally that marvellous spectacle, the Ypres Salient at night. I have passed the night at the headquarters of a divisional-general, Capper, who might truly be called one of the two fathers of the British flying force, for it was he, with Templer, who laid the first foundations from which so great an organisation has arisen. My morning was spent in visiting two fighting brigadiers, cheery weather-beaten soldiers, respectful, as all our soldiers are, of the prowess of the Hun, but serenely confident that we can beat him. In company with one of them I ascended a hill, the reverse slope of which was swarming with cheerful infantry in every stage of dishabille, for they were cleaning up after the trenches. Once over the slope we advanced with some care, and finally reached a certain spot from which we looked down upon the German line. It was the advanced observation post, about a thousand yards from the German trenches, with our own trenches between us. We could see the two lines, sometimes only a few yards, as it seemed, apart, extending for miles on either side. The sinister silence and solitude were strangely dramatic. Such vast crowds of men, such intensity of feeling, and yet only that open rolling countryside, with never a movement in its whole expanse. The afternoon saw us in the Square at Ypres. It is the city of a dream, this modern Pompeii, destroyed, deserted and desecrated, but with a sad, proud dignity which made you involuntarily lower your voice as you passed through the ruined streets. It is a more considerable place than I had imagined, with many traces of ancient grandeur. No words can describe the absolute splintered wreck that the Huns have made of it. The effect of some of the shells has been grotesque. One boiler-plated water-tower, a thing forty or fifty feet high, was actually standing on its head like a great metal top. There is not a living soul in the place save a few pickets of soldiers, and a number of cats which become fierce and dangerous. Now and then a shell still falls, but the Huns probably know that the devastation is already complete. We stood in the lonely grass-grown Square, once the busy centre of the town, and we marvelled at the beauty of the smashed cathedral and the tottering Cloth Hall beside it. Surely at their best they could not have looked more wonderful than now. If they were preserved even so, and if a heaven-inspired artist were to model a statue of Belgium in front, Belgium with one hand pointing to the treaty by which Prussia guaranteed her safety and the other to the sacrilege behind her, it would make the most impressive group in the world. It was an evil day for Belgium when her frontier was violated, but it was a worse one for Germany. I venture to prophesy that it will be regarded by history as the greatest military as well as political error that has ever been made. Had the great guns that destroyed Li ge made their first breach at Verdun, what chance was there for Paris? Those few weeks of warning and preparation saved France, and left Germany as she now is, like a weary and furious bull, tethered fast in the place of trespass and waiting for the inevitable pole-axe. We were glad to get out of the place, for the gloom of it lay as heavy upon our hearts as the shrapnel helmets did upon our heads. Both were lightened as we sped back past empty and shattered villas to where, just behind the danger line, the normal life of rural Flanders was carrying on as usual. A merry sight helped to cheer us, for scudding down wind above our heads came a Boche aeroplane, with two British at her tail barking away with their machine guns, like two swift terriers after a cat. They shot rat-tat-tatting across the sky until we lost sight of them in the heat haze over the German line. The afternoon saw us on the Sharpenburg, from which many a million will gaze in days to come, for from no other point can so much be seen. It is a spot forbid, but a special permit took us up, and the sentry on duty, having satisfied himself of our bona fides, proceeded to tell us tales of the war in a pure Hull dialect which might have been Chinese for all that I could understand. That he was a terrier and had nine children were the only facts I could lay hold of. But I wished to be silent and to think even, perhaps, to pray. Here, just below my feet, were the spots which our dear lads, three of them my own kith, have sanctified with their blood. Here, fighting for the freedom of the world, they cheerily gave their all. On that sloping meadow to the left of the row of houses on the opposite ridge the London Scottish fought to the death on that grim November morning when the Bavarians reeled back from their shot-torn line. That plain away on the other side of Ypres was the place where the three grand Canadian brigades, first of all men, stood up to the damnable cowardly gases of the Hun. Down yonder is Hill 60, that blood-soaked kopje. The ridge over the fields was held by the cavalry against two army corps, and there where the sun strikes the red roof among the trees I can just see Gheluveld, a name for ever to be associated with Haig and the most vital battle of the war. As I turn away I am faced by my Hull Territorial, who still says incomprehensible things. I look at him with other eyes. He has fought on yonder plain. He has slain Huns, and he has nine children. Could any one better epitomise the duties of a good citizen? I could have found it in my heart to salute him had I not known that it would have shocked him and made him unhappy. It has been a full day, and the next is even fuller, for it is my privilege to lunch at Headquarters, and to make the acquaintance of the Commander-in-chief and of his staff. It would be an invasion of private hospitality if I were to give the public the impressions which I carried from that charming ch teau. I am the more sorry, since they were very vivid and strong. This much I will say and any man who is a face reader will not need to have it said that if the Army stands still it is not by the will of its commander. There will, I swear, be no happier man in Europe when the day has come and the hour. It is human to err, but never possibly can some types err by being backward. We have a superb army in France. It needs the right leader to handle it. I came away happier and more confident than ever as to the future. Extraordinary are the contrasts of war. Within three hours of leaving the quiet atmosphere of the Headquarters Ch teau I was present at what in any other war would have been looked upon as a brisk engagement. As it was it would certainly figure in one of our desiccated reports as an activity of the artillery. The noise as we struck the line at this new point showed that the matter was serious, and, indeed, we had chosen the spot because it had been the storm centre of the last week. The method of approach chosen by our experienced guide was in itself a tribute to the gravity of the affair. As one comes from the settled order of Flanders into the actual scene of war, the first sign of it is one of the stationary, sausage-shaped balloons, a chain of which marks the ring in which the great wrestlers are locked. We pass under this, ascend a hill, and find ourselves in a garden where for a year no feet save those of wanderers like ourselves have stood. There is a wild, confused luxuriance of growth more beautiful to my eye than anything which the care of man can produce. One old shell-hole of vast diameter has filled itself with forget-me-nots, and appears as a graceful basin of light blue flowers, held up as an atonement to heaven for the brutalities of man. Through the tangled bushes we creep, then across a yard Please stoop and run as you pass this point and finally to a small opening in a wall, whence the battle lies not so much before as beside us. For a moment we have a front seat at the great world-drama, God s own problem play, working surely to its magnificent end. One feels a sort of shame to crouch here in comfort, a useless spectator, while brave men down yonder are facing that pelting shower of iron. There is a large field on our left rear, and the German gunners have the idea that there is a concealed battery therein. They are systematically searching for it. A great shell explodes in the top corner, but gets nothing more solid than a few tons of clay. You can read the mind of Gunner Fritz. Try the lower corner! says he, and up goes the earth-cloud once again. Perhaps it s hid about the middle. I ll try. Earth again, and nothing more. I believe I was right the first time after all, says hopeful Fritz. So another shell comes into the top corner. The field is as full of pits as a Gruy re cheese, but Fritz gets nothing by his perseverance. Perhaps there never was a battery there at all. One effect he obviously did attain. He made several other British batteries exceedingly angry. Stop that tickling, Fritz! was the burden of their cry. Where they were we could no more see than Fritz could, but their constant work was very clear along the German line. We appeared to be using more shrapnel and the Germans more high explosives, but that may have been just the chance of the day. The Vimy Ridge was on our right, and before us was the old French position, with the labyrinth of terrible memories and the long hill of Lorette. When, last year, the French, in a three weeks battle, fought their way up that hill, it was an exhibition of sustained courage which even their military annals can seldom have beaten. And so I turn from the British line. Another and more distant task lies before me. I come away with the deep sense of the difficult task which lies before the Army, but with a deeper one of the ability of these men to do all that soldiers can ever be asked to perform. Let the guns clear the way for the infantry, and the rest will follow. It all lies with the guns. But the guns, in turn, depend upon our splendid workers at home, who, men and women, are doing so grandly. Let them not be judged by a tiny minority, who are given, perhaps, too much attention in our journals. We have all made sacrifices in the war, but when the full story comes to be told, perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all is that which Labour made when, with a sigh, she laid aside that which it had taken so many weary years to build. Arthur Conan Doyle [1] Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (1859 1930) was a physician and British writer and, most popular for his crime fiction series featuring the detective of 221 B Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes. His most famous short-story collections and novellas include The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes . His other works include The Lost World (1912), The Coming of the Fairies (1922), and Memories and Adventures (1924-30), along with spiritual writings such as The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), The History of Spiritualism (1926), and Pheneas Speaks: Direct Spirit Communications in the Family Circle (1927). References ^ Arthur Conan Doyle (
  • A Glossary of SlangEdwardian Promenade Courtesy of [1] The Institute of Edwardian Studies [2] , Askew s Glossary of Victorian Colonial Terminology, Vita Sackville-West s The Edwardians and Ronald Pearsall s Edwardian Life and Leisure . A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z A ague Any fever, such as malaria, that recurs at regular intervals (from Medieval Latin febris acuta, literally, sharp fever) ammunitions Boots (later usage) Return to Top [3] B baize a coarse, woolen material resembling felt balmy on the crumpet crazy, insane barnbrack (barmbrack) a spice cake-like bread usually made with currants beef, beer, and lust What British civilians thought British soldiers were too full of. beer, bum, and bacca Pleasures of the sailor s life, circa 1870, bacca being tobacco. blackavised dark faced, to have a dark complexion, swarthy black death The plague. A virulent contagious bacteria often found in rats. Humans can get the disease from fleas. black water fever A type of African malaria that causes anemia and brown or black urine due to the destruction of red blood cells. blimey From Gorblimey!, meaning God blind me blottesque blotted or blotchy blotto drunk blue devils to feel sad or depressed, to be in low spirits. e.g., I had the blue devils after losing the game. blue jacket British sailor BOR British Other Ranks, non-officers box coat a large, loose-fitting overcoat worn by coachmen brew Tea brevet A temporary higher rank, for example, a captain being a brevet colonel. It was not unusual for British colonial officers on loan to another regiment to be temporarily classed as a higher rank in that regiment but to paid for the lesser rank of their actual regiment. (Old French, diminutive of brief letter) brick good sort, good sport brolly Umbrella, circa 1873 broomsquire a professional broom maker buck a dandy, a smartly dressed or handsome individual buffer old man, old codger bunk to tell someone angrily to go away scram!; to dash or sprint away ( done the bunk to escape, run out on [something/one]) bun strangler Non-drinker Return to Top [4] C cabinet particulier a private room, usually associated with a restaurant and having a sofa or hidden bed, set aside for trysts by lovers and those having extra-marital affairs Cardigan an artilleryman from the Cardigan regiment of the Royal Garrison Artillery reserves caravan Travelers on a journey through hostile regions (Italian caravana, from Persian karwan). carry the banner tramp catarrh An inflammation of the nose and air passages that produces drainage (from Greek katarrhein to flow down). char Tea. (Hindustani char) charpoy A bed, frame strung with tapes or light rope (Hindustani carpai) cheeking taunting or jeering at cheese it stop!, stop it!, look out! chit derogatory term for a small or frail woman cicerone a sightseeing guide cinematrograph Early motion pictures c. 1900. Also known as viagraph or bioscope. chee-chee Half-caste, mixed race of British and Indian. Also the sing-song accent of same, from the early influence of Welsh missionaries. cheroot Cigar (from Tamil, curuttu, roll. [About 1679]) cholera belt A body wrapping of flannel worn to supposedly prevent cholera. Used in India until about 1920. chota peg Small drink, a gin and tonic chota wallah Little guy class regiment Indian Army regiment whose members were all recruited from one ethnic group such as Sikhs, Gurkhas, etc. clemming consumptive, emaciated; necessitous, in want, pinched; in shoemaking, the binding together of soles clergyman s daughter slang for a prostitute or woman with loose morals clobber Uniform, clothing cockchafer the beetle Melolontha melolontha college Prison (as in, I ve been to college. ) contango A technical term from the British Stock Exchange referring to the postponing of a transfer of stock. More colloquially, it refers to the last day to negotiate a financial arrangement before accounts are settled. In slang, it refers to the day of reckoning or the last judgement. Corner to corner the market on something, to gain a monopoly cozy corner an arrangement of built-in seats situated in a room s corner or next to a fireplace consumption Pulmonary tuberculosis or any other wasting-away disease that consumed its victims. crammer a person who helps students cram (intensively study) for examinations crack up talk up, praise, laud Crikey an exclamation equivalent to Oh My! or Well Then! croaker A dying person, a corpse, or someone who has given up; doomsayer, complainer cropper (come a cropper) a hard fall (esp. from a horse); usually used in come a cropper, meaning to come to ruin or to fail miserably crossing a fight, especially a clandestine prize fight cushy Easy (Hindi khush pleasant, from Persian khush [1915] cut it or cutting it escape, take off, take a vacation Return to Top [5] D daisy-roots Boots dead-and-alive dead quiet, dull, sleepy deevie divine dekko To take a look (Hindi, deckna, to look) dhobi wallah Indian who did the washing dhoolie wallah Indian dhoolie carrier D. O. British District Officer doggo To lie doggo, to hide. Probably from dog [1893] dog cart a two-wheeled vehicle of often simple design and decoration drawn by a smallish horse or a pony donkey walloper Infantry disparaging term for cavalry doss a bed or to sleep. Also see on the doss. doss house a cheap lodging house. Also see on the doss. down to be critical drugget a floor covering made of a coarse fabric dyspepsia Indigestion (Latin, from Greek, from dys- + pepsis digestion) Return to Top [6] E enteric fever Typhoid fever expie expensive Return to Top [7] F fallalish pertaining to an article of clothing or piece of dress that is excessively showy or fancy (from fallal) fast extravagant, wild Fieldfare a thrush, Turdus pilaris, related to the European blackbird. In summer it has a brown breast, brown back, white underwings, and grey head. Its winter plumage is mainly grey in color. finnan haddie smoked haddock Fishing Fleet Unmarried British women sent to India each year by their parents during the cool weather to find husbands. fittums What a perfect fit! fizz champagne flash showy, gaudy, vulgar fossick To search for gold or gemstones typically by picking over abandoned workings (Australian and New Zealand) footle nonsense; to talk nonsense or to waste time French to be French is to be disingenuous or unserious frou-frou the rustling or swish of a dress or gown fuddled to become befuddled or drunk furze also known as gorse or whin. A shrub, Ulex europeaeus, which grows 4 feet in height and bears yellow flowers Return to Top [8] G gallipot a small, covered earthenware pot galloper Officer used by commanders to carry messages. Gardner Gun (machine gun) A one- to five-barreled machine gun used by the British Army from 1880. Operated by turning a crank which loaded and fired each barrel in sequence. gas boasting; idle or nonsensical talk General Services Enlistment Act One of the causes of the Indian Mutiny. It required Indian troops in British service to to go overseas, if required. Hindus would break caste if they did so. gibbous humpbacked; convex; used to describe the moon when its phase is more than half but less than full gloaming twilight or dusk gradley (graidley) thoroughly, greatly graft Work grangerised adding material (especially pictures) collected from other sources to an existing book; extra-illustrated greenwood a form of woodworking which uses freshly-cut wood and specializes in bending the wood into curved shapes for chairs, bows, and ornamental objects; a vivid green wood used in making ornamental objects grig grasshopper or cricket. Often seen in the phrase merry as a grig, meaning ecstatic or jumping for joy. grippe Influenza (from French, seizure) god wallah Priest or chaplain goolie Testicle, late 19th century (Hindi gooli, a pellet) gorse see furze got the chuck fired from a job, discharged from a position, dismissed got the hump put out, annoyed, irritated. e.g., He has got the hump over it. Return to Top [9] H hanger a copse or wooded area on the side of a steep hill hap luck; happenstance havelock Cloth cap cover that hung on the back to protect the neck from sunlight (named after Sir Henry Havelock) heart-whole not in love heliograph a device which sends messages (usually in morse code) by means of flashes of reflected sunlight highball whiskey and water (Am Eng) hoarding a display case or area to place advertisements or advertised products; a wooden fence or barrier hook it escape, run away, get away hop the wag play truant from school hot or cold Ways of attacking. By shooting (hot) or by bayonet (cold) hoyden a boisterous girl or young woman hummock a knoll, small hill, or mound of earth hussar a light cavalryman Return to Top [10] I Ichabod an exclamation equivalent to By God!, How terrible!, or What a shame! Usage is derived from the biblical name in 1 Samuel, meaning no glory or the glory is gone. Imperial Yeomanry British volunteer cavalry force recruited from locals for the Boer war. Little or no training, but they had much enthusiasm. indy indigestion isinglass a gelatin made from fish, usually sturgeon Return to Top [11] J jackdaw a crow jipper to baste; meat broth, gravy, drippings josser a fool, a fellow juggins a simpleton jump liveliness jumping jesus a zealot or fanatic Return to Top [12] K Keep your hair on! a command not to get excited, equivalent to Keep your hat on! kip place to sleep; Bed (Danish kippecheap tavern) kipping sleeping knut an idle upper-class man-about-town kopje Afrikaans word for a small hill, especially one with steep sides Return to Top [13] L liberty-men Sailors on shore leave. limber horse-drawn, two-wheeled wagon used to transport artillery pieces; the action of transporting artillery pieces in a limber; the driver of a limber linctus in medicine it refers to a medicinal preparation or mixture leash (of animals) three or threesome loot Plunder (Hindi lut [c.1788]) lorgnettes opera glasses Return to Top [14] M mahout in India, an elephant driver malaria A disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes periodic severe attacks of chills and fever, thought at one time to be caused by miasma (Italian [1740], from mala aria, bad air) man-man a royal personage matlow Self-adopted name of British sailors (blue-jackets)[1880](from French matelot, sailor) mar a cripple Maxim Gun British .303 caliber. Recoil-operated machine gun. First used in Matabele war of 1893-94. Bought and copied by almost all nations, although often under other names. The standard MG during the Great War. Named after the British (American-born) inventor, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim. miasma A heavy vapor emanation or atmosphere believed to cause malaria or other diseases common in swampy areas (Greek, defilement, from miainein to pollute [1665]) miry swampy, muddy moithered to be agitated, flustered, or perturbed, especially by a noisy crowd mumchance silent, dumbstruck munge to chew or chop into a mixture; to get into or cause a bad situation, to make a mess of things murrain A plague that infects domestic animals (from Latin mori, to die) Mussulman A Moslem or Muslim (Turkish m sl man, Persian musulman, modification of Arabic muslim) Return to Top [15] N nap a form of the card game whist nappy wallach Barber nasty jar a bad or sticky situation Nebuchadnezzar phase a drunken episode, a drinking bout. Derived from the name given the largest container of champagne a Nebuchadnezzar which held 20 quarts or 15 liters nesh frail; tender, especially as regards susceptibility to the cold nightie nightgown Night-jar a bird, Caprimulgus europaeus, with gray-brown plumage and white wings. Also known as the goatsucker. Nordenfelt Gun Although Nordenfelt produced other types of guns, when used in a colonial setting the term usually refers to a multi-barreled machine gun (2 to 10 barrels) operated by a lever which was moved back and forth. First used in the 1880 s. nuclear spot central location Return to Top [16] O oast an oven for drying hops or malt off his chump insane, crazy off his onion mad, crazy old sweat Veteran on the cot Changing one s ways on the doss on the tramp, vagabondage on the peg Under arrest osier a small willow tree whose branches are often used in basket making, Salix viminalis Return to Top [17] P padding the hoof walking paddy Rice field (Malay padi [1623]) palanquin in India, a sedan chair used by British colonials, especially women, of rank. It was either carried by men or set atop an elephant. paling a fence, specifically the upright components of a fence especially wooden pickets pannier Donkey load. A large basket or container carried on the back of an animal or on the shoulders of a person (13th century, Latin, panis, bread) pantechnicon a furniture moving truck peg a soup kitchen, a place where free meals are given out pettish peevish P. and O. Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company. The main line for British travelers to India and the East Per mare, per terram By land, by sea , motto of the Royal Marines. AKA Poor Mary on the terrace pipe off lose interest in something, especially a lover pippin an outstanding person; a variety of apple pith helmet Sun helmet made of cloth-covered cork. piquet A small guard post with about 12 men or less. Pom or Pommie Derisive Australian soldier s term for British officers or British men in general (from pomade hair dressing) poodle-faker A man who spent too much time in the society of women, engaging in such activates as tea parties, balls, etc. pop-wallah Non-alcohol drinker, a drinker of soda pop pother to bother or worry; a fuss, confusion Pooterism a middle-class obsession with respectability and class distinctions; social pretentiousness, pettiness. The term is derived from Charles Pooter who is the main character in The Diary of a Nobody (1892) by George and Weedon Grossmith. pukka Genuine, authentic, first-class (Hindi pakka cooked, ripe, solid, from Sanskrit pakva) pukka sahib Excellent fellow (used for Europeans only) puggaree Muslin cloth wrapped around a pith helmet (Hindi pagri turban) punk Inferior, as in played a punk game , feeling punk (ill) (1896) punkah wallah Indian employed to work a fan, usually by a string attached to their toe or thumb. pusher Girl friend Return to Top [18] Q Queen s shilling, the Bounty paid to a new recruit for joining the army. Return to Top [19] R rag a rowdy event or celebration; a prant; the act of teasing or scolding ragger someone who is noisy or riotous; a conspicuous troublemaker razzle-dazzle a spree, to go carousing; to womanize reach-me-down used, as in a reach-me-down piece of clothing; equivalent to hand-me-down repining chagrin; regret; bitterness; yearning rinking roller skating rooky New recruit roly-poly a pudding made by rolling jam within a sheet of suet pastry which is then baked R.M.L.I. Royal Marine Light Infantry Return to Top [20] S sack cheap wine satinette gin sawney Scotsman (circa 1700 on) scorching speeding, racing; exceeding the speed limit in a motor car scraper a boot scraper screwed drunk, intoxicated semi-classical a euphemism for semi-nude, often used when describing art settle a bench or chair with a high back shako Stiff, tall military hat (French, from Hungarian cs k ) shambles a slaughterhouse or butcher shop shandy-gaff a combination of ale and ginger beer shaping working oneself into a state of excitement over something; preparing shrapnel Anti-personnel shell that exploded in the air and scattered small lead balls. Also, later on, any piece of metal from any type shell. (After the inventor, Henry Shrapnel [1806]) skof Food sleeping sickness A serious disease transmitted by tsetse flies, common in much of tropical Africa. Sleeping sickness saved parts of Africa from being settled by Europeans in the 19th century because it killed their cattle and horses. slingers Hard tack and coffee snotty Midshipman [Royal Navy] spyglass Telescope stoppages Money deducted from a soldier s pay ( stopped ) as a punishment subaltern A junior officer in the British army, just below lieutenant. swaddy Soldier. siphon short for siphon bottle, a bottle holding aerated or soda water skilly a concoction of three parts oatmeal stirred into three and one-half buckets of hot water. It was a staple of the diet in workhouses. skittle a form of ninepins; one of the pins knocked down in the game slavey a maid of all work slinging my hook running away, escaping. Also hook it. sluice a wash, to bathe snuggery a comfortable, cozy, snug room or place spasammy offhand, casual, cavalier spavined deteriorated, in disrepair; in medicine it refers to swelling spike the casual ward of a workhouse spoil-five a card game probably of Irish origin. After an initial bet, each player is dealt five cards and seeks to win three of five tricks. The winner gets the pot. If no one wins, the game is called spoiled and a new initial bet is added to the existing pot before the next deal. stash it Royal Navy slang for be quiet , eqivalent to stow it stashing it up causing a commotion or tumult sticking hockey stylograph a fountain pen which has a point instead of a split nib sub an advance on one s pay Return to Top [21] T taken the knock to be betrayed or jilted by a lover teagie tea gown tiled included in, covered with guilt or responsibility; in the same situation. e.g., We are all tiled in this mess. Ticker Soldier who owned his own personal watch (early usage) tiffin Lunch or snack (obsolete English tiff to eat between meals) to fire into the brown Originally referred to hunters firing into a covey of game birds without aiming at any particular bird, but was later used for soldiers firing into a charging mass of natives. topee Helmet (Hindi topi) Tommy Tommy Atkins. Name for the British common soldier toerag a bum or vagrant tommy food top-hole first class, first rate, the very best tosh rubbish, nonsense trap a two-wheeled carriage often pulled by a pony and called a pony trap or a pony and trap trump an outstanding person tumbled to get to the bottom of, discover the truth of, concluded the facts of a mystery or situtation. e.g., He tumbled to the truth of the matter. Return to Top [22] U Return to Top [23] V vapors A Victorian belief that emanations from bodily organs (such as the stomach) could affect the physical and mental condition of people, especially women. Vapors were often blamed for women fainting, although fashions that included binding women s bodies so tight that they could barely breathe would seem to be a more likely cause. VC The Victoria Cross, the highest British medal vedettes Mounted sentries Return to Top [24] W wad Cake wag his pow to wag one s tongue, to babble, to jabber, to rattle on wagonette a four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage often having facing benches or seats in the rear wallah Person associated with an activity for example, god wallah for priest wet Tea, as in, have a wet , What priced head have you? roughly means How severe is your hangover? whin see furze white satin gin wizard Excellent, as in a wizard time wrangler a debater; at the University of Cambridge, one of those who have attained the first grade in the second (until 1909 in the first) part of the examination for honors in mathematics. Until 1909, the student attaining the highest marks was called the senior wrangler. Return to Top [25] X Return to Top [26] Y yarning inextricable yellow fever A disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes jaundice, among many other symptoms yellow jack Yellow fever Return to Top [27] Z zenana in India, the apartment set aside for women in the household Return to Top [28] References ^ Courtesy of ( ^ The Institute of Edwardian Studies ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top ( ^ Return to Top (
  • A look at Canadian army uniforms (18 Photos) 1 Canada has a long and storied history in wartime and in honour of Remembrance Day just around the corner, lets take a look at the uniforms that our soldiers wore for the major historical events of the last century. 2 1903 Service Dress (Canadian Pattern) Being a part of the British Commonwealth, the early Canadian military uniforms were essentially offshoots of the British uniform, and made off of the same pattern. The First uniforms had 7 buttons, and detachments were denoted by coloured shoulder straps. 3 The jacket was paired with pants and boots. As an item of field dress, the jacket was meant to be loose, to allow for a sweater, but a lot of soldiers had the jackets tailored to be close fitting, so it was theoretically less bulky in battle, and sharper on parade. 4 1914 Service Dress (British Pattern) Once fighting on the fields in France, the soldiers found that previous Canadian pattern jackets (especially those heavily tailored) were too tightly fitting to be as useful for field service as the Canadian jacket. Eventually, they adopted a new British pattern. The number of buttons was reduced to 5, the hip pockets made to be less bulky and more importantly, the British jacket had rifle patches on the shoulders (an extra layer of wool which resisted the wearing out of the shoulders due to field chafing from the field equipment). 5 Some regiments further tailored their jackets to allow for a sporran and kilt, when in dress. 6 Officers had a slightly different uniform, with an open collar, and rankings/insignias on the sleeves. 7 Kitchener Pattern As the war progressed, the British army released a new pattern that did away with the rifle patches and box pleats on the chest pockets, to better ration and economize fabrics during the war. 8 1939 Service Dress By the time World War 2 was starting, Canadian troops were wearing some variation of the previous iterations of the uniform, but mainly at the officer level, or at home. On the fields of Europe, the soldiers were outfitted differently. 9 1939 Battle Dress Blouse At the onset of war, the Canadian government had been in the process of approving the new British Battle Dress uniform for wear by Canadians. The blouse was different from the uniforms worn by most of the world s armies; cut short at the waist, the garment was designed with practicality in mind. 10 By 1941, Battle Dress had been issued to the entire overseas army, and it was to be the uniform of the army in Canada as well. 11 A variation on the battle dress was the addition of the leather jerkin for the Canadian troops at Normandy, as the weather would be cool along the coast. The leather kept the soldiers warm, as well as allowed for movement. They also altered the uniform to add in a heavier MK II helmet and the pocket web belt, as they needed to carry supplies as well as fight. 12 1949 Battle Dress Battle Dress, in its final form, would be a standard garment of issue going into the Korean war. 13 As well, the Canadian army issued coveralls for their soldiers for field activities throughout the late 1950 s. 14 1965 Bush Uniform The Bush Uniform was the main uniform of the Canadian Army from 1950 until the adoption of the Combat Uniform in the early 1968. 15 1968 Canadian Forces Combat Uniform In 1968, the three branches of the Canadian Military (Army, Navy, Air Force) were consolidated into the Canadian Forces. which wore a traditional rifle-green field jacket and kit, very similar to the US. It was at this time that our military wear broke away from the British style, and began to take influence from the US. 16 During the later stages of the war in Vietnam and moving in to the 80 s and 90 s, the camouflage pattern that the US was using was adopted into our dress, as well. 17 No. 5 Operational Dress/CADPAT Starting in late 1990s, the Canadian Army began using a Nylon based, computer generated camouflage pattern, with with varying customizable options. The pattern is computer generated to avoid detection by night vision goggles in both the desert and standard operational wear, and offers velcro patches for whatever the job requires. This is the current standard Canadian Army uniform. This is a long way from the original wool patterns taken from the British. 18 Even though they may have borrowed some design elements from their British counterparts, the Canadian soldiers distinguished themselves and made their country proud, and were always regarded with respect and admiration. To this date, Canadian soldiers hold high respect on the world stage and no matter what uniform they wear, they re regarded as heroes. SOURCE , SOURCE [1] [2] References ^ SOURCE ( ^ SOURCE (
  • A Lot Of Paid Off People Daniel Bradley in his latest letter thinks Sinn Fein has questions to answer. Daniel Bradley is a Derry justice campaigner. MI5 is seriously dangerous as I found out for myself in 1984. It has authority over the RUC as well as the government and they are fantastic blackmailers. If you show any weakness at all they will have you eating out of their hands. In 1984 I printed a story about IRA informers and MI5, after taking me 12 years to investigate it. Then I gave it to the Journal. After that I was abducted by two members of the INLA and one Provisional. All 3 were informers. They hooded and handcuffed me, took me to Leafair and then let me go. The next day I was arrested by the British army and taken to Fort George. Five hours later 2 MI5 agents interviewed me and told me that the INLA and the Provisional IRA were going to shoot me dead and that they would get me a safe house in England. You see, I am not a coward. Like my 2 brothers I stood my ground and I told MI5 that I could look after myself as I was an ex. Irish army soldier. This is all documented, and at the present moment there is an investigation been carried out by the PSNI as I have lodged a complaint about being abducted by the British troops and MI5. But the Sinn Fein leaders have questions to answer: were they blackmailed by MI5 to work for them and hadn't got the courage to stand up to them? Everybody needs the answer why the young volunteers who went against the peace process were killed under the "shoot to kill policy". We all well know that in the 1990's the UDA and the UVF were killed off as well. The money that was stolen in the big bank raid by the Provisional IRA paid off a lot of people. So it is up everybody to stand together and find the right questions that need to be asked and then answered.
  • A Lot of What We Think We Know About World War II Is Wrong The Second World War remains an enduringly fascinating subject, but despite the large number of films, documentaries, books and even comics on the subject, our understanding of this catastrophic conflict, even seven decades on, remains heavily dependent on conventional wisdom, propaganda and an interpretation skewed by the information available. In my new book The War in the West: Germany Ascendant 1939-1941 [1] , first in a three-volume history, I am challenging a number of long-held assumptions about the war, many of which are based on truth by common knowledge, rather than through detailed and painstaking research. My Damascene moment came some years ago when I was being given a tour of the Small Arms Unit at the British Staff College at Shrivenham. I was glancing at a German MG42 [2] , known as a Spandau by the Allies. Of course, that was the best machine gun of the war, I commented, relaying what I d read in many books. Says who? Says who? retorted my guide and head of the unit, John Starling. In the next few minutes, he proceeded to deconstruct everything I thought I knew about this infamous weapon: that its phenomenal rate of fire caused massive problems of over-heating, that it was widely inaccurate (for which having since fired one, I can now vouch), that is was incredibly expensive to manufacture, massively over-engineered and lacked certain simple additions that would have made its handling so much easier. The men supporting this weapon not only had to carry vast amounts of ammunition to feed this thirsty beast, they also had to lumber around six spare barrels because of its readiness to over-heat. And each barrel bore multiple inspection stamps. Which were, John told me, an utter waste of time in the middle of total war. I was gobsmacked, but this visit led me down an entirely new line of research, and one that was equally revelatory. I began to realize that almost everything the Germans made was over-engineered, from the tanks to gas-mask cases to the field jacket of the lowly landser. Eventually, in the German military archives in Freiburg in the Black Forest, I found a memo from early December 1941, signed by Hitler, in which was the line, From now on, we have to stop making such complete and aesthetic weapons. In other words, up to that point, they had been consciously doing so. Needless to say, his instruction was not followed; those all-metal, finely-designed-yet-cumbersome and utterly pointless cylindrical gas-mask cases were made right up to the end of the war, while still to come was the Panther tank, not to mention the Tiger, with its Porsche-designed six-speed hydraulically controlled semi-automatic pre-selector gear-box, as complicated and sophisticated as it sounds and entirely unsuitable for front-line combat or use by poorly-trained young drivers. The transmission on a U.S.-built Sherman tank [3] was a robust four-speed manual, simply made in vast numbers. America built 74,000 Sherman hulls and engines; Germany built just 1,347 Tigers. Above Sherman tank production. Photo via Detroit Public Library. At top German soldier with MG42. Photo via Wikipedia Studying such things in detail meant I was now looking at the operational level of war. Any conflict or business for that matter is understood to be conducted on three levels. The first is the strategic that is, the overall aims and ambitions. The second is the tactical: the coal face, the actual fighting, the pilot in his Spitfire or man in his tank. And the third is the operational the nuts and bolts, the logistics, economics and the supply of war. Almost every narrative history of the war ever published almost entirely concentrates on the strategic and tactical levels, but gives scant regard to the operational, and the result is a skewed version of events, in which German machine guns reign supreme and Tiger tanks always come out on top. Studying the operational level as well, however, provides a revelatory perspective. Suddenly it s not just about tactical flair, but about so much more. Britain, for example, decided to fight a highly mechanical and technological war. Steel not flesh was the mantra and that s why the British had a small army, yet still ensured it was 100-percent mechanized. They also developed a vast air force and built a staggering 132,500 aircraft during the war and that s 50,000 more than the Germans. Until the start of 1944, the priority for manpower in Britain was not the army or navy or even air force, but the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Well-fed men and women were kept in the factories. Germany, on the other hand, was very under-mechanized but had a vast army, which meant it was dependent on horse-power and foot-slogging infantrymen. As a result of so many German men at the front, their factories were manned by slaves and POWs, who were underfed and treated abominably, and whose production capacity was affected as a result. And if the ability to supply war was key, then in the war in the West, it was the Battle of the Atlantic that was the decisive theater. Yet Germany built a surface fleet before the war, which could never hope to rival Britain or France and in doing so neglected the U-boat arm. Despite sinking substantial amounts of British supplies in 1940, it was still nothing like enough to even remotely force Britain to her knees. In truth, there were never enough U-boats to more than dent the flow of shipping to Britain. In fact, out of 18,772 sailings in 1940, they sank just 127 ships, that is, 0.7 percent, and 1.4 percent in the entire war. Suddenly, rather than appearing like David against Goliath and backs-to-the-walls amateurs as is so often depicted, Britain emerges once again as a global super-power in command of the largest trading empire the world has ever seen, while Germany, despite impressive victories on land early in the war appears to be woefully under-resourced and flagrantly squandering what supplies it could call upon. What s more, after the initial glut of conquest booty, the occupied territories swiftly became a drain and burden that had to be manned and which proved a further drain on precious resources. The words Teutonic and efficiency usually go together; in the Second World War, nothing could have been farther from the truth. References ^ The War in the West: Germany Ascendant 1939-1941 ( ^ German MG42 ( ^ U.S.-built Sherman tank (
  • A Millennial Reviews: 'Mr. Rogers,' the Voice of Our Generation ... No CGI required when you build to scale. ( Mr. Rogers , Netflix) Previous editions of A Millennial Reviews can be found here. [1] What s up Florheads. As you are aware from reading my scathing Facebook posts and my most recent viral photo series (pictures of old people at the mall scowling and holding cardboard signs with statements about body politics), I m not exactly thrilled with the state of modern television. I stopped watching Game of Thrones when they killed those poor skeletons at Hardhome (#StandWithSkeletons), I stopped watching Louie when I found out he eats dairy in real life, I stopped watching Mad Men halfway through the opening credits (NO THANK YOU). I love to stop watching things. It s my generation s method of speaking truth to power. Notwatchtivism has single handedly ended the careers of white male fascists like Charlie Sheen and Stephen Colbert, and I also believe it s responsible for the Arab Spring of 2010. Unfortunately I ve had to unwatch so many programs that lately I ve been running out of shows to put on in the living room while I do my daily crossfit regiment (jumping around in Moon Boots while wearing Sock Em Boppers and a Skip-It until I faint). I was about to give up entirely until I logged into my dad s boss s friend s Netflix account and found this new show called Mr. Rogers . I ended up watching the entire first season (four 20 minute episodes) in one sitting. I can t wait to rewatch it when I m hungover from drinking Burnie Sanders s all weekend (99 percent Vodka, 1 percent Vermont cheddar, topped with whipped cream to look like Berndog s hair, then you light the whole thing on fire and try to drink it before his hair curdles). No trigger warnings necessary: this show tells a gripping story while fighting the good fight by means of POSITIVE social messages. It s refreshing to finally watch show where I don t have to see characters gratuitously conflict with one another just to serve the purpose of a plot (shock value). Mr. Rogers is about a man who lives in a Minecraft level and wears a deep-V cut sweater over an entire Office Max uniform. It s sort of half talk show, half fantasy drama. The monologue tends to include some pretty hot takes on art (coloring), identity politics (being friendly), and post-industrial infrastructural venture capitalism (trollies). M-Rog then chews the scenery a little while backed up by his house band, OMINOUS PIANO TINKLING. I m pretty sure I read on an listicle (that crashed my iPhone 3) that Brian Eno is playing the piano uncredited here, but I can t say for sure because I can t really fact check anything anymore without a bunch of singles in your area ads popping up. Next, he throws to the episodic portion of the show, a suspenseful and sexy fantasy saga called The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, daringly cast with completely non cgi puppets and a few mentally challenged adults. Characters include King who wears a Crown Royal Bag as a Cape and a Prince that s basically Joffrey from Game of Thrones but much shinier. Joffrey goes to school with a cat and a bunch of owls and shit that look like they fell out of the guy from Of Montreal s hair. This whole thing looks like a Tune Yards video with a 25 dollar production budget. The interview segment is where Mi$ter R0g3rz shows he really gets millennials. Instead of pandering to middle America by booking some sort of Daniel Tosh or Sean Penn nightmare, he has on real people, like Humans of New York people. Guests have included: A mailman, a cop, a burlap bag, Lou Ferrigno, an Asian person, a guy who makes sculptures out poems, Marc Maron, silence, the inventor of the electric car, The Zodiac Killer, Lena Dunham, Shelbyville Mr Rogers, Mark David Chapman, Grimace, and the list goes on. Whereas most talk show hosts would lowball fluff questions at these people, Mr Rogers just sort of fills them full of molly and stares wall eyed at them while they explain how umbrellas work or something. The only time I ever recall getting as high as these people look was the time I went to a secret VICE party at SXSW in the kitchen of a Wendy s. I got so stoned I made out with the side of Skrillex s head because someone had drawn a face on it. I woke up at Elijah Wood s house wearing one of those Mexican Chewbacca bandolier ammo things full of 5-Hour Energy Drinks and something called a Mauve Badge. It was B-A-N-A-N-A-N-A-S and so is this show. At this point in the show you can tell he s coming down a bit so he often throws to some sort of life-hack-umentary about how crayons are made. I really dig this part because as we all know, I Fucking Love Science. I Fucking Love Science so much I got half of a geology degree when I was 19 and then I dropped out to become a librarian, now I Fucking Love Silence. I m just kidding, I don t have a job. I m writing this on a flip phone. Anyhow, he rounds every show out by taking off his sweater and putting on one of those jackets they give you at nice restaurants when you came in wearing a Houston Rockets jersey. Then he sings a Sufjan Stevens song and credits roll. Perfect television show. Bernie Sanders: The 90 percent of my vodka has been exploited by the 10 percent of the ice in my beverage which has caused an exponential decrease in the buzz that hard working Americans like yourselves have managed to receive from the drinks that we have been promised in the constitution of The United States of America. References ^ A Millennial Reviews (
  • A moment that changed me – joining the army Joe Glenton addresses a Stop the War demonstration in London in 2009. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA An oath I swore to the Queen of England at the age of 22 changed everything. It happened one day in 2004. In a dusty room above Ipswich s army recruiting office, I pledged to play lackey to the violent, rapacious ambitions of the UK establishment by becoming a soldier in the British army [1] . That promise has by now been thoroughly superseded by a nobler and more coherent pledge to strive for a better world but my oath of allegiance continues to define who I am. Related: Khushal saved my life and we have repaid him with contempt | George Tyldesley [2] It is important to grasp that every recruit to the military makes the choice to join according to their place on a spectrum, where their reasons run from ideological at one end to economic at the other. Those motivations are further coloured by class, culture and experience. The decision is not made in a vacuum of free will, and for many it is hardly a choice at all. That day that I joined up there were the better-off lads, the true believers for whom swearing the oath is a route to fulfilling some fantasy of service to Queen and country. For others it was more about the money. I was somewhere towards the economic end, though by no means unmarked by a generation s worth of propaganda put about through films, television, books and the media about being the best, defending our nation, saving the world and helping others. Regardless of how we had come to be taking this oath, all the different sorts of recruits must make the same noises: and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors, in person, crown and dignity against all enemies we droned. And that was us, gone for soldiers. The oath itself is worth little. In all honesty, I was a republican of some shade even then. Yet nearly 11 years on, I reflect upon that moment as a defining one. Not because my utterances were themselves significant, but because those were the first few moments of a journey so strange, rich and life-altering that I am still trying to grapple with its implications today. In recent years I have fallen in with a band of former veterans who are unlike anything this country has ever seen I was dispatched from that sleepy Suffolk town into the bizarre world of the British military. First to a training base in Surrey, to learn the very basics of soldiering, then just down the road to Deepcut [3] , with its terrifying reputation for dead recruits, to carry out my trade training: driving courses, logistics training and so on. I remain the only journalist I know with a heavy goods vehicle licence. In 2005, I was posted to 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, the logistical element of the UK s 16 Air Assault Brigade. In 2006 my unit flew out to southern Afghanistan [4] , to unleash a violent, illegitimate military occupation that would play out for years. Joe Glenton, second left in front row, during his army days. Photograph: Joe Glenton The narrative of my experiences in Afghanistan, my eventual rebellion against the government and military over the betrayal of British soldiers and Afghans alike, and my subsequent imprisonment [5] were recorded in my book Soldier Box [6] . But the journey that began all those years ago at that ceremony has continued long after my discharge in July 2010 from both the army and military prison. In recent years I have fallen in with a band of former veterans who are unlike anything this country has ever seen. Dynamic, rebellious and now 170-strong, Veterans for Peace UK [7] has representatives from every branch of the UK forces and a few from foreign militaries, some with service records that extend as far back as D-day. Our pledge actually means something of value to the world. It is an oath to resist war, militarism and empire, and we take it as men and women [8] who have taken part in these things. Britain has had plenty of rebel soldiers, but Veterans for Peace is by my reckoning the only group of its kind in British history. The promise we make is to educate young people on the realities of military service and war, to resist war and militarism, and to support others who do the same. We hope to convince people that war is not the answer to the problems of the 21st century. No Queens, no heirs or officers involved. No daft ceremonies, no patriotism or propaganda needed. Just a pledge made by each of us to ourselves, to one another and to the generations who will follow to make the world a less violent place. References ^ British army ( ^ Khushal saved my life and we have repaid him with contempt | George Tyldesley ( ^ Deepcut ( ^ Afghanistan ( ^ imprisonment ( ^ Soldier Box ( ^ Veterans for Peace UK ( ^ men and women (
  • A nervous breakdown in the body politic As Britain prepares to mark the centenary of the bloodiest battle in the First World War, the Somme, in July, Spain is bracing itself for an even more traumatic anniversary. In July 2016 it will be 80 years since the start of a civil war that tore the country apart and continues to divide it today. In the four decades since the return of democracy in the mid-1970s, Spaniards slowly inched towards rejecting the extreme violence of the Francoist right (and elements of the opposing left) as well as acceptance of various federal arrangements to accommodate the national sentiments of the Basques and Catalans, whose aspirations Franco had so brutally suppressed. In recent years, however, this consensus has been called fundamentally into question, with severe potential consequences not only for the unity of Spain, but the cohesion of the European Union. On 27 October 2015, after the Catalan elections, the new parliament in Barcelona passed a declaration requesting the start of a formal secession process from Spain, to be in place in 18 months. The immediate reaction of Spain s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was to announce that the state was entitled to use any available judicial and political mechanism contained in the constitution and in the laws to defend the sovereignty of the Spanish people and of the general interest of Spain . The preamble to the constitution proclaims the Spanish nation s desire to protect all Spaniards and the peoples of Spain in exercising their human rights, their cultures and traditions, languages and institutions . Probably the most disputed articles are 2 and 8, which state, respectively, that the constitution is based upon the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, common and indivisible patria of all Spaniards and that the army s mission is to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, to defend its territorial integrity and the constitutional set-up . Rajoy s implication was clear: the unity of the country would be maintained, if necessary by military means. It was Madrid, however, that broke with the federal consensus some years ago and thus boosted secessionist sentiment in Catalonia. Jos Mar a Aznar s government (1996-2004) failed to respond to demands for greater autonomy for Catalonia, at a time when secession was not even mentioned. This led to an increasing awareness among Catalans that the federal transfer system within Spain left them with an annual deficit of 8 per cent of Catalonia s GDP because of the financial arrangements established by the Spanish state, an issue aggravated by the effect of the global financial crisis. Catalan nationalism thus became a matter of not only the heart, but also the pocket. Even more important was the Spanish legal challenge to the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia 2006 and its subsequent dilution, after it had been sanctioned by the Catalan parliament, and by both the Spanish congress of deputies and the senate, not to mention the Catalan people in a legally binding referendum. According to the Spanish high court of justice, some of the statute s content did not comply with the Spanish constitution. This outraged many Catalans, who could not understand how the newly approved statute after following all the procedures and modifications requested by Spain s political institutions and constitution could still be challenged. Four years later, the Spanish high court finally delivered its verdict on 28 June 2010. It removed vital points from the Statute of Autonomy 2006 and declared them non-constitutional. All this led to a revival of Catalan nationalism, culminating in a symbolic, non-binding referendum in November 2014, which was boycotted by opponents and produced a majority of 80 per cent in favour of independence. The roots of this antagonism go deep, to the civil war that broke out on 17-18 July 1936 when some sectors of the army rebelled against the legitimate government of the Second Republic. The rebels rejected democracy, the party system, separation between church and state, and the autonomy of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. Their primary objective was to re-establish order by eliminating all vestiges of communism and anarchism, then quite strong in some parts of Spain. High on the list of General Franco s targets was Catalan nationalism, which had been growing since the late 19th century. The industrialisation of Catalonia and the Basque Country left the most economically developed parts of the Spanish state politically subject to the less prosperous Castile. By the end of the 19th century and influenced by German Romanticism, la Renaixen a a movement for national and cultural renaissance prompted demands for Catalan autonomy, first in the form of regionalism and later in demands for a federal state. Catalan nationalism did not emerge as a unified phenomenon. Diverse political ideologies and cultural influences gave rise to various types of nationalism, from the conservative nationalism of Jaime Balmes to the federalism of Francesc Pi i Margall, to the Catholic nationalism of Bishop Torres i Bages and the Catalan Marxism of Andreu Nin, among others. Catalonia enjoyed some autonomy under the administrative government of the Mancomunitat or commonwealth from 1913 onwards. This was halted by the 1923 coup d tat of the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. Autonomy was granted again during the Second Spanish Republic from 1931-39 but abolished by Francisco Franco s decree of 5 April 1938. Franco s victory led to the suppression of Catalan political institutions, the banning of the Catalan language and proscription of all the symbolic elements of Catalan identity, from the national flag (the Senyera) to the national anthem ( Els Segadors ). In February 1939, the institutions of the autonomous Generalitat went into exile in France. In 1940 the Gestapo arrested the president of the Generalitat , Llu s Companys, and handed him over to Spanish officials. He was interrogated and tortured in Madrid, then sent to Barcelona, where he was court-martialled and executed at Montju c Castle on 15 October 1940. The most important representatives of the democratic parties banned by the regime went into exile, or were imprisoned or executed. The authoritarian state designed by Franco crushed dissent and used brute power to suppress the historical nations included within its territory. The regime s aim was to annihilate the Catalans and the Basques as nations. *** After almost 40 years of Franco s dictatorship, Catalonia recovered its government, the Generalitat , in 1977 before the drafting of the Spanish constitution in 1978 and sanctioned a new statute of autonomy in 1979. The 2006 statute was expected, at the time, to update and expand Catalans aspiration for further devolution within Spain: never secession. At present, a renewed nostalgia and enthusiasm for Francoism can be found among some sections of the Spanish right. One of the main challenges of the newly democratic government from the mid-1970s onwards was to get rid of the symbols of Francoism that had divided Spaniards between winners and losers in the civil war. It was only in 2007 that the then prime minister, Jos Luis Rodr guez Zapatero, guided the Law of Historic Memory through parliament with the aim of removing hundreds of Fascist symbols reminiscent of the Franco era from public buildings. It also sought to make reparations to victims of the civil war and the ensuing dictatorship. There still exist hundreds of other references to the Fascist regime, however, with streets, colleges and roads named after Franco and his generals. The most controversial of these is the Valle de los Ca dos ( Valley of the Fallen ), near Madrid, commissioned by Franco as his final resting place. It supposedly honours the civil war dead, but is primarily a monument to the general and his regime, housing the graves of Franco and Jos Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the fascist Falange political party. Roughly 450,000 people visit it every year, and while most of them are foreign tourists, groups of Falangists and supporters of the old regime who come to pay tribute to the dictator have frequented it. Nostalgics for Francoism, though still a small minority within modern Spain, are becoming vociferous. They find common ground with far-right-wing conservatism, particularly in their shared aversion to federalism. On 3 August last year Artur Mas, the then president of Catalonia, called an extraordinary parliamentary election after all attempts to negotiate and agree on a legally binding referendum with the Spanish government failed. Supporters of independence immediately announced that the forthcoming Catalan elections would be regarded as a plebiscite on independence. On a turnout of more than three-quarters of the electorate, supporters of outright independence gained 48 per cent of the vote, while those backing a unitary state secured 39 per cent. On 9 November 2015 the Catalan parliament formally declared the start of the process leading to building an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic. It also proclaimed the beginning of a participative, open, integrating and active citizens constituent process to lay the foundations for a future Catalan constitution. The Catalan government vowed to move forward with its secession process. Immediately, the Spanish Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan law setting out a path to independence and warned that defiance could lead to criminal charges. Worse still for Madrid, secessionism is gaining strength not only in Catalonia but also in the Basque Country, whose premier, I igo Urkullu, demands a legal consultation on the northern region s future in Spain. He supports a new statute for the Basque Country and defends its status as a nation in the EU. Similarly to Catalonia, the Basque Country has a distinct language and culture, and benefits from the so-called concierto econ mico , an advantageous financial deal with the Spanish state. *** The Spanish government s refusal to engage constructively with Catalan nationalism contrasts markedly with London s more relaxed and ultimately more successful response to Scottish nationalist aspirations. The Edinburgh Agreement between the British Prime Minister and the then first minister of Scotland to allow a binding referendum on Scottish independence stands in sharp contrast to the Spanish government s outright opposition to a similar vote in Catalonia. Basques and Catalans find deaf ears regarding further devolution and binding referendums on self-determination. This highlights the distance between various conceptions of democracy that coexist inside the European Union, rooted in the diverse political cultures of nations with varying historical backgrounds. All this matters, not only to Spain but to the EU, because it is part of a broad trend across the continent. In mainland Europe, demands for self-determination are running strong in Flanders as well as parts of Spain. In turn, tensions between Italy and Austria over control of South Tyrol (Trentino Alto Adige, to the Italians) remain high, as do demands advanced by the South Tyrol ean secessionist movement. Bavarian regionalism is critical of the present German (and European) political order. Further to that, modern Venetian nationalism and its long-standing demands for independence have prompted a renewal of Venetian as a language taught in schools and spoken by almost four million people. Matters are now coming to a head. Catalonia and Spain are in flux following two inconclusive elections. In January, after a prolonged stand-off, the sitting Catalan president, Artur Mas, made way for a fellow nationalist, Carles Puigdemont. He was the first to take the oath of office without making the traditional oath of loyalty to the Spanish constitution and the king. Felipe VI, in turn, did not congratulate Puigdemont. The new president has announced that he plans to draw up a constitution, to be voted on in a referendum to constitute the Catalan Republic at the end of an 18-month consultation process. Puigdemont s strategy envisages not a dramatic unilateral declaration of independence, but a more gradual process of disconnection in constant dialogue with the Spanish government and Catalan political parties. Let no one be deceived by this softly-softly approach: it is designed to culminate, in a year and a half, perhaps sooner, in a vote on establishing a separate, sovereign state of Catalonia. Meanwhile, Spanish politics are in flux. The elections to the Cortes on 20 December 2015 resulted in a victory for Conservatism, but also the most fragmented Spanish parliament ever and, as yet, no government. Almost the only thing the Spanish parties can agree on is opposition to Catalan independence, yet even here there are divisions over whether more autonomy should be granted and what response to make to unilateral moves by the Catalans. The stakes are high for both sides. By pressing too hard, too early, Catalan nationalists may provoke Madrid. This would be a mistake. Strategy is important and recent events in Catalonia will weaken the Catalans democratic, peaceful and legitimate desire to hold a referendum on independence. Likewise, a heavy-handed response from Madrid will not only destroy the residual bonds between centre and periphery in Spain, but put the central government in the dock internationally. A confrontation will also cut across the only possible solution to this and all other national conflicts within the eurozone, which is full continental political union. Full union would render the separation of Catalonia from Spain as irrelevant to the functioning of the EU, and the inhabitants of both areas, as the separation of West Virginia from Virginia proper in the United States today. In a nightmare scenario, radicalisation and unrest could emerge in Catalonia, with division between Catalans and memories of the Spanish Civil War coming to the fore. In this context, it might become very difficult to prevent violence. This is the last thing that Brussels wants to hear as it grapples with the euro crisis, Russian territorial revisionism, Islamist terror, the migrant question and the prospect of Brexit. A meltdown in Catalonia will create dilemmas for Europe, starting from problems with Schengen, and raise questions about continued membership of the EU. It will also work against Catalans expectations of receiving EU support in their quest for independence, as turmoil in Europe will prompt nation states to close ranks. The EU will not be expected to intervene, because this scenario would at least initially be defined as an internal affair of Spain . Conflict between Barcelona and Madrid would shatter one of Europe s biggest member states. In that event, the peninsula will become the hottest point in an emerging arc of crisis across the southern flank of the EU, stretching from Portugal across Spain, an Italy struggling along with everything else to cope with the flow of migrants, the troubled Balkans, to Greece, which is perpetually perturbed. This highlights yet another flaw in the EU. It has no institutional framework for dealing with Catalan demands to become a nation within the Union, or those of other populations. Merely insisting on Spanish state sovereignty will not make the problem go away for Brussels, or for Europe as a whole. This is a potential matter of life and death not only for Spaniards and Catalans, but perhaps for the EU itself. Brendan Simms is the director of the Forum on Geopolitics at the University of Cambridge and president of the Project for Democratic Union Montserrat Guibernau is a visiting scholar in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge and a member of the Forum on Geopolitics
  • A new combat camera team arrives in ... - The Official British Army Blog A new combat camera team arrives in Afghanistan 22 October 2012 by britisharmy Corporal Mike Hubbard video operator CCT H17 I am Corporal Mike Hubbard and I m an Army reservist, Rifles cap badge and member of the Media Operations Group (Volunteers) (MOG(V)). As an Ex-infantier-turned-photographer I m currently deployed on a winter tour of Afghanistan on Op Herrick 17, as the video operator for the Army Combat Camera Team (CCT), which is a three-man team consisting of a photographer, video operator and team commander. This job is a million miles from my civilian career working for BT Global Services as an Account Manager.

    Children: The sounds of progress I was sitting in Lashkar Gah waiting for a helicopter. It was about 10am and the sun was out. It felt like a nice summer morning you get in the UK (sometimes).

    The camp at Lash is surrounded by high walls and on the other side of those walls is the hustle bustle of life, people living in the provincial capital going about their daily business. These are sounds you get used too, but then came the sound of children, lots of them laughing, screaming and playing, the noises that are all too familiar with a playground during break time in any country around the world but not here. It s a sound I ve never heard here before.

    During my last tour, three years ago, we were involved in projects building schools in this area but we never got to see the schools full let alone hear all the kids playing and laughing outside.. For me the sounds I heard washing over the walls brought on a moment of contemplation.. It really was the sound of progress..

    First of all here s a quick video, this was from the Brigade s final training exercise before we deployed. This was filmed and edited by me: Combat Camera Teams handover Train the trainer We ve been here for just over three weeks now, after an overlap of about a week with the outgoing CCT (Combat Camera Team) we re finally in the driving seat. Our second week was spent at Lashkar Gah where the brigade HQ is located and the other half of the AMOC (Afghanistan Media Operations Cell) team.

    We were tasked to cover a story with the PMAG (Police Mentoring Advisory Group). They were handing over and officially opening up a new wing at the police training school, which has been built and developed by the PMAG. The wing was being taken over by Afghan trainers who had only recently attended a train the trainer course.

    The new class being enrolled was the first co-ed mixed male and female class to be held, so this was a great mile stone in the history of Afghan Police Force training and a real sign of change. Cpl Mike Hubbard filming the handover of a training wing at Police HQ Lashkar Gah Capt Booth patrolling back from Police HQ Cpl Mike Hubbard filming in Lashkar Gah Dougal picked up great audio As part of this story we interviewed one of the Afghan female police officers, now this gave me something to think about as we had to use an interpreter as well, so the format of the interview needed to change. I needed to get an end result where the female was framed like a normal interviewee and looking in the right direction with good audio.

    We had a dougal mic (a big mic that looks like a wee scotty dog) and I also had radio mics (small and clip on your shirt collar). My preferred method is to radio mic the person we re interviewing but as there are real sensitivities around females in Afghanistan, I don t think getting her to start stuffing wires up her top with me guiding them through would be appropriate. So we went with the dougal and positioned the boss and the interpreter where the female we were interviewing wouldn t be bobbing her head from one place to the next when they were asking questions and interpreting.

    The interview went really well. We got some great quotes and she was funny. Once I got back to start the edit, I found as we had been focused on the interviewee the dougal picked up great audio from her but we could hardly hear the interpreter and we needed the audio from them So lesson learnt.

    Next time I ll set the interview up exactly the same but I ll put the radio mic on the interpreter and dougal on the interviewee so we get both sets of audio on different channels. The output from this job, is a set of rushes that we make available to the media, rushes are an un-edited collection of clips and interviews put together with a press release, this gives a news team all the parts they need to run their own story during a news broadcast. More technical and mentally demanding Once we got to Lash, the jobs started sprouting out of nowhere.

    In the first two days we ended up with five jobs and I m not moaning as a like to be busy. To give you an idea, these were our tasks for that week: The police training story, Kings Royal Hussars coming home story for their local news, Brigadier s end-of-tour piece to camera, collecting stock footage of Lash, collecting video messages for a charity event Ride to the Wall . Fingers crossed, this is a sign of things to come as I want to get as much material out of my tour as possible and really develop my video skills and to do that we need lots of work!

    Although when I say we were busy, the one thing that has hit me is the difference in activity. All my previous tours have been with a formed infantry company with 100 other blokes. You normally hit the ground running and life is pretty hectic, long hours and hard work of a totally different type, whether it s standing in a guard tower for hours on end, driving vehicles on long patrols or humping kit on foot patrols.

    Every day you re rolling from one job to the next without much of a break, if any, in between. So far, what I ve seen from this job, which to be fair isn t much yet, it s more like my civilian job where the work-load is more technical and mentally demanding with long hours in front of a computer. Yes we ll be getting out on the ground for weeks in a row so I ll get my boots muddy, but we ll always be heading back into Bastion to get the footage edited and sent off to where ever it needs to be.

    It has felt a bit weird sometimes, I keep feeling like I should be leaping onto a vehicle and heading out on a 12 hour patrol or getting stuck in a sangar for a couple of days instead of being sat in an office. Another similarity with my civilian job is that a large part of this job is finding and developing relationships. For BT as an account manager I have to find the right person within a government organisation at a high and low-level to talk to and then develop that relationship, leading to new business for BT etc.

    With the CCT we have to find all the right people to talk to within all the units out here and develop those relationships, which will then lead to stories. And it s much the same with the media. We want to get the stories out so we have to find the right people to talk to and more or less sell them the story.

    Another great way of finding stories is just talking to random people and its surprising what you can dig up.

    Here s one last video, these were the video messages we recorded to be played at the Ride To The Wall event at the National Arboretum, Stafford.

    A great event raising money for the upkeep of the memorial: Well it looks like we ll be getting out on the ground shortly so I ll make sure I have some good footage to share on my next update Previous post: H17 Combat Camera Team: Call-up papers and pre-ops training

  • A Polish Army Trekked Across Three Continents Osprey Publishing sponsored this post. In mid-1941, W 'adys 'aw Anders a 49-year-old Polish cavalry general who d been captured by Soviet troops while battling the invading Germans at a time when Nazi Germany and the USSR were allies was lingering in a Moscow dungeon belonging to the NKVD intelligence service, waiting to be shot. But then in June that year, Germany attacked the USSR. The German operation, code name Barbarossa, saved Anders. Aligning with the British and other Allies, the Soviets accepted that they would need to mobilize all available combatants, even former enemies, in order to defeat the Nazis. Anders became the head of a Polish army whose tragic and epic formation and journey across the USSR, Central Asia, the Middle East and Italy is the subject of Norman Davies incredible new book Trail of Hope [1] , out now from Osprey Publishing. He was taken from his cell, brushed down, given a good meal, and told that he was going to command an army, Davies writes. Anders recalled the moment of his release: It was 8:00 P.M. when the car left the NKVD building. It was already dark, and the street lights were dim. There were very few passers-by, but quite a number of vehicles, all army ones, and all making much use of their klaxon horns. For nearly two years I had lived in prison cells. Now the fresh air, the noise of the streets and the traffic almost intoxicated me. How strange it was to be free again. The USSR had imprisoned 1.5 million Poles, including some 200,000 soldiers. Moscow authorized Anders to raise an army of 30,000 from this manpower pool. Osprey Publishing map Easier said than done. He had no staff, no soldiers, no arms or equipment, no bases and no independent sources of supply, Davies explains in his lavishly-illustrated, deeply moving book. Soviet authorities released hundreds of thousands of Polish prisoners. And when word got out that a Pole was raising a Polish army, countless ex-soldiers and civilians did everything in their power to reach Anders camps and the expatriate communities the army fostered and spun off. In the spring and summer of 1942, that the Polish Army in the USSR began to take shape. New recruiting posts were opened to deal with the constant stream of newcomers. New disputes arose with the NKVD over who could or could not be admitted. And new provisions were made for the formation of a Women s Auxiliary Service and for the care of dependents. Above all, the men could eat regularly, rest, recover their strength and train. Uniforms, weapons and other supplies were delivered by the British Army via Iran. News of the Polish Army s formation gradually filtered through to all parts of the USSR, inspiring many of the stranded exiles to undertake a hazardous journey to try and reach it. Many traveled as would-be recruits. But most were moved by the expectation of finding shelter and security by simply being in the vicinity of their compatriots. Wladyslaw Anders. Photo via Wikipedia They came by boat, by train and on foot, following the army even as it decamped and moved into Central Asia. Among the many long-distance walkers, none had a more remarkable tale to tell than the late S 'awomir Rawicz (1915 2004), Davies recalls. Indeed, Rawicz s tale was so remarkable that it was regularly dismissed as a fake. Setting off from northern Siberia with a group of companions, he claimed to have crossed the Gobi Desert, the Tibetan plateau, and the high Himalayas, and after two years on the road to have walked into British India. When his book, The Long Walk , was published in London in 1956, many reviewers judged it incredible. It certainly contained numerous inconsistencies and embellishments, that raised the possibility that Rawicz did not make the journey himself. Nonetheless, as the archives from 1943 confirm, incredulous British officials in places as far apart as Delhi and Kabul reported the arrival of footsore Polish refugees, who said that they had escaped from the USSR. In 2010 the story formed the basis of a popular film called The Way Back . Ultimately, Anders deployed his army of some 40,000 men and tens of thousands of civilian hangers-on into Italy under the umbrella of the British Army. The Poles fought fiercely, helping to reduce the German fortifications in the medieval abbey at Monte Cassino. After the war, the Soviets occupied Poland. Anders never returned home, dying in London in 1970. His army s grand tale had a bittersweet ending. The trail, which started with the deportations in the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, led tens of thousands of people to the four ends of the earth. There are survivors of the exodus still living in Tehran, in Santa Rosa, in Israel, in Italy, in Tasmania, Canada, Africa and in Britain. So the trail had many ends, not one; it led to all the continents of the world (except perhaps Antarctica). But Poland itself must not be forgotten. The great majority of men and women who left the Soviet Union in the ranks of Anders army, or under its care, had dreamed of reaching Poland. The Poland of their dreams, however, was dissolving, even as they journeyed to find it. It is said that the number of persons, who had started in the USSR and yet agreed to go to postwar Poland, did not exceed 300, that is, one quarter of one percent; there were 46 in total who opted freely to go to the USSR. What they found was not the Poland they had left, but something very different. References ^ Trail of Hope (
  • A Sheep in the British Army Got Promoted to Lance Corporal Private Derby XXX, a Swaledale ram, was officially recognized for "good behavior" and promoted to the illustrious rank of lance corporal at a recent event celebrating the eight-year anniversary of the Mercian Regiment, the British Army regiment for which the majestic horned beast serves as mascot. Lance Corporal Derby XXX, who is considered a soldier, may now wear a stripe to signify his new rank. The ram joined in February 2014, and is the 30th in a line of mascot rams, thus the "XXX" surname. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below It's worth noting that the British Army has a history of "animal mascots that are also soldiers," [1] including William Windsor, a goat that was once demoted from lance corporal for inappropriate behavior during a parade celebrating the Queen's 80th birthday. Billy, as he's known, reportedly even went so far as to try to headbutt a drummer [2] . Lance Corporal Derby XXX, with a track record of much better behavior, appears to have an illustrious military career ahead of him. Source: BBC via Mashable [3] [4] References ^ a history of "animal mascots that are also soldiers," ( ^ reportedly even went so far as to try to headbutt a drummer ( ^ BBC ( ^ Mashable (
  • A shot of irony: International big-game hunters are holding up Jim Corbett as their mascot Early in April, while the state of Uttarakhand was reeling under the summary dismissal of its government by the governor, a few of us noticed a small news item. It was about an event held at the town hall in Ramnagar, at the Jim Corbett Park in Kaladhungi. The event marked the arrival, and public display, of a prized hunting rifle belonging to the legendary James Edward Jim Corbett. Top officials of John Rigby and Co. of London, the rifle s manufacturers and its current owners, were present at the event as were representatives of their business partners, Safari Club International a US-based global club of big-ticket hunters. Senior officials of the Corbett National Park also attended the function. A top park official thanked the foreign visitors for bringing the fabled rifle all the way from London to Uttarakhand where Corbett is still a household name seven decades after it had left the shores of India. Corbett and Kumaon As someone who grew up in Uttarakhand in the post-Independence years, one may add that by now, Indians, and the people of Uttarakhand in particular, have come to revere Jim Corbett not so much as an iconic hunter of tigers and leopards, but as a compassionate naturalist and conservationist. True, Corbett had tracked and killed some 33 tigers and leopards in the region, but it was also he who, in 1936, created India s first tiger reserve The Hailey National Park which a grateful government of India renamed after him in 1957. In her autobiography, my late mother, Shivani, mentions Jim Corbett and his sister coming from Nainital to visit her father, who was vacationing in his ancestral house in nearby Almora. This was around the time Corbett had given up hunting and turned a keen naturalist and conservationist. My grandfather Ashwini Kumar, who had been the Diwan of Rampur state, was an old friend of Corbett s. The legendary hunter-turned conservationist considered Kumar to be very knowledgeable about the local fauna and flora. Corbett s sister, Maggie memsahib, had an unfortunate tic in one eye, which appeared to be blinking all the time. My grandparents crusty old cook, Thul Lohani ji, an admirer of Carpet Sahib like his fellow villagers, had pushed aside the usual strict Brahminical taboos against serving meals to foreigners, and brought tea to the revered Carpet Sahib and his sister. Later, however, my mother wrote, Lohani ji came in looking grumpy and warned my grandmother about the Corbett memsahib. He claimed that she had winked at him as he served her tea, and therefore merited being watched closely. When my grandmother laughed and explained the reason, Lohani ji added glumly in Kumaoni, still this sort of thing can make any one suspicious, nai [no]? If Thul Lohani ji were around today, how would he react to the import and display of the Rigby rifle and the sight of senior officials of the Jim Corbett Park publicly lauding its display, when everyone knows the area observes strict restrictions on hunting and the display of firearms, which were imposed by Jim Corbett himself? Can t this sort of thing still make any one suspicious, nai? Corbett s legacy A little more about Corbett and this rifle is in order here. Corbett s family moved to Nainital in 1862, when he was only four. He grew up in the area, went to school in Nainital, and trekked and roamed the forests all through his childhood and teens. By the time he joined the British army at 19, he had acquired an intimate knowledge about the area, its flora and fauna and was fluent in the local dialects its humble people spoke. In the British army he was valued as an excellent marksman and was called upon to kill the man-eating tigers bedeviling the lives of thousands of villagers. Between 1907 and 1930, Corbett managed to hunt down 33 man eaters in the region and earned great goodwill among the relieved locals. But towards the end, Corbett also came to firmly believe that Kumaon s rare flora and fauna must not become hunters assets, but be treated as a sacred trust. Explaining this in his bestselling 1946 book, Man Eaters of Kumaon , he wrote that a tiger begins to attack humans and domestic cattle, not because it is a ruthless predator, but because he is hobbled by an injury or because the balance of nature in the area had been disturbed through unrestricted slaughter of game and human habitation forcing tigers out of their natural haunts that were usually far away from human habitation. In the early 30s, Corbett began promoting the foundation of an Association for the Preservation of Game in the United Provinces, as the Uttar Pradesh-Uttarkhand region was known as then. The result was Hailey Park, now known as Corbett National Park. He also settled Chhoti Haldwani as a model village, in Kaladhungi, on the outskirts of the park and taught the villagers how to protect the forests and the wildlife in the area. He taught them that they, and the tigers, could live happily by the forest if they continued to observe its natural territorial laws. In 1947, Jim Corbett left India for Kenya, where he died in 1955. As per his will, his extensive cache of tiger skins, skulls and rifles were auctioned, and the proceeds were donated to charities associated with wildlife conservation. Among these firearms was the precious .275 Rigby bolt-action rifle that was first bought by the Oxford University Press and later by John Rigby and Co., one of the three oldest makers of firearms in the world, who specialise in making special guns for collectors. This is the rifle that was displayed at the Corbett Park last month and then later at Rudraprayag and Chhoti Haldwani. It was crafted by Rigby s fabled craftsmen in the early 20th century and lay in Calcutta for two years after being imported. In 1907, it was presented to Corbett by the then Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces, Sir John Hewitt, by way of thanks for killing the infamous man eating tigress of Champawat. The original silver plate on the stock that records the presentation is still gleamingly intact (though it misspells Corbett s initials as JG, instead of JE Corbett). Conservationist to mascot for hunters So, what would be the best way to commemorate Jim Corbett today? As a great tracker-hunter? Or as a committed conservationist the first to record the wildlife in the Himalayan region in words and on camera, the founder of our first wildlife conservation park and settler of Chhoti Haldwani as a model of cohabitation for man and beast? Even in his hunting years, Corbett was no ruthless hunter of big game like many of the erstwhile Indian maharajas and the British sahibs. In Man Eaters of Kumaon , Corbett clarified that he accepted the British government s proposal to hunt man eaters only because they had killed hundreds of unarmed villagers. Even then he accepted the challenge only after two of his conditions were met. One, he would not accept the bounty offered for the task. And two, any bounty hunters who may be out in the area hunting tigers, must be called off before he stepped in. It therefore may appear somewhat ironic to people like our Thul Lohani ji, that Jim Corbett s rifle, which was displayed at the John Rigby and Co. booth, was a big draw at a five-day long 44th convention of the Safari Club International in Las Vegas, Nevada, in February. At the club s 43rd convention last year, 20,000 hunters reportedly spent $2.7 million to obtain special rights through the club to hunt down 317 animals around the globe. A report [1] said John Rigby and Co. acquired the .275 rifle from a private collector (the sum was not disclosed). The Rigby booth at the convention also showcased a specially crafted reproduction of the Corbett rifle that was auctioned for $250,000. [2] The winning bidder for the replica also received, at a Raj theme party, a special display case and a five-volume specially commissioned, limited edition set of Corbett s writings bound in blue leather [3] . John Rigby then took Corbett s rifle on a world tour, starting from the UK, where the firm had painstakingly collected other Corbett memorabilia that was displayed at all their showrooms. The company has recorded a big upsurge in orders in the past months, so much so that it is said to be considering inducting at least three more gunsmiths. [4] Marc Newton, the managing director of John Rigby and Co. who had accompanied the rifle to the Corbett National Park, described the gun as, a real piece of rifle history , adding that each gun that left the company s workshop, bore a piece of this rifle s DNA. Newton told news agency IANS [5] that the reason for their bringing in and displaying Corbett s rifle in Uttarakhand in India was, to create an awareness for wildlife conservation and propagating the vision of Jim Corbett. A news release [6] at the John Rigby and Co. website said that the proceeds from the sale of the replica Corbett rifle would be used both to fund wildlife conservation progress, and the protection of hunters freedoms globally . Wonder if this would have raised Thul Lohani ji s hackles again? References ^ report ( ^ auctioned for $250,000. ( ^ blue leather ( ^ three more gunsmiths. ( ^ told news agency IANS ( ^ news release (
  • A soldier's national security dream team | The Great ... - Reuters Blogs President Barack Obama s nomination of Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) for secretary of state, along with the potential appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary, is an important step forward for the under-resourced State Department and the over-stressed Defense Department. Kerry and Hagel share qualities and experiences sure to resonate with those who execute U.S. national security and foreign policy on the battlefield and in the increasingly dangerous world of diplomacy.

    Both men demonstrated great bravery in war and moral courage throughout their lives. Hagel, as an infantry sergeant and squad leader in Vietnam, was twice wounded, saved by his squad mate brother and then returned the favor. Kerry, not far away, operated riverine craft in an equally dangerous environment and sustained several wounds.

    After such experiences, they understand the implications of deciding to use military force like few others in our civilian leadership. They know at a gut level that the decision to put our soldiers in harm s way can traumatize those who have answered the call of duty, and affect their families, like few of life s endeavors. From a soldier s perspective, I know their profound appreciation may temper Washington s appetite to respond to foreign policy problems with military force.

    They can help drive a more balanced, economic or diplomatic response to the challenges we will surely face. The moral courage each displayed is amply illustrated by their actions in the Senate. Hagel consistently challenged his own party s war hawks and was declared unpatriotic by many fellow Republicans.

    Yet his voting pattern, as described by James Fallows, reveals a cautious realist with a centrist record. Kerry, having voted to approve the use of force in Iraq with, among others, Senator Hillary Clinton, declared his intent to ensure all foreign policy tools remained on the table. Both men later voted against the surge in Iraq in the face of substantial push-back from their colleagues.

    More recently in Afghanistan, Kerry was critical of the diplomacy in a very difficult environment. In the words of another very courageous diplomat, the late Richard Holbrooke, Kerry s role in Afghanistan was extraordinary. Both Hagel and Kerry clearly understand that the oath of office is to support and defend the Constitution not their political party.

    Regrettably, the hint of Hagel s pending nomination has triggered the release of the attack Chihuahuas. Representative-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas has led the charge, his criticism echoed by party luminaries such as Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). Cotton s screed reveals the current thinking of the GOP s dogmatic right-wing, which desperately needs the counterweight of cautious realists.

    Men who have experienced close combat tend to be practical. Hagel is now being criticized for his desire to see engagement with Iran and his intent to nudge Israel to a peaceful outcome in the endless Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, Hagel said in 2006, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.

    With Obama s intent to accelerate his policy of engagement, supported by both Kerry and Hagel, it brings to mind the famous Abraham Lincoln quote, Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? J Street supports a Hagel nomination as do five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

    So should anyone who supports a peaceful and successful outcome with our ally Israel. We have a history of presidents crossing party lines in building Cabinets to achieve crucial goals. President Franklin D.

    Roosevelt needed a strong Republican and manager to pave the way into World War II and rapidly expand our armed forces. Enter Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, decorated combat soldier and a great selection for a bipartisan team.

    For different reasons today, we would benefit from a moderate and a distinguished leader who needs no apprenticeship, who just happens to be a war hero and has a proven record of working across the aisle to get things done. Enter Hagel as comfortable with generals as with the enlisted infantry he led in Vietnam. Obama is building a new team for his second-term objectives.

    The way it is shaping up with Kerry s nomination, followed soon by that of Hagel America will use the increase in engagement with allies and adversaries to allow a vital rebalancing of our instruments of national power. We are overdue in executing a reinvigoration of our State Department and a period of respite for our men and women in the Defense Department. Kerry will be brilliant at State.

    Hagel will be equally so at Defense. PHOTO: Senator John Kerry (L) speaking at a news conference in Cairo May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

    Former Senator Chuck Hagel (R) at a news conference in Omaha, Nebraska, March 12, 2007.

    REUTERS/Dave Kaup PHOTO (Insert): Henry L.

    Stimson LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/Harris & Ewing

  • A Very Unlikely Ambassador Bharat was brought up in Kent. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1995 from the hotel industry and has had diplomatic postings to the Gambia, Dhaka and Qatar. He was most recently British High Commissioner to Cameroon, and non-Resident Ambassador to Gabon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Central African Republic. Before that he worked as a Private Secretary to two British Ministers, as well as in various Departments of the FCO including the European Union Department and Press Office. Bharat has experience of crisis management and has been deployed to the scenes of major incidents involving British nationals, including after the tragic bombing of the British Consulate-General in Istanbul in 2003. Bharat s varied career has been spent dealing with a full range of HMG objectives, including promoting political and economic reform and improved human rights; improved UK prosperity through trade; climate change and UN policy issues. A major part of his portfolio in Chennai is supporting mutual prosperity between the UK and India, transforming lives through jobs, entrepreneurship and skills partnerships. Bharat has been very happily married (at least forhim) to Bhakti for 18 years and they have two wonderful daughters. His interests are cricket, badminton, history, reading and travelling. Bharat speaks English, French, Gujarati and Hindi and Spanish, and is desperate to learn Tamil.
  • A War Crime Beyond Doubt Daniel Bradley asserts that the British government should be brought to account for war crimes. Daniel Bradley's brother was killed by British troops during Operation Motorman. Should the British government be held accountable for war crimes? The answer is Yes. The British government would tell you that there is no evidence for such an allegation, but I can assure you that there is, and evidence beyond doubt. Specific evidence that I hold in my possession would be the secret meeting that was held on the 10th July 1972 at which minutes were taken and "article J" of those minutes proves beyond doubt: The army should not be inhibited in it's campaign by the threat of court proceedings and therefore should be suitably indemnified. Therefore they went beyond the law and gave orders to the soldiers that to do what they will with no fear of repercussions. I am also aware that there was a meeting with Frank Lagan and the army who told Frank Lagan that they had intelligence from the Provisional IRA and the Official IRA that they were going to attack the army that day. So special forces of the SAS plus the paratroopers were put in. Frank Lagan decided to communicate with SDLP and other community workers, asking them to get in touch with Martin McGuinness and other members of the Republican Movement to call off their attack. The Provisional IRA agreed to do this and told their men to stand down. And I am also aware that army intelligence knew that they were standing down but they decided to attack innocent people and deliberately shoot them down and then claim "gunmen". 4O years on David Cameron apologises to the people of Derry City. My question would be why was the British government at that time not taken up for war crimes? Even though it is now 43 years on we can still challenge this as war crimes in reference to "article J" because of the British government apologising, acknowledging their wrong. David Cameron had to have read the army intelligence report concerning Bloody Sunday. I speak for all the victims who were killed by the British army, young Manus Deery et al, who were innocently shot down. I believe that all these are all war crimes, because under article J the British government spelt it out bluntly at that secret meeting and those words are evidence for all those who were shot down. As the RUC were not allowed to investigate any of these shootings and because of this it makes these crimes "war crimes." Martin McGuinness has already told us that he was second in command on Bloody Sunday so we have no doubts there. So therefore ask him this: did someone from the SDLP speak to him that Sunday morning about the soldiers going to attack, the shooting that was going to happen on Bloody Sunday? He was also informed that army intelligence knew that there were going to be up to 60 gunmen taking up positions to attack the army. The gunmen s positions were to be Glenfada Park and Abbey Park, and the rioters were to bring the soldiers in to that area. But that day Martin Mc Guinness and another officer from the IRA went up Eastway Road where a lorry full of gunmen were parked outside Malins shop, about forty men all armed. This was about twelve o clock and they were told to stand down. These positions Glenfada Park and Abbey Park were the only places where the gunmen could have attacked and got away. The army were well aware that the Republican Movement had stood down, but the army decided to go ahead and shoot innocent people. Which makes this a war crime beyond doubt.
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  • Accused UK soldier killer `loves al-Qaeda' A man accused of the gruesome murder of a British soldier has told his trial that he loves al-Qaeda and considers the Islamic militants to be his "brothers". Michael Adebolajo, 28, sat surrounded by security guards as he began giving evidence in his trial at London's Old Bailey court on Monday. He and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of murdering 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight as he walked back to his London barracks in May.

    The court has heard that the pair ran Rigby over with a car before attacking him with knives and Adebolajo attempted to behead him with a meat cleaver. The defendants, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murder. The soldier's family sat just metres from Adebolajo in the courtroom as he said: "Al-Qaeda, I consider to be mujahideen.

    I love them, they're my brothers." He added that he has never met members of the militant group. Adebolajo said he had been raised as a Christian but converted to Islam in his first year at Greenwich University in south London, close to where Rigby was killed. "My religion is everything," he told the court. The jury heard that Adebolajo, who has asked to be called Mujaahid Abu Hamza in court, is married and has six children.

    Growing up in Romford, east of London, he said that the "vast majority" of his school friends were white Britons. One of them had joined the army and was killed in Iraq. Adebolajo said he held former prime minister Tony Blair, who sent British forces to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, "responsible" for his friend's death.

    Adebolajo tried to travel to Somalia in 2010 but was captured in Kenya and brought back to Britain, the court heard. He said that before the brutal attack on Rigby, he had attended demonstrations organised by an Islamist group banned under British anti-terror laws, but then realised the protests were "impotent rage". "In reality, no demonstration will make a difference," he added. He told the court several times that he was a "soldier" and that he did not regret what happened to Rigby. "I will never regret obeying the command of Allah.

    That is all I can say," he said.

    The trial heard last week that Adebolajo told police he and Adebowale had targeted a soldier because they believed this was "the most fair target" in an attack aimed at avenging the deaths of Muslims abroad.

    He said he tried to behead Rigby because it was the most "humane" way to kill him, comparing it to halal butchery methods.

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  • AFA: Save Dead Soldiers from The Gay - Freethought Blogs Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a few days ago that the Pentagon would be offering several important benefits to the same-sex spouses of gay soldiers and the American Family Association by family they mean we hate gay people is calling down the thunder, especially over the terrible thought of a gay soldier s spouse being buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This means the military will recognize homosexual lovers as married and will give a full slate of benefits, including burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Panetta, at every turn, has exposed the military to open homosexuality, which presents an unacceptable risk to good order, discipline, morale and unit cohesion qualities essential for combat readiness.

    TAKE ACTION Send a letter to your members of Congress, letting them know that, on their watch, they have allowed the security of our nation to be endangered by focusing on social experimentation, rather than defense. Yes, of course. Because a decaying gay person in Arlington would release gay erototoxins into the soil, which would leech through the soles of the shoes of the color guard and other soldiers who may enter the cemetery and infect them with The Gay.

    And then we ll all be doomed.

    Or something.

  • Afghan bombers strike during US official's visit - Worldnews.comNative name Jomh r -ye Esl m -ye Af nest n (Persian) Da Af nist n Isl m Jomhoriyat (Pashto) Conventional long name Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Common name Afghanistan Image coat Coat of arms of Afghanistan.svg Symbol type Emblem National anthem Afghan National Anthem Official languages PashtoDari (Persian) Demonym Afghan Capital Kabul Largest city Kabul Government type Islamic republic Leader title1 President Leader title2 Vice President Leader name1 Hamid Karzai Leader name2 Mohammed Fahim Leader title3 Vice President Leader name3 Karim Khalili Leader title4 Chief Justice Leader name4 Abdul Salam Azimi Legislature National Assembly Upper house House of Elders Lower house House of the People Area rank 41st Area magnitude 1_E11 Area km2 647500 Area sq mi 251772 Percent water negligible Population estimate 30,419,928 Population estimate year 2012 Population estimate rank 40 Population census 15.5 million Population census year 1979 Population density km2 43.5 Population density sq mi 111.8 Population density rank 150th Gdp ppp year 2011 Gdp ppp $29.731 billion Gdp ppp per capita $1,000 Gdp nominal year 2011 Gdp nominal $18.181 billion Gdp nominal per capita $585 Hdi year 2011 Hdi 0.398 Hdi rank 172nd Hdi category low Gini 29 Gini year 2008 Gini category low Fsi 102.3 2.5 Fsi year 2007 Fsi rank 8th Fsi category Alert Sovereignty type Establishment Established event1 First Afghan state Established date1 October 1747 Established event2 Independence (from the United Kingdom) Established date2 August 19, 1919 Currency Afghani Currency code AFN Country code AFG Time zone D Utc offset +4:30 Drives on right Cctld .af Calling code +93 Footnote1 }} Afghanistan (; ; ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan , is a landlocked country forming part of South Asia, Central Asia, and to some extent Western Asia. With a population of around 30 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

    Afghanistan has been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BCE.

    Sitting at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East culture with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the land has been home to various peoples through the ages and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and in modern era Western forces. The land also served as a source from which the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Timurids, Mughals, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires. The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan begins in 1709, when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani's rise to power in 1747.

    In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between the British and Russian empires. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah began a European style modernization of the country but was stopped by the ultra-conservatives. During the Cold War, after the withdrawal of the British from neighboring India in 1947, the United States and the Soviet Union began spreading influences in Afghanistan, which led to a bloody war between the US-backed mujahideen forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government in which over a million Afghans lost their lives.

    This was followed by the 1990s civil war, the rise and fall of the extremist Taliban government and the 2001 present war. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security in Afghanistan and assist the Karzai administration. Three decades of war made Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country, including the largest producer of refugees and asylum seekers.

    While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-led insurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks. According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012. Etymology The name Afgh nist n (, ) means "Land of the Afghans" , which originates from the ethnonym "Afghan" .

    Historically, the name "Afghan" mainly designated the Pashtun people, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. This name is mentioned in the form of Abgan in the 3rd century CE by the Sassanians and as Avagana ( Afghana ) in the 6th century CE by Indian astronomer Varahamihira. A people called the Afghans are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam, particularly where a reference is made to a village: "Saul, a pleasant village on a mountain.

    In it live Afghans ."Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes: One prominent 16th-century Persian scholar explains extensively about the Afghans. For example, he writes: It is widely accepted that the terms "Pashtun" and Afghan are synonyms.

    In the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak it is mentioned: The last part of the name, -st n is a Persian suffix for "place". The name "Afghanistan" is described by the 16th century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs as well as by the later Persian scholar Firishta and Babur's descendants, referring to the traditional ethnic Pashtun territories between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indus River. In the early 19th century, Afghan politicians decided to adopt the name Afghanistan for the entire Afghan Empire after its English translation had already appeared in various treaties with Qajarid Persia and British India.

    In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War , Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as: The Afghan kingdom was sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Kabul , as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone. Afghanistan was officially recognized as a sovereign state by the international community after the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919 was signed.

    Geography A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is described as being located within South Asia or Central Asia. It is part of the Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes and , and longitudes and . The country's highest point is Noshaq, at above sea level. , and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over in July.|date=October 2011}} Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry.

    The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Aside from the usual rain falls, Afghanistan receives snow during winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams. However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.

    The state needs more than to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed. The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year. They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanche during winter.

    The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan. This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people of various regional countries were killed and over 1,000 injured. The 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.

    The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum among other things. In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth between and . At , Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States.

    It borders Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. History Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.

    The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire, the Islamic Empire and the Sassanid Empire.

    Many kingdoms have also risen to power in what is now Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state. Pre-Islamic period Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan.

    Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization.After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan, among them were many Indo-European-speaking Indo-Iranians. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via the area north of the Caspian. The region as a whole was called Ariana.

    The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persians overthrew the Medes and incorporated Afghanistan (Arachosia, Aria and Bactria) within its boundaries.

    An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier in the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.|Strabo|64 BC 24 AD}} The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown.

    Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.

    During the 1st century BCE, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century CE.

    Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas (generally known as the Indo-Sassanids) continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers. The Hephthalites were defeated by Khosrau I in CE 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia.

    However, in the 6th century CE, the successors to the Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi. Islamization and Mongol invasion Between the 4th and 19th centuries the northwestern area of modern Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name as Khorasan. Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.Arab Muslims brought the message of Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 AD and began spreading eastward, some of the native inhabitants they encountered accepted it while others revolted.

    The people of Afghanistan was multi-religious, which included Zoroastrians, Buddhists, worshippers of the sun, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others. The Zunbil and Kabul Shahi were defeated in 870 AD by the Saffarid Muslims of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence into south of the Hindu Kush.

    It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power.|Istahkr |921 AD}} Afghanistan became one of the main centers in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. By the 11th century Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni had finally Islamized all of the remaining non-Muslim areas, with the exception of the Kafiristan region. The Ghaznavids were replaced by the Ghurids who expanded and advanced the already powerful empire.

    In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region. His troops are said to have annihilated the Khorasanian cities of Herat and Balkh as well as Bamyan. The destruction caused by the Mongols depopulated major cities and forced many of the locals to revert to an agrarian rural society.

    Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khilji dynasty controlled the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush, until the invasion of Timur who established the Timurid dynasty in 1370. During the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, and Timurid eras, Afghanistan produced many fine Islamic architectural monuments as well as numerous scientific and literary works. Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, arrived from Fergana and captured Kabul from the Arghun dynasty, and from there he began to seize control of the central and eastern territories of Afghanistan.

    He remained in Kabulistan until 1526 when he and his army invaded Delhi in India to replace the Afghan Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. From the 16th century to the early 18th century, Afghanistan was part of three regional kingdoms: the Khanate of Bukhara in the north, the Shi'a Safavids in the west and the remaining larger area was ruled by the Mughal Empire. Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire Mir Wais Hotak, seen as Afghanistan's George Washington, successfully rebelled against the Persian Safavids in 1709.

    He overthrew and killed Gurgin Khan, and made the Afghan region independent from Persia. By 1713, Mir Wais had decisively defeated two larger Persian armies, one was led by Khusraw Kh n (nephew of Gurgin) and the other by Rustam Kh n. The armies were sent by Sultan Husayn, the Shah in Isfahan (now Iran), to re-take control of the Kandahar region.

    Mir Wais died of a natural cause in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who was killed by Mir Wais' son Mahmud as a national traitor. In 1722, Mahmud led an Afghan army to the Persian capital of Isfahan, sacked the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Persians were disloyal to the Afghan rulers, and after the massacre of thousands of religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family, the Hotaki dynasty was ousted from Persia after the 1729 Battle of Damghan.In 1738, Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces captured Kandahar from Shah Hussain Hotaki, at which point the incarcerated 16 year old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of Nader Shah's four thousand Abdali Afghans.

    From Kandahar they set out to conquer India, passing through Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lahore, and ultimately plundering Delhi after the Battle of Karnal. Nader Shah and his army abandoned Delhi but took with them huge treasure, which included the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747, the Afghans chose Ahmad Shah Durrani as their head of state.

    Regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan, Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Indian Maratha Empire, one of his biggest victories was the 1761 Battle of Panipat. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah Durrani died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar.

    He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. After Timur Shah's death in 1793, the Durrani throne was passed down to his son Zaman Shah followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others. The Afghan Empire was under threat in the early 19th century by the Persians in the west and the Sikhs in the east.

    The western provinces of Khorasan and Kohistan were taken by the Persians in 1800. Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves.

    During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1826. The Punjab region was lost to Ranjit Singh, who invaded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in 1834 captured the city of Peshawar. In 1837, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army crossed the Khyber Pass to defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Jamrud, killing Hari Singh Nalwa before retreating to Kabul.

    By this time the British were advancing from the east and the First Anglo-Afghan War, one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, was initiated. Western influence Following the 1842 massacre of Elphinstone's Army and victory of Afghan forces, led by Akbar Khan, the British established diplomatic relations with the Afghan government but withdrew all forces from the country. They returned during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in the late 1870s for about two-year military operations, which was to defeat Ayub Khan and assist Abdur Rahman Khan establish authority.

    The United Kingdom began to exercise a great deal of influence after this and even controlled the state's foreign policy. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign a controversial agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan.

    After the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state. He moved to end his country's traditional isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the international community and, following a 1927 28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women.

    He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani.

    Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in November 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara school student. Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973.

    Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law.

    Daoud Khan sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II, nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure.

    In 1973, while King Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit, Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan. Marxist revolution and Soviet war In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide.

    The Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government. Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup. By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to assist the mujahideen.

    In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979. A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum.

    Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan. At the time some believed the Soviets were attempting to expand their borders southward in order to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

    The Soviet Union had long lacked a warm water port, and their movement south seemed to position them for further expansion toward Pakistan in the East, and Iran to the West. American politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, feared the Soviets were positioning themselves for a takeover of Middle Eastern oil. Others believed that the Soviet Union was afraid Iran's Islamic Revolution and Afghanistan's Islamization would spread to the millions of Muslims in the USSR.

    The PDPA prohibited usury, made statements on women's rights by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life. After the invasion, President Jimmy Carter announced what became known as the Carter Doctrine: that the U.S. would not allow any other outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf.

    He terminated the Soviet Wheat Deal in January 1980, which was intended to establish trade with USSR and lessen Cold War tensions. The grain exports had been beneficial to people employed in agriculture, and the Carter embargo marked the beginning of hardship for American farmers. That same year, Carter also made two of the most unpopular decisions of his entire Presidency: prohibiting American athletes from participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and reinstating registration for the draft for young males.

    Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.

    The Reagan administration increased arming and funding of the mujahideen as part of the Reagan Doctrine, thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated $6 20 billion but more recent reports suggest that up to $40 billion were provided by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

    This was in the forms of cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The 10-year Soviet war resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Afghans, mostly civilians. About 6million fled to Pakistan and Iran, and from there tens of thousands began emigrating to the European Union, United States, Australia and other parts of the world.

    Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties, the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992. Foreign interference and war After the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period to be followed by general elections.

    According to Human Rights Watch: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan. Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal concludes in Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival : In addition, Saudi Arabia and Iran as competitors for regional hegemony supported Afghan militias hostile towards each other. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran was backing the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari to "maximize Wahdat's military power and influence".

    Saudi Arabia supported the Wahhabite Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction. Conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war. Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form.

    Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion.

    When the Taliban took control of the city in 1994, they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders. The Islamic State government took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again.

    Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process but they refused as they did not believe in a democratic system. Taliban Emirate and the United Front The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud. Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report: "This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city." The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses which led analysts to believe the Taliban movement had run its course.

    Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests.On 26 September 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on 27 September 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts especially targeting women.

    According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment." After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 27 September 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former enemies, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek forces of Dostum, Hazara factions under the command of leaders such as Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq or Haji Abdul Qadir. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.

    Dostum subsequently went into exile. According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001 and that "these have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the Taliban Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background.

    Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, 4,000 6,000 civilians were killed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.

    The report by the UN quotes "eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". President Pervez Musharraf then as Chief of Army Staff was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.

    In 2001 alone, there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals, many either from the Frontier Corps or army, fighting inside Afghanistan. An estimated 8,000 Pakistani militants were recruited in madrassas filling the ranks of the estimated 25,000 regular Taliban force. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front.

    3,000 fighters of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud.

    In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. National Geographic concluded in its documentary "Inside the Taliban" : "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud." In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.

    On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent. On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan and two days later about 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks in the United States.

    The US government identified Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the Al-Qaeda organization based in and allied to the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the perpetrators of the attacks. From 1990 until this date over 400,000 Afghan civilians had already died in the wars in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden to US authorities and to disband al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden later claimed sole responsibility for the September 11 attacks and specifically denied any prior knowledge of them by the Taliban or the Afghan people. In October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched as a new phase of the war in Afghanistan in which teams of American and British special forces worked with ground forces of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to remove the Taliban from power and dispel Al-Qaeda. At the same time the US-led forces were bombing Taliban and al-Qaida targets everywhere inside Afghanistan with cruise missiles.

    These actions led to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north followed by all the other cities, as the Taliban and al-Qaida fled over the porous Durand Line border into Pakistan. In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people. Recent history (2002 present) While the Taliban began regrouping inside Pakistan, more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war.

    Meanwhile, the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan kicked off in 2002. The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures over the years, and some progress was made in key areas such as governance, economy, health, education, transport, and agriculture. NATO is training the Afghan armed forces as well its national police.

    ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them. By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in many parts of the country complete with their own version of mediation court. After U.S.

    President Barack Obama announced the deployment of another 30,000 soldiers in 2010 for a period of two years, Der Spiegel published images of the US soldiers who killed unarmed Afghan civilians. At the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership (including Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). Supported by NATO, Karzai called on the group's leadership to take part in a loya jirga meeting to initiate peace talks.

    These steps have resulted in an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Some Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah) believe that Karzai plans to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progress in the field of human rights especially women's rights.

    Dr. Abdullah stated: }} Over five million Afghan refugees were repatriated in the last decade, including many who were forcefully deported from NATO countries. This large return of Afghans may have helped the nation's economy but the country still remains one of the poorest in the world due to the decades of war, lack of foreign investment, ongoing government corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

    According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban and other militants were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in 2009, 75% in 2010, 80% in 2011, 80% in 2012. In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed in the ongoing insurgency, the fifth successive annual rise.}} After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures began being assassinated, including Mohammed Daud Daud, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others. Also in the same year, the Pak-Afghan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network took place across Afghanistan.

    This led to the United States warning Pakistan of a possible military action against the Haqqanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The U.S. blamed Pakistan's government, mainly Pakistan Army and its ISI spy network as the masterminds behind all of this. |Admiral Mike Mullen|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff}} U.S.

    Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan that "The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani Network. There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop." Other top U.S.

    officials such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta made similar statements. On 16 October 2011, "Operation Knife Edge" was launched by NATO and Afghan forces against the Haqqani Network in south-eastern Afghanistan. Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, explained that the operation will "help eliminate the insurgents before they struck in areas along the troubled frontier".

    In anticipation of the 2014 NATO withdrawal and a subsequent expected push to regain power by the Taliban, the anti-Taliban United Front (Northern Alliance) groups have started to regroup under the umbrella of the National Coalition of Afghanistan (political arm) and the National Front of Afghanistan (military arm). Governance Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The nation is currently led by Hamid Karzai as the President and leader since late 2001.

    The National Assembly is the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders. The Supreme Court is led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been a legal advisor to the president. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous one, which was dominated by fundamentalist religious figures such as Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari who issued several controversial rulings, including seeking to place a limit on the rights of women.

    According to Transparency International's corruption perceptions index 2010 results, Afghanistan was ranked as the third most-corrupt country in the world. A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumes an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation. A number of government ministries are believed to be rife with corruption, and while President Karzai vowed to tackle the problem in late 2009 by stating that "individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the government", top government officials were stealing and misusing hundreds of millions of dollars through the Kabul Bank.

    Although the nation's institutions are newly formed and steps have been taken to arrest some, the United States warned that aid to Afghanistan would be reduced to very little if the corruption is not stopped. Elections and parties The 2004 Afghan presidential election was relatively peaceful, in which Hamid Karzai won in the first round with 55.4% of the votes. However, the 2009 presidential election was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread electoral fraud.

    The vote, along with elections for 420 provincial council seats, took place in August 2009, but remained unresolved during a lengthy period of vote counting and fraud investigation. Two months later, under international pressure, a second round run-off vote between Karzai and remaining challenger Abdullah was announced, but a few days later Abdullah announced that he is not participating in the 7 November run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met. The next day, officials of the election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Hamid Karzai as President for another 5-year term.

    In the 2005 parliamentary election, among the elected officials were former mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists, warlords, communists, reformists, and several Taliban associates. In the same period, Afghanistan reached to the 30th nation in terms of female representation in parliament. The last parliamentary election was held in September 2010, but due to disputes and investigation of fraud, the sworn in ceremony took place in late January 2011.

    After the issuance of computerized ID cards for the first time, which is a $101 million project that the Afghan government plans to start in 2012, it is expected to help prevent major fraud in future elections and improve the security situation. Administrative divisions Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces ( wilayats ), with each province having its own capital and a provincial administration. The provinces are further divided into about 398 smaller provincial districts, each of which normally covers a city or a number of villages.

    Each district is represented by a district governor. The provincial governors are appointed by the President of Afghanistan and the district governors are selected by the provincial governors. The provincial governors are representatives of the central government in Kabul and are responsible for all administrative and formal issues within their provinces.

    There are also provincial councils which are elected through direct and general elections for a period of four years. The functions of provincial councils are to take part in provincial development planning and to participate in monitoring and appraisal of other provincial governance institutions. According to article 140 of the constitution and the presidential decree on electoral law, mayors of cities should be elected through free and direct elections for a four-year term.

    However, due to huge election costs, mayoral and municipal elections have never been held. Instead, mayors have been appointed by the government. As for the capital city of Kabul, the mayor is appointed by the President of Afghanistan.

    The following is a list of all the 34 provinces in alphabetical order: Foreign relations and military The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for managing the foreign relations of Afghanistan. The nation has been a member of the UN since 1946, and has maintained good relations with the United States and other NATO member states since the signing of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty in 1919. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was established in 2002 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1401 to help the nation recover from decades of war and establish a normal functioning government.

    Today, more than 22 NATO nations deploy about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Apart from close military links, the country also enjoys strong economic relations with NATO members and their allies. It also has diplomatic relations with neighboring Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the People's Republic of China, including regional states such as India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, and others.

    Afghanistan Pakistan relations have been negatively affected by issues related to the Durand Line, the 1978 present war (i.e. Mujahideen, Afghan refugees, Taliban insurgency, and border skirmishes), including water and the growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Afghan officials often allege that Pakistani and Iranian intelligence agencies are involved in terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, by training and guiding terrorists to carry out attacks.

    On the positive side, the two nations are usually described in Afghanistan as "inseparable brothers", which is due to historical, religious, and ethnolinguistical connections, as well as trade and other ties. Afghanistan has always depended on Pakistani trade routes for import and export but this has changed in the last decade with the opening of Central Asian and Iranian routes. Conversely, Pakistan depends on Afghan water and considers Afghanistan as the only trade route to Central Asian resources.

    India and Iran have actively participated in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, with India being the largest regional donor to the country. Since 2002, India has pledged up to $2 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan and has participated in multiple socio-economic reconstruction efforts, including power, roads, agricultural and educational projects. There are also military ties between Afghanistan and India, which is expected to increase after the October 2011 strategic pact that was signed by President Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The military of Afghanistan is under the Ministry of Defense, which includes the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). It currently has about 200,000 active soldiers and is expected to reach 260,000 in the coming years. They are trained and equipped by NATO countries, mainly by the United States Department of Defense.

    The ANA is divided into 7 major Corps, with the 201st Selab ("Flood") in Kabul followed by the 203rd in Gardez, 205th Atul ("Hero") in Kandahar, 207th in Herat, 209th in Mazar-i-Sharif and the 215th in Lashkar Gah. The ANA also has a commando brigade which was established in 2007. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan serves as the main educational institute for the militarymen of the country.

    A new $200 million Afghan Defense University (ADU) is under construction near the capital. Crime and law enforcement The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is the nation's domestic intelligence agency, which operates similar to that of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has between 15,000 to 30,000 employees. The nation also has about 126,000 national police officers, with plans to recruit more so that the total number can reach 160,000.

    The Afghan National Police (ANP) is under the Ministry of the Interior, which is based in Kabul and headed by Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. The Afghan National Civil Order Police is the main branch of the Afghan National Police, which is divided into five Brigades and each one commanded by a Brigadier General. These brigades are stationed in Kabul, Gardez, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    Every province of the country has a provincial Chief of Police who is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior and is responsible for law enforcement in all the districts within the province. The police are being trained by NATO countries through the Afghanistan Police Program. According to a 2009 news report, a large proportion of police officers are illiterate and are accused of demanding bribes.

    Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, stated that the literacy rate in the ANP will rise to over 50% by January 2012. What began as a voluntary literacy program became mandatory for basic police training in early 2011. Approximately 17% of them test positive for illegal drug use.

    In 2009, President Karzai created two anti-corruption units within the Interior Ministry. Former Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said that security officials from the U.S. (FBI), Britain (Scotland Yard) and the European Union will train prosecutors in the unit. The south and eastern parts of Afghanistan are the most dangerous due to the flourishing drug trade and militancy.

    These areas in particular are often patrolled by Taliban insurgents, and in many cases they plan attacks by using suicide bombers and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads. Kidnapping and robberies are also often reported. Every year many Afghan police officers are killed in the line of duty in these areas.

    The Afghan Border Police are responsible for protecting the nation's airports and borders, especially the disputed Durand Line border which is often used by members of criminal organizations and terrorists for their illegal activities. Reports in 2011 suggested that up to 3 million people are involved in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, many of the attacks on government employees and institutions are carried out not only by the Taliban militants but also by powerful criminal gangs. Drugs from Afghanistan are exported to Iran, Pakistan, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirate, and the European Union.

    The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics is dealing with this problem. Recently, the people mustered courage and took to streets in Kabul to protest against gruesome killing of a woman accused of adultery by suspected Taliban in the Parwan province. Economy Afghanistan is an impoverished and least developed country, one of the world's poorest due to the decades of war and nearly complete lack of foreign investment.

    The nation's GDP stands at about $29 billion with an exchange rate of $18 billion, and the GDP per capita is about $1,000. The country's export was $2.6 billion in 2010. Its unemployment rate is about 35% and roughly the same percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line.

    About 42% of the population live on less than $1 a day, according to a 2009 report. On the positive side, the nation has less than $1.5 billion external debt and is recovering by the assistance of the world community. The Afghan economy has been growing at about 10% per year in the last decade, which is due to the infusion of over $50 billion dollars in international aid and remittances from Afghan expats.

    It is also due to improvements made to the transportation system and agricultural production, which is the backbone of the nation's economy. The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits, including nuts. While the nations's current account deficit is largely financed with the donor money, only a small portion is provided directly to the government budget.

    The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The Afghan Ministry of Finance is focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. For example, government revenues increased 31% to $1.7 billion from March 2010 to March 2011.

    Da Afghanistan Bank serves as the central bank of the nation and the "Afghani" (AFN) is the national currency, with an exchange rate of about 47 Afghanis to 1 US dollar. Since 2003, over 16 new banks have opened in the country, including Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, First Micro Finance Bank, and others. One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 5 million expatriates, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses.

    For the first time since the 1970s, Afghans have involved themselves in construction, one of the largest industries in the country. Some of the major national construction projects include the New Kabul City next to the capital, the Ghazi Amanullah Khan City near Jalalabad, and the Aino Mena in Kandahar. Similar development projects have also begun in Herat in the west, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and in other cities.

    In addition, a number of companies and small factories began operating in different parts of the country, which not only provide revenues to the government but also create new jobs. Improvements to the business-enabling environment have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in telecom investment and created more than 100,000 jobs since 2003. The Afghan rugs are becoming popular again and this gives many carpet dealers around the country to expand their business by hiring more workers.

    Afghanistan is a member of SAARC, ECO and OIC. It is hoping to join SCO soon to develop closer economic ties with neighboring and regional countries in the so-called New Silk Road trade project. Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the media in 2011 that his nation's "goal is to achieve an Afghan economy whose growth is based on trade, private enterprise and investment".

    Experts believe that this will revolutionize the economy of the region. Opium production in Afghanistan soared to a record in 2007 with about 3 million people reported to be involved in the business but then declined significantly in the years following. The government started programs to help reduce cultivation of poppy, and by 2010 it was reported that 24 out of the 34 provinces were free from poppy grow.

    In June 2012, India strongly advocated for private investments in the resource rich country and creation of suitable environment therefor. Mining and energy Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution explains that if Afghanistan generates about $10 bn per year from its mineral deposits, its gross national product would double and provide long-term funding for Afghan security forces and other critical needs. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2006 that northern Afghanistan has an average (bbl) of crude oil, 15.7 trillion cubic feet ( bn m 3 ) of natural gas, and of natural gas liquids.

    In December 2011, Afghanistan signed an oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for the development of three oil fields along the Amu Darya river in the north. Other reports show that the country has huge amounts of lithium, copper, gold, coal, iron ore and other minerals. The Khanashin carbonatite in Helmand Province contains of rare earth elements.

    In 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the Aynak copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan's history. The state-run Steel Authority of India won the mining rights to develop the huge Hajigak iron ore deposit in central Afghanistan. Government officials estimate that 30% of the country's untapped mineral deposits are worth between and .

    One official asserted that "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". In a 2011 news story, the CSM reported, "The United States and other Western nations that have borne the brunt of the cost of the Afghan war have been conspicuously absent from the bidding process on Afghanistan's mineral deposits, leaving it to mostly to regional powers." Transport and communications Afghanistan has about 53 airports, with the biggest ones being the Kabul International Airport, serving the capital and nearby regions followed Kandahar International Airport in the south, Herat International Airport in the west, and Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in the north. Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier, with domestic flights between Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    International flights include to United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan and a number of other Asian destinations. There are also domestic and international flight services available from the locally owned Kam Air, Pamir Airways and Safi Airways. Airlines from a number of regional nations such as Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Air Arabia, Air India, PIA and others also provide services to Afghanistan.

    Flights between Dubai and Kabul take roughly 2 hours to reach. The country has limited rail service with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the north. The government plans to extended the rail line to the capital and then to the eastern border town of Torkham by 2014, connecting with Pakistan Railways.

    Long distant road journeys are made by older model company-owned Mercedes-Benz coach buses or carpool and private cars. Newer automobiles have recently become more widely available after the rebuilding of roads and highways. They are imported from the United Arab Emirates through Pakistan and Iran.

    As of 2012, vehicles that are older than 10 years are banned from being imported into the country. The development of the nation's road network is a major boost for the economy due to trade with neighboring countries. Afghanistan's postal and package services such as FedEx, DHL and others make deliveries to major cities and towns.

    Telecommunication services in the country are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, MTN Group and Afghan Telecom. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a $64.5 million agreement with ZTE for the establishment of a countrywide optical fiber cable network. As of 2011, Afghanistan has around 17 million GSM phone subscribers and over 1 million internet users.

    It only has about 75,000 fixed telephone lines and little over 190,000 CDMA subscribers.

    3G services are provided by Etisalat and MTN Group. The Afghan government announced that it will send expressions of interest to international companies to attract funding will launch its first ever space satellite by October 2012. Health According to the Human Development Index, Afghanistan is the 15th least developed country in the world.

    The average life expectancy was estimated in 2012 to be 49.72 years. Afghanistan has the 9th highest total fertility rate in the world, at 5.64 children born/woman (according to 2012 estimates).Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, estimated in 2008 at 1,400 deaths/100,000 live births, and the highest infant mortality rate in the world (deaths of babies under one year), estimated in 2012 to be 121.63 deaths/1,000 live births. Data from 2010 suggests that one in 10 children in Afghanistan dies before they are five years old.While these statistics are tragic, the government plans to further cut the infant mortality rate to 400 for every 100,000 live births by 2020.

    The country currently has more than 3,000 midwives with an additional 300 to 400 being trained each year. A number of new hospitals and clinics have been built over the last decade, with the most advanced treatments being available in Kabul. The French Medical Institute for Children and Indira Gandhi Childrens Hospital in Kabul are the leading children's hospitals in the country.

    Some of the other main hospitals in Kabul include the 350-bed Jamhuriat Hospital and the Jinnah Hospital, which is still under construction. There are also a number of well-equipped military-controlled hospitals in different regions of the country. It was reported in 2006 that nearly 60% of the population lives within two hours by foot to the nearest health facility, up from 9% in 2002.

    Latest surveys show that 57% of Afghans say they have good or very good access to clinics or hospitals. The nation also has one of the highest incidences of people with disabilities, with an estimated one million handicapped people. About 80,000 citizens have lost limbs, mainly as a result of landmines.

    Non-governmental charities such as Save the Children and Mahboba's Promise assist orphans in association with governmental structures. Demographic and Health Surveys is working with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and others to conduct a survey in Afghanistan focusing on Maternal death, among other things. Education Education in the country includes K-12 and higher education, which is supervised by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.

    The nation's education system was destroyed due to the decades of war, but it began reviving after the Karzai administration came to power in late 2001. More than 5,000 schools were built or renovated, with more than 100,000 teachers being trained and recruited. It was reported in 2011 that more than seven million male and female students were enrolled in schools.

    As of 2011, about 82,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country. Kabul University reopened in 2002 to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan was established in Kabul, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan.

    The capital of Kabul serves as the learning center of Afghanistan, with many of the best educational institutions being based there. Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the eastern zones, as well as a number of others. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan armed forces.

    The $200 million Afghan Defense University is under construction near Qargha in Kabul. The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul and one school in Jalalabad. Literacy rate of the entire population is low, around 28%.

    Female literacy may be as low as 10%. In 2010, the United States began establishing a number of Lincoln learning centers in Afghanistan. They are set up to serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, Internet connectivity, educational and other counseling services.

    A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location. The military and national police are also provided with mandatory literacy courses. In addition to this, Baghch-e-Simsim (based on the American Sesame Street) was launched in late 2011 to help Afghan children learn from preschool and onward.

    Demographics As of 2012, the population of Afghanistan is around 30,419,928, which includes the roughly 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran. In 1979, the population was reported to be about 15.5 million. The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul.

    The other largest cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, Ghazni, and so on. Urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth following the return of over 5 million expats. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Afghan population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050.

    Ethnic groups Afghanistan is a multiethnic society, and its historical status as a crossroads has contributed significantly to its diverse ethnic makeup. The population of the country is divided into a wide variety of ethnolinguistic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held in the nation in decades, exact fi

  • Afghan civilian death toll ‘much higher than the official estimate’ An Afghan police officer investigates the destruction in the eastern Wardak province of Afghanistan. Photograph: Mohammad Naser/AP The civilian toll of Afghanistan s war [1] has been underestimated, revised figures from an Afghan government official and details of UK military investigations into the deaths of two children suggest. The government reckoning of the toll from a bombing in 2011, and the cases of the children, were documented but never published or shared more widely, and so are not included in the most commonly referenced and respected tallies of the dead over 15 years of fighting. Between them, they involve around a dozen new civilian casualties, and if they are representative of wider problems in counting the dead, there could be hundreds more civilian victims of the past 15 years of fighting whose deaths are missing from the records. Related: Hopes for Afghan peace talks sink as Kabul attack death toll doubles [2] Two of the newly revealed casualties were children, allegedly shot by British forces in separate incidents in southern Afghanistan [3] in 2009. The deaths were investigated by British military police, according to records seen by the Observer after a freedom of information request. The others were victims of a sectarian bombing at a Shia shrine in Kabul in 2011 [4] . A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani [5] last month abruptly revised up the toll for that day s violence, saying that 90 people had been killed in an attack previously thought to have killed at most 80 people. Human rights workers have worried about the challenges of tallying the victims of the war since violence first started sweeping across Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban [6] . Initially, neither the Afghan government nor the foreign forces were systematically tracking deaths, and so in 2007 the United Nations set up a rigorous monitoring system, requiring three independent sources to verify each civilian killed. It has listed nearly 25,000 civilian victims of the war over nine years, and tens of thousands more injured. But the strict standards that make the database so respected have always created concerns that they could be missing casualties. The revelations from the president s office and British military investigations suggest that there are many victims whose deaths are recorded by legitimate sources but are still not making it on to the overall counts of the dead, because information is not being shared publicly or in private. Among those who might not have made the lists of the dead are rural residents whose killings did not have enough witnesses, or were in areas so remote or dangerous that news of them never reached the cities. Violence in urban areas rarely goes unnoticed, but some families take the bodies of their loved ones directly from the scene of attacks for burial and, in the chaos after major attacks, there has been no single organisation responsible for keeping track of the dead. Among rural victims are the two boys allegedly killed in southern Afghanistan [7] , who do not feature on the UN register or a parallel register kept by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. One, aged around 13 or 14, was shot by a sniper in June 2009, according to Ministry of Defence records of an investigation by the Royal Military Police. Soldiers on a foot patrol targeted the teenager, whose death is confirmed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, because they suspected him of working as a Taliban [8] spotter or planning to lay a bomb. In a second incident investigated by military police, a seven-year-old Afghan boy was allegedly killed after a British officer fired a warning shot. The revision of the toll from the 2011 shrine bombing, the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban were toppled from power a decade earlier, highlights problems tallying urban deaths. Dawakhan Menapal, deputy presidential spokesman, revealed the government s updated death count in the aftermath of another devastating bombing in Kabul last month, as debate raged about whether the truck bomb that killed 64 people was even bloodier than the shrine tragedy. He declined to say when the extra deaths had been recorded, why the public record had not previously been updated, or whether there had been revisions to the death counts from other major attacks over the course of the war. The UN initially put the shrine death toll at 62. A few days after the attack, then-president Hamid Karzai [9] said the toll had risen to 80. Analysis now indicates a minimum of 10 extra victims, perhaps more, who were almost certainly civilians because the bomber struck at the heart of a crowd of ordinary worshippers. The UN had recorded only two police officers among the dozens of dead. The interior ministry, which usually issues casualty reports after big attacks, declined requests to comment. But if deaths have been underestimated on a similar level in other urban tragedies, there could be hundreds of uncounted victims. References ^ civilian toll of Afghanistan s war ( ^ Hopes for Afghan peace talks sink as Kabul attack death toll doubles ( ^ Afghanistan ( ^ bombing at a Shia shrine in Kabul in 2011 ( ^ President Ashraf Ghani ( ^ fall of the Taliban ( ^ Afghanistan ( ^ Taliban ( ^ Hamid Karzai (
  • Afghan forces plan military move against Taliban Afghan security forces have launched their latest offensive in the Sangin district, where the Taliban are largely in control, police said Thursday. The militant group has taken over the entire district except for the police chief's compound and another compound, where a battalion of the Afghan National Army is based, according to Shah Mahmood Ashna, a spokesman for the police chief in Helmand province. The police chief's compound remained under attack, and food and ammunition were in short supply, Ashna said. Some Afghan National Army reinforcements arrived via helicopter on Wednesday. Wounded forces were ferried out. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces killed a number of Taliban fighters and their commander in Thursday's military operation, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry told CNN. The commander killed in the offensive is considered to be a close confidant of the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, officials said. The Afghan forces had some support from the United States, the spokesman for NATO's Operation Resolute Support told CNN on Thursday. Col. Michael T. Lawhorn said there were two U.S.-led airstrikes in Sangin on Wednesday night against Taliban fighters in the field who posed a threat to Afghan forces. British troops deployed to Helmand A small contingent of British troops was sent to Helmand last weekend to provide support to embattled Afghan forces in the province. The troops, the British Ministry of Defence said in a statement, were "part of the UK's ongoing contribution to NATO's Resolute Support Mission," the training, advisory, assistance and counterterror mission in Afghanistan. They were deployed to Camp Shorabak, on the site of Camp Bastion, the former British Army headquarters in Afghanistan, the ministry said. "These personnel are part of a larger NATO team, which is providing advice to the Afghan National Army. They are not deployed in a combat role and will not deploy outside the camp," the statement said. December marks one year since NATO handed over security operations to the Afghans. Before that, British and American forces struggled for years to hold on to Sangin. Stuart Gordon, a Helmand expert at the Chatham House think tank, told Britain's Press Association news agency that Sangin held a special significance to the British as more than 100 British troops had been killed there. "Sangin became fairly totemic for the British because of the number of soldiers lost," he said. Opium center, strategic route A fertile region that is a key location in Afghanistan's poppy trade, Sangin lies in the south of the country in an area that has traditionally been a Taliban heartland. "It was significant because of the routes it controlled and it was a very significant part of the resourcing of the political economy of Helmand, because it is a major center of drugs processing and drugs shipping," said Gordon. It was strategically important because it linked Lashkar Gah, the Helmand capital, to districts in the north, he said. If the Taliban took control of Sangin, they would control supply routes to the districts and gain valuable influence over neighboring provinces, he said. "If Sangin falls, much of the north of Helmand is very much under Taliban control," he said. "This is probably the worst of the scenarios that the British had in 2013 and 2014." Facebook plea Mohammad Jan Rasolyaar, deputy governor of Helmand province, took an unusual step last weekend by posting an open letter to Ghani on Facebook asking for help. He warned that all of Helmand could fall to the Taliban if the President didn't take action. Rasolyaar mentioned Sangin district in his message, saying its main bazaar and the government office were under heavy attack by the Taliban. During the recent intense fighting in Sangin and Greshk districts, 90 Afghan security forces had been killed, he said. Omar Hamid, head of Asia-Pacific country risk at IHS, told CNN that in Sangin, and before that in Kunduz, the Afghan government forces struggled to put up a fight against the Taliban without foreign backup. "The problem is where the Afghan forces have to fend for themselves," he said. "They're fine as long as they're being assisted and they're being provided air cover and things like that by Western forces. But it's when they're left to their own devices that they seem to struggle."
  • Afghan forces plan military operation against Taliban in Sangin The militant group took over the entire district except for the police chief's compound and another compound, where a battalion of the Afghan National Army is based, according to Shah Mahmood Ashna, a spokesman for the police chief in Helmand province. The police chief's compound remained under attack, and food and ammunition were in short supply, Ashna said. Some Afghan National Army reinforcements arrived via helicopter on Wednesday. Wounded forces were ferried out. Despite pleas for help, the central government in Kabul has been slow to provide support for the situation in Sangin, and it wasn't clear when any military operation would start. Afghan officials have not responded to repeated calls from CNN to explain the situation. Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah said Monday that the government was working to relieve the forces and repel the Taliban. Meanwhile Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was in transit on a previously scheduled trip to Azerbaijan. British troops deployed to Helmand A small contingent of British troops was sent to Helmand last weekend to provide support to embattled Afghan forces in the province. The troops, the British Ministry of Defence said in a statement, were "part of the UK's ongoing contribution to NATO's Resolute Support Mission [1] ," the training, advisory, assistance and counterterror mission in Afghanistan. They were deployed to Camp Shorabak, on the site of Camp Bastion, the former British Army headquarters in Afghanistan, the ministry said. "These personnel are part of a larger NATO team, which is providing advice to the Afghan National Army. They are not deployed in a combat role and will not deploy outside the camp," the statement said. December marks one year since NATO handed over security operations to the Afghans. Before that, British and American forces struggled for years to hold on to Sangin. Stuart Gordon, a Helmand expert at the Chatham House think tank, told Britain's Press Association news agency that Sangin held a special significance to the British as more than 100 British troops had been killed there. "Sangin became fairly totemic for the British because of the number of soldiers lost," he said. Opium center, strategic route A fertile region that is a key location in Afghanistan's poppy trade, Sangin lies in the south of the country in an area that has traditionally been a Taliban heartland. "It was significant because of the routes it controlled and it was a very significant part of the resourcing of the political economy of Helmand, because it is a major center of drugs processing and drugs shipping," said Gordon. It was strategically important because it linked Lashkar Gah, the Helmand capital, to districts in the north, he said. If the Taliban took control of Sangin, they would control supply routes to the districts and gain valuable influence over neighboring provinces, he said. "If Sangin falls, much of the north of Helmand is very much under Taliban control," he said. "This is probably the worst of the scenarios that the British had in 2013 and 2014." Facebook plea Mohammad Jan Rasolyaar, deputy governor of Helmand province, took an unusual step last weekend by posting an open letter to Ghani on Facebook asking for help. He warned that all of Helmand could fall to the Taliban if the President didn't take action. Rasolyaar mentioned Sangin district in his message, saying its main bazaar and the government office were under heavy attack by the Taliban. During the recent intense fighting in Sangin and Greshk districts, 90 Afghan security forces had been killed, he said. Omar Hamid, head of Asia-Pacific country risk at IHS, told CNN that in Sangin, and before that in Kunduz [2] , the Afghan government forces struggled to put up a fight against the Taliban without foreign backup. "The problem is where the Afghan forces have to fend for themselves," he said. "They're fine as long as they're being assisted and they're being provided air cover and things like that by Western forces. But it's when they're left to their own devices that they seem to struggle." CNN's Brooke Bowman contributed to this report. References ^ NATO's Resolute Support Mission ( ^ in Kunduz (
  • Afghan interpreter wounded on duty with British Army is now sleeping rough Fazel Dijilane, 23, spent eight months translating for soldiers on patrol He says he was abandoned when our troops pulled out and forced to flee Instead he is now destitute, living in a tent in Calais among other migrants | View comments Desperate: Fazel Dijilane, 23, in France An interpreter injured by a bomb while working for the UK Army in Afghanistan is now sleeping rough in the Calais Jungle. Fazel Dijilane, 23, spent eight months translating for soldiers on patrol, risking his life every day. But he says he was abandoned when our troops pulled out and was forced to flee after the Taliban accused him of being a spy. He spent more than two years travelling across Europe to try to reach the UK, where he hoped to claim asylum. But instead he is now destitute, living in a tent in Calais alongside hundreds of other migrants. His injuries mean he is in constant pain, which is worsened by cold weather. Mr Dijilane said: I am at the front door of the UK now. But it seems they don t care about the interpreters. He said he wanted to help British troops because they had left everything to fight for peace for us . But his cousin, a member of the Taliban, was killed and his family suspected Mr Dijilane of informing because of his work. He said he was waiting for the UK Government s Labour Support Unit (LSU) in Afghanistan to consider his application to be relocated to the UK when he was threatened by the Taliban and had to flee. He said: I lost everything: my mother, my sisters, my health, my country. I know many interpreters the Taliban have already killed. So I had to leave. Now, I am just asking for help. Mr Dijilane, from Logar Province, started working for the Army in January 2012 as an interpreter for the 3rd battalion Yorkshire Regiment and the Royal Marines. His father died of cancer 18 years ago, so he was the main breadwinner for his mother and six sisters. During one patrol, a remote-controlled IED went off and he was thrown backwards. He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with suspected nerve damage down one side of his body. He said he was told he did not have to keep working after he was injured, but he chose to carry on to help fight for peace, and also to support his family. In 2013, he was told his base was closing as British troops prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan. He said they told him to go to Kabul to apply to the LSU, which offers support and sometimes relocation to the UK for staff who are being intimidated. But he was threatened before he got an answer. Mr Dijilane said: They told me that after five days they would interview me but after five days I was still waiting and they said the programme has not started yet. Then they said maybe 2014, maybe 2015, but I could not wait that long, it was my life at risk. I told them I could not go home, because everybody knew I worked for the British. When I was at home, I was frightened, I could not sleep. It is 90 per cent Taliban, my uncles, my cousins all Taliban. I received a lot of calls. They told me to go somewhere and lie low or in a few days your life is finished. That is why I decided I should leave. He fled in the middle of the night in April 2013 and travelled through ten countries, arriving in Calais five months ago. He has tried several times to jump on a UK-bound lorry, but finds it too difficult because of his injuries. Mr Dijilane said he wants to come to the UK to finish his business studies. His appraisal papers from the Army say he was one of the most effective and experienced translators at the base and that they fully trust him . An Afghan interpreter who risked his life to protect British soldiers is to be kicked out of the UK and sent back to the Taliban. The 31-year-old, who fled Afghanistan after receiving death threats from the terror group, faces deportation after a judge ruled it was safe for him to go back and rejected his asylum claim. This was despite serving and former Army officers giving evidence to a tribunal saying he saved many British lives and that he could be killed if he goes back. The father of three, known as Ahmed, whose real name cannot be disclosed for his safety, said last night: It is like someone has executed me. The Taliban call me a traitor and a spy. If I go back, I know that they will find me and kill me. His case contrasts with that of a Sudanese migrant who walked 31 miles through the Channel Tunnel to Britain and was granted asylum this month. Abdul Rahman Haroun can now claim benefits and live in state-funded accommodation. Sudanese migrant Abdul Rahman Haroun, walked 31 miles through the Channel Tunnel to Britain and was granted asylum Senior military figures branded the ruling against Ahmed as ridiculous and Tory MP Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said it was utterly indefensible . The Daily Mail s Betrayal of the Brave campaign, backed by military chiefs and MPs, has called for translators to be given sanctuary. The Government only grants asylum to those with at least a year s service after December 2011 unless they can show they were threatened, in which case they can apply while still in Afghanistan under a separate intimidation scheme . Ahmed, who is sleeping on a sofa in the North, joined the Army in 2007 and served in Helmand Province for over two years. He monitored Taliban radio and warned of imminent attacks and the location of roadside bombs. He also translated when they met locals. The Taliban branded him a slave and a spy for the British and he received death threats over the telephone. In 2013 he paid people-smugglers in Kabul 3,215 to help him escape. He travelled via Turkey, Greece and Italy to Calais, and reached the UK in October that year in the back of a lorry. Two days later he put in an asylum claim, but it was rejected in October 2014. His lawyers appealed, but it was rejected again because the judge said it was safe to return. Ahmed s brother, also an ex-interpreter, was granted sanctuary on the grounds that the Taliban might kill him if he returned. Ahmed said: [The Home Office] could come for me today, tomorrow, every day I am scared. I helped protect English people but now no one is helping me. Colonel Simon Diggins, ex-military attache to the British Embassy in Kabul, said last night: I m appealing for a generosity of spirit. This man risked his life to help us. In evidence to the tribunal, he said the idea Ahmed would be safe in Kabul was as ridiculous as it is disingenuous . Lieutenant Colonel Guy Stone, of the Welsh Guards, said Ahmed was loyal and brave , adding: He kept us alive. Major David Landon, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, said he twice saw Afghan soldiers threatening Ahmed with rifles and that he would face a clear danger if he goes home. Lord West, former head of the Navy, added: It seems absolutely extraordinary when you think of the people we are allowing to stay in this country and contrast that with someone who put his life on the line to assist our soldiers. Tribunal judge Steven Alis said he had sympathy for Ahmed but added: If he has a fear of returning to ... his own village, I am satisfied it would not be unreasonable for him to relocate to a city such as Kabul where the Taliban has considerably less influence. Ahmed s lawyer submitted new evidence, but he received a letter in November saying he was expected to make arrangements to leave without delay . His lawyer is now seeking a judicial review. The Home Office said: All [asylum] claims are carefully considered ... but we expect those who are found not to need our protection to leave the UK. Our decision in this case has been upheld by an independent immigration judge. An MoD spokesman said Ahmed did not apply for asylum under the intimidation scheme. SHARE PICTURE
  • Afghan interpreter wounded on duty with the British Army is now sleeping rough in the Calais Jungle in a bid to reach the UK Fazel Dijilane, 23, spent eight months translating for soldiers on patrol He says he was abandoned when our troops pulled out and forced to flee Instead he is now destitute, living in a tent in Calais among other migrants | View comments Desperate: Fazel Dijilane, 23, in France An interpreter injured by a bomb while working for the UK Army in Afghanistan is now sleeping rough in the Calais Jungle. Fazel Dijilane, 23, spent eight months translating for soldiers on patrol, risking his life every day. But he says he was abandoned when our troops pulled out and was forced to flee after the Taliban accused him of being a spy. He spent more than two years travelling across Europe to try to reach the UK, where he hoped to claim asylum. But instead he is now destitute, living in a tent in Calais alongside hundreds of other migrants. His injuries mean he is in constant pain, which is worsened by cold weather. Mr Dijilane said: I am at the front door of the UK now. But it seems they don t care about the interpreters. He said he wanted to help British troops because they had left everything to fight for peace for us . But his cousin, a member of the Taliban, was killed and his family suspected Mr Dijilane of informing because of his work. He said he was waiting for the UK Government s Labour Support Unit (LSU) in Afghanistan to consider his application to be relocated to the UK when he was threatened by the Taliban and had to flee. He said: I lost everything: my mother, my sisters, my health, my country. I know many interpreters the Taliban have already killed. So I had to leave. Now, I am just asking for help. Mr Dijilane, from Logar Province, started working for the Army in January 2012 as an interpreter for the 3rd battalion Yorkshire Regiment and the Royal Marines. His father died of cancer 18 years ago, so he was the main breadwinner for his mother and six sisters. During one patrol, a remote-controlled IED went off and he was thrown backwards. He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with suspected nerve damage down one side of his body. He said he was told he did not have to keep working after he was injured, but he chose to carry on to help fight for peace, and also to support his family. In 2013, he was told his base was closing as British troops prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan. He said they told him to go to Kabul to apply to the LSU, which offers support and sometimes relocation to the UK for staff who are being intimidated. But he was threatened before he got an answer. Mr Dijilane said: They told me that after five days they would interview me but after five days I was still waiting and they said the programme has not started yet. Then they said maybe 2014, maybe 2015, but I could not wait that long, it was my life at risk. I told them I could not go home, because everybody knew I worked for the British. When I was at home, I was frightened, I could not sleep. It is 90 per cent Taliban, my uncles, my cousins all Taliban. I received a lot of calls. They told me to go somewhere and lie low or in a few days your life is finished. That is why I decided I should leave. He fled in the middle of the night in April 2013 and travelled through ten countries, arriving in Calais five months ago. He has tried several times to jump on a UK-bound lorry, but finds it too difficult because of his injuries. Mr Dijilane said he wants to come to the UK to finish his business studies. His appraisal papers from the Army say he was one of the most effective and experienced translators at the base and that they fully trust him . An Afghan interpreter who risked his life to protect British soldiers is to be kicked out of the UK and sent back to the Taliban. The 31-year-old, who fled Afghanistan after receiving death threats from the terror group, faces deportation after a judge ruled it was safe for him to go back and rejected his asylum claim. This was despite serving and former Army officers giving evidence to a tribunal saying he saved many British lives and that he could be killed if he goes back. The father of three, known as Ahmed, whose real name cannot be disclosed for his safety, said last night: It is like someone has executed me. The Taliban call me a traitor and a spy. If I go back, I know that they will find me and kill me. His case contrasts with that of a Sudanese migrant who walked 31 miles through the Channel Tunnel to Britain and was granted asylum this month. Abdul Rahman Haroun can now claim benefits and live in state-funded accommodation. Sudanese migrant Abdul Rahman Haroun, walked 31 miles through the Channel Tunnel to Britain and was granted asylum Senior military figures branded the ruling against Ahmed as ridiculous and Tory MP Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said it was utterly indefensible . The Daily Mail s Betrayal of the Brave campaign, backed by military chiefs and MPs, has called for translators to be given sanctuary. The Government only grants asylum to those with at least a year s service after December 2011 unless they can show they were threatened, in which case they can apply while still in Afghanistan under a separate intimidation scheme . Ahmed, who is sleeping on a sofa in the North, joined the Army in 2007 and served in Helmand Province for over two years. He monitored Taliban radio and warned of imminent attacks and the location of roadside bombs. He also translated when they met locals. The Taliban branded him a slave and a spy for the British and he received death threats over the telephone. In 2013 he paid people-smugglers in Kabul 3,215 to help him escape. He travelled via Turkey, Greece and Italy to Calais, and reached the UK in October that year in the back of a lorry. Two days later he put in an asylum claim, but it was rejected in October 2014. His lawyers appealed, but it was rejected again because the judge said it was safe to return. Ahmed s brother, also an ex-interpreter, was granted sanctuary on the grounds that the Taliban might kill him if he returned. Ahmed said: [The Home Office] could come for me today, tomorrow, every day I am scared. I helped protect English people but now no one is helping me. Colonel Simon Diggins, ex-military attache to the British Embassy in Kabul, said last night: I m appealing for a generosity of spirit. This man risked his life to help us. In evidence to the tribunal, he said the idea Ahmed would be safe in Kabul was as ridiculous as it is disingenuous . Lieutenant Colonel Guy Stone, of the Welsh Guards, said Ahmed was loyal and brave , adding: He kept us alive. Major David Landon, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, said he twice saw Afghan soldiers threatening Ahmed with rifles and that he would face a clear danger if he goes home. Lord West, former head of the Navy, added: It seems absolutely extraordinary when you think of the people we are allowing to stay in this country and contrast that with someone who put his life on the line to assist our soldiers. Tribunal judge Steven Alis said he had sympathy for Ahmed but added: If he has a fear of returning to ... his own village, I am satisfied it would not be unreasonable for him to relocate to a city such as Kabul where the Taliban has considerably less influence. Ahmed s lawyer submitted new evidence, but he received a letter in November saying he was expected to make arrangements to leave without delay . His lawyer is now seeking a judicial review. The Home Office said: All [asylum] claims are carefully considered ... but we expect those who are found not to need our protection to leave the UK. Our decision in this case has been upheld by an independent immigration judge. An MoD spokesman said Ahmed did not apply for asylum under the intimidation scheme.
  • Afghan man is awarded £16,000 compensation for being partially blinded after he was shot in the eye with a paintball gun by a British soldier during... Lance Corporal Shaun Sewell, 31, shot Mohammad Jamil during exercise Jamil was posing as an insurgent at British base in Helmand Province Lance Corporal Sewell thought Mr Jamil was posing as a suicide bomber Court martial found him guilty of negligence and demoted him to a private | 1 View comments Demoted: Lance Corporal Shaun Sewell, 31, was reduced to the rank of private for partially blinding a man on a training exercise in Afghanistan An Afghan man has been awarded 16,000 after he was partially blinded by a British soldier who shot him in the eye with a paintball gun. Mohammad Jamil was hit in the right eye by a round from Lance Corporal Shaun Sewell's assault rifle during a training exercise at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Lance Corporal Sewell, 31, said he thought Mr Jamil was a fake suicide bomber he was supposed to attack as part of the exercise. But a court martial ruled that he had been negligent in his duties and demoted him to the rank of private. Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire heard that Lance Corporal Sewell, of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, fired at Mr Jamil during the exercise on February 8, 2014. Using an SA80 assault rifle which had been modified to launch paintballs, he first hit Mr Jamil in the chest after he thought he saw 'wires' protruding from his chest from a mock suicide vest. Mr Jamil ducked after the first pellet hit him, and the second round struck him in the eye, which was damaged so badly he can now only see shades of light and dark through it. The victim, who was hired by the British Army to help with the training scenarios, was awarded $25,126 in U.S. dollars by the court - around 16,800. The award, around 60 times the average wage in Afghanistan, will be paid to Mr Jamil, who now runs an electrical shop in the country. Court martial: Lance Corporal Sewell fired two shots at Mohammad Jamil, an Afghan who was hired to take part in a training exercise. The first shot hit him in the chest, the second struck him in the right eye The court martial heard that Lance Corporal Sewell, a Jamaican who entered the Army as a Commonwealth citizen, had been told earlier that day not to shoot at anybody who wasn't wearing protective gear. Judge Jeff Blackett, sentencing, said: 'You shot and wounded Mr Jamil with the consequence leaving him partially blind for the rest of his life, but we accept you didn't attempt to injure him. 'You were in an exercise scenario and you acted as if you were being attacked by a suicide bomber. 'However, others exercised good judgement and didn't fire while you, on the other hand, took aim and fired at a person. You must have realised the risk. 'By taking this action, your performance fell well below the standards of a junior officer.' Training: British soldiers are pictured above during an unrelated training exercise at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province Assault rifle: Lance Corporal Sewell used a modified SA80 rifle which fired paintballs. Pictured above is the regular version of the rifle Sewell, a married father to a seven-year-old girl, was cleared of girevous bodily harm at the trial. In mitigation, Bob Scott said: 'From the outset of the investigation Lance Corporal Sewell readily accepted that he aimed his rifle and fired at the chest of Mr Jamil, firing two shots at him. 'He has accepted and always has done that one of those shots struck him in the eye that resulted in the loss of most of his vision in that eye. 'He's terribly sorry his actions have caused this injury. This case represents an isolated momentary lapse in an otherwise blameless and promising career.' The court also heard that there were 'critical failings' in the delivery of the series of training exercises - including the fact that some Afghan participants did not have protective gear. Captain Sparks, of Ashford, Kent, of 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, who was the senior planning officer for the series of training exercises, was cleared of negligently performing a duty. Warrant Officer Class 2 David Lovell, 35, of Newcastle and 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment, was the exercise conducting officer during the activities and was also cleared of negligence. Mr Jamil was shot on the fifth and final day of the exercise which involved 67 exercise troops and 25 locally employed civilians from Afghanistan playing the role of insurgents.
  • Afghan reinforcements 'reach besieged town' of Sangin as Britain ... Afghanistan s government has said reinforcements are arriving to help the army hold back a Taliban assault on the town of Sangin as Britain announced it was sending troops to Helmand province for the first time in 14 months because of the situation there. The announcements came after a Taliban suicide bomber killed six US troops near the Bagram military base [1] in the deadliest single attack on American troops in the country since 2013. Related: Sangin assault is sign of Taliban confidence and warning to Kabul [2] The Afghan army has been battling to maintain control of the strategically important Sangin district [3] . The UK Ministry of Defence said late on Monday that a small number of UK personnel were being sent to Helmand in an advisory role . The UK has 450 troops in Afghanistan as part of Nato s training mission. The Helmand deputy provincial governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, said military planes had dropped supplies to troops in Sangin and the army was taking the fight to the Taliban , according to the BBC [4] . The Taliban earlier boasted that they were nearly in control and said the government would soon announce its defeat in the town. Sangin district in Helmand province [5] On Tuesday a third day of fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban ended with the insurgents in control of large swaths of Sangin, according to local residents. [6] A Sangin police source said the Taliban had taken the entire centre except for the police building, which had been under attack from about 50 to 60 Taliban fighters each day. Sangin has for years been the scene of fierce fighting between the Taliban and Nato forces, and sits at the juncture in the biggest poppy-growing region in the world. It holds significance for British and US troops, with both having suffered high death tolls there. Its loss would be a psychological blow as well as providing the Taliban with an important base. The UK confirmed on Monday that the modest contingent of British military advisers sent to Helmand would support the overstretched forces. The 10 British troops, part of a 300-strong Nato force, are based at Camp Shorabak, about 50 miles (80km) from Sangin. The MoD said they would remain inside the camp providing advice and infantry training and would not be involved in combat. Security has worsened across the country as the Taliban test the mettle of Afghan security forces following the end of the international combat mission in 2014. While they do not typically hold any territory they win for more than a few hours or days, the Taliban have dented the confidence of the overstretched Afghan forces, who are fighting the insurgency almost alone for the first time. Officials have said casualties, as well as attrition and desertion, have taken a toll on numbers of government forces, while the Taliban strength seems never to diminish. With Associated Press References ^ killed six US troops near the Bagram military base ( ^ Sangin assault is sign of Taliban confidence and warning to Kabul ( ^ strategically important Sangin district ( ^ according to the BBC ( ^ Sangin district in Helmand province ( ^ Taliban (
  • Afghanistan preparing to deploy The Official British Army Blog Afghanistan preparing to deploy 26 October 2012 by britisharmy Lieutenant Tom Ball, Second-in-Command of B Squadron, Royal Dragoon Guards (RDG), is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan on operation HERRICK 17. The Royal Dragoon Guards will have two, quite separate roles during their tour. One Squadron will be working as the Warthog Group (a brigade-level asset) with the remainder working alongside Afghan police forces as part of the Police Mentoring Advisory Group (PMAG).

    Over the course of this tour, soldiers and officers will be describing their varied experiences in this blog. Here, Lt Tom Ball describes the build-up to deployment. Afghanistan here we go!

    As I ve watched Alma Lines slowly emptying over the last month or so, the anticipation of what is coming has been mounting, not only amongst my call sign, but the whole of B (The Black Horse) Squadron and indeed the Royal Dragoon Guards. Needless to say, we have been hearing back from the troops who have deployed early, but nothing will match one s own boots hitting the desert. For some, myself included, this is a first tour and so anxious excitement has been mounting throughout the whole of the Mission Specific Training (MST) package which has run from January but for the old hands, who have the legacy of Op HERRICK 12 and one or even two Op TELICs before that, it is the familiar rotation of preparation, reassurance to the tour first timers, and goodbyes.

    A Squadron, Royal Dragoon Guards, carry out casualty evacuation training during the final exercise. Morale is good I never thought I would see the day where I listened to young soldiers with wives and families tell me that they just wanted to go, but then I suppose the sooner you leave, the sooner you get back. I joined the Regiment in September 2010, at the beginning of Hybrid Foundation Training, having finished at Sandhurst the previous month and so I have been fortunate to have been put through the full two year training rotation, which includes nine long months of MST.

    One of my soldiers arrived from basic training last week, yet he too will soon be qualified to deploy and will be doing so with myself and the main body. MST, the long tailed beast that it is, has entailed everything from exercises in Thetford and Salisbury plain to obtaining too numerous to count weapon and vehicle qualifications and driving around the countryside of North Yorkshire on patrol with the NYPD (North Yorkshire Police Department!). Families and friends get up close and personal with a Challenger II main battle tank on the Dettingen weekend in June.

    Basic survival in Afghanistan One of the memorable occasions that sticks in my mind during this training was the celebration at Families Day on the Dettingen weekend in June. Not only was this a chance to celebrate the British-German allied victory against France in 1743, in which our antecedent regiments were instrumental, but it was also an opportunity for families of members of the Regiment to gather in a casual environment and enjoy themselves on the various stands, looking at vehicles, weapons and enjoying a few drinks, games and rides. It was a rare opportunity to meet the soldiers families and friends, and was as important to me as any of the MST exercises, as it put into context all of the soldiers that I have the pleasure of working with on a daily basis.

    These training events have given us the chance not only to hone the necessary skills and drills for basic survival in Afghanistan, but allow one to build relationships with the other units which will be on the ground with us. As a Police Advisory Team (PAT) you are required to visit multiple Afghan police checkpoints daily and spend a lot of time moving from one to the next, and it is only with a good relationship with the other troops on the ground that this can safely be achieved. I can confidently say that I am looking forward to working closely with 40 Commando Royal Marines and Delhi Company, 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles.

    Finally, am I nervous? Naturally the answer is yes , but this is heavily outweighed by the fact that I am about to deploy on a trip that I have been wanting to go on ever since I started craving to wear green in about 2000. I am excited and I feel ready.

    I am sure it will be good.

    Let s just see.

  • Afghanistan – Pride & Prejudice – Part X | Salaam Blogs 27th October 2015 reporting statements by a former RAF pilot on the Kunduz hospital bombing: It has been my firm opinion from the very beginning that Kunduz hospital was indeed deliberately targeted. The fact that the hospital was targeted on five separate occasions with unerring accuracy simply underlines how deliberate this attack was. The Gunship itself is a revered weapon on the battlefield, manned by elite crews who are very highly trained I do not accept that the target could have been mistakenly targeted. The crew and command centre would have been fully aware they were attacking a hospital. I am struggling to comprehend in what circumstance I would blindly follow an order to attack a fully manned civilian hospital. If the description provided by MSF s director-general is accurate I can say without hesitancy that I would have refused such an order for it is an obvious war crime. click here. Then and now what the experts said at the outset of this disastrous venture that has led to such loss of blood and treasure: that Afghanistan met the just war criteria! General Guthrie Orientals preferred treachery and deceit as the best ways to overcome an enemy! Sir John Keegan, military historian that a limited and carefully conducted war to bring about a change of regime in Afghanistan was morally obligatory! Veteran Catholic economist donning Neo-Con plummage, Michael Novak the military plan [Afghanistan] remains coherent and achievable . Professor Michael Clarke of RUSI in 2010 [1] ; and in October 2014: [British forces s efforts] not a strategic campaign ! 5th October 2015 Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said it is disgusted by Afghan government statements justifying an air strike on its hospital in Kunduz, calling it an admission of a war crime . The charity blames US-led Nato forces for Saturday s attack which killed at least 22 people, including MSF staff. The US is investigating the incident.Afghan government forces have regained control of much of Kunduz from Taliban fighters who overran the strategic northern city last week. BBC Report, click here. [2] 22nd September 2015 BBC reports, The senior Nato commander in Afghanistan has denied reports that the Pentagon ordered US troops to overlook the sexual abuse of young boys by Afghan police and militias. Gen John Campbell said in a statement that he had served multiple tours in Afghanistan and no such policy existed. The allegations emerged in the New York Times on Sunday.The paper based its report on accounts from numerous soldiers and the father of a marine who was killed in 2012. click here. [3] 18th September 2015 Sam Greenhill, Richard Pendlebury And Andy Dolan in The Daily Mail, Military chiefs tried to hide the blunders, refusing to publish the damning 50-page report and releasing only the executive summary with key sections blotted out by the censor s black pen. But the Mail s uncensored version reveals that top brass confessed that the Marines of 42 Commando were pushed to be overly aggressive , and blamed officers for failing to spot the mental strain and fatigue being suffered by their men.The MoD had censored the admission of command failings in Helmand. In public, it solely blamed Sgt Blackman for his actions on the day of the shooting .The insurgent was found dying in a field, and was shot by Blackman who told the court he believed the man was already dead in a moment of madness blamed on the acute stresses of the tour. click here. [4] 18th August 2015 Vanessa Gezari in the New York Times, [ ] a United States Army social-science program called the Human Terrain System [ ] expanded quickly as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan foundered and American policy makers cast about for novel approaches. The idea was to send teams of social scientists, including anthropologists, to gather ethnographic, sociocultural and economic information and advise front-line soldiers on a range of delicate topics, from the mechanics of forging tribal alliances to how to respond to local offers of hospitality.[ ] By the time the Human Terrain System was shut down in September, the program had cost American taxpayers more than $700 million and was bereft of purpose; with the war in Iraq purportedly over and deployments to Afghanistan dwindling quickly, it had run out of soldiers to advise. The program isn t entirely gone; a five-person remnant, including three anthropologists, continues at Fort Leavenworth. click here. [5] 10th May 2015 George Arney in the Independent , reviewing Christana Lamb s A Lament for Afghanistan : who could guess that John Reid, the Defence Secretary who sent British troops into Helmand in 2006, was unable, when asked, to locate Afghanistan on a map? Anyone visiting Kabul in recent years, as I have, quickly becomes aware of the huge disconnect between the international community and its aspirations for Afghanistan, and the Afghan people themselves. Lamb s favourite instances of the resultant absurdities include $3m spent on patrol boats for a country with no coastline. She also tells the tale of a meeting of Afghan elders, addressed by a woman from the British development agency Dfid, who began by saying we respect your culture , and then started lecturing them on gender rights. The elders, whose own women were kept in purdah, did not know where to look, says Lamb. Lamb describes the West s involvement in Afghanistan as a defeat , and believes that the world is far more dangerous than it was before 9/11, at least partly because of the US-led response. click here. [6] 16th April 2015 Robert Fox in the Evening Standard: Just over a year ago the Camp Bastion airbase in the Helmand desert was the third- or fourth-busiest British airport in the world. Then, overnight on October 27 last year, the British packed up and went, in a huge air convoy, beating a retreat from 13 years of inconclusive warfare and nation-building. It had cost 453 British soldiers killed in action, huge public expenditure, including billions going directly or indirectly to corrupt politicians, warlords and even the Taliban .neither the British nor the Americans really seemed to know what kind of war, or wars, they were fighting, and to what achievable goal. The persistent message was that were making the Western world safe from al-Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda was soon gone from Afghanistan, however. The Americans then became distracted by Iraq, always the main aim of the Bush neo-Cons, and the British followed. In 2006 it changed again and the British got into the business of nation-building, bringing governance to the drug-producing province of Helmand and fighting the Taliban, even though none of this was part of the original plan. Towards the end of the book, one of the UK s most experienced commanders, now head of the Army, General Nick Carter, is quoted as saying: When we went into Helmand we didn t understand the politics on the ground, what was crime and insurgency, the tribal dynamics: we were too ambitious. click here [7] . 18 February 2015 General Nicholas Carter speaking at Chatham House, as reported by the Guardian: The folly of British decision-makers who committed the country to the conflict in Afghanistan was trying to change the world without understanding it, the head of the British army has said. The lesson from Afghanistan was that you have to have insight and understanding before you arrive at a destination, General Sir Nicholas Carter added, echoing previous remarks made by the chief of defence staff, General Sir Nick Houghton. Though Carter did not name names or any particular group or individuals, a growing number of mainly former senior military figures have criticised ministers in Tony Blair s Labour government for ignoring the politics, economics, tribes and culture of Afghanistan, and the consequences of sending thousands of troops there from 2006, as well as the invasion of Iraq in 2003 click here [8] 28 December 2014 Spiegel reportage: Combat operations in Afghanistan may be coming to an end, but a look at secret NATO documents reveals that the US and the UK were far less scrupulous in choosing targets for killing than previously believed. Drug dealers were also on the lists. ..Different rules apply in war than in fighting crime in times of peace. But for years the West tied its campaign in Afghanistan to the promise that it was fighting for different values there. A democracy that kills its enemies on the basis of nothing but suspicion squanders its claim to moral superiority, making itself complicit instead. click here [9] 28 December 2014 Will Hutton in the Observer: It is part of Britain s national self-image that we win wars. The army may be smaller than it was, but it remains the world s best. Losing is impossible to conceive. Yet in Afghanistan, Britain has just suffered a humiliating defeat, the worst in more than half a century and, arguably, ranking with the worst in modern times Frank Ledwidge in his passionate and revelatory book Investment in Blood quotes former vice chief of staff of the US army General Jack Keane speaking at a conference at Sandhurst in late 2013 about the twin debacles of Basra and Helmand: Gentleman, you let us down; you let us down badly. click here [10] 18 December 2014 James Meek in the London Review of Books: The British army is back in Warminster and its other bases around the country. Its eight-year venture in southern Afghanistan is over. The extent of the military and political catastrophe it represents is hard to overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began, and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money. How bad was it? In a way it was worse than a defeat, because to be defeated, an army and its masters must understand the nature of the conflict they are fighting. Britain never did understand, and now we would rather not think about it . The consequences of the Afghan war will linger. Neither the British in particular nor Nato in general kept count, but Ledwidge estimates British troops alone were responsible for the deaths of at least five hundred Afghan civilians and the injury of thousands more. Tens of thousands fled their homes. Of all the thousands of civilians and combatants, Ledwidge writes, not a single al-Qaida operative or international terrorist who could conceivably have threatened the United Kingdom is recorded as having been killed by Nato forces in Helmand. Since 2001, 453 British forces personnel have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 2600 wounded; 247 British soldiers have had limbs amputated (the Ministry of Defence refuses to categorise the severity of these amputations on the grounds that releasing the information would help the enemy ). Unknown numbers have psychological injuries. Ledwidge estimates the cost of the British military s bloodshed and psychological trauma the amount spent on the ongoing treatment of damaged veterans, compensation under the recently introduced Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), and an actuarial estimate of the financial value of human life at 3.8 billion. click here [11] . 20 November 2014 Joe Dyke for IRIN Asia: Slowly but surely, NGOs and UN bodies are admitting it publicly they are dealing with the Taliban again. While such deals have been developing in private for several years, NGOs have been hesitant to discuss their relations with the Afghan Islamist group because of political pressure and counter terrorism legislation. Yet as foreign military forces prepare to complete their withdrawal from combat operations at the end of the year and as it becomes increasingly clear that large swathes of territory will remain under Taliban control, aid organizations have felt both compelled and empowered to talk to them. Mark Bowden, the UN Secretary-General s deputy special representative for Afghanistan and the humanitarian coordinator for the country, told IRIN that in the past year negotiations with the Taliban have advanced significantly. click here [12] . 28 October 2014 The Guardian editorial: the evidence suggests that [British] army officers, in particular, were so keen to demonstrate their relevance and usefulness that they took on tasks they knew might prove beyond their capacity, casting aside their normal caution. They chose to do so, it may be hazarded, for a number of reasons One was vanity, to which armies are far from immune A second reason was the attitude of the armed forces to the Americans, which mingled an intense desire to be useful to them with a not very well concealed rivalry Another factor was a romanticised view of history. The British army saw itself as an army with a memory. But just because British soldiers had many times before been in Afghanistan, or had battled the Turks at Kut in Iraq, did not mean that any of the supposed expertise of those days had magically been transferred down the generations to the officers and men of today. click here. [13] Michael Clarke of RUSI: the British took responsibility for Helmand in 2006. It was a move dictated as much by our relations with the US as by our interest in south Asian security. 26 October 2014 After more than a decade of warfare, the Taliban still control huge swaths of the countryside and have mounted deadly attacks in Kabul One of the biggest failures for the UK is that it did not stem the cultivation of poppies for heroin production. The UK was given specific responsibility for the eradication or at least reduction of the poppy crops and failed spectacularly. The Taliban too have shown little sign of having been seriously damaged over the past 13 years. They have been mounting sustained attacks against the Afghan army in places in Helmand such as Sangin, where the British too sustained heavy casualties. Ewan MacAskill in the Guardian. [14] 23 October 2014 In the summer of 2006, some British forces in Afghanistan found themselves effectively stranded in a number of outposts in the north of Helmand province. Overstretched, under constant fire and heavily dependent on helicopters, soldiers ran dangerously low on food, water and ammunition. The commander of the British forces in Helmand in 2006, Brig Ed Butler, said: We were underprepared, we were under-resourced, and most importantly, we didn t have a clear and achievable strategy to deliver success. BBC reportage. [15] 22 October 2014 Rory Stewart MP reviewing No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by by Anand Gopal in the New York Times: Gopal s book, however, should at least make us question this fashion of state-building under fire. What has actually been the result of Afghanistan s $1 trillion attempt to create security, economic development, and governance ? What did creating security mean in Khas Uruzgan where, Gopal explains, all the traditional leaders had been killed and where the only counterbalance to the Taliban was an illegal militia? In truth, international statements about establishing the rule of law, governance, and security became simply ways of saying that Afghanistan was unjust, corrupt, and violent. Transparent, predictable, and accountable financial practices were not a solution to corruption; they were simply a description of what was lacking. But policymakers never realized how far from the mark they were. This is partly because most of them were unaware of even a fraction of the reality described in Gopal s book. November 2014 [16] 30th September 2014 The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday. Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year s end, and permits their stay until the end of 2024 and beyond. Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian [17] 3rd June 2014 Sgt Bergdahl had joined the army when it was short of soldiers to send to Afghanistan as part of the surge in the number of combat brigades there. With too few men, it had started to issue waivers to recruits facing felony charges or drugs problems who previously would have been turned down for the army. For Sgt Bergdahl, a crack shot, well-educated and with a romantic vision of what professional soldiering involved, disillusionment set in fast Sgt Bergdahl had taken seriously the counter-insurgency strategy supposedly aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Afghans. Instead, he found that US soldiers regarded Afghans with aggressive contempt: I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live. Patrick Cockburn in the Independent. [18] 6th May 2014 Lindsey German, drawing lessons from Afghanistan to warn against other western interventions: Women s rights were a major justification for the Afghanistan war, launched in 2001, when Cherie Blair and Laura Bush supported their husbands war as a means of liberating Afghan women. Today, with millions displaced and tens of thousands dead, Afghanistan remains one of the worst countries on earth for women to live, with forced marriage, child marriage, rape and other atrocities still occurring widely. The Guardian, 6 May 2014 [19] 29th April 2014 Anand Gopal: As I report in my new book, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes , the U.S. would prosecute that war even though there was no enemy to fight. To understand how America s battle in Afghanistan went so wrong for so long, a (hidden) history lesson is in order. In those early years after 2001, driven by the id e fixe that the world was rigidly divided into terrorist and non-terrorist camps, Washington allied with Afghan warlords and strongmen. Their enemies became ours, and through faulty intelligence, their feuds became repackaged as counterterrorism. The story of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who turned from America s potential ally into its greatest foe, is the paradigmatic case of how the war on terror created the very enemies it sought to eradicate. Tomgram [20] [21] 23rd April 2014 : RUSI s postmortem of Britain s military operations since 1991: . At the time of writing, 782 British servicemen and women had died on these operations.Every unhappy era is unhappy in its own way there has been a recent flowering of analysis on the use of British military power and its outcomes, particularly with a growing perception of defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan .the UK failed strategically and operationally in two of the most important interventions of the decade Wars in Peace [22] 12th April 2014 : Rory Stewart argues that the ability to recognise failure, and then to reform, is a defining mark of a serious country . Over the past seven years, the UK has suffered two conspicuous military setbacks. The first came in Basra in 2007, where after four years of post-Saddam occupation our troops withdrew to the airbase and left the city in the hands of a sectarian militia, the Mehdi Army Now, in Helmand, the job is left undone in large part because no one defined the job in the first place. As for the casus belli, let s shelve the al-Qa ida argument (not a major threat there anyway) and the delusion that the Taliban had a single head to be struck off .Afghan civilian fatalities now probably exceed 15,000 since December 2001, when ISAF troops began operations under UN resolution 1386. In Helmand, Nato forces may have been responsible for more than 540, a number in excess of the deaths they have suffered. The British have paid compensation for 249. Those figures come not from some frothing peacenik but from the remarkable Frank Ledwidge an intelligence officer with previous stints in Kosovo and Iraq, justice adviser in Helmand, and the military analyst who has emerged as the dauntless Cassandra of this brace of ill-starred conflicts. He calculates that the Afghan adventure, which lasted for as long as two Great Wars, will cost Britain 40bn enough to fund a working lifetime for 1,000 nurses. In the meantime, to those 448 grieving families in Britain we can add several hundred amputees, thousands more with life-changing injuries and the immeasurable suffering of post-traumatic stress victims. The failure is in no way theirs. Boyd Tonkin in the Independent, April 11 2014 [23] 16th March 2014 : Britain has now reached a major milestone in the drawdown from Afghanistan as it works towards withdrawing all combat troops by the end of the year.A total of 448 UK forces personnel have died in the country since the conflict began in 2001 and more than 5,000 still remain there Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: The handover and closure of our bases across Helmand underlines the progress UK Forces have made to increase security and stability across the province but also to build up the capability of the Afghan forces who will carry that work forward. Those service personnel who have served in Lashkar Gah and Lashkar Gah Durai and at MOB Price as part of successive UK brigades have made a huge contribution to the campaign which has safeguarded our national security at home. Daily Mail, 16 March 2014 [24] Vali Nasr: The US is leaving Afghanistan with neither victory not a political settlement .When America decided to leave the region, it didn t need Pakistan. Afghanistan is fading from the headlines and securing South-Asia is not on the frontburner of US foreign policy as it was in 2009 unless Karzai creates a huge spectacle. Afghanistan is on page 15 of a newspaper. We are no longer attached with a live crisis that keeps the Secretary of State up at night., 21 Feb 2014 [25] describing the Taliban as brothers and America as rivals , Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said: The mission, in terms of bringing security, has not been successful, particularly in Helmand. 2 Feb 2014 [26] Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, Nato in Afghanistan, with Britain in a lead role, was a mercenary army dragooned by the US into helping avenge the security lapse of 9/11. It was a war of choice that has killed tens of thousands of people, while not increasing Britain s security one jot. It was more a 19th-century gesture, fought for little other reason than to show the muscle of western military might when Nato had little else to do. 17 Jan 2014 [27] Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, After 12 years, 390bn, and countless dead, we leave poverty, fraud and the Taliban in Afghanistan The Taliban has not been crushed, operates in all parts of the country and, in provinces like Helmand, is poised to take over as US and British troops depart. Even with the backing of foreign troops, Afghan government control often ends a couple of kilometres outside the district capital. The extra 30,000 US troops sent as part of the surge in US troop numbers in 2010-11, which brought their total to 101,000 at peak deployment, have had little long-term impact. 12 Jan 2014 [28] Anatol Lieven in the New York Review of Books: after the initial debacle of the dreadfully-planned British intervention in Helmand starting in 2006, the US and British military effort there was not the exercise in plowing the sea that has sometimes been portrayed. To the contrary, during the first two years of the surge, the Taliban were in fact driven back a long way, their attacks greatly diminished, and the extent of their control even in their former heartlands significantly reduced. Losses to US and British forces were severe, but the campaign did achieve its immediate objectives . And if you want to move from science fiction to Alice in Wonderland , ask yourself this: how has it been possible to bring all that stuff in by road through areas of Pakistan controlled largely by the Pakistani Taliban, allied to the Afghan Taliban areas from which Pakistani Taliban have launched innumerable attacks on Pakistani forces? Why have there been so few attacks, and those few (to judge by circumstantial evidence) only when the Pakistani military wants to send a message to Washington? The answer appears to be that the Taliban tax these NATO convoys as they tax all other trade in the region: Obtaining tax revenues from mineral water, fruit juice, hamburgers, and other NATO necessities that do them no harm at all is, it turns out, far more advantageous than interrupting our supply routes. In other words, all these years NATO has actually been subsidizing the Taliban s war effort. NYRB, 7 January 2014 [29] John Hilary of War on Want, writing to the Guardian [30] : Defence secretary Philip Hammond s claim that British drones have killed only four civilians to date is meaningless, since his government has repeatedly stated that it does not keep any count of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. His assertion that drone strikes against Taliban fighters are somehow designed to protect British civilians stretches credibility even further. Owen Bowcott in the Guardian [31] , There is a delay of up to 40 seconds between the moment an RAF pilot sitting in Lincolnshire presses the button to release a Reaper s Hellfire missile and its impact on the ground in Helmand 4,500 miles away RAF Waddington has been the focus of anti-drone protests. Six people, included two priests, were found guilty of causing criminal damage earlier this year after cutting the fence and breaking in. Afghanistan met General Guthrie s just war criteria! Sir John Keegan , military historian, thought orientals preferred treachery and deceit as the best ways to overcome an enemy! Veteran Catholic economist donning Neo-Con plumage, Michael Novak , rationalised that a limited and carefully conducted war to bring about a change of regime in Afghanistan was morally obligatory. AlJazeera on Cameron s Mission Accomplished statement on Afghanistan (17 December): Opposition Labour politician Paul Flynn, a prominent critic of the Afghan war, attacked Cameron, highlighting the number of British soldiers killed or injured and the financial costs. Mission Accomplished': 446 dead, 2,000 grievously injured, uncounted Afghan dead, 40 billion pounds UK cost, crook Karzai rules, drugs rampant, he said on Twitter. Labour s defence spokesman, Vernon Coaker MP, said it was too soon to suggest the Afghan mission was over when British soldiers were still fighting the Taliban. AlJazeera, [32] 18 December 2013 Jon Boone in the Guardian: .Although the amount of protection money that insurgents (Taliban) receive from security companies employed to guard Nato supply convoys has fallen as foreign forces close bases, the report says 2014 is expected to be a bumper year as the alliance ships huge amounts of equipment out of the country. [ The Guardian, 18 December 2013 [33] ] Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent: David Cameron didn t get too excited about the execution but did vigorously defend the incredible spirit, courage and history of the Royal Marines . Not all our soldiers are heroes . That s just cant and spin. On Friday, Marine A was found guilty [34] of murdering a wounded prisoner, a verdict which shows there is still some honour left in the armed forces. The top brass knows such base acts are exploited by recruiters to terrorism. Lord Guthrie, former army Chief of Staff, wants Marine A severely punished. It s a good call, but still propaganda. The truth is that Western armies and governments know they are not answerable to any overseer. They do what they damn well please .[ Independent on Sunday, 10 Nov 2013 [35] ] 24th October 2013 A Royal Marine sergeant was caught on camera executing a severely injured Taliban prisoner before telling his comrades: I ve just broken the Geneva Convention, a court martial heard yesterday. As the insurgent lay stricken with horrendous wounds from a helicopter strike, the 37-year-old commando pointed his 9mm pistol at the man s chest and pulled the trigger.Footage of the alleged cold-blooded killing in an Afghan cornfield was captured in graphic video inadvertently filmed by one of the Marines on a helmet-mounted camera. Ian Drury in the Daily Mail [36] 8th October 2013 Karzai said: The United States and Nato have not respected our sovereignty. Whenever they find it suitable to them, they have acted against it. This has been a serious point of contention between us and that is why we are taking issue of the BSA strenuously in the negotiations right now, Karzai said. They commit their violations against our sovereignty and conduct raids against our people, air raids and other attacks in the name of the fight on terrorism and in the name of the resolutions of the United Nations. This is against our wishes and repeatedly against our wishes, Karzai said, using some of his harshest language to date against the US-led military coalition. [37] 4th October 2013 The storming of Camp Bastion, the headquarters of British forces in Afghanistan, was, by any yardstick, a success and a great propaganda coup for the Taliban. Two US Marines were killed, adding to the large number of Western forces who had lost their lives, but more significantly for the auditing of the war, almost an entire squadron of the US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jets was destroyed at a cost of $200m the largest single loss of aircraft in the current Afghan conflict. [38] 10th September 2013 Afghan authorities on Sunday accused NATO forces of killing 16 civilians, including four children, in a drone missile strike in the country s Kunar province, which borders Pakistan. [39] 10th July 2013 Richard Norton Taylor in the Guardian: By arriving with insufficient force, aligning themselves with local corrupt power-holders, relying on firepower to keep insurgents at bay and targeting the poppy crop, the British made matters worse. Far from securing Helmand, British forces alienated the population, mobilised local armed resistance and drew in foreign fighters seeking jihad. They [Theo Farrell and Antonio Giustozzi] describe British troops as blindly ignorant of the local politics underpinning [the insurgency] . [40] 4th July 2013 Sixteen people have been killed in north-west Pakistan in one of the most lethal CIA drone strikes for many months, according to a government official. [41] 18th June 2013 Dan Roberts and Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian: The US is to open direct talks with Taliban leaders within days, it was revealed on Tuesday, after Washington agreed to drop a series of preconditions that have previously held back negotiations over the future of Afghanistan. [42] 30th May 2013 Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian: Ledwidge, who has also been a civilian adviser to the British government in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, says Helmand is no more stable now than when thousands of British troops were deployed there in 2006. Opium production that fell under the Taliban, is increasing, fuelling corruption and the coffers of warlords. [43] 30th May 2013 Haroon Siddique, Andrew Sparrow and Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian: Philip Hammond said that around 90 prisoners had been held at Camp Bastion for up to a year because Britain was concerned that they might be mistreated in Afghan custody. hil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who is acting for eight of the men, said the government had chosen not to train the Afghan authorities to treat people lawfully and humanely. This is a secret facility that has been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they have kept secret, that parliament doesn t know about, that courts previously, when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan, have never been told about completely off the radar, he told the BBC. It is reminiscent of the public s awakening that there was a Guant namo Bay. And people will be wondering if these detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international law. [44] 29th May 2013 Seamus Milne in the Guardian: ..Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven t been more terror attacks . [45] 3rd May 2013 Mark Steel in the Independent: At the time of the initial invasion in 2001, Tony Blair insisted that one of the reasons for occupying Afghanistan was because the Taliban are causing the deaths of young British people who buy their drugs on the streets . But clearly some people misunderstood what Blair meant. They were saying that the Afghan heroin trade wasn t fulfilling its potential, and with the right management they could treble it . [46] 2nd May 2012 Con Cohglin in the Evening Standard: With the deaths of another three British soldiers in Afghanistan this week, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the conclusions the young Winston Churchill reached about the futility of waging war there. Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Militarily it is an open question, and politically it is a blunder. his summary of the British effort in the 19th century eerily echoes the sentiments many British soldiers must now feel as they seek to wind down operations in Afghanistan [47] 29th April 2013 John Quelly in Confirming what many policy experts have known for some time, a New York Times headline in Monday s print edition describes how the most corrupting influence within the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai is not innate cronyism or tribal favoritism, but rather the suitcases full of US cash delivered to the Presidential Palace over the last decade by the CIA. [48] 27th April 2013 Fatima Manji, Channel 4: The RAF has begun piloting drones used in Afghanistan from UK soil for the first time. This is by no means the UK s first foray into the world of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in warfare, but in the past the vehicles have been piloted offshore Chris Nineham, vice-chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, claimed drones were being used to continue the deeply unpopular war on terror with no public scrutiny. [49] 16th April 2013 Rob Evans in the Guardian: A British soldier is under investigation for murder after four Afghans aged 12 to 18 were shot dead at close range in the head and neck in a family home, it has emerged. [50] 12th April 2013 Lucy Morgan Edwards in the Guardian: The facts on the ground include the militias the west has set up in the countryside in a desperate attempt to shore up the barely legitimate Karzai regime. Using the maxim My enemy s enemy is my friend , the US military took sides in a continuing civil war and co-opted the strongmen of the Northern Alliance. In theory, this was to reduce the need for American boots on the ground . They were unpopular, having committed war crimes during the civil war. But instead of sidelining them, the US and UK re-empowered them with cash and weapons and made them the allies sole reference points [51] 11th April 2013 Richard Norton-Taylor and Sam Jones in the Guardian: [Defence Secretary] Hammond told BBC Radio 4 s Today programme that the UK had intervened in Afghanistan to protect its national security and had never intended to stay for a protracted period. Afghanistan is an incredibly complex society; a multiethnic society that was very fragmented before we started, he said. Our ability to influence outcomes is very limited Former British ambassadors to Afghanistan told the Commons committee that Nato s understanding of the Taliban was limited, that corruption and abuse of power was intrinsic in Afghan society and that the country s economy depended heavily on the drugs trade. [52] 7th April 2013 Sunday Telegraph, citing AP: A Nato air strike killed 11 children and a woman during heavy fighting in a mountainous part of eastern Afghanistan in an incident that has incensed local officials [53] 4th April 2013 BBC: A Nato air strike in Afghanistan has killed four policemen and a civilian, officials say. The air strike took place in the eastern Ghazni province, where Nato planes had been called in for support. A spokesman for the provincial governor told the BBC the policemen were in civilian clothes and may have been mistaken for Taliban fighters. [54] 2nd April 2013 Emma Graham-Harrrison & Julian Borger: But as western generals and politicians who once dreamed of crushing the Taliban militarily have reconciled themselves to the idea of negotiating instead, the insurgents themselves have remained more elusive, attacking top government negotiators and refusing to publicly embrace talks. [55] 31st March 2013 Agencies report in the Guardian: A Nato helicopter has reportedly killed two children during an attack on Taliban fighters.The helicopter opened fire as it supported Afghan soldiers near the town of Ghazni in south-east Afghanistan, despite president Hamid Karzai forbidding troops to call for foreign air support. [56] 25th March 2013 The Guardian reports: he US secretary of state, John Kerry, has flown into Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to see Hamid Karzai amid concerns that the Afghan president may be jeopardising progress in the war against extremism with anti-American rhetoric. [57] 11th March 2013 AP in NYT: Karzai ordered U.S. special operations forces to leave Wardak province, just outside the Afghan capital, because of allegations that Afghans working with the U.S. commandos were involved in abusive behaviour. Karzai gave them two weeks to leave, and the deadline expired Sunday. On Sunday, Karzai accused U.S. forces of working with the Taliban to stage two suicide bombings over the weekend during the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. In a speech, Karzai said the Americans want to scare Afghans into allowing them to stay. [58] 17th Feb 2013 I will issue a decree [on Sunday] that no Afghan security forces, in any circumstances can ask for the foreigners planes for carrying out operations on our homes and villages, Mr Karzai said in a speech at the Afghan National Military Academy in Kabul Most of the 10 civilians killed in the 13 February air strike on Kunar were women and children. [59] 16th Jan 2013 Michael Biesecker, AP: A U.S. Marine has pleaded guilty to the bulk of the charges against him for urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and then posing for photos with the corpses. [60] 14th Jan 2013 Nick Hopkins in the Guardian: Afghanistan now has two years to run and the political will for the campaign has clearly departed stage left. The issue for the military of course is legacy, residual footprint, getting out with good grace and not being seen to have cut and run, to have sacrificed such blood and treasure to no avail. [61] 13th Jan 2013 Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: Since the drone war began in earnest in 2008, there has been no decline in Taliban or al-Qaida performance attributable to it. Any let-up in recruitment is merely awaiting Nato s departure. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has called the attacks in no way justifiable . The Pakistan government, at whose territory they are increasingly directed, has withdrawn all permission . [62] 2nd Jan 2013 Julian Borger in the Guardian: Afghan attempts to impose stricter vetting of recruits has had mixed results. Brigadier Stuart Skeates, the British deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Helmand, believes the problem and its solution may lie deeper. Part of the reason why we have had a number of insider attacks, as they re called, is because the soldiers and policemen are susceptible to Taliban messaging; maybe not directly, but they hear stuff on the radio, on the TV, he said. They hear anecdotes from home. They are susceptible to local mullahs, both at home and here, and are in many cases very suggestible. [63] ======================================= Earlier parts of this dossier [64] [65] [66] [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] (6723) References ^ Professor Michael Clarke of RUSI in 2010 ( ^ BBC Report, click here. ( ^ click here. ( ^ click here. ( ^ click here. ( ^ click here. ( ^ click here ( ^ click here ( ^ click here ( ^ click here ( ^ click here ( ^ click here ( ^ click here. ( ^ Ewan MacAskill in the Guardian. ( ^ BBC reportage. ( ^ November 2014 ( ^ Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian ( ^ Sgt Bergdahl had taken seriously the counter-insurgency strategy supposedly aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Afghans. Instead, he found that US soldiers regarded Afghans with aggressive contempt: I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live. ( ^ The Guardian, 6 May 2014 ( ^ No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes ( ^ Tomgram ( ^ Wars in Peace ( ^ Boyd Tonkin in the Independent, April 11 2014 ( ^ Daily Mail, 16 March 2014 ( ^, 21 Feb 2014 ( ^ 2 Feb 2014 ( ^ 17 Jan 2014 ( ^ 12 Jan 2014 ( ^ NYRB, 7 January 2014 ( ^ Guardian ( ^ Guardian ( ^ AlJazeera ( ^ The Guardian, 18 December 2013 ( ^ found guilty ( ^ Independent on Sunday, 10 Nov 2013 ( ^ Ian Drury in the Daily Mail ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ ( ^ (
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  • all about me: 2nd Cavalry Regiment (United States)The 2nd Cavalry Regiment, also known as the 2nd Dragoons, is an active Stryker infantry and cavalry regiment of the United States Army. The Second Dragoons was a component of VII Corps until September 2013, and remains a unit of the United States Army Europe, with its garrison at the Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany. It can trace its lineage back to the early part of the 19th century. In addition to its two current names, former names are 2nd Riflemen, 2nd Constabulary Regiment, 2nd Armored Cavalry, and 2nd Stryker Cavalry. Previous names and dates: The regiment has previously been known as the 2nd Regiment of Dragoons (May 1836 March 1843, April 1844 August 1861); 2nd Regiment of Riflemen (March 1843 April 1844); 2nd US Cavalry Regiment (August 1861 July 1942); 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) (January 1943 December 1943); 2nd Cavalry Group (Mechanized) (December 1943 July 1946); 2nd Constabulary Regiment (July 1946 November 1948); 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (November 1948 July 1992); 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (Light) (July 1992 June 2006); 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (June 2006 July 2011) and most recently 2nd Cavalry Regiment (July 2011 present). History- Between 1808 and 1815: In 1808, there was one regiment of light dragoons and during the War of 1812 another regiment was raised. Units of both regiments of dragoons served in engagements at the Mississineway River; the Battle of Lundy's Lane; Fort Erie and the Siege of Fort Meigs. These two regiments were consolidated on 30 March 1814 into the Regiment of Light Dragoons but this new unit was dissolved on 15 June 1815. Early organization: The precursor organization was originally established by President Andrew Jackson on 23 May 1836, as the Second Regiment of Dragoons of the US Army. Two squadrons were originally raised, one at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and one in Florida to combat the Seminole Indians. It saw its first combat during the Seminole Wars, then served on the Texas frontier under Colonel David Twiggs. The regiment fought in the Mexican-American War, the early frontier Indian Wars, Bleeding Kansas, and the Utah War. Under an act of Congress dated 23 August 1842 the regiment was re-designated as the Regiment of Riflemen effective 4 March 1843. This act was repealed on 4 April 1844 and the regiment reverted to its previous designation. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment was stationed in Waterloo, Iowa. Civil War: At the onset of the Civil War in 1861, it was recalled to the Eastern theater and redesignated in August of that year as the Second Cavalry. For much of the war, it was a key part of either the "Reserve Brigade" or the "Regular Brigade" of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac and served in numerous campaigns and battles. During the Battle of Gettysburg, the 2nd US Cavalry served under Wesley Merritt and engaged the Confederates south of Gettysburg on the third day. Like the other early mounted units, many members of the Second Cavalry went on to higher ranks and command positions on both sides during the war. Spanish American War, World War I and World War II: During the Spanish American War, the 2nd Cavalry deployed to Cuba, joining Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, fighting at El Canay, San Juan Hill, Aquadores, and Santiago. The regiment remained in Cuba on pacification duty for the next three years. From Cuba, the regiment deployed to the Philippines, participating in the Cavite Campaign in 1899 as well as fighting the Moro in 1911 and 1912. During World War I, the regiment deployed again, this time under "Black Jack" Pershing in Europe, participating in several battles, including the Aisne-Marne Offensive. Troops B, D, F and H became the last elements of the regiment to ever engage the enemy as mounted horse cavalry. During World War II, the regiment (this time under the designation "2nd Cavalry Group, Mechanized") landed in France in July 1944, becoming part of General Patton's Third Army. During this period, the regiment became known[by whom?] as the "Ghosts of Patton's Army" due to their ability to conduct reconnaissance, materializing seemingly at will behind German lines. The regiment made the deepest penetration of the war,[citation needed] arriving in Czechoslovakia before finally linking up with Soviet forces heading west. Under the leadership of Colonel Charles H. Reed, the regiment rescued the famous Lipizzaner stallions from the combat zone and brought them to safety in Germany. At the end of the war, the unit was re-designated, yet again, as the 2nd Constabulary Regiment, and eventually the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 1948. Cold War, Desert Storm, and reorganization: During the Cold War, the regiment (Headquarters (HQ) Nuremberg, 1st Squadron Bindlach (near Bayreuth), 2nd Squadron Bamberg, 3rd Squadron Amberg, and 4th Squadron (Aviation) Feucht) were responsible for guard and surveillance duty along the Iron Curtain, acting as a tripwire for a possible Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. The regiment's border sector varied in its dimensions over the years but always included portions of both the East German and Czechoslovakian borders with the Federal Republic of Germany. The regiment patrolled the border by air and ground. Ground cavalry troops on the border operated out of border camps close to the frontier. Regular border tours in sizable sectors contributed to the development of independence and self-sufficiency that characterizes cavalry operations and paid great training dividends in leader training to the cavalry squadrons of the regiment. In 1978, M Company, 3rd Squadron, 2nd ACR was selected to represent the US in the 1979 Canadian Army Trophy (CAT), finishing 4th the first time the US entrant had not placed last. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe meant the regiment had to redefine its role. During this process, the regiment was alerted for deployment to Saudi Arabia in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The regiment spearheaded the VII Corps end-run deep into Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. During its covering force mission, units of the regiment destroyed two brigades of the Iraqi Republican Guards Tawakalna Division in the Battle of 73 Easting. The unit earned the Valorous Unit Award for its service in Operation Desert Storm. Returning from the Gulf, the regiment was relocated from Nuremberg, Germany to Fort Lewis, Washington. The regiment's ground squadrons were converted into a light cavalry unit consisting of Humvees mounted with TOW launchers, Mk 19 grenade launchers, .50 caliber machine guns and squad automatic weapons (SAW). The 2nd ACR "light" was then sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana in 1992. From there, the regiment deployed in support of the peace enforcement operation in Haiti from 1995 to 1996. The 3rd Squadron ("Wolfpack") was the first ground unit to deploy and operated under the 25th Infantry Division in Port au Prince, Haiti. After six months in Haiti, 1st Squadron arrived to replace 3rd Squadron. In October 1995, 2nd Squadron replaced 3rd Squadron and redeployed in March 1996 completing the cycle. Bosnia service: In April 1997, the regiment received orders to be prepared to deploy to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the first mission rehearsal exercise held at the JRTC in June, the unit moved to Germany to begin integration with the 1st Armored Division. Meanwhile, all its equipment was shipped to the intermediate staging base at Taszar, Hungary. The regiment's participation in Operation Joint Guard began when the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons moved across the Sava River into Bosnia in August 1997 to augment the 1st Infantry Division (Forward) in support of Bosnia-Herzegovina's municipal elections. The regiment's air cavalry, the 4th Squadron and the Regimental Support Squadron also moved into the country. The regiment's separate units the 502nd Military Intelligence Company; the 84th Engineer Company; Company H Aviation Maintenance), 159th Aviation Regiment; and the Air Defense Battery completed the regimental troop list. While the ground squadrons were in Bosnia, the regimental headquarters deployed to Germany to train with the 1st Armored Division Headquarters in preparation for assuming command in Bosnia. During August and September, the regiment was spread across five countries on two continents, and was under the direct command and control of three different general officer commands. This period included another first for any Army unit during a 12-month period: the regiment participated in major training exercises at all three of the Army's combat training centers: The National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany. In October the remainder of the regiment rode into theater, assuming responsibility for the American sector of Multinational Division (North), which stretched from the war-torn bridge at Br ko in the north to the shattered city of Srebrenica in the south. The first major action of the regiment in Bosnia was the seizing of Serbian radio-television towers to control communications into the Republika Srpska. Other significant operations that the regiment conducted include: the restructuring of the Republika Srpska Specialist Police; the creation of the first multi-ethnic police department, in the city of Br ko; security for the announcement of the Brcko Arbitration Decision (an effort to resolve the status of this Serb-dominated city within Bosnia); institution of common license plates and currency in Bosnia, and the opening of the Bosnian rail system. In conducting operations in this sector, the regiment executed an estimated 12,500 patrols and 480 weapon storage site inspections, supervised the removal of over 12,000 mines, and oversaw 350 training exercises for the former warring factions. The regiment served one of the longest tours of military units there. 21st century: After returning from Bosnia, the unit remained at Fort Polk, Louisiana until deployed again to the Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom, remaining for a total of 16 months earning another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment was required to fight against insurgent forces in areas ranging from Baghdad to Najaf to Al Kut. On its return from combat operations, the regiment found itself heading back to Fort Lewis in Washington in December 2004. The regiment was re-designated the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and reorganized as a Stryker brigade combat team in April 2005. On 1 June 2006 at Fort Lewis, Washington, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division conducted a joint reflagging and casing of colors ceremony. The 2nd CR was reflagged as the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker). The 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division cased its brigade colors and was reflagged as the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. The Army restationed 2nd SCR to Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, near the regiment's Cold War home of Nuremberg, as of 15 September 2006. With a foundation of infantry-based tactics and the mobility of the Stryker vehicle, the Stryker unit has become more of a hybrid, filling the gap between pure, light infantry and the mechanized, heavy infantry. On 8 May 2007, the Department of Defense announced that the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) would deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in August 2007. The 3rd Squadron (Wolfpack), with Troop N ("Nemesis") of 4th Squadron attached, along with Troop E ("Eagle"), 2nd Squadron (Cougars), were very successful in rooting out Al-Qaeda forces from their last stronghold in Baghdad's Hadar neighborhood in East Rashid. 1st Squadron participated in the final clearance of Sadr City. The regiment served a 15-month tour in Iraq in both the Baghdad area and later Diyala province. It was at its most consolidated by June 2008 with all units but 1st Squadron, which was in Sadr City. On 25 November 2008, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) was officially welcomed back to Vilseck, Germany. In July 2010, they deployed to Afghanistan upon their return the name was changed from 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment to 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker). Operation Enduring Freedom: On 15 March 2010, the Department of Defense announced that the 2nd Cavalry Regiment would deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force in July 2010. In July 2010, 1st Squadron assumed responsibility of Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan in Uruzgan Province as well as the Shah Wali Kot District serving alongside Australia's 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The remainder of the regiment was located in the volatile Kandahar Province with regimental headquarters located at FOB Lagman. In the summer of 2013, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment deployed to Afghanistan for a second time in southern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force. The Regiment redeployed to Rose Barracks in April 2014. The Regiment was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation for their efforts in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
  • America's Misplaced Faith in Bombing Campaigns The next president will need more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians, declared President Obama in his final State of the Union address this month. He delivered a few well-placed barbs aimed at Republican presidential candidates and slammed Ted Cruz for his hard-line position on ISIS. After deflating the Texas senator s call [1] to bomb ISIS back to the Stone Age, President Obama said Cruz s brand of bombast might work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn t pass muster on the world stage. It was an interesting critique coming from a president whose Air Force flew [2] 21,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria last year 9,000 of which involved weapons release. Altogether, more than 20,000 U.S. bombs were dropped [3] in Iraq and Syria last year. If that doesn t count as a massive bombing campaign, then what does? Obama s strategy of bombing ISIS isn t working. It isn t that the bombs aren t having any effect they are, and they re probably more catastrophic than the Pentagon will admit but the act of bombing itself isn t accomplishing what it s suppose to: that is, reducing the number of ISIS terrorists while preventing as many civilian casualties as possible. Operation Inherent Resolve s spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, recently said [4] : If you re part of ISIL, we ll kill you. That s our rule. But the size of ISIS has remained relatively static [5] , around 30,000 since 2014. And as far as avoiding civilian casualties, the Pentagon late last year gave the suspiciously low [6] estimate of six civilian casualties during the entire bombing campaign. An independent investigatory group puts the number at something around 100 times [7] that. The bombings may be helping troops on the ground the Kurds and the Iraqi army but is the assistance the United States is providing cost-effective? So far, the air war against ISIS has cost Americans around [8] $5.5 billion, or about $11.2 million per day. Latest from Politics None to the Right of Samuel Alito [9] Many think bombing is a cheap and effective alternative to spilling American blood, but there s a counter-history of bombing that suggests it isn t. In fact, instead of bombing campaigns being a safe and cheap default strategy, they are only practically useful and morally feasible within very narrow parameters. America has a misplaced faith in bombing campaigns. The first bomb was dropped out of an airplane on November 1, 1911, just outside of Tripoli by the Italian pilot Giulio Cavotti, according to Sven Lindqvist in his odd and magisterial book A History of Bombing [10] . Cavotti dropped four bombs, Danish hand grenades really, and thereby ushered in the air-to-ground attack. The Italian-Turkish War, a bid for the recently united Italian state to pick apart the corpse of the Ottoman Empire, also saw the first airplane shot down [11] by rifle fire. Attack from the air and air defense were born and raised together, locked in an evolutionary competition. The modern bombing campaigns of the mid-twentieth century the total war that is experienced now through black-and-white photos of former cities reduced to either silent rubble or a washed-out incandescent glow began properly during World War II. Lindqvist notes, The principle for what was going to happen in Dresden and Tokyo at the end of the Second World War was already formulated at the beginning of the First. The British mathematician F.W. Lanchester wrote in his 1915 book, Aircraft in Warfare , that total war, including the firebombing and destruction of entire cities, was an eventuality that the West s military establishment needed to prepare for, even if queasy sentimentalists thought that the murder of 5 million peaceful civilians was just the figment of a diseased imagination. The crux of Lanchester s reasoning was that the West should destroy its enemies cities before its enemies destroyed the West s. Already existing fully formed in the Western martial imagination, then, World War II gave Lanchester s musings about total war from the air a stage on which to play out. In bombing Germany, U.S. and British air power had different animating principles. Both wanted to demoralize the population, foment uprising, and bring about Germany s political, social, and technological collapse but while the British focused on bombing civilian populations, the Americans focused on military and industrial targets. The bombing wasn t accurate, especially at the beginning of the war. Even by 1944, only roughly [12] 7 percent of bombs hit their targets. In fact, not until late in the war, when targeting became more sophisticated and more bombers were able to get through German air defenses, was Nazi industrial might even affected by bombing. For most of the war, carpet-bombing Germany tended to be expensive and inaccurate, exacting a high cost in Allied planes and qualified pilots. Even its role in the final Allied victory is dubious. Air-power expert Robert Pape argues [13] that it was the territorial losses more than the relentless bombing that led to the Nazis industrial deterioration. Further, Pape says the war would have ended at relatively the same time, in relatively the same manner, even if there had been no bombing at all. But the efficacy of strategic bombing is only half the question. There s also the moral impact. In Germany, windows were blown out by incendiary charges that ignited fires that burned so hot the streets turned liquid. Some bombs were on time delays, blowing up hours after an initial round of explosions, when emergency crews had started to respond. A.C. Grayling, author of Among Dead Cities , wrote [14] in The Guardian that, although the United States should be credited for diverging from the Royal Air Force by bombing German military and industrial sites instead of civilians, the Americans took to bombing Japan with far greater moral ambivalence. In less than a year, Grayling writes, the Americans killed as many Japanese civilians with aerial bombardment in a single year than German civilians were killed during the entire war. It took two atomic bombs before the Japanese finally surrendered. [B]ombing civilians is not only immoral, but ineffective, writes Grayling. It takes nuclear weapons, delivering absolutely massive civilian extermination, to have the desired effect of reducing a people to submission. Of course, that s a lesson that remained unlearned by the time America went to Vietnam. The United States dropped a combined total of 7 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. That s more than twice the number of bombs dropped during World War II. Half the bombing in Vietnam was performed by small planes, like the F-4 Phantom, which dropped napalm on South East Asia. More than 400,000 tons of it. Overkill was the mantra for the United States in Vietnam: Bomb a path to victory. It didn t work. America bombed Vietnam for six years longer than it bombed Japan and it still lost. U.S. bombs have become more accurate since Vietnam. They re smart now. But their accuracy, as far as avoiding civilians goes, is predicated almost entirely upon intelligence knowing whether or not civilians are in a specific building or even in the vicinity of an attack. Even America s pre-invasion shock and awe bombardment in Iraq meant primarily to destroy Saddam Hussein s political grip was far more destructive than anticipated, possibly killing thousands [15] of Iraqi civilians. The campaign was supposed to harness cutting-edge technology to cleanly decapitate control from Hussein and his cohort; instead, it precipitated the destruction of civil society. As General David McKiernan put it [16] : No Iraqi army, no Iraqi police No local or national government organizations. Ministries didn t exist. It s another example of the illusion that bombing can achieve all things in all circumstances whether it s the complete and utter devastation of the German industrial state, the squashing of a popular uprising in Vietnam, or what amounted to the multibillion-dollar assassination of a handful of men in Iraq. And now precision bombing is supposed to defeat ISIS cheaply and efficiently. Bombing has become America s go-to tactic for dealing with international crises. After nearly a century of aerial bombing, Grayling writes, the lesson learned by today s militaries is simply to not do body counts. That s certainly true of recent U.S. bombing campaigns: Estimated civilian casualties are just long-shot guesses. Bombing is alluring because it s deceptively cheap. But the costs are all too real in civilian deaths, operational costs, and energy sunk into a strategy that hasn t accomplished much. Why does the United States continue to bomb? Pape lays the blame on bureaucratic interests and political pressures for cheap solutions to difficult foreign policy problems. Coercion by force is difficult, especially against a quasi-guerilla army. There is no easy, cheap, or quick solution, and there is no avoiding the financial and moral costs of combat. References ^ call ( ^ flew ( ^ dropped ( ^ said ( ^ static ( ^ suspiciously low ( ^ 100 times ( ^ around ( ^ None to the Right of Samuel Alito ( ^ A History of Bombing ( ^ shot down ( ^ roughly ( ^ argues ( ^ wrote ( ^ thousands ( ^ put it (
  • American Soldier Killed in Daring Mission to Free ISIS Hostages ... The latest version of Adobe Flash Player is required to watch this video. Please click on the link below to download the latest version. Thanks! An American soldier has died in a successful and daring mission to rescue hostages who were about to be executed by ISIS forces in Iraq. It was a race against time; some of the hostages were reportedly scheduled to die within hours. "Early (Thursday) in Iraq at the request of the Kurdistan regional government, U.S. special operation forces supported an Iraqi-Peshmerga operation to rescue hostages at an ISIL prison near Hawija, Iraq," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook announced. Under cover of darkness, five American helicopters carried Kurdish Special Forces and 30 U.S. advisors to an ISIS prison camp in Hawijah in northern Iraq. U.S. airstrikes cleared nearby roads and buildings to prevent ISIS reinforcements as the operation began. When rescuers moved in, they expected to find just 20 hostages, but were stunned to come across 70. They also recovered what the Pentagon called a "trove" of valuable intelligence about the terrorist organization. An intense firefight broke out during the rescue, and the American advisors were forced to get involved. As many as 20 ISIS terrorists were killed, but an American advisor was also wounded and later died. It was the first U.S. combat death since the fight against ISIS began last year. The mission raised the question of whether it violated President Barack Obama's vow not to put boots on the ground in Iraq. "In terms of justifying this action, the Secretary (Ash Carter) assessed this situation on the ground, saw that U.S. forces could make a difference here, could perhaps make this operation more successful," Cook said. "And at the end of the day, there are 70 people whose lives were saved as a result of this."
  • Amir Khan "Amazed" By Standard Of British Army Boxers It's not every day a two-time former world champion walks into your inter-squadron boxing tournament - and is impressed with what he sees. "The calibre of boxing here is amazing!" - Amir Khan British boxer Amir Khan, the current WBC Silver welterweight champion, surprised soldiers from The Royal Lancers, who've been competing in their inter-squadron boxing competition the Peto Cup. Amir Khan with Forces TV's Jessie Aru-Phillips Named after the late Brigadier Christopher Peto, this is the first time it's been held since the amalgamation of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and The Queen s Royal Lancers earlier this year. And the admiration was clearly mutual. Trooper Jason Bale of the Royal Lancers said: "I was quite gobsmacked!"
  • An Artist Abroad: Home Sweet Home Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC Captain Sophie Whitaker is a serving war artist whose main job is to provide Joint Fires Targeting support to Task Force Helmand on OP HERRICK 18. As a member of 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery attached to 1 Royal Horse Artillery, Sophie works in the Brigade Headquarters, Lashkar Gah, where she finds time between an often hectic schedule to put pencil to paper.

    I am drafting this blog late at night sitting in a dark tent, with six other bodies sleeping, using the glare of the laptop to light up the keys as I type! I have been quiet on the blogging front for a couple of weeks due to the move of the Headquarters and I have also been enjoying a break back at home on my R&R (rest and recuperation). However, now I am fully back in the swing of things it seems that was all a distant memory.

    Harry In this blog I shall attempt to describe the past few weeks of events from the Headquarters move, to the journey home, and then a brief insight into what I got up to on R&R. Running throughout the script I shall post pictures of the work in progress (WIP) of a pencil drawing that I completed whilst on R&R the model is my future mother-in-law s favourite horse, Harry. If none of this is of interest you then please don t read on, for the rest there is a lot to report so do bear with me!

    The Move This blog starts in the hot and dusty climes of Lashkar Gah where I have spent the last four and a half months working in the Headquarters. The Headquarters has been based in Lashkar Gah since May 2006 and has co-ordinated UK operations across Helmand Province for over seven years. I was a part of what can possibly be described as the most complex headquarters move on operations ever undertaken by the British Army.

    We were down to minimal manning, with the other half of the Fires cell having already established the Bastion set-up. I had come on shift at 0400hrs to enable to night shift to get away on their early morning flight, as I held the fort with one detachment commander (DC) for the Change of Command (CHOC) and the close down of the TFH headquarters in Lashkar Gah. Harry work in progress It was a long morning and it seemed like an absolute age that we were waiting for the CHOC.

    With only a skeleton staffing, large screens on the walls showed locals going about their daily routine, as muted pictures of BFPS flickered in the background time passed very slowly. My R&R wasn t too far around the corner either, but we were all itching to get on and join the rest of the team in Bastion. When the time came for the CHOC, it was a very surreal and memorable moment.

    The DCOS (Deputy Chief of Staff) entered the JOC at around 1015hrs on 9th August 2013 to establish communications with the Bastion headquarters. Any current operational issues were swiftly dealt with and at precisely 1020hrs the DCOS spoke over the net (radio) to Bastion headquarters and clearly stated that the command of Taskforce Helmand had now been assumed by the Headquarters in Bastion. As those words fell from his mouth, it was quite an unbelievable experience as I witnessed history in the making.

    Although words can barely describe that feeling, it was as if I were watching an old war film where the news of war was being broken over the radio. This marked the end of an era, as we swiftly switched off laptops that had been diligently manned 24 hours every day for the last seven years. We switched them off, pulled out the cables and packed them in boxes.

    Cables were ripped off the walls where makeshift black nasty (tape) and cable ties had affixed them, and radios were disconnected to be placed away. Within minutes the Lashkar Gah headquarters ceased to exist and the remaining staff headed back to their rooms to finish packing for their onward journey to Bastion. Waiting at the LKG HLS As we waited at the helicopter landing site (HLS), we chatted about the prospects of what lay ahead, but most importantly what our respective R&R plans were and for some even end of tour plans!

    It wasn t long before we were given notice that the helicopters had left Bastion on their way to collect us, and we swiftly put on our PPE (personal protective equipment) before being led out to the HLS. I video recorded the two chalks (groups) of staff with my digital Olympus camera crouching alongside the compound walls as the two Chinooks flew in to transport us. It is said there are two types of people who look towards the Chinook as dust and stones are thrown towards us one of them is a photographer!

    As we lifted up in a cloud of dust, I strained my neck peering through the scratched window, as I looked down at the wall of the HLS, symbolically painted with all the crests of other Brigade Headquarters that went before us, as I watched them fade in the distance. Wall of former Brigade emblems New Digs With so much nostalgia being left behind, there was nothing for it but to embrace the change and look forward to the new set-up in Bastion. In no time at all, we found ourselves hot, tired and sweaty being orientated around our new accommodation and listening in to the security and welfare briefs.

    We were then walked immediately to our new offices where we took up our respective seats and started work, as if we had never been moved. The orientation and layout was different, and although we had access to all the same programmes, information and systems as before, we had more modern versions which took us all a while to navigate! The tempo of operations was still relatively quiet and after lunch I managed to shower and change and feel a little more human.

    Our new accommodation is a small camp within Bastion, protected by its own HESCO wall and rows of razor wire home sweet home ! I must admit, I have never been to prison but if this is anything to go by I d rather not! We are bound by various rules and regulations to ensure that whilst there are still troops roughing it out in the FOBs, we do not succumb to Bastionitus a fond term used to describe the condition of complacency and comfort.

    Not that a 12-hour shift enables me much time for comfort; nor did I have time to fully settle in as I began to write my handover notes for my R&R cover. Harry work in progress Within a couple of days of the move, I had to re-pack my bags to get ready to go home. The days, hours and minutes prior to R&R can be excruciatingly long at times, knowing I would be with my fianc , family and friends in a matter of days and wishing away hours so that I would be closer to being home.

    Four and a half months is an incredibly long time to be away from home, and phone calls and internet can only maintain morale for so long. It was a great morale boost to find out that 24 hours ahead of my scheduled departure date, I had been Space A d that is, that our whole flight was fortunate enough to travel on spaces available on an earlier flight. I handed over my role and headed back to our Bastion echelon group to start the process in going home.

    We handed in our operational equipment and stored our weapons in the armoury. I felt somewhat naked without my pistol attached firmly to my side and was constantly aware that I may have forgotten it somewhere! My OSPREY was also considerably lighter to travel back with.

    After our mandatory briefs, we collected our passports and mobile phones and headed on the bus for our first check-in. Here we labelled our baggage, checked in and loaded our hold baggage. The remainder of that day I sat in the ops room and caught up with some Bastion friends.

    The second check-in wasn t until the late afternoon, and having handed in our weapons we now had to be escorted everywhere. Thus it started the long journey home, waiting for flights whilst fighting tiredness, impatience and excitement to see my fianc , family and friends. Harry work in progress The journey home We travelled out of Bastion to Cyprus on a Tristar, which isn t too dissimilar in style internally to a budget airline.

    We were on our way home at last! I sat next to a female Lieutenant Colonel with whom I chatted to about her role in Afghanistan, and what we were both particularly looking forward to back at home; including lush green grass and rain. As we were busy chatting away about chickens, horses and ducks, the flight crew invited us to sit in the cockpit (perhaps because we were the only two to still be awake at that time of morning.) It was a brilliant experience as we were shown the controls, listened on the headsets and admired the views over Egypt (some fires could still be seen smouldering in the Capital).

    Harry work in progress We admired the sun rise and it wasn t long before we spotted the Cypriot shores among the haze of the sea mist. We belted up for landing and with our headsets on we experienced a very smooth landing in Cyprus. We disembarked for an hour to refuel and stayed in the very familiar departure lounge of RAF Akrotiri.

    I rang my fianc (at about 0400hrs UK time, just 3 hours after he had eventually gone to bed after a long day harvesting ) to let him know that my flight was on time, only to ring him again ten minutes later to announce that I would be arriving an hour earlier than expected! Home sweet home Finally the green, yellow and brown patchwork of the fields of Britain came into view and shortly afterwards we were waiting for our baggage at the carousel. Black bags, gorilla boxes and camouflaged bags of all shapes and sizes were spat out and rapidly collected.

    When I walked through the doors of the arrivals lounge I joined the crowd of soldiers waiting to be collected. It was wonderful to be met at Brize by my fianc as I walked over to the car park, placed down my baggage and hurried over to give him a huge hug! I was still wearing my cheap temporary brass/copper engagement ring that I had bought at the local shop, when he suggested I take it off as he revealed from his pocket my engagement ring in its box.

    The ring is an heirloom, his late grandmother s engagement ring, whom unfortunately I never had the opportunity nor pleasure to meet. The engagement ring I desperately tried not to fall asleep in the car on the way home but I didn t survive contact. Having spent a few hours reacquainting myself with the M25 I was relieved to finally complete the journey and arrive home.

    Thankfully I didn t make my usual faux pas of talking to the dog first rather than my fianc (principally because the dog did not accompany him to the airport!). Lola (the lab) and Boots (the cocker) were both excited to see me, and Lola couldn t contain herself but kept bouncing and jumping up! She didn t leave my side for the rest of that day, nor for a few after.

    It was so good to be home, but I must admit I was exhausted, jet lagged and a little disorientated all I wanted to do was crash out on my bed. Boots and Lola at work and at play It is a very surreal experience to find that within the space of 48 hrs you have been working at a high tempo, living by strict routine for four months and occupying your thoughts with little other than work matters; to waking up in your own bed and wondering what you have to do that day. It is almost as if I were living two different lives, and whilst the body adapts quickly, the mind takes a little longer.

    For the first few days I didn t do an awful lot really, the dogs enjoyed some long walks and I didn t even mind if it were raining! I enjoyed doing some training with them, as they are both working gun dogs (in progress), and it was a nice change for them after having spent many a day accompanying My fianc in the tractor and listening to his rendition of the Kings of Leon! Lola at work in the tractor Wedmin One night neither of us was sleeping particularly well, I was still jet lagged and My fianc was worrying about the weather, so we ended up talking at 3am about wedding plans.

    It was so nice to be able to talk face to face and get inspired and excited about our wedding together. We were engaged a few days after Christmas, after which I had been thrust back in to pre-deployment training and then deployed. The first couple of days of my R&R were relatively quiet as I rang round friends to catch up, arranging to meet up with some and inviting others over.

    My fianc was busy with the harvest during the sunny days and thankfully we had a couple of rainy days to spend time together. This was the perfect opportunity to crack the wedding guest list!! You wouldn t have thought that either being in the military or part of the farming fraternity would incur so many friends and family not that we could do an awful lot about the latter.

    After a rather hefty cull we fashioned a list of 150. My Mum came to stay the first weekend, and I managed to book an appointment to try on some wedding dresses, one of my sisters and future mother-in-law joined us. It was a very emotional experience for my poor Mum, who in less than a minute of me trying on my first dress was in tears!

    I tried on about six dresses which were all gorgeous and surprisingly even the meringues were flattering, however, I am still intent in making it myself (with a little help and guidance). The following day, Mum and I had a look at some fabrics, and she helped me make a skirt from the silk I bought from Afghanistan. Skirt template Daily routine It didn t take me long to get back into the routine at home; early rises, dogs, horses, chickens and lambs to be fed, along with runner beans, tomatoes and cucumbers to be picked.

    It wasn t long before My fianc roped me into helping shift a few bales and dropping off his various work colleagues back to their farm machinery! It wasn t all work and no play, as my friends stopped by for tea, lunch and dinner and I frequented a few pubs too! However, my alcohol tolerance had significantly reduced from its level prior to deployment.

    Nevertheless a glass of chilled white wine at dinner was a welcome pleasure. Mid-week I had the pleasure of Hannah and Dan (from Ditto), and Graeme Lothian and his partner for company at dinner. I prepared home-made quiche, salad and new potatoes something I had missed whilst out in Afghanistan.

    We had a pleasant evening and Graeme surprised me by giving me a copy of his book An Artist in London with a signed message to say thank you . My fianc and me The following evening My fianc and I attended a dinner dance where I managed to catch up with a few more friends. That bank holiday weekend was a local agricultural show.

    My Dad came to visit and joined My fianc , the dogs and I for the day. Unfortunately this indicated that only too quickly was my R&R coming to an end. That afternoon we left the showground and I said goodbye to Dad.

    I packed the remnants of my kit, grabbed a quick dinner, changed into my uniform and jumped in the car ready to go back to Brize Norton. Even the dogs knew I was off as they recognised me wearing the uniform and saw the bags being moved to the car, wearing that worried and forlorn expression that only dogs can. Dad and me Time to go I said goodbye to my fianc at the airport car park, knowing that I would be home again in just a matter of weeks.

    In some ways you strangely look forward to getting back to Afghanistan, if only to see everyone again. Once resigned to the fact that I was going back, there is nothing to do but look forward to it and enjoy it, for that way time goes faster at least. With less than six weeks to go on my return, the worst was over and there will be plenty to keep me busy!

    I shall save my first week back at work for my next blog, by now I am sure you are as exhausted of reading this as I was when I got home! Final portrait of Harry Look at Sophie s page 1 This entry was posted in 1 Mech Brigade 2 , 39 Regt RA 3 , TFH HQ 4 and tagged animals 5 , Army 6 , art 7 , artist 8 , British 9 , British Army 10 , dogs 11 , drawing 12 , Helmand 13 , horse 14 , military working dog 15 , painter 16 , painting 17 , Royal Artillery 18 , sophie whitaker 19 , war artist 20 , watercolour 21 . Bookmark the permalink 22 .

    References ^ Captain Sophie Whitaker An Artist Abroad ( ^ View all posts in 1 Mech Brigade ( ^ View all posts in 39 Regt RA ( ^ View all posts in TFH HQ ( ^ animals ( ^ Army ( ^ art ( ^ artist ( ^ British ( ^ British Army ( ^ dogs ( ^ drawing ( ^ Helmand ( ^ horse ( ^ military working dog ( ^ painter ( ^ painting ( ^ Royal Artillery ( ^ sophie whitaker ( ^ war artist ( ^ watercolour ( ^ Permalink to An Artist Abroad: Home Sweet Home (