By Captain Jack McDonald Kings Own Scottish Borderers
I stood today in my local Tesco car park and in response to an announcement telling me it was 11 am on Remembrance Sunday I stood still, and, as I normally do, I thought of my friend Frank North.
My thoughts went back to a Korean hillside where the Mortar Platoon were positioned in the line during that Korean spring of '52, and my awakening on that morning, to the sight of Frank being pursued by members of the platoon around the crawl trenches, and bombarded with missiles of some description.
On investigation, it became clear that Frank was Duty Cook for breakfast that morning, [everyone had to take a turn irrespective of ability!] and he had started early and using a converted 40-gallon drum as an oven in a hole in the ground, he attempted to bake scones for his comrades breakfast.
As the scene I was witnessing confirmed, these 'scones' had fallen somewhat short of culinary excellence hence Frank's pursuit - the missiles being the inedible bake ware deemed by now to be more lethal than any incoming Chinese artillery.
As I in company with two others had been rostered for a monthly bath at Tac HQ, which afforded the luxury of taking your clothes off and putting on replacements from a communal stock who cared they weren't your own they were CLEAN] I did not wait for the scone replacement but set off for Tac.
Following the ablutions and change of clothes we received a bonus, we could watch a film in a tent at Tac before we went back up the line to our position. Great stuff!, In we went only to have the Padre enter the tent some fifteen minutes later to ask if anyone wanted to come outside as he was going to say a few words over the mornings KIAs - we were in the line.
As I, with all the occupants of the tent stepped outside I was again face to face with my friend Frank, only this time I was looking at the soles of his boots, the rest of him being covered by a Union Jack.
Frank had been killed within the hour following our departure for Tac HQ,.and so as a young twenty year old National Service corporal, I learned at first hand what it was like both to lose a friend, and, to recognise war for the waste it would always be despite whatever reason given for its waging.
I think this was where I first learned about the spirit of the Regimental family, where the mourning for Frank, and the gratitude for his comradeship, was felt and shared by us all.
You cannot hope to convert those who have never experienced the esprit de corps of the Regimental Family to an understanding of its place in the brotherhood of infantry soldiers, where loyalty to regiment and comrades transcends all else, and remains with those fortunate enough, to be part of it for the rest of their lives.
Many who oppose it, do so, from a narrow viewpoint of envy, and even malice never themselves having been a part of it, or now those who would appear from todays' values to be quite prepared to sacrifice it on the alter of their pursuit of continued personal advancement.
So today there was a new emotion related to remembering Frank, and that regrettably was one of anger. Regrettably, because Frank wasn't an angry man he was a quiet, obliging friend who had a good word for everyone,. and only sought to do his duty.
Anger at the threat our Regiment is under from the political bean counters who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, and, not only where the army is concerned as we learn to our cost with increasing frequency.
As we get nearer the final blow it becomes more and more evident that all the facets of these wonderful regiments will in a very short space of time disappear from the nation's ken. This abortion, spawned by Blair and Brown, and, to their everlasting dishonour willingly assisted by all the current Army Board Generals under the tutelage of the POD, plus, these infamous Regimental Colonels who are only now in their infantile naivete blinking in the daylight and realising how they have been conned. over the 'Golden Thread'.
This ill conceived political scheme to save money, will quickly deteriorate into an amorphous mass of soldiery, without pride in their being, or any sense of belonging to anyone.
Soldiers then at the behest or whim of these self same generals, will be posted as individuals throughout this organisation in company with their wives and children into Bns where they know nobody, and nobody knows them.
These generals would have the soldiers believe that they will enjoy this more than serving amongst those they have known and lived with, many for most of their service life, each supporting the other through all the domestic travails of being an army family.
Soldiers, have a rather coarse, but succinct, and accurate word to describe treatment like this and I make no apology for its use here - Bullsh*it!!..
They will have made infantry soldiering a much more dangerous profession with the abandonment of the regimental family and the creed of infantry soldiers caring for each other fostered by the spirit of the regiment.
The saddest thing of all is that none of those responsible will ever likely be called upon to pay the price of their stupidity - as it has always been, so it will continue to be - the Jock will pick up the tab.
What these politicised generals fail to understand is that Frank's honour plus that of tens of thousands of other "Franks" resides within the regiment and the regiment is the physical embodiment of their sacrifice made on behalf of us all.
The 'Franks' of this world made the moral case for retaining the regiments all these years ago.
In today's increasingly dangerous world the ever escalating need for troops to keep the peace world wide becomes ever more critical with the passage of time.
A factor the strategists have not overlooked in their vociferous and clinical dismantling of the generals' politicised argument in defence of their destruction of Scotland's regiments and the part they play in the fabric of the nation's history.
I think that the death of the regiments apart, never have soldiers been so badly served by the generals charged with their care, by what many of us have come to recognise as military spin.
They are tampering with something they appear neither to comprehend nor understand. Namely the bond of implicit trust that existed between the soldier and his superiors responsible for him at all levels. As soon as they either contribute to the spin or fail to expose it for what it is they will have damaged this bond irreparably and in consequence will pay a horrendous price for their duplicity.
Throughout history Scottish infantry have won victories which in retrospect would appear to be impossible to achieve but an integral critical factor in these successes was this bond resulting in the soldiers 'acceptance and belief in the invincibility of his Regiment and the justice of its cause and this because the truth was sacrosanct and he was told it as it was - always.
Emotion apart [and killing the enemies of the nation is just about as emotional as it gets] given the developing Internal Security situation there is no question that time will exhaust the Civil Power [currently 3000 on duty in the London transport areas alone ] and part of the burden will have to be allotted to the services so at a time when we will need more soldiers this Government aided and abetted by its politicised military hierarchy in its infinite deceit is taking the opposite course and destroying the finest Infantry in the world.
I can't imagine what Frank would have made of it all or would he perhaps have thought "Was it all worthwhile?".- I leave you to judge.
Capt [Retd] Jack McDonald
14 November 2005