Most of you know that I am very old, and therefore my standards are old as well, and my background is far more simple than those of today. So it is unsurprising that I was more than staggered when I heard, on the BBC Politics Show, yesterday, Sunday, that the army was considering women should be in the forefront of battles, even to the point where they were trained in bayonet fighting. I was brought up by women, but if you read my CV at the head of this blog, I trust you will discover that I am no powder puff.
I have been trained over the years in many of the arts of warfare, taking cover when bombed, shooting, bayonet fighting, long-range gun fire, depth charging, and police work in periods of terrorism, so I feel that I am at liberty to express my reaction to this proposal. Of all the things that I did, went through and was taught, the most unsettling, contrary to my character, and hateful was bayonet fighting, which fortunately I never had to put into practice. Let me tell you about the training in my day, 1940. The sergeant stood in front of you all and held up a bayonet and started to describe the way it was designed in the most horrendous detail. He pointed out that the blade had a groove in it so that air was carried with it, into the wound, which broke the suction, otherwise you wouldn’t get the bayonet back out again, and thus leave yourself open to attack. He also pointed out that in certain situations it could get jammed in the rib cage, which again needed special solutions. There was no doubt that the sergeant relished the fact that he was frightening the daylights out of these 17 and 18-year-olds, and he had been there and done that in the First World War. I won’t labour the facts, merely say that other aspects of hand-to-hand fighting were taught us, and none of them recommended themselves to me at any rate, because I have a strong visual imagination, and can see for myself the horrors that not only I would suffer, but I would inflict on the enemy. I think we should bear in mind at this point, that friends and relatives are being put under this sort of stress from time to time in the Middle East and Afghanistan, whether they like it or not.
I said I was brought up by women, I was taught to respect them, treat them separately from the rest of the family, and often as they got older to be the fulcrum of the family. The duty of the men was to protect the family in all circumstances in every way possible, even at risk to themselves, and that included providing the home and necessities of life. I’m not suggesting that women are weaker than men when it comes to courage but in my uneducated way, I believe that their psychology is totally different from men’s, having been brought down in a different route through their genes.
My wife was 7 1/2 stone when I married her, not particularly tall, at 5 foot six, an average woman, but I do not believe she would have had the strength, even if she had had the will, to combat a clubbing, screaming man charging at her with a bayonet at her throat. This is not the subject to be handled lightly, we’re talking about people’s lives, the love of their families, and also their futures when they leave the army. We are told repeatedly that many of those fighting today are suffering post traumatic stress, how much greater will it be for the women, assuming they survive.